I burned a vacation day Friday and took the family on a long weekend trip to Seattle. My father lives in the outer reaches of the greater Seattle area, so travel costs were limited to fuel. The drive to Hotel Dad began promisingly enough. But what has been in my experience a two-and-a-half to three-hour drive took nearly four. Question for Northern Washington and Seattle: What the hell is up with your traffic? Some words came to mind as I inched along roads and highways. Many of them were profane. Others included: aggravating; irritating; maddening; and frustrating.
I drove off the ferry in Victoria and was struck by the odd feeling that I’d driven all this way only to find that Portland had been scooped up and relocated here on Vancouver Island. I suppose a certain similarity of look and vibe should not be a surprise. Cities of the Northwest region of North America are bound to possess certain qualities in common. Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, Victoria, all rose at roughly the same time. All are port cities with resource extraction based economies. The architecture, demographics, even the cuisine inevitably developed along similar lines.
Reading the preceding sentence it appears I’m grousing about it. I’m not. Yes, on the one hand travel can be about experiencing the alien, the unfamiliar. And I enjoy that. But travel can also be celebration of variations on a theme. Sure, the high-ceiling, exposed brick brewpub here in Victoria could just as easily be in any other Northwest craft brewing center. But it is here, and the flavors I sample from the tasting tray provide subtly different takes on the same beer styles I’ve tried elsewhere throughout the West. It is OK if travel is occasionally familiar and comforting.
And of course no two places are identical. From the balcony of my hotel room I can see the British Columbia parliament building. I can nearly spit into the harbor from here. The buildings downtown, though of familiar style, are still aesthetically pleasing and new to me.
We’re about to take a drive outside the city and I’m looking forward to seeing what the island countryside has to offer. I hope your weekend was equally full of possibility.