Sunday, July 15, 2012

What Smells Like Summer?

What smell reminds you of summer? For many, the smell of popcorn and greasy food at summer festivals and hotdogs and onions at baseball parks signifies that summer is in full swing – Coppertone aside.

When I’m at home, freshly cut grass, good old fashioned briquette barbeques and, of course, the constant smell of fabric softener from my clothes dryer means summer has arrived. Yes, the clothes dryer. The endless loads of towels, shorts and bathing suits needed laundering is never-ending. Yes, line-drying is where it’s at in today’s environmentally conscious world, but the sun doesn’t shine in the middle of the night, and clothes are always needed the next day.

But for many folks who spend a better part of their day toiling away at their cherished places of employment, summer-smell association means something different.

I spend most of my days in downtown Victoria, BC where I work. The historic city a magnet for tourists alighting from cruise ships, ferry’s, and planes. As I impatiently dodge tourists strolling along the sidewalks taking in the sights, I am often overcome by sunscreen and expensive perfume trailing in their wake. Foreign languages mingle with just as foreign cigarettes and cigars, and the hot dog vendors vie for their currency – Canadian or US preferred. But not to worry – there’s a currency exchange booth on every block.

But it’s not the tourists’ sunscreen, their foreign cigarettes or hot dogs cooking on the vendors’ grill that remind me of summer.

Historic Government Street flanked by cobblestone sidewalks cuts through the downtown core, Belleville Street separates the Legislative Building from the inner harbour, and Wharf Street takes you to the seaplanes where their airplane-fuel exhaust competes with the smell of the ocean – and all three streets bear something representative of summer.

But it’s what adorns these main streets is what reminds me of summer every year. If I’m lucky I might see the occasional one in the winter, but the warm weather brings everyone out of their stalls. The hot cement is a frying pan which permeates the smell, and every year I savour the scent. Despite living on Vancouver Island for over thirteen years, and seeing them all the time, I never tire of the sights, sounds and smell of this one attraction.

The horses, their carriages, and what they leave ‘behind.’

Yes, I’m talking about manure.

A picture is not necessary – you know what I mean. But I do have countless pictures of the horses I have saved over the years. In the winter, weather permitting, they make the occasional trek from their warm barns to provide Christmas carriage rides of ambiance, sporting tiny Santa hats tucked over one ear. In the summer they need neither hats nor sunscreen, but buckets of water to drink and a hose to cool them down.

Sure, some of the carriages are rigged with a ‘catch all’ contraption behind the horses, but sometimes things…fall through the cracks. And heck, what difference does it make? With the seagulls dive-bombing overhead, I scurry to avoid their ‘bombs.’ I don’t exactly see a ‘catch all’ contraption behind them.

Summer’s heat heightens all smells, and as soon as I emerge from the bus and make my way through the streets, even though the horses I love are all tucked away in their stalls trying to catch some shut-eye before heading into town for work, the smell of their ‘you know what’ still lingers from the day before. It gives me a thrill knowing that later that day I will hear their clop, clop, clop of their giant hooves down the streets. What with the draft horses’ hooves bigger than a dinner plate, you can hear them coming from blocks away.

In the middle of the day when I don my sunglasses and hustle through the tourist laden streets, I know the horses have already made their way down the hot streets – without even have had hearing them. As I occasionally jaywalk - um, I mean cross the street at the appointed, marked, designated area - I happily skip over the droppings flattened by cars. I know the next horse will be by soon to grace the street with fresh…

I love summer.

To capture the sights, sounds, and smells of summer, next time you visit downtown Victoria, BC, be sure to take a carriage ride...

Tally Ho Tours

Victoria Carriage

Black Beauty Carriage

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