British Columbia Travel Diaries Part 2: Victoria, Sooke and Gastown

And the travel diaries are back! To read the previous part, click here.

Day 6: Ferry to Victoria, Victoria and Sooke

The day started off early (5:30 AM) as we had to catch the 7 AM ferry from Tsawwassen to Victoria. (Lemme tell you, trying to get one sleep-deprived teenager, four adults and a 10- and 13-year-old (some of the family friends we were staying with) out the door before the sun finishes rising is no easy task).

I ended up sleeping (or trying to sleep) in the car below decks for the first half of the ferry ride, so I didn’t get too many pictures. But around 8, we got pulled above decks to get a look at the view.

And man, was I suddenly A-OK with being awake.

ferry ride to victoria

ferry ride to victoria bc

I went on the ferry on our trip to BC twelve years ago, too, but all I remember is repeatedly asking my parents, “are we there yet?” Five-year-old Alex certainly did not appreciate this view. Seventeen-year-old Alex did. Honestly, I’d recommend the ferry just to see the views, but it’s pretty pricey, so maybe not.

ferry ride to victoria bc
All photos courtesy of my father, the true photography king.

We finally arrived in Victoria just before 9. After spending a couple hours puttering around (and also taking a trip to Costco), we arrived in Sooke. We dropped our bags off at the place we were staying and left for our first task of the day: a hike in East Sooke.

east sooke hike
My father walking through the park. Someone please tell me I’m artsy. No, really.

I’m not normally an “outdoors person” (not necessarily by conscious choice; I kind of just generally spend a large portion of time on my computer), but walking though the trees was enough to sway me. Man, I love forests. (Hell, I have an entire novel set in one.) And from what I’ve seen, the trees in Ontario have nothing on the ones in BC.

east sooke hike
Okay. SERIOUSLY. Why is everything so cool over here?

I have a thing for cool trees, okay?

east sooke hike

After we finished the hike, which lasted a couple hours, we stopped at the beach to cool off a little.

east sooke hike
Basically paradise.

And then we hit the Potholes.

For those of you who are uninformed, the Sooke Potholes are where crazy people go to swim. It is also where weak, couch-potato human blobs like me have near-death incidents. (Totally not speaking from experience. Nope. Totally not.)

sooke potholes
Image courtesy of, as I am a clumsy human and I did not want to tempt fate by bringing technology near the pools.

They are beautiful, mesmerizing, and the water is super freakin’ cold.

(Little disclaimer here: the father of the family we stayed with called me princepessa for a reason. I’m used to nice, warm water. Pools above 80° F. Hot tubs. Showers one degree below scalding. Occasionally, Lake Erie water in August.)

The others were used to the cold water. I, however, was not.

I probably made it worse for myself by spending as much time out of the water as possible, but still. I am an out-of-shape human. I am not used to cold. Swimming through currents while in water below 60° F at lengths longer than the average swimming pool… well, that probably wasn’t the best idea for me. There was honestly a moment or two where I didn’t think I’d make it to the other side of a “pothole”. And by the time we got out of the water, I was hyperventilating and my muscles were about to give up. I was sore for about two days after. So I’d definitely suggest you steer clear if you aren’t in good shape, or wait until August, when the water’s a little warmer.

Despite all this, though, I would still do it again. Next time, though, I’ll be a little readier for the Potholes.

Day 7: Sooke, Victoria and the Ferry Back

This day wasn’t as harrowing as the previous one, thankfully. We left Sooke mid-morning, and went on to explore Victoria a little more.

First was Mile Zero—the top of my mom’s Victoria list. I knew basically nothing about the place, but seeing the statue of Terry Fox—and where he first started his run—was more than cool.

mile zero victoria

mile zero victoria
I’m a couch potato who wouldn’t even think of running a single marathon. To think that someone who isn’t nearly as able-bodied as me running a marathon every. Single. Day is pretty freaking mindblowing.

Next we went on a small hike down the Dallas Road Waterfront Trail to one of the beaches.

victoria dallas waterfront trail

victoria dallas waterfront trail
Victoria needs to stop. It’s TOO BEAUTIFUL.

Although none of us wanted to go in the water—our Victoria-born unofficial tour guide made a face and a comment about backwash sewage, and plus, I was still sore from the Potholes—the view itself was pretty nice.

Next, we drove around town just to look at the shops. After a brief coffee break, we went to Bastion Square and walked around for a while (lost, even though one of our hosts was FROM VICTORIA). Finally, we found a place to eat at and then mosied around the square.

On our way back to the Ferry, we ran across Craigdarroch Castle, which was the first castle in the middle of a city I’ve ever seen and also the coolest. Admittedly, I haven’t seen many castles, but this one was pretty awesome.

craigdarroch castle
History nerd alert. I just really like castles, okay?

We arrived at the ferry around 6, although we had to wait a couple very interesting hours before we could board. And somehow, the view from the ferry was even better at sunset than it was at sunrise.

ferry ride from victoria

ferry ride from victoria

ferry ride from victoria
Again, all the credit goes to my father. He is the true camera Jedi Master.

We arrived back in Vancouver with many stories to tell.

Day 8: Vancouver Art Gallery and Gastown

Our next day was a lazy day of sorts, with a visit to downtown Vancouver. Our goal for the day was the Vancouver Art Gallery. My mom’s an Art History major, so she’s a huge fan of art galleries in general (she used to work in a few before I was born). I am too, maybe by some sort of genetic osmosis, but the featured exhibit, Pablo Picasso: The Artist and His Muses, was really what caught our attention.

Picasso: The Artist and His Muses
Official poster from the Vancouver Art Gallery. I do not own this.

Picasso is one of my favourite artists—if not my favourite artist—and not just because we share a birthday. I’m not usually an abstract art kind of gal, but I’ve always loved his work. Last year, I did a project on his wartime pieces for my World Cultures class, and it helped me understand Picasso’s art (and Picasso himself) a lot better. This exhibit did the same thing for me: learning about his influences helped me understand his works, and in turn, helped me connect with them. And though I’d never pretend that Picasso was a great dude—especially from some of the stuff I read in the exhibit—he was a great artist.

Unfortunately, I don’t have many pictures of the exhibit, as we weren’t allowed to take pictures of a lot of the artworks. But here’s a print of Guernica, one of my all-time favourite paintings, as a consolation prize!

guernica (picasso)
Please ignore crappy quality. It was dark and there were lots of people crowding around.

After the Picasso exhibit and a trip to the gift shop (I bought a poster for my dorm room and a bookmark, and my dad bought my mom a mug for their anniversary), we spent a few minutes in the Emily Carr exhibit looking around. She’s another of my favourite artists, and something about how she paints nature just seems so relaxing and evocative to me. Truth be told, all of the paintings were beautiful.

emily carr strangled by growth
Emily Carr’s “Strangled by Growth” (1931)

The gallery itself was pretty nice, too.

vancouver art gallery
Apparently I am an architecture nerd too.

We finished off the day with a short trip to the Pacific Center (and Sephora for free samples), and a short walk around Gastown to see the steam clock. Beware: people in Gastown aren’t always nice. We got sworn at twice by angry people for no apparent reason, and it was a little frightening. There are also a lot of homeless people around there, and although that’s not a reason to stay away, it’s just something that should be mentioned. (On an unrelated note, there are also a lot of Starbucks.)

gastown steam clock
The Gastown steam clock, taken by my mother on her iPhone.


Part 3 of this trip, which includes Lighthouse Park, Whistler and Squamish, can be found here.

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