Victoria

Greetings from Victoria, B.C.

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These flowers welcome travelers at B.C.’s Victoria International Airport. Courtesy of the airport.

Two airport firsts for me this weekend on a very short trip to Canada.

I took my first Kenmore Air seaplane ride from Seattle to Victoria, B.C. and I finally had a chance to visit Victoria International Airport.

I actually took two seaplane rides.

Kenmore Air

The first flight from Seattle to Victoria had to turn around due to low visibility and return to Kenmore Air’s Lake Union base. While some passengers (there were five of us on board – plus one tiny dog) rushed off to find alternate transportation to Victoria, I considered myself lucky to have gotten a bonus scenic tour and settled in to wait for the next flight.

Clearing customs on arrival at the seaplane terminal in Victoria, B.C. was incredibly easy: just two Canada Border Services Agency employees in a shack on the dock asking each passenger if they had fruits and vegetables with them and if they’ve been near anyone with Ebola. The entire plane was processed in two minutes.

The  Victoria Seaplane Terminal is tiny, but packed with amenities that include free Wi-Fi and complimentary computer workstations, newspapers, coffee, fruit and morning pastries.

Then it was on to Victoria International Airport  (YYJ), about 30 minutes away, for a tour.

The airport serves about 1.5 million passengers a year and besides being on lovely Vancouver Island, it has a lot going for it. Here are snaps from my tour:

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Inside the terminal, the foliage is live and the color palette for the finishes draw inspiration from “At Beacon Hill Park,” a painting by the well-known Victoria artist Emily Carr.

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Spinnakers On the Fly, an airport outpost of a popular local gastropub, has 12 Spinnakers beers on tap, including one called, Departures,’ brewed just for the airport

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The gift shop sells lots of locally-made Roger’s Chocolates and a wide assortment of handmade gift items.

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In addition to a play area for kids, an art-filled indoor observation deck, pet relief areas, workstations and bike assembly stations with loaner tools, the airport has several water fountains with water bottle re-fill attachments and counters that keep track of how many plastic bottles are being kept out of landfills.

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Surrounding the airport is the Flight Path – an almost 6-mile biking and hiking path with informational signs about the landmarks and history of the area along the way such as Hospital Hill, once the site of medical facilities for the Royal Canadian Air Force.

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An interactive map of the Flight Path includes the historical information listed on each sign along the path.

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Lost luggage and 60,000 bees in Victoria, B.C.

If you happened to be strolling by the famed Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria, B.C. last Friday night around 11 p.m. you may have noticed two people searching through the bushes with a flashlight.

That would have been me and a staff member of the hotel. We were out there looking for my luggage.

I’d arrived at the hotel that morning in time to meet John Gibeau, a bee keeper who’d just harvested 600 pounds of honey from a bank of beehives he’d installed on the hotel lawn a few months earlier.

Gibeau offered to give me a tour of the hives and I (bravely? foolishly?) followed him into the beehive corral where 60,000 bees were, well, already busy as bees making more honey.

Gibeau took apart one of the hives to show me and the small crowd that had gathered where the queen bee could be found. He let us taste honey straight from a hive, put what I think he said was an edible-but-not-tasty drone bee in his mouth (but didn’t eat it), explained why the bees kept bumping into me (I was in their flight path), patiently answered some more questions and then headed off with that pickup full of honey.

I checked into my room and rushed off to visit some attractions. And it wasn’t until 10:30 that night, as I began getting ready for bed, that I realized that I only had my computer bag with me. My other bag, stuffed with a week’s worth of clothing, was missing.

My only explanation was that I’d set all my stuff down by the bees and in all the excitement forgotten to pick it all up. And when the front desk said no, there were no unclaimed bags in lost and found, someone offered to go out there with a flashlight and look around.

We didn’t find anything. I went to bed thoroughly embarrassed, a bit perplexed and resigned to having to buy fresh and no doubt expensive outfits in the tourist district before continuing on my adventure.

It was a mystery and an inconvenience. But not a trip-ruining disaster. Because, somehow, my bag showed up the next morning.

No one can explain where my clothes spent the night, but I’m betting those bees are having a good laugh.

My hotel stay was hosted by the Fairmont Empress. My bag – a much used satchel I bought a dozen years ago at the Calgary Airport – still isn’t talking.