Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Why I love Victoria (1)

Sitting on my couch in pensive mood this morning, enjoying the bliss of solitude, I thought about why I love this place. In no time at all I came up with ten reasons why I love Victoria. Here's the first.

It's a walking city. 

Moreover, he hath left you all his walks,
His private arbors and new-planted orchards,
On this side Tiber. He hath left them you
And to your heirs forever – common pleasures,
To walk abroad and recreate yourselves.

There are walkers everywhere – on the streets and in the parks - slow walkers, fast walkers, power walkers, walkers alone and walkers in groups, walkers with walkers, walkers with dogs, and even walkers with cats.

If you have to take your dog for a walk in the wee small hours of the morning, you will pass someone else doing the same thing. And I used to pass a man walking his cat in the middle of the night. The cat was very timid, and would disappear into a front yard if anyone approached. This would leave his master standing alone on the sidewalk speaking into the darkness. I gave him a wide berth until he explained what he was doing.

In Victoria, motorists stop for pedestrians. They stop for you if you're on a crosswalk, or even if you're not.

You can walk around the harbour, along the ocean front, on the beach, in the city, or through the leafy suburbs looking at heritage homes and modern mansions. Or you can walk in the park.

I maintain without fear of contradiction that Victoria has more parks than any other city in Canada. And I'm not thinking of genteel parks like Beacon Hill with its cultivated gardens, duck ponds and petting zoo. I mean serious parks with real hiking trails like Mount Doug or Thetis Lake or John Deane Park, where you can be in old-growth forest within 20 minutes.

We enjoy these parks today because of the foresight and generosity of our ancestors. The colonial Brits set aside tracts of crown land as public reserves, and some of them have survived subsequent governments and developers. Mount Douglas is one such park. Others like John Deane Park were bequests to the municipality on condition that they never be developed.

In Victoria, you can walk any day of the year. And that is a hint at the second reason why I love this place.

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