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Sunday 1 Jul 2007
Vancouver Island, Canada

Oooooooh Canada

Today was Canada Day, a chance for canucks all around the country to celebrate bacon-wrapped corn, moose-crap on the roads and (as one radio station put it) the fact that their NOT American Wink

Indeed 'twas a lively day full of free music concerts in front of the government buildings, and I gobbled down more bubble tea than I think is healthy (I can feel the after-effects now.. gonna have to make this short to run to the toilet!). At one point I came across a line of people who were queueing to get free tishirts, sometimes they were white and sometimes they were red, so I decided "what the hell"

Of course nothing is for free, so I was quick to realise that I was going to have to WORK for my tshirt upon receipt. But it was cool, they were getting around 1,000 people to take part in what they call a "Living Flag" ( read more here ) which was going to be a Canadian flag made up of people dressed in red and white tshirts. I got a red one, which looked cooler. Apparently the pic will be in the local paper so I'll have to get a copy!

At the end of the day there was a relatively small fireworks display, but it was in the beautiful harbour setting so the effect was quite dramatic with the mirror reflection of each 'work enhancing the effect. The harbour was chock full of kayaks and boats too.

I saw the display from the top of my apartment building along with the entire residency, since it turned out that it was one of the best places in town to watch the display given it's proximity to downtown. And it was!

Got chatting to a few of the locals up there, including one drunk sole who explained to me his dislike of Americans:

"They come over here at 4th July and demand to know why we aren't celebrating Independance Day!"

(apparently it's quite common for yanks to assume that Canada is part of the US, which is quite sad really)

I also (unbeknownst to me) bumped into a guy I'd been chatting to over email for a few weeks in relation to getting some kite-surfing brush-up lessons, Tyler. Unfortunately our introduction was less than cordial since he kept on bumping into me with his drink and I turned around and demanded he say "Excuse me", at which point he got somewhat irate.
It was only later that someone else introduced me to him... ah well I've decided against doing kite-surfing here anyway since I'll need a car to get to the beach and to store my equipment in (something I won't be buying while here).

Instead I've taken a liking to some new sports while here, namely kayaking and insane long-distance bike riding .. plus I'll look into surfing at Tofino as well!

Yes that's right, I tried my hand at kayaking there yesterday. Damn it ain't easy I'll tell ya.

The actual rowing isn't the hard part.. neither is the balance.. it's just the muscle group that's worked. You don't notice it at first, but you're abdominal muscles get a major workout to put any "Ab-Cruncher" machine to shame (I still feel it 2 days later).

It was great fun though, and cheap (15 dollars per hour), and Victoria's inner harbour is the ideal location to do it in. I will be doing it again.

I couldn't last more than an hour kayaking, so afterwards I rented out a bike again and headed off down the Galloping Goose trail, which is a fantastic purpose-built bike trail that stretches for 60 km. It runs over a now-defunct railway line.

I went 30km down the trail and then came back 30 km (with 10 mins break) in 4 hours. Pretty impressive.. but to say the least I was shattered afterwards.
The trail runs through some beautiful scenery, including the pastoral lands where the first colonists settled then stretches into some great rainforests national parks all on a well-maintained gravel path. There was even a farmer's convention and firing range along the route .. red-neck warning. Wink

In need of recovery I ran off to the local harbour side brewery to end the day with a refreshing ale and steak, sitting to finish off my tan on this beautiful 25C day.
Then I went to check out Esperanza Spalding, a great jazz musician from NYC, playing a set on the closing night of the city's jazz festival.
Damn this city rocks.

curiously though, there wasn't a single black person at the gig (except for Esperanza and her drummer of course), and come to think of it, the 2 or 3 (!) black people I've seen in the city over the past month were Americans. Just sayin is all...

On the subject of Victoria, though, it DOES have some unusual aspects...

For one the laws here regarding drinking are uber-strict. You're not allowed to urinate in public, even in a park, under penalty of arrest (I've seen it happen!)... and you're not allowed to drink in public, even on the beach, although I've seen a few canucks get away with it as long as they keep it low-key (like at the free concert today).

Another thing that you notice after staying here a while is that the city, as I mentioned before, is quite small and provincial so it's really just a large town. As such you constantly bump into the same people over and over as you walk around. It's nice in some ways, but in others it's also nice to be anonymous.. especially in a city setting.

Prices. Yeah it's WELL expensive here I'm discovering. As one girl I met put it: "That's what you get for living on an Island and getting everything shipped over". Here are a few examples:

Large Milk carton: 5.95 (in TO this was around 3 dollars)

Tinned Tuna: 4.95 (in TO you could get the budget ones for 60 cents!!!)

Even the so-called "budget" brands in the supermarket here tend to be the same price as quality-grade produce in Toronto.

Taking into account the rent I'm paying here monthly (850 dollars) and the price of food, Victoria's prices (or Vancouver Island's in general) would be roughly similar to those of Ireland.. only slightly cheaper

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