Last week on one of my lunch hours I decided to stroll down towards the Inner Harbour downtown Victoria and see what was going on. It was time to immerse myself in that familiar summer turn of events that happens here in our city: tourist season.
I usually know when tourist season officially starts (much earlier than July) because one day I’ll experience during the workweek that if I take my car out of a downtown parking lot to drive to a meeting, I can’t find a spot to re-park it when I return. Tourist season usually means that I’ll be spending time driving in huge circles, navigating our plethora of one-way streets, trying to find a parking spot that’s doesn’t involve a 15 minute hoof back to the office in my dress shoes. It’s hard enough to find parking in downtown Victoria at the best of times, but tourist season makes it just all that much worse.
Experiencing tourist season on foot though is an entirely different matter. Car-free, it’s easy enough to walk down Government Street and become one with the pedestrian crowds that cluster there. Buskers are drawing crowds, ice cream is being licked in all directions, and “Victoria, BC” merchandise crowds the shop windows beside Canadian flags and the requisite maple syrup.
As part of the throng I find myself getting caught up in the not-so-subliminal advertising: Do I need some BC jade earrings? What about a Tilley hat? Mmm, some fudge would taste really good right now. It’s easy to imagine that I, too, am someone here on vacation rather than a pasty local office worker seeking a little sun and respite from staring at a computer. To fit in, I have my camera with me and carry it in full view to appear more touristy to the “real” vacationers.
Down at the Inner Harbour I stand near the Tourism Victoria centre and look down onto the lower causeway. Hey, there’s Plasterman, who I interviewed years ago for a Moss Rock Review article that I did. It’s good to see that he’s still making a go of the living statue trade, but less so to see that some teenage guys are taunting him right now. Oh well, he told me that he knows how to handle that sort of thing, and look, I see that one has a bit more sense than the other and is pulling his friend away now from his tricks.
I descend the stairs to the lower causeway and detour toward where the new H20 water taxi docks, admiring its lemony brightness amongst the other, more subtlely-coloured boats. More buskers abound here, but I can’t take the time to sit and watch. My hour’s almost up and I should head back and be an office worker again.
Tourist season is catching. For those few minutes it was easy to believe that I was the foreigner in a faraway city doing nothing but seeing the sights and gaining five pounds of fudge-weight to regret later. I’ll take those stolen moments of carefree living, even if it does mean I have to drive around in circles sometimes to get them.