Thursday, January 31, 2019

Victoria Rambling - Another Geocaching Trip To Vancouver Island

Once more the three amigos, actually three brothers, caught one of the BC Ferries and floated across the Straight of Georgia to Vancouver Island to cache in the general Victoria BC region.
 Ken, Alan, and Ed (myself), known in the geocaching world as MrTJ, Bowser98, and TJGUY98, were on a boys-only long weekend of geocaching and just plain having fun.

Every year there is an automotive swap meet in the Saanich area and Ken and Alan are big on going to the event to meet up with old buddies and see if they can pick up a few old car manuals which they resell through their online business.
For myself the swap meet was a necessary evil to endure as part of the weekend trip
No, not really  LOL    It's only 2-3 hours out of the weekend and while those two are meandering around the piles of treasure I usually take the time to prep for the geocaching day ahead.


Each time we visit the Victoria region we pick a different area to geocache in, that way we don't trip over caches already found, and we get to see new sights and vistas on our travels.

This visit could almost be called "The Ocean Tour" as most of the caches we picked were along the shoreline or beaches of Georgia Straight. This presented us with continually changing ocean views and scenic vistas. The pictures I took are almost all great to look at and I had a hard time picking just a few for the Blog. All the other picture are on my Flickr page and deserve a view.

We started our adventure just as soon as we disembarked the ferry in Swartz Bay by heading to a small cove hosting a local marina and houses along the shoreline. Boats at moor in the bay were to be a common sight on this trip, as the protected bays provide perfect anchor for those weekend sailors whom love the boating life style.

Want a house on the water? How's this, close enough? Maybe too close huh .. ?
What a fantastic view these people have, but look at the size of the logs on the beach right in front of the house. Can you just imagine a winter storm's powerful waves throwing those logs up against your retaining wall all the while the waves are crashing over your upper deck? 

Yeah, their railing on the lower deck looks pretty bashed up to the point of almost not being there.And look at that tree root sitting ominously by the retaining wall ..  Yikes!

It was already late in the day as this was our "travel" day so we headed over to the small town of Sydney for an early dinner. This is a lovely little town and we always enjoy stopping in when ever we visit the Island. There is always a good place to have either a light meal or a full meal, depending on your appetite, and all at a fair price. Plus, a stop at the Sydney Bakery for dessert sure helps the attitude as well. 😋

Sydney has half a dozen bench/statues on the main drag and these are great conversation pieces and cool art works, plus having a place to sit down to eat your ice cream is always handy.
The local Legion has a jet fighter, an artillery gun, and a tank on display, so there is more yet to see for the visitors (Check my Flickr page for those pictures - link at the bottom of the page)

We always love doing the geocaches that highlight local historical locations and this was one of them. Back before the highways were built for commerce, the water was often the highway of choice. The farms of the area relied on the water to get much of their produce to market. We visited the former site of the Newman Farm which highlighted the importance the ocean shoreline played for them.

Straight from the fields you take the steps down to the water and find the farm's boathouses housing the farm transport of the time, the boats to take your goods to market.

DAY 2     

We headed down the Patricia Bay Highway south from our hotel and continued picking up caches along the shoreline.Some caches had us on bluffs overlooking the ocean, others had us down in the tidal zone in parks or nature reserves which preserved the ocean side habitat for fish, fauna, and flora alike.
One of the caches was located on a hillside in the middle of a small subdivision. We had to take 3 flights of stairs to get down to the landing where the cache was located. We passed a swarm of small flies on the way down the stairs and I was last in line so I could tell they were stirred up by the time we all went past. We found the cache, enjoyed the view, and then trudged back up the stairs back to the truck. As we past the flies again they were even more agitated and as I was last in line again they took their displeasure out on me. No biggies, they are just flies. OUCH, Jesus H Christ those aren't flies, they are small black wasps and they were given me the what-for! I got 4-5 stings before I could get far enough away from the nest before they left me alone. And of course those other two clowns thought that was all pretty funny! I would too if it was one of them 😎

Another historical cache we came across highlighted the history of the First Nations in the area. It has been determined there has been a summer encampment on this location as far back as 500 AD by the Peoples who called themselves Lekwungen. They are part of the larger Songhee First Nation family which inhabit this part of the south Island.

The low lying headlands here provide easy access to the shore for fishing and capture of crabs and other sea foods that made up their diet. The moderate climate and a rain shadow environment all contributed to this being a perfect place for the summer days.

Black Tail deer are a common sight in the region, and they have no fear of humans. The one thing I did notice was the lack of dogs in the area. In Metro Vancouver, if a deer was walking through your yard five neighbourhood dogs would know about it and would be going crazy. Here, not a single bark was heard. The natural predator of the deer are cougars, and there is a healthy population of cougars in the Victoria area. Every now and then a lost cougar is spotted running through the downtown Victoria area, which gives all concerned quite a startle!

DAY 3         

This was a shorter day of caching as that dreaded automotive swap meet happened this morning, and we had to catch an early afternoon ferry back to the mainland.
Undeterred we crammed as many geocache finds as we could into the day and carried on doing our thing.

We aimed for the easier caches today which meant we concentrated on urban caches which provided shorter distances from the truck. While these caches were not quite as "scenic" as the ocean side caches, they none the less brought us to some pretty locations and provided a driving tour of Metro Victoria.
I guided us over to the the Mt. Douglas Park area which is a high mountainous spit of land ocean side. While we were on the wrong side of the mountain to see the ocean, the goal of the route I picked was to get us out of the city and start geocaching back towards Saanich and the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal.

One of our last locations was Brentwood Bay, a long time Victoria favourite area of local Victorians. 
The houses in the picture are actually one large complex, hence the uniformity of the housing designs and the lack of space and privacy between residences. While I'm sure all the residents appreciate the ocean views, this was the one place on the tour where we looked and all agreed - "nope, I don't want to live there" !  .

Our very last cache was shore side in Brentwood Bay, and this was one of our favourite scenic caches. We loved the view of Brentwood Bay from this spot, and the rough shoreline itself was dramatic with the rock terrain of the island battling back the ever pounding waves at high tide, all overseen by a Gary Oak tree clinging to the edge of the hill.

After this cache it was a dash up island to Swartz Bay to catch our ferry back to Vancouver. The weekend consisted of three days, a couple of ferry rides, 70 geocaches found, and a lot of tom foolery between brothers enjoying a road trip during which time we were "unmanaged" by our Life Partners. (If I say "wives" they will know I am talking about them .. shhh ...   😁    )


Monday, January 28, 2019

East Coast Cruising - Montreal

September brought a cruise to the East Coast for Annette and I. We started in New York, visited two cities in Maine, then sailed over the International Boundary into Canada and visited several cities in the Maritime region. The cruise ended in Quebec City and we ended our holidays after spending time in Montreal.


Montreal was our last stop on our East Coast adventure. We took the train from Quebec City to Montreal as it was a new type of transportation for us. Mostly we have flown or rented a car and driven between locales - traveling by rail was one more new experience for us.

Via runs a regular service between the cities and the four hour ride was an easy way to watch the scenery go by and not have to worry about driving. It didn't hurt that we went through several bouts of rain and we were secure in our coach seats having a nap while some one else did the driving.

Montreal is the second largest city in Canada, and like many cities it sprawls over the landscape. Our hotel was out in the suburbs to north, but the Metro station one block away made the downtown and tourist areas easily accessible.

Our first stop was Old Montreal near the waterfront where just about all cities have their oldest neighbourhoods. The French explorer Jacques Cartier was the first European to visit the area on October 2 1535, but it wasn't until 1642 that Fort Ville-Marie (Montreal's original name) was built that the area became a solid colony.
If you know your Canadian history, many of the names like Jacques Cartier, Samuel de Champlain, and Paul Chomedy de Maisonneuve stir up memories of your old Social Studies  lessons from high school. Standing in the in the real geographic locations from those school lessons bring's the history to life. 

The architecture of the city is old but subtly so, not like the obvious aged buildings in Quebec City. In all fairness to Montreal, if we have visited Montreal first and _then_ Quebec City we probably would have been more impressed with Montreal's heritage. As it was, visiting Montreal second downplayed the city's beauty and caused our group to be under whelmed by the city.
Here and there the older parts of the city shone through, but it was disappointing to see that much of the older buildings had been replaced by newer buildings as the city grew.

Still, the history was there to see if you took the time to walk around and sight see with open eyes.
This nondescript plaque told a story of one of the first gathering places in Montreal when the city was still young. More than likely the square was much larger before the street intruded but I can still imagine people 350 years ago meeting and discussing the events of the day, or haggle over local politics which never seems to go out of style.

The Notre-Dame Basilica and the fronting Place d'Armes Square was one of the major tourist draws in the city and we seen more tourists here than anywhere else. Those damn tourists are everywhere !  :)
Sad to say we passed up the opportunity to tour the church as there was a line up and to be honest, we had already seen enough churches on this East Coast tour.
Just a day or two before we had been in the Basilica of St-Anne-de-Beaupre on the outskirts of Quebec City, so seeing one more basilica got moved down the list.

We also toured Chinatown and were surprised to see that the area mainly comprised of 3-4 blocks of pedestrian-turned streets. I'm sure the area spread out in all directions to some extent, but it seemed like a very contained space. In our home town of Vancouver, Canada, the Chinatown extends outwards for blocks in all directions. Vancouver has the second largest Chinatown in North America, after San Francisco, so it was a bit of a surprise to see such a small part of the city dedicated as an Asian nighbourhood..

However, we also know the bakers in any Chinatown are first rate and we hopped into one of the local bakeries for a warm pork bun for lunch and a cute Angry Bird pastry as a decadent dessert.

On Day 2 or our Montreal exploring we ventured further afield and took the Metro to the prestigious area of Mont-Royal. This is west of downtown Montreal but at one time was one of the wealthy suburbs of young Montreal. The park pictured above is a nice expanse of greenery in an expensive part of the city, but you have to wonder why this green belt was not developed years ago.

A Historical placard advises that there was an exhibition grounds and a horse racing track here in the late 1800s. Seems like the city kept the historical land as a park rather than sell off the land. Good on them !

Mont-Royal is still a desired area of the city to live in but it looks like time is starting to take hold of the neighbourhood. For such a treasured part of the city, one that I have heard of for many years, the infrastructure of the area is suffering and takes away from the charm of the community. Sidewalks with big chunks missing making it a hazard to walk along, and streets that require TLC to once again become appealing to residents and tourists were evidence of a part of the city that needs more attention to live up to it's prestige.

On the plus side, many store windows boasted views like this, so it was easy to overlook the slow decay of the area. Except if you were walking and eating and twisted your ankle in one of those sidewalk pot holes. Grrrrr

Our last visit was to Montreal Olympic Park built for the 1976 Summer Olympics. 
The park is smaller than I thought it would be but it still held a surprising number of stadiums designed for specific venues.

While many of the venues are closed and are only open for specific events, we still wanted to visit the park to see what it was like. One of the things I wanted to do was ascend the Observation Tower which provided a spectacular view of Metro Montreal. While the weather did not look bad, just slightly overcast, the admissions personnel advised us that there was fog cover over much of Montreal, including the downtown core. That meant even if we had paid for the fare to go up the tower, we wouldn't see anything. So .. sadly, we crossed that off our bucket list of things to do.

Also on our to-see list was the Biodome located in the Olympic Park. In the Biodome they have recreated 4 ecosystems found in North America. But alas, the Biodome was closed for renovations. not to re-open until late 2019.
We ran out of places to visit at the Olympic Park, still we were glad we took the time to come and visit the area as we had all watched the 1976 Summer Games on TV and cheered for our own Canadian teams. It was a bit of history relived for us.

This is the last picture of our East Coast Adventure - catching the Metro under the Olympic Village to head back to our hotel.
Tomorrow we would be up an some ungodly hour and on our way to the airport to hop on a plane and head back home to Vancouver.

This was an 18 day trip for us and while it seemed long, the time went fast and we packed a lot of travel and a lot of sight seeing into those 18 days.
We started in New York, hopped a cruise ship and visited Bar Harbor in Maine, Portland in Maine, then crossed over into Canadian waters and visited St. John, New Brunswick, then Halifax, Sydney, Charlottetown, and ended our sea voyage in Quebec City.
A train ride to Montreal brought us to our last city on the itinerary.

Except for New York, which Ken and Linda had visited previously, this was new territory for us and I think we all enjoyed the easy pace of the trip. A few hectic days in New York, then a relaxing 11 day cruise with one city per day, then a brief spurt in Montreal at the end was a good way to stretch out the vacation.

For me, the takeaway was a chance to see and experience a lot of the name places which had only been in Social Study and geography books when we talked about the early days of North America and in particular Canada. 
The West Coast of Canada is the youngest part of Canada, it was good to visit the older provinces where much of Canada's history resides.

Thanks for coming along on our East Coast Adventure, more adventures to come I'm sure !

The complete set of Montreal pictures can be seen here on my Flickr web site.
Do pay the web site a visit, all my complete sets of this and previous adventures reside there