I spent some time – just a couple of days – traveling this week. I went from Vancouver to spend two days in Victoria on Vancouver Island.
Victoria is the capital of British Columbia and it’s a very small, very old-fashioned city. It’s managed to retain almost all of its Victorian buildings and celebrates them.
Victoria is also very much a tourist town. It has a wax museum, an undersea gardens, buskers and performers on the waterfront, millions (okay, not millions, but it feels like it) of tourist stores selling t-shirts and ice cream and souvenirs. It also boasts what feels like the largest concentration anywhere of china shops. Really. I’m not kidding. If I were flying home from Victoria, I’m not sure delicate china would be my first choice for a souvenir having seen the way baggage handlers throw luggage onto the plane. But people must buy it.
It also has a large number of Irish and English and Scottish pubs and bars with dozens of British beers on tap. Fish and chips is the staple food all across the city but you can also have bangers and mash or toad in the hole.
Victoria is a very English city. You can have afternoon tea at the Empress Hotel, scones are a staple at most coffee shops, English toffee and Scottish tartans and Irish linen are sold everywhere. It also has one of my favorite bookstores – Munro’s – which has been there forever and is a wonderful, wood-floored, warm and cozy bookstore. They have great buyers so there are books you’ll never find anywhere else.
Victoria is one of the places I go to when I need a vacation and can’t afford the time or the money for one. I take the ferry over first thing in the morning, spend the day there, and come home on the last ferry at night. Because it’s so different than Vancouver – I feel as if I’ve been away for days. It’s a perfect retreat.
But for me the best part of Victoria is the trip to get there. I absolutely love the ferry ride across the Georgia Strait through the Gulf Islands. It’s exquisitely beautiful – almost too perfect to be true. On a perfect day you might see bald eagles, sailboats, fishing boats and, if you’re extremely lucky, dolphins or orcas.