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Monday, March 31, 2008

St. Ann's Academy

St. Ann's Academy was the first school in Victoria. It opened its doors When the BC gold rush was just beginning in 1858. The red roofed neo-classical section was added in 1886 to the older mansard-roofed section on the right. A few trees remain from the orchard intended to provide boarders at the school with fruit. The buildings are no longer used as a school. Much of it is now occupied by government offices and areas of historical significance are open to the public.

St. Ann's Academy is located in downtown Victoria on Humboldt Street. This street is one of the oldest in Victoria and was first called Kanaka Street because many of the residents were from the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii). I suspect the name was changed to honour the explorer and scientist, Alexander von Humboldt, who was very highly regarded in the nineteenth century.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Yellow Peppers

OK, here's a confession. I don't like cloudy, cold damp weather. I know that good photographers say that bad weather is a blessing because it provides all sorts of interesting lighting and dramatic skies and discourages dilettantes, but I like sunny skies and bright colors anyway. I have to search really deeply inside me to find anything inspiring about a landscape that looks like it has had all the life and color drained out of it by forty days of drizzle. In the midst of yesterday's downpours I happened upon this bit of sidewalk sunshine, some glowing yellow peppers provided by the Ambrosio Market in Cook Street Village here in Victoria.

The photo below is what the weather was really like yesterday at the foot of Government Street, where it meets the Inner Harbour. This vicious driving rain turned sleety while being photographed.... This is March.
Those of you who are watching this blog with eagle-eyed interest may have noted that yesterday's photo ("Big sky...." below) was uploaded not by myself (Benjamin Madison) but by the "Front St Gang." The latter is my daughter, Fern Long, who has kindly agreed to contribute some of her fine photos to this blog.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Big Sky over Gorge Waterway

This is the view from Banfield Park in Vic West early in the morning.

Friday, March 28, 2008


Well, that's what I always call them. Anyone know the real name for these little white berries?

Thursday, March 27, 2008


It's hard to imagine that when houses such as this were being built, modern (Portland) cement had only just been invented. Builders had a choice of wood, brick, or stone for construction materials. Many homebuilders in early Victoria chose brick and this heritage house is a favourite of mine. I particularly like the bay windows on both levels.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Even the kayak is blue. How's that for color coordination? This photo looks out through the entrance to Victoria Harbour across the Strait of Juan de Fuca towards Port Angeles, Washington, USA, where, if you look closely, you can almost see the Port Angeles Daily Photographer standing on the beach. And on the far left, although he is very tiny, you can nearly make out the Port Townsend Daily Photographer out for a stroll on his bit of shoreline.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Harbour Ferry

I thought I might as well continue with this transportation theme. These little boats that look like children's toys are a very handy way of getting around the Inner Harbour. Behind the ferry on the left are some houseboats moored at Fisherman's Wharf, where one can feed friendly harbour seals, buy fresh seafood directly from fishing boats, or eat some excellent fish and chips.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Horse and Carriage

There are quite a few interesting ways to get around in Victoria and see the sights in comfort. These carriages make for slow traffic downtown but nobody seems to mind much in Victoria.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Tourists visit Victoria all year round but the season really runs from Easter until Labor Day. While such transportation is now being outlawed in some Asian countries as demeaning, this perhaps slightly improved version is popular here and likely to remain so, since it gives tourists a relaxed way to see the city with an informed guide and it also provides work for university students during the summer.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Totem Child

Taking advantage of the mild climate and abundant natural resources, the indigenous peoples of the northwest Pacific Coast developed cultures with remarkable artistic, ceremonial and social characteristics. When I see their creations I often feel like this child portrayed on a totem next to the Royal BC Museum in downtown Victoria. In the photo below you can see the totem where it stands in front of a traditional native long house that has been constructed on the museum grounds

Friday, March 21, 2008


One is never very far from the seafront in Victoria. Here is an example of the kinds of seaweed that are thrown onto the beach after a storm.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree :
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round :
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree ;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

But oh ! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover !
A savage place ! as holy and enchanted
As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover !
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced :
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher's flail :
And 'mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean :
And 'mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war !
The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves ;
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice !
A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw :
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight 'twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome ! those caves of ice !
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware ! Beware !
His flashing eyes, his floating hair !
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

("Kubla Khan" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Great Blue Heron

A nesting colony of Great Blue Herons is located in Beacon Hill Park, within a few minutes walk from downtown Victoria. The colony has been under attack lately from Bald Eagles who occasionally nest nearby, causing a small controversy amongst locals, some maintaining that the herons should be protected while others say that the eagles and herons are natural enemies and the attacks are simply nature taking its course. However, the herons are a small and at-risk population while the Bald Eagle is thriving - estimated population in BC is 20 to 30 thousand, about a third of the North American total. In any case, it seemed like a rare privilege for a city dweller like myself to be able to approach such a splendid creature so closely and I hope the eagles will find something else to eat.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Arbutus trees are the only native non-deciduous trees in Canada and they are found only on Vancouver Island and adjacent coastal areas of British Columbia. They don't shed their leaves but old bark peels off regularly. The new bark is a light green at first and then turns this lovely shade of red. They can be seen all round Victoria clinging to rocky outcrops, particularly near the ocean.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Moon and Seagull

Looking into the Inner Harbour from Victoria West. It was a very windy day and the gulls were having a hard time flying against the wind. This one decided to stop to catch his breath beneath a small arbutus tree.

Below is the best I could do for St. Patrick's day (there are some shamrocks in the bottom part of the picture!)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Victoria's Chinatown - Fisgard Street

Victoria's Chinatown is the oldest and was for many years the largest in Canada. Vancouver's is now much larger but Victoria's Chinatown is still a thriving and busy part of the city. It's a great place to shop for Asian foods and there are many interesting shops, boutiques and, of course, restaurants. Chinese immigrants first settled in the area during the gold rush era in 1858 and soon occupied much of what is now downtown Victoria. Canadians of Chinese ethnic origin still form one of the largest non-European populations in Canada and, after English and French, Chinese is the most widely spoken language in the country.

In the center background you can see the tile roof of the glorious gate to Chinatown, donated by Victoria's sister city in China, Suzhou.

The photograph of the camelia below was taken in Market Square, one block over from Fisgard Street.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

4 Windows

Friday, March 14, 2008

Frosty Morning

Victoria has mild winters but for several months each year the temperature hovers around freezing. Here's a frosty morning in January of this year with my granddaughter walking the dog along the railway tracks. It's the E and N Railway - stands for Esquimalt and Nanaimo - that runs a dayliner service between Victoria, Courtenay and Port Alberni.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Plum Blossom

Well, I promised I'd produce a better shot of the plum blossoms when the wind died down, so here it is. I'll probably do another in a few days when the trees are fully in bloom.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Yellow House

The modern City of Victoria was founded in 1843 although indigenous peoples (the Songhees Nation) were living here long before. In comparison with most of the world's cities, at 165 it is not very old. However, its residents treasure what little history they have by preserving many of the older houses under a "Heritage" designation which, while it gives the owner a tax break, also limits the kinds of alterations that can be made. This is one heritage house that I pass nearly every day and its sunshiney brightness always gives me a lift, even on a gray and gloomy day like today.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Windy Blossom Riot

Well, it's a wet and windy morning here in Victoria but the Japanese Flowering Plums think it's spring. Every year I say a silent thanks to the people who decided long ago to line Victoria's streets with these trees that burst into bloom every March. They're just starting now but in a few days they will explode into pink popcorn balls of blossoms. And, when the wind stops blasting in from the Pacific Ocean, I will post a more placid view of these wonderful flowering trees. You'll just have to imagine how sweet they smell on a quiet sunny day.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Inner Harbour and Legislative Assembly Buildings

Victoria has always been a seafarers' city and the Inner Harbour still hosts sailors from all over the world. It is the heart of downtown Victoria. The Legislative Assembly buildings can be seen in the background.

Self Portrait in Oak

Thought I'd start this daily photo blog with a photo of myself, taken in Banfield Park, in Victoria West.