I visited Victoria in mid October and was inspired by the fall scenery.
by ak1 on November 13, 2008
The Parliament Building in Victoria is quite fascinating to visit and best of all there are no entrance fees. The building is located right on the inner harbor and it’s near other major attractions. They offer free tours but the times vary depending on the season. The building was completed in 1897 and opened in February 1898 and today it is used for the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. The original budget for the building was $500,000 but it ended up costing $923,000. The Legislative Library was added later between 1913 and 1920 and then that put total construction costs at 2 million. Seventy years later, in 1972 the government allowed for repairs and restoration on the building and the cost was eighty million and it took ten years to complete. The 3,330 outside light bulbs that still illuminate the building today was considered one of the first large scale electric light displays in it’s time. On this visit to the Legislative Building we ended up doing a self guided tour but then caught the end of the guided tour at the Legislative Chamber. The architectural details inside this building are beautiful and interesting to see and read about. They have several intricate stained glass windows and the memorial rotunda is quite elaborate. If you get the chance I would recommend taking the guided tour because you’ll still have a chance to visit the building by yourself at the end of the tour. The only disappointing thing is that most of the building is blocked off to the public which is understandable but it’s still an amazing place to see.
I had one destination in mind that I just had to visit while I was in Victoria. I wasn’t quite sure how we were going to get there but I was bound and determined to visit the 50,000 square foot Hatley Castle that was used in the X-Men Movies and on Smallville. We arrived by city bus a few blocks from the Castle and walked the rest of the way; luckily it was a gorgeous sunny fall day. The Castle is located on the same grounds as Royal Roads University. The long road down to the castle is paved and has sidewalks. We passed by the University area and then gazed upon the massive gothic castle that overlooks the Esquimalt Lagoon; it was really quite a breathtaking view to behold. After looking around at the outside of the Castle we wandered into the museum to find out when the next tour would be and to pay our admission fee. We were fortunate enough to only have to wait a few minutes before the next tour. Finally getting to see the inside of the mansion was incredible. The hallways seemed to go on forever and the rooms downstairs were very impressive and elaborate. It was fun to look at the craftsmanship in the flooring and in the woodwork throughout this Castle; it was just such a beautiful place. Another fun thing for me was to see all of the fireplaces, almost every room had a fireplace and each one was different. This massive home was completed in 1908 for James Dunsmuir and his wife Laura. The castle itself is 200 feet long and 86 feet wide and rises 82 feet high. The Dunsmuir’s created beautiful gardens on their property and then had it named Hatley Park. The Husband and Wife lived at the castle till their dying day and then in 1940 three years after Laura’s death, it was bought and used for the Royal Naval Canadian College. In 1995 it switched hands again and this time to the Royal Woods University. Hatley Park is a very serene and beautiful place to visit. The park admission is included with the tour of the castle or it can be bought separately. There are three main gardens: the Italian Gardens, Japanese Gardens and the Woodland Gardens, each being a beautiful discovery along our stroll down towards the water. We were pleasantly surprised to see several peacocks and squirrels along the way. I would definitely recommend seeing the grounds even though it can be quite a walk. I have to say that our visit to Hatley Castle was the favorite part of my trip to Victoria. It may not have been the most elaborate castle that I saw on this trip but it was definitely the largest and the grounds were breathtaking. For a visitor’s attraction that was barely mentioned in any brochures that I ever saw, it was definitely worth seeing.
by ak1 on November 11, 2007
Luckily when we went to Victoria the Titanic exhibit was in town and several of the nice hotels had great deals on their rooms. I picked the Hotel Grand Pacific because it was close the Victoria Clipper dock and it also appeared to be a nice hotel. To our amazement when we arrived we were given a suite. Our room price was already incredible but to have a suite was definitely a wonderful start to our trip.The suite that we had was nice but it was pretty plain. The linens weren't anything spectacular and the bathroom was tiled but it was just an almond color. The suite had a living room, bedroom, a decent sized bathroom and a small balcony. It looked like the room had been recently updated and everything appeared very clean. The room had its own coffee maker and they even had tea bags which made me happy. As far as restaurants there's not much to choose from inside this hotel. I think there were two dinner restaurants, The Mark and The Pacific which serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Pacific also has a separate bar area. Then there is a coffee bar downstairs in case you aren't craving much or just need a mocha.We were so glad that we picked this hotel. The service was great and the hotel lobby was beautiful. We were also fortunate that it was located near most of the attractions that we wanted to see. This made for a great trip where we could enjoy our time and relax.
While walking around town we noticed a large restaurant that served steaks. Then what really caught our attention was that this use to be the building that the cheesecake factory restaurant was in. On our way back through town we decided we had to eat there. Walking into the restaurant you walk up a few steps to their lobby area. Right after the lobby was their bar area and I will have to say it was quite an elegant bar. We ate in the dining room which was also very elegant. The walls were covered with ceramic tile, glass tiles and in areas the walls were painted with deep rich colors. The wall separating the bar from the dining room had beautiful stained glass windows. Everything in this restaurant was very upscale. I do have one complaint though; I think the carpets needed to be cleaned because something had an old sour smell to it. Luckily it wasn't overpowering where we were sitting but it was still noticeable.For dinner, both my fiancé and I ordered the prime rib. Our dinners came with a choice of soup or salad. I picked the clam chowder and my fiancé had one of their garden salads with their house vinaigrette on it, both were excellent. Our prime rib on the other hand was just ok. It didn't appear that it had any special seasonings on it, the flavor just wasn't what it should have been and it wasn't as tender as it could have been. The vegetables that were served with the entrees were delicious and the assortment included squash which I don't often see in a vegetable medley.Overall we had a nice time and really enjoyed the atmosphere and the service we received at the restaurant. Most of our food was great but were a little disappointed with the quality on the meat. I will probably go back the next time I'm in town but I'll just have to remember to try something different.
We walked from downtown because one of the tourist signs said 8 blocks. We figured it couldn't be too terrible of a walk but I think the walk was definitely more than 8 blocks and the streets getting there had a bit of an incline which made it perfectly fine for walking back from the castle. When we finally arrived at the castle out of breath, I realized the walk there was worth it. The outside of the castle was tall and slender with several stained glass windows visible from outside. When we entered the castle we paid our admission in the front lobby which was a circular room. Then when we stepped inside of the main lobby and had a chance to look straight up and realized that there were four floors to visit in this majestic mansion.The first floor was awesome; everything was very detailed and amazing. The living room ceiling which had been recently restored to have its original artwork was just incredible. The ceiling had layers of paint scraped off to find the original art masterpiece that had been painted in the home. The rest of the floors were fun to look at but they weren't anything like the first floor. Allot of the details had gone by the way side and not as much of it had been restored but it was all still very fascinating. This was the second castle that we visited on our trip and by far the more elaborate one. This mansion has been used in films such as Little Women and Cats and Dogs. The mansion is over 20,000 square feet and features 32 stained glass windows. The original owners were Robert and Joan Dunsmuir and they were wealthy coal barons and had the mansion built for them in the 1890's. Robert died before the completion of the mansion and never lived there. Over the years the mansion has been a military hospital, a college and a school board office. Finally in 1979 they opted to turn this once castle into a museum and then it had to undergo an extensive restoration process. It was finally given over to the Craigdarroch Castle Historical Museum Society in 1995. Besides being an interesting piece of history this mansion is also an amazing home filled with wonders of architecture. The intricate details in the woodworking alone are worth seeing. The tower at Craigdarroch Castle looks out over the city and is truly one of the neatest views. The splendor and charm of this old home will leave you truly amazed.
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