Saturday, March 27, 2010


So this year, I had my first birthday entirely outside of Australia.  Last year nearly took that title, only I flew to Sydney that day, so I got about 6 hours there.  I wasn't really into a huge deal for my birthday this year, but Craig and Peter took over and planned some nice things. 

First of these was the cake!

This is apparently a Canadian tradition, to have an ice cream cake from Dairy Queen.  Craig and Peter took it one step further, and drew the Mukmuk as a mountie design for them to put on the cake, which worked really well.  And they spelt my name right! 

The day was a glorious sunny day, so we took the cake down to the waterfront to eat.  A very nice way to spend a couple of hours, especially with the lovely warm sun!

Later on, we all went out for dinner at a Mexican restaurant.  We were all pretty hungry, so we thought a large nachos would be good.  This is what we got...
Thankfully we were sharing that between four people.  And it was very very good :-)

After dinner, I got taken to a revolving bar which had the most amazing view!

This is looking down Robson St to the celebration centre.  They set of a giant light show down there every night during most of February.  There was also a public skating rink, and a zipline, and the mascots on ice show (more to come on that later)

And this is the Vectorial Lights, a big installation art piece put up for the Olympics.  The lights changed formation every seven seconds, and you could even go online and design your own formation.  Very beautiful to watch, and very hypnotic.  Even if Peter and Craig kept making bat signal jokes.

Victoria Bug Zoo

Possibly on of the stranger things to do in Victoria is visiting the Bug Zoo.  We had a few hours up our sleeves before our ferry back to the mainland, so the Bug Zoo seemed like the perfect place to check out before leaving. 

The have all sorts of interesting creepy crawlies.  I can't really remember many of the names now though.  Some of them were really pretty, some of them had too many legs, and some of them were a little too adventurous.

They have all sorts of stick and leaf insects.  I liked this one because it (she maybe) appeared to be smiling.

This is a centipede.  The centipede was one of the bugs that wasn't allowed out of its box, for the reason that it is rather poisonous and gives a painful bite. 

A very small huntsman, only about 5cm wide.  Craig had a bit of a giggle at this one, after the huge ones we were seeing at Grandma's last year.  We asked the guide, and she confirmed our suspicion that this one was just a baby.  I hope they'll get it a bigger box when it grows up!

Not entirely sure what this was, but it was a very pretty yabbie/lobster thing. 

SPIDER!  Can't remember which one this was, but I think it was the bird eating one.  Was bloody big anyway.

This one is a whip scorpion of some sort. 

This one was my favourite.  It's a very pretty grass hopper thing. 

This one is an Ecuadorian Purple Spider.  Another of the "not to be let out of the box" critter, because apparently, they jump. 

Here's me with a large and surprisingly heavy scorpion. 

And a tarantula.  Also surprisingly heavy!  And thankfully pretty docile.

 With a slightly adventurous stick insect

With a leaf insect

And finally, with a millipede.  I think this one was my least favourite, though still a pretty neat little creature.  The sensation of having him walk about on my hands was a little odd, something like being walked on by a bristle hair brush I guess. 

 When I said I was going to Victoria, my sister said I had to hold the tarantula, because that was the one she chickened out on.  So, I did that, and held all the other available ones too.  It was an interesting experience, but I won't be off to buy a pet tarantula any time soon!

Royal British Columbia Museum

The Royal BC museum is awesome! Out front, there's a large group of West Coast First Nations totem poles.  I think I'll have to do a separate post on the totem poles alone, to do justice to the sheer number of photos I took.  I have a nice little book that will help me explain them too...that will help.'s the totem pole that's right out the front door. 
All the different animals have different meanings and signifigances in the stories of the local First Nations People.  As well as the mythical creatures and the occasional person on the poles, you get the local animals too, like bears and the bear mother, salmon, ravens, orca, beavers, frogs, goats and the wolf.  The sun and moon also make an appearance occasionally.

So, once in the museum, we went to see a woolly mammoth, complete with a real ice wall. 

Then it was off to the temperate rain forest, where we saw elk and dear and bears and I think it was a cougar.  This display was really cool, as when you stood in the middle, it echoed and when you stomped, the ground made squelching sounds, just like a real rainforest! 

The cougar?  Or something feline anyway...

After the rainforest, we headed to the beach. 

And we found some harbour seals...

A sealion bull...

And then onto the wetlands to see some local birds. 

Then we went under the water! They have this whole room set up that feels like you're under the sea, complete with windows out to the "ocean" and periscopes (in which you actually watched little documentaries about the local underwater life).  There was also a ships wheel, and one of those lever things that set the speed of a ship...a certain little dinosaur had some fun with those.

Then into the First Nations exhibit.  This area was fascinating!  The detail that goes into the art is wonderful, and the stories are really interesting.  My favourite part here was an area where they had masks of all the different characters that pop up in the local mythology, and there was a recording that played while we watched that highlighted each mask and explained its role and significance.  My favourite was the character called "Crazy like an Otter".

Then we went back in time to downtown Victoria.

And then off to see the old salmon canneries

According the newsreel movie from the 1940s, the fish were first gutted by the highly technological "iron chink" ( read that right...they were well proud of their iron chink too).  Then the cans would be packed and checked by women who were "shining with cleaniness", and then taked off to the "vacu-um machine" (say it pronouncing both "u"s, it's fun) by men who were most certainly not shining with cleanliness. 

Next came the boat ride.  I'd heard about this one already from my sister, and was keen to check it out for myself.  So you get to the room, and you look at the boat.  It's very much stationary.  You get on the boat, and suddenly, you feel like you're moving, and the boat does appear to be swaying just like it would be on the water!  And when you get off, you feel a bit sea leggy!  It's crazy, and we couldn't work out for the life of us just how they pull it off.  It's a really neat little trick.

After all that we felt a bit hungry, so we headed off to the old time kitchen.  These old rooms were beautifully set up, and here you could actually smell the fresh baked fruit pie, which really did make us hungry. 

This room was decorated with the most beautiful oriental furnishings.  The most wonderful thing about all these rooms was that they really did just look like the owners had just stepped out for a moment.

And finally it was off to the mountains to see the pioneers' huts, either for lumberjacks or miners.

The museum was really a wonderful place to visit.  In every room you'd find something new to ooh and aah at, whether it was the main display, or the tiny little quirks they put into them, like moving ships and fresh pie smells.  Definitely a wonderful way to spend a morning in Victoria!

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Whale of a time...only without the whales!

 (Note:  Yes, I am well aware that this stuff happened a good while ago, but I've been busy!  I am planning on having my posts up to date by the end of the weekend though...famous last words)

When Craig and I were doing our research into things we could do in Victoria during the winter season, we were quite disappointed to find out that the whale watching tours wouldn't be running.  So, when we stumbled across a company that appeared to be running whale watching tours, we were delighted and signed up immediately.

So on our appointed day, we went off to the offices of the company.  First thing on the list was to sign our waivers...just in case of death and injury and all that fun stuff.  Then we waited for a while, and chatted to the other passengers.  It was a mark of how much the olympics were gearing up that about half the group was in Vancouver in some Olympic capacity.  There were two cops from Toronto, and two Swiss guys who worked for Omega. 

So once everyone arrived, we all went to get suited up.  Since we were all going out on a large Zodiac, we needed to wear these incredibly sexy giant bouyant suit things, in which we boiled and couldn't bend properly.  Fun!

And here's me demonstrating the stylish newer version of the suit.  As on as put them on, you'd start sweating and wanting to take them off...but they really came in useful later.

And here's Craig demonstrating his older model suit.  After we were all suited up, we got on board the boat.  The guide warned us, if you have back problems, don't sit on the front row, so Craig took the front with the two police officers, and I was behind him with the Swiss guys.  The guide had said, "the front's pretty bumpy, but you probably won't get as wet", but what he didn't mention was that anyone sitting on the side was going to get soaked.

We enjoyed a very pleasant ride out of the harbour, with not too much bumpiness or splashes.  It was very nice to be out in the sea air.  We wound around the coastline, dropping into little bays to look at the wild life which included these cuties

We also saw some bald eagles, but unfortunately didn't get too many good photos.  When we left the nice little bay where we'd watched the eagles and seals, it started to get really bumpy, and really wet!  This was also when we discovered that those sitting on the sides got really wet and cold.  We were most glad for the suits then!

Probably the best sight of the trip was a big family of sea lions.  They were sitting on a rocky outcrop near Race Island (which nutters dive on, despite the incredibly dangerous currents...the island was named because of the way the currents "race" past).  They took a slight dislike to the boat when it stopped nearby, and then just suddenly piled into the water.  It was amazing to watch, since usually when we saw sealions in NZ they were sleepy and rarely noticed our existence. 

By this point in the tour we were starting to get a bit tired, as holding on with all your might can be a mite draining on the arms!  Around Race Rocks, where we spent a fair bit of time zooming about, the water looked like this:

So, landing on top of those in zodiac can be a bit bumpy, and going through those in a zodiac can get a bit wet.  All in good fun though.  When we got back to Victoria, we were compared levels of soaked-ness.  Because Craig and I both sat on the sides, we both got soaked, as often enough, the waves went straight down the front of our suits. 

As we were all getting de-suited, the two cops who were sitting with Craig were comparing the degrees of being soaked.  Craig was saying how wet he'd got, and the man he was sitting next to goes "oh, I didn't get wet at all, just splashed in the face".  His poor partner, who'd been sitting on his other side was utterly and completely soaked, and looked rather miserable, and like she wished she carried her gun all the time while her partner was standing there all warm and dry joking about a little splash in the face.  The poor Swiss guys just looked a little shellshocked by the whole experience. 

And boy, did we feel it when we staggered out of bed the next day!  Carrying our backpacks on the trip back to Vancouver sure was fun.

But would I do it again?  Totally...if I can have some whales next time!