The morning came too early, as they are wont to do, and after picking up the troops at Kevin’s at 6:30 we were soon standing in line for the Clipper, boarding the ship, and then struggling to stay conscious on the 2+ hour ride to Victoria.
The ride was smooth, and most of the family was asleep as I sat drinking an Irish coffee and attempting to justify the $7 I had spent on it. I leafed through the magazines I wouldn’t read, and then the book I’d never touch, and eventually settled on staring out the window and slipping in and out of consciousness until the port came into view.
Victoria exudes the feel of a retirees vacation destination; everyone sports fashionable tourist-wear, is window shopping, and rents scooters to whisk them around the coastal roads under bright blue skies. Add in a voice over about zero APR for the first six months and you’ve got a Capital One commercial. It is touristy, cleanly historical, and makes for a very nice weekend out for couples. As someone who prefers tents and woods to bus tours and wine tastings, it was a bit of a stretch from the norm for me, but one I was happy to make for my parents.
We spent some time walking the harbors and looking at local artists hocking their wares on the waterfront, and passed the capital building and spent some time by a fountain square which depicted the provinces of Canada and their accompanying coats of arms. Eventually we made out way to get some lunch, and enjoyed some of the local putin.
After lunch was more walking the streets, and after an ill-fated reading of the map to walk to the butterfly gardens (which, I learned after stopping to ask for directions were about 30 miles away), ended up walking through Chinatown, and the northern end of Victoria before looping back down and out to a rocky point on the opposite end of the harbor to see the city skyline.
Making our way back we picked up some pieces of art that Mom and I had been admiring from an artist who does seaweed pressings, and then stopped at a few candy shops, trinket stores, and bakeries on the way back to the pickup area. As the day wound down we stopped for a sandwich at a local shop and watched a violin-playing Darth Vader perform for change as Mom vacillated on whether or not her 60-strong mug collection at home needed a Canadian mug saying “hello” in different languages (which was, admittedly, pretty cool). She decided it did.
As we entered customs I ditched all the fresh fruit I had unwittingly brought into the country as my general feeling was that–if found out–the Canadian customs officers would have shaken their heads and pointed to the trash while their American counterparts would almost certainly have something closer to a naked pyramid in the works. I was glad for the decision when once in line I was asked point blank if I was carrying fruit. Who would be silly enough to carry fruit over the border, officer?
With a delta-force like battle plan we split into two teams to seek out the best spot on the boat (my team won). Top level, window seats. After putting our things down we made out way out onto the stern deck and watched Victoria move away as the engines of the clipper sped up, churning white foam 10′ high. Back in the cabin we read as people dozed off in the evening sun, save for a few moments where we all ran outside to see intermittent leaps from pods of dolphins in the water. I’d been riding Seattle ferries for over 4 years, and this was the first time I’d seen them. Mom and Dad’s timing was pretty on, apparently.
The looming Mt. Rainier announced our arrival in Seattle and soon we were deboarding and going through Customs…again. Officials took us as an entire family, and ready to give more of a backstory than required, Mom decided to add to my answer of “Just visiting for the day” (in response to “what was your purpose in Canada?”) with “We’re visiting our sons in Seattle!” Which prompted several clarification questions including “your sons live in the US, correct, ma’am?” and the family declaration that Mom would no longer be answering any questions at border crossings.