Column: A tale of two chosen cities

Former student discovers new reasons to love Oak Bay

Visitor Barbara North enjoys the many amenities of Oak Bay during her annual visits

Editor’s Note: The following guest column was submitted by Barbara North, a former University of Victoria student and frequent Oak Bay visitor now living in Edmonton.

It was the best of times. It was the most ridiculously foolish of times.

I was younger, living in Victoria and finishing my undergrad in English at the University of Victoria. I could have chosen to stay in Victoria but instead I moved and took the road less travelled.

This was also the road less paid for. I literally started off down the road, doing stand-up comedy.

At the time I was dimly aware that Victoria was beautiful. But I was mostly just plain dim and aware only that I wanted to do stand-up – and party. I moved to Alberta to be with a boyfriend, which, by the way, is how all of Alberta was settled.

And yes, almost everyone I met in Edmonton commented with bafflement, ‘You left Victoria and moved here?’

Many boyfriends, gigs, plays, a couple of TV shows and hair colours later, my life has come full circle and I find myself vacationing back in Victoria. It’s the third summer in a row I’ve set myself up at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel where I radiate out to all my favourite places: the walk to Willows Beach, the Marina, the Oak Bay Tea Room, all the shops, restaurants, art work, flowers, books and the charming town clock in Oak Bay Village. I love it all.

While here I can`t help but compare my two chosen cities, my two lives:

In Victoria I see a sign at a hairdresser to transform into a ‘beach bag blonde.’ In Alberta I regularly sport a rush hour rust colour.

Here I get fresh, local produce at the market and nourish myself, eating it right away. In Edmonton I buy sad, trucked-in produce and nourish the fridge by cramming it into the very back and never eating it.

Here I find myself staring into tidal pools, searching for jellyfish and crab. At home I stare into puddles searching for my keys. Here I wake up to the sweet sounds of the ocean. There I wake up to the alarm, the sirens, the construction and my stomach – which isn’t a problem here because I eat everything in sight. I come to understand that one of the chief aims of good health is so that you can abuse yourself with excess.

I like the ‘me’ here. I drive down Beach Drive, breathe in the brine of the ocean, hear the waves, watch, captivated, the sparkle on the water and the sunset turning the ocean horizon mystical colours.

Me, a confirmed clutz, is out here paddle boarding in these waters, swimming, exploring, eating (did I mention that?), admiring wildlife, trees, lives. Even the dogs seem happy and I think maybe it would be okay to go on a leash if it meant being walked around this area.

My partner calls and says something about picking up some rye on his way back to our hotel. Ahh yes, these days that means rye bread and I’m very happy with that.

I start looking around for property – which I probably should have planned to buy all those years ago when, really, all I could plan ahead for was the next beer.

Okay, so Oak Bay is where I find my heaven… Now I just have to pay for it. Some things never change.