I’m going somewhere else and you’re not invited …
I love driving in the city in the rain at night. The windshield wipers sound like a heartbeat, like the heartbeat of the city and its almost surreal as you drive past the city sights and street lamps all blurred from the water that drips over the car windows. The only true way to appreciate downtown Victoria is in the rain – it’s the only real way to experience life on the West Coast. Rain is life and here in Victoria we Live.
My two favourite places in Victoria are the Inner Harbour and Goldstream Park. I’ve been to all the touristy places and don’t get me wrong I love Butchart Gardens and the museums, Beacon Hill Park and Old Victoria – especially Market Square and China Town, but nothing says Victoria quite like the Inner Harbour and no place is as beautiful as Goldstream (although Royal Roads does come close).
Last Saturday, while walking the Inner Harbour, I paused and watched a man perform juggling acts and tell jokes about the joys of being a Canadian comedian. He was amazing and I emptied my wallet into his hat at the end, just as he’d intended. It’s impossible not to lose all your change in downtown Victoria if you have a social conscience. There are far too many people living on the streets, attracted by Victoria’s warm climate, to ignore and I more often than not find myself growing hungry, my stomach grumbling as I try desperately to save a toonie for a slice of pizza while I drop my change into the many lonely hats, reminding myself that they’re probably hungrier than I am.
The Inner Harbour is the gateway to Victoria and is at its prime in the summer. You can’t speed walk past the waterfront between early May and late September, there are far too many people and vendors around. People selling wood and soapstone carvings, selling necklaces and beads, hand drawn portraits and the works. Most things seem overpriced but you can’t help but fall prey to their earnest faces. There are street performers and mingling crowds, not to mention all the nearby attractions and restaurants, too much to see in one day.
In the winter it gets depressing for many but that is when I like it best. If you can stand the rain and the chill that comes off the water it is worth it. I think I like being lonely, which is why I often brave the weather – usually earning myself some sort of sniffle by the end of the day – just to sit on the stone steps and stare out at the water. The Harbour reminds me that I’m not really trapped in Victoria; I can escape if I need too …
I have many pity days, days where I suffer from anywhere-but-here syndrome. The selfishness of youth keeps me from appreciating the beauty in which I live and the draw of travel that has branded me makes me itch to leave Victoria and see, well, see everything. I often forget about how lucky I am and instead feel trapped on this island. I need to see the world, experience tragedy and live through sadness in order to appreciate the magnificence around me.
When I feel particularly trapped, as if the world and the rain are pressing down on my chest and keeping me somewhere I don’t want to be, I go to Goldstream to remind myself that there are things worth waiting for.
While the Salmon Run and all the other yearly attractions that nature brings are amazing to see I almost never go to Goldstream during these times. I am selfish and don’t wish to share my experience with others. I want the trees to surround me, I want silence all around, except for the sounds nature brings. And yes, I want to be lonely. Only when one is lonely can they truly appreciate all that is around them.
My favourite place in Goldstream is our own Niagara Falls. I like to sit on the rocks and just listen to the sounds of the water. I once had wild fantasies of swimming by the waterfall with one of my lovers, clothed only by the water, embracing in the desperation that love and lust bring to youth. These dreams were dashed aside when I actually swam the glacial waters of the falls, discovering for myself what others had tried to tell me – the water is too cold for dreams. But still, eyes half closed, perched on the rocks I still remember my desires and tingle with the anticipation of finding another waterfall like this one in my travels.
One day, after I have traversed the world, immersing myself in as many cultures as I can find, living the nomadic existence I so long for, I will come back to Victoria and visit my old haunts, I will live in the city of my youth.
I will pile on layers of clothes and sit on the stone steps of the Inner Harbour in winter. I will perch myself on the rocks of Little Niagara – the falls reminding me of my travels and my lovers – and I will lose myself in the trees of Goldstream, neither speaking nor listening … just being