11 July 2007

A visit to British Columbia

I took a few days off - for good behavior - on my way to Vancouver, B.C. to speak at a program sponsored by the Jewish Genealogical Institute of B.C. and the new Jewish Museum and Archives.

It was three days of sunny, blue skies, delightful 75 degree weather, blue water, a critical mass of evergreen trees, manicured lawns, flowers, forested hills and wonderfully clean air.

For Tracing the Tribe readers who are also continuously connected to cellphones and laptops, you'll understand my pleasure at a quick get-away from cellphone and laptop.

My first stop was Victoria BC via the Clipper from Seattle.

This is a great trip, although in a smaller catamaran than the big BC ferries that resemble large cruise ships. The Clipper is a great experience, but there is a reason that staff announce that motion-sickness tablets are for sale. It was a bit choppy crossing the Straits and there were gale warnings - I was glad I took the tablet as we left Seattle.

Victoria is a remarkable place, much changed from my last visit in 1986 during the Vancouver 1986 EXPO. Much like Israel, the national bird seems to be the (construction) crane. A more bustling place today - although still laid back - and the lush lawns, parks and trees are still a major draw.

The Jewish community there is also growing and I was told the Conservative synagogue has made some additions, including a social hall, to its facilities. There is also a Reform congregation and a Chabad Pre-School.

Of course, we did the obligatory tea, but not at the hyped-up Empress (sky-high charges for a very touristy experience). We were directed to the White Heather on Oak Bay Road and it was delightful.

For fish, our dinner at Pescatores (Humboldt Street) was a delicious gastronomic experience, with a dish of both ahi and albacore tuna, lightly seared on a tempura vegetable raft. We loved it.

I took the opportunity to visit my husband's cousin, his wife and their three children, who live about an hour north of Victoria in a beautiful log cabin home with million-dollar views of forests and lakes. Although it seems a million miles from civilization and the nearest neighbors, they can still get pizza delivered! Thanks, Said and Linda, for your hospitality!

In Vancouver, we were treated to tea at the home of Cissie Eppel, a founder of that city's gen society. Her home-made scones with traditional trimmings of clotted cream and rhubarb-strawberry jam were delicious. Also on hand were current society president Catherine Youngren and Seattle society president Lyn Blyden.

Following the program, we received a very personal city tour. The beautiful weather brought out throngs of people to the numerous waterfront parks. The University of British Columbia campus is now sprouting numerous condominiums with amazing views set among trees and lawns with beautiful views.

One one block alone, there were four organic vegetable and fruit stores, confirming the BC philosophy focused on the "100-mile diet," defined as eating only locally grown foods from no more than 100 miles away.

Our guide also recommended a great all-you-can-eat sushi place (the tab was about $20 per person). Everything was exceedingly fresh - the salmon was wild sockeye - and the three of us had a great time.

On Monday, it was back to Seattle by bus and a two-hour wait at the border crossing. The modern Stroum JCC facility in Seattle is on Mercer Island, a lovely residential island.

Today, I'm off to Salt Lake City for the Federation of Eastern European Historical Societies, followed by the 27th IAJGS International Conference Jewish Genealogy. So stay tuned for coverage of both events after I play a bit of catch-up on Jewish genealogy news.

By the way, in Vancouver, I was given a book on early Jews in BC and purchased an additional one. It is interesting that one of the first Jewish families in Victoria was Sephardic. I'll be writing more on those books later on.

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