VICTORIA, BRITISH COLUMBIA

It was on our second day (Tuesday, 17 June 2008) in Vancouver that Nena and I joined a guided tour of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. The tour we signed up for actually included a visit to the beautiful Butchart Gardens as well. Nena and I had an early breakfast at the hotel's restaurant that morning since the tour bus was scheduled to pick us up at about 7:30 am. And if I remember right, it was already about 9:45 pm when we made it back to the hotel after our tour. Since we didn't have dinner as yet, we went for a walk downtown to look for a place to eat but the restaurants were already closed. Luckily, a fast food restaurant was still open where we had a foot-long tuna sandwich.

Just in case you would be interested to know, the charge per person for the whole day tour of Victoria cost $169.00 (Canadian dollars) and this already included the roundtrip ride on the B.C. Ferry, entrance fee to Butchart Gardens, and the tour bus ride. However, lunch was not included. For our tour of Grouse Mountain which included Capilano Suspension Bridge and the Capilano Fish Hatchery, we paid $117.00 each. These were the rates charged by West Coast Sightseeing and should you wish to join one of their tours when in Vancouver, they can be reached at (604) 451-1600 or you can just ask your hotel clerk to give them a call.

Victoria is the capital city of British Columbia. Located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island. It is a major tourism destination seeing more than 3.65 million visitors a year who inject more than one billion dollars into the local economy. Victoria is also a cruise ship port where cruise liners stop at Ogden Point terminal. Visitors from the Lower Mainland of British Columbia travel to Victoria by ferry from the BC Ferries' Tsawwassen terminal in Delta. Sailing time is 90 minutes for the 27-mile (44-km) distance across the Strait of Georgia to the Swartz Bay terminal, 20 miles (32 km) north of Victoria.

During our ride on the BC Ferry we didn't encounter any whales although I was told that on certain months of the year you do get to see some whales along the way to Vancouver Island. On the ferry we spent most of our time at the outer deck and I was really hoping to take pictures of the whales or dolphins. I guess the humpback whales were still somewhere in the Gulf of Alaska or the Bering Sea.

Victoria also serves as Greater Victoria's regional downtown, where many night clubs, theaters, restaurants and pubs are clustered, and where much larger regional public events occur. In particular, Canada Day fireworks displays and Symphony Splash concerts draw tens of thousands of Greater Victorians and visitors to the downtown core. In the heart of downtown are the British Columbia Legislative Buildings, The Empress Hotel, Victoria Police Department Station Museum, the gothic Christ Church Cathedral, and the Royal British Columbia Museum/IMAX National Geographic Theatre, with large exhibits on local Aboriginal peoples, natural history, and modern history, along with travelling international exhibits. We were dropped off at the Royal British Columbia Museum and from there it was just walking distance to the different landmarks and attractions in downtown Victoria. We spent a good three hours in the beautiful city of Victoria before heading back to the B.C. Ferry terminal for our trip back to Vancouver.

In addition, the heart of downtown also has the Emily Carr House, Royal London Wax Museum, Victoria Bug Zoo, Market Square and the Pacific Undersea Gardens, which showcases marine life of British Columbia. The oldest Chinatown in Canada is located within downtown. Nena and I walked all the way from Empress Hotel to Chinatown and back just to see how the place looks like and also take a few photographs.

Victoria has the mildest climate in Canada with gardens blooming year-round. The beauty of the Pacific coast and the adventure of the great outdoors are within the city limits and ocean and mountain vistas will follow you wherever you go. It is also a university town, having the University of Victoria, Royal Roads University and University Canada West within its limits. Shop windows are full of British imports, Native art and the latest trends. Restaurants and cafés serve the freshest cuisine. The harbor is alive when tall ships are moored alongside the wharf and evenings glitter as lights twinkle and cast their magic from atop the landmark British Columbia Legislative Buildings.

Victoria has a Metro population of 370,000 with a breathtaking inner harbor area. Here, seaplanes take off, ferries bring curious visitors, and boaters bring a wide range of new and heritage pleasure craft to see and be seen. This is a walking town, so bring comfortable shoes. You'll find yourself poking into tiny shops and world class art galleries and of course, don't miss Chinatown, the oldest and most exquisite in North America. Victoria is also home to the narrowest street in North America, Fan Tan Alley. An excellent transit system will take you to the suburbs with ease.

The city is a year-round tourism destination that offers a friendly, safe haven for all visitors. Getting here is very easy, and, once here, you will feel a million miles away. With a clean environment and charming ambience, it is no surprise that Victoria is one of the world's favorite destinations. Nena and I had a great time during our short visit to Victoria and we sure are looking forward to going back. Victoria is well known for its Heritage homes either as Bed and Breakfasts or rental homes and suites. Much of Victoria's downtown area has been restored to original facades. The streets are safe, clean and well lit at night. Victoria is not just for adults as many venues and accommodations welcome children and many are pet friendly. Victoria also has another reason to be proud: it was ranked at number 16 of 100 Top World Destinations in the 2008 TripAdvisor Traveller's Choice Awards.

The pictures I took should give you a good idea as to what we saw in Victoria. To view the photographs, just click on the link shown below:

The City of Victoria, British Columbia

Enjoy your cyberspace tour of Victoria.



junylaputt@yahoo.com