7:15 AM At the Ferry to Victoria
“He’s not my husband, My Husband isn’t All Gray” oops.
Black Ball Ferry
The Black Ball Ferry Line operates between Port Angeles and Victoria. The line accepts web reservations, but cuts off reservations 12 hours before a ferry’s departure. We plan to take the 8:20 AM ferry, but cannot make a reservation. We have to assume we will get on the ferry if we arrive early enough and provided there is room for us. We could have made a reservation for the 2:20 ferry. Doing so would preclude departure at 8:20, but by waiting to see if we get on the 8:20, we give up the possibility of a reservation on the 2:20 ferry. It’s a really screwed up reservation system. Further their site suggests calling the office within the 12 hour window, but the office hours are 8AM to 5PM, That is totally useless for a ferry departure at 8:20 AM. Madness.
We plan to arrive at the ferry at 7:20, a full hour ahead of time. With luck we will make the 8:20 ferry. We’ve had pretty good luck. Coming back, we will not be taking the ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles, but headed to Whidbey Island hopefully on another ferry line!
I was awake at 6:10, a few minutes ahead of my obnoxious alarm. I like it that way; it forces me awake. We had our morning cappuccino and late, hauled water, electric, and push-out in, turned all switches off, and left. Sunrise looked brilliant, bright reds behind us as we drove west toward the ferry. I had read horror stories about not having reservations, missing the first ferry, and almost missing the second one. That was in high season. I’d be prudent and get to the ferry early. I’d probably have no problem today.
We arrived at the ticket office around 7:10 AM. The drive up is narrow with the building on one side and 4 inch steel rods supporting the high roof on the other. It was tight, but easily doable. “Careful with the mirror. You’re close, careful”, Ellen. “I’ve got this. No Problem”, I said with the mirror inches from the wall. There’s a sign at an angle ahead of the window that stands 3” from the wall. I had to pull to the right a bit to avoid it.
The gal at the window “Do you have a reservation?” “No” “That’s OK” and she overcharged us initially. With her correction $!86 became $146. “Have you seen people mangle their mirrors?” “No, but I almost got whacked in the face with one” I promised I’d never do that and felt sorry for her.
Waiting To Board
We’re now sitting first in line in row #5 beside a few heavier vehicles in #6. Ellen’s been out shooting the sunrise. I’m glad, she was bummed that she missed the earlier morning glow. I’ve got the heat going to keep warm while waiting. We should start boarding in another 20 minutes.
Black Ball Ferry to Victoria
As I pulled onto the ferry, a dock hand shouted, “Don’t hit anything” “Ok, sure, ya.” He couldn’t hear me, probably just as well. Upstairs the ferry is roomy and comfortable. The center cabin is warm where the bow and stern cabins are distinctly cooler. After exploring some we each had an egg muffin sandwich and settled into the center cabin. We read a few brochures and relaxed some. In protected waters the ferry was rock solid. In the sound, the ferry rocked side to side, two seconds to one side, two seconds back. You could feel the transition back to protected waters.
It occurred to us that we should look into booking a camp site now, while on the ferry. I checked our trusty AllStays and found a number of campgrounds relatively close to Victoria. There were two two star parks, one three star, a four star, and a five star. The five star, Salish Seaside RV Haven, was very close to Victoria. Thomas answered when I called, “yes we have a few sites available. Yes they are right on the water.” We booked a site for tonight.
2nd Floor Amenities Building
Salish Seaside RV Haven, Victoria BC
The ferry unloads quite close to “The Empress”, a Fairmont Hotel built in 1908 and the jewel of Victoria. There are any number of modern hotels in and about Victoria, but visiting the Empress is high on my list of things to do. I figured we would drive downtown, find a parking space, and visit the hotel and the Royal Museum. Parking downtown was not happening. One hour is just not enough time. I headed out of town toward where I thought RV Haven would be located while Ellen got a GPS fix and navigation working. We easily found the park. Thomas was at the desk and offered us two sites #3 and #19. #12 will be available tomorrow. Drive through and see what you think. Do visit the Amenities Building and visit the top floor. This park was a run down parking lot that the Salish tribe bought and renovated.” “Cool, I like the idea of supporting a native tribe.”
Ellen at Site #19
Of the two sites, we chose #19. Ellen can’t wait to move to #12 with a view of Victoria at sunset, though she’s quite happy with #19. The Amenities Building is quite modern. It has a outside deck with chairs facing Victoria and a back side smaller deck. Inside there is a floor to ceiling built-in bookcase, a fire place, a TV, tables and chairs, all very well done in contemporary colors and materials. We could have evening drinks or morning coffee quite comfortably there. This is easily the most comfortable parking-lot style RV park ever. The view of Victoria across the bay with the water taxis and float plains coming and going is wonderful.
Amenities building Upper Deck
Back at the reservation desk, we paid for a second night at #12. I mentioned parking an RV downtown was difficult and Thomas marked a map where parking should be easier. He mentioned a walkway skirting the bay that led all the way to downtown. “It’s not a short walk, but it is quite doable.” Can you recommend a whale watching tour? “Yes” and with that Thomas gave us a 10% discount voucher.
Back at “home”, I called to see if reservations were necessary and get details on the tours. Thomas said there are four departures and suggested we do not take the first boat out. The first boat acts as the spotter for subsequent boats. Cool, no reservation necessary for tomorrow. With Li’l Beast hooked up in #19, we headed off to find the walkway to downtown.
California Poppies in Victoria
The Local, quite busy
The walkway is unmistakable. It is a paved strip of asphalt following the bay contour in and around coves winding to the lock and drawbridge separating the upper harbor from the lower. Ellen was hungry and wanted to stop at Spinnaker’s at about the halfway point and long before the drawbridge. “No, let’s push on. We’re not close to downtown.” Across the drawbridge and on Wharf Street we passed “The Local”, which is the name of a friend’s restaurant in Rhinebeck NY. Again Ellen wanted to stop for a bite. “I’d like to go to The Empress for lunch, OK? We can come back to The Local tomorrow.” We continued on to The Empress.
Empress Hotel and Royal Museum, Victoria
The Empress is huge. We walked into the main lobby and I had to ask were the restaurant was located. “The restaurant is on the second floor, up these stairs and right across.” There are two restaurants and a bar with bar food on the second floor. We didn’t know about the second restaurant and saw only an inside restaurant and a bar with windows overlooking the bay. We ate in the bar. Later we walked further and found the main dining room also with windows overlooking the bay. Our lunch was more intimate in the bar than it would have been in the main dining room.
A Sea of Lights, Empress Hotel Downstairs
Conference Room Chandelier, Empress Hotel
I Love This Mask
And the Lower Left Mask Too
We actually got lost in the hotel and had to backtrack from the convention center. The Empress sits beside the Royal Museum, which features an Egyptian Exhibit through Dec 31. The museum has added an IMAX theater with “the biggest movie screen in British Columbia” at 6 stories high. We chose to see “Oceans, Our Blue Planet in 3D” rather than the “Mysteries of Egypt”. About half way through the Egyptian Exhibit, I flagged. Lack of sleep, dehydration, something got the better of me. I just didn’t feel great. I perked up some in the “First People’s Exhibit”. I love the native masks and totem poles. I had a large iced tea before the “Oceans” showing; that revived me.
Float Plane & Water Taxi
Temperature had dropped as the sun sets in the west for our walk “home”. It was still comparatively warm. We walked briskly watching the changing light on the bay as float planes came and went. We watched a whale watching boat arrive and dock below us. Ellen headed down to get the scoop on the tour. There are two classes of boat these tours use, one is a mid sized zodiac, the other is a two story boat, enclosed on the lower deck. People said the protective overall provided on the open zodiac was “ok”. Not a glowing recommendation. Across from “the Local’’ Ellen stopped a couple and asked if they had taken the whale watching tour. “Yes, we loved it. We saw humback whales. Oh and dolphin playing in the boat’s wake.” She showed us video of a humpback slapping the water repeatedly with its fluke. “He did this at least 12 times”. We had planned to take a whale watching tour, now we are definitely going.
Water Taxi Calling it a Day
On the walk back “home” we saw a Great Heron perched on flotsam, two deer, and an otter fishing in the bay. Thomas said there were raccoons near the RV park as well though we haven’t seen any.
For dinner we had one of Michael Angelo’s Frozen Eggplant Lasagna dinners with veggies on the side. We were hungry and it was good. We also ate the last of Europa Restaurant’s Baily’s Irish Cream Cheesecake. That was excellent.
My Garmin Vivosport’s GPS said we walked six miles today. My legs agree!