The Victoria Clipper is a ferry service from Seattle’s waterfront to Victoria, BC, in under 3 hours. It is busy in the summer, so boarding takes a while, but seemingly against all odds we got away on time and pulled into Victoria in good time. If you can avoid checking luggage, you will be among the first off, though the line was still pretty long to go through immigration.
Book a week in advance, at www.clippervacations.com, and you can pick up a slightly cheaper fare – mine was $155 (US). It might be worth signing up to their email newsletter in hope of a special offer, though nothing came through in the few weeks I was signed up. It is summer, though, so there’s probably no need to entice people in.
I settled down to wait to board, chatting with an older couple who had suggested they needed a t-shirt like mine (slogan “Scruffy on purpose”) for her son. They are, she reckoned, now too old to take on long travel via airplane (“but we’re still alive, so let’s just enjoy that!”), but happy to pop across on the clipper overnight in order to watch baseball. They had arrived at the stadium last night only to discover they’d left the tickets behind, but as they searched for a taxi they lucked out, and after a bus driver wasn’t able to call them a taxi, he took them to their hotel and back. People can be great all over.
The journey was smooth. There’s at-seat service of food and drinks, if you want it, and a customs declaration to fill in. I slept a little, listened to podcasts and peered out of the window at the sunny view as we travelled. The crew pointed out, in brief, a few attractions to left and right; the various islands we passed, a lighthouse and so on.
Immigration wasn’t too painful – we had a conversation, with a few leading questions, but seemed happy enough to let me back into Canada.
Canada seems a better fit for me, at least this trip, than the US, and the cosmopolitan, decent-sized but very walkable, Victoria, seemed immediately welcoming. Some of that must be in my mind, of course, but Canada feels more comfortable. I’m not sure if it is more European, more relaxed, less rough round the edges of a combination of all of those. The city is pretty busy, at any rate, but without the obvious homelessness and mental illness problems of US cities.
I checked in to my hostel, with a particularly warm welcome thanks to the staff member sharing my birthday. He was older, to set me fully at my ease.
It was already early evening, warm and sunny, though with an obvious chill creeping in to the air. When I arrived in Canada, in late June, the coolness of the air was welcome, and though I soon found 17 degrees a little too cool, I was happy to be able to walk and run distances without worrying about the humidity and heat sapping my energy totally. It is warmer than that here now, but even after a warm summer (so far) in the US, it feels like the end of that summer is arriving a little quickly, and the cool of the evening set in a little too quickly.
Still, I took myself on a wandering tour of the parks, down towards the water, with the sun setting over the rocks a particular highlight. The streets were full of people and traffic, though without seeming gridlocked, and cars were slowed by tricycle and horse-drawn cart transports. Friday night in Victoria, in the heart of summer, a pleasant atmosphere for all the family.