(Holy crap. This is the most-delayed travelogue in RF history. I’ll try to keep it brief, so we can get onto the USA trip complete with muscle cars, evil genius headquarters, UFOs and machine guns.)

My parents were over for the last week in August and after a few days of sightseeing in Vancouver, we jumped in the toaster and drove to Tsawwassen for a car ferry over to on Vancouver Island.

Vancouver Island is just off the mainland, a sort of Skye writ large where Vancouverites go for bracingly active holidays and pastoral walks. We headed first for Sooke, a small harbour town on the southern coast, intending to find a B&B and enjoy a day or two wandering around what we supposed to be a charming little seaside hamlet.

Well, Sooke sucked.

With a Dad nursing a mild hernia and a Mum more inclined towards artistic than outdoor pursuits, we drew a blank: unless one is in possession of a holiday home or a fishing boat, there is precious little to do in Sooke. We milled around the slightly underwhelming museum, were rather more pleasantly whelmed by a tasty slice of cake in Mom’s Café, and, with the rest of the town centre failing to give up anything more interesting than a dingy supermarket and a Masonic lodge, we set off back towards the island’s capital Victoria.

On the way there, though, we caught sight of a road sign for the “Sooke Potholes”. We were intrigued — why would a pothole be worthy of note? — so we turned inland and followed a side road for a few miles into the forest. Sooke was redeemed: the potholes are a series of deep pools which punctuate a clear stream, winding down through the forest and bordered alternately by pebble beaches and sheer rock faces. It was a picturesque little place, with tourists and locals alike swimming and enjoying the scenery. We left in the nick of time, just as the first strum of a badly tuned guitar wafted up with the barbeque smoke from one particular group.

Victoria was entirely different, the sort of colonial capital where the most favoured outdoor activities of yesteryear no doubt revolved around shooting natives and logging ancient forests. (Hell, they’re still doing the latter.) It was just so familiar I couldn’t help but feel at home: in the same way that Vancouver feels like a perfect image of the North American City, Victoria is a miniature Glasgow or Liverpool or London, all spires and stonework and harbour and Empire. The Empress Hotel lords (ladies?) it over the waterfront; the provincial legislative buildings have that characteristically pompous/punctilious Gothic Revival grandeur, and even humble office buildings are finished with solidity and craftsmanship.

We ate breakfast in the Blue Fox café — an establishment whose reputation has attained Elbow Room-like dimensions, and which boasted a half-hour queue at 10am on a Sunday — and then split up for a bit of sightseeing. I wandered round the harbour, past the Empress and into the museum, where I ambled around happily for a couple of hours. I’ve developed a bit of a nostalgic liking for museums, especially those ambitious edifices which try to compress the world into a few floors of cultural artefacts. The old Royal Museum on Chambers Street is a prime example, as was this one: new exhibits with touchscreens and animatronics stand proudly next to faded wooden cases of moth-eaten taxidermy, but the children being led around by harrassed grandparents seem to like them all equally.

Some of the old-school displays of First Nation art and anthropology were brought into sharp focus when I got talking to a portly old security guard. Genially enquiring where I was from, “Scotland” was all he needed to hear. Obviously a little giddy talking to a son of the old country, he went off on a nostalgic rant about how selfless the Brits had been to invade, plunder, and “improve” the situations of any number of third-world states over the centuries, and how much of a shame it was that we seemed to have given up on it lately. I politely took my leave after a blow-by-blow account of his naval career during the ’60s started hinting at his exploits in brothels across the South Pacific. He might have been a relic, but at least he was in the right place.

I bought a coffee from a kiosk just outside the main entrance and settled down in a little sunken garden in the shadow of the adjoining BC archives, got my book out, and read. It was a most pleasant interlude.

We caught the ferry back to the mainland through a brilliant afternoon of blue skies and coastlines alternately black with shadow and white with snow. Vancouver Island wasn’t so bad.

* * *

I had one last night out with some of the guys from the office, meeting up with Monica, Pete, Gillian et al in an Italian restaurant called Campagnolo sited daringly close to the edge of Vancouver’s notorious downtown east side. Presented with a couple of other choices, I had vociferously pushed for Campagnolo because of its cycling connotations; come the night itself, I could only appreciate the irony as I found the nearest place I could lock up my bike was the flimsy wire fence around a vacant lot out of sight of the restaurant. And this in an area where the police receive 46% more calls than the Vancouver average.

The restaurant itself managed to be warm, welcoming and trendy at the same time. We ordered some wine and opted to share from set menu. “I found a review of this place which complained about the smallness of the portions,” I mentioned. “I hope it’s okay!”

I needn’t have worried. I was getting tunnel vision by the third course of five. By dessert my digestive tract was audibly creaking, and coffee was ordered in a desperate attempt to kick-start our failing metabolisms. By the end of the meal everyone was sated, drunk and happy (discounting the occasional declaration of gastric distress, that is) and it had been a tremendous evening.

I said my goodbyes, wheeled the bike over to the seawall path, and cycled carefully home. I couldn’t have asked for a better final night out.