CNHI News Service

Features

February 12, 2013

Victoria, British Columbia’s bustling capital

—  

 

The first time I visited Victoria, British Columbia, more years ago than I’d like to admit, the ferry ride across the Juan de Fuca Strait from Post Angeles gave me one of my most memorable travel experiences ever.

There I was, a young man of 23 traveling with a friend in my TR 4-A with the top down at the end of June, headed to British Columbia’s capital city on Vancouver Island some 25 miles away.

To my rear, I could see the still snow-capped Olympic Mountains. At 9:45 in the early summer evening this far north, the sun was setting in a blaze of color to the west. To the east, a rainbow cut through the sky, and I took a breath of cool Pacific Northwest air and relished the cruise across the choppy waters of the strait.

My first look at Victoria left a second lasting impression. As the boat neared its dock, the stately Parliament building dominated the harbor, its outline lit by strings of golden lights that gave it and its massive dome a magical glow.

That same evening, I remember touring the elegant Empress Hotel, but left town the next morning for the world famous Butchart Gardens, some 14 miles north of the city, thinking it was a bit stiff and staid in its affection and nostalgia for the trappings of the old world.

I was very curious to revisit the town last August when Holland America’s ms. Oosterdam pulled into port, a harbor where two other cruise ships were already docked. As I waited patiently to board the bus that would take us into town, I had no idea how things had radically changed.

Deboarding our transport on a street adjacent to the majestic Empress Hotel, the city’s Inner Harbour was thronged with people enjoying the outdoors on a perfect summer evening. Street entertainers and musicians added to the hustle and bustle, and I popped inside the old Edwardian-style hotel built by the Canadian Pacific Railroad in 1908 as a terminus for its steamship line for a quick look around.

Through the years, many notables from the world of film, business and government stayed at the hotel. Edward, the Prince of Wales, came in 1919, and danced away the night in the Crystal Ballroom. Twenty years later, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth took lunch in the regal establishment as guests of the provincial government.

The Bengal Lounge still looked as splendid and romantic as I remembered it, and I was pleased to see that the hotel, true to its British origins, still served traditional afternoon tea down to the scones with clotted cream and finger sandwiches.

But with the evening’s warm temperatures and spirited crowd traipsing around outside, I ventured into the night and headed off for a stroll. Drawn by the electric glow from the Parliament Building, I ambled along the waterfront, then past the statue of Queen Victoria on the expansive lawn, up to the very portico of the Neo-Baroque legislative building.

From this lofty vantage point, I headed into town and turned onto Government Street where the taverns and bars, jammed heel to toe with party people, mostly in their 20s, tried to converse above the din of live bands and the exuberance of the night.

Many of the pubs brew their own ales, and their musical offerings range from jazz and blues to rock, Celtic and more. Being an oenophile by inclination, I stopped in the Ledge Lounge for a glass of Pinot Noir, then made my way back to the bus pick up point for my ride back to the cruise ship.

Sadly, with only a few hours to explore this fun and exciting city, I’d missed several sites on my must-see list such as Canada’s oldest Chinatown, a second look at Butchart Gardens with its Saturday night fireworks and Craigdarroch Castle, an 1890s mansion built by coal baron, Robert Dunsmuir, where the best views of Victoria are available for those willing to climb the 87 steps to the Tower.

After two memorable visits to Victoria, I’m certainly looking forward to a third. I just hope the time in between is a lot shorter than the one between visits one and two.

For more information on Victoria, phone 800-663-3883 or visit website tourismvictoria.com.

For more information on the Holland America Line, phone 877-932-4259 or www.hollandamerica.com.

---

Dave Zuchowski is a travel writer for CNHI News Service. Contact him at owlscribe@yahoo.com.

 

 

 

1
Text Only
Features
  • Screen shot 2014-04-18 at 4.44.15 PM.png Paint, doodle and sketch: 3 apps for art lovers

    In the absence of a palette of watercolors and a sketchpad, these three apps can fill in as your art supplies of choice.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • portraitoflotte.jpg VIDEO: From infant to teen in four minutes

    Dutch filmmaker Frans Hofmeester’s time lapse video of his daughter, Lotte — created by filming her every week from her birth until she turned 14 — has become a viral sensation.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • treadmill-very-fast.jpg Tax deduction for a gym membership?

    April marks another tax season when millions of Americans will deduct expenses related to home ownership, children and education from their annual tax bill. These deductions exist because of their perceived value to society; they encourage behaviors that keep the wheels of the economy turning. So why shouldn't the tax code be revised to reward preventive health?

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen shot 2014-04-11 at 4.49.09 PM.png Train, entertain your pets with these 3 smartphone apps

    While they may not have thumbs to use the phone, pets can benefit from smartphone apps designed specifically for them.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 4.02.29 PM.png VIDEO: Nebraska prom mishap goes viral

    A group of 22 high school students from Pierce, Neb., all decked out in prom finery, took an unplanned dip in a four-foot-deep pond when the bridge they were posing on for pictures gave way. Photos from the incident have gone viral on social media.

    April 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 10.43.57 AM.png VIDEO: Amazing dance moves at NCAA title game

    Eye-catching action wasn't confined to the court at AT&T Stadium Monday night during the NCAA Championship game between UConn and Kentucky. This pair -- apparently a father and son -- delighted the crowd during a timeout with some synchronized dance moves.

    April 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen shot 2014-04-04 at 3.36.06 PM.png 3 apps to make your flight easier

    Whether you fly once a week for work or once a year for a vacation, you can bet that all areas of your trip are being monitored by smart phones. While it isn't hard to find an app with your flight info, some apps make the process of flying a lot simpler.

    April 4, 2014 1 Photo

  • watching-tv.jpg Cutting the cord on cable TV, and not missing it a bit

    Three years ago, Royse City Herald Banner reporter Chris McGathey and his family decided to ditch pay TV in favor of Netflix, Hulu Plus and other cheaper web-based services. It's a decision they haven't regretted.

    April 3, 2014 1 Photo

  • news_amazonfiretv.jpg Amazon introduces Fire TV to challenge Apple in living rooms

    Amazon.com Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos is stepping up efforts to win over customers in their living rooms with a $99 TV box for watching digitally delivered shows and movies, challenging Apple's TV device.

    April 2, 2014 1 Photo

  • how-i-met-your-mother.jpg Legendary? Breaking down the HIMYM finale on social media

    After nine years and more than 200 episodes, the landmark CBS sitcom "How I Met Your Mother" wrapped up Monday night with several twists in the story that left its fans sharply divided. Here is a sampling of viewer reaction.

    April 1, 2014 1 Photo

News
Sports

Opinion