CNHI News Service


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

For more information on the Holland America Line, phone 877-932-4259 or


Dave Zuchowski is a travel writer for CNHI News Service. Contact him at




Text Only
  • cleaning supplies Don't judge mothers with messy homes

    I was building shelves in my garage when a neighbor girl, one of my 4-year-old daughter's friends, approached me and said, "I just saw in your house. It's pretty dirty. Norah's mommy needs to clean more."

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Darth Vader is polling higher than all potential 2016 presidential candidates

    On the other hand, with a net favorability of -8, Jar Jar is considerably more popular than the U.S. Congress, which currently enjoys a net favorability rating of -65.

    July 23, 2014

  • Sparring justices find little disagreement at the opera

    Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg revealed a different view of U.S. Supreme Court on Saturday when she described about her passion for opera, one she shares with Justice Antonin Scalia.

    July 21, 2014

  • 130408_NT_BEA_good kids We're raising a generation of timid kids

    A week ago, a woman was charged with leaving her child in the car while she went into a store. Her 11-year-old child. This week, a woman was arrested for allowing her 9-year-old daughter to go to the park alone. Which raises just one question: America, what the heck is wrong with you?

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • 25 hidden secrets in "Weird Al's" "Word Crimes" video

    Yankovic's 14th album was released this week, and it warms my heart containers that he's kept up his geeky brand of humor for so long. While he has written so many incredible songs, none have spoken to my love of proper grammar.
    Until "Word Crimes."

    July 16, 2014

  • ent_taylorswift.jpg There's less good music now — here's why

    Taylor Swift, the seven-time Grammy winner, is known for her articulate lyrics, so there was nothing surprising about her writing a long column for The Wall Street Journal about the future of the music industry. Yet there's reason to doubt the optimism of what she had to say.

    July 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • wheat1.jpg Backlash has begun against gluten-free dieters

    The swelling ranks of Americans adopting gluten-free diets have given rise to another hot trend: people calling the whole thing a bunch of baloney.

    July 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-01 at 4.21.43 PM.png A messaging app that doesn't use words at all

    About 10,000 people have signed up for usernames for a chat app that isn't even out yet: It's an instant messenger app that uses no words at all — not even "Yo" or "Hodor!" Instead, it employs only emoji icons.

    July 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • lawgrad.jpg Things looking up for law school grads

    This might sound weird, but here goes: Now might be a pretty good time to think about law school. For the sixth year running, the employment rate fell, as schools produced a record number of graduates for an industry without the room for them. There was, however, a nugget of good news buried in the data.

    June 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • breaking-up.jpg Thinking about breaking up? Flip a coin

    In their latest book, 'Think Like a Freak," Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner suggest that, contrary to what many people have told you in life, you should quit. That is, when things get tough, you shouldn't always tough them out and stick with it. Instead, you should quit and do so sooner rather than later.

    June 25, 2014 1 Photo