A DAY IN VICTORIA, CAPITAL OF BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA.
By CHANTAL COOKE.
“Back to back, belly to belly, I don’t care I’m undead already. Welcome to the zombie jamboree.”
I didn’t really expect to be singing these words on my second night in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. But then I also didn’t expect to be going to a party at the house of a Scottish restaurateur and his English wife, to see a band (Baka Beyond) perform that I had, about five years ago, interviewed for Passion for the Planet radio. It is indeed a small world.
My day not only finished well, it had started well too – with a trip to Buchart Gardens. Most tourists make a bee-line to Vancouver when visiting BC, but Victoria and its surrounds actually have a lot to offer. It’s also a good base from which to see the rest of Vancouver Island.
Plus, it’s easy – and fun – to get to Victoria.
You can take a float plane direct from Vancouver airport or from the harbour and fly over the Gulf Islands, watching tiny boats zip by beneath you as you take a sneaky peak into the back gardens of some beautiful, secluded, and very private houses nestled by the water’s edge or hidden among the pines. And of course there is the thrill of taking off and landing on water. Although flying is the more expensive option you can get cheaper seats at the weekend – but you have to book in a small window that’s only open Thursday night to Friday morning. It’s worth it though to grab a $50 ticket.
The other option is the ferry. A coach will take you straight there from the airport and sort your luggage out for you too. A one-way ticket, all the way from the airport to Victoria is around $50 and the view alone is worth the fare. Take a few minutes to watch the ferry pull out and get started, then grab a coffee or some hot cooked food, I can recommend a bag of sweet potato fries, and relax. Then about 30 minutes into your 90 minute trip, head upstairs to the open deck and enjoy a close up view of the islands, yachts, tiny harbours, and houses that will make you green with envy.
The great thing about both the ferry and the float plane is that you are deposited right in the middle of Victoria, so no faffing with shuttles and expensive taxis.
So, back to Buchart Gardens – a few miles outside Victoria. These gardens were originally a limestone quarry serving the cement industry. Once the quarry had ceased to be useful Mrs Buchart persuaded her husband to allow her to turn it into a sunken garden. Work started in 1904 and by 1920 the gardens had already become a popular destination for visitors.
Although like any garden it is constantly evolving, in many ways it is a traditional Victorian garden with plantings that ensure interest all year round, and lots of differently themed areas to give you the sense that you are walking through many gardens, not just one.
During my trip in May there were clashes of colour at every corner – flaming orange rhododendrons below pale pink cherry blossom offset with giant ice white tulips.
Take a stop at the Ross Fountains and watch how they gradually change shape – it’s easy while away an hour just sitting on a bench in the sunshine watching this display of glistening H2O.
And if all this ambling, gazing, gawping, ahhhing and sitting get’s too much; stop for a coffee and cake or a large ice cream.
If you have some time to spare after Buchart, head for Victoria harbour and grab a seat in the café overlooking the ocean. They serve hot food and home-made cakes and offer a good view of the giant cruise ships coming in to dock. Some are so big you’d get a good work out just walking from one end to the other! If you don’t have access to a ship then a stroll along the curling harbour wall is a recommended. Here you can watch seals glide through the water while crabs do their best to avoid being spotted by the gulls.
Victoria maybe smaller than Vancouver but it is well worth the trip – you’ll enjoy scenery that feeds the soul, friendly people (including quite a few British ex-pats), decent food, and a pace of life that seems far more manageable than the frantic speed of London.
About the Author:
Chantal Cooke is an award winning journalist and broadcaster with a passion for the planet. In 2002 she co-founded the award winning radio station PASSION for the PLANET and in 2009 Chantal was awarded London Leader in Sustainability status. Chantal also runs a successful communications agency – Panpathic Communications.