Victoria on Vancouver Island is the capital of British Columbia. As the name suggests it was colonised by Britain under the reign of Queen Victoria and as a result has been heavily influenced by British culture and tradition. Its British roots are everywhere, beautiful Victorian homes with pristine gardens, red double decker buses ferrying tourists around the city, fish and chips, old fashioned pubs and one of our host’s neighbours even owned a black cab.
After a full week of rain every day in the Rockies we arrived on Vancouver Island to 21ºC and sunny, it stayed like that for the duration of our stay. Victoria gets half the rainfall of Seattle and Vancouver and when summer kicks in it does so with a bang. After hearing about the UK weather woes from family and friends it struck me as the perfect balance of reminding me of home but actually having the rarity that is a proper summer.
We spent a great day visiting BC’s parliament buildings which were designed by a complete chancer from Leeds, just 15 miles from Harrogate. He arrived in Canada at the age of 25 as an immigrant and told a bunch of officials that he’d designed tons of amazing public buildings in London (just a slight fib), they believed him and gave him the commission. Not a bad job for his first design!
We also visited Craigdarroch castle which is actually more of a very large house built by a mining tycoon in the 1800s, he’d tried to emulate the stone used in many buildings in Scotland which was quite odd to see in Canada. It was a great experience and worth the entry fee as the public are granted access to pretty much every room in the house and the views from the tower are incredible.
One of my favourite spots in Victoria is Fisherman’s Wharf, full of tourists but in quite a pleasant way. We were staying just around the corner so spent a couple of evenings amongst the floating houses, food stalls and the odd harbour seal. The colours are beautiful and the atmosphere is great, tourists mingle with the remains of the Wharf fishing fleet and while the weather is good it’s a great place to be.
I’m writing this enjoying a blissful afternoon in the sun in Beacon Hill Park. This wondrous public space has fountains, lakes, a petting zoo, meadows, playing fields and spectacular views of the Olympic Mountains on the U.S side of the Juan de Fuca Strait.
As I’m sitting here there is currently a jazz band playing on the bandstand with a huge crowd of OAP’s watching, a guy plodding around the lily pond taking underwater photos, children playing under a giant watering can and I kid you not, someone just unicycled past me. I love this place!
After spending three weeks in the Rockies I’ve actually really enjoyed being in a city again. Downtown is walkable and fairly compact and the James Bay area we’re staying in is perfectly located and one of the most beautiful heritage neighbourhoods in the city. Victoria is rated as one of the top places to live in North America and it’s easy to see why. The ocean, mountains, public spaces and beautiful homes are very enviable.
We’re heading west tomorrow to explore Vancouver Island’s wild west coast but until then I’ll enjoy every minute of this sunnier sister of Britain and wish that we had more of it back home!
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