a trip to victoria: beyond van gogh, puzzle lab, library... and food. lots of food.

I had two recent experiences that I want to preserve on wmtc -- a trip to Victoria, and this year's National Truth and Reconciliation Day in Port Hardy.

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Victoria is a lovely small city that's perfect for us for a relatively inexpensive urban fix. I once imagined that we'd visit Vancouver that way, since Port Hardy has an airport, and Vancouver, the air travel hub, is a puddle-jump away. That was before I knew how expensive that puddle-jump is. If we're en route to anywhere else, the price of the flight from Hardy to Vancouver can easily be twice or three times as much as the long-haul flights we're connecting to. Plus, there are only two or three flights a day, so flying anywhere usually means an overnight in Vancouver. This makes "off-Island" travel a very expensive proposition. 

Victoria, on the other hand, is only a six- or seven-hour drive -- the other end of the only "highway" on the island. (Highway: a beautiful, scenic drive, one lane in each direction.) Victoria is nowhere near the size and variety of Vancouver, but there are lots of restaurants, a smattering of cultural activities, good hotels, nice neighbourhoods to explore, and enough variety to give me the little break from small-town life that I need once in a while. 

Victoria is also a short ferry ride from Washington State. Much of our family now lives in Oregon and California, so Victoria is a natural stop when we're doing a family road trip. On this last trip, our friends M&M (a/k/a my brother and sister-in-law) arrived by ferry, and we drove down to meet them. We rented a lovely VRBO in a great location, and had a really good time.

The trip included Allan's special birthday present, referenced in this post: too much honesty can be a very bad thing: a story about a birthday present.

By wonderful chance, the "Beyond Van Gogh" exhibit was in Victoria when we were. I had read about this, but never expected to see it, so I was thrilled at this coincidence. If you have a chance to see it, go. It was extraordinary. 

Of course, nothing compares to seeing art in person. If you're ever in New York City, "Starry Night" lives in MOMA, the Museum of Modern Art, and there are several Van Goghs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And of course there is the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. But even if you are fortunate enough to experience either or both of those, Beyond Van Gogh is more than just an accessible substitute.

The exhibit is a celebration of Vincent Van Gogh's life and his work -- an art-history lesson, an insight into the mind of a unique genius, and a celebration of art and beauty.

These images from the show cannot capture the breathtaking feeling of being surrounded by this beauty, along with well-chosen music and voice-over narration. The narration is excerpts from Van Gogh's diaries, and from his correspondence with his beloved brother Theo, who was his lifelong, stalwart friend and champion.

I have only one criticism of Beyond Van Gogh, and my colleagues and co-workers would know instantly what it is, if they saw this.

Much of the textual information in this show was not visually accessible. Text placed over an image is very difficult for many people to read. People with visual or print disabilities may not be able to read this at all. This is a design challenge, easily resolved -- if the designer is aware of it. The curators and designers of Beyond Van Gogh obviously were not. This is especially sad in an exhibit that is fundamentally about making art accessible to more people.

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Poking around downtown Victoria, we found this unusual store: puzzle lab. Puzzle lab sells wooden jigsaw puzzles, handcrafted with unique shapes, featuring images by local artists. Artists actually see royalties from their work sold at puzzle lab, which is practically unheard of. 

This is from their brochure.

I love doing jigsaw puzzles. (I share pics of my completed puzzles on Facebook, but have kept them off wmtc.) I was very excited to buy something from puzzle lab, but even the smallest puzzles were well out of my price range. I hope they can sell enough expensive puzzles to stay in business.

We also drove out to Sooke to visit the beautiful new library branch there, and a lovely colleague of mine gave us a tour. It's an incredible space, with amazing resources. It made me envious, both of the size of the branch and the staff complement. I wish so much that my community was receiving resources on that scale. 

One of the things we did most in Victoria was eat. There are very few restaurant options in our area, so when we are out of town, eating good food is a high priority. In Victoria, we are very partial to Jam for breakfast/brunch and Ebizo for amazing sushi. (There are actually two sushi restaurants in Port Hardy! But neither comes anywhere close to Ebizo.) On this trip we also discovered great pub food at Spinnaker's, where we connected with a friend from Ontario who was in town.

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