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Follow the Brits to Victoria

by Dee Walmsley

beautiful Victoria

Some say…“ there are more "Brits" in Victoria than in the United Kingdom , or at least people wanting to be "Brits.”

Welcome aboard BC ferries on our journey to Vancouver Island . Please feel free to walk the decks, camera ready, while we weave our way throughout the islands to Swartz Bay . The scenery is magnificent. Be camera ready to capture on film, bald eagles, seabirds, and the occasional pod of killer whales en route to your destination.  

OKAY, now we have heard from the tourist bureau, and it is all true. Victoria is charming, beautiful and a wonderful place to live. Read on for a local’s view of Canada ’s jolly old England .

There is more than one way to reach the island from the mainland. You can fly into Pat Bay , the local airport about 30 minutes from downtown, or take a spectacular seaplane ride and splashdown in the middle of a beautiful downtown harbour right across from the Legislative buildings.

If you are  going for the day, leave your car in Vancouver , and catch a bus on board or at various pick-up spots in the greater Vancouver area. This will leave a little more change in your pocket for those English pubs on the other side of the pond.

Should you decide to take your vehicle, consider booking a reservation by calling BC Ferries, unless of course you enjoy sitting in a line up of cars, munching plastic cheese sandwiches from the snack bar. If you are stuck in summer-time line-ups, grab a coffee and check out the craft stalls. The Tsawwassen terminal offers a better variety of crafts than the Swartz Bay . Nevertheless, they are both worth checking out if shopping for souvenirs. Remember to fill your water bottle before checking out of your hotel, a bottle of aqua at either terminal will set you back $1.50.

The ferries usually run on time however now and again there is a thing called … mechanical failure or a walkout strike! Of course, if you are traveling in the winter months, none of this takes place; it doesn’t make much sense to strike if there are no irate tourists to hassle.

Upon arrival at Swartz Bay , get off the highway at the first exit, which is Wain Rd. Follow, it to West Sanich Road , make a left and you’re on a scenic drive to Victoria . Wild blue cornflowers will greet you, their faces waving in the gentle breeze. Cultivated hedges of pink tea roses scent the air and beckon riders as they pass by.

This is a rural route, past dairy farms, quaint B&B’s, homegrown flower stands, pottery stops and a First Nations reservation at Brentwood Bay . You will pass by roads leading to Butchart gardens and the World of Butterflies.

Often seen on this stretch of green treed winding roads are the island deer,  a sub-species and quite small so beware.

Check your map obtained on the ferry; most roads left will take you back to Douglas or Blanchard streets, the direct route to the city, or you can continue going south the scenic route where you will  join up with Douglas street on the outskirts of town.

Built in 1843 as a trading post for the Hudson Bay Company, Victoria , capital city of British Columbia welcomes tourists 'English' style beneath their triple-globe lamps and multihued hanging baskets. Tally-Ho!

How to get there:

Victoria , located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island is reached by ferry. Summer schedules have crossings on the hour from 7:00 am - 10:00 pm. Reservations are highly recommended. Booking 7 days in advance costs $15 after that it’s $17.50 plus vehicle and passengers. Allow at least 60 minutes waiting time to ensure loading without reservations. Crossing time is 1hour and 35 minutes from Tsawwassen. Cash, Visa or MasterCard, pays fares.

Upon arrival in Swartz Bay just follow highway 17 into downtown Victoria . The trip will take about 40 minutes, the crossroads are well marked, and traffic is not too heavy.

Here's a beaautiful website with recommendations for lodging and dining.

Things to do:

        High tea at the Empress Hotel will round out a day in the proper English manner.

        Tartan and English china shops are a shopper’s delight.

        Old British fish and chips and English sweet shops offer more treats for the taste buds. Roger’s chocolates have NO calories and are to die for.

        Plan on lunch and an afternoon stroll in Butchart Gardens , built around an old quarry, the sea of roses and Japanese gardens will scent your mind.

        The Royal B.C. Museum , is a must see. Walk through the giant Douglas fir forest, into the land of the first nations. Read how smallpox devastated these tribes and learn of their captivating culture. Native artifacts are available throughout the city, shop for genuine Cowichan sweaters.

       One cannot leave the museum without a visit to the salmon factory, farmyard, and stunning whale exhibit. Upon leaving listen for the hourly carillon chimes.

        Enjoy Beacon Hill Park , in the heart of the city aboard one of the many horse- drawn carts or take some time to stroll through the trees on your own..

        Free time is well spent amongst the intriguing masts of ships bobbing their invitation for a stroll along the seawall in the Victoria harbour. Artists display their wares from local landscapes to Chinese calligraphy.

         An Ocean breeze cools the sun-filled air  in this "sub-Mediterranean" city where the average summer temperatures varies from 65-90 degrees and the sun shines  2200 hours of the year.

        When the sun sets over this magnificent city, the Legislative buildings light up like a fairytale castle. Visitors may then enjoy a Shakespearian Festival, the Victoria symphony, Jazz, a play, or just sit back and watch the watering of the thousands of floral baskets a nightly ritual that keeps Victoria one of the most beautiful cities in the world.


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