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Vancouver Island, BC Canada 6

Happy Canada Day, my Canadian friends! I am returning for a few days to visit Miriam and explore Victoria. Except for needing to nurture my back, my energy is back and fabulous!

I made a slight detour to stop at Kinsol Trestle in Shawnigan Lake, one of the world's tallest free-standing and most spectacular timber rail trestle structures. I also went to the historical Villa Eyrie Resort for a stunning view of the Finlayson Arm and Olympic Mountains.

I am not a big fan of large crowds, but it is Canada Day, and I would like to be part of the celebration. It is super convenient that Miriam's apartment is within walking distance to downtown, and we don't need to deal with parking. We find a spot on the grass with many other happy Canadians at night for a fireworks display with a fantastic grand finale.

I love having opportunities to feel like a "local," so this morning I am tagging along with Miriam to her farmer's market volunteer duties at The Jewish Community Centre of Victoria. To be part of the charity, I stand in line to purchase the most inviting berries. The line is long and slow, but that gives me and Lee, the woman in front of me, a chance to chat. The berries are full of flavor; how delicious! I make sure to share the joy of this taste with Lee; she in return, shares her cucumbers. It's funny how I feel I am back in time as we exchange goods.

The weather is perfect for a bike ride. Our destination is Mattick's Farm and our path is the Galloping Goose Trail (The Galloping Goose was originally a freight railway line built during the First World War). It is an easy route to bike, but we still feel we earned the right to treat ourselves to one of the best tiramisu cakes I have ever had at Adrienne's Restaurant & Tea Garden.

On my list of things to do in Victoria is to visit the Royal BC Museum. I heard that the museum has one of the best Indigenous exhibitions. Unfortunately, the collection is down for now. There is a small Indigenous display on the main floor, but the main exhibit is Angkor: The Lost Empire of Cambodia. History is our best teacher! The human actions of the past indeed stripped incredible knowledge and wisdom from us. The simple philosophy of the Indigenous or the Buddhists that we are all interconnected is grasping a strong root in me.

I leave the museum to walk around the street of Victoria and take it all in. As a solo traveler, I feel uncomfortable enjoying the city's nightlife alone, so I am glad when Miriam is up to joining me for a night stroll and bar hopping for a fun evening of stand-up comedy.

A forty-five-minute drive from Victoria, and you are in the beautiful East Sooke Regional Park. The park has a vast option of hiking trails with different terrain. It is a hot and hazy day. The mountain views I have been experiencing in the last few weeks get a new canvas of soft blue silhouette. The sun is bright and strong while we hike atop the rocky coast. As we turn a corner, Miriam notices a gathering on the edge of a rock, with everyone focusing on the water. Oh, how fantastic! Now I am hiking with the Whales, and a pod of Orcas are swimming in the distance. We continue hiking, following their path until they disappear. Ten minutes later, we spot a Humpback Whale, and further into our hike, we spot a Sea Lion. Incredible!!!

It is my last day touring Victoria, and tomorrow is "getting ready day." I learn very quickly that I need to take the time to pack my car because every tiny detail is essential when you live such a compact lifestyle.

So what is still on my list to see in beautiful Victoria? The Parliament Building, Emily Carr House, and the famous Butchart Gardens. Even back in school, social studies was my favorite subject, so anytime I have a chance to enter a parliament building and learn the history of it and its people, I go for it (Every half hour, there is a free guided tour). It is a breezy, sunny day in Victoria, and Miriam is inspired to be a tourist in her town, so she joins me. Since it's a packed day for me, we choose to bike to town. I didn't know who Emily Carr was before Miriam introduced me to her and her work. As an artist, I am always fascinated by other artists. Emily Carr is one of Canada's best-known artists, and her childhood house is a great way to learn about her and her art.

I chose to wait until Wednesday to visit Butchart Gardens because there is a live performance concert in the summer (Wednesday-Saturday). Today is the first concert of the season with The Bills (From Google: The Bills are a high-impact, acoustic folk music quintet from the West Coast of Canada). But first, I want to dive into the world of flowers and gardens. I am uncertain if it is because I am a color designer that the impact of colors on my emotions is so strong, or if we all experience the same level of excitement as I do when surrounded by colors and texture. When I combine colors and nature, I am full of joy.

As I sit on the grass enjoying the concert, I feel so content! Just a simple incredible joy takes over me. I have learned to let this beautiful emotion be part of my life without thinking about when the other shoe will fall. Did you know joy is one of the hardest emotions to experience? We always worry when we are going to lose it. I am learning to embrace the joy in my life and indulge in it. No, the other shoe will not fall; I deserve happiness. After all, I am responsible for creating it. Yes, moments and periods of hardship will occur in life. Hey, I just went through one with my health. I took a break, rested, adjusted my life accordingly, and still was able to let joy rest quietly in my heart.

Just before the concert is over, I sneak out and visit the Sunken Garden one more time, as it is my favorite garden in the park. By now, the sun is down, and the skies still have a trace of the light it shined all day. The soft landscape lighting gives the extra light needed to experience the vibrant colors of the flowers. My gift is that I am all alone, walking in this beauty until I am not.

I really enjoyed the capital of British Columbia, Victoria. Miriam, I entered your home as a stranger and left like you were always a part of my life. Thank you for your hospitality and your friendship. Thank you for making my visit to Victoria memorable. I will miss you, my friend.

I will be back on the road later this afternoon, stopping at the small town of Sidney before crossing on a ferry to Vancouver.

I spent twenty-six days on Vancouver Island and can tell you it is not enough. I want to return not just to see the wild beauty of the island's north side, but now I have dear friends with whom I would love to spend more time.

Tonight is another "practice" of stealth camping. Since I am crossing late at night, I decided not to drive right away to Vancouver. I will find a place on the side of the road to go to sleep. I am still uncomfortable with this kind of sleeping arrangement, but the more I experience it, the less intimidating it will be. Tomorrow I am meeting Laurie, who reached out to me through Facebook and offered to show me her city.

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