Victoria isn’t just the capital of British Columbia, Canada. It’s home to some of the most stunning flora and fauna in the world. Also called the “City of Gardens” Victoria is located in northern North America. In spite of its northern location, the residents enjoy a temperate climate with winter temperatures ranging from the average daily high and low temperatures of 8 and 4°C (46.4 and 39.2°F), respectively. The summer months are also relatively mild, with an average high temperature of 20°C (68°F) and low of 11°C (51.8°F). It’s the second sunniest city in British Columbia and drier than most areas in the region due to the rain shadow effect of the nearby Olympic Mountains.
Victoria and the surrounding area are known for its large retiree population. Some 6.4% are over 80 years of age, the highest proportion for any of Canada’s metropolitan areas. The city also boasts the country’s third-highest concentration of people 65 and older (17.8%). Retirees are drawn to Victoria’s mild climate, beautiful scenery, year-round golf season and easy-going pace of life. It’s been said of the city that it’s for “the newly wed and nearly dead” according to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victoria,_British_Columbia.
On the ferry trip to the island, I missed seeing my first whale in the wild while talking to a fellow traveler that I spent time with on my Australia and New Zealand tour. Even though we live on opposite sides of the U.S. we were lucky to reconnect on our travels and talk about traveling together again. Since I didn’t see the whale I booked a whale watching and Butchard Garden tour with The Prince of Whales before my son, daughter-in-law and I took off for a walking tour of the local sites. The majestic British Columbia Parliament Buildings which face the harbor are home to the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. First Nations, British and Asian cultural histories make modern Victoria a vibrant and diverse cosmopolitan city. Museums, heritage and historic buildings, statues and sites showcase the people and art of the past while stores, such as the Hudson’s Bay Company and the shops in the oldest China Town in Canada and second oldest in North America, offer endless shopping opportunities.
When shopping and dining out, the Canadian exchange rate of 80% made all of our purchases even more attractive. I always make sure I have a credit and an ATM card with me that don’t charge a service fee for foreign purchases and exchanges.
Food from all over the world can be found downtown and we happily waited in lines to dine at some superb moderately priced restaurants. Friday is pizza night for my kids so we headed to Pizzeria Prima Strada which served Neapolitan wood-fired pizza on Fort Street (https://pizzeriaprimastrada.com/). I ordered the Four Season which featured tomatoes, homemade sausage, peppers, anchovies, olives, mushrooms, onions, fresh mozzarella and basil fashioned into 4 separate sections for 19 CAD and glass of wine. It was fantastic and I had leftovers for breakfast so I reluctantly skipped the gelato.
The Jam Café on Herald Street offers all day breakfast and lunch. It had many intriguing dishes. I chose The Charlie Bowl – their version of a hash with a crumbled biscuit, hash browns, diced ham, bacon, corn salsa, peas, green onions, cheddar and sausage gravy topped with two sunny side eggs for $14.50 CAD. It was a large serving and there was no way I could finish it even though it was delicious. http://jamcafes.com/victoria/menu/. Saturday night saw us lined up in front of Pagliaccis on Broad Street. (http://www.pagliaccis.ca/). My order, the small portion for of The Sophia ($18 CAD) named for Sophia Loren, had the quote, “Everything you see I owe to spaghetti.” on the menu. It had a sauce of Canadian Dungeness & Rock crab, baby shrimp, pine nuts, white wine cream sauce and smoked salmon on fettuccine. I added a great white wine and a bite of New York Cheese cake. This time I cleaned the plate. We ended our culinary expedition at The Fish Store at Fishman’s Wharf. On a quest for the best salmon, I tried the fry bar deep fried sockeye salmon with twice fried chips and slaw. The 1 piece basket cost $13 CAD. I’d never had salmon, my favorite fish, deep fried. It was tasty, but I prefer my salmon without the breading. I also enjoyed strolling around the wharf and looking at the colorful house boats. See https://floatingfishstore.com/.
It’s not too surprising that in the past people believed in sea monsters. When an enormous whale fin or fluke breaks the water, it’s a sight to behold. When the creature jumps out of the water or breaches, you experience an adrenalin rush. A Humpback Whale gave us our money’s worth on our Prince of Whales Tour by breaching 5 times right in front of our boat. He put on a show while we clicked away with our cameras and smart phones. The show lasted almost an hour before we continued on to Butchard Gardens. On our 3 hour tour, we saw a bald eagle, baby and mother seals, and a variety of sea birds. I was disappointed that I didn’t see an Orca. The crew explained that they see fewer and fewer since they’re trapped for entertainment purposes. The crew was trained mariners and naturalists who provided a running commentary and answered our many questions. I’d recommend this tour to anyone who wants a scenic and breathtaking experience.
When we disembarked at Butchart Gardens we skipped the line thanks to our VIP pass. Over a century ago Jennie Butchart, wife of Portland Cement manufacturer Robert Pim Butchart, began building what’s now one of the world’s premier floral show gardens. In 1977 their great-grandson, Christopher, introduced fireworks shows featuring aerial and French ground displays accompanied by show tunes on Saturday evenings during the summer. There’s a Sunken Garden, Japanese Garden, Rose Garden, Mediterranean Garden, Italian Garden, and Concert Lawn Walk all of which are well kept and change with the seasons. They advertise 5 seasons with Christmas as their 5th with its Twelve Days of Christmas lighted displays.
So any time of the year Victoria will offer you comfortable weather with beautiful scenery, wildlife and activities. You can get there by ferry and bring your car, whale watching tours or the V2V luxury cruise. If you want to fly, you can land at the Victoria International Airport or the Victoria Inner Harbour Airport which is for floatplanes and seaplanes from small airlines with less than 15 passengers and general aviation aircraft. Helijets also fly from the Vancouver waterfront to Victoria’s When you add the sightseeing planes to the landings in the harbor there always seems to be an aircraft landing and taking off on the waterfront. http://blog.hellobc.com/four-ways-to-get-from-vancouver-to-victoria/
This is just a snapshot of all that you can do in Victoria. Needless to say, I would recommend it as a vacation destination or a side trip if you’re in Seattle or Vancouver. Not too surprising, summer is a busy time. If you’re driving from Seattle to the ferry in Port Angeles, WA, a GPS for rerouting and a patient driver are invaluable. Between my son, the navigator, and my daughter-in-law, the driver, we had a pleasurable drive and enjoyed several podcasts.
Another thing I like when I travel with others is when my travel partner doesn’t feel that we have to always do the same things. While I went on the whale and garden tour, they went to the Vegetoria, a festival for healthy eating, and rented bikes to tour Government House and the local area. Just because you’re traveling together doesn’t mean you can’t all see what interests you the most and join up for meals and things you all enjoy.
Next month I’m joining my sister for a trip to Miami and a cruise to Cuba. After I drop her off at the airport, I’ll visit the Florida Keys on my own. I’ll let you know how the rum drinks taste and maybe work on my Spanish in preparation for my trip to Spain. I’m sure it’ll be a fantástica aventuras.
Continue the adventure!