Monday, June 15, 2009

Sex, Murder and Mayhem on Vancouver Island

On my most recent post, our friend Owen asked about railroads on Vancouver Island, so I thought I would give you a "Cook's Tour" of the Island. Vancouver Island is 290 miles long and 62 miles wide. It is the largest island on the western side of North America. The spine of Vancouver Island is The Vancouver Island Mountain Range, and the highest point in the range is Golden Hinde Mountain which is 7,201 feet, and is named after Sir Francis Drake's ship, the "Golden Hind". (I don't know why the spelling was changed.) Sir Francis Drake was the first European to spot Vancouver Island, but he did not land there. There are 18 subranges in the Vancouver Island Mountains, and 210 peaks.

Vancouver Island is so large, it has two separate weather climates, the northern being the rainforest climate, and the southern being officially a Mediterranean climate, complete with vineyards producing prize-winning wine. Victoria is the southernmost city on Vancouver Island, and is the capital of British Columbia. It would take at least three or four posts to tell you everything about Vancouver Island, so I will start with the bottom and work up. (Oh, don't yawn ... I won't do it all at once ...)

This is a picture of the world-famous Empress Hotel. The hotel was built 1908 and has hosted kings, queens, movie stars and other celebrities. In 1919, Edward, Prince of Wales danced in its Crystal Ballroom and in the 1930s, Shirley Temple and her parents took refuge there after she was threatened with kidnapping in California. The Empress Hotel is an iconic tourist attraction, and every afternoon during the summer months, the hotel serves high tea (along with tea sandwiches, fresh scones, preserves and Jersey Cream) in its 'Tea Lobby' to more than 800 guests and tourists -- a little bit of "Old England".

Across the harbor from the Empress Hotel are the Parliament Buildings. Both the Empress Hotel and the Parliament Buildings were designed by the architect Francis Rattenbury, who led a scandalous life. In 1923, he left his wife for 27-year-old Alma Pakenham. He married Alma in 1925 and soon afterwards she had an affair with their 18 year-old chauffeur. In 1935, Rattenbury was murdered and his wife and chauffeur were charged. It was just like in a game of "Clue". Rattenbury was murdered by the chauffeur, in the library, with a candlestick -- well, actually it was a mallett. The chauffeur was convicted and sentenced to death, although his sentence was later commuted to a life sentence. Mrs. Rattenbury committed suicide by stabbing herself through the heart and falling into the River Avon. There is a story that the Rattenburys haunt the Empress Hotel and the Parliament Buildings.

"So", Owen asks, "What about the trains?" Here is a link to the Southern Railway of Vancouver Island, previously known as the Esquimalt and Nanaimo line. The railway line started in 1886, and it was both a passenger line and a freight line. At one time the rail line went over the historic wooden Kinsol Trestle, which is 125 feet high and 614 feet long, and is one of the highest railway trestles in the world. And let me tell you, you haven't lived until you have gone over one of these creaking wooden trestles, in a train going about two miles an hour, and there is nothing on either side but a canyon. Oh, yes... We used to walk across those trestles, and hope and pray a train didn't come along. I remember once my friend Bonnie and I made a huge sign that said "STOP" and we stood on each side of the railroad tracks until a train came by. The engineer stopped the train and chased us down the street yelling, "You little b*ggers!"

So, that is the southern tip of Vancouver Island. Next time I will tell you about the tidal wave that almost wiped out the town where I lived.

31 comments:

Lorna said...

Looks like a nice place.
~Lorna

PurestGreen said...

Wow -I really enjoyed this. I lived in Tofino for about a year but never really took the time to really explore Vancouver Island. Thanks for this.

TC said...

I've been there! Saw the building with the copper roof? rode the ferry across and watched people bowl on the lawn. I was a smart alec 14 year old then, lucky I remember that much but I do remember it was beautiful.

the walking man said...

Jo...You really need to come to Detroit. With your powers of description I bet you could sell us to the world as a garden spot. BC is fortunate to have one such as you who loves their home so much.

lovelyprism said...

Well, you were quite the little rascal!

A human kind of human said...

The more I read your posts, the more I want to visit Canada and all its glorious regions/places. I think we must swop homes for a while, you in SA and I in Canada.

Rebecca said...

What a great tour, Jo! You were right - I am enjoying summer in Victoria. I had a guest visiting last weekend and took her for drinks at the Bengal Lounge in the Empress - what a place! I'm going to think of you next time I walk across the Selkirk trestle!

Leslie: said...

You always make Vancouver Island come alive for your readers! I'd love for you to take me on a personal tour some time. Having had to cancel my little trip over there last summer, I hope to be able to go this year.

Maureen said...

So when can I come for a visit?

amourissima said...

I really could have used this on my 15 day "Great Tofino Adventure of 09"! :)

Mind you- we did pretty well seeing almost everything between Tofino and Victoria.

The Bug said...

I love hearing snippets about how you were such a scallywag as a child - lots of fun!

Judi said...

Thanks for the tour. It is lovely.

Ady said...

Now I want to move there!

Brenda said...

If I ever get to visit this area I will know to check these out. The Parliament Building especially. The tracks look a little scary to me. The story about you and your friend reminded me of a scene in "Meet Me In St. Louis".
Today your blog was not slow to load up as it was the past couple of times. Blogger was doing some work yesterday, I think. I am new to your blog and was trying to read some of your earlier entries. No problem today.

mrsnesbitt said...

captain James Cook came from a little village just up the road from us! Small world eh?

Owen said...

Many thanks Jo for the information on the railroad, and for the nod in this post... vastly appreciated !

When I went to Haiti a few years ago, was surprised to find in a large field north of Port-au-Prince, a huge junkard containing the remains of a train project that never got finished and was finally scrapped. All the material, tons and tons of it, railroad cars, tracks, everything, was just bulldozed into big piles every which way ... a true railroad cemetery. I must find the pictures of that place and post them, it was surreal.

In Lebanon also we found the remains of a railroad that had linked Beirut to Damascus back in the French Mandate period, but had been abandoned and pretty much destroyed. I found an old warehouse near Tripoli with a few railroad engines from that period rusting away, one of those pictures is already posted in the back posts.

Katy said...

Okay, where do I sign up? I want to live on Vancover Isand.

Marcos Vinicius Gomes said...

Aren't you afraid of earthquakes on the weast coast? (In Vancouver chiefly?)

Marguerite said...

Wow,Jo!! What a grand tour of Vancouver Island !! It is absolutely beautiful and so interesting, too.
I really enjoyed this post and might just show up on your doorstep. lol

Marcella said...

In 2004,I had the good fortune to have lunch at the Empress when a few girlfriends and I were escorted by a friend of a friend on a brief tour of part of Vancouver Island which included the fabulous Butchart Gardens. I dutifully gave the snout of the boar a rub for good luck, I believe. I would love to have spent more time on the island.

Pouty Lips said...

Ha-ha! I laughed out loud. I can picture you and Bonnie being chased by the conductor on a rail.

pranksygang said...

ha ha ha:) the last paragraph was funny! and thanks for the tour.. the pictures are gr8

Butler and Bagman said...

I've always wanted to see Vancouver...thanks for rekindling the wish. I loved the train story.

KathyB. said...

I love Vancouver....thanks for the tour , trying to tempt Hubby and me back ? But I am opting NOT to travel the trestle on the train, especially if there are any little girls ( hoodlums ) like you there !Good post Jo!

Carla said...

I'm not yawning. I find it all very interesting! I love to travel while sitting in my computer chair. And what a fantastic place you live in. If I were younger...I think I'd be planning a move...

TheChicGeek said...

So cool! I definitely want to take a trip there :D
You may have a new career as a tour guide, Jo! Think of the fun you would have...LOL
Have a Happy Day!

leilani said...

WOW!! I love it ! U are an island gal !=0) Beautiful, Beautiful !

Paula Slade said...

What a marvelous travelogue! Looking forward to part 2 and the tidal wave!

Mean Mama said...

I Loved this post! Vancouver is certainly fascinating!

Nose_in_a_book said...

Sounds great. Btw, "Golden Hinde" is the correct spelling. Here's a picture of the full-size reconstruction in London: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kayodeok/148624497. It is/was a beautiful ship.

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