Victoria B.C. and Vancouver island
This week we visited Canada's Vancouver island and its most lovely city of Victoria, B.C.. This is where I have stayed earlier, meeting distant relatives, and thus the place is familiar to me. Last time I visited the place was in summer 1994 after my exchange student year in Alaska. Though the closest of those distant relatives has passed away and the house I used to stay in has been torn down, the downtown was still pretty much the same it used to be with its small, pictoresque streets and houses, and the huge Beacon Hill Park.
We left our car in Vancouver and took a ferry to Vancouver island and from there a bus to downtown Victoria, which took one hour. The downtown Victoria is so small you can easily walk around, so there was no need for a car. From our hotel, the James Bay Inn, following Government street it took us five minutes to walk to the Government building, Royal BC Museum, and the Empress hotel, which stands at the center of the harbour area. From there it takes ten minutes to Chinatown.
The most notable changes were that the old wax museum had had to close its doors two years earlier and the tallest totem pole in the world, if I remember correctly, wasn't anymore at the Beacon Hill park's viewpoint. Also there were lot more young people in the downtown and lots of bars, but still a very recognizable place.
|Canada Day fireworks.|
|Victoria, B.C., during Canada Day. Behind can be seen the famous Government building.|
This was one of the places which blew my mind when I was still a child. The Miniature world has a largecollection of huge miniature scenes from different events in history like certain battles during WWII and some old towns, like the old London Bridge scene from London. They also have some scenes from famous books and children's tales and a collection of old doll houses. There is also a dark room set up as a space station where you can see miniatures of imaginary space stations and of alien races from all over the universe. The room also houses some charmingly old computer graphics with VGA pixel graphics. Way too cool!
The best thing about this place are the rich scenes they have created with plenty of details to find from each scene. But unfortunately some of the miniatures are quite crude due to their old age, and could use some updating from more capable hands. And if you have kids, they will go berserk in this place when they get to push buttons which make trains and cable cars run. Also applies for big kidults like us.
|Circus town at night. There are thousands of people in there and around 60 moving miniatures. |
This photo taken during the night cycle.
Beacon Hill Park, Children's park, and Beacon Drive-In
Beacon Hill Park is the perfect place for a picnic and just hanging around in a park since it's so pretty and full of little interesting details. I'm not a flower person and usually find the outdoors a horrible place filled with bees and other critters trying to kill me. But this place has a certain appeal to me I can't describe. In my teens I found a tree with branches that formed a secret "room" beneath them, and someone had placed a park bench in there. I used to go to the nearby store, buy a can of soda and chips, and head there to read Bram Stoker's Dracula, hidden from everyone's view. The most perfect place! <3
A children's zoo can also be found within the park. There used to operate another zoo in the past with a rare white bear (called a spirit bear - not a snowbear nor an albino) and other animals, but it has long since shut down and the current, small zoo houses only small farm animals like pigs, bunnies and goats. ...And a bunch of peacocks, which roam semi-wild around and within the zoo. In the petting area with the miniature goats there were mainly just kids, but we, of course, went in to pet all the cute animals, some of which clearly enjoyed the constant massage.
And one of the mandatory stops has to be the Beacon Drive-In near next to the park next to Niagara street. They serve the largest sundaes I've ever seen! Can you just imagine anything better than eating a giant sundae in a pretty park and watch new ducklings swim in the pond next to you?
|Alpacas at the zoo.|
Royal BC Museum
I remember this museum especially well from my childhood. The best part of it were the exciting items from the past, like a chair made entirely out of bull horns and black leather. Now it was gone, but there was still the amazing indoors village with all the shops of the past - except for the "party planner" shops... But you can find a dressmaker's shop with old dresses and tools the tailor would use, and an old apothecary with medical instruments. The museum also holds a vast collection of native American items from the nearby tribes - and has also returned some of the artefacts to the tribes. Not many of them have asked for their return, though. The best part is, the nearby tribes have a very distinct artistic style, which I have always found extremely appealing and their totem poles and artwork is displayed all over Victoria and the museum.
When we visited the place, the museum also had an exhibition on dinosaurs, but just when we were about to move to that part of the museum the fire alarm went off and we were all thrown out. When they found out it was just a false alarm the museum was about to close, anyway. Well, dinosaurs you can see anywhere, genuine native American "First Peoples" artefacts you can't. :)
|Joonas standing in the old town inside the museum. So cool.|
|Inside a native American house in the museum.|
The "nerdtown" of Victoria, B.C.
There's a street which holds almost every nerd store in town. There are two old comic book stores selling also the latest issues, and next to them a store filled with new comics and roleplaying games, and across the street a Games Workshop store, and on the next block an old toys store, which has on display all these old He-Man action dolls and Transformers from the 1980s and even older Star Wars toys. Very cool! Very nerdy!
(Legends Comics & Books, Curious Comics, Cherry Bomb Toys, Games Workshop and one more store which I can't remember the name of)
Vancouver, B.C.: Caprica is closed until further notice
For a long time many American movies and TV shows have been filmed in Canada and especially in the Vancouver area. It just happens that Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009) was filmed in Vancouver. Especially the scenes from Caprica, the planet the cylons bombed in the beginning of the series, were shot here. The BSG fans that we are, having just completed watching the series before the trip, we went searching
(More on the locations can be found from here.)
Our first stop was the "opera house" from Galactica situated right in downtown Vancouver. We googled and found out the building was open every now and then, since people had toured it and there were even tours arranged, but nowhere could we find any information on them. So we just drove over and hoped for the best. Well, we almost made it... but were one hour late. *fail* So in case someone should be wanting to go for the tours, below is a photograph from their front door with all the info about the tours they couldn't put on the internet. *not bitter or anything*
* if you can't get in, if you do ***** we suppose
|Opera house from Battlestar Galactica. Outside it looks like this.|
|Click on image to see how you can visit the opera house.|
Our second stop was the bar where Helo and Sharon were hiding in Caprica from the cylons. The place is a popular, multiple times awarded bar in real life, but when we got there, it wasn't open yet. *sigh* But the place probably wouldn't look like in the TV show anyway from the inside. It's called the Alibi Room and located in the popular "Gaslight" district of Vancouver.
*** but it's a very good bar, we heard
|The bar from Caprica as seen from outside.|
|Same bar from the other direction.|
The third place we went to is called the Waterfall building in real life. The building is quite nice with a waterfall at its entrance, hence the name. The doctor who told president Roslin about her cancer, had his office inside the Waterfall Building's central courtyard's glass structure. Also I'm quite sure the distinctive stairways of the building were used in the episode where Boomer and Number Six met at Caprica and formed a friendship, and the rebels blew up the garage. There were a bunch of other scenes, as well, including Kara's apartment/jail cell. We saw the building just from the outside as it's an office building with private apartments.
|Waterfall building. In front you can see the waterfall and behind those men the glass building.|
|Inside this glass house Roslin heard she has cancer.|
|Stairs. Looks just like Caprica.|
|Those stairs look familiar. Just add cylons.|
The fourth place we visited made up for the disappointment of not being able to visit the opera house. If you ever get a chance you MUST visit the Simon Fraser University in Burnaby. It's located majestically on top of a mountain, with white-capped mountains surrounding it in all directions, and the architecture is out of this world. The main building is incredible! In fact, I'm quite sure the building has been used in some other scifi piece I've seen. Words are not enough, just watch these photos below! BTW, this architectural style is called "brutalist style". Fitting.
The building is used many times in the series, for example pretty much every time president Roslin sits next to the pool in Caprica.
|The famous pool. I think Baltar and Number Six were kissing by the pillars in the back. Roslin had her lunch on that bench on the foreground and in one scene she lied down on that rock there in the pool.|
|Where have I seen this building?|
|Once again, just add cylons and you are in Caprica.|
|This was not used in the series, but it could have been!|
|The tree from the previous picture.|
The final place we visited was the old hospital, where the cylons did their experiments on Kara and the other human women. The building is in fact located inside a mental asylum but the building itself is out of use and only film crews use it these days. And as we approached the place there was some filming going on at the place, but luckily they were shooting at another part of the area. To find the building, just drive inside and turn right following the walls and you come straight in front of it. The first building on the left. Take notice, there are guards patrolling the area, so they will follow you and tell you photography is not allowed without permission, but as long as you just look around and appear trustworthy enough I suppose they let you be. We didn't go inside, though I suppose we could have, but we were in sort of hurry to leave the place and go across the border. ...to see the 4th of July fireworks, of course. Why, what did you think?
|Imagine Kara running down those stairs with centurions behind her.|
Bruce and Brandon Lee
Of course everyone knows who Bruce Lee is, but in case you're not familiar with his son, Brandon Lee followed in his father's footsteps and tragically died just when his Hollywood career was about to take off. Not before filming The Crow, though, which went on to have a huge effect on the goths of the Nineties - including us, very much so.
After our heroic escape from Canada we headed back to Seattle, WA, just in time to see the fireworks. And the next day we visited "the most haunted cemetery in the US", the Lakeview Cemetery, where Bruce and Brandon Lee are buried. That quote above is from a man who was doing maintenance on their graves with his colleague. The man was fixing the white lettering on Brandon's grave and his friend was putting on gold on Bruce's grave. When we asked him, he told us he had made Brandon's tombstone and explained what they were doing. They asked us to come back later for a distraction free photo opportunity, but we actually found this more interesting to capture. So thank you for allowing us to take photos of you two doing your work.
In case you want to visit the grave, they are very easy to find. Entering the cemetery from the entrance close to 1554 15th Ave E, you just follow the road until you get to a tree where the road splits and from there you should be able to see a big, white, marble heart shaped gravestone, straight ahead. Bruce and Brandon Lee are buried behind a hedge right behind the heart.
|The graves of Bruce and Brandon Lee.|
|This is taken from where the road splits. See that white, heart shaped stone? |
That's where you'll find Bruce and Brandon Lee's graves.
Twin Peaks is moving on...
After we headed east we visited two other towns famous from TV.
The first towns we stopped in were Snoqualmie and North Bend in Washington, which were used to shoot Twin Peaks. The Snoqualmie Falls is the waterfall seen in the opening titles, and right next to it lies the Great Northern Hotel, one of the main sets of the series. We took photos only from the outside as the interior has been modified since the series. But even if you are not a fan of Twin Peaks, you should go see the waterfall. The water running down the huge fall is quite scary. And the water rushes down with such immense force, it comes back to the viewer in a fine mist. You should see it yourself.
|Twin Peaks waterfall and the hotel.|
|The hotel from Twin Peaks. I think they have painted the exterior.|
The second stop was of course at the famous Double R Diner which still serves its famous cherry pie and "damn fine cup of coffee". The place doesn't look the same anymore since it burned down after filming, but it's still recognizable. The lights on the ceiling and the exterior still looks the same, even though the place is run under a different name, Twede's Cafe. But for all the fans out there, either they don't make the pie like they used to or Dale Cooper really liked cherry pie made with canned filling. Ok, so do I, but I use a better brand filling than they do. But still, Twin Peaks diner! As far as food goes, the "Backfire" burger is the hottest we've encountered anywhere - so hot, in fact, Joonas couldn't finish it.
|The Double R Diner aka Twede's Diner.|
...but Cicely, AK, is still pretty much the same
How many of you still remember the hit show Northern Exposure (fin. "Villi Pohjola") from the Nineties? They show reruns of it every now and then so you might have seen it later. It's a story about a New Yorkian doctor Joel Fleischmann, who moves to the small town of Cicely in Alaska and meets all its residents, and you just fall in love with them.
Well, good news to all the fans. Cicely, Alaska, is located in Roslyn, Washington, and it looks exactly as it did in the show! Nothing has changed except the residents in the town, and outside the camera there is more town than what you see in the show. And in Dr. Fleischman's office there's now a shop selling all the Northern Exposure memorabilia you could need. They still often get fans of the series in the shop and love to talk about the series with them.
|The famous Roslyn Cafe mural from Northern Exposure! It's real!|
|The main street from Roslyn. I think this was the bar from the show.|
|Radio station. Was this the same place they used in the show?|
|Dr. Fleischmann's practice. So cool! They still have his name in the window.|
That was all from this time. Next time, if we make it safely back to California, you will hear about our adventures in the Oregon, Idaho and Nevada deserts. Let me give you a taste of the future: Church of God-Zillah!
Mia & Joonas