Sunday, July 29, 2007

Sooke Harbor... and Victoria

While the memory is still fresh... This morning! This glorious Sunday morning! I woke at five-thirty, time enough for a delicious full hour's sit--and thoughts of our little sangha, gathering even as I write these words, down in Laguna Beach, a thousand miles to the south. Outside, the fog bank still hung low at the other side of the bay, and the sun was just beginning to glow through the clouds on our side. Birds everywhere, sea birds, land birds... Herons, two-a-penny. Well, no, because each one of the is different and individual--a different stance, a different attitude, a different crook of the neck and a different flap of the big wings as they take to flight. They love it here. I saw eight of ten of them at one time, just outside our window. Then, the greatest thrill of all, a great bald eagle appeared from behind a stand of pine trees and made a lazy, wheeling turn right above my head. Electrifying! And I didn't even have the presence of mind to take a picture...

Speaking of which, it's time to get a camera with a better zoom than the little one we have. It takes wonderful pictures (no?) but I'd love to get in closer to those herons.
Or to the band of sea otters that Ellie and I saw, just a little later, as we walked out along the long, curving spit of land outside our hotel, which makes a natural breakwater
between the open sea and the wide harbor, with its yachts, its fishing boats and
piers. I did not know that otters swam in bands like this: there were six or eight of them, closely grouped--and they were surely too small to be seals or sea lions.

We humans sorely need this contact with the wild. These creatures serve to humanize us in the example they set of the precise and proper use of power, their complex relations with each other and the environment they inhabit. They waste nothing, occupy only the terrritory that they need and, I imagine--perhaps too fondly--do battle only over natural imperatives.

Oh, and then, on our return from a long walk out along the spit, there was breakfast.
As they used to say, dig it! More, later, about the incredible food we've been enjoying at this inn.

In the meantime, on with the day. Yesterday, that is. We hung out comfortably for the duration of the morning, needing the chance to take in the breath of life outside the city. Then, being so close, we took the forty-five minute drive into Victoria and spent the afternoon exploring that famous city. Wandering down through the streets from a convenient parking structure, we arrived at the sea front and wandered along the promenade, pausing to watch a juggler doing his act--and to retrieve some cash from a reluctant ATM machine. Then on, past the elegant and venerable Empress Hotel,
to a comfortable area along the quay where we could sit and enjoy the packed lunch provided by the hotel...

Is this the time to rhapsodize? Our inn provides breakfast served in the room AND a packed lunch, as well as dinner, if one so chooses. Everything is prepared with enormous skill and sensitivity to the ingredients, and presented so artfully--you've seen the pictures--that it seems almost a shame to eat it. All local ingredients, most of them grown in the gardens of the hotel, all of them organic, and blended with extraordinary devotion to the balance of taste. Our packed lunch: a salad with beets, orange and yellow bell peppers, marinated fava beans and chick peas and specially prepared tofu (I know what you're thinking if you don't happen to be a tofu fan, but this was truly delicious!) An orange nectarine, very tasty. And a piece of the most delicious carrot cake I have ever eaten. Period. No contest.

Thinking to avoid the milling millions of (fellow!) tourists, we wandered into the back streets behind the parliament building, and happened upon a local food and crafts fair (luckily, we were no longer the least bit hungry) and got directions to the Emily Carr house, a few blocks further on. It turned out to be a modest Victorian, by no means a mansion, nicely kept up for those interested in learning more about this until recently little-known Canadian artist. Carr seemes to have been part Emily Dickinson, for her spinsterly isolation; part Georgia O'Keeffe, for her sensuous landscape painting; and part, yes, even Getrude Stein, not only for her stern appearance and her impressive girth, but also for the ever-so-slightly sardonic wit of her writing. We enjoyed the tour of the house, a nicely done CBS video about her life and work, and (free!) tea and cookies in the sun room.

We walked on through the beautiful Beacon Hill Park,
past wonderful, whimsical children's playgrounds, lakes and open lawns,
and out the other side in search of St. Ann's Academy--a Catholic institution recommended for its interesting buildings and gardens.
The chapel was sweet, but much else was closed for a wedding celebration, so we left and strolled back through the city center to the old Chinatown area,
then back to the car, feeling quite exhausted from the extended walk.

Surfeited with food of the gourmet variety, we stopped at a pub on the way back for a huge helping of greasy fish and chips. Delicious. Too much. The big plates were overflowing at the edges. Thankfully, I didn't take a picture.
And so, as Pepys used to say, in his diary, to bed. Wouldn't he have loved a blog. No?

1 comment:

PK said...

Ooooh, Ahhhhh, all those gorgeous pictures:D! Thanks for taking me on a vacation:)... The descriptions of everything were great, and the food looked good enough to reach in and take out:). I went down below and went into the link, I really enjoyed seeing the Elephant and Tiger! All the posts were lovely Peter.. Thank you:).