Column: A brief visit with B.C.’s grand old dame

Last week I spent a few days poking around one of my (very) old stomping grounds, during a quick hop across the water to Victoria.

It was the first return trip I’d made in ages to the little city I’d called home for a few years in the early ’90s.

I’d been an Earl’s girl (and, yes, we called ourselves that without a hint of irony back then) for about two and a half years, after a high school friend urged me to move across the strait. He’d suggested it, in part, because his girlfriend was in need of a roommate.

Not the most practical reason for choosing a new hometown, but then those were the days when big life decisions could be made on the flip of a coin and then reversed just as quickly if they turned out to be a misstep.

Victoria was anything but that.

My little trip down memory (and in some areas a complete lack of memory) lane offered endless opportunities to reflect on the adventures of my early 20s.

Of course it had been 25 years, so in places I struggled to recall, well, anything. But turn a corner and a long forgotten set of memories might come flooding back in a series of mental snapshots.

My second Victoria home — a house in Gordon Head where I’d lived with a group of coworkers, who’d rent a hot tub and party til dawn in the garage directly below my room.

The quiet little suite near downtown to which I’d fled when I couldn’t take another weekend of blasting music and breaking bottles.

Some aspects of the city hadn’t changed a bit, while others were not at all as I’d left them. One thing that hadn’t altered was the beauty of the historic city.

She’s a grand old dame, a little tattered around the edges, but graceful, nonetheless.

The trip was timed deliberately for back-to-school week — when parents and kids would be back home, busily getting back into swing of things.

“It’s pretty dead,” said Scott, the host of our B&B, as he showed us to our little suite.

Dead?

As I’d driven past the famous inner harbour on the way into town, I’d been a bit taken aback by just how many tourists were still milling about on the narrow streets or taking in the sights from the back of a horse-drawn carriage.

Dead, is a relative term apparently — when it comes to tourism, at least.

I took it to mean that B.C.’s capital had truly capitalized on a spectacular summer, with plenty of visitors eagerly scoping out whales on the Pacific and scooping up assorted brick-a-brac on Government Street.

And it wasn’t just British Columbians stopping by to check out their seat of government  — far from it.

The preponderance of U.S. plates and American accents spoke to just how great an impact the flailing loonie has had on our tourism industry. And vehicles bearing registration from all across Canada served as a reminder of how much B.C. has to offer.

There is a great deal here that is worth traveling a long way to see — much of it, within a fairly easy distance for us.

I chatted recently with friends who divided their break this summer between Ucluelet and Whistler, while a colleague heads for the Okanagan every chance she gets.

For them, mountains and beaches; for me, a city with a rich history  — much of it personal —  offered the perfect mini break.

When time and money are, in fact, an object, vacationing close to home is an ideal solution.

And if you can work in a trip down memory lane, so much the better.

They’re offering those for free.