Seeing the sights of Victoria

Victoria Travel Blog

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Victoria Inner Harbour by day

Thank God for rental cars ans GPS. It was nice to have the flexibility of moving around an island on your own, not to mention saving reams of printouts with directions and stuff. Anyways I reached the hostel around 1015am. The biggest problem I have in Victoria (which can be said of any big city I s'pose) is parking. There is a public pay-parking lot on Pandora Ave (where the hostel is located). I parked my car, dropped off my luggage in the basement storage of the hostel and headed off on foot to the city centre.

So far Canada, or at least Victoria has been a rather interesting experience. You drive on the right side of the road like in the US, the distances are all metric and the spelling is all British English.

Victoria Inner Harbour by night
And the fact that I'm on an island...you get that island feel on almost every road. It's been an interesting experience so far...

I had a map of the city centre with me, and the fact that most tourist attractions are situated right there. I started walking towards the centre, I was famished so I stopped by a coffee shop before heading towards the harbour. iAs I walked down the street, I noticed the Town Centre building, it was coloured yellow and as I was waiting to cross the road, a double decker Grayline bus passed me by. It instantly reminded of me of Auckland. The same coloured Victoria Ferry Building, and tourist buses around it...

Onto coffee, or should I say "tea": They actually sell samosas in coffee shops here, very British. I kept noticing so many other things that reminded me of New Zealand - fancy coloured buildings that hark back to the early 20th century, double decker buses, etc.

Fisgard Lighthouse
I was reading  somewhere about the history of Victoria. The initial sales pitch this island gave to the rest of the country was that this was the place most similar to England. Gradually, the locals actually started believing their own made-up sales pitch, and started English traditions of afternoon tea (jam, cream and scones) and other English dishes. Over time though, a lot of English traditions faded away as the island discovered its own strengths and charm by way of seafood, and whale watching and other 'seaside' hobbies. So as of today, Victoria is the only place where one can go whale watching in the morning, return at noon in time for high tea at the Empress Hotel, and spend the evening watching NBA games in many of the quaint English-looking pubs with a hearty helping of fish and chips.
Driving to Victoria - where there's mountains, there's got to be FUN
Nice diversity! 

Back to my trip - I walked down Johnson St. hoping to walk on the promenade across Johnson's Bridge. Frommer's said that this walk had the best views of the harbour. I walked past the Market Square on Johnson St. I didn't go into it but I bet antique hunters would love it. The whole street itself is a holiday street - name the colour and you've got the building coloured in it. It was quite interesting seeing it. Anyways, I walked across to the promenade and here it was - the inner harbour. The one mile stretch that defines the city. Compared to the book, it seemed so much more compact, so "together". The beauty about this harbour is that you've got the Victorian buildings, the sailboats and magnificent Olympic mountains in the background. It's very nice.

Nopes, I didn't land in London again!
And yet, all so tiny. I took some photos here.

The other thing I also noticed here were the Totem poles. Totems seem to be a landmark of British Columbia, I found this in a lot of other parts of the island as well. So with that said, I actually started walking towards the harbour with lots of photo stops in between.

The two overpowering sights here is the Fairmont Empress Hotel and the Parliament House. The Parliament House was build in the late 19th century for a cost of about 1mil C$. The three striking features here along with the British architecture of the building is - the tulips, the totem pole and a statue of Victoria.

Council building
That's Canada for you - just a melange of everything! The second landmark - the Empress Hotel is the one big landmark that almost all tourist books flaunt about this place. It is known for high tea much like the British cream tea, and unlike other resnts you can't just walk in. But they invite people in batches - 4 times a day at which time they seat everyone like a banquet and people can eat to their heart's delight for the high price. I wanted to do this but they were full that day, they had a slot open in the eevning but I wasn't willing to wait. So I settled for a more humble lunch at Bastion Square - think European street cafes and lots of action going on by street entertainers.

From here, I headed to the next stop - Craigdorrach Castle. This was build by BC's richest man Robert Dunsmuir who rose from a servant role to a rich coal baron.

Lovely view of the Fairmont Empress Hotel
Sadly the castle was too crowded so I didn't bother going in. This 4 storey house is supposed to be one of the Victorian splendours of the area. Although at first sight I must say I was a bit disappointed. Having been to the UK so many times, I was hoping for a typical castle - the bridge, the moat, the long well maintained lawns, sprawling towers and a big castle. This looked more like a stately home, and a bit too compact. Plus the fact that there is a proper neighbourhood around makes it somewhat odd...it doesn't look like a Castle, it looks more like a fancy home built in the middle of a "humble" urban sprawl.

The next stop was the legendary Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse. This, I liked! The lighthouse has guarded Victoria's harbour from the late 19th century, and the Hill is an artillery fort.

Houses of Parliament
A lot of the original stuff is still kept here including camoflouge positions, etc. The lighthouse isn't functional anymore and made more into a museum with some nice audio video displays with some scenes and voices. Very nice. I spent about 2 hours here...much longer than I had expected. I wasn't charged an entry fee (don't know why!), the weather was good, clear skies and all... this was a very nice experience.

It was getting close to 6pm now. I knew the sun would be out a bit longer so time to head to Victoria's PRIZE attraction, and the biggest gardens in North America...!

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Victoria Inner Harbour by day
Victoria Inner Harbour by day
Victoria Inner Harbour by night
Victoria Inner Harbour by night
Fisgard Lighthouse
Fisgard Lighthouse
Driving to Victoria - where there…
Driving to Victoria - where there…
Nopes, I didnt land in London aga…
Nopes, I didn't land in London ag…
Council building
Council building
Lovely view of the Fairmont Empres…
Lovely view of the Fairmont Empre…
Houses of Parliament
Houses of Parliament
Johnson Street
Johnson Street
The ubiquitous Union Jack
The ubiquitous Union Jack
Cest moi!
C'est moi!
View of the city centre with the O…
View of the city centre with the …
Another night shot - lovely!
Another night shot - lovely!
Euro style pavement cafes
Euro style pavement cafes
Front view of the Victorian style …
Front view of the Victorian style…
Fort Rodd
Fort Rodd
Fisgald Lighthouse
Fisgald Lighthouse
Totem poles here, there, everywhere
Totem poles here, there, everywhere
Victoria Hostels review
Cosmopolitan hostel in the heart of Victoria
I stayed in this hostel for 2 nights and it was value for money. It's located about 5 mins walk from the city centre (harbour and all the Victoria hig… read entire review
Victoria
photo by: hummingbird50