Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Chinese Cemetery

One of the things I like about Victoria is that it has such a variety of obscure and highly distinct neighbourhoods tucked away where the casual visitor would never think to look. Not far east from Clover Point along the south shore, on a peninsula that separates Gonzales and McNeill bays, is one of those neighbourhoods. I don't know if it has a name, but it has a couple of distinguishing features. Best known is the Chinese cemetery, used in the early days of Victoria. It was somewhat derelict for years but is now well looked after. It's on a beautiful spot overlooking the Strait. You can see Clover Point from here, and when the air is clear, the Olympic Mountains and Port Angeles across the way.
An odd fact about the geology of the neighbourhood is that it joined Vancouver Island after drifting from some distant location in the south seas. There is a certain crease in the rock where these two terranes join so you can stand with one foot on one side and the other on the other side. Some people get a mild thrill out of such things. This might explain why this chunk of rock is relatively flat while Gonzales hill rises behind it, studded with the type of tony residences preferred by wealthy people who want everybody to know they are wealthy- and who never have to walk up the steep streets that lead to them. The views are spectacular from up there. By contrast, the homes in the little neighbourhood by the Chinese cemetery tend to be modest, many of them with a decidedly hand-built look to them. However, the prices of even modest houses are so high now that every neighbourhood is expensive, and it is obvious that the lower gentry are taking over. But somehow the newer houses have neither that homey handbuilt look nor the high craftsmanship of the older mansions on the hill.
A good overview of the area can be had from a scenic turnout at the top of King George Crescent. To get there from Clover Point along the south shore you go east along Dallas Road until it turns into Hollywood Crescent, follow Hollywood Crescent until it becomes Crescent Road. At the foot of Foul Bay Road, Crescent Road turns off to the right into the subject of this post. Ah, the wonderful illogicality of Victoria street names. To get to the Gonzales Hill turnout keep on the main road which is now called King George Terrace. To get the kind of commanding view that the wealthy get from their living room windows, take any one of the dead end lanes going up the hill from King George Terrace.

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