My friends, I have to tell you about this very pretty and romantic little city. It’s located on Vancouver Island, and it’s the capital of the province of British Columbia. (That’s in Canada, eh?)
I have lived in Vancouver since 2000, but have not been to Victoria since the age of 12 (my family was just passing through on a quick island tour, so I didn’t see much of it then either). I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that I haven’t been back to Victoria the whole time I’ve been a resident of this province, as the island is only a two hour ferry ride from Vancouver.
Victoria is Western Canada’s second oldest city, incorporated in 1862. As with all major cities in North America, it has a dark history, its roots steeped in the ugliness that is colonialism. With June being National Aboriginal History Month (if you want to know more about that, click here), I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Victoria was settled in the heart of Lekwungen territory. As explained on Victoria’s official website:
Victoria is built on the traditional territory of the Lekwungen People (pronounced Le-KWUNG-en). The Songhees and Esquimalt Nations are part of the Coast Salish family and are descendants of the Lekwungen family groups. Lekwungen is the original language of this land. The Lekwungen People hunted and gathered here for thousands of years before European exploration, carefully managing the land through controlled burning and food cultivation.
My thoughts on colonialism and the horrific atrocities suffered by the First Nations at the hands of white settlers of this land I call home are not going to be a topic of this post. That topic would require a lengthy series of posts!
I will admit that I feel like somewhat of a hypocrite for falling so madly in love with Victoria, that shining beacon of colonialism. But the beauty of this little city draws you in the moment you set eyes on her. I’m a first generation Canadian. My parents immigrated from Switzerland seven years before I was born. Maybe because of my Swiss roots, I have a thing for old architecture. It just stirs my soul. Victoria, of course, is just a baby compared to Switzerland’s cities, but its downtown core feels a lot older than it is because of the grand architecture. And, let’s face it, most grand buildings that have been around for more than a century are going to have some dark chapters in their past. It doesn’t change the fact that they are fascinating and historically significant, not to mention nice to look at.
My husband had two days of business meetings in Victoria, which meant an overnight stay. And I got to go along for the ride. I’ll just mention a few places we loved, and then I’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story. We stayed at the Parkside Hotel, which, as the name implies, is right across from one of Victoria’s many beautiful parks. This particular park happens to be the grounds of a place called St. Anne’s Academy, which used to be a convent. The Parkside Hotel was reasonably priced (for downtown Victoria in tourist season), and the service was great. There’s a koi pond in the entrance that flows out into a courtyard that we could see from our room’s balcony. There is an indoor pool adjacent to a large and well-equipped work-out room. There is also a spa and a café in the hotel. They have complimentary bicycles for guests to use. We were very impressed with the place and will likely stay there next time we’re in Victoria.
We had a lovely, romantic dinner at an Italian and Spanish restaurant called Catalano. This place ticked all the boxes: atmosphere; service; classic cocktails done right; and amazingly delicious food. We had a table for two by a window with a view of the marina across from the Empress Hotel. It was a beautiful experience.
The other place we loved was a little corner café called Pour. We went there for our morning coffees on our second day in Victoria. This place is loaded with charm and the service is great! They make a darn fine cappuccino, and if tea is your thing, you can get it served in a pretty, antique china cup and saucer! They also have a variety of baked goodies, panini sandwiches, and gelato.
Anyway, here are some of the photos I took in our short time there…
Some architectural details in downtown Victoria
The Knowledge Totem, located on the grounds of the parliament buildings.
It’s not just the old buildings that make you feel like you’ve gone back in time when you’re in Victoria!
Some more fabulous old buildings…
Another shot of Queen Vic, and a war memorial…
I took a lot of pictures in two days, but I won’t bombard you with all of them. This is just a sampling, and to be honest, the photos don’t hold a candle to the real thing. Victoria is a beautiful place to visit. I didn’t want to leave, and I can’t wait to go back!