Hidden Treasures of Victoria, BC

We spent our first winter in the Pacific Northwest on the boat in Victoria, British Columbia – the warmest place in Canada in the winter.  It’s a lovely city, and we were docked right in the heart of downtown, near the beautiful Empress Hotel and Parliament buildings.  The daily arrival and departure of the COHO ferry from Port Angeles, Washington helped us mark the time of day as she blew her sonorous air horns when arriving and departing.  We loved to watch the huge ferry back all the way across the inner harbor in the midst of boat traffic and commercial seaplanes to turn around and head back across the Strait.  We always said, “someday we should take a ride on her.”

And so, finding ourselves in Port Angeles, WA and seeing Victoria across the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Hurricane Ridge, we decided to take a day trip over on the COHO.

It was great fun to come into Victoria harbor, passing the long outer breakwater where I once ran out to watch the ship bearing our ADVENTURES arrive.  The somewhat narrow channel is also a commercial seaplane runway, so smaller boats like ours must stay close to a string of yellow buoys.  But the big COHO takes up the whole channel, and the seaplanes have to be patient.

We arrived and met a knitting friend and pen pal, catching up and walking around places familiar from that winter season 4 years ago.  Chinatown is always so photogenic with its tall gate……and the lions.  I love lions.The Telus phone booth in Chinatown has a Chinese style roof on it, and the Asian fruit markets offer a feast for the eyes as well as for the palate!My knitter friend is also a very good photographer, and she linked us up with her photo group on a “Hidden Places in Victoria” walk.  During our winter stay we walked all over the city, but never found any of the treasures the photo guides showed us except for the wonderful wall murals of people in windows that look so real.Little alleyways led us to other wonderfully painted walls……secret Zen gardens, and a helpful warning.We ducked into an alley that we must have walked past many times, and found shops and activity.  It’s a gamble to put a business in such a hard-to-notice place!I think my favorite “hidden treasure” was the parking garage.  The garage itself wasn’t hidden, but the stairwell used to get to the various levels had some funky lights at each landing, and a touch-sensitive bar over the handrail……where people can “play” the lights.  Each landing made different sounds, and we listened as an experienced local performed a nice solo on one of the levels.  Our group’s attempts at an ensemble were not successful – it takes a little practice.

Near the waterfront we found a funky statue that I particularly liked……because if you’ve ever felt a cold, wicked wind it would look a lot like this.  The statue was located near the repair dock for the adorable little water taxis that fill the harbor on summer days.We wrapped up the photo tour, and got to spend some time just admiring the beautiful fall color……and the orca topiary at the Empress Hotel……and savoring a hot cup of tea and long conversation with my dear friend.  We had a perfect day, and we caught the COHO back to Washington on the last day of the late sailings for the season.  Victoria is such a lovely small city, and if we weren’t so smitten with Alaska we would love to spend more time there.

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