Saturday, October 2, 2021

[VICTORIA] Vancouver the Island Not the City

Victoria has always been on the itinerary but after thinking about the four-hour trip combination of metro, bus, ferry, and then bus again, Victoria got shelved. And then a friend and former officemate suddenly revealed that he is living there now. Okay, fine, Victoria is back on the itinerary. What better way to get rid of jetlag than to add more jetlag? Or ferry lag. Whatever, you get my drift. I scheduled Victoria the day after landing, two days before takeoff. This should be fun.

Victoria is the capital of the Pacific Northwest province of British Columbia. Vancouver the city is just more popular, but they exiled all things administrative to Vancouver the island, where Victoria is. Confusing, I know. The main attraction is the Parliament of BC which subscribes to the same Neo-Baroque architectural style most government buildings in this country seem to adore. You know, white or beige façade with teal green domes. Are those teal? Sorry, I’m not that well-versed in various shades of green.

But first, how to get here? Staying at Richmond saved me around half an hour on the Canada Line. Get your ass to Bridgeport Station which serves as the connecting station linking the airport to downtown Vancouver. The bus you are looking for is the 620 heading towards Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal. Now say that name fast five times! From Bridgeport to Tsawwassen is a journey a little over 30 minutes. The terminus is the ferry terminal where you buy your tickets before boarding the ship.

The ferry plying the Tsawwassen – Swartz Bay route is for foot passengers and cars alike. The fare varies, obviously. I paid CAD17.50 (~PhP700) one way. I was amused by the interior and how comfy it all is. This is not my first time to board such a shipping vessel. I already did so a few years back when I crossed over from Helsinki to Tallinn and back. But yeah, the 1 hour 45-minute ride was smooth sailing and there were a lot of spots onboard to choose from, from your typical ferry seats to workstations where you can charge your laptop and other gadgets. Or work. Work Station. Doh.

The views of the many islands from the deck are fascinating alright, but I didn’t get to enjoy them that much because it was cold outside. Victoria does not have a Tap to Pay system for contactless credit cards like Vancouver does, so prepare some cash. With my ATM card not working, I was surprised that the bus driver approached me and handed over a one-day ticket worth CAD5 valid on all Victoria transport buses for that day. Wow, thank you!

The trip from Swartz Bay takes another hour on the bus. I took the bus that was non-express, which was also a good way of getting an impromptu tour of the other towns on southern Vancouver Island. If you want the quiet island life, then you’ll like it here. Otherwise, you only have to hop on the bus to get to Victoria if you miss the hustle and bustle of city life. Organized in grids, Victoria is a well-planned city alright, at least the Downtown Area. The parliament is a few blocks away down south across Victoria Harbour, where you can also hop on a ferry headed to Seattle south of the border.

That was basically it for me. The Parliament, Fairmont Empress, and Victoria Harbour are all located in one area teeming with people. You have curious sightseeing tourists, chilling locals on a short work break. That was all I was interested in, to be honest. If you have a few days or weeks to spare, look at a map and check out how big Vancouver Island is. Victoria is just a small dot on the southern edge facing Washington state. I’m pretty sure there is more to see should you decide to head north to Nanaimo or even farther.

Anyway, sitting on the dock we found a spot all to ourselves where some serious catching up happened along with talks of migration and prospects of trying one’s luck taking advantage of Canadian hospitality. If you want to come over to study for 8 months or so, I believe you can get a post-graduation work permit commensurate to the number of months you spent studying. If you are lucky to find an employer after that, I believe Canadian citizenship can come in as little as five years. With minimum wage currently pegged at CAD15 (~PhP600), it’s actually kind of tempting.

[VICTORIA] Vancouver the Island Not the City

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