Friday, May 2, 2014

Vancouver 2014 – Day 4. Around Victoria

I asked the guy at the front desk for a recommendation about museums, and he told me I just had to go to pride and joy of the town, the Royal Museum, which was the greatest museum on Earth. I have heard that before, but if the Victorianites are so proud of their museum who am I to contradict them. The museum is not very far from the hostel, but I had to move my scooter from where I had parked it for the night, because the meters start running at 9 am. I ended parking far, far away, in a residential neighborhood, hoping that there I would be safe from the parking patrol.

The museum was pretty nice, but is fairly small. The top floor is devoted to the First Nations and their first encounters with the Europeans, and has a nice collection of artifacts from the First Peoples (more ethnography than archaeology), a recreation of a small European settlement, and lots of artifacts from the colonization by Europeans. I very much enjoyed a collection of masks that was sequentially illuminated as a narrator told snippets of ancient legends such as how whale had saved the people from drowning after a great flood, how Crow brought Sun to the People, or about the time that Wolves roamed the earth. There were also dozens of totem poles in display, both in the inner rooms and in the courtyards. In the lower floor there was a nice display about plate tectonics, and some excellent ammonite specimens, which in some way led to exhibits about ecosystems, wildlife dioramas, and climate change. When all is said and done I left with the impression that a lot of effort had gone into creating quality exhibits, but with a story line that was weak and disjointed.

Since I was on museum mood I then went to the Maritime Museum (I always go to the Maritime Museum if there is one in town), where I enjoyed wandering between models of older ships, antique nautical charts, and old navigation instruments. The First Peoples were of course fairly adept at coastal navigation, and their boats were remarkably beautiful. One of these boats, about 30 ft long, was adapted for sail navigation in the early 1900’s, and completed the circumnavigation of the world in a little under two years.

The coast of British Columbia was also visited by James Cook in his third voyage, when the great explorer attempted to find a northwestern passage between the Pacific and the Atlantic. It was in coming back from charting the Pacific coast of North America that he lost his life in a squabble with Hawaiian islanders over the theft of a pinnace. I also learned that years later one of his lieutenants, one certain Vancouver, was promoted to captain and assigned to complete the survey of the coast of British Columbia. Ever since, Canadians have regarded themselves as a maritime nation, and have backed this claim with astonishing feats of courage and determination in the north Pacific, the north Atlantic, and the Arctic oceans.

I spent the afternoon roaming through the west part of the city, which includes the beautiful Gorge Waterway Park, and the old fishermen settlement of Esquimalt (now home to the Royal Canadian Pacific Fleet). I took the opportunity to wander around the World War II bunkers and defenses, and along some pretty coastal cliff paths. Nothing too dramatic, but relaxing and very pleasant under the sun.

Finally, on my way back to town I walked through Chinatown. No, it cannot compare with the San Francisco Chinatown, or even the Vancouver Chinatown. This one is small, as it only occupies part of a block and an intersection, but the Victorianites are very proud of it, and claim is the oldest Chinatown in Canada. Go figure.

No comments: