Thursday, May 27, 2010

Victoria and All Her Charms

by Suzie Johnson
Alluring, romantic, breathtaking, sparkling, quaint…words just can’t describe her.

Before we go any further, you should know I’m not speaking about Victoria the Queen. Rather, Victoria the city on an island in British Columbia.

If you’ve never had the opportunity to visit this one-of-a-kind sparkling little gem of a city, you simply must.

Step back from your well developed small town or city and enter a place reflective of quaint old world England. Ivy covered buildings, hidden courtyards, old-fashioned iron street lamps heavy with overflowing baskets of flowers.

Named for the queen herself, Victoria was actually first home to the Coast Salish native people. Over a hundred-and-sixty years after it evolved from Fort Victoria, the city still retains its charm.

Like most tourist destinations, Victoria has tourist activities. The wax museum features members of the royal family, including all of Henry the VIII’s wives. It’s the coolest wax museum I’ve ever been in. The first time I visited, Diana wasn’t there. But two summers ago, I was happily surprised to see Diana and her young princes as part of the exhibit.

When my husband and I went to Victoria on our honeymoon, he discovered Miniature World, a museum with miniature scenes from history. Great fun!

A couple of years ago, when I went with my friend, Diane, we toured a Scottish castle called Craigdarroch, which was built by Robert Dunsmuir in 1887. The woodwork in this Victorian masterpiece is stunning. The staircase that winds all the way up to the top of the castle is a work of art and features incredible stained glass windows and an amazing view of the San Juan Islands. The stories you learn as you roam the castle are inspiring. Because my pictures can’t do it justice, I’ve included a link so you can see for yourself. Click here for pictures of Craigdarroch Castle.

On my first trip to Victoria, I came across an out of the way little courtyard where I relaxed at an antique table with pastries and cup of Earl Grey tea. Its charm was something I never forgot, and on both of my return trips I searched for it. Unfortunately, I never did find it again.

A place that shouldn’t be missed is the Empress Hotel. The ivy covered hotel, built in 1904, is a tourist favorite that has hosted royalty and movie stars alike. But in my opinion, the most alluring draw for tourists simply has to be the English-style high tea that is served every afternoon.

Across from the Empress is another must-see, the Provincial Museum. The exhibits include lessons in the geography of the island as well as the historical native culture. Across from the museum are the Parliament Buildings where my husband saw Queen Elizabeth when he was a kid on a school field trip.

If you’re lucky enough to stay on the harbor, you can spend a lazy day watching seaplanes take off and land, tourists head out for whale watching trips, and giant ferries as they bring tourists to town. An extra treat on the harbor is a dock that leads out to the most adorable boat houses I’ve ever seen.

On a personal note, I’ll choose to stay on the harbor instead of a Bed & Breakfast. On my last trip to Victoria, my friend Diane and I stayed our first night at a B&B. Um, I can’t really say it was the quaint and charming experience I expected. Instead, it was strange and uncomfortable, and I don’t ever plan to stay at one again. B&Bs might work for some people, but not for me.

Your trip won’t be complete until you visit the one of a kind Butchart Gardens. A gardener’s dream. I’m not a gardener, know next to nothing about flowers, but I felt like I found my way to heaven. Acres upon acres of beauty can only be described as amazing, breathtaking, fabulous. If you’re lucky enough to make it to Victoria, but don’t see the gardens, you truly will have missed out on the experience of a lifetime.

The small city named after a queen is a city fit for a queen.
So what are you waiting for? Bring out your inner queen. Head up to Victoria and enjoy high tea, a Scottish castle, and the most magnificent gardens you’ll ever see.

All photos copyright Suzie Johnson


  1. Ooh, ooh! Suzie Jo I've always wanted to go to Victoria. At least I've always wanted to go since I spotted a flyer for it at a travel agents. It just seems stunning. Gorgeous. Something about it calls to me.

    One of these days. One of these days.

    I'm going to Savannah too, Deb! Ah, so many places to see, so little... money.

  2. Victoria looks a lot like Stockholm from the pictures. I visited a castle and saw the royal jewels in Stockholm. I guess only the Swedish would be that trusting, though.

  3. Great post, Suzie! Victoria is on my list of places I want to visit. My parents have been there a couple of times and I am fascinated with their pictures and descriptions. I know I would love it!

  4. OH, I'm so glad you chose to do this Suzie! What a great surprise. I so want to go there.

    I'll be re-reading this and taking notes 'for future reference'. Your photographs are beautiful!

  5. Deb, I'm so glad I surprised you! I hope you get to go there someday.

    Dina, what a special treat to see the jewels in Stockholm. Yes, they must be very trusting. Either that or there are zillions of secret laser beams all around the castle waiting to go off if someone touches the jewels.

    D'Ann, I do hope you get your wish to go to Victoria. I think it would be a great place to set a romance.

    Lisa, Victoria calls to me, too. If there was any place in the world I could live, it would be Victoria.

    Ladies, I'm off to work now, but I'll be back t check in in a few hours. Have a great day, and thanks for all your wonderful comments this morning.

  6. Oh, oh. D'Ann, I meant to ask, did your parents travel there on the Princess Marguerite? I've always wanted to do that.

  7. Suzie, I've sent some friends here to check it out. They agree and we've moved it up toward the top of our dream vacation places.

    I can't imagine visiting Butchart Garden, which to me is probably one of the best in the world. Legendary! And you know I'm a gardener.

    And I think I smell a historical suspense in the air!

  8. Oooh, Suzie, what a great post! I loved it and I took notes! I hope to get to Victoria soon. Since we have relatives in Seattle, we've got to make it work.

    Thanks for the links and stunning pics!

    As Lisa said, so many cool places to visit. So little, um, ways and means.

  9. This was fun, Suzie! I know next to nothing about British Columbia. This sounds like a wonderful place to visit! And Susie and I will have to check out the miniatures! : )

  10. Deb, my thoughts immediately go to historical suspense, too. I'm glad you decided to move Victoria up on your list. If I feel like I'm in heaven in Butchart Gardens, I can't imagine what a gardener will feel like.

  11. Susie D, I do hope you get to go to Victoria when you get to Seattle. I think the Princess Marguerite sails from Seattle, so that would be an awesome way to get there.

  12. Niki, I don't know much about BC, either, other than that the people are genuinely nice, but there are wonderful history lessons at the Provicial Museum. It's really neat. And there's a giant woolly mammoth there! He's so cute! That's the one thing I always remember about the museum. He is my favorite exhibit.

  13. I almost forgot...very important. If you're planning to go to Victoria, and you aren't Canadian, you do need to have a passport now. You will have a very hard time coming back across the boarder without one.

  14. Suzie, great post! Victoria looks like a beautiful place to visit and I love 'high tea' :-) One day I'll cross the Pacific again and hopefully have time to see your part of the world!

  15. Hi Narelle! You would definitely love Victoria. There are so many great places to see if you do ever come to my part of the world. Of course, I want to go to your part of the world one of these days, too!


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