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Victoria, British Columbia, Canada


Victoria is Western Canada's oldest city. The City began in 1843 as a Hudson Bay Company trading post, named in honour of Queen Victoria.With the Fraser Valley gold rush in 1858, Victoria grew rapidly as the main port of entry to the Colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia. When the colonies combined, the City became the colonial capital and was established as the provincial capital when British Columbia joined the Canadian Confederation in 1871.
For most of the nineteenth century, Victoria remained the largest city in British Columbia and was the foremost in trade and commerce. However, with construction of the Transcontinental railway, Vancouver, as its terminus, emerged as the major west coast port and the largest city in British Columbia.
Today with an estimated regional population of 326,000, a moderate climate and scenic setting, Victoria has retained a very vital but comfortable quality of life. The City is proud of its British heritage, its fine homes and neighbourhoods, its historic and attractive downtown, the flowers and parks and, of course, the Inner Harbour with its vistas toward the famous Empress Hotel and the Parliament Buildings.
In a survey conducted by Conde Nast Traveller magazine, Victoria was judged to be one of the world's best cities, topping the list in the category of environment and ambience. In a cross-Canada survey, Victoria residents registered the greatest satisfaction with their city. This satisfaction and regard for the quality of life and environment is perhaps the most notable feature of Victoria today, and the challenge in its future.


The Trip

In January 2003, I had the chance to visit Victoria, BC for (if you can believe it) 1.5 days. Basically, a work assignment that landed me in Tacoma, WA allowed me only a few days off every few months. Thus, being thoroughly tired of the USA a quick jaunt to the beautiful western coast of Canada was in order. For those non-Canadians out there, the national joke is that everyone from Ontario (i.e. where we were born and raised) wants to move "out west" (i.e. Vancouver). I don't know where this came from, but I personally think it was the east coasters that just want all those Torontonians to leave them alone.

Unfortunately, having so little time to appreciate the area, I only could venture around the inner city and inner harbour area. The good news is that the weather was absolutely perfect and there will be a lot of pictures put up soon.



Transportation

There are a variety of ways to get to Victoria, particularly from Seattle. The Victoria Clipper is a ferry that goes between the two cities and links the downtowns. Unfortunately, the Clipper was not operating for a two week period in January, which coincided with my trip.

Another ferry service is one run by Washington State Ferries. In this case, the ferry goes from Anacortes, WA to Sidney, BC which means you need alternative transport. I considered this route because it would have been very scenic, but it would have required over 6 hours of travel time (each way) between Tacoma and Victoria. When you have only two days off, you really want to maximize vacation time. The biggest problem would have been getting to Anacortes, which is at least 2 hours north of Seattle. Plus, the ferry leaves at 7am. Throw in the Seattle traffic and you do the math.

Basing my decision on time meant that flying was going to be the best option. I could have flown from Sea-Tac to Victoria International, but the cost was too high and again, I would have been pretty far from downtown Victoria. Therefore, it was either going to be Heli-Jet or sea-plane. The Heli-jet lands very close to downtown Victoria and cost around $220 US (roundtrip). The sea-plane however, takes off from Lake Union (downtown Seattle) and lands in the Inner Harbour, in downtown Victoria and cost $170 US (roundtrip). I chose option 2, and the flight was awesome. I took a whole bunch of pictures and I really think that the cost was worth it. For comparison, a roundtrip passenger ticket on the Washington State Ferry would have cost $28 US. A ticket on the Clipper would have been around $70 US.

Here's the link to the local BC transit , which I never took since all I did was wander the streets for hours on end.


Accomodation

The biggest blunder I made was reserving my hotel in advance, before I left. January is a pretty dead time for the City, especially since all the whales and whale watching tourists are gone for the winter. The hotel I stayed at was the Hotel Douglas which was a decent place, but empty - along with the rest of the hotels in the area. I could have saved a bundle by showing up and negotiating a better price with any number of hotels in the area. The Hotel Douglas itself didn't look like much from the outside, but the inside was surprisingly clean. It was fairly old, but neat and tidy. I paid $60 CDN for a night and I'm sure I could have gotten it for less. Also, a bunch of tourist brochures had coupons for various downtown hotels. If you want to shell out some big bucks, you can take your pick of a number of hotels that ring the Inner Harbour. Two are the Fairmont Empress and the Delta.

For those interested, there is also an HI Hostel in downtown Victoria.


Suggestions

  • As previously stated, I basically wandered the streets for a day and a half. However, if my timing was better, whale watching would have definately been on the agenda. Many tour operators are set up on the inner harbour so you'd have no problems finding and booking one, if you had the luxury.
  • The Royal BC Museum was pretty darn cool, I have to admit. There is an excellent exhibit on the native peoples of the west coast, and also a really amusing history of the city itself. This is highly recommended, even if it is a learning experience.
  • Food-wise, the city has a variety of trendy, fancy restaurants, along with the required coffee shops, all owned by Seattle based companies, of course. Three restaurants I would recommend are Rebar (damn hippies), Old Vic Fish and Chips (rated #1 in the City), and Tapas Bar (where are the pretty people go).
  • One final thing that is highly recommended is to rent a bike and pedal your ass around the city and coast. It's fairly flat, picturesque, AND you can start at Mile 0 of the Trans Canada Highway.

  • Photos

    The flight from Seattle to Victoria was really cool. For those trying to decide which method to take, take a look at the flight pictures before you decide.

    Here is the photo album.
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