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Forget Tipperary: it is a long way to Victoria, British Columbia. It is easy to feel sheltered, growing up on Canada’s West Coast, all the more so on Vancouver Island. There is an island mentality buffered by the remote location, which is not necessarily as bad as it sounds. It benefits from one of the mildest climates in the country.
It is still clean and beautiful, despite the best efforts of myopic developers and uninspired architects. People are generally courteous and friendly, and there is a healthy representation of many cultures getting along, which is better than many, though not without hiccups. Victoria is quaint, but growing. It is not the big city Vancouver is, but it is quasi-content to be its quieter sibling.
There are no lumberjacks bellowing or singing about the place, nor are there hippies draped across park benches as their minds wander the clouds. Instead, there are tea houses, garden tourism, cafés, varied cuisine, malls, and cinemas. It is beginning to lose its status as ‘the city for the newlyweds and nearly-deads.’
Not a kind description, though intended with some affection. It now hosts some big names at its renovated arena, as well as some should-be-big names at its cosier venues. It is a pretty city, and a nice gear down from Vancouver for the older set -beyond their 20s. It has a fantastic museum that was once free. There are killer whales, seals, horse-drawn carriages, and a park with roaming peacocks. It is a nice bubble away from the real world
Remember Tipperary: it is not so far from St. John’s, Newfoundland, and Labrador. St. John’s is as far east as one can get in this country. Cape Spear is the most eastern tip. It is closer to Europe than it is to Victoria, and the Irish charm really paints the region a more European colour (note the ‘u’ here, as much of Canada retains some European traces).
The people are possibly friendlier than reputation, and the food is hearty and tasty. The weather is not as bad as we in the West were told. Part of the West Coast’s identity is to believe we have the best weather and that the East is a nice place with awful and incessant winters. The geography is remarkably similar in many ways to that of the west coast, yet with a distinct “je ne sais quoi.”
There are many whales off the shores, including humpback and sperm, and there are dolphins and puffins as well. St. John’s has charming architecture, houses with solid colours and trim with a colonial appearance, malls, cinemas, traditional food, and bars. It has a deserved reputation for Irish boozing, which is another stereotype and regrettably inevitable, but most are happy inebriates.
The Irish can balance intoxication and charm, and the Newfoundlanders are in many ways as Irish as their ancestors. The cultural and musical scene there is thriving and offers more than a jig and fiddle, but it is the people who might very well charm the pants off one. It is said, by Newfoundlanders, that the national magazine, MacLean’s, ran a survey in which Newfoundland was recorded as the sexiest place in Canada, the province seeing more sex than does any other.
In each case, whether the far West or the far East, the capital of the province is a beautiful and charming escape. Different stages of life might dictate how much one can get from a city, or any location, but some cities offer a greater range. Both of these cities have advantages and limitations. They are a very pleasant way to start and end a trip across this stupendously wide country, should one have that kind of time.
Flying saves time, but we would miss so many trees and much wheat. Each is a hop down to the USA as well. In either case, property is not as cheap as it was, but immigration and tourism are still healthy.