Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Victoria Melange

Victoria Harbor at Dusk (Canada)
Victoria -  somehow I missed it on my last two trips to the Pacific northwest.  It's never been that high on my list but there I was hunkered down in the Fairmont Empress with Nancy B for a wee taste of city life before heading on out to Tofino for some wave watching.  It's a small, easily walkable city by the sea.

We've flown from Whitehorse to here -- the last 15 minutes on a small prop plane that seemed to be making  descent before it was fully aloft.  Here are 13 things to do in Victoria if you've got a day or two:

Check into the Fairmont Empress -- a grand old dame of a hotel albeit a bit shabby around the edges (nothing I can point my finger at -- just a general feeling of elegance gone by).

Supper at the Bengal Cafe at the Empress -- Have a Bengal Tiger and some shrimp curry.  They do it colonial style -- near as we can figure out that means less spicy and somewhat creamy.   

Breakfast at Floyd's Diner (on Cook's Street)-- Two eggs over easy, bacon, best breakfast potatoes ever (baby red, roasted with crispy skin and just the right amount of salt), sourdough bread and coffee -- can't beat that.

Do laundry -- drop it off at a local laundromat and save $.  They'll even deliver it back to the Empress where it will miraculously appear back in your room.

Chinatown Red (Victoria, BC)
Walk around Chinatown -- it's Canada's oldest -- and don't miss Fan Tan Alley which was originally a haven for gamblers and even housed opium dens.

Shop -- if you're lucky, you'll score a pair of purple shoes with extra laces -- in orange!  Mix in a few art galleries, antique stores, and souvenir shops.

Fairmont Empress Tee
(Victoria, BC)
Have a proper English tea at the Empress -- ok, it's expensive for tea -- but you can't beat the finger sandwiches, the scones with strawberry jam and cream and the assortment of delicious desserts PLUS there's the tea which is specially blended for the Empress and the china has crowns on it.

Have breakfast at the Dutch -- it's the sort of place where a woman of a certain age comes in and sits at the table adjoining yours and just orders "the usual" and remarks that she likes that it's always the same.  Slightly more expensive than Floyd's for slightly less food.

Lady of the Manor
(Victoria, BC)
Visit Craigdarroch Castle -- Built by Robert Dunsmuir atop the highest point in Victoria.   Alas, he died before it was finished and never got to live there.  His widow (Joan) and their three daughters moved in after brief travels in Europe.  Be sure to read the family history along the way -- it's fascinating.
Organ Music
(Victoria, BC)

Visit Christchurch Cathedral and be sure to check out the massive organ -- new in 2005 -- and built specifically to fit around the rose window.  It took some 28,000 man hours to complete it!

Visit Miniature World -- OK, it's a bit run down but you can't beat the dioramas and the man hours that went into making them.  One woman even recreated her own home -- with a true to scale exact replica of the dining room.  I no longer aspire to decorate a really large doll house after this visit.

Walk around the harbor at night and be sure to get a picture of the Parliament building before the sun is fully set.

Parliament Building (Victoria, BC)
Dine at the Superior Cafe -- banging pork ribs with a hoisin glaze and mean dungeness crab fitters, not to mention the root chips made on the premises -- crunchy and salty just the way a chip should be.  Top it all off with a  glass of red wine from the Moon Curser Vineyard and you've got a fine meal.  Afterwards, visit the art gallery in the back.
Portrait of the B (Victoria, BC)

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