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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Gonzales Bay

Sixty-six meters below the observatory on Gonzales Hill (yesterday's post) is the small beach of Gonzales Bay. It's also known as Foul Bay. Even the color version of this photo looks monochrome since I was shooting directly into the Sunday's brilliant sun so I decided to go with black and white. But I promise, with all the spring flowers I've got some pretty colors for us tomorrow.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Gonzales Observatory

Today was a glorious, bright blue-sky day and I took advantage of it to ride to Gonzales Hill Park, Victoria's smallest regional park, situated atop Gonzales Hill in the Fairfield neighbourhood. On this rocky hilltop overlooking Gonzales Bay is the old observatory, built nearly one hundred years ago (1914). It is no longer in use as an astronomical observatory. However, it is being preserved as a heritage building and it does cap this hill beautifully. Below is a wider shot of the observatory.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Halkett Island

This small rocky island lies in the middle of the Gorge just east of the Selkirk Trestle (to the right in the photo). It was originally a burial island and marked the boundary between two family groups of the Lekwungen, now known as the Songhees and the Esquimalt First Nations.

In 1850, the "Island of the Dead" contained subsurface burials, but was mostly covered with small sheds, burial boxes and canoes containing human remains. The deceased were often placed in a fetal position and wrapped in a cedar bark mat. Adults were placed in a European-made, metal trimmed trunk and children were often placed in wooden cracker boxes.

Life sized carved wooden memorial figures representing prominent individuals were a common feature of burial locations.

The Lekwungen people, from the old Songhees reserve across the water, came to the island at twilight for feeding of the dead ceremonies. Sticks with chunks of sap were thrown into a fire to keep it blazing until midnight. Ritual words and chanting proceeded, as food to feed the dead was thrown into the fire.

Burials were no longer placed here after 1867, when a fire set by three Victoria boys got out of control and burned off the island. The boys' parents were heavily fined under the Indian Graves Protection Act. The island was taken away from the Songhees in 1924 by a Federal Indian Reserve Commission, but was restored to them by court order in 1993.

Joseph Pemberton, Victoria's most prolific early map maker, gave the name Halkett to the island in 1851. The Halketts were a well known, prominent British Navy family at the time.

(From a plaque placed on the shoreline near Halkett Island by the City of Victoria)

Saturday, March 28, 2009


I promised more kid soccer pics and the above is for anyone who thinks that young girls don't play an aggressive and determined game. However, when I was browsing through all the photos I took of those Saturday morning games, I realized that I have been focusing on the wrong area all the time. What is most important about soccer is not what you do with your feet but with your tongue.

Friday, March 27, 2009

St Andrew's Presbyterian Church

I mentioned in a recent post that in Victoria I sometimes feel I'm walking around in a large theme park. I think this comes from childhood Saturday afternoons "when you wish upon a star..." seeing Tinkerbell flying around those fabulously romantic Disney spires. A hint of all that comes back when I look at the Victoria skyline in the header photo above and see, on the right, those silvery spires against the sky. But these are not from Uncle Walt. These spires, an example of Castellated Scottish Baronial Style archtecture, are atop St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, built in 1890 in downtown Victoria on the corner of Douglas and Courtenay Streets.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Coast Collective

While the view across Esquimalt Lagoon to Royal Roads anchorage was rather sombre on this rainy day, the view of the laden gallery walls within was bright, warm and colorful. The above photo was taken from a window of Pendray House, built in 1928 as a summer home and now in use as the gallery showroom of the Coast Collective, featuring the works of many local artists, with new shows mounted monthly. This gallery, where Hatley Park meets Esquimalt Lagoon is a wonderful place to visit after a walk in the forest. Click here to visit their website.A Victoria Times-Colonist article about the Gallery and Show can be read by clicking here.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

City of Grandparents

As a favored retirement location Victoria is home to a high number of grandparents. I'm one of the lucky ones whose grandchildren live here within walking distance. Above is my youngest granddaughter in her soccer outfit ready for the pre-game warm-up. I'll be posting some photos of her soccer game soon.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Theme Park

There are times here when I feel like I'm wandering around in a giant theme park. For instance, moments after I had taken the photos of the Bell Tower that I posted the day before yesterday, I was crossing Fort Street and glanced down towards the harbour to see this view - very different in character but just as strange and wonderful. When I glanced the other way up Fort Street I saw St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, equally dream-like and different. I'll post a few photos of St. Andrew's sometime soon. This view looks from downtown across the harbour towards the Songhees. That rocky area across the water is where I took the photo that is the header for this page.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Hatley Park

Some of the most luxuriant forests in the world are found in the area known as the Pacific Northwest. This includes Vancouver Island, where pockets of old growth temperate rain forest may still be found. A quarter of an hour from downtown Victoria is Hatley Park and the photo above was taken there a few days ago. The trees pictured are by no means the largest or oldest. Many of the trees in this forest are hundreds of years old and one cannot walk among them without awakening feelings of awe and respect.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Bell Tower

One of many things I like about doing a City Daily Photo Blog is that it continually forces me to discover more about this city.

For instance, if you look at the header of this blog you will see an unusual tower on the left. The same tower is pictured to the right here and I have to confess that until today I hadn't a clue as to what this tower was. I always liked it because it's got nice colors and shapes and no apparent use but I decided today that it was just irresponsible of me to have it poking up into the skyline in my header photo when I was ignorant as to its purpose. It has a plaque at its base that reads as follows:
The Bell Tower
This site is in the immediate area of old Fort Victoria where the Hudson's Bay Company's original fort was located. Structures within the fort included a building for general meeting purposes and a bell tower. The bell in the tower was probably the first means of communication for the early settlers of the fort in 1845. It was rung to summon the Hudson's Bay employees to the mess hall, to signal church services, marriages and deaths, to alert the staff to return to the fort if trouble seemed imminent and, of course by the night watchman on rounds calling out the hour with "All's well".
Erected by CP Telecommunications - 1978
I still don't know if it rings from time to time or even has a bell in it now but at least we all know what it is supposed to be.
For those of you who want to see more of this delicious Mustang, here's another shot on the left. And on the right is another view of the Bell Tower, just because I love all these colors and shapes.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Western Skunk Cabbage

Like a candle lit to end the winter darkness, the Western Skunk Cabbage (Lysichiton americanus) seems to burn against last year's decayed leaves. This aromatic plant, indigenous to boggy areas in the Pacific Northwest, is one of the first to bloom in the spring. Another similarity to candles is that these plants generate heat - sufficient to melt snow if there's any around them when they decide to bloom. I stumbled on these yesterday in the forest near Hatley Park.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Wildfire Organic Bakery and Cafe Gallery

On Quadra Street right opposite the former Baptist church pictured here last week is the Wildfire Organic Bakery and Cafe. The owners have embraced graffiti or street art to the point of allowing two sides of their building to be extensively painted by local artists. Pictured here is one side that usually has two large paintings. These seem to change every few months and are always interesting. I very much admire seeing "unofficial" art like this and applaud the Wildfire and its artists for being open-minded and generous enough to share these creations with us freely.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Dragon Alley

Victoria's Chinatown has two narrow alleyways, Fan Tan Alley and Dragon Alley. Both have been restored. This is the Herald Street Entrance to Dragon Alley. A hundred years ago this alley led into an internal maze of small courtyards where brothels, opium factories, and gambling dens were located. Now there are some shops and condos but the atmosphere of an enclosed and foreign space is well preserved.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Hard to believe that a day that could provide this view at noon could darken with gray skies and close down under a biting sleety rain but that's the weather we're having: spring one minute and winter the next. This is the Janion Building (1891) and the blossoming tree beside it is always one of the first to flower downtown. I think this is because of its proximity to the south-facing brick wall of the building. The Janion is also pictured here and here.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Today is St. Patrick's Day, the holiday which celebrates not only the saint but the country to which he ministered, Ireland. Ireland is known as the emerald isle because of the rich green of its hills. And, though I've never set foot in Ireland, that is how I remember it from nearly 50 years ago when the ship on which I was a passenger anchored briefly in Cobh, County Cork, Ireland. After a dark, storm-tossed night I went on deck in the early morning. Under the black clouds the luminous green hills outside Cobh shimmered in the rain-washed sunlight. The green was so bright the hills seemed lit from within. For me, St Patrick's day and its association with Ireland always calls to mind that picture.

I don't have a photo of those hills so you will have to be satisfied with a shot of me on the deck, smiling at you across a gap of 46 years. That's the Atlantic Ocean there in the background. In those days, only the rich flew. Anyone else who wanted to travel abroad went by ship. It now seems unbelievably inexpensive. The first time I went to Europe (1961), the one-week passage from Canada to the UK cost about $225. And Europe was cheap too. The best-selling travel book at that time was Arthur Frommer's "Europe on $5 A Day" and my brother and I traveled using this guide for five months, covering most of Europe between Oslo and Gibraltar. This book is currently published as "Europe on $50 a day."

Happy St. Patrick's day to everyone who visits this blog.

Monday, March 16, 2009


The City Daily Photo Blog context is very comfortable to work within. One can look at those things that make one's city unique and identifiable but one is also free to examine those things that are more universal. I've tended to focus more on Victoria-specific subjects and in this second year of blogging I want to try my hand at subjects that, while they are set in Victoria, are not unique or specific to Victoria. I am also interested in making pictures rather than just taking pictures. For me this means more effort spent in setting up the photo before clicking the shutter but also doing a little more work after the shutter has been clicked.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Force

Completing a year of daily posts has been a good discipline. The requirement to produce a photo and some text every day has been a little demanding but the pressure has helped me to get past obstacles that might otherwise have stopped my progress. The downside is that sometimes one posts a photo that one knows is not good enough, just because one has nothing else. Another disadvantage is that one begins to get repetitive - it's easier to produce what one has done before than it is to stretch out and try some new things that may turn out hopelessly bad. (In fact, when one tries new things at least a few always turn out bad.) However, one of my resolutions for this next year of Victoria Daily Photo is to explore some new (for me) aspects of image-making. One of the new things I've been wanting to try is the combination of text and image as in the Dylan Thomas quote above.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Congregation Emanu-El

Most of the historical artifacts on the western Coast of Canada are younger than those in the east since this area was settled by Europeans much later. Victoria, for instance was only founded in 1843, almost 350 years after Columbus first arrived on the shores of eastern North America. The building pictured above, Congregation Emanu-El, therefore is unusual in that it is the oldest synagogue in Canada, being erected here on Blanshard Street in downtown Victoria in 1863. It was restored in 1981, which no doubt accounts for its pristine appearance. There is an interesting history of the building and Victoria's Jewish community on their website (click here).

Friday, March 13, 2009

"Church" Street!

This is not actually "Church Street" but if I was re-naming Quadra Street I would call it that since there are four churches within a hundred meters of the two former churches I mentioned yesterday, and these are functioning churches. Above are the First Metropolitan United Church (left) and the Glad Tidings Pentecostal Church. On the immediate left is the St. John the Divine Anglican Church and to the right is the First Baptist Church. Christ Church Cathedral is also on Quadra Street and only a few blocks up from these churches is a mosque. So religion is certainly not dead in Victoria but, as in the rest of the world, its place in our city and in people's lives is changing.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Old Churches

Directly across Quadra Street from yesterday's photo is this large building, formerly the First Baptist Church. At some later point it was home to Nelson's Music and has now been transformed into trendy loft living spaces. The proximity of this former church to the large one featured yesterday reminds me that we are moving rapidly into a genuinely secular society. This has happened really within the last fifty years and I wonder how many of us think about the implications.

I am wondering, for instance, how people without any religious background develop personal moral codes. What's right and what's wrong used to be defined religiously, but for many people nowadays religion is no longer a valid way of defining morality. But what is the philosophy or ethical system that is replacing religion in our society? It doesn't seem to be explicitly codified anywhere but sort of patched together from rights-based pressure groups, media attitudes and the vague humanistic philosophies of psychologists and social workers, and I can't escape the feeling that we may have thrown out the baby with the bathwater. Aside from legal sanctions or religious beliefs, how do you decide what's right and what's wrong?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


I've mentioned before how I like it when a modern building acknowledges an older, neighbouring building in its design and here is another example from Victoria's Quadra Street. The modern building is a Ministry of Social Services building and the old many-turreted structure on the right is the Victoria Conservatory of Music. It looks like a church because it used to be a church, and that will be the subject of tomorrow's post.

I am happy to announce that today marks the first anniversary of Victoria Daily Photo. Yes, it's one year today that I made my first post. I don't plan to do anything special here right now (aside from mounting a new header) but I hope to have some kind of retrospective when I have a little more time and inspiration during the next month. In the meantime, I thank all my visitors and followers, regular and new. Your visits and comments make it worthwhile and fun.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Dragons are often associated with Chinese culture and this one marks one edge of Victoria's Chinatown on the corner of Pandora and Government Streets. While in western mythology dragons are thought to be evil, as in the story of St. George and the Dragon, in Chinese mythology they are symbols of auspicious power that still command respect in modern Chinese culture. Click here to read what Wikipedia has to say about Chinese dragons.

Monday, March 9, 2009 heh

I'll never complain about the weather again this year. I promise. After yesterday's ill-considered gripe about the temperature I woke this morning to view a blizzard outside my window. Yes! Snow! About two centimeters of the fluffy white stuff. I immediately went back to bed and slept until noon. Most of it is now gone but I snapped these crocuses peeking out just an hour ago. Strange weather!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Inner Harbour - Above the Causeway

I continue to urge spring's arrival with the utmost concentration but the weather persists in being cold, hovering a few degrees above freezing during the daytime.

I had planned to post a photo of another of Victoria's street clocks today to mark the changeover to Daylight Saving Time here. However, the ten photos I took of that clock a few days ago are like an instruction manual for how to take out-of-focus, wrongly exposed, badly composed photos so you get this post when I gripe again about the weather.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Calm Before the Storm

It looks calm now but the storm I am referring to is the crowds of visitors who will ruffle the waters of the Inner Harbour while cruising out to look at the whales or taking the harbour ferries to see Fisherman's Wharf or any of a dozen other locations. They'll bring colour and life to this scene and to this city and I'm looking forward to their arrival.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Street Furniture VIII - Trash Compacter

Here's an item that is probably not very popular with the seagull set but helps to keep the Inner Harbour Causeway neat even during the peak summertime tourist traffic. I'm writing here of the black box in the lower right corner of this photo. It's not just a trash container; it's a solar-powered trash compacter. There are a couple of these things along the causeway as well as some of the more typical trash containers.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Master of All He Surveys

Maybe this should be "Mistress of All She Surveys" - I have been unable to find any information on gender distinctions between male and female seagulls, which would probably cause a snicker amongst the seagull population. In any case this bird posed with sublime indifference while overlooking Victoria's Inner Harbour.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

...the darling buds of May

And it's only March 4. Monday's bunny has got lots of young green shoots like this to eat in Beacon Hill Park. Crocuses are popping up everywhere. Daffodils and rhododendrons are just starting to come. The miniature horses and goats at the Children's Zoo were out enjoying their paddock and their tiny kids were bouncing around on stiff little legs like they were on springs. Spring was definitely in the air.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Wharf Street

This is my favorite Victoria skyline because it has such an interesting variety of architectural styles and its colors make it look warm even now, in March. In this photo Wharf Street runs from left to right above the Inner Harbor near Ship Point. The street we can look up is Fort Street, so named because it marked the original location of Fort Victoria. The photo was taken from the Songhees side of the Inner Harbour with a 200 mm telephoto lens.

Monday, March 2, 2009


A beautiful warm day today so I rode down to Beacon Hill Park to see if I could find some signs of spring. I found crocuses, daffodils, lots of green buds bursting and the little fellow above, busily grooming himself on the edge of a path near the Beacon Hill Park Children's Zoo. I don't think our indigenous rabbits ever come in this rich ebony shade so I suspect this bunny is an escapee from the zoo or, more likely, was liberated by someone who no longer wanted a pet.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Royal Theatre

Yesterday's photo of the library courtyard shows a nice contemporary use of brick. Just up the street from the library is the Royal Theatre with decorative motifs in brick and an ornate terra cotta (I think) facade. The Royal Theatre was built in 1913 in the Rococo/Renaissance Revival style. It is mainly used for live performances and seats about 1,500. While the building itself is basically a big box, the details are delightful. Below is an example of the sumptuous facade near the roofline.