Today we are in Canada and we disembark in Victoria. The security point exhorts us to ‘declare all weapons including firearms’. By what stretch of the imagination are firearms not weapons, even if they are used for sport? Most of the tours on offer include Butchart Gardens, which are lovely but we’ve been before, so we choose one that goes somewhere else, in this case Craigdarroch Castle. It is of course not really a castle at all, not even in the sense of a folly. It is however a stately home of impressive appearance. Our coach driver, Bob, keeps telling us how unusually cold it is; thanks for that one Bob, it makes us feel so much better.
Part of our excursion is a ride round ‘scenic Victoria’, before arriving at the Castle and we drive through Beacon Hill Park. A regulation prevents people from beating their rugs in the park; so that’s another activity I’d planned that won’t happen then. We also see the tallest free-standing totem pole, erected to commemorate the first nations’ contribution in World War 2. In summer, 70% of Victoria’s population are employed in tourism. Many have more than one job as the cost of living is high here. There is a memorial to Terry Fox who was the inspiration for the worldwide fundraising Marathons of Hope. There are also some interesting, painted telegraph poles.
Robert Dunsmuir made a fortune from the coal industry. Initially he came out from Scotland to work for the Hudson’s Bay Company, travelling via South America and up the west coast. He soon set up on his own, having found a rich coal seam. He set out to build Craigdarroch Castle but died before it was finished in 1890. His widow did not like it so moved out in 1908, since which time the ‘Castle’ has had many uses. These include a military hospital for ‘incurables’; it is patently unsuitable for this as it is built over four floors. It has also been a College, a Music School and offices. It is now run as a tourist attraction, with 100,000 visitors each year. One of the most impressive aspects of Craigdarroch is its stained glass. Typically of cruise excursions, we don’t have anything like long enough there, so rush round before re-boarding our coach. Once back on board, we had planned to sit on deck but the unseasonal weather makes this less than pleasant, so we force ourselves to make the most of the Windjammer’s offerings. We are invited to clap the staff as they parade round the dining area.
Somehow I seem to have missed out on most of the things that this trip is renowned for. Maybe it is because I don’t feel very well, or because I was seriously jet lagged until the cruise was almost over. Barely a glimpse of whales, no northern lights, no brown bear spotting, not making the most of the icebergs. Nonetheless, it has been a wonderful opportunity to meet up with many worldwide genealogical friends and to make some new ones.
In the evening, Maurice gives a hilarious talk entitled ‘How I Nearly Cloned Myself over a Couple of Martinis’. This involved mention of a crowd-funding project to clone Joseph Smith, which has attracted a fair bit of support. I think I’ll just leave that one with you. There are photos, prize givings and fond farewells. The week has gone far too quickly and many of us are looking forward to next year’s cruise to the Mediterranean.