I have never had afternoon tea at The Empress.
That’s OK, because at $89 — or $128 if washed down with the Veuve Clicquot – it would be wasted on me. Also, I’d probably commit some terrible social faux pas, like stepping on a corgi or missing the spittoon, so I’m just as happy to give it a pass.
On the other hand, I feel bad about never having climbed Mount Finlayson. People gush about the view from the top and I just go “hmmm” in the way you do when trying to disguise your embarrassing ignorance of something familiar to everybody else. It’s like being the last one to watch Ozark.
Also among the Victoria traditions of which I have never partaken: the Oak Bay Tea Party, Swiftsure, the Luxton rodeo. Too late for the last one now. Too late for a lot of things.
I turned to her at the breakfast table: “What if I were hit by a bus tomorrow?”
A wistful smile flickered. “I like the way you think,” she said. “Keep going.”
“What,” I said, “if we ran out of time and never got to do those things we always intended to do?”
That’s a question for all of us as we reach the B.C. Day weekend, the end of a summer that showed up late now suddenly in sight. Time for a Victoria bucket list, if not for life, then at least for August. Here are 20 suggestions:
• Take the boat to Sidney Spit. Something else that I have never done.
• Take in the sunrise from Willows Beach and sunset from the breakwater at Ogden Point.
• Soft-serve ice cream at the Beacon Drive-In is to Victoria what the Stampede is to Calgary. Don’t question it, not unless you want to be sent into exile.*
• Swim in saltwater. When was the last time you dipped your toes in the ocean? Not a lake, not the Commonwealth Pool, but the actual saltchuck. Here we are on the edge of the Pacific, the largest body of water in creation, yet Victoria might as well be Regina by the way some of us ignore it.
• Swim in freshwater. You know the scene in disaster movies when everybody abandons their traffic-jammed cars and tries to make it to safety on foot? During this week’s heat wave, that’s what the road to Durrance Lake looked like, only with floaties.
• The CRD oversees 32 regional parks and three trails. You could try a new one each day this month and really rather go for a beer instead.
• Remember when the only beer made in Victoria was Lucky Lager? Now you could try a new locally made craft creation each day this month, but should probably go for a hike instead.
• Hit up a new farmer’s market, if not for the produce, then for the social scene. They have become a version of the local pub.
• Go people-watching at the legislature lawn. Bring a blanket and a book. If you get bored, protest something.
• Explore the many patios that proliferated during the pandemic. Think of it as COVID’s silver lining: it’s now easier to drink outside without getting arrested.
• Attempt stand-up paddleboarding. Or fall-down paddle-boarding. Or maybe just a kayak.
• Play a game on the $5,100 concrete ping pong table the city installed at Humboldt and Douglas.
• Go watch the Shamrocks. To find Victorians whose roots go three, four generations deep or more, look in the Dutch Bakery at lunchtime, the Craigflower Bridge when the herring are running, or the Q Centre during lacrosse season. The sport might be like the combo burger — a regional, not national, delicacy — but its fans are passionate. John Horgan once spilled a beer on my sister at a Shamrocks game.
• Blackberry picking. First rule: Pick nothing below the height to which the tallest dog can lift its leg. Second rule: Pluck only those berries that slip off the vine easily. Third rule: Bring band-aids. Once, while picking berries on the Royal Roads grounds while one of the X-Men movies was filming there, I saw Hugh Jackman drive by in full Wolverine makeup. I was still bloodier than he was.
• If it’s sunny, go to the Sooke potholes. Or the Sooke pot shops. Same rule applies to both: Don’t drive if you’re baked.
• Explore Rathtrevor Beach, or Little Qualicum Falls, or Botanical Beach. The law that says Victorians may not venture past Costco/The Edge of the World has been repealed.
• Victoria Dragon Boat Festival Aug 14-16. The TC once entered a team that beat only one other crew, a group of cancer survivors, and even that result was thrown out when it was discovered we had inadvertently raced with too many paddlers in our boat. “I’m confused,” I told the TC’s public relations director. “We cheated to beat the cancer survivors and got caught. Is that good PR or bad PR?”
• Go for a bike ride on the E&N or Lochside or Galloping Goose. Use your manners.
• A little bit harder: Go mountain biking by the Hartland dump. Or go straight to the hospital instead.
• The last idea is up to you. Send your bucket-list suggestions to email@example.com
* This year, those going into exile should expect a three-sailing wait.