Travel Diaries – Victoria, British Columbia

 This year we had our first big holiday together, as we chose Canada and America and we had three main stops, I thought I’d break it down into smaller posts. So last year we decided to book Viva Las Vegas, as we were travelling quite far we decided to make a proper adventure of it and explore Canada as well. We’d been talking about visiting Canada for a while so it made sense if were going to be travelling to America as well. We had decided on Vancouver and our first stop was Victoria the capital of British Columbia on Vancouver Island.

Day 1 -If we had been a little more organised, we would have landed in Victoria instead of Vancouver but we had already booked the flights and at the last minute we decided to go to Victoria first when booking our hotels, as we didn’t want to be rushing to the airport to catch our flight to Vegas.

After many hours travelling which included a train, a plane, a coach, a ferry and a taxi cab we finally made it to our hotel,  I think we spent in excess of 24 hours travelling. We landed in Vancouver and  decided to catch the coach to Vancouver island but because of the timing it dropped us off that the ferry, we later found out that we could have caught the sky train to the bus terminus, caught a bus, then the ferry and then another bus and saved ourselves about half the money but we know for next time. The ferry trip is about an hour and half and travels through the majestic islands of the Juan De Fuca Straight, which we didn’t get to see because it was night and pitch black apart from the occasional flashing buoy but there are lots of on board services, hot meals, shops, view decks and free wifi. When we landed at Swartz bay we couldn’t be bothered to get a bus and managed to grab the last cab by sharing with another passenger that was only going a couple of blocks, Canadians are really friendly like that. When we finally reached the hotel in Victoria and checked in, we basically just crashed out!

Day 2 – After fuelling up on Breakfast poutine with sausage gravy at the hotel restaurant, it was a bit wet so we headed over to the Royal BC Museum and had a wander round the gardens and learnt about First Native culture.

After lunch we headed over the the Butterfly Gardens as we got a discount voucher with our entrance ticket to the museum and we also ended up getting a free bus ride because we missed our connecting bus due to a delay so we got a free transfer.

The butterfly garden is quite small but you can watch butterflies emerging from their cocoons, they also have flamingos, tortoises and a some parrots.

Day 3 – We went back to the harbour and took a boat tour round the gorge, we went by sea taxi which offers a hop on, hop off service at several points round the gorge. We were given quite a detailed history of Victoria and the gorge and it’s development over the years, worth the $25 and we pretty much had the boat to ourselves as it was the beginning of the season and they had a pick up half way round.

You can also go whale watching from the harbour and they let you know if whales have been sighted in the area that day before you book your trip.

And catch a sea plane, Victoria Harbour is active landing strip and has been known to be shut down due to whales on the runway!

Afterwards we headed down to China Town and had lunch a the Venus Sophia Tea Room which was so lovely we ended going back again. They have an amazing selection of teas, my favourite was the Misty Mountain a blend of mint, camomile, rosebud and honeybush, the green tea shortbread is also worthy of a try.

 

On the walk back I managed to find some vintage and thrift stores (no matter where I am in the world I just seem to find these places), we then headed to the Bug Museum which is really more kids but has an impressive ant far. Whilst wandering round looking for somewhere to eat for dinner we found a sewing cafe run by a woman who used to live in Bath! And yes I did buy some material.

Day 4 – We walked up to Craigdarroch Castle, which is really more of a big fancy mansion house that a castle but none the less impressive. Each room is set up as a still life and the view from the top isn’t bad either. there is much grounds or gardens to walk around as they had been sold off.

We also visited Government House to look at the gardens which weren’t quite in bloom yet as it’s was still early spring but there is a good look out point where you can get a view of the mountains and the fir trees are pretty amazing, they make Canada smell so good.

We then walked back down to Chinatown for lunch at Venus Sophia again and then took a walk round the harbour from Dallas Street and ended up at Fisherman’s Wharf to see the harbour seals.

 

The wharf has quite a few places to eat and stuff to do but by the time we had got down there things were closing up for the day. If you go during the day you can feed the seals, they hang around blowing air bubbles and entertaining people even after the feeding times are over. You can also spot the occasional sea lion and there was an abundance of brightly coloured star fish and fish to spot as well. A gentle stroll round the harbour to fisherman’s wharf took about 30-40 minutes, longer because we kept stopping to take photos but it a nice walk.

How cute are these floating homes?

On the way back I discovered Maple Macchiatos at Starbucks, my waistline will never forgive me.

Day 5 – We made our way back to Van City. We took the bus to Swartz Bay and then the ferry. This was way cheaper than what we paid on the way in and our lesson has been learnt for next time.  The ferry costs about £16 for foot passengers and as it was daytime, we got to see the beautiful view as we sailed through the straight to the mainland.

Victoria is perfect for a relaxing holiday, it’s laid back and the folks are very friendly and welcoming, it pretty and clean and as we arrived in spring all the Japanese maple, cherry blossom and magnolia were in full bloom and of course. Spring is quite warm and Victoria is one of the mildest parts of Canada due to is sub-mediterranean climate, though the mountains were still snow capped when we arrived which was quite pretty. The bus system is pretty good with a flat rate of about $2.50 but if you stay near the harbour and like walking then most places are accessible by foot.

Food wise, you can get poutine (now one of my favourite dishes ever) pretty much most places and of course you’ll leave with a maple syrup addiction! There are lots of places to eat but I found it difficult to find gluten free places and for my soya milk fix I did manage to find a small supermarket that sold it and we had a fridge in our room which made morning tea possible, though Starbucks do soya milk as an option. Of course there is a great vegan restaurant as already mentioned. I think if we had spent more time there we would have hunted out a bigger supermarket. However the ferry service does do gluten free and veggie food and the coffee booth in the berth does soya lattes with a huge choice of flavoured syrups.

We stayed at the Quality Inn Downtown Inner Harbour, it was a nice hotel with a swimming pool (which we didn’t visit), laundry room and our room came with a fridge. There is a restaurant called the Argyle Attic annexed to it that does lovely breakfasts and have a mighty fine selection of whiskeys which I can highly recommend (but probably not with breakfast).

I would definitely love to come back here and explore more of the island,in fact I’m coming back here to explore more of the island.

In part two of our Canada trip, we head back to Van City.

Natasha x

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