Going downtown..clean, tidy and full of totem poles

I have been lucky enough to attend the Digital Humanities Summer Institute, up in Victoria, British Columbia. Many thanks go out to the sponsors who gave me a scholarship to attend, as well as the Association of Computers and the Humanities, from whom I received a travel bursary and UCLDH for paying the remaining. Without these I wouldn’t be here.

So I have only been in Canada a day and a half, but already I want to spend a lifetime here. Victoria is wonderful. It is small enough to be understandable, large enough to have variety: a city of contrasts where totem poles and Victorian grandeur go hand in hand with unicycles and speed boats. You can tell that it is a place full of interesting stories. It makes me want to hike, bike and climb until I have unearthed all its secrets.

Before my arrival last week I had only a vague impression of Canada; polite and full of maple syrup. One of my favourite Canadian’s is Amy; who I love because of her honesty, intelligence and ability to make everyone feel at ease. In my mind every Canadian is like Amy or Benton Fraser out of Due South. And so far, I haven’t been proved wrong. When I arrived, my first experience of Canada is the Airport shuttle bus driver, who looks like a plump retired lumberjack, complete with braces and beard. He spots I’m English and starts talking about his love of Coronation Street, this makes me smile after nearly 13hours of travelling and a time change of 8hours. I’m tired, I’m grumpy, I smell bad, my brain thinks its 1am, despite the brilliant sunshine at 4pm, and this wonderful man makes me happy. I ask where he recommends I visit whilst I’m here. Instantly he says the Royal BC Museum, followed by Rogers chocolate shop. I immediately fell in love with this bus driving ex lumberjack man. Not only that, because I was the only one going to UVic on the shuttle bus, which is the last stop, he drops me off first with another driver, who takes me straight there. I have never experienced such kindness and consideration by any bus driver in Britain.

Once I got some sleep and my bearings, I attempted to overcome some Jet Lag, and headed downtown. Victoria is a combination between the Lake District, Loch Tay, and the 1800’s all mixed together. The landscape of trees, seas and mountains is breathtaking. Combine this with the people who look so relaxed, happy and healthy. I feel at ease yet invigorated. I love it here.

So far I have visited the Royal BC Museum; my do they like a diorama, the First Nations gallery is exceptionally beautiful. I am showing my ignorance here, but for some reason I didn’t think there was such a thing as Native Indian Canadians. But there is, and their art work is amazing. It also explains the multitude of totem poles all around the city. I had lunch on the lawn of the Legislative building, which commands attention away from the harbour, and is full of Victorian gothic architecture. Followed by a stroll along the harbour to Laurel point, again totem poles in abundance. What struck me the most is how clean Victoria is. There is no chewing gum on the pavements, there’s no cigarette butts or litter anywhere. No one is rude, or in a rush, the shop assistants look you in the eye, and say thank you when you give them change. London town, you better clean up your act before I get back, or you’ll lose me to Canada.

A day and a Half to fall in love with a place. Is that all it takes? And I haven’t even started the Digital Humanities shenanigans yet.

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