Sunday, 6 October 2013

Canada - Day Three - Sunday 6th October

Another early morning call – this may be a perk of our job, but it is not a holiday!  Down and checked out by 7.30am, and breakfast in the Giovane Café that is part of the hotel.  This is a really good idea – a café type restaurant that you can buy as little or as much as you like for breakfast.  If all you want is coffee and toast, then that is all you pay for.  We had a voucher for a yoghurt fruit pot, a fresh fruit pot, coffee and a pasty.  It was delicious, and very healthy!  We pulled our luggage from the hotel to outside the Pan Pacific Hotel ready for the Pacific Coach Lines coach to collect us.  It was a beautiful day – the sun is shining, and already the temperature allows the coats to come off.  Not what we were expecting at all.  The temperature is meant to get up to 18 degrees today – lovely! 

The luggage is loaded onto the coach, and we then have another couple of pick ups at other hotels before we get to the Pacific Lines Terminal in Vancouver – about thirty minutes away.  The bus is scheduled to leave the terminal at 09.45am, and will be the same one that goes all the way across to Victoria.  The bus was packed.  Every seat was taken.  It was about an hour to get to Tsawwassen, which is where the ferry was leaving from to go over to Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island.  This really is a good service.  After getting on downtown, you don’t actually have to touch your luggage again until you get off the other end.

It could not have been a better day to do this ferry.  After the bus drove onto the ferry, the Spirit of British Colombia, it was scheduled and departed at 11.00am.  We all got off the bus and headed up to the sundeck.  It was saying on the overhead electronic boards on the motorway to the ferry terminal that this ferry was 61% full.  Not sure how accurate that was, but there was plenty of room.  The sun was beating down and the sea was so calm there was hardly a ripple.  After about thirty minutes of crossing the sea, we then started to weave inbetween islands for another hour or so.  It really is a beautiful crossing.  In the south, you can see the snow capped Mount Baker in the USA – in fact the border between Canada and the USA is not far from here at all.

Ten minutes before we were due to dock we had to make our way back to the bus.  As we were queuing up to get back on, and the bus being the first vehicle on and its nose next to the front bow doors, I commented that I hoped they weren’t going to open them before we docked, bearing in mind the Towsend Thorensen Herald of Free Enterprise.  Sitting on the seat behind the front seat I had an excellent view of the bow doors opening five minutes before we made it to the dock.  Oh well – hopefully it is either a different design, the water is different, or something along those lines.  We made it anyway without any mishap.  Once we left the ferry, we had around forty minutes drive to get to Victoria.  The bus made several stops along the way, so it is quite a handy service if you are staying anywhere along the route.  We were heading right to the very end, which is the Victoria Terminal right behind the Fairmont Empress Hotel – but unfortunately not where we are staying.  I quite like Fairmonts!  We are actually staying at the Parkside Hotel & Spa, which is about a ten minute walk from the terminal.  It is still hot, and ten minutes pulling my case was quite enough.  No need to go to the gym today then!

We arrived at the hotel at 1.30pm – and needed to be back in the lobby for a 2.10pm departure for our whale watching tour.  Just enough time to get to the room – very nice room that has a kitchen and lounge area and a balcony.  It does look into a room of a hotel directly opposite though.  I am sure I am not going to be in the room long enough for that to bother me.  We were advised to take hats and scarves for this trip, but looking at the weather I thought better of it and only took a fleece.  The shuttle to take us to the Orca Spirit Adventures boat in the inner harbour.  Victoria seems to be made up of beautiful old buildings, interspersed with really ugly new ones.  Not sure who the town planners are here, but they ought to be shot.

It was only a few minutes down to the harbour.  The whale watching tours are actually coming to an end for the season, so there are only twenty three people on a forty seater boat.  Lots of room.  There are seats on the top deck – that is where the best view usually is.  It is slow going to get out of the harbour, with float planes taking off all the time.  It is actually known as an international airport in the harbour, as the float planes take people to Canada and the USA.  A few months ago there were whales that actually came right into the harbour area, and the planes were grounded for the day whilst they were there.  I think the only time that whales have caused an airport closure!

As soon as we round the harbour wall we pick up speed.  And then it gets cold, and then it is when I realise why everyone else has coats hats and gloves.  Oh well – I have far more natural insulation than they do.  We head left down to San Juan Island – which is actually part of the USA.  Hope they don’t want to see my ESTA!  There had been a pod of killer whales seen near here earlier in the day hunting for food.  As soon as we near the island we spot the whales.  There are around five of them, and they just keep moving along.  I think they have been to Seaworld – they actually seem to be swimming in formation at times.  Soon other little boats appear, and we have a flotilla.

We keep around 100 metres from the whales at all times – but they don’t seem to be bothered with the boats at all.  They are just making their way up the coast, breaking water every now and then, and then disappearing for a minute or two before coming up again.  They seem to be in Sunday afternoon drive mode though – not going too fast and certainly not doing anything spectacular.  There was a little bit of fin slapping at one point, and a tail fluke at another – neither of which I caught on camera.  One came out of the water slightly more than it had before – but I was taking a picture of a bird at that time as well.  I have got rather a lot of ocean with black fins sticking out though.  About five hundred of those.  I am sure I can find one or two pictures that are showing a bit more flesh.  We keep up with the pod for just over an hour, and then we leave them to it and head back to Victoria harbour.  We had been out on the water just about three hours by the time we had got back – slightly frozen but very happy with our find.  There was hot chocolate to help thaw out, but it was such a lovely cruise back into the harbour that I went and sat out on the top again.  Glutton for punishment.

We arrive back in the harbour, and the float planes are still taking off and landing.  The harbour has lots of floating homes at the side – a bit like house boats but more house than boat.  Very smart.  The shuttle takes us back to the hotel, where we have the usual just under an hour before having to be ready to head out again.

We are met by Miesha from Victoria Tourism, who is hosting our dinner tonight at a local pub called the Canoe Brewpub.  It is a fifteen minutes walk, which is actually a thirty minute walk.  Not sure if that is because everyone is as slow as me, or if it was one of those “if they put thirty minutes down they might not go” type of mistake.  It was a lovely walk though, past various shops and restaurants.  It is nice to see a bit of the local area by foot.  So often it is just in a bus.  The pub is famous locally for brewing its own ales – and we all get to have tasters of them.  I decline and ask for a campari – sorry to all those real ale lovers.  The food though is very good, and the actual building is very impressive.  An old building that has seen many different uses, including BMW repair shop and some sort of garbage place. By 9.45pm everyone is full and ready to fall asleep in their soup.  We set off for our “fifteen” minute walk back to the hotel, and fall into bed ready for another busy day tomorrow.

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