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Nanaimo and Victoria

Here are a couple of reasons why Dr. Aunt Beth is awesome: she blocked off a whole ton of time to hang out with us while we were in town, she’s hilarious and great fun one hundred percent of the time, she’ll zoom you around in her futuristic cyborg car, and – if you’re lucky – she’ll recap the events of your stay. (Thanks, Beth!)

So let’s jump ahead to the single worst port I’ve ever been to: Nanaimo. This is not to say that Nanaimo is the worst place in the world, or even a bad place at all, it’s was just the most underwhelming stop on any cruise I’ve done. (Both Sarah and her Dad place Ketchikan at the bottom, but I missed the Alaska cruise.) Nanaimo has a decent waterfront, but otherwise it’s just a city full of condos. Which makes it a hard place to photograph. I’m instinctively drawn to shoot the largest buildings on a city’s skyline, so that’s what I did. And every time after the shutter went click, I realized I’d just photographed another goddamn condo.

It was alternately cold and rainy that day, so Sarah’s parents took the first spin around the city, and then came back to watch Teddy while we took our turn strolling around. We did a self-guided tour of The Condos of Nanaimo, we checked out a toy store (the name evades both of us), then we decided to stop off for a drink. We were on the lookout for any place that sold local beers on tap and we ended up at place called The Globe (which, for the record, looked completely respectable on the outside). Well, long story short, it turned out to be a strip club… with no local beers. (Sarah was willing to endure one of those indignities, but not both.) Unfortunately, we’d spent so much time looking for a seat and milling about the bar that I felt bad about just leaving. So I ordered a Heineken, drank it in three minutes under Sarah’s baleful glare, and then we scooted on out.

On the way back to the boat came the last disappointment of the day. Walking along the waterfront, we saw a little boat with a sign that read “The Dinghy Dock Pub.” It was a wee little vessel that maybe twelve people could cram inside. And I though, that’s damn fantastic. Even if the only thing they serve is warm Bud Light, if that boat is in fact a licensed drinking establishment, it’ll have redeemed this whole day. But: sadness. On closer inspection, it was a boat that ferried you out to some island pub. No drinks and no bartender on board. And so, I deem Nanaimo crap (as a cruise port, not as a living place overall. I’m sure it meets all of its denizens’ condo living and strip club needs).

Next came Victoria, which I think was a tremendous improvement over the previous stop, and everyone else thought was completely ungreat. Well, let me clarify: I came in with no expectations and was pleasantly surprised that it was several giant steps above Nanaimo; everyone else expected it to be Mecca for the over-ninety crowd (and everyone else’s expectations were met perfectly). Again, we started with another waterfront walk, this one leading us past the Parliament Building and the Empress Hotel (both lovely, though the latter wins for shaping their topiary like dinosaurs.

From there, we headed into the tourist trapery of the Inner Harbour and Bastion Square. Lots of places selling maple syrup, and flags, and t-shirts. We took about as much of this as we could take and then decide to reward ourselves with a drink. The good news: pubs had local beers in spades. The bad news: no minors are allowed in any of the pubs in Victoria. Now, I might be alone in this, but I find that highly weird. Especially when the minor accompanying us is nineteen years shy of drinking age, so no one’s gonna serve him, even if he does ask. But whatever; apparently Victoria didn’t want our money. We told Vancouver Island to smell us later, and we retreated back to the ship.

End note for Garrick (if you’re reading this). The pub in Victoria that shut us and our booze-hungry toddler out was called Garrick’s Head Pub. If you ever visit there, they’ll either anoint you as their king…or they’ll take your head, empty it out, and use it as a tankard. We tried to do some reconnaissance for you there, but no dice.


Dr. Aunt Beth said…
And now you know why I went, "Your cruise stops in *Nanaimo*?? Glad to hear you made it out to one of the finer peeler bars, which is most likely owned by the Hell's Angels, btw.

I'm heading to Victoria this weekend. I was planning to bring a troop of toddlers for a pub crawl, but thanks to your warning I'll leave the lil' ones at home.

Also - no *you* are great fun one hundred percent of the time! Me and my futuristic cyborg car miss you guys!

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