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Victoria: vacation part one

April 21, 2019

Our daughter had her spring break this past week, and this year we opted to head to the Pacific Northwest. We started in Victoria, where we rented an apartment in downtown via Airbnb. It was in a great location: easy walks to different points around downtown, and lots of tasty restaurants nearby.

I’d visited Victoria once before when UIST was held there in 2009. I didn’t have a lot of time to look around, though, so I was happy to visit it again. One of our daughter’s friends is Canadian, so she came with a list of things she had to do: eat poutine, get a farmer’s wrap and timbits from Tim Horton’s, drink some iced tea, buy some ketchup chips, and visit Roots.

Victoria strikes me as a smaller version of Seattle or Vancouver; it still has that Pacific Northwest vibe, but it’s a lot smaller than both cities. The inner harbor is more intimate, it’s easier to walk most places you’d want to go, and you aren’t overwhelmed with possible things to do (which has both upsides and downsides).

We started our first full day by walking around the harbor, checking out the BC Parliament building, and visiting the Royal BC Museum. The museum had a nice display of First Nations art, as well as displays on the environment in British Columbia and the European settlement of the area. The latter two exhibits were interesting; they made heavy use of immersive spaces to try to communicate what it was like to visit an area or live during a particular era. I enjoyed them; it was a bit like a cross between a more conventional static display and a Disney-esque recreation (some of the areas were even scented to enhance the illusion.

An exhibit on BC coastal climates
The Victoria era in the Royal BC Museum

After lunch (the fish and chips at Red Fish Blue Fish are amazing) and a little shopping on Government St (our daughter got her Roots visit in), Kate and I walked down to Beacon Hill Park. The park was pretty and it was a nice day. Parts of it reminded me of Central Park in New York, which probably isn’t surprising since the designers apparently drew inspiration from it.

Beacon Hill Park

The next day we visited Craigdarroch Castle, a mansion built by coal baron Robert Dunsmuir. It wasn’t actually a castle; it apparently acquired the nickname because of it’s prominent turret. It was fun to explore, though, and the sitting areas on each level of the tower seemed like they’d be great areas to sit and read.

Craigdarroch Castle
Two sitting areas in the tower off the main stair

After the castle we stopped by the Victoria Public Market. It was essentially a food hall, like those that have become trendy in other cities. It’s clearly targeted at a lunchtime crowd; most places seemed to close at 5, which was unfortunately (otherwise we totally would have come back for dinner).

Then we walked over to Victoria’s Chinatown, which is the oldest in Canada and the second oldest in North America (after San Francisco’s). It was nicer than Vancouver’s (which surprisingly seemed to be a rather sketchy area), but fairly small; San Francisco’s is a lot bigger and more interesting.

While we didn’t see everything (lacking a car we opted to skip Butchart Gardens), with two full days and a partial day we caught the things we wanted to see. Victoria is small enough that three days seemed to be just about right. On our fourth day we headed to Sidney and caught the Washington State Ferry to the San Juans.

From → Travel

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