vancouver island day four: downtown victoria and to sooke

After our last lovely hot breakfast at the Beacon Inn, we hit the road to downtown Victoria. It was much closer than we imagined! It's amazing how quickly you are out in the country or small towns here -- very little sprawl.

Completely by accident, we ended up parking right near the Victoria Central Branch. It is beautiful -- huge, airy, and seems progressive. I spoke to some desk staff, as I did in Saanich. We chatted with a customer in the children's area, a young dad who described himself as a "connoisseur of libraries," who visits all the branches with his son. Dare I say, staff and customers seem happy.

Allan brought a list of used bookstores on this trip, with the intentions of finding them all. Sidney was great for used books; it actively promotes its "booktown". But little did we know what was in store for us in Victoria: Russell Books.

What can I say about Russell Books. Allan says it's the eighth wonder of the world: "Pyramids at Giza, Machu Picchu, Russell Books". It was without a doubt the most astounding used bookstore I have ever seen, and that includes New York City's The Strand.

We walked around a bit, saw the the Parliament buildings (Victoria is the provincial capital of BC), and the famously beautiful harbor area, full of flowers. On a tip from a library worker at the Central Branch, we hunted down the brand-new James Bay branch. It opened recently, built in mixed used condo-retail space. I'm guessing developers built this library in exchange for some kind of easement. It is tiny, both in space and in collection. The official name of the branch is sxʷeŋxʷəŋ təŋəx James Bay, using the Lekwungen name for James Bay. This is a great idea, until you see the tiny space and completely gentrified area.

On a tip from a friend, we had lunch at the amazing Redfish Bluefish. If you go to Victoria, this place is not to be missed. The kitchen is housed in a converted shipping container, with seating and counters on a wharf, right in the downtown harbor area. They serve some of the freshest, most delicious seafood you have ever eaten. Check out the menu, as well as their story and commitment to sustainability. We arrived early and as we were eating, a huge queue was forming.

We didn't spend a lot of time downtown, but it was great to see the Central Branch of the library. Our next stop was Abkhazi Gardens, our concession for not visiting Buchart Gardens. We had "elevenses" tea on the patio, and a stroll through the gardens.

After that, we hit the road for Sooke, to the west of downtown. We also hit quite a bit of traffic, and could see this is a congested commuter path. Once past the traffic, it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere -- heavily forested, narrow roads, lakefront cabins. But you can also see the early signs of creeping development.

We had booked two rooms at the Arbutus Cove Guesthouse -- two bedrooms, a kitchen and a large common area, and a deck overlooking the lake. We were absolutely in love with it.

We hopped down to a liquor store for local wines, beers, and snacks, then spent the evening on the deck until it was too cold... then... yes, stayed up late talking and drinking wine. Lovely.

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