Day 2 started as I suspected, with a less-than-stellar breakfast. While the hotel had a much more vast selection than most hotels offer, it was pretty bland food. I had a bagel and some hash browns. Shaun had eggs, sausage and hash browns. Sonja had hash browns. Afterwards, we headed out to the Beacon Hill Children’s Farm (that’s Canadian for petting zoo). We walked, and on the way were forced to trek through Beacon Hill park, which is terribly lovely. We ran into a peacock along the way. We were early to the farm, so we explored a little more of the park. This was probably the best part of this trip, and when we go back, I’ll make it a point to go there again.
The petting zoo was small, but we were there in time for the goat stampede, which was pretty cute. Then Sonja brushed some of the goats and watched while they mingled with other children. We looked at bunnies and alpacas and birds, oh my. We didn’t spend nearly as much time here as I expected, because it was so tiny. So off we went a-walkin’, again.
Tea shopping was on my itinerary for the day, but we didn’t make it that far before Sonja got whiny and I got hungry. I had also wanted to stop at the downtown Victoria mall, and that is where we went to eat. I don’t have any idea why I let myself stop at a food court for lunch. Mall food is universally terrible, and the sesame chicken I ordered should have been called sesame dough balls. At least Sonja enjoyed the piece of terrible-looking pizza we got her.
Then it was more walkin’, and I found the Silk Road Tea Spa, which was recommended by the travel guide. A few people were there on some sort of Tea Tour (if only I had known!) and I overheard the guide talking about how to brew a proper cup of tea, including the steps, which seem now common sense to me, of making sure the water is the right temperature (differs for the type of tea you’re brewing) and steeping for the correct amount of time (too long can turn your tea bitter.)
I purchased some tea and as we left. Sonja was having an “I don’t want to walk anymore” meltdown. We promised her we’d get her ice cream on the way back to the hotel, and we’d rest before we went to afternoon tea. She wound up with a chocolate shake because the gelato tourist shops were scary in a “we-might-be-harboring listeria” kind of way.
After a brief respite at our hotel, all three of us headed out to the Empress hotel for what I knew would be a ridiculously expensive tea time. I already knew Shaun wasn’t particularly going to like it. I thought he might enjoy the pastries. I figured I’d like the tea – though I did wonder what the reception would be like when I asked for ice. When we got there, we were seated near the piano player, who was playing muzak renditions of everything from Toy Story to Bob Dylan. We were immediately served three dishes of blueberries covered in whipped cream. Two dishes remained uneaten when the waitress checked back, and I explained that Sonja wasn’t going to eat anything. (If only I’d said the same about Shaun.) We ordered the Empress blend of tea and a Darjeeling. I requested a glass of ice for Sonja, and the waitress looked at me like I’d asked to to go to Mars and bring back a Martian. We got the ice, and Sonja said she liked the tea. But after Shaun put a couple of sugar cubes in his cup, Sonja wanted to do the same. I warned her she wouldn’t like it (she won’t drink anything with sugar in it), but she did it anyway. When she didn’t like it, I poured the sweetened tea into my cup, and poured her a new cup. Now I didn’t want my tea because it was sweetened (I don’t like anything in my tea), and Sonja started complaining that the tea was different and she didn’t like it. It suddenly dawned on me. The tea was bitter. There’s only one way tea gets bitter. I popped the top on the teapot and sure enough, the tea bag was still in the teapot. Apparently the employees of the Empress had yet to take that tea tour. At this point, I realized where things were headed, and when I asked for the check, I somehow received a 20% discount since we didn’t like it. It must’ve been Sonja’s cuteness. It still cost us over $100 to not drink tea and not eat anything. As we were waiting for the credit card to come back, Sonja started complaining that she didn’t want to listen to the music anymore. I can’t say I blame her for that. Really, her instincts were spot on. So I can’t recommend the Empress experience unless bitter tea and hoity-toity snacks are your purview.
After tea we retreated to the hotel once again, and at this point the vacation was winding down. We were headed to the ferry at 9 a.m. the next morning for a 10:30 sailing, and I still had one thing on my list I wanted to accomplish. As strange as it sounds, that thing was Wal-Mart Canada. My French friend told me that’s where she got half of the French-themed decorations for her house, and as I am partial to those types of decorations myself, I wanted to see for myself. Part of the appeal of this little excursion was that we would need the car, and that would lessen the walking, and hopefully the whining, significantly. The 15-minute drive was pleasant – a nice glimpse into greater Victoria. Surprisingly, the gigantic, two-story Wal-Mart didn’t disappoint, and I came home with a tablecloth, placemats and kitchen towels. However, they did not have the extra special deodorant and, as I did not make it to any other drugstores, my stockpile is only three deep.
That night Sonja slept through the night and I slept better. I was happy my internal alarm woke me at the correct time because my phone had died in the middle of the night. I had leftover spaghetti for breakfast, and we got in line for the ferry. Sonja wanted to eat on the ferry again, but all they had were breakfast foods – nothing she would touch. We climbed up the steps to the deck seating area, and were greeted by exceedingly pleasant weather. Sonja danced and did gymnastics in an effort to entertain the other passengers. By the time we reached Port Angeles around noon, we were all hungry so we stopped at a Frugal’s. Sonja was asleep before we hit the drive-through, and slept the entire way home.
Now she tells me frequently that she misses Canada. When I ask her what specifically she misses, she says eating snacks and watching TV. Sigh. At least she had fun.