Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Victoria: A Canadian Jewel



I’ve been to Victoria, British Columbia exactly twice in my life with nearly 30 years distance between trips.  The first time was to visit the 1986 Worlds Fair in Vancouver, BC and Victoria was a side trip.  Sadly, we don’t have world’s fairs anymore, but we should.  It gives us a taste of what other places and cultures would be like should we have the opportunity to visit those places individually.  

The second visit to Victoria was recently and I have to say, this time was far superior to the first.  I actually stayed for a few days this time and discovered that the island I once thought small, is actually home to over 375,000 residents, and really quite large.

Victoria itself is surrounded on three sides by water.  At least that's what the locals told me. The climate is mild all year long and is the perfect place to bring your family, young and old.  People are friendly and the list of things to do is seemingly endless.  It also happens to be the capital of British Columbia, as evidenced by the large, old and beautiful government buildings and hotels near the harbor.

Government Building
     
The Empress Hotel

Upon arrival at the hotel, I was famished, so I asked for a local recommendation where I could get a snack and a glass of wine.  Chorizo & Co. was the answer.  The owner, Tomas Dosil, was very nice and even though it was between lunch and dinner, he fixed me a great nosh-type plate of dried prociutto, serrano ham, fig bread, manchego cheese, baguette (the best I've had since living in France) and two very nice spreads - one made from olives, but much smoother than tapenade, and the other made from quince. Both were quite good. He also served a nice Sauvignon Blanc to accompany the food.


Following the food, I opted for a latte and an almond tart for dessert that was exceptional.  It was neither too sweet or too bland.  A very nice accompaniment to my coffee.  They also have freshly made Churro that is served hot with a small cup of melted chocolate should you decide you want to dip.  As an FYI - all of their coffee drinks can be “spiced up” with a shot of brandy if you choose.

Fresh baked Churro with chocolate for dipping
I returned to Chorizo & Co. a few days later during lunch time and found that while it was busy, it wasn’t overly crowded which made for a nice return visit.  The crowd consisted of locals and tourists alike.

Victoria, in general, has a lot of tourists.  That said, it never seems crowded; any tours you take are never jam packed, and there are a surprising amount of things to do and see.  The people are friendly and happy to accommodate everyone and photo opportunities abound.

Butchart Gardens
I did the BC Museum, the Aboriginal Cultural Festival, Beacon Hill Park (really lovely), the Night Market, the Butterfly Gardens and the Butchart Gardens (both must-sees), and walked the city on foot ending up at Craigdarrock Castle.  I also did a bus tour that encompasses much of the island, including Chinatown, and allows visitors to see how really great it is to live here.


Afternoon Tea at the Empress Hotel
The architecture of the island is varied, from modern to Victorian, rich to middle class, but always thoroughly livable. While I stayed at the legendary Empress Hotel for a few days where afternoon tea is a must, I also stayed at the Quality Inn, and the staff was friendly and accommodating at both locations - all the way from the front desk staff to the housekeeping staff.  All seemed to enjoy living and working in Victoria.  It definitely doesn’t feel like you’re staying on an island.  

All in all, a very enjoyable trip.  Maybe next time it won’t take me thirty years to get back here and do it again!

Until next time…













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