But (I told myself, while on the second ferry) vacations are always expensive; it’s too be expected. And as my tolerance for trinkets is limited, I’m very good at not buying unnecessary souvenir stuff. Roger’s Chocolates had been recommended to me, so that was my planned purchase. And we might go see Craigdarroch Castle and/or Miniature World, neither of which is particularly pricey as tourist attractions go.
AND THEN WE DISCOVERED THE BOOKSTORES.
Why didn’t somebody WARN us?
|From the cute and tidy Shepherd Books to…|
|…the huge, and just plain cool Russell Books…|
|…to the horrifying overstock basement at Books on View.|
But she did NOT tell me about Books on View, Shepherd Books, Ivy’s Books, Dark Horse Books, Sorenson Books, Legends Comics & Books, Chronicles of Crime, Chapters, Coles, and the other 30+ bookstores we didn’t even visit.
Lest you think I exaggerate: the handy flier which was given to us by the lovely fellow at Shepherd Books (’twas Mr Shepherd, my guess) lists 17 bookstores in Victoria alone: and that’s just “Secondhand and Antiquarian.” Yelp lists 38 bookstores total, and I believe it.
And the difficulty lies in the fact that books, of course, are never unnecessary. As the famous quote goes: “When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.” Follow that through to its logical conclusion and I shall be eating lightly for the rest of the…year.
All told I bought twenty books from six bookstores. In these subgenres:
- Eight research books
- Two I-was-looking-for-this gifts
- One this-is-so-weird-I-cannot-pass-it-up-and-I-know-someone-who-will-(probably)-be-as-amused-by-it-as-I-am gift
- Two I’ve-been-looking-for-this books
- Three I’ve-been-meaning-to-read-this-eventually-and-this-is-such-a-pretty-edition books
- One illustrated-kid’s-book-by-Neil Gaiman-on-the-sale-rack-must-be-bought book!
- One if-I’m-digging-through-these-stacks-I’m-going-to-buy-something-and-this-is-intriguing book
- Two I-had-no-idea-this-existed-but-now-that-it’s-in-my-hand-we-shall-never-part books
Then because we were on vacation and not yet in the real world, we bought dinner, too. And it cost a bit more than the ferry tickets, but it was worth every. single. penny. because it was one of the best meals of my life.
I couldn’t fathom what a recipe involving lingcod, potatoes, beans, cauliflower, curry, “burned yoghurt” and pakora would taste like, but all of those things sounded good. I asked the waitress to leave off the pakora after an abbreviated version of the “I imagine that that probably involves flour, and gluten makes me feel like crap so I don’t want to eat it; but no, you don’t have to worry that I will keel over if there is a slosh of soy sauce in the recipe or a crouton hits my plate by accident” discussion. But instead of just omitting the pakora, the waitress passed along the gist of the message to the kitchen and when my dinner came, they had made me something – amazing, and I don’t even know what to call it.
Imagine thumb-sized sticks of falafel with a creamy, silky interior and crunchy outside.
Now imagine they taste like the best thing ever.
(Especially with the yoghurt sauce, which is not apparently burned in any way.)
Now imagine how sad you are that you will never taste them again.
If you ever get to visit Victoria, here are your instructions: go to Ulla Restaurant; weep with hedonistic foodie joy; and leave a really big tip.
|I love you too, ulla.|
The next day’s breakfast, in the hotel’s miniature restaurant, did not compare – what would? – but it was presided over by a friendly-even-unto-death deer head wearing a cap and scarf, and served by an adorable if-my-vowels-could-get-any-more-Canadian-you’d-die-of-the-cuteness mother hen who called me sweetie. So, points for local atmosphere.
Speaking of atmosphere, my travel guide told me that Victoria is like “a taste of veddy proper Britain.” I grant you, my travels in Britain have not as yet been extensive, but Victoria is not like any part of it that I saw. There were some angles that were a smidge London; some that were a bit northern California; some that were dead-on Portland. And the supermarket, okay – the supermarket did give me Sainsbury’s flashbacks. But you know what it’s like? It’s like being in Canada. Shockingly. Bring on the cute vowels, colorful postboxes, and good signage.
The second night, after a steady day of bookbuying and picturesnapping, we dined at the ittybitty “gourmet burger joint” (as self-described) The Pink Bicycle, which did have some tasty gourmet burgers. Mmm, bison. And decent gluten-free buns! And truffle fries, which are one of those foods that are fascinating and you’re really glad you ate a huge plate of them but you’re not really sure if you like them.
I might have to go back at some point to eat another plateful and find out.
No doubts about Roger’s Chocolates, though. I think I’m going to need to find a mail-order source. (“There’s a sort of aftertaste,” my dad mused with pleasure while eating the souvenir chocolate bar I brought him. “I can’t name it….” “It’s crack. They put crack in these things and now I can’t stop.“)
On the morning of our departure we finally did the accepted touristy things of admiring the Fairmont Empress Hotel, touring Craigdarroch Castle, and squealing gleefully over Miniature World. I could inundate you with photos but I’ll limit myself to a handful of each.
Here are some of my favorites from Craigdarroch:
|My favorite bedroom, occupied briefly by the young Robert Dunsmuir Harvey|
|If I were moving in, I’d take the maid’s room, honestly.|
|The smoking room|
|The breakfast room, with which I am in love.|
There is grandeur: now here is the opposite end of the spectrum.
|The American Civil War|
|It’s only when I was editing my photos that I caught the joke|
|Little helpers in the diamond mine|
|Just a small fraction of the huge London display|
|Quick! He’s escaping!|
The rest of the pictures (and more to come) can be found on Flickr.
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