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A Potter's Moll: Beautiful BC

... Our friends had found us a half price deal on a four star hotel overlooking the harbour in Victoria, capital of BC. The room even had a balcony. We toured by bus, by harbour ferry and on foot. We stayed on Sunday morning to watch the harbour ferry ‘ballet’. These little twelve-seater boats that tootle round the harbour gather together on Sunday morning and perform to the tune of The Blue Danube. Marvellous! They look like whirligigs on a pond....

Liz Robison and her potter husband Jim have been sampling the ample delights of British Columbia.

To read more of Liz’s columns please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/a_potters_moll/

Do please visit Jim’s Web site http://www.jimrobison.co.uk/

They call it Beautiful British Columbia and it certainly is. We are just back from three weeks in the province and everything about the place charmed us. We were met by volunteer hosts who were also potters and they showed us Vancouver sights as well as graciously entertaining us in their lovely old home.

We went to look at an area which has many heritage houses (i.e. at least 100 years old), and there were some beauties. But some old houses are being pulled down and replaced by what locals call ‘pink plaster palaces’ or ‘starter mansions’. We saw plenty of those too.

Our hosts made a two-day trip out of the journey to Kelowna which meant an overnight stay in Lillouet, an old gold mining town. The eclectic collection in the town museum included a display featuring a plough, an ore bucket and a dentist’s chair. There was also a fascinating section about a redoubtable woman newspaper editor, ‘Ma’ Baker who harried politicians of every party for many years.

We travelled along the canyon of the mighty Fraser River and then the Thompson River. We saw First Nations (Native Canadians) fishing for salmon in a traditional way and then drying the fish under awnings. Whole families traditionally undertook this activity over several weeks each summer.

Husband Jim, the potter, was a guest demonstrator at the Kelowna Clay Festival. This meant I had time to explore this lovely lakeside town in the Okanagen region which is the centre of the fruit growing region and latterly, wineries.

Everyone was welcoming and hospitable. In Kelowna we stayed with a couple, originally from Wales, who have lived by the lake there for fourteen years. A beautiful spot – and very dramatic when there was a huge storm one night. The weather generally was warm and sunny (unlike here, I gather).

We travelled back to Vancouver by Greyhound bus, an interesting way to see the countryside. Then our Vancouver hosts offered us the use of their car for three days and we took the ferry to Vancouver Island, one of the Gulf Islands that are scattered over the area. I had always wanted to visit here since I read a marvellous book, Passage to Juneau, by Jonathan Raban. He records his voyage from Seattle to Alaska, incorporating fascinating historical detail about Captain Robert Vancouver’s expedition to survey the area and map the islands.

Our friends had found us a half price deal on a four star hotel overlooking the harbour in Victoria, capital of BC. The room even had a balcony. We toured by bus, by harbour ferry and on foot. We stayed on Sunday morning to watch the harbour ferry ‘ballet’. These little twelve-seater boats that tootle round the harbour gather together on Sunday morning and perform to the tune of The Blue Danube. Marvellous! They look like whirligigs on a pond.

We visited the world famous Burchard Gardens – too commercialised and blowsy for my taste, but you could still admire the idea of Mrs Burchard in 1906 when she decided to make a garden from a worked out limestone quarry that her husband had worked to feed his nearby concrete factory. I love learning little details like the fact that he was able to make a fortune because he and his partners were able to persuade builders to accept new fangled sacks of concrete which were much cheaper and lighter than the traditional barrels.

Another ferry then to Port Vesuvius (you do wonder about some names) on the quieter and more remote Salt Spring Island and then finally back to Vancouver from Long Harbour as night fell and lights twinkled and lighthouses beamed. The number of ferries to-ing and fro-ing among the islands was more noticeable in the dark.

All good things come to an end, however. But I must say that although long, the return journey went smoothly, including our passage through the already notorious Terminal 5 at Heathrow.

The Olympics had more or less passed us by apart from Canadian newspaper headlines like – Where are all our medals? So it was a surprise to be told over the tannoy on the plane to Manchester that we had Olympic athletes on board. They were members of the cycling team and the bronze-medal winner was met by flag-waving friends and family and photographers at the airport.

More from me in a fortnight.

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