Vancouver Island Stories and Tips

Victoria the Queen

Victoria, downtown Photo, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Victoria is very attractive. A large town (or a city, really, with a population of 80 thousand in the city itself and over 300 thousand in the metro area) it has a strong European feel and is the first place since Quebec City that I felt I could live in.

The town is centered on the Inner Harbour, flanked by the ornate legislature building (very reminiscent of the one in Winnipeg) and the Empress Hotel (similar to other grand railway hotels we have seen in Canada, but only matched by the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec).

Seaplanes take off and land frequently (there is a regular service to Vancouver, as well as many sightseeing trips) from the terminal in the Harbour and little oval Harbour Ferries play the busy waters taking tourists round.

A couple of minutes' walk from the Empress is the Royal British Columbia museum, apparently the best in Canada and one of the best in North America. We (shamefully) give it a miss, on the principle that we have probably (more or less) seen all the museum material Canada has to offer (apart from the Royal Tyrrell one).

A. takes the children to see one of the "dreadful attractions" of Victoria (as per Rough Guide), the Miniature World. I skip, but they seem to love it!

The downtown Victoria is very pleasant indeed, with wide pavements, long stretches of pedestrianised streets, old buildings (old being a relative term here: we are in Western Canada and NOTHING is really old here, Victoria was founded in 1843 as a Hudson Bay Company trading post, but of this time only a single mooring ring remains) and tree lined residential streets. There are coffee and tea shops, chocolate and cake shops and numerous ethnic (this includes mock-British) restaurants.

We have a good fortune to stay in what's called the Cook Street Village, a lovely neighborhood of leafy streets, old houses with deep porches and eco-conscious inhabitants filling locally-run cafes.

Nearby is the large and lovely Beacon Hill Park, with large old trees, nice playground, petting zoo and a lookout affording lovely views to the snow capped Olympus Mountains in Washington state.

After two nights in the friendly house of our hosts we take a bus north along the east coast to Nanaimo. Our next host is to pick us up there and take us to her place near Parksville.

It's raining (as it should be, apart from the southern end/Victoria, the Island is a very wet place) but we can still see the views, inlets, rivers, gorges and more trees than one can shake a chainsaw at (but boy, they keep trying).

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