Last Friday was my 29th birthday (boohoo). My mum had sent a lovely box of presents all the way from home and once I’d opened them in front of her on Skype I set off for work. I hate working on my birthday usually, but my boss and colleagues went out of their way to make sure I had a lovely day. I got presents, flowers, taken out to lunch, champagne, birthday cake etc…Not bad considering I’ve only been working there for 2 weeks!
In the evening I came home to another birthday cake from Nick and we went out for dinner in the evening. We had an early-ish night as the next day I was finally finding out what my birthday present was from Nick!
We got up really early on Saturday morning and I still had no clue where we were going or how we were getting there! We set off towards the centre of town and started making our way towards Coal Harbour. I knew that’s where the seaplanes went from but I didn’t for one minute think that we were going on one! Once it finally dawned on me what we were doing I was so excited! We got to the terminal and checked in and I found out we were going to Victoria on Vancouver Island! After a short wait we boarded the tiny plane and got seats right at the front. The flight was so quick and we saw some amazing sights on the way. We took pictures pretty much constantly, me with my phone and Nick with his phone, GoPro and camera. We must have looked like a right pair of tourists, but not as bad as the woman behind us, who was taking pictures on her iPad!
Once we got to Victoria we landed in the harbour and made our way to the hotel to drop our bags off. Nick informed me that there was another (!) surprise to come in a couple of hours so we had some time to kill. We walked around the harbour area for a bit and took more pictures, then decided to go Miniature World , which Nick had read about beforehand. It was amazing! It’s what it sounds like, it is weird and quirky and full of loads of miniature models of various different things. For example it has WWII scenes, circus scenes, parts of ‘Olde London’, dolls houses, and a massive model of the railway getting built from West to East Canada. The detail that has gone into the models is amazing and the place is well worth a visit. One part apparently took 20 years to complete!
After that we made our way down to surprise number two! We went back down to the harbour and suddenly turned into a bit that had a sign for ‘Prince of Whales’ (love the name!) Whale watching tours!! After getting stupidly excited about it for a bit, us and about 8 others all went into a room and put on some massive red floatation suits which were bloody roasting! Before we knew it we were on the boat, a Zodiac, with our skipper, Bo. We crawled out of the harbour and once out of there, Bo went full speed. After moaning about how hot we were, after 5 minutes in the boat we were glad to have the massive suits on! We drove for about an hour and a half when we finally stopped in US waters, which was strange! We were just below Bellingham, near Orcas Island. It was weird to be able to say we’d been in Canada and the US in the same day!
We’d been sitting with the engine off for a few moments when the woman in front of us shouted “there they are!” And we all jumped up to see about 5 fins sticking out of the water. It was amazing seeing them up close. They were about 200 ft away, which is as close as you can go in the US, unless they come up to you. They kept going underwater for a few minutes at a time and then coming up and going “pfffffffft!!!!!!” out of their blowhole (yes I know it sounds dodgy, I can’t think of any other way to describe it!) I can’t put it into words how awesome it was to see them in the wild, I felt very lucky!
We circled round them a bit and then discovered that they were after a Harbour Seal, who was surrounded by seagulls a bit further down the water. I don’t know if the Seagulls were protecting the Seal or were just attracted by the fish, but they were making a hell of a fuss around it! I love Seals, so I was gutted when I couldn’t see it like everyone else kept saying they could, but when we looked back at Nick’s pictures later, we saw it! I hope the Whales didn’t get him but I have a feeling they did 🙁
Unfortunately we only got to stay with the Whales for about 15 minutes, as we’d had to come so far out to see them which was a bit disappointing for us, but at least we got to see them! We then travelled back for another hour and a half and got off the boat to discover that not only was my hair like an afro, but my nose was burnt, as it was the only thing sticking out of my floatation suit, haha!
We then went back to the hotel, got changed and went out for dinner at the harbour. After that we wandered round the night market and went for some more drinks. We stumbled across the Bard & Banker, a ‘Scottish Pub’. I’ve never seen a pub that markets itself as a ‘Scottish Pub’, so I was intrigued to find out what was inside. To be honest, I was the most Scottish thing in there. It was just a pub, a bit like a really nice Wetherspoons, nothing Scottish about it, apart from the fact the staff wore kilts. It didn’t even have a Scottish flag! It did feel very British though, which was a welcome change from all the bars here, and had a nice vibe. We got pretty drunk, and our conversation mainly revolved around coming up with different flavour variations of Bisto gravy, but saying it in French as if it was a perfume advert. E.g “Eau de Chat de Bisto”, “Eau de Cheval de Bisto”, “Eau de Canard de Bisto”, you get the idea. It was only after doing this for about half an hour that we realised the man next to us was French.
The next morning we went to the Royal BC Museum. I’ve probably mentioned this before, but you pay for museums here which is a bit ridiculous, but this museum is definitely worth the $21! In fact, I’d go as far as to say that it is the best museum I’ve ever been to! It had a huge display all about animals, with loads of life sized models (or stuffed animals, not sure), including a Wooly Mammoth which was bloody massive!
It had an amazing section dedicated to the First Nations people, which we were really glad to see, as we’ve been keen to find out more about them, it had all the history about them in BC, plus totem poles, artwork etc. There was also a replica town, complete with shops, a cinema, a hotel, bar, gas station etc. I’m, not sure what decade it was supposed to be, but it was awesome. There was also a Modern History Gallery, with various inventions over the years displayed. We felt pretty old when we saw that a NES console and Trivial Pursuit were in a display case as an artifact!
We then stopped off at a street market in the town and started chatting to this guy who had a stall full of leather goods that he had made himself. The guy was so nice and obviously cared about his work. Nick ended up buying a belt from him for about $60, which sounds a lot, but it will last him a lifetime! I really liked a leather bound notebook he had for sale, but it was $120! Maybe next time! We then started to make our way back home via the ferry. We got a bus from Victoria to the ferry terminal at Swartz Bay which took an hour, the ferry took about an hour and a half, and then a bus, and train back to Vancouver. We were exhausted when we got home! I loved every minute of our trip to Victoria, and was really sad to leave. It is a lovely city, it feels more like a little town and has loads of cutesy shops and bars dotted about. I’m sure we will go back at some point.
I just wanted to say thank you for all of my presents and cards from everyone, and a special thank you to Nick for organising this amazing weekend, and for managing to keep it a secret! What a wonderful way to spend my birthday – it will be one I will remember forever! Here’s some more pics of the weekend, plus we’ve made another little video as the last two have been so well received 🙂