Monday, September 24, 2012

Why did I choose to live in the Burnside Gorge neighbourhood?

3100 block of Balfour Street in Victoria
In 2004 for a host of reasons Catherine and I moved to Victoria.   The decision of Victoria was 75%   Catherine's.   Having decided on Victoria the question was of where we would live and that was heavily influenced by my experience of my days at UVic.

I had lived in Victoria while I attended UVic from September 1983 till January 1990 with a break of bit more than a year in 1985/86 when I lived in the UK and hitch-hiked through the Sahara.   I chose Victoria for university because it was the "near abroad" - it was the closest Canadian university to where I grew up that was not east of the Rockies.   I did not to live with my parents while at university but my responsible cheap side said that if I went to SFU I could not justify living away from home even if I had an hour commute each way.   UBC was never an option for me because their attitude of the time "We are the biggest, therefore we are the best" is the sort of thing that rubs me entirely the wrong way.    Of grad class of 350 from South Delta Senior Secondary, 250 were going to post secondary education but only a tiny handful chose UVic.

I enjoyed my time at university for the experience it was not for the education.  I had a couple of good courses and few brilliant profs but for the most part UVic of the 1980s was an adequate school and nothing more.   Honestly if I were to do it again and known early enough I would have worked to get into a US liberal arts college.  Any of you that know me well know that I do not fit with the mass of society and can not stop myself from challenging it.

I met many people at UVic, people I still like to this day but I also met a lot of people that were in a rut in their lives by the time they were 20.   These people finished university, got a government job and had mentally retired by age 30.   This was not and is not the life for me but I know this city and know how easily it can lull you into a pleasant slumber of "Good Enough".  

I was not keen on Victoria, it is not near the top of my list of places to live in Canada but when we were making the decision in 2004 Victoria was Catherine's number 1 choice by far and for my it rated ahead of Vancouver or Calgary, though only barely ahead of Calgary.

Vancouver was out of the question for two reasons - the climate and the commute.   I hate rain, 18 years of growing up in the Lower Mainland gave me an almost pathological dislike of rain when it is colder than 10 degrees.   My last year in high school in November I walked to school everyday in the rain - I made my decision then Vancouver's climate and I could not co-exist.

I also hate commuting.   Long periods on transit are vaguely bearable, sitting in a car in stop and go traffic makes me angry and stressed out.   When I lived in London in the early 1990s I took the bus to work even though the Tube was faster because the experience on the Tube in rush hour sucks.   When I lived in Vancouver from 1992 to 1996 it had to be in the City itself, a place we knew we could never afford with a family.   Starting in 1994 Catherine and I were looking for some form of an escape from the city to rural BC which we achieved over the winter of 1995/96.

Fast forward to spring 2004 and we realized we needed to make a move to a bigger centre which ended up being Victoria.

It was important to me for us to chose a neighbourhood that was something different that what I had been part of 14 years earlier.    We came and visited the city and drove around.   Most everything east of Douglas was ruled out for being too much of my past but also for being too smugly set in its ways.    The Peninsula and Western Communities were out because commuting was not something I wanted.   Esquimalt was also out because of my past prejudice against it from the 1980s and from that bit of uncomfortable feeling living so close to the base. I am a pacifist from my faith but it is not a black and white simplistic pacifism, it is deep and complex - living there could have lead to me acting in unthoughtful ways and having knee jerk reactions to the military.

It became clear that the only area left was that between the Gorge and Highway #1 - Tillicum-Gorge or Burnside-Gorge.    These were areas of the city I had never been to in all the time I went to university, I knew nothing of the area but it seemed to fit with what we were looking for.

On one of our scouting trips to the city we spent several hours exploring this neighbourhood.    I was not impressed with the streets on the Saanich side because of the lack of sidewalks.    Streets like Wascana, Albina and such all suffer from having this blank negative space between the edge of the street and the properties.   I was not seeing much that was inspiring me to live in the area.

We had started at the Craigflower bridge and worked our way towards town.   It was near the end of the day that we turned onto Balfour Street and I saw the sort of street I like to live on.   Sidewalks and big trees along the street give Balfour the feeling of being an urban residential street and not a suburban one.   I immediately said this is the sort of street I want us to live on.  As luck would have it an acquaintance had a house for rent on that very street.   On July 1st 2004 I moved into a house on Balfour street in this neighbourhood and have lived here every since.   In September 2007 I made a short move two blocks over to the house we now live in on Harriet at Maddock.

After moving in we discovered how good a location was had chosen because of how central it is within Victoria.   I have access to five different bus routes that can take me most places I want to go in the core municipalities.   It is walking distance from both Mayfair and Tillicum.   The Galloping Goose is a short walk away.   The Gorge is right here and accessible.  The roads to the ferry or up island are nearby.    Everything was really right at hand.
Our current house

I can not image living in a different neighbourhood in this city, if I move it will be to leave Victoria and move somewhere dramatically different but I can not see that anytime soon if ever.
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