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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Dance to the Music

In the courtyard of the Greater Victoria Public Library's central branch.

Friday, February 27, 2009

100 Years of Light

This genuine old English gas lantern was in service on the streets of the County Borough of Walsall, near Birmingham, England, for over 50 years. Presented to the City of Victoria 1960.
Thus reads the plaque at the base of this lamp (right foreground) on the walkway above the Inner Harbour. It's not a gaslight any longer but it still brightens the night. (I'd be interested to know if any of my local readers knows why this lamp was presented to the city.) The gray art deco tower in the background rises above the Victoria Visitors Information Centre.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Break in the Clouds

Wild weather today - rain and great black clouds interspersed with brilliant sunlight and blue sky. One of the breaks in the cloud today caught the first flowering cherry of the year.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

More Telephone Booths

A couple of days ago I posted a photo of the special Chinatown edition of our local phone booths. Above is one of the more normal designs. This quartet is located on the Inner Harbour Causeway where it is probably of particular convenience to tourists. While our winter weather definitely seems to be breaking up, today was cold and windy. You can get some idea of the temperature by looking at the stylishly dressed pedestrian on the right.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Herring Gulls

A couple of posts ago there was some discussion of seagulls and methods used to discourage them from roosting (defecating) on window ledges/street lamps and other places where their droppings may cause a problem. Apparently droppings on the exterior of the space shuttle survived a journey into space, although they were destroyed during the burn-out return.

However much people may dislike their presence, in Canada they are a federally protected species. It seems that about a hundred years ago they were actually a threatened species on the east coast due to people hunting them and eating the young and eggs. However, they are currently thriving and are not considered endangered. The trio above are probably Herring Gulls (Larus argentatus), two adults and a juvenile. I write probably because the taxonomy of gulls is controversial. They are called four year gulls because it takes them 4 years to mature. Gulls have not had very good press but I like their sturdy independence and their mournful querulous cries are as much a part of our shorelines as is the sound of waves.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Street Furniture VII - Phone Booths

This photo is from a few days ago - I've been housebound the last few days with a back problem so.... Yes, Victoria still has phone booths, though with the increasing popularity of cell phones their number is decreasing. This particular one is in Victoria's Chinatown.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Street Furniture VI - Street Lamps

Victoria has a large variety of street lighting. On the left are two of the more common types in their Chinatown red versions. You may notice the sharp spiky things on top of the sodium vapor lamp in both photos. These are to deter Victoria's long-time residents, our local seagulls, from roosting there. In the photo on the right, if you click to enlarge it you can see on the lower stop/go light post the reason for discouraging these birds. Of course, it's not just meant to discourage seagulls. We have pigeons in Victoria also though they are not as numerous as seagulls, nor are they so large or ubiquitous. I often marvel when I look at the day's photos how many of them have seagulls perched or in flight somewhere in the frame. In the photo to the right, on the chimney to the right of the roof of the chinese gate stands today's seagull.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Crocus Focus

(Or should that be croci foci?) So often when we are focused on one thing we miss other things. Yesterday when I was photographing the cob bench in the community garden I was so concentrated on the bench that I nearly stepped all over these first little harbingers of spring. Though it's still freezing at night, the days lately have been bright and sunny. The buds are swelling on the trees....

Friday, February 20, 2009

Street Furniture V - Benches 1

Looking like something out of a fairy tale, the above is a detail from what you get when you involve community artists and artisans in the production of street furniture. It's a cob bench located in Victoria West just above Banfield Park. It was put together by the Vic West community and resides in the Vic West community garden.The benches to the right and left are the City of Victoria's latest benches, in what I think of as the prison modern style
Below is a wider angle photo of the Vic West cob bench. there are several other cob benches in the city and I will add photos of them as I locate them.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Street Furniture IV - Bike Racks

As a cyclist I appreciate the growing number of bike racks around the city. However, it has to be admitted that Victoria's bike racks are pretty uninspired compared to some I have seen on other CDP blogs. The best of a dull lot are those in Chinatown, as above. I hope someone will enlighten me as to the meaning of the Chinese characters on the rack. Below are two of the severely functional designs found elsewhere on the city streets. As the number of cyclists increases, these racks will need to increase also. I hope the city will ask our many artists to step up with some more interesting designs for new ones.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Street Furniture III - Sidewalk Access

It doesn't look like much but that little dip in the lip of the sidewalk curb is there to make it easy for people using wheelchairs and other mobility devices to move around Victoria. This happens to be the curb on the street corner nearest my house but you will find these dips on every sidewalk in the city. It's a humble gesture but it means a lot.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Street Furniture II - Mechanical Clocks

Another kind of street furniture found in most cities are clocks. Perhaps less important than they were a few decades ago because of the proliferation of digital time devices attached to almost everything now (cell phones, computers, calculators, cameras, etc.) as well as the availability of quartz watches that are both accurate and inexpensive, these public clocks are nevertheless a good symbol of how time-conscious modern society is. This particular clock on the corner of View and Government Streets at the entrance to Bastion Square has been ticking since it was erected by the city in 1890. It's been hit a few times by passing vehicles. You can see the dangling wires on the left side where a couple of street lamp globes were knocked off. This is a mechanical clock that needs winding so twice a week a city worker opens the base and winds it up. You can find out more about Victoria's mechanical clocks by clicking here.

Children nowadays, growing up with watches and clocks that give the time in lcd numbers, often cannot read these old 12 hour circular clocks. In another 20 or 30 years this way of telling time will be little more than a historical curiosity.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Street Furniture I - Parking Meters

I tend to get into a rut with landscape photos and forget or ignore all those little things that just don't register because I see them every day. So, I've lined up a number of posts I'm calling Street Furniture. Many of these things are probably global and I hope people will comment on similar things they have in their cities. Today's post is something that is found on all our streets in the downtown core, parking meters. Two bits (25 cents) buys you ten minutes. A loonie (one dollar coin) rents you a parking space for 50 minutes. There are meter readers who check for expired meters and if your car is parked longer than you have paid for, you will be given a parking ticket. I'm not sure how much the fine is now but it used to be twenty dollars. While I suspect they earn a little income for the city and also serve to regulate parking to some extent, I think these meters contribute to the problem of downtown core decay that many major cities are experiencing. Though our culture is becoming a little less car-oriented, most people still depend on their cars to get them to where they can shop. I suspect a major advantage of suburban malls over downtown stores is that the former offer extensive free parking. These parking meters are a deterrent to shopping downtown. They don't create any additional parking space, they only add expense and risk to the downtown shopping experience. Seems foolish to me. (or maybe not so foolish - click "comments" below to see some other points of view.)

In Chinatown, the posts that hold the meters upright are painted bright red, as in the photo to the left. The rest of Victoria's meters are on metallic gray posts.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Trial island II

I can't resist putting up two more photos of Trial Island. The photo above was taken at the same time as yesterday's photo but with with the kit zoom lens at its maximum wide angle. It makes a nice big picture - click it to get the full effect. The photo below was taken from the same spot a couple of days later with a telephoto lens (300 mm). All these photos of Trial island were taken from Clover Point.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Trial Island

Trial Island is a small island near Oak Bay. Its name came about during the 19th century. After British royal naval ships were refitted or repaired at Esquimalt Harbour they were sailed to this island and back to Esquimalt as a test or trial of their seaworthiness. You can read a little more about the history of Trial Island and its lighthouse by clicking here. I've taken quite a few photos of the island but this one I took a few days ago is probably my favorite because of the dramatic cloud formation.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Fleming Beach continued

Yesterday's photo of Fleming Beach was taken from the breakwater that protects the beach and boat ramp. Today's photo was taken from the same breakwater but looking in the opposite direction up the west coast of the Vancouver Island.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hanging by a thread at 500 meters....

Did I say 500 meters? It's more like 5 meters as you can see in the photo to the right but I'd much prefer to learn rock-climbing like the young man pictured here, relatively close to the ground. In fact, I'd rather not learn rock-climbing at all and will happily leave it to younger more daring people. I am posting this photo because I mentioned in an earlier post on Fleming Beach that it has a rock face much favored by rock-climbing enthusiasts for training. I must confess also to a growing fondness for this Fleming Beach and Macaulay Point area. These are very quiet parks mostly used by locals to enjoy the splendid rocky seascapes. In the photo below, you can see the rock face and just below it in the center of the photo is the tiny Fleming Beach. To the right of the beach, the green fenced picnic area is called Buxton Green. The hill above the green is the Macaulay Point gun emplacements pictured in another earlier post.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

On the Way Home

No matter where I go most days I usually end up riding through Chinatown on my way home and since I like to get home before dark I often pass through this gate around sunset and see it silhouetted as it is above. Chinatown looks good in the daytime but even better at night.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Craftsman Challenge

City Daily Photo Blogger Laurie Allee down in South Pasadena issued a challenge for photos of Craftsman style houses. Above is one of Victoria's finest. Here's what "This Old House: Victoria's Heritage Neighbourhoods, Volume One" has to say about it:

This house was built in 1911...from plan 327 designed by architect Jud Yoho of Seattle. Massive stone pillars support the porch; more commonly in Craftsman houses the stone would extend only part way up as a pier, and wooden supports would rest on them. The open eaves, exposed raftertails, and beam-ends with brackets under the gales are typical.
The house has been joined to its neighbour and subdivided into small apartments but retains its outer form. It has an interesting location, being directly opposite the Mile Zero marker of the Trans-Canada Highway, where Victoria's main thoroughfare, Douglas Street, meets the Pacific Ocean.

Thanks, Laurie, for opening my eyes to the charms of this architectural style. The more I look at these Craftsman houses the more I like them and I expect to find more up north here over the coming months. I think ours may be a bit easier to photograph because, since we don't need cool shade as much, ours are less tree-enclosed than those in California.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Deux Magnifiques Vieilles Dames

The title of this post is in French because it sounds better than "two lovely old ladies." The two are The Fairmont Empress Hotel and The North Star of Herschel Island. The Empress is the elder of the two and has occupied her commanding situation at the head of Victoria's Inner Harbour since 1908, making her just over 100 years old. However, millions of dollars have been poured into restorations over the years and she is now probably even more beautiful and hospitable than when she was first erected. If you come to Victoria, even if you don't stay in the Empress, do stop in for a visit. Relax in colonial splendor in the Bengal Bar or take afternoon tea in style in the glorious tea room. Some of Victoria's finest shops and galleries are also located in the Empress.

The second grand old lady is The North Star of Herschel Island. "North Star of Herschel Island is the last of the sailing Arctic cargo ships. She is the only fully rigged ship in Canada, meaning that she crosses square sails on each of her three masts." She was built in 1935 in San Francisco and then transported to the arctic circle to begin her life in the fur trade. She is no longer in commercial use and graces Victoria's waterways as the residence of her current owners. You can find out more about her fascinating history from the North Star website by clicking here.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Honour Roll

Just above Cattle Point is this memorial to Oak Bay residents who lost their lives during World War II. Generally these memorials depict armed soldiers and it is nice to see one that recognizes the grief and sorrows suffered by those who were left behind. It perhaps serves as a better reminder that we'd be wiser to remember the pain and suffering that war brings rather than glorify its heroic aspects.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


The picture above is Cadboro Bay. I went there to see a sea lion that apparently had hauled itself up onto the beach to moult and had become a local celebrity for doing so. I suspect it was embarrassed by all the attention and swam off to find a quieter location because it was not there today. But it was a bright, sunny day so I didn't mind. Cadboro Bay has a nice, sandy beach although I think the youngsters to the right are jumping the gun a bit on wading. (I was wearing gloves and they were running around barefoot.) However, although there was no sea lion I realize I have been remiss in not mentioning before that this bay is home to the legendary Cadborosaurus willsi, a local version of the Loch Ness monster. Below is a sculpture of "Caddy" that graces the children's playground in Gyro Park, attached to Cadboro Bay Beach.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Have a seat!

A beautifully clear and sunny day today so I went for a long ride towards the southeastern side of the city. I tend to focus a bit on the western side because I live there and it is convenient. But today I wanted to go over to Cadboro Bay to see a sea lion that had apparently taken up residence there. No sea lion, but that's another story. I spent a little time at Cattle Point (above photo), named because it was the drop-off point for cattle being shipped to Uplands Farm when this area was rural. The bench featured above looks out over Georgia Strait as in the photo below.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Dallas Road Waterfront

Though there was a hazy overcast today, it was mild and pleasant so I went down to the Dallas Road waterfront and took a stroll along the walkway you can see on the upper right of this photo. Most of Victoria's ocean shoreline consists of rocky beaches like this one. The only really sandy beaches are on the southeastern side of the city beyond Clover Point, or further northwest towards Esquimalt Lagoon.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

On the Back of a Whale

A fairly common form of public art these days is paintings on the exteriors of animal sculptures distributed around the city. I don't know enough about urban politics or art to understand why this has become popular. Perhaps someone can explain it. Victoria's animal choice is the Orca or killer whale and the people in the painting above are on the back of the whale in front of Victoria Visitors Information Centre. Whatever the rationale for this installation I am happy to see so much colour in this season's gray streets. (Added later: click here to see a bunch of urban cows in Madrid.)

I suspect the Orca has been chosen because whale-watching is a popular tourist pastime here. Victoria is one of the few cities in the world where you can view whales in their natural habitat within a half an hour from the Inner Harbour. There are about 15 pods of Orca that live in the area and numerous whale-watching excursions available year round.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Inner Harbour Causeway

I realized I've been neglecting my favorite summertime haunt these last few months so I took a nostalgic ride down to the Inner Harbour Causeway on Sunday. It's pretty quiet now but in another month it'll start to liven up when warmer weather brings the tourists and causeway artists and performers.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Snowdrops (For Wayne and Priyanka)

The weather warmed up a bit today, almost springlike, and when I saw these snowdrops blooming I remembered how much Wayne over there at Vancouver Daily Photo delights in these spring flower photos from Victoria. So, Wayne, this one's for you, but it's only the beginning. The Annual Spring Flower count is yet to come!

When I posted a photo of these snowdrops emerging from the ground in early January, Priyanka Khot of the Delhi Photo Diary requested a photo of them blooming so, Priyanka, this is also for you.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


The days are getting longer now and we've probably had our last snow of the year (last week) but the temperatures are still hovering around freezing. Despairing of going for a swim in Beacon Hill Park's Goodacre Lake, the couple below opted to go for a walk.