Wednesday, March 21, 2012

An Inadvertent Holiday in Victoria B.C., Canada


I'm usually quite meticulous when planning a vacation.  Spontaneous, I am not.  But a couple of years ago I set a goal for myself: take a trip with minimal planning and obsessing over details.  

Since my husband and I had never been to Seattle, we decided to spend a few days there and then take a ferry to Victoria on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. I allowed myself to book our flight/hotels and get ferry information online, but everything else would be done off-the-cuff.  We were even planning to take advantage of public transportation instead of renting a car. This was a huge accomplishment for me! 

Gorgeous bay in Victoria

We arrived in Victoria just before noon.  Disembarking from the ferry and getting through immigration and customs took almost two hours, definitely not the Canadian efficiency we were used to!  We admired the bay and some of the beautiful architecture surrounding it, then decided to walk to our hotel to continue enjoying the sights. A small cafe caught our eye, so we stopped in for a quick bowl of clam chowder to tide us over before dinner.

The streets seemed quite empty, but we thought nothing of it as we continued our stroll.  We checked into our hotel, took a quick nap, and freshened up to go out for dinner.


View of The Fairmont Empress Hotel and promenade around the bay

We'd seen a number of eateries on our earlier walk, so after some debate we headed for one that had looked interesting.  Hmm, it was closed.  So we walked to another, and still another, but all doors were locked.  This was weird.  Every shop and restaurant, closed at 6pm on a Monday?

By this time, we were absolutely famished, and finally! we found a convenience store that was open and ducked inside.  Fearing that we wouldn't find any open restaurants in town, we gathered up the makings of a (very sad) little meal--some noodle cups, chocolate milk, cheese sticks, and a bag of chips.  While she was ringing us up, we made a comment to the cashier about all the early restaurant closures.

Laughing, she said, "Um, it's Thanksgiving. That's why everything is closed."

The lesson:  Even when traveling (somewhat) spontaneously to another country, at LEAST check the calendar to plan around national holidays :-)

For many awesome travel photos and stories, please check out Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Traveler's Sandbox.

30 comments:

  1. A great lesson learned =) At least you got to see beautiful Victoria. I've always loved that view of the Fairmont Empress.

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    1. Thanks, Mary--Luckily we had another 5 days to spend in Victoria, so we definitely got to enjoy it fully! The Fairmont Empress is stunning, I agree.

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  2. Indeed, lesson learned. :-)

    I hope to make it to Vancouver one day, have heard many great things.

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    1. Bob--And a good lesson it was :-) Unfortunately we didn't ever make it to Vancouver on the mainland, but Victoria was absolutely beautiful. Thanks for your comment!

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  3. So funny. But I hope it does not discourage you from further throwing yourself to fate on your trips. I've never been to Vancouver, and your pictures are enticing.

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    1. Thanks, Vera! I definitely didn't get discouraged and have taken a few more spontaneous trips since, all with great results :-)

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  4. Victoria looks pretty. Is it a long ferry ride from Seattle?

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    1. Thanks, Sophie! We took the Victoria Clipper from Seattle, which took about 2.5 hours if I'm not mistaken. There's also a ferry from Port Angeles that is a bit faster.

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  5. Living just outside Seattle, we make the jaunt up north every so often. I am surprised at how slow customs was - I don't recall ever waiting more than a few minutes. Next time you take a whim to head to Seattle, let us know. We'd be glad to give an insiders tour!

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    1. Jackie & Joel--I am assuming customs was so slow because it was a holiday since we've never experienced anything like that before in Canada. And an insider's tour of the Seattle area would be fantastic! There's so much to see there that we barely scratched the surface. Thanks for your comments!

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  6. I think I should plan a trip like that without planning too much. I think I've gotten in the bad habit of planning so much that my expectations are way too high by the time I get there and there's no room for surprises left.

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Sabrina! It's definitely hard to let go of all the details, but I've found that doing so has brought a lot of magic and enjoyment to my travels. Let me know if you give it a try!

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  7. Hahaha, A vacation you'll never forget. I bet you had a good laugh when you returned to your hotel.

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    1. Well, we didn't think it was too funny that evening, but we have had a lot of laughs about it since :-) Thanks for your comments, Marcia!

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  8. I was wondering what was going on as I read through your post because usually there are lots of great restaurants open - even on a Monday. Hats off to you for spontaneity.
    That is a great boat ride between Seattle & Victoria isn't it.

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    1. Thanks, Leigh :-) The boat ride was incredible. It's a part of the country that I really want to explore further.

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  9. I assume you were there in October which as I recall is when Canadians celebrate their Thanksgiving.

    Here's a tip for travel from Seattle to Victoria: Fly on a Kenmore Air floatplane (which takes off from the south end of Lake Union at the north end of downtown Seattle) and you'll zip right through security and customs and immigration after your very scenic flight.

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    1. Yes, we were there in the second week of October. I feel so embarrassed that I didn't know Canada celebrated Thanksgiving at all, let alone in a different month than in the U.S. :-)

      Thanks for the great tip about the floatplane, Dick. I saw many of them landing in Victoria and it looked like an awesome way to get there from Seattle!

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  10. I've heard about how beautiful Victoria is -- hats off to all the travels. Can you sense jealously? ;)

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    1. Thanks, Kiran! And you can be jealous of my travels if I can be jealous of all your scrumptious cooking ;-)

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  11. That's funny (and good advice) about being there on Thanksgiving. I took a ferry from Vancouver to Victoria once -- loved the trip. But I didn't spend any time in Victoria (we were headed west), so I'd like to go back. (I'll check holiday dates.)

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    1. Cathy--Victoria is definitely worth a look if you get the time. And yes, check the calendar :-) Thanks for commenting!

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  12. I had that same experience in Eastern Canada. Surprise! Luckily we were able to book a lovely train day trip for the day. Great story and pictures.

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    1. Thank you! Glad you were able to make good use of the surprise holiday :-)

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  13. Oh no, but what a funny story you have from your adventure:) And some beautiful photos too. It just means you'll have to go back, right? Victoria is beautiful:)

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    1. Thanks, Terumi! Yes, Victoria was so beautiful and I'd take any excuse to go back :-) Thanks for commenting!

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  14. 5 days? Wow, how nice to have that much time. Seems like a beautiful place. I would love to go there.

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    1. Jenna--It was really lovely, and five days gave us more than enough time to see everything we wanted. If I were to do it over again, I'd probably spend 3 days in Victoria and then go to Vancouver for a few days too. Thanks for commenting!

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  15. Great tip...I have never thought about getting somewhere and it being a holiday!

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