victoria, british columbia

One week left in British Columbia and we’re spending it on Vancouver Island. Any way you look at it, one week is not nearly enough time to get it done. The best we can do, then, is tackle the southern half of the island – and even then, much of it will be impressions on the fly – and leave the northern half till another visit.

The afternoon ferry from Tsawwassen on the mainland takes about two hours to get to Swartz Bay on the island, and from Swartz Bay, a 20-minute drive to Victoria, on the southern tip of Vancouver Island. We’re going to be camping much of the time we’ll be on the island, but not the first few nights; while we’re in Victoria, we’ll be staying with fellow Van fan Rhonda Batchelor, who not only opens up her home to us but doubles as our guide to the city. Perfect timing for our arrival: It’s Labor Day on Monday, and Rhonda has the day off, and she’s able to take us to her old stomping grounds and show us some of her favorite haunts – in neighborhoods such as Oak Bay and Fairfield south of downtown. The real estate in these parts, including the University of Victoria, all leads to the water’s edge, with spectacular views of the bay and Strait of Juan de Fuca – sometimes looking east toward the British Columbia mainland and, in our case, a pier in Oak Bay …


… sometimes southeast toward Washington state, and as they say in these parts on glorious sunny days like this, “The mountain is out.” Floating above the clouds, Mt. Baker …

Trial Island

… and sometimes just taking in the essence of Victoria at Beacon Hill Park. If all you knew about Victoria is what you’d read in books and newspapers and magazine articles, you’d have a picture of a city built on English traditions – Jane Austen’s upper crust Darcy’s England, with ivy climbing stone walls, manicured spaces, tea at 4 in the afternoon, carriage rides in the park, and above all else, great attention to the flowers, lots and lots of flowers. Hasn’t everyone seen the pictures of tulips and daffodils that blanket Victoria in the spring? They love their flowers here. And they love their English traditions … the pictures tell the story.



And to remind us of what Victoria does best, a giant watering can …

… that doubles as a water fountain for the kids …

A day of soaking up the sights and it’s home for a glass of wine, some dinner and some Van on the stereo. A perfect day.

The next day begins the workweek for Rhonda, so while she is off working hard, I’m sure, Bridget and I fend for ourselves, taking the bus into town for a day of sightseeing in the city. Victoria is like a cape, jutting off the southern tip of Vancouver Island. Where we had been the day before is to the east and south of the city center. The downtown area is on the west side of the cape, in the crook of Inner Harbor, a peaceful, bucolic harbor that extends from Victoria Harbor to the west.

Enough geography. Here instead are some photos from about town, starting with the ever-present Empress Hotel that looks out on the harbor. This is the westernmost of the railroad hotels built in the late 1800s and the last of the hotels in Bridget’s and my incomplete Canadian Pacific hotel tour that began with the Frontenac in Quebec City. Each of the hotels is unadulterated opulence, and the Empress, hands down, is the crème de la crème.



A slice of downtown Victoria …




Even the street art seems polite. As the provincial capital, Victoria is a government city, and you know, if I were ever to work for the government, I’d be sure to ask for a transfer here. Very pretty … just like in the movies.

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