“…on the craggy southern end of Vancouver Island.”From a tour brochure
It’s getting hard to stump her.
Laurie and I have a tradition for our anniversary. Each year we take a trip that is planned by one of us. We alternate responsibility each year. Appropriately, I get the “odd” years. It’s supposed to be a secret where the planner seeks to delight the guest and fool them as to the destination until we’re underway.
Unfortunately for me, she ran across the two-week reservation for Victoria, British Columbia in our Airbnb account while doing some planning for our fall trip to Europe.
Despite the lack of total surprise, I did manage to deliver plenty of delight thanks to this charming city just across the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Washington State. A few highlights:
It’s the People. Glasgow, Scotland has a motto of “It’s the People” and they’re right. But the people in Victoria are just as nice. In fact, according to a Conde Nast Traveler 2018 survey—they’re nicer. Victoria was in the top ten of friendliest cities in the world that year. Glasgow didn’t make the cut, to my surprise.
We struck up many interesting conversations with locals while we were out and about. We got some great tips about places to go and historical tidbits from Victorians proud of their city. One of our challenges was when we tried to cross a road on foot or bikes. When we tried to wave cars to go ahead, they would wave us ahead and wait patiently. In some unnamed East Coast cities where we lived, we would have been road kill–even when we had the right of way. Victorians are just—friendly.
Biking and Hiking. We took our bikes with us on this adventure and found great places to ride. They have several long-range bike paths that run through the city including the Galloping Goose Trail and Lochside Trail. Both are a combination of pavement and well maintained gravel paths. The trails are popular with cyclists, walkers, dogs, horses—and in the case of the Goose—at least one black bear.
There are also many forested hiking trails. We did a ten mile one in East Sooke Regional Park. The path went through forests, along the coast, and up and down hills. AllTrails.com rated it as moderate but it kicked our butts. Awesome views and lightly traveled.
Tea at the Empress. Tea is Laurie’s thing. Mine, not so much. But because this anniversary year was about her we went to tea at the Fairmont Empress Hotel in downtown Victoria. A “hot and steamy” tradition since 1908, it’s about more than tea. As you’ll see from the accompanying pictures, there were plenty of treats to accompany our individual pots of tea. It’s a bit pricey, but worth doing it at least once in a lifetime. And, I did enjoy it.
Butchart Gardens rated its own post. You can read about that here.
Two weeks in Victoria was too short of a time. We did plenty of other things during our time and still had time to kick back. Fortunately, our Airbnb came equipped with Lexie, an Aussiedoodle who loved to play fetch, to keep us from lounging around too much. And the place is so walkable and bikeable that next time we might just leave the car behind.
When you’re looking for great places to visit, don’t overlook a true gem like Victoria, BC. As for the anniversary surprise factor, I’ll just have to be trickier when my turn rolls around in two years.