Thursday, September 20, 2007

Sidney-By-The-Sea II

Yesterday was pretty much a blur. I know that I started off the day on Vancouver Island in the beautiful province of British Columbia, or as their promos say "Super Natural" British Columbia. The trip was a lot of fun and a nice little break. Three nights counts as a "break," not a vacation. For the most part we stayed in the little town of Sidney. The first night Jen exclaimed, "It's like Mayberry." And I naturally replied, "I know . . . I love it!" Would there be any question? Nine bookstores in a tiny seaside town? Jen informed me at one point that she had overheard someone observing that "Sidney was for newlyweds and nearly-deads."

Anyway, as I had stated in yesterday's entry, we hit a couple of the bookstores on the first day. That was after having lunch at Smitty's, which seems to be Canada's version of Denny's. Breakfast, lunch or dinner served all day. I had their special, a grilled chicken club. I don't think the term "special" could be applied to it. They also get another demerit for serving ice tea pre sweetened. I would expect that in Alabama, but not in the Great White North. Justin rejected his bacon and eggs, but devoured a bowl of fruit. And Jen seemed to enjoy her waffles. So, that was Smitty's.

After stopping downtown to purchase books, we returned to the Cedarwood Inn, where Justin and Jennifer proceeded to nap while I delved back into Sophie's World. That evening we ate at Theo's Greek restaurant, where we had also dined the first night. We had the same waitress again, who proceeded to sit us at the table we had the previous night. I switched from chicken to steak this time. I rarely eat beef, but this time I threw caution to the wind. Maybe just to see if I could still swallow the cooked muscle of a cow. I will not mention the desirability of the crew of waitresses dressed in black. Some things are better left unsaid. For legal reasons and marital stability. Just don't ask me what happened that time in Tucson.

On Tuesday we got out of our suite at about ten in the morning. (Notice how I said "suite" and not "room"? Picture the inside of a hunting cabin decorated in the 70's, but it has a microwave and cable TV.) After stopping to dump forty-seven dollars worth of gasoline into the Forester's tank, we drove south to Bucthart Gardens by way of the Butterfly Gardens. I always smirk when I see that I have to walk through a gift shop to get in or out of any kind of exhibit, but the Butterfly Gardens were impressive. Humid, but impressive. I think I lost five pounds in there. The majority of the specimens were from the tropics of South America, so the conditions had to be reproduced. Justin was asleep when we arrived, so we just transferred him to the stroller and went through the gardens. He awoke as we were exiting through the gift shop. We just had to go back through, so that he could stare agape at the varieties of butterfly. We then drove a few miles down the road to Butchart Gardens, which is set off in the woods. Lunch was our first priority and then, as we started to walk through the one hundred year old gardens, we realized that Justin would have to be constrained to the stroller, so that he would not pick rare orchids and otherwise trash the place. The gardens were quite crowded for an overcast September day in the middle of the week. I shuddered to think what it was like on a weekend in midsummer. The colors and contours of the gardens were alluring and all the more so on an overcast day. I pushed Justin through the paths, pausing occasionally to snap a photo. I couldn't help fantasizing having the whole place to myself on a cool fall evening. It just had this air of serenity, even with all the humans milling about. As we left I was able to avoid the gift shop by taking responsibility for Justin outside in the courtyard. Away from small breakable objects. As Justin and I loitered by a large water wheel, an older gentleman and his wife — whose combined ages probably hovered around 165 — came up to admire the mechanical wonder. The gentleman sported a faded blue sea captain's hat and a collection of broken blood vessels across his nose. He proceeded to talk to me about how amazing it was how little water it took to power the immense wooden wheel. Meanwhile, I was trying to prevent Justin from cracking his skull against the surrounding stone wall as he clambered over a bench. At one point the jovial older man's wife chimed in with a good humored barb at his expense and he complained, "You're always giving me a hard time." She replied with a poke in his ribs, "You used to enjoy it!" It brought a smile to lips, as I also watched my young son just beginning his own journey full of wonder and curiosity.

Upon leaving Butchart Gardens we decided to return to Sidney by the back way. This took us through the farm country and reservation areas that were spread along the northern side of the Saanich Peninsula. By the time we arrived back at the Cedarwood we were all quite exhausted and slept until the early evening, arising in time to dine at Carlo's Mexican Cantina in downtown Sidney. This will become known as the night we discovered how much Justin likes sour cream. After our meal we spent the rest of the evening relaxing at the inn, reading and filling in sudoku puzzles, while Justin slept. It wasn't until we decided to go to bed that he awoke with a glint in his eye. He wasn't fussy so much as giddy. Yes, giddy. Usually I can use my stern voice and command "lay down and get to sleep," and amazingly Justin usually falls over and goes to sleep. But this particular night he just laughed at me. That's right, he laughed!

Wednesday morning we arrived at the ferry terminal approximately 90 minutes before departure to deal with ticketing and customs. About halfway through our ferry route they stopped for a man overboard drill. Many people got up to watch the practice run. I remained in place, enjoying some reading time with a view of Mount Baker poking through the clouds. Jen and Justin were both napping in the car below decks and I had a chance to start reading Bearing the Body. The return trip was a straight trip to Anacortes (not counting the pause for the man overboard drill.) When we arrived in port we had to drive through U.S. customs for the second time that morning. The usual questions: How long was your stay? Where are you from? Any alcohol or tobacco? Do you kiss on the first date? Evidently, I passed the test because we were soon on the road back to Seattle.

So that's the meandering version of our three night stay in Sidney on Vancouver Island. I'm getting a little bleary-eyed and it's late. But first:

I was rereading The Story of Ferdinand to Justin today and occurred to me — not for the first time — that I longed to be Ferdinand the bull. Let the others run and butt heads. I'd rather recline beneath my favorite cork tree not be bothered with the need to succeed (whatever that is.) I also realized that the book wasn't being entirely honest. When Ferdinand enters the bullring it reads, "He wouldn't fight and be fierce no matter what they did." But it fails to mention that that includes him having his muscle pierced with lances and barbed sticks to get him fired up for the big finale. But because Ferdinand is a avowed pacifist he gets to return to the shade of his beloved cork tree to to while away the hours smelling the flowers in field otherwise filled with cow dung.

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