Day Four: You, Me, and B.C.

comments: 84


On our last morning in Victoria, I convinced Andy to have breakfast in the restaurant of the Empress. I wanted to have either afternoon tea or breakfast, just as a special treat, and he (gently) made it pretty clear that he was not that interested in having cucumber sandwiches and dainty cups of Earl Grey. So it was $24 buttermilk pancakes after all! But they were absolutely delicious, and came with coffee, juice, and a link of locally made sausage that was amazing. Plus, how incredible is this dining room?


The two very sophisticated older couples seated near us played their characters perfectly. Silk-scarved and Chanel-suited, they leisured and lingered. Relaxing into our wing-backed chairs, we, too, stayed for cup after cup of coffee. The maple syrup and the cream came in identical silver creamers, and I almost poured cream on my pancakes.


Instead I poured syrup into my coffee. It wasn't bad, actually.


Andy wrote a few postcards so we could drop them down the six-floor-long mail chute near the elevators on our floor.


This is the tea room just beyond the restaurant room. It overlooks the harbor.


They are having a big New Year's Eve party here to celebrate the hotel's 100th birthday. Wouldn't it be fantastic to be here for that?


After breakfast, we headed across the street to the Royal BC Museum. Our city tour guide had mentioned that it was considered the second-best museum in North America, only after the Smithsonian.


It was absolutely incredible. We stayed all day and could've stayed longer. In the last half-hour that we had, we realized there was a whole wing that we hadn't even seen — we had lingered for hours and hours, especially in the special exhibit called Free Sprit: Stories of You, Me, and B.C. This incredible exhibit tells the story of British Columbia through stories, photographs, and artifacts from the individuals and communities that have called B.C. home for the past 150 years.

It's sort of a blogger's dream exhibit.


These two photos above show the same Chinese family; the second was taken several years after they'd settled in British Columbia. The whole exhibit is filled with these gigantic, really high quality (I'm so curious to know how they got the resolution so high on these things) photos, some bigger than lifesize, on circular walls that spiral chronologically through time, telling snippets of stories.

I took photos of several of the panels. I wish I could've taken photos of all of them, but I'll just share some of my favorites.







I was so intrigued by this image of Phyllis and Don Munday and their daughter Edith, who, in 1921, reached her first mountain peak at the tender age of twelve weeks. Carried by her moutaineering parents (who themselves would scale 125 mountains in B.C. between 1910 and into the 1940s) on that first trip, Edith was raised in a small cabin built by her father on Grouse Mountain and would later climb many more mountains on her own.


Beyond the special exhibit are the permanent exhibits. The Natural History Gallery takes you through time to explore dramatically changing environments and their inhabitants. There's the woolly mammoth . . .

Museum24 creatures of the shore . . .

Museum25 and the forest. . . .


The First Peoples' Gallery is moving and heartbreaking, telling the story of First Nations cultures before and after the arrival of European settlers. We spent hours here. This is a miniature of a native settlement based on photographic evidence.


One of the earlier Christian churches First Peoples were forced to attend.


There is a dramatic and utterly poignant installation documenting the smallpox epidemic of 1862 and its effect on the First Peoples' population.


The Modern History Gallery, tracing the past two hundred years of European settlement, got short shrift by us. So very unfortunately. By the time we made it there (we had stopped off to see The Alps, an IMAX movie, in the museum's theater so I could sit down for a while) we were running late to catch our boat back to Seattle, so I didn't get good photos of these exhibits as we raced through them. But honestly, they were quite amazing. Entire city streets, built in miniature scale, to walk down. An entire hotel floor from the 1800s, also in smaller scale, but with no detail left undone. A replica of the front half of Captain Vancouver's ship. A waterwheel. A canning facility (where this photo was taken). A mine. A logging operation. All built to walk through. It is truly awesome.


Naturally, by the time we finished our six hours in the museum (and seriously, those hours went by in a flash, there was so much to do there), the museum cafe was closed. This seemed to happen to us everywhere we went. Luckily, Rogers' delighted us again, this time with a vanilla milkshake at their new soda shoppe (across the street from the Empress). We got it to go, and headed off to the stand in line at customs before boarding the 6 p.m. ferry. But this turned out to be my very favorite picture of the day.

Thank you so much, Miss Victoria. You are a wonderful old girl, I must say. 


We were there just last month. The Royal BC Museum is one of my most favourite museums in the whole world. I so agree with you.
Bad memories of the glorious Empress though: we had lunch there and then my daughter — so distracted by the beautiful foyer and the pianist — mis-stepped coming down the stairs from the loo and broke her ankle.

I have so very much enjoyed ready about your trip. I can't even begin to tell you how much I long to return to the NW, but you pictures help remind me just how wonderful it really is! Thank you for sharing so much of your trip with all of us.

Victoria is my hometown, and I so often tell people they MUST see the RBCM I sound like a broken record. I'll be referring them to this post now as you have given a wonderful description of one of my favourite places to pass the time.

thank you so much for these posts - your pictures and descriptions have been amazing.

We did tea at the Empress 5 years ago on our honeymoon. I think that is the only reason I got Brian to do it.

I love your pictures its like being there all over again.

I have to say that I am particularly impressed that Andy is sending postcards! How awesome is that?

As a central Canadian gal, who sadly has never made it that far west (yet)..I was completely enamoured by your photos of the trip and enjoyed all the stories. Thanks for sharing! :)

I am absolutely LOVING your entries about your trip. It almost feels like I'm reminiscing with you. : )

Andy was right to pick breakfast over high tea. I schemed for years on how to get to high tea...last year I went and was totally disappointed. It was good food and tea but totally overpriced and the sandwiches were ready made on trays lined up at the back of the room, at least they good do was pretend to make my sandwiches special nit ready to go. Next time you guys need to rent a car and venture up the island. So many treasures to find.

Absolutely beautiful - all of it!! Have really enjoyed your photos and stories. I've never been to BC or even the NW but would love to visit some day!

The pictures are (again) beautiful! We went to the Empress for tea on our honeymoon. You'll have to convince Andy to do tea if you ever go again. They have the best scones I've ever tasted, and I don't know what they do to the strawberry jam, but I could eat it with a spoon.

Thank you for sharing everything about your trip. I visited Victoria in July and now you have made me realize that I missed so much and have to go back again soon.

Delurking to these posts and your lovely photos. Now if only you had gone to Miniature World, the weirdest museum I've ever been to in my life. Next time!

i've been to victoria only once, several years ago. i loved it so much i wanted to become a canadian! i didn't go to the empress, just took some pics outside. i remember stumbling upon this great old bookstore, don't remember the name, but the owner was so nice and when i told him i wanted to illustrate children's books, he showed me some really lovely books. he also introduced me to edmund dulac whose work i adore just as much as rackham's.

and i especially loved butchart gardens. it's very surreal and storybook-like indeed.

I'm so jealous. Not only do I love museums, I would love to visit the Pacific Northwest and Canada(San Francisco is as close as I have gotten so far). Would be quite a trip, geographically speaking, coming from the deep South. Then again, if I ever make it up there, I don't know if they will be able to drag me away. :)

Anyway, lovely photos.

How fun! Thanks for taking us on the tour of the museum with you! Next time I'm in BC we'll have to go!

Thanks for taking us along and sharing the highlights. What an astounding place! I never would have guessed....

Susan, Tsawwassen, BC says: October 21, 2008 at 12:40 PM

I live in Tsawwassen, BC, where the ferry from Victoria connects to the Lower Mainland of Vancouver. I haven't been to Victoria in a few years and your blog makes me want to get back there as soon as I can. I live as south as you can get in the Greater Vancouver area (actually I'm just 10 blocks from Point Roberts, WA). Now, when you come back you must extend your trip and next venture to the Gulf Islands between Vancouver Island and the Mainland and then come visit Tsawwassen (beaches, view of Mount Baker, WA and an extraordinary haven for birds and water fowl). Then of course, you will have to experience Vancouver with its beaches and views of the North Shore Mountains. Go up the mountains and view the water from there. The Fraser Valley for farms ... and then the Okanagan Valley for winery tours. I'd better stop. I so enjoy seeing your neck of the woods. Glad you could come up here, too. Thanks so much for sharing.

You're going to get tired of me, commenting every day...but I LOVE these posts about our beautiful corner of the world!

Love The Empress Hotel. We took our four daughters there for tea a few years ago, and it was lovely. Sounds like you had a memorable trip!

dude. seriously. i want to travel with you and andy--this trip looks/sounds so wonderful! i HAVE to go there!!

Very impressive tour. I saw the woolly mammoth display in the movie The Day After Tomorrow with Dennis Quaid. Excellent!

I love really old pictures and the one with the ladies sitting at tea is my favorite. So proper and prim.

Good to know your trip was so exciting and hope you get to go again. You've done BC proud with your photography. I really liked that last picture at the soda fountain. xxoo

And now I have another place on my list of "must visits"! The large photos were probably taken with something like the 8 x 10 format camera. They blow up to ridiculously large sizes and still look good.

Oh, I so want to go now and eat decadent pancakes before gazing at splendid dioramas. What fun. Thanks for sharing.

Too bad i didn't see you i could've been all hey! what are you doing in my town lol
It's a great place eh?

Beautiful, beautiful - I want to GO!!

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About Alicia Paulson


My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at