Continued from last post…
Friday, August 23. Victoria, BC.
6:30am PT: The weather on this trip so far has been absolutely gorgeous, and that’s becoming a problem. We did not pack for such nice weather. If it doesn’t get cold and nasty soon, our entire vacation might be ruined.
Also, Barbara has lost her shoes. I’m not sure, but I think this is unusual for a tourist. She believes she left them in the Vancouver hotel and, since we’ll be back in Vancouver for a few minutes today, she calls that hotel. Alas, no one has turned in her shoes. The maid must have been the same size.
9:55am PT: After breakfast, we check out of the hotel and visit the Royal BC Museum that everyone has been raving about because it’s royal. Or something. Everything here is better when it’s royal. The museum is okay, but hey, we’re former New Yorkers from Connecticut, so it’s nothing to blog home about. Although there is a kind of cool exhibit with reproductions of old parts of town, there is also a pathetic series of dioramas depicting local wildlife in the form of taxidermied animals. How about a zoo with live animals, for crying out loud? Or just drive around; you’ll see a racoon eventually.
We’re done with the museum in about 75 minutes, at which point Barb emerges from the bathroom as if she has just seen the most amazing museum exhibit ever. “We didn’t empty the room safe!” she says. This would be a problem, as our passports and much of our cash are in there. We go back to the hotel, and everything is where we left it, although, unfortunately, the safe does not contain Barbara’s shoes.
1:00pm PT: The group meets at the Empress Hotel for a traditional high tea…if by “traditional,” we mean a bunch of Americans in t-shirts drinking tea at 1pm. I’d really prefer coffee, but I’m embarrassed to ask. Also, the handles on the cups are too small to put your finger through, so what’s the point of even having them?
After tea, we all head to the float planes, which are supposed to fly us back to Vancouver so we can catch a train to Jasper. Greg lets us know how lucky we are to have nice weather so the float planes can fly.
Yes, lucky us. I don’t like small planes in the first place. And, where we come from, if a plane lands on water, the press calls it a miracle. So I’m not thrilled with this part of the tour.
We get in the plane and there is a seal (the animal kind) outside the window. This is not a sight I want to see from a plane because it likely means we are neither on solid ground nor in the air.
On the plus side, getting through security and onto the plane is a breeze. That’s because there is no security. They don’t even lock the door to the cockpit. That’s because there is no door to the cockpit. (I hope no evil people are reading this.) The pilot is in full view of the entire plane; it’s like being a passenger in the back seat of a flying SUV.
When the plane lands, it taxis (sails?) to a dock, where someone has to hook it in and tie it up as if it is a small fishing boat. The bus, which has been fortunate enough to take the ferry back, meets us at the bustling seaplane terminal and drives through what Greg says is one of Vancouver’s ritziest neighborhoods. Block after block of not-very-big-looking houses so close to each other that you could stand between two of them and touch them both. “One point two million,” Greg announces. “One point five million.” They have water views, of course, but still…
5:20pm PT: Although we are scheduled for dinner at leisure, Greg announces that we’ve been such a good group, Tauck has agreed to buy us dinner. This is met with a roar of approval. It is apparent, though, that this is not a spur-of-the-moment thing, since the very busy restaurant has set aside an entire room for us and printed up limited menus for us to order from. Barb and I also know, from a blog Barb found of someone who took the same tour in June, that Greg thought that group was very good, too. I wonder if they were better than us.
I haven’t really mentioned our driver, Wayne. Besides expertly maneuvering through crowded, narrow streets, Wayne acts as an Ed McMahon to Greg’s Johnny Carson. For instance, when he announced he was paying for dinner, Greg told us he was putting it on Wayne’s credit card. Wayne will be leaving us tonight, because the bus won’t fit on the train.
7:15pm PT: On the way to the train that will take us to Jasper, Greg lets us know that there are no locks on the compartment doors, but not to worry; nothing gets stolen. “I leave everything in there,” he says. “Money, laptop. No problem.” I wonder briefly what compartment he’s staying in.
9:39pm PT: I’m writing this in the “activity lounge” of the train, and it is difficult to type with all the rocking back and forth and screeching around bends.
The rooms on the train are called “compartments,” probably because of their similarity to glove compartments. When we stepped into ours, other people from the tour looked in to compare our room to theirs, and I was reminded of the scene in A Night at the Opera where a dozen or so passengers crowd into a cruise ship cabin with the Marx Brothers. When everyone left, Barb and I each sat in our chairs. There was enough room for me to put my feet up. On the sink.
We had to leave the room immediately so that the hallway lady (I forget what she’s called) could “make up our rooms,” an activity which consisted of causing the chairs to magically disappear, pulling bunk beds out from somewhere and leaving chocolates on our pillows. The candy, I think, is a bad idea. You don’t want to make people fatter while they’re staying in these rooms.
We went up to Tauck’s private “dome car.” Instead of normal windows, this has glass arching around the whole top of the car. Barb told someone that this will be her first time sleeping on a train. I pointed out that she used to commute on the Long Island Railroad, so it would only be her first time sleeping on a train horizontally. If she sleeps at all.
So, anyway, I’m writing this in the activity lounge because only one of us can get ready for bed at a time, and since Barb has the top bunk, she’s first. I strike up a conversation with Marilyn, an adorable French-Canadian girl who is our…well, I don’t know what her position is either, but she seems dedicated to seeing to our needs. I ask her whose music is playing in the lounge. She shows me the CD. I say the singer sounds a bit like Judy Collins. Marilyn, of course, says “Who?” But she does it in a delightful French accent, so I don’t care so much that I am ancient.
To be continued…
P.S. Shout out to Beth…hope the surgery goes well.