Things I Learned on Vancouver Island

By Piper Bayard

That’s it. I’m in love with Canada. Genuinely a land of Northern efficiency and Southern hospitality.

We spent most of the past two weeks on Vancouver Island, in Victoria and on the shore outside of Sooke. The full moon reflecting off the Strait of Juan de Fuca was worth the trip in itself. The best of both civilization and the wild in a land where vast tracts of mountain forest drop straight down to the sea.

I learned many things in this place where earth, sky and water converge.

This calls for a list.

Things I Learned on Vancouver Island

  1. It takes approximately 39 hours for Americans to add “eh” to their vocabularies.
  2. Poutine (French fries with gravy and cheese curds) is a food group.
  3. Residents of the Vancouver Island coast have driveways so steep you could use them to teach raccoons to climb trees.
  4. The ocean can transform from surreally perfect glass to “Oh, hell! How’d I end up on Deadliest Catch?” in approximately 30 minutes.
  5. The waves of an incoming tide will mesmerize you like online games and, like online games, can leave you wondering where you put the last five hours of your life.
  6. Seeing a killer whale up close in the wild is worth every bit of the sandblasting rain you endure to get to it.
  7. A fifteen pound halibut can win two throws out of three against a six foot woman.
  8. Snorkeling in Victoria Harbor is an excellent argument for snorkeling in the Caribbean.
  9. The friendly common greeting and farewell of Canadian island children is to moon arriving and departing guests as the ferry passes.
  10. Canadians do not consider it friendly for ferry passengers to moon the children in return.
Overall, it was a pocket of time with my family so precious that a part of me will always live there. Click on the tab Vancouver Island 2012 above for a few of my favorite photos. And yes. It was overcast most of the time, but that didn’t bother this desert refugee one bit.

Have you ever been to The Great White North? What fun and interesting things have you learned in your travels?

I’m happy to say that HOLMES IS BACK! We will be publishing on Monday, Wednesday and Friday while we work on our spy thriller, Blood Truffles, so keep an eye out for more current events, history, and side-stitching sarcasm.

All the best to all of you for a week of beautiful moons.

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71 comments on “Things I Learned on Vancouver Island

  1. I have been to Vancouver and Vancouver Island many times and I have loved every single visit. Going out to see the Whales is incredible. I love the whole Island but always stayed in Victoria and just travelled outwards from there. The aquarium was great, and I will always remember the water taxi’s. One day, I will have a home there. Not all year round, but a place to retreat too with my family for holidays and the like.

  2. We used to live in Seattle- the expensive and depressing version of Vancouver. (we visited our aunts in Victoria and Vancouver island every summer until I was in college)
    Downtown Seattle is not for the feint of heart driving a stick since the view is of the sky when stopped at a red light. My husband taught me a trick of holding up the emergency brake until ready to go. Then let out the clutch, press the gas and with exactly the right timing let out the emergency brake.This keeps the car from rolling back when you accelerate。It takes practice. He would come home and say” you were downtown huh” I’d say “yea how’d you know” him ” The garage smells like burning brakes.” There’s that but it kept me from taking out all the cars behind me.

    • Piper Bayard says:

      LOL. I could have used that trick a few times in the driveway of the house we rented. We were so worried about getting out when it rained that we left the car at the top of the hill.

  3. Squee! Welcome back, Piper. And, Aargh! I so want to visit Vancouver Island after looking at these pictures.

    The only cruise I ever wanted to go on was the Alaskan cruise, from Seward to Vancouver. Seven days filled with natures wonder and wandering through the towns when we made stops. (Is it called ports? Beats me at this early hour, but you know what I mean.)

    Glacier Bay, drifting along, standing on our balcony and listening to the crack of icebergs. Breathtaking, eh?

    We only had one day in Vancouver. Poor planning on our part.

    • Piper Bayard says:

      Thanks for the greeting, Gloria! Enthusiasm is so heartwarming. :)

      We thought about the Alaskan cruise but decided to save it for when we have more time to linger at those ports. Sorry you didn’t get to spend more time at Vancouver Island.

  4. We were in Seattle and took the ferry over to see Bouchart Gardens. I was all: Whaaat? Gardens? Blarg. But Omigosh! So glad my husband dragged us there. It was spectacular. FYI: for years I only thought people vacationed in Canada. My father would say: “Where do we want to go for vacation? Toronto? Ottowa? Montreal? Quebec?” While everyone was flying to Florida, we were driving to Mont Tremblanc. Love Canada, eh. Glad you got a little taste.

    • Piper Bayard says:

      Speaking as a recovering attorney, you were correct. It’s illegal for Americans to vacation anywhere else. :)

      Glad you got to Butchart. It’s worth the trip in itself.

  5. Sean N Fletcher says:

    What a coincidence! My family’s just about to go to Montreal and Quebec City for a week trip. I don’t know if we’re going to do as much as you did.
    Personally, when we go, I want to see a mounty. Just saying.

  6. tomwisk says:

    Went to the other side of Canada when I was a kid. Saw a lot of churches and got scared s**tless in a wax museum. Other than that it was fun.

    • Piper Bayard says:

      I’ll be honest. I’ve never gone to a wax museum for that reason. Seems objectively wrong. But if I ever write horror novels, I’ll definitely put one on my list. :)

  7. So nice to hear love for my country. And to remind me that beauty exists here (sometimes you forget in your own hood).

    And the moon and the mooning. Hilarious!

    • Piper Bayard says:

      As I always say, when you live in Paris, you don’t climb the Eiffel Tower. I have to be reminded that the SW US is a tourist destination, too.

      Those kids were funny. They were so cute out on the beach of an incoming island, waving and blowing kisses to the ferry. Then they turned as one and mooned us. LOL.

  8. EllieAnn says:

    Those seals are awesome. And I hope your children didn’t pick up that Canuck greeting–LoL!

  9. I have never been to Vancouver but hubby said it’s amazing. Loved your list and so happy you had a great trip. The photos are amazing!!!
    And yeah…POUTINE is definitely a food group…my fav….yum!! LOL!!

  10. What a cool trip! Sounds like you had a lot of fun. I hope to get there one day. :-)

  11. So, 39 hours, eh?

    I’m so glad you enjoyed your visit. I love Victoria, too, but I’ve never seen any mooning. Maybe that’s something special they just do for US visitors – and I see no reason why you shouldn’t return the favour.

    If you want to see Mounties, the best method is to drive excessively fast on the highway. You’ll definitely find some, though they won’t be riding horses or wearing red serge. And your photos will be very expensive.

    If you’re looking for friendly red-serge-clad Mounties, try Banff – there are usually a couple in the downtown area in the summer. Red serge is formal dress, so our mounted unit here in Calgary wears a regular uniform for their patrols around the downtown area and parks. Sadly for tourists, though, you’re probably more likely to see a bicycle patrol than a mounted patrol unless you come during the Calgary Stampede.

    Guess you’ll just have to come back to Canada for another visit . Look me up if you’re in Calgary, and I’ll get you some real home-made poutine. :-)

    • Piper Bayard says:

      Actually, that happened while we were on the ferry from Tsawwassen to Victoria. We thought it was funny.

      Thanks for the Banff tip. I’ve always wanted to go there, and now I have one more reason. And now I have a great reason to go to Calgary, as well. Any country full of people who understand that French fries are incomplete without gravy–well, more proof that Canada is the true Cradle of Civilization. :)

  12. Catie Rhodes says:

    Your vacation sounds just beautiful. I have never been to Canada, much less Vancouver. We usually just vacation in Texas. Next time I decide to leave Texas for vacation, I’ll definitely consider Canada. But Rarotonga is my first pick.

    • Piper Bayard says:

      Think of Canada as Rarotonga on a budget. . . . Okay. That didn’t work for me, either. But it’s waaaay easier to get to and definitely worthwhile. Just as is Texas. :)

      • Heh! I just spent a week in Rarotonga, writing… flight over was jammed full of Kiwis going to Raro and Canadians passing through to Vancouver (seriously, they were queued up ahead of me in the check-in queue going ‘eh’, which nobody noticed becaise Kiwis use ‘eh’ as often).

        I’ve never been to Vancouver, though the guy that taught me writing, originally, lived there. Sounds fabulous! Uh – possibly apart from the potential for a mooning deathmatch… :-)

        • Piper Bayard says:

          Oh, how funny. I have never been to New Zealand, and I would love to go there. Perhaps it is in my ignorance, but it seems that Vancouver to New Zealand would not be as much of a change of scenery as Vancouver to Rarotonga, or Vancouver to pretty much anywhere else besides New Zealand.

          I confess that your comment and Catie’s inspired me to actually google Rarotonga and find out where it is. Now, I’m thinking the Rarotonga/New Zealand combo would be an outstanding vacation. Glad to know I don’t need to practice my mooning skills to visit. :)

  13. Welcome back! Glad you enjoyed my neck of the woods. Well, almost, I’m about 60 miles south of Victoria on Puget Sound. But I love that city. Watch the Victoria Clipper go by out of Seattle a couple of times a day in season, and frequently wish I was on it. My goal is to go there during the Christmas season at least once. But just about anywhere in B. C. will do; it’s a gorgeous place. And Canadian politeness is not a myth; my favorite Canuck once apologized to a parking meter for inadvertently walking into it. ;-)

  14. I’m so glad you fell in love with my country. I think we have a lot of beauty that most people never get to see, and you can have that beauty without having to give up the comforts of home :)

    When my husband (an American), first came to Canada, it was the little things that threw him off the most. He’d never heard of poutine either. He couldn’t figure out why in the world our milk was in bags. And he kept asking restaurants if they served “sweet tea” (something I’d never heard of before). We were together almost a year before I figured out he meant “iced tea.” In Canada, iced tea is always sweetened, but I guess in some areas of the US, sweet tea is sweetened iced tea and iced tea has no sweetening in it.

    • mliddle says:

      Marcy! I totally forgot about the milk in the bags! I just love all the things that make Canada unique. I it wasn’t for my godchildren (niece & nephew) living in Pa, I would move to my birthplace. The summers would be better fit for me. I would live around Quebec City so that I can learn my French again.

    • Piper Bayard says:

      That’s funny about the sweet tea. Generally, that’s a Southern and lower Midwestern thing. The rest of the US presumes the tea is unsweetened. I was surprised to find sweet tea was just iced tea in Canada. I must say, though, I didn’t see any milk in bags. The grocery store where we shopped had milk in jugs. And yes. Canada is awesome! What’s not to love? :)

  15. Rob Mahan says:

    My favorite Canadian factoid used to be about how four-fifths of the population lives within 150 kilometers of the US-Canada border.

    My newest favorite Canadian factoid: “The friendly common greeting and farewell of Canadian island children is to moon arriving and departing guests as the ferry passes.”

    It’s been years since I spent much time in the Land of Alex Trebek, but I always enjoyed visiting Toronto. Bastardizing Arlo’s famous lyric “You can get anything you want … on Yonge Street … including Alice!”

  16. Yes, yes, yes! I have been in love with Vancouver since I was a little kid. My maternal grandmother has dual citizenship (born in Ohio, became a minister and then moved to Canada), and her 2nd husband, my Poppi, is from Winnipeg. The city of Vancouver itself reminds me of San Francisco, where I’m from, only cleaner and with way more trees and natural beauty. And Victoria is wonderful as well — lovely people, beautiful surroundings. I’ll be going to Vancouver for a conference in November, and I’m hoping to make a side-trip to Victoria once I’m through the business end of things. I haven’t been back since 2003, so it’ll be awesome. :D

    • Piper Bayard says:

      I have never been any closer to Vancouver proper than the drive to Tsawwassen, but your description makes me think I missed out. So glad you get to go there in November! I look forward to hearing all about it. :)

  17. Go Jules Go says:

    Welcome back! What a trip you must’ve had. I can’t believe you snorkeled?! I was in Victoria for just two short days a few years ago, and we did a whale watching tour (we saw a couple of fins, that’s about it). I’d love to spend more time there; what a beautiful part of the world. And, you know, the poutine doesn’t hurt either.

    • Piper Bayard says:

      Actually, the snorkeling comment was my hubby’s contribution. My son and I dive, and, of course, we both got head colds that week and couldn’t go. So my son wanted to at least go snorkeling. DD wasn’t going for that under any circumstances so she and I went shopping while the boys went. Apparently, it was VERY cold without much to see. The antithesis of the reef off the coast of Belize. :)

  18. Stacy Green says:

    Love this list. Hubby and I always say we’re going to spend a week in Canada. Farthest we’ve been in is Thunder Bay, and that was just a quick day trip. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  19. *bursting with pride* So glad you loved beautiful Vancouver island and got to experience so many things. It’s one of my favourite places too. Those kids must have known the famous Piper Bayard was on the ferry because those moonshots are reserved for very special people! Come back again soon, eh?(And add a visit to Toronto to your itinerary!)

  20. angelaackerman says:

    I didn’t realize you were in Canada, and especially Victoria. My MIL lives in Sooke, so we get down there every two years or so.

    And I have yet to be mooned while taking the ferry. I guess it’s something reserved for visiting Americans? LOL

    And, AND…HOORAY FOR POUTINE!

    Angela

    • Piper Bayard says:

      Oh, wow! I wish I had known. We would have given her some fresh fish.

      That happened as we were passing a small island between Tsawwassen and Schwartz Bay. They were clearly well-practiced in their Welcome Wagon activities. :)

  21. I’ve been to Canada once – we skied Sun Peaks, BC in 2005. It’s my only visit to North America and I’d just love to go back to Canada again. Vancouver Island sounds like just my kind of place!

  22. mliddle says:

    Welcome Back Piper!
    I missed you! It was wierd not having you for the unveiling of WANA International & the WANAparty. But hppy that you visited Canada.
    I’ve always wanted to go to Vancouver. I was born in the eastern part of Canada. My Mom & all her family are from around Montreal. My Grandmaman & uncle now live in Qubec City, which is quaint and beautiful in the mountains. (Breath-taking in the winter!)
    Ever since we moved to the States, from as far south as South Carolina, my Mom, Dad, brother & I made that trip to north of Montreal at least once a year. From ages 9 to 18, my brother & I endured (& my parents too!), at minimum, 9 hours each way in one day in the car. It was 15 hours when we lived in SC! We stayed in an old converted turn of the 20th century school house. This was my Uncle’s small house where he lived in w/his wife. Up in the Canadian wilderness, I learned to canoe, portage, swim long distances, start fires, feed chickens. We also picked blackberries, ate poutine (hats off to you Piper!), eat candy bars that were better than American ones, eat salmon my uncle caught, eat tortierés, go dog-sledding & more. I still have my American passport & dream of living there (I was born there but only lived there for my 1st 2 yrs). My ultimate Canadian dream is to go to the Canadian Rockies.

    I’m so pleased to hear you experienced another excellent part of Canada, Piper. I have many fond memories of my birthplace.
    Monique

    • Piper Bayard says:

      What wonderful childhood experiences you had! Sounds like kid heaven. Good for your parents for putting up with those road trips. Those are some serious family bonding experiences.

      I’ve always wanted to go to Quebec. My grandparents went there once. Some tourists asked my grandfather where they could find a restaurant while they were there. My grandfather pretended he only spoke French and directed them to a dentist when they kept pointing at their mouths. Of course, he knew exactly no French. Ornery runs in the family. Anyway, you’ve given me new inspiration to go to eastern Canada next time. :)

      Good to see you!

  23. What an awesome adventure you had, Piper. Particularly fascinated by #s 6 and 7. :) Travel has taught me that hotels seldom look the photos, but that doesn’t matter much anyway. Time spent meandering around rocks the most.

    • Piper Bayard says:

      Our first hotel, the Harbour Towers in Victoria, was more outstanding than its pictures. The house we rented was awesome, as well. Then we went to our last hotel for a night back on the mainland. I won’t give it explicit negative publicity by naming it, but we did rename it the Roadhouse Inn before moving to another hotel pronto. The first clue was the sign saying the breakfast toaster was by the stairwell. Really. I won’t even start on the visibly dented mattresses.

      Re: #7, the halibut was awesome. I have so much respect for fishermen now that I’ve reeled one in. That is hard work!

      Meandering around the rocks sounds like an excellent use of time. So peaceful.

  24. Dave says:

    Piper, you should look more closely at the markings on those ordinary-looking police cars the next time you’re in BC. That RCMP car may be carrying one of Canada’s finest Mounties in a secret disguise of a green uniform.

  25. Jess Witkins says:

    This sounds amazing! I’m so glad you got a getaway in, you earned one! And seeing a killer whale does sound worth the sandblasting rain to get there. I’m putting Vancouver Island on my travel list!

  26. Welcome back! You were within waving distance, sort of! I left SoCal for the Pacific NW 10 years ago and have never looked back. I love the green, I love the seasons, and yes, I even love the rain! Makes me appreciate the great weather we get come spring and summer that much more. Great pics of the sea lions, if anything could make me homesick it’s that. ;-)

    • Piper Bayard says:

      I wish I’d known you were in the area. Would have been great to meet you. And as a desert refugee, I completely understand the appeal of the area. :)

      • It would have, another time perhaps. I haven’t been to Vancouver in over 20 years, Hub and I keep meaning to make the trip, but so far life has had a funny way of intervening. I’m so glad you enjoyed your stay there. Your pictures are really beautiful. :-)

  27. Oh, Canada is definitely on my bucket list! I must go….

  28. I went to Vancouver Island in high school on a science trip, where we island-hopped in a boat and studied killer whales and stellar sea lions and tide pools. But the best part was catching a 4-foot halibut in an inflatable boat off the coast of the small island that was our home for that night. I had thought I’d caught a rock, but it was this giant fish that flopped around and almost knocked me and my two friends into the water. The fish fed the entire group of 20 students. I felt like hero. Glad to hear you had your own experience with halibut and that you enjoyed Vancouver Island. It sure is a special place. I’d never seen anything like it.

  29. Jane Sadek says:

    Just got back from the Pacific Northwest myself, but I was in Oregon. GORGEOUS!

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