Posted by: Waheeda Harris | May 16, 2012

How do you know a place?

As a traveller, my goal is to not only see places, but to get to know places. Like most of us, we want to understand a destination almost as much as someone who lives there.

Sometimes it feels easier to liken a place to somewhere familiar, as you continue to look for clues on what makes this new place unique.

I had been to Victoria, BC previously, a few times as a kid and a couple of times as a young adult. But I didn’t really think I knew the city. So when I had the chance to visit this past spring, I really wanted to go beyond the spring flowers, tea and English influences.

I went to some great local restaurants, tasted some cool cocktails and did a self-guided walking tour, looking at the range of local art and architecture, from 19th century to graffiti.

Wandering alleyways, walking through one of Canada’ oldest Chinatowns, and admiring the relaxed spirit of locals, I started to get more a sense of the city.

Part way through my walk, I stopped at a cafe, to take a rest and have a drink. The cafe was a typical independent spot, with handmade treats and posters for arts and social issue happenings.

As I sat in the window, a cyclist stopped, locking his bicycle outside the cafe to come inside and grab a coffee. Nothing unusual – until I noticed that he had a scented pine tree hanging from his bike seat, something typically seen on the rear view mirror in a car.

In that moment I realized I had truly seen something unique, not just of this cyclist, but of Victoria, where bikes are just as important as cars. I felt  I had finally broken through and understood this island city.

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