Wednesday, September 20, 2006

On the Cook Street Village

When Carley and I were searching for an apartment in Victoria, we knew little about the city and its neighbourhoods. We wanted a place that was furnished, affordable, and available. Anything else would be a bonus. We got a lot of bonuses.

Our apartment sat at the corner of Vancouver and Humboldt. The building was a two-storey pink character place that a friend said reminded her of a French villa. The apartment itself was larger than we expected, and despite the very studenty furnishings, we fell in love with it.

We also fell in love with the neighbourhood. Whenever I told people that I lived near the Cook Street Village, I got the same response: “That’s a really cool area, hey?” (Many British Columbians say “Hey?” instead of “Eh?”.) I always nodded and smiled in agreement.

Very few tourists come to the Village, a major plus in a city overrun with loud Americans and snotty Brits looking for the cheapest whale watching deal. Elderly locals do come to the Village, but they don’t travel in packs like the elderly tourists, and will often smile or say hello as you pass them by.

The Village has two landmarks, and this being Victoria, both of them are coffee shops. Past the old folks home, the Mac’s convenience store, and the Pic-a-Flic video store, on the West side of the street, sits Starbucks. Directly across from this particularly charming version of the corporate coffee chain sits Moka House. The coffee is better at Starbucks, the people are better at Moka House, but both joints are usually packed from early morning until late at night (late at night here being 11 p.m.).

The Pic-A-Flic video rental store is also always packed, though the flow of customers is more fluid. Pic-A-Flic has a huge stock of DVDs and videos, from classic Westerns to the latest HBO series' to German art films, and charges $2 for most rentals. Carley and I ended up watching a lot of TV-on-DVD this summer because of this place - Freaks and Geeks (tragically short-lived), Undeclared (thankfully short-lived), Deadwood (deeper and more entertaining than most of the films and novels being released today), and Six Feet Under (a second viewing of the series helped me better appreciate the later seasons despite their glaring flaws). We also rented a lot of movies, though none of them stick out right now, except Dig!, a remarkable music documentary about The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Dandy Warhols.

Down the street, past the coffee shops, a drugstore, a health food store, a wonderful bakery, a lame pub, and some other little shops, two grocery stores sit directly across the street from each other. We still do most of our shopping at the one on the West side of the street, which looks cleaner and has better produce. (Our new place is on Cook Street, just north of the Village.)

At some point this summer, we found a little shop tucked just behind Starbucks, off Cook Street, called Il Posto. It sells Italian foods. The couple who own the shop is half Italian (the husband) and half Portuguese (the wife). During the World Cup, the wife covered the store in Portuguese flags and signs, and one of the local news stations did a story on “the battle” between husband and wife (the local news stations here being crappy). This woman has amazing energy – she’s always chatting with the pace of an F1 racing car as she rings in customer purchases. She knows Carley and I now, and always has something to recommend whenever we're there.

This old-fashioned community quality makes up for what the Village lacks in urban edge. So when people say “That’s a really cool area, hey?” they’re not exactly spot on. The Village isn’t that cool. There are too many old people and too few places to drink. It’s just very nice. It’s also a five-minute walk from an ocean view that overlooks the mountains of Washington state and in the capital of British Columbia, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Except for maybe Beacon Hill Park. Which is also five minutes away.


Blogger snoop said...

loved this description, could see it in my head and it was like i was there. i should do something like that for ottawa. tho i don't know the city much at all. i plan to at the end of all this, though. i don't get holidays and probably won't have christmas off. but if u come home in december-ish, you are welcome to come visit me with matt. i have two air mattresses for guests.

6:38 PM  
Blogger Krista said...

Some unfortunate events leave me alone to fend for myself in Victoria. :) I am living in James Bay right now and would like to stay here or move over to cook street village. I can only pay about $600 in rent. Do you know of anything over that way?
If you do I would really appreciate it if you could let me know.


12:25 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

I'm a villager, as well.


Do you know what they are building across fromthe Royal Bank, where Cook Street Fish and Chips used to be?

10:48 PM  

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