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Victoria, British Columbia

by Christine Hart

A trip to Victoria, British Columbia is an excursion around a city that blends 19th century British style and structure, contemporary design and the lush, green landscape of coastal BC.  For me, visiting Victoria was like a relaxing heritage tour in a metropolitan space.

In the city center I found that Victoria’s blend of punk, pop, high fashion and Canadian souvenir stores echoed the unique blend of culture found only in BC.  Since it was summer, the music of many buskers filled the streets.  While I walked the words and notes flowed into each other as the mood of the street changed from block to block.  Sunlight bounced down wide alleys where artist and merchants displayed paintings, sculptures, jewelry, clothing, pottery and other mostly handmade wares.  As I continued down Government Street towards the Inner Harbor, I was always aware of being in one of the most beautiful cities in Canada.

Part of what makes Victoria beautiful is the seaside landscapes around the city.  Surrounded on three sides by the Pacific Ocean, Victoria loops around to enclose the Inner Harbor on its West Side.  The Parliament buildings, the Empress Hotel, the Royal British Columbia Museum, the Royal London Wax Museum and a combination of and unique boutiques and eateries flank the harbor. 

Kabuki cabs and horse drawn tours mingled with the traffic giving the harbor a less urban character than a typical downtown area.  I wandered around behind the Provincial Parliament Buildings and it seemed surreal that the building in front of me was the heart and home of a government.  It seemed like just another old stone building.  But then I walked around to the front entrance and looked up.  The building loomed down on me with an almost majestic presence that made me feel pleasantly small.

Yet Victoria is not with out a modern cityscape including major national banks, the Hudson’s Bay Building and the Eaton’s Center.  One block above Government Street is Douglas Street, which emanated a business-oriented atmosphere.  North of the Johnson Street Bridge, a bright blue structure, I found a light industrial area that gave the city an entirely different look when viewed from the other side of the harbor in Esquimalt.

As I traveled along the coastline, the smell of the sea changed.  The industrial, commercial barges mingled with the brackish water of the Gorge waterway and the Inner Harbor.  A fresh salt smell came in off the wind as I moved northwards past James Bay and the Breakwater.  By the time I got to Oak Bay, the landscape looked like something imported from Britain’s Yorkshire coast.  Beautiful homes clung to the slopes of the coast on one side while the sea crashed against the rocks on the other.

When it was time to leave, I felt I had still missed volumes of places to go and things to do.  Next time I visit Victoria, I will be looking forward to more than just the reputation of enduring yet vivid Canadian history. Victoria had much to offer as a destination from impressive land and cityscapes to a delightful blend of culture and activity.

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