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Wednesday 15 Aug 2007
Vancouver Island, Canada

Final days in da 'Wescht'

Nothing to report really since I cannae do anything as a result of the injury.

Have booked my flight to get back Toronto on 29 Aug and will stay in Toronto for 'at least' a month (the original plan was to head off to Montreal for the rest of the year but that's been dropped since I won't be in a fit state to wander around Montreal searching for accommodation with a sling around me neck!) Blue

I'm also toying with the idea of heading back home earlier than the planned Dec 15th, for 2 reasons:

a) I won't be able to enjoy any more activities in Canada this year (i.e. snowboarding) since the arm is shagged

b) My 30th (!!!!) birthday is in late October so it would be nice to be home for that with my family n friends. It's a big one and I need to make up for my crap 21st!


So .. my last weeks in Victoria.

I can say it was a pleasant enough place to spend the summer months - rather akin to a small town in England replete with corner shops and redbrick buildings - (much better than Toronto's sweltering smog-induced heat which sounds horrible) and a great base to explore the beautiful island (although I unfortunately only managed to do this once, and had planned more times before this stupid accident happened)

Some last minute observations on the pros and cons of Victoria (I seem to be terribly occupied with analysing this place, but there's something amiss here and I can't quite figure it out)...

Pros:

- Pretty little town full of colonial buildings, and the harbour is quite stunning at night, especially when viewed from Esquimalt (cross the Johnson St bridge to get there)

- Victoria can lay claim to the best climate in Canada, and indeed it only rained here twice in the past 3 months!

- It's quite eclectic in it's own little folk-y way, with an abundance of festivals and free outdoor shows throughout the summer!

- The Olympic mountains in the US serve as a nice backdrop as well.

- It's a good base from which to explore the rest of the island (which is really quite stunning)

- It's safe. Almost 'too' safe ;)

- Many people are quite nice, but there also seem to be an equally large number of rude people (as with any city I guess)

- Would be a great 'retirement' city. They don't call it "the city of the newly wed, and nearly dead" for nothing!

- Great and cheap public transport (Canada, in general, seems to have it nailed when it comes to public transport). Regular buses, plus you can transfer as many times as you want (within a generous time frame) with the same ticket!


Cons:

- Nightlife. Essentially there is none, except for a few bars belting out 80s covers or blues. Don't expect to come here for a wild time.

- Quite limited in what you can do locally unless you have a car (I didn't have a car so occasionally rented). The rest of the island is fantastic to see though.

- The 'beach' isn't really up to much. It's basically pebbles and large tree logs. (although again the Olympic mountains view makes up for this)

(Go to Tofino for great beaches.)

- It's rather expensive, but that's what you get for living on an island. Even local produce is expensive though: I bought an apple in the supermarket today that cost 1.15 dollars!

- General populace are a little too conservative for my tastes, plus it's a little clique-y here ... hard to get to know people if you're not a local. Unlike Toronto or Vancouver which were very sociable cities.

- And of course, who could forget the abundance of homeless people and/or drug users laying about downtown! While not as bad as Vancouver, it's again another reason why I would be turned off moving to the west coast of Canada (maybe a smaller town like Squamish would be nicer to live in though)



Something else I noticed about the people here (although I remember I found it in Toronto as well so it could be a Canada-wide thing) is that they don't tend to get too chatty with you if they don't know you.

They're friendly, sure, but it's only to a point and to serve another purpose (like to get you to buy something, or to get something off you). Don't expect them to empathise with you if they don't know you. "It's not my problem" one could imagine them saying.

It's one thing the Canadians seem to share with the Americans (who have this same trait in my experience).

I guess I just miss the sort of unmitigated informality, friendliness and empathy that we Irish tend to show to strangers .. i.e. it would be quite normal in Ireland to get chatty with a random person behind the counter in a shop.

(Of course there are exceptions to this, but it's just my general experience .. although it's interesting to note that of all the people that I've met in such situations who have been chatty and informal are quebecois! Hence the reason I really wanted to try living there for a while... damnit Mad)

(hmmm... maybe I can stay in Toronto for September, then check out Montreal apartments occasionally while based there....)

-------------------------
Posted on 18 Aug...

In retrospect, my negative views toward Victoria are mainly bound by the polarised view I have of the place due to my situation.

Admittedly I *am* living in arguably the most upmarket yuppy area of the city, with one of the most popular bars for the "trendy" set only doors down from me, Canoe bar.
So I'm exposed to the more snobbish side of Victoria on a daily basis, plus the REALLY annoying whiny high-pitched loud noises that drunk 20-something Canadians tend to make each night as they stagger from the Canoe bar (rather like drunk US college kids you see in "The Real World" on MTV)

Then at the same time I'm also smack-dab in the midst of the worst drug-problem zone in the city, with a homeless shelter literally on the otherside of my bedroom wall (thankfully it's thick enough that I don't hear anything). Every day as I work, I see the crazy crack addicts rustling among the bushes across the street, where they seem to store plastic bags full of needles (I'm surprised the cops haven't caught onto it). I even saw 2 depraved homeless 'banging away' in broad-daylight, barely covered by one of the bushes!!

People just walked on by, not even bothered by what was going on .. which is another thing I find really annoying about BC: the whole "tolerance" toward drug-users ... It doesn't solve the problem at all.. just makes it more visible!

What spurred me to write this last section: I just took a bus a little out of downtown for 15 mins. As soon as I popped into the shop I was heading for, I was greeted by more "normal" contemporaries - less airy-fairy than the ones I'm used to meeting downtown.

So I suddenly realised that my whole view of Victoria is based on my status as a "trapped" individual that can only experience the parts of Victoria that I can 'walk' to... to really get a feel for the place, you need a car.

I would even be willing to reconsider evaluating Victoria on a more 'settled' basis sometime, complete with a car and living in a place that is not downtown, because the best time I ever had on Vancouver Island was when I rented that car for the weekend.

Chatting to the girl behind the counter in the shop I was in this evening (yes she was actually chatty and "normal"!), I asked her "what do people do for fun in Victoria?" ... and she gave me the answer I suspected all along: camping, hiking, even snowboarding up at Mt Washington (2 hours north).

You see, unlike Toronto - with it's entire catalogue of entertainment within easy access by subway, Victoria's entertainment is based mainly on nature... and to fully enjoy this you need to GET to the nature .. i.e. need a car.

QED Wink

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