by smmmarti guide
November 6, 2002
This charming city is often referred to as being "more British than Britain." One explanation for this is that when early settlers arrived during the rough and ready days of exploration and gold rush fever, they were intent on retaining their elegant manners and lifestyle in spite of being surrounded by wilderness. So effective were they that while Britain swayed to the modern era and relaxed many of its social mores and standards, Victoria remained sheltered in an emulation of the times of the queen for whom she is named.
So it is most fitting that the grand Empress Hoteltakes a regal seat at the mouth of the harbor and sets the stage for the entire area.Horse drawn carriages and double-decked busses shepherd tourists and lovers through the picturesque downtown with its Victorian facades and pubs with names like Sticky Wicket and shops selling all manner of specialties from the British Isles.
Victoria is perhaps more beloved as the starting place for great wilderness adventure. Who can come to Vancouver Island and not take advantage of its place on the sea by exploring the islands of the San Juan and Gulf? Any number of charter boat services are available to visitors who wish to explore the natural beauty and wildlife, including the famous Southern residents, three pods of killer whales who make these waters their home.
For those more prone to ethereal adventures of the imagination, the Maritime Museum of British Columbia has some impressive exhibits of the early days of naval history including the journeys of Captain Cook and Joshua Slokum, who just may be the first person to have circumnavigated the globe, (and not in any particular direct route). The Royal BC Museum offers first-rate exhibits paying homage to the many facets that influence life in BC from the original First Nation residents to the great explorers and the British Royalty, while the Craigdarrock Castle allows visitors a glimpse into the grand life of the wealthy coal baron, Robert Dunsmuir, at the turn of the century.
But do not miss the most simple and genial of all pleasures here, a stroll along the harbor front where artists, buskers, and tourists compete for your attention in the golden glowing sunshine of Victoria.
From journal Short, Sweet Cruise of the Pacific Northwest