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Monday, January 31, 2011

222 Mary Street, Victoria West

Here's another of Victoria's fine old brick heritage homes. I pass this one nearly every morning on my way to the West Bay Walkway for my daily stroll along the shore. I like brick houses in general but I particularly like this one because of how it manages to look so staid and proper despite being an eclectic mix of architectural styles. According to "This Old House", the bible of Victoria Heritage Houses, this dwelling succeeds in uniting Classical Revival, Gothic Revival and Italianate styles in one structure. It was built sometime before 1892 and during its long life has been lived in by a remarkable cross section of Victoria's population, including a draughtsman, a carriage-maker, a merchant, a sailor, a railway conductor, an engineer, 2 painters, a labourer, a biscuit factory packer, a machinist, a blacksmith, a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman, a garbage man, and a partridge in a pear tree.... I also like the way the surrounding modern condo development mimics the style and materials of this house.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

West Coast Air

Victoria's Inner Harbour is a very busy place. In addition to the many different types of waterborne traffic - commercial and pleasure craft of all types and sizes - it is a very busy airport with float plane flights taking off and landing several times per hour during the day. There is also a heliport on Ogden Point so one or more aircraft are almost always visible in the airspace above or approaching the harbour. The plane above is one of West Coast Air's planes. There are several other small flight companies operating flights between Victoria and other points on Vancouver Island and between here and the mainland.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


Just a few minutes along the Westsong Walkway from yesterday's vantage point is the sculpture by John Barney Weaver entitled Victoria Pacifica, which was featured here in November last year. The larger sculpture is flanked by two smaller female nudes, one of which is pictured above (detail) and to the left.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Westsong Walkway

For the last several months my morning walk of preference is along the West Bay Walkway, the westernmost portion of the seaside walkway that extends from downtown Victoria along the shore of the Inner Harbour all the way to West Bay Marina in Esquimalt. The part of this trail that is closest to downtown is called the West Song Walkway and above is a view taken from that part of the pathway looking westward towards West Bay and Esquimalt. While the walkway is never crowded it is used extensively by walkers and joggers (and, occasionally, by little boys with scooters).

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Headless Heron

Actually this Great Blue Heron is just having a nap. It must be very convenient to be able to just tuck your head under a large wing whenever you want to shut out the world. But I don't know as I'd care to try it while balancing on a branch about 30 feet up in a tree. I have several times seen this heron snoozing like this above the West Bay Walkway near Sailor's Cove.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Visiting With Giants

Walking through a temperate rain forest like Thetis Lake Regional Park is like being inside a complex network of immense and ancient beings whose interwoven muscles and sinews provide the steps and hand holds along the paths. One is completely surrounded and immersed in this living web. I always find myself speaking in a whisper so as not to profane the profoundly slow and peaceful conversation of the forest.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Coastal Cafe

To ride the ferry between Victoria and Vancouver takes about one hour and thirty-five minutes. Many passengers spend this time having lunch or a snack in one of the ferry's eating places. This is a shot of the entrance to the on-board cafeteria called the Coastal Cafe. There is also a more upscale restaurant with an extensive seafood buffet and a small, mostly automated coffee bar. Each ferry also has, in addition to several large lounges, a video arcade for the kids, a play area for smaller children, and a gift shop selling books, magazines, souvenirs and snacks. There are also work areas where laptops may be plugged in.

Monday, January 24, 2011

McKenzie Creek

Much as I complain about the weather I always try to keep in mind the fact that this cool wetness is exactly what our temperate rain forests need to thrive. And when I visit places like McKenzie Creek in Thetis Lake Regional Park I willingly accept the cold drizzle that characterizes this climate for much of the year.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Kwakwaka'wakw Bear Pole

On a quick trip to Vancouver last week I had occasion to wait at the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal and noticed there this beautiful totem pole. It is a work of famed Kwakwaka'wakw artist, Chief Henry Hunt. It was carved to mark the centennial of the Province of British Columbia in 1966 and depicts a grizzly bear (top) and a whale. Henry Hunt was born in 1923 and worked with Mungo Martin and the BC Provincial Museum in replicating many decaying totem poles as well as on his own superb creations such as this prize-winning pole. In 1983 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts by the University of Victoria. He died in 1985.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


Lately the weather has been in a mode that seems to be very characteristic of Victoria. It is cloudy and dark in the morning, perhaps with a bit of rain and wind. Then around noon it blows clear and the sun comes out and it evolves into a splendid afternoon. This has been the pattern the last week or so and it makes for very clean, clear air. The sun is still so low that there are stark shadows but there is more color in the environment and that plus the bit of added warmth this week makes it seem like spring is just around the corner. This photo was taken from the West Bay Walkway near Sailor's Cove.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Swan Lake

It's pretty hard to top the drama and color of the Fisgard Lighthouse (yesterday's post) so here's a look at a more muted bit of Victoria's scenery. This is Swan Lake, a nature sanctuary in the midst of urban Victoria. At this time of year it's a study in the browns and reds that are relics of autumn. To the right is a photo taken from nearly the same spot in May.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Fisgard Lighthouse

Here is the back story to yesterday's photo of two children: They were standing on the rock that is in the foreground of the above photo. I took this photo then walked lower down and to the left to take some shots of the lighthouse from the side. Meanwhile a man and his two sons passed me. He posed his boys for a photo in front of the lighthouse and I snapped yesterday's photo from below and behind them. This building is one of the best known and most picturesque of local landmarks, the Fisgard Lighthouse. It's the oldest lighthouse on Canada's West Coast and is a Canadian National Historic site. It's a photographer's dream subject that looks good in any light, any season and from any angle.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Solemn Moment

I was out all day yesterday without capturing any images worth sharing so here's one from the "I don't know why I like it but I do" category of the archives.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

American Black Oystercatcher (Haematopus bachmani)

I don't know whether it has just been bad luck for me or whether Black Oystercatchers are not around so much this year. In any case I haven't seen any on my daily walks this year along our shoreline in Vic West. This photo was taken last year in January near Spinnakers on the Westsong Walkway.

When I posted the photo to the left last week I hoped someone would tell me the name of this little bay. Visitor Ngawangchodron sent me a link to a map of the area that identifies the bay as Horseshoe Bay. The point of land jutting out to the left is Finlayson Point. Thank you Ngawangchodron for that information. I will take this opportunity to recommend a visit to Ngawangchodron's Flickr photostream for a splendid collection of photographs in and around Victoria.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The First Snowdrop

I love the way these little Snowdrops (Galanthus) start blooming so early every year regardless of what the weather is like. Here's this year's first bloom. When I see these dainty little snow-white blossoms I know that crocuses and daffodils are not too far away.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


It seems that every few weeks the small beaches that line the West Bay Walkway are covered with dense drifts of seaweed. Sometimes it is just spaghetti-like tangles of giant kelp but other times it is the bright green lettuce-like weed pictured here. It can lie on the beach for several days or a week before changing tides and currents wash it away and often it becomes quite smelly. I suspect it would make good fertilizer if applied to the garden.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Below Beacon Hill 2

Messing around with multiple screw-on filters can cause vignetting - those black areas in the corners of the above photo. If I want to use the photo I will usually just crop it so these don't show. However, after looking at this photo a number of times I decided not to crop the vignetting because in this case I like the effect. It might just be nostalgia. When I was very young and had serious wanderlust, those far away places with the strange sounding names were always, in imagination, viewed through a ship's porthole. Imagine waking up in the morning and looking through that magic circle to see the pyramids of Giza in the hot desert sunlight or Chimborazo rising in the mist. That wonderful circular frame still seems to me like the mind's eye.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Antiques Row

On the opposite side of Fort Street from the challenging building pictured yesterday are some of the antique shops that gave this area its former name of "Antique Row." These are wonderful places to browse around in if you like beautiful things. I'm hooked on Chinese porcelain myself and I have a special fondness for imitation Satsuma such as in the illustration above (from my personal collection). You're more likely to find the real thing in shops such as those pictured to the left. Fellow Victoria blogger Mike Laplante yesterday posted an interesting link to a news article on changing trends in the antique business in this area.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Mosaic

This very 60's looking building was in fact built during that decade and served for many years as an office building. More recently it was converted to condominiums in order to preserve the ambitious tile mosaic that gives the building its name. The part of Fort Street where it is located used to be known as "Antiques Row" because of the numerous antique shops and auctioneers on that stretch of the street. It is also home to some trendy restaurants and home decor shops and local merchants now describe the area around the intersection of Cook and Fort Streets as "Mosaic Village."

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bus Stop 2

Many of our bus stops are graced with shelters like that pictured here, where one can stand or sit out of the rain and wind while waiting for the bus. In this neighborhood buses come about every 45 minutes, a little more often in the morning and late afternoon and less often in the late evening. Bus service runs from around six in the morning until about 10:30 at night. Here is a link to BC Transit Schedules and routes online. Adults pay $2.50 to ride the bus. Seniors (over 65) and school age children pay $1.65. Children aged six and under ride free. Monthly passes are available that offer discounted rates.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Bus Stop 1

Some time ago I embarked on a short series of photos depicting "Street Furniture" such as benches, bike racks, street clocks and trash bins, etc. I neglected, however, our bus stops, and I propose to remedy this over the next few days. I seldom use the public transportation system because I can usually walk downtown in about the same amount of time I'd spend waiting at the bus stop. Of course, if I was really organized I would get a bus schedule and walk out to the bus stop at the appropriate time. Nevertheless, the buses don't come very often around here. People are still very car focused and if gas prices are having any effect I'm guessing that it is that more people are walking and cycling rather than switching to public transport.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Below Beacon Hill

Lying directly below the hill that gives Beacon Hill Park its name is this lovely little cove. I don't know what it is called and I hope someone will tell me. Whatever its name it provides a lovely view at any time of year. Above is what it looked like late in the afternoon on Sunday.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Common Merganser (Mergus merganser)

These Common Mergansers (Mergus merganser) were part of a group of about 8 diving for their breakfast yesterday morning in Sailor's Cove, Esquimalt. That's an adult male leading a pair of females or perhaps juveniles since they resemble females. There were only two adult males in the group of 8. While I always like to see these Mergansers, I must confess that what I like best about this photo is the wonderfully loopy reflections of the sailboat masts on the water around them.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Highrock Skyline

Victoria's looking pretty craggy and Gothic in this photo. It's hard to believe this is in the middle of long settled residential area, at the summit of the small Highrock Park. It's a favorite place for me in the spring and summer when its luscious greens are overlaid by Sea Blush and Camas and its gnarled Garry Oaks are in leaf.

Friday, January 7, 2011


Our weather has warmed up for the last few days with the return of the damp gray skies. Here's a shot from earlier this week when the sun was shining. This was taken near Songhees Point (that's the rocky point on the left) on New Year's day. Lots of Victorians were out walking around enjoying the sunshine and fresh air.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Bay Street Bridge III

From beneath the Bay Street Bridge the view above is looking north and slightly west up the Gorge towards the Selkirk Waters. The house on the opposite shore that is visible through the trees is Point Ellice House. The photo on the right is the view looking in the opposite direction, down the Gorge towards the city. On the left is LaFarge Cement and Butler's Concrete. The large blue building is a thrift store called Valu Village.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Bay Street Bridge II

You can walk across the Bay Street Bridge, but only one side has a sidewalk, pictured above. Probably most of the traffic on the bridge is traveling to or from the western communities - Colwood, Langford and Sooke. Residents of Esquimalt or Vic West are just as likely to use the Johnson Street Bridge to cross the Gorge. In this photo, below the bridge on the right can be seen the Galloping Goose Trail for cyclists and pedestrians that leads directly to the Johnson Street Bridge and the city centre.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Bay Street Bridge

Victoria's main environmental characteristic is its coastal location and an extension of the ocean called "The Gorge" is the most significant urban feature. The Gorge is a long inlet that snakes westward through Victoria and Esquimalt from its lower reaches where it is called the Inner Harbour. It is bridged in 5 places along its length. In past posts I have tended to focus on the famed Johnson Street Bridge because of the controversy surrounding its replacement as well as its historical importance. The "Blue Bridge" is also the first bridge to cross the Gorge as it moves inland. The next bridge, which marks the end of the "Upper Harbour", is that pictured above, the Bay Street Bridge. It is also called the Point Ellice Bridge because its eastern side is planted on (or very near) Point Ellice. Point Ellice House can be seen through the trees in the roughly the center of the above photo just to the left of the large, blue-gray Gravel Mart building. Aside from Point Ellice House (a splendid heritage showcase) the area is mostly industrial with ship yards, a large cement works, recycling facilities, print shops and other small industries.

As I noted in an earlier post, "The first bridge over the Gorge at this point collapsed on Victoria Day in 1896 when a streetcar bearing 120 holidaymakers attempted to cross. Fifty-five lives were lost." You can read the original 1896 newspaper article describing this tragedy by clicking HERE. The current bridge was built during the 1950's.

Monday, January 3, 2011


I originally took this photo from this odd angle in an attempt to show the frost crystals glistening on this handrail on the West Bay Walkway. The frost crystals don't show as much as I hoped but I like the picture anyway because of its strong lines and shapes. We're getting a lot of frost in the mornings now and if it gets cloudy we may even get a little more snow this year.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Glacial Grooves

I've mentioned before that the beaches on the western side of Victoria tend to be rocky rather than sandy. There are also many little rock islets just offshore. Many of them, such as this one, are grooved and rounded due to glacial grinding during the last ice age.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Ducks at Dawn

While the rest of you were still abed attempting to metabolize last night's debauch I was out in the crispy dawn. It's been freezing the last few nights and there's lots of frost on the grass in the early morning. Here's what my part of Victoria looks like on this first day of 2011. I hope you have as nice a day wherever you are.