“Be where you are, otherwise you will miss your life.” – quote incorrectly attributed to Buddha. Apropos nonetheless
Our 20th Anniversary trip started off nicely. By the time we crawled into bed in Victoria, we had been awake and/or traveling by plane, boat and automobile for almost 24 hours. No complaints, though. It was a happy tired.
We had a day and a half in Victoria so I wanted to make the most of it. When Steve vacations, he wants to make the most of napping and relaxing (lazing around in a tiki hut in Tahiti would have been GREAT for him.) He does want to see the sights, but here’s an example of how he travels: We once visited the British Museum and he grabbed a map and said, “This place is humongous. Let’s see the top 10 things not to be missed.” (the Rosetta Stone, the Magna Carta, etc.) Once he’d perused the brochure and made a plan, he said, “OK, let’s do this thing. Hit the highlights, Chris. Hit. The. Highlights.” We zoomed through rooms and past relics representing entire epochs to get to the “most important things.” Actually, it’s not always a bad strategy, but sometimes my desire to linger butts up against his interest in speed-touring followed by epic napping, especially if he’s on a sleep deficit.
Victoria is a nice town with pretty architecture, but mostly it felt touristy. Perhaps I didn’t dig deeply enough. There is good food to be had in Victoria. Jam Cafe and Willie’s Bakery & Cafe are both great for brunch. After brunch, we played our touristy roles and walked through the “art” market on the sea walk of the Inner Harbour. It was filled with caricaturists, artists churning out drawings of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis, and a guy who will paint your kid’s name in letters formed by animals in funny positions. There was a lemon-shaped lemonade stand next to a vendor whipping up the Canadian version of funnel cake, and the harbour was abuzz with the comings and goings of miniature tugboat shaped water taxis, sea planes, amphibious vessels, and whale watching boats. We walked past the Parliament building and sat in the gardens of the Empress Hotel. We walked in to see the famous hotel, but I just couldn’t muster the energy to get excited about shelling out $120 for high tea that afternoon. I would much rather spend that money on a massage, which we did. Here’s some of what we saw:
After managing to catch most of what there was to see, Steve was ready for a nap. I was not. (I’ve lost my ability to nap. It’s sad. My brain barely shuts off long enough to luxuriate in sleep for an afternoon anymore. That and my children have zero respect for quiet time behind a closed door. When Steve and I started dating 23 years ago, we would spend languorous hours napping over entire weekends. Such is the epitome of youth – the notion that you have nothing but time to do with as you please – sleep, wake, eat, roll around in the bed with each other, and then go back to sleep for hours that added up to entire days. Ahhhh! It’s one of the reasons I go on adults-only trips. To remind myself that life still holds carefree, agendaless days.
Steve is still completely capable of an afternoon of hard sleep, so he did that. I grabbed a glass of wine and hung out on our balcony reading for a while before restlessness set in and I decided to walk the couple of miles across town by myself to check out one more sight that sounded interesting – Craigdorrach Castle.
I wish I had gotten a photo of the extremely elderly Franciscan friar I passed on the way to Craigdorrach. He was definitely in his eighties, possibly his nineties. He had a short-cropped, shaggy, thick shock of white hair and loose jowls that hung like a Sharpei’s. He was short, solid, and hunched, and he was pushing a seated walker at a glacial pace up the very long slope of a street on what must have been an unusually hot day in Victoria. I was warm in my jeans and short-sleeved shirt, he must have been roasting clad as he was from the neck down in a dark, heavy robe. He was such an unusual sight in that bustling town full of tourists and young, hip Canadians. I wanted to take his picture but I couldn’t manage it without being conspicuous. His progress up that sweeping slope was so gradual that I passed him resting on his seated walker in a patch of shaded sidewalk as I made my way back to the hotel after spending a good hour plus in Craigdorrach.
I got back to the hotel and roused Steve so we could grab a small bite before getting our massages. If you want fresh, yummy eats in Victoria, try Rebar. We bellied up to the bar and chatted with our delightful, gender-queer server who steered us into healthy deliciousness. We had to scoot to make our massage appointment, but planned to come back for dinner afterward, the food was that good.
As it turned out, we didn’t make it back to Rebar after our massages. If we had, we would have missed out on what was my favorite moment of the Victoria stint. We oozed out of the spa, relaxed and content to the core, hair greasy with massage oil, and not giving a rip about showering and making ourselves presentable for dinner. Instead, we opted for a sushi place adjacent to our hotel. It was the eve of Canada Day so everyone was out celebrating that weekend. It was one of those perfect nights infused with the feeling that everything in the Universe is exactly as it should be. We sat down at our table and were there a few minutes when the male half of a cute couple sitting at the table next to us leaned over to me with his iPhone and asked if I would take their photo. “Of course!”, I said.
Steve and I ordered dinner and drinks (I asked for a glass of wine, they misunderstood and brought me a half-liter) and we talked. I kept glancing over at the young couple nearby. They were cute, and clearly in the early stages of their relationship, possibly in love, definitely in deep like with each other. He was completely attentive to her as they shared food and laughed and talked quietly. He kept sliding his hand across the table to hold hers like he couldn’t resist touching her. Maybe it was being on our 20th anniversary trip, maybe it was the depth of my contentment, maybe it was the wine, but I started to get misty. “What?”, asked Steve. “They remind me of us when we started dating. Look at how he’s holding her hand across the table. He reminds me of you – he seems so sweet.”, I said. “Should we buy their dinner?”, Steve asked. “Yes! Let’s do that!”, I said.
So we called their server over and told her we wanted to buy their dinner. She was delighted and surprised. I guess this sort of thing doesn’t happen often. Steve said to me, “you can tell them.” I said, “No, you will have to tell them. I’ll start crying if I do. Maybe we can just scoot out without telling them and let it be a surprise.” Well, the server was having none of that. She was dying to tell them. As we got up to leave, she asked, “can I tell them now?” “Yes”, we said. So she did, and they jumped up and said, “What?! No way! That’s so sweet. Why?” Steve explained that we were on our 20th anniversary trip and that they reminded us of us many years ago. Becky (their names were Becky and Cody) said, “We have to get a picture.” So here’s the blurry shot taken from my iPhone showing emotional me and our lovely moment.
Who knows where they will be in 23 years, but if they are still together, I suspect they will remember June 30, 2013. It would be a sweet story to tell their children.