Thursday, February 18, 2010

James Bay

There is a truly fortuitous confluence of circumstances that make Victoria such a desirable place to live in, and one of those circumstances is that it is a small city. Not a big town, nor a commuter satellite community, but a small, self contained city. I've lived in big cities and small towns, I've lived in rural areas, and they each have there attractions. But to my way of thinking a small city is the most human of environments, and I don't know of any small city at all comparable to Victoria.
Since it's on an island, a very large island, it will never be a bedroom community co-opted and ultimately submerged by another city, and at the same time it will never be a big city. On the other hand, because of its strategic location guarding access to the two large cities of Seattle and Vancouver, it will always be a city... and an international city at that. And of course it's the capital of a province of 355,000 square miles.
One of the things that set apart a small city from a large town is amenities. A symphony orchestra, an opera company, a university, and it has history. Victoria's history is reflected in our villages. Fernwood Village, Cook Street Village, Oak Bay Village, and James Bay village. Villages in a lot of cities were destroyed by shopping malls, but Victoria's managed to hang on somehow.
James Bay is the one of our oldest as well as most diverse neighbourhoods and its borders are the most clearly defined. Beacon Hill Park is its eastern boundary and the water takes care of the rest. In the north are the hotels and the government buildings, as well as docks for U.S. bound ferries. Cruise liners and other ships too big for the Inner Harbour dock at Ogden Point, so for many visitors James Bay is the first part of Victoria they see. Unfortunately, many never manage get beyond the downtown tourist shops.
The rest of James Bay is like a small town on its own with schools, bars, houses-some of them on the water- and high rises, cafes, and bars. And right at the centre is James Bay Village. For people who live in James Bay it really isn't necessary to go anyplace else for their everyday needs.

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