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Saturday, 26 July 2008

quintessential identity crisis

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Before leaving Vancouver Island, we spent some time in Victoria, which is cited in guide books as being quintessentially English with Victorian undertones.

We stayed at the rather posh Empress hotel which overlooks the waterfront and it became apparent that the once pristine Ford was now looking rather weatherbeaten compared to the other shiny sedans and coupes being valet parked.

I'd had a similar experience about seven days earlier when we'd pulled up next to a truck like ours in a car park and I'd wondered what the couple driving it had been doing to make it look so messy outside. Now this was us with the small peephole at the back where the wiper cleared away the mud.

The valets had seen it all before of course and were unphased by this or the collection of backpacks and carrier bags in the back.

I then set out on a brief solitary expedition to find some coffee and/or ice cream, which seemed to be needed at this point. My immediate impression of this part of Victoria was more of London's Oxford Street area, with a pedestrian street rather loaded with souvenir shops and full on tourists. So, whilst one could talk of an evocation of England, it wasn't quite what I had in mind.

There was also San Fransisco trolley buses plying sightseeing routes and Vienna-like horse and buggies to take people on more extravagant viewings. My guess is that Victoria is trying to re-invent itself and we've seen it in the midst of its angst.

Later, we hit the Veranda bar for some cocktails and sunset, and I guess this view of the harbour was one of the strong points of Victoria, but if I'm honest I didn't really warm to this city the way I have to the rest of the Canada we've been travelling.

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