We recently spent a two-day weekend in Victoria, BC. Arriving by Coho Black Ball ferry from Port Angeles, WA , we checked into our hotel, The Hilton Doubletree on a Friday evening and quickly settled in to our two bedroom suite. The hotel sits right behind the grand dowager of Victoria hotels, the Empress, and we had magnificent views of the Inner Harbor, the Parliament buildings and the immediate downtown area. While there are many other choices in the downtown area, both these hotels are lovely and well situated.
Since we only had two full days in the city, we decided to focus on three activities. First we visited a very well done Royal BC Museum. Regular exhibits provide a focus on the natural and human history of the northwest part of Canada. Obviously there is a large exhibit devoted to the First Nations people and culture, complete with a totem hall, masks and other regalia. Outside the museum building there is a native house called Wawadit’la, or Mungo Martin House, complete with several totems, and also a garden devoted to native plants. We were also keenly interested in a current exhibit on Egypt: The Time of Pharoahs, accompanied with a good IMAX movie on the same theme.
Second, we enjoyed several blocks of downtown Victoria especially along Government and Wharf Streets. This is a very lively area replete with restaurants and specialty shops with views overlooking the harbor and marina. We especially enjoyed the people activities from walkers to visitors to cyclists to street performers. This was true during the day and evenings both. Our favorite dining establishments were the Steamship Grill and Bar on Belleville on the harbor, and Il Terrazzo on Johnson Street. Seafood of course! We developed a real love for BC oysters. Following dinner at Il Terrazzo, we could not resist an after dinner drink at the Empress – what elegance!
Third – and a must – is a visit to The Butchart Gardens near the city. These gardens, known world-wide, cover more than 55 acres of a 130 acre estate and began with an idea that Jennie Butchart had to beautify the worked-out limestone quarry which had supplied her husband’s nearby cement plant. These gardens gradually expanded over some years to become the Sunken, Japanese, Rose, Italian and Mediterranean garden seen today. The gardens today are a National Historic Site of Canada, are visited by more than one million people each year.