Wednesday, July 13, 2011

My 7 Links - a retrospective of words and images

What is My 7 Links all about, anyway?

The goal of the project, as outlined by Tripbase, is:

To unite bloggers (from all sectors) in a joint endeavor to share lessons learned and create a bank of long but not forgotten blog posts that deserve to see the light of day again.

Thanks to photographer Kirsten Alana, I have been nominated to participate by sharing my own 7 links. My blog has been around since March, 2006, but my readership hasn't. So I'm pleased to present to you now...

My 7 Links

Most Beautiful Post. Namibia - by Dune, Full Moon, and Hot Air Balloon


Most Popular Post. Landslides & Leeches: a Trekking Journal, Nepal
Transcribed from hand-written journal pages, this is my personal experience of a trek where the forces of nature took over and lives were lost. Additionally, this post is popular with Google and any search term involving leeches.

Most Controversial Post. Probably this one. Published in the Rough Guide to India!
None of my posts thus far have resulted in any sort of commentary debate or backlash. I've regretted the instances where I've participated in some controversial comment strings on other blogs. I really don't feel good about insulting or offending anyone; when I have, it sits on my conscience like a thorn. Sometimes I've hit "send" in the heat of the moment, and have thrown words like daggers. I'm truly sorry to those who were ever at the receiving end of some of my sharper words.
That said, the choice for my most controversial post is purely subjective. It was an issue which wreaked havoc in my mind; so I felt I should try to make right of it in a blog post. Here are the facts:
a) I photographed someone, without their knowledge, in a very personal moment of practicing their faith.
b) 10 years later, I scanned and uploaded the image into an online portfolio at the now defunct Digital Railroad (DRR), ticking the licensing box making it available strictly for editorial use, which means, among other things, that I had no model release (permission).
c) Digital Railroad quite suddenly fell apart and left thousands of photographers high and dry without receiving commissions earned from images licensed through their website, or even knowing which images of theirs had been purchased or downloaded.
d) a former DRR employee and mentor/friend with a good heart helped me out by providing a list of what he knew of my DRR downloads and sales, finalized or not, paid for or not.
e) a record showed this particular image had been licensed, and the payment status was "pending".
f) I contacted the publisher who eventually replied that they had already paid DRR for the image license, but failed to send me any record for proof. Because they were a big name and reputable, I took them on their word, thanked them, and asked if they would send me a tear sheet or copy of the book. They did neither.
g) So, when the Rough Guide to India was published, I rushed to the bookstore and thumbed through it. I quickly found my image occupying a full color page. My first sigh of relief came upon seeing that the image use was not in any way derogatory; in fact, I couldn't have asked for more appropriate context for putting this image in a guidebook. I bought the book, brought it home and confirmed that I was properly credited for the image. Indeed I was, a second sigh of relief.
h) Because the image and context touched on the delicate subject of religion and faith, and the person in my image was expressing his own, I felt it only right for me to expose something of my own faith. I did just that in my post (don't be fooled by the SEO-driven title): Published in the Rough Guide to India! The photo:



Most Helpful Post. Samantha Brown and Rick Steves - the Best in the Field
This post provides helpful insight for anyone in the business, or desiring to be in the business, of travel writing, publishing, and presenting (that includes you, my fellow travel bloggers!). It is especially helpful to anyone aspiring to host their own travel show someday. Apparently, I'm not alone in having that ambition.

A Post Whose Success Surprised Me. Stand Up Paddle Surf Safari...in China?

I penned this humorous little piece because I was fed up with the Hawaiians getting credit for anything and everything to do with surfing. The ocean spans the entire globe, you know, not just the Hawaiian islands! Many forms of surfing have taken place in many different parts of the world throughout history. I really didn't think people would take this too seriously, but based on traffic and search terms, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to find SUP board rentals set up along the banks of the Li River some day.

A Post I Feel Didn't Get the Attention it Deserved. Chile: Spirit Dreams
If you read only one link from this post, please make it this one. This was my debut blog post back in March, 2006. I didn't know where to start, but I knew that every picture has a story, right? So I picked a random photo taken on my travels and then opened up my journal from that trip. Turns out I have some pretty cool travel stories tucked away in these journals, and it was time to bring them out. This is one of my favorites, which I think only my web-designer-mentor/friend has ever read.

The Post I am Most Proud of. Listening With the Lens - Filming a Documentary
It's not so much the post itself, it's finally being able see my work come to fruition (thanks to incredible editors) in my first foray into documentary film-making, so that I could share this inspiring story with others. For me, this was a profound experience, a chance to use my talent to give something back. It is a beautiful story of inspiration, which I am both proud and humbled to share with you.

Thank you for visiting, and if you were even moved to follow some of the links, I am especially grateful. Please comment so I know you've visited!

Now here's the tricky part - nominating 5 more bloggers. My first choices had been previously nominated, so I had to reach beyond the obvious....in fact, why not reach for the stars!

Here are my 5 nominations for the next participants in the My 7 Links project. They are all great sources of inspiration, and whether or not they have or take the time to participate, they are definitely worth your time to check out:

Travel:
Robert Reid
Andrew Evans
Pauline Frommer

Photography:
Art Wolfe
Gavin Gough

Enjoy the journey!

Thursday, July 07, 2011

5A Reasons Why I Love the Window Seat


Flight over the Andes of Ecuador

"A or F, please, preferably not over the wing."

This is my standard request when flying most commercial flights with a seating configuration of 3 and 3. I just don't get why people (without extraordinarily long legs) would choose to be bumped and climbed over in the aisle seats rather than enjoy the amazing perspective of our planet from above in a window seat. Perhaps they need easy access to the toilets? Fine, I'll grant them that, and I'll count my blessings that I can, for the most part, wait. I'll cross laps when I absolutely have to, but I'd sooner just cross my legs...especially while crossing over the Andes, the Rockies, or the Himalayas.


I love the window seat. And here are just a few reasons why:

#1A. It's my happy place, my comfort zone, and my zen place - where I can feel completely insignificant and gain a new perspective - a wider lens, if you will - on whatever trivialities seems important in my life at the time. Did I pack the right shoes? Did I remember to pay that last phone bill? From the window seat I can simply look down and think "oh yeah, there's our planet, isn't it amazing and awesome and...does anything else really matter?" Sigh.

#2F. I'm a geographoholic (dibs on wiki credit for coining that one)

- Throughout my childhood, I collected the map inserts from National Geographic, and my first dorm room in college was decorated in nothing but maps. And postcards.

- In jr. high I excelled at geography, a dreaded subject amongst my peers but not for me. There was a time when I could draw Europe freehand with all the borders in all the right places, including a two-part Berlin. Funny, I had no interest in doing the same with my own country's states - it all became a blur east of the rockies, kind of like those early cartography renderings of anything that wasn't Britain or India. There'd be California drawn with complete precision, then a few straight-lined geometric shapes to the right, then, oh who cares, just doodle some scary sea serpents instead. But, given the right circumstance I will still occasionally draw a map on cocktail napkin (and pen an entire article on a cocktail napkin too), particularly when the napkins are accompanied by caipirinhas...


- Perhaps being a native Californian and living just west of the San Andreas fault line accounts for my abnormal fascination with plate tectonics; and islands, which my part of the state may become if the rumored predictions are accurate. When I was young I actually got pretty excited over the thought of breaking off from the rest of the state to become an island nation. I've got a drawing of that somewhere too, I think it's in a box of my treasured 4th grade art projects. A waterproof firebox no doubt.


Flying over the Great Rift Valley in Africa - plate tectonics nirvana!

- Coastlines intrigue me. I'd often sit on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific with my best friend and we'd contemplate life while perched on "the edge of a continent."


Then, a year and some rains later, that perch is gone, washed away or tumbled into a rockpile on the beach below. The coastline has forever changed; and it continues to change, every year, all over the planet. Never take a coastline for granted.

#3A. It's really all just one big ocean. Kinda mind-blowing to think about when you're on a trans-Atlantic flight...or a trans-Pacific...or crossing any oceanic body of water. They all look the same from 35,000 feet. Mind blowing how that makes perfect sense.

Reefs of Bora Bora in the South Pacific

#4F. Let's be practical for just a moment. Sleep. You might actually want to sleep. Just because you're in sardine class doesn't mean you enjoy having to remain upright while your jaw drops open and drool trickles down your chin. Well, when you start to doze off and your head flops over onto the shoulder of that poor soul in the middle seat - if you're in the aisle seat, you're out of options. The best chance you've got is to take advantage of the fact that they are probably too unassertive to say anything (after all, they did end up in a middle seat). But if you have the window seat, you also have a wall, an alternative place to prop that ridiculous excuse for a pillow. And there's a bonus! The wall serves as support reinforcement should that middle seat occupant flop their head, along with their entire upper body, your way. Don't panic. You've got that wall - use it to leverage against as you flick your elbow with a whallop and send the startled soul flying toward, you guessed it, the now-regretful drooling dozer in the aisle seat.

#5A. Back to me. I do a great deal of writing while I'm in flight, and when I look up to compose my thoughts, I find it difficult to source my inspiration from tray tables or tv screens. I need open space - emptiness - to watch my ideas swirl around, bounce off puffy clouds, and settle...gently...like snowflakes....somewhere on the crust of that great planet below.

Roof of the World - The Himalayas

Some of my "thoughtflakes" will top majestic mountains...others will melt away into the deep blue sea. Some will run the meandering course of a river...others will stumble over skyscrapers and land with a "flakeplant" on the pavement. No matter where my thoughts settle, they start in the nothingness of space. And that's often the only thing I see when I look out the window - a perfect blank canvas on which to paint a picture with thoughts and words.

Picture? Did I just say picture? What a convenient segway into sharing more photos! Okay, so that's really a rather abrupt transition - more like turbulence. Please remain seated with your eyes on the screen until it is safe to move about the internet again. And here, I'll even let you have the window seat.

More reasons why I love the window seat (in pictures):

Visual Co-Piloting:

How close the pilots navigate downtown  on approach to SAN


The harrowing sharp bank upon take off from Paro Airport, Bhutan

Gaining a better perspective of what the shipboard naturalist gets excited about:

Amazon River "Meeting of the Waters" from above

Including parts of plane for context of place:

Nature Air flying over Costa Rica

Southwest Air flying over Arizona

Observing Patterns of Man:

Rice Terraces near Chongqing in China


Observing Patterns of Nature:


Fairy Circles of the Namibian Landscape

Which brings me to another segway. The above photo was actually shot from a Hot-Air Balloon.




Sometimes you get a nice aerial view from a balcony:


Balcony View from the Kahala Resort in Hawaii

Or from a gondola!

The Great Wall of China at Badaling

And no aerial blog post would be complete without mention of helicopters. So, before landing, here's a small selection of aerial images from helicopters to enjoy:

Helicopter Flight-seeing in Alaska allows for landing on glaciers!

Canyonlands National Park, Utah


St. James, U.S. Virgin Islands


The ultimate perspective of Iguacu Falls, by helicopter:






What's next? Some day I hope to add to my aerial image collection from this perspective:

The ultimate aerial window seat!

Be sure to check out the full gallery of aerial images to see more of Namibia, Costa Rica, South America, and more from above!

Happy Flying!!

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Cardiff by the Sea 100th Birthday Celebration


Falling on the heels of Canada Day (July 1), and preceding American Independence Day (July 4), my local community of Cardiff by the Sea, California, celebrated its centennial birthday on July 2, 2011. That's like 100 years old, dude!!


One might think it would be totally overshadowed and lost sandwiched between two nation's birthdays, but in these parts, it was the biggest event of the weekend, and a grand cause for parades, picnics and parties.

In case you're feeling pangs of agony and remorse for missing Cardiff's big birthday bash, I've compiled a few of the highlights - so feast your eyes and take in the atmosphere of a small laid-back surf community's centennial celebration!

Grand Marshall of the Parade: Marion Ross



That's right, it's Mrs. Cunningham from television's "Happy Days"! Now, who doesn't love Mrs. C? She's everyone's favorite mom, and she's Cardiff's dearest resident. You know when Mrs. C. lives on your street, you're in a great family neighborhood!

Speaking of families, here's one you see a lot of around town: The Machados




Of course, Rob Machado, the world-famous surfer/guitar player, grew up in Cardiff and has never lost touch with his roots. He gives back so much to the community, particularly the schools, and you can read and see more about his contributions to the Cardiff Education Foundation in this post from 2008: Rob Machado: Because He Cares.

Clearly, classic cars were a theme in the parade - given that Cardiff sits on a stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway 101, a favorite for Sunday cruises. The parade included many models from a 1917 Model T (San Dieguito Heritage Museum) to a 1970's Hot Rod.



What I loved about this particular parade entry is that it almost looked like a local resident accidentally turned in to the parade route...classic cars with boards sticking out are an everyday sight around Cardiff:



A few of the more active parade entrants choosing to go on foot include:


Cardiff 100th Birthday Parade - Images by Kymri Wilt

Plus, an honorable mention for the Costume Contest Winner: A Walking Sandcastle!


If there's anything we Cardiffians love as much as, or perhaps even more than, classic cars and surfing, it's walking our dogs. So naturally the parade would have to feature lots of them - worthy of their own slideshow:


Dog Days of Cardiff - Images by Kymri Wilt

Of course, there are many great places in Cardiff that the dogs love to explore, and Cardiff wouldn't be nearly so beautiful were it not for these two organizations in particular:

The Cardiff Botanical Society - responsible for the beautification of public areas such as Carpentier Parkway, which was officially dedicated April 30 as part of Cardiff's centennial celebration:



The San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy, which looks after the coastal wetlands and backcountry of San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve:


The parade route finished with a big party in Glen Park, and while the linked article covers it nicely, I wanted to share two of the more artistic aspects which caught my eye:

Cigar Box Guitars and Ukuleles by local artist Smokebox Bob:


And this guy, Dylan Barmmer, performing "Random Acts of Poetry" - another local artist passionate about the community, be sure to check out his Ode to the Surfing Madonna video.


Follow this link for the full gallery of images from the Cardiff by the Sea 100th Birthday Parade.

For more information about visiting Cardiff by the Sea, please check out the Chamber of Commerce site, Cardiff 101, and Beach California. Maybe you even want to consider dwelling here!



You can always contact me for tips and suggestions as well!

Have a Happy Holiday Weekend!

Friday, July 01, 2011

Oh Canada! (My Top 5 Highlights of Travels in Canada)

Happy Canada Day!

It's no secret that I'm a big huge fan of Canada, and will find any excuse to travel there at the drop of a hat. I've been several times to several parts over the years, and frankly, I've never met a part of Canada I didn't love. But I realized, I've only blogged about it a couple of times since I started this blog in 2006, but it's worthy of so many more articles that I just haven't found time to compose, and photos that I haven't taken time to edit. In fact, the image archives consists of:

*A photo album from my first venture to Canada (Saskatchewan) in 1981 - a couple of quick scans are included in this feature. like the one above from the RCMP Museum.

*Several boxes of slides sitting by the scanner labeled "CAN-Yukon & Northwest Territories", "CAN-Canadian Inside Passage Cruise", and "CAN-Montreal, Quebec"


*CDs from my early days of digital archiving (and early days of motherhood) labeled "CAN-British Columbia" - you'll find more of these later in this feature, but this one of my daughter meeting a carriage pulling horse is a favorite of ours.


*Back-up hard drives with various Canada file folders, including "CAN-Toronto, Ontario".


I keep telling myself one of these days I'll get them all fixed up to present online. Well one of those days has come in the form of a very spontaneous realization that Canada Day is....today!!! So I better get cracking. For starters, I've created a new online gallery of Canada images containing some favorites and several previously unreleased images.

But for this post, I'm going to use more words than images, and tell a few stories.
There are just so many to share of my travels in Canada, and images too, each worthy of their own blog feature. But for the sake of my last-minute effort, here are a few of the more memorable highlights.

These are my TOP 5 highlights of travels in Canada, plus an honorable mention:

Honorable Mention: Frostbite in Edmonton

Yes, you read that right, frostbite. It was my first trip to Canada - I was visiting my sister who married a Canadian hockey player from Regina, Saskatchewan. I flew from a beautiful balmy 80 degrees in San Diego to 40 below in Edmonton, Alberta (where I had to change planes to continue to Regina). It was my very first winter away from home (San Diego), and my first time in snow (real snow with real snowflakes that stayed frozen on the windshield). I had no idea that stepping outside in my warmest California-poser-ski-bunny-fashion-statement-gear would result in mild frostbite on my derrier.
I'm not joking. Here's what happened - I strolled outside of the terminal with my camera determined to check out Alberta's scenery. Within moments a patrol car pulled over and the officer rolled down the window and said "Give your bum a slap, miss". Surprised by this odd run-in with Canadian law enforcement, I did as I was told. "Feel that?", he asked, to which I replied "feel what?". His reply: "Exactly. A minute longer and you'll have no sensation at all back there. It's called frostbite. Now get in the car." So I guess that was my first exposure to both the harshness of Canadian winters, and the kindness of Canadian people. He probably saved my life, and had a good laugh as he did so. He made me laugh too, at myself, and that skill would remain an important one throughout my first Canadian adventure...and the rest of my life for that matter. But this first impression really stuck, and I've never gotten over that Canadian sense of humour (see, I can even spell it in Canadian).

#5 - Becoming a member of the Sourtoe Cocktail Club in Yukon

Well, the title tells the story, and I rarely find an audience who want to hear elaborate details, but if you must know more about this concoction, here's an introduction to the Sourtoe Cocktail. And as soon as Captain Dick assembles the comprehensive membership list online, you can look me up. And someone out there has a photograph of the event: I done drank a real Sourtoe Cocktail. Now if that alone doesn't make me an honorary Canadian, well, nothing will. And before you ask, no, there was not a vegetarian toefu option...(ba da boom).

#4 - Skiing in Banff

Remember my sister's husband the Canadian hockey player? Well, he had 6 brothers (and a sister), and they all played hockey (the sister too). They even set up a mini-rink in the backyard and taught us a few moves. Here's me trying to get a puck past my sister:
It was a good laugh for sure, but it was nothing like our big ski trip to Banff.
See, the brothers decided it would be an even better laugh to teach these two Californian sisters how to ski, so we all piled into the van and headed west from Regina. For those who don't know, Saskatchewan is the midwest of Canada. It's flat. Really flat. My sister and I had heard of Banff, but at the time having been subject to our California education system, we were horribly ignorant of Canadian geography. So when these brothers told us we were going to drive to Banff to ski, and it was just down the road, we totally believed them. We were so excited, the ultimate Canadian experience - skiing in Banff - was going to be ours!
We got to the slopes and got all fitted up with boots and skis and such. Now, their idea of teaching us the ropes consisted basically of a "how to catch the ski-tow" exercise, which I passed remarkably well. But when I reached the top of the lift, they were gone, nowhere to be found, and I had to figure out my own way down the mountain. Little did I know they had positioned themselves at various points on the way down to help me along. But I failed to see them. I took to that slope like nobody's business and flew down the hill. Fast. Really fast. I was gleaming in pride and feeling like an Olympic athlete, imagining the crowds roaring as I would swoop to the bottom and apply my Olympic sponsor's chapstick with a big smile as the cameras flashed. But when I noticed the dot of the distant lodge growing bigger and nearer, I realized I hadn't learned one minor detail in the sport of downhill skiing....how to stop.
I didn't even know how to slow down for that matter. Funny, but in that split-second of realization, my whole life flashed in slow motion before my eyes, but my body was going fast. I froze on my skis, but the skis kept moving. I watched the line for the ski-lift part like the red sea and I shot straight through, past the lift station, past the lodge, and somehow ending up in a frozen creek bed with my skis stuck in the bushes. Eventually the Canadian hockey-playing brothers found me, lifted me up, and carried me back to the lodge like some kind of trophy. I've been blessed with many miracles, and this was certainly one of them - I didn't break anything.
Before I knew any better, I was back on that ski-tow. But this time, the brothers gave me a demonstration on zig-zagging to slow down, before they sped off down the hill. So for my second jaunt down the slope, I zigged, fell to my bottom, rested, then zagged, fell to my bottom, and rested. Repeat pattern. I don't remember how long it actually took me to get down the hill, someone said they clocked me at 2 hours 21 minutes, but all the brothers (and even my sister) had passed several times, and I noticed the sun dipping quickly toward the horizon. The fear of frostbite and Canadian law enforcement kicked in, and I finished with a beeline for the lodge, lured by the fire burning inside and the odor of smelly woollen socks roasting away.
It wasn't until I returned home to California and began boasting to everyone that I'd been skiing in Banff when I learned that it was, in fact, a little bunny hill slope in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Damn those Canadians, they pulled one over on me big time. But at least they had the courtesy to send me off with a good story to tell. And there's my Banff Ski story. I haven't been downhill skiing since. Nor have I ever, really, been to Banff. Yet...

#3 - Camping in Ontario

We were living in Chicago in 1997, and Labor Day weekend was fast approaching. That meant 3 whole days to get away from the city and go camping.
We knew we wanted to camp, but we hoped desperately to avoid the crowds of Labor Day weekend which invaded state campgrounds in the midwestern US. Little did we realize that Canada celebrates a similar holiday over the same weekend, only they call it Labour Day.
Well, after we'd lived in Seattle for 3 years and had been in the habit of escaping to British Columbia on a regular basis, when we moved to Chicago, we pretty much followed the same pattern and escaped to Ontario. Canada is Canada, and if it's within reasonable driving distance for a 3-day weekend, we're there.
This particular weekend was memorable for two reasons, neither of them humorous. We never imagined that Canadians could ever possibly be as loud, rude, and obnoxious at campgrounds as Americans, but we were so very wrong (clearly we hadn't seen them lose the Stanley Cup yet). The sound of drunken youngsters breaking beer bottles against boulders and then falling and breaking their own limbs will forever haunt any notion of peaceful camping in a state or provincial park.
The next day found us driving aimlessly throughout lower Ontario in search of any camping spot favored by the slow-moving over-60 retired crowd. We found one, later, but it was that aimless meandering drive that set the stage for one of the most shockingly memorable days I've ever known.
We were driving on this seemingly endless stretch of road through Ontario when I popped the cassette out to change it and the radio popped on - the news: Princess Diana is dead. He slammed on the brakes and pulled over. I burst into tears like I'd lost my own best friend. Neither of us spoke. We sat in shock listening to the radio reports - every now and then he would change the station to see if perhaps we were just imagining it, perhaps the news would be different on AM. No. Every station was reporting the same news: There'd been a car accident, and Princess Diana was dead.
There are certain events in history for which most people remember precisely where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news. For me, this was that event. And I was on an otherwise insignificant road in Ontario.
Well, fate being what it is, eventually I looked up from my soaked tissues to see, just a few yards ahead, the perfect place to camp for the night. That was another miracle - because neither of us were really fit to be driving on .5 hours sleep compounded by the shock of tragic news. To be honest, I couldn't tell you if it really was truly quiet in that campground of retirees and motorhomes, or if I was just completely numb. But I slept deep and long that night.
So that one weekend in Ontario was memorable for both the noisiest and the quietest nights of camping I've experienced. And the news...the shocking news...

#2 - Chasing Bears on Vancouver Island

Well, I've already blogged this up so you can read the full adventure at the link below. But most memorable from this trip was the fact that we were bound and determined to see bears, and did all kinds of fantastic nature and wildlife outings with naturalists in the hopes of catching a glimpse. But alas, our whole time spent scouring the rugged west coast of Vancouver island turned up no bears. Deflated, we packed up and headed out on the long Highway 1 back across the island to catch our flight. Of course, who should appear right on the side of the road casually foraging in the bushes? Yep, a nice big beautiful black bear. We pulled over and took some pictures and video, and then just stared in awe at this beautiful dog-like beast eating dainty little berries. We could hear him munching...tiny little berries...one at a time, actually savoring them, swishing them around with his tongue. It's a sweet sound that I will never forget, and a definite highlight of my travels in Canada. You can read the full adventure, and watch the video, in this post all about Ucluelet, Tofino, and Wickaninish.

#1 - Victoria, BC (anything and everything)



The quaint and beautiful Victoria, BC holds so many memorable experiences that it has earned first place in my Highlights of Canada list. From the first romantic escapade on the Clipper from Seattle - it was my first trip abroad with the man who would eventually marry me - to the many happy returns since with our daughter, Victoria has retained it's romantic charm and character throughout and has just so much to love about it!

Left: Exploring Totems with my daughter. Middle: Arriving in Victoria by float plane. Right: All decked out in her Canadian ROOTS gear.

The Inner Harbour waterfront is intimate and entertaining - we enjoyed watching the float planes take off and land as the cute little water taxi bumps around points in the harbour.
One of my favorite museums is in Victoria - the Royal BC Museum - with fantastic exhibits of natural history and a captivating First Peoples Gallery.
Victoria also has wonderful restaurants - so many delicious and healthy dining venues - as a vegetarian family of 3, there was never a lack of options.
And shopping!!! Government Street is a good bet for both native arts and anything British, of which Victoria is quite fond.
In that regard, it doesn't get any more British than at the Empress Hotel in Victoria, where you can experience a classic afternoon High Tea.
I could go on and on, but perhaps Victoria is my number one Canadian highlight for no greater reason than my own grandmother. It is due to a faded kodachrome slide I found of her as a young woman which really hit home. I had remembered seeing this picture in my childhood, reading the word "Empress", and imagining that my grandmother was a Queen. Now here I was as an adult, going through the slides and diaries she left behind, and finding it again. This slide of my Grandmother, "the Royal Queen of Victoria", sitting in the gardens of the Empress Hotel in Victoria, BC, 1947.