In the summer of 2015 we were in Victoria with my husband’s sister and her family. The sun shone with less fury than it did in Seattle, from where we had driven across the border to Canada. Oh, the charm of Victoria. She was pretty as vintage jewellery that you look at with awe and refuse to be parted with at any cost. We doused the not-so-awful heat there with ice cream cones laden with dollops of maple syrup and pecan goodness and I thrilled at the sight of buttery maple and pecan flavoured popcorn that were sizeable enough to melt in the mouth with moreish grace.

The jewel in Victoria’s crown is The Empress, the hotel that sits like a grand dame in front of the inner harbour. Should she have been torn down to make way for a modern hotel? The 1965 dilemma was set to rest by a local newspaper which declared that ‘without this splendid relic of the Edwardian era, literally tens of thousands of tourists’ would never return.’ It also bestowed upon it the title of ‘the Mecca, …. the heart and soul of the city.’ I wonder the kind of high tea it must offer to guests. I bet it is mouthwatering and a boggling sight for the eyes.

While we browsed in shops, I was besotted by the beauty of a First Nations boy with a swathe of silk-spun hair that reached his knees. He was a work of art. I was even hopelessly tongue-tied, a teenager with a schoolgirl crush. Adi was amused.

Oak Bay, Greater Victoria
Glacially eroded headlands in the suburb of Oak Bay, east of Victoria, and off the Pacific Ocean. Before European settlers arrived, it was the stomping grounds of the Coast Salish tribes.
Locally hand-painted pianos wait by the waters for travellers 
In the Uplands Park area along rocky bluffs we came upon this signage which read Cattle Point Boat Point. It announced: “ONE BOAT IN/ONE BOAT OUT”. Cattle Point near Cadboro Bay gets its name from the fact that cattle were brought ashore to avoid taxes. The story goes back to the time when the Hudson’s Bay Company had established its fur trading post of Fort Victoria in the inner harbour in the mid-1800s. It was a testament to the 17th-century Europeans’ penchant for hats made from beaver fur.
The heavily glaciated cone of Mount Baker looms above the horizon of Greater Victoria
The Empress
The chateau-style Edwardian Empress was built as a terminus hotel for the Canadian Pacific’s Steamship Line.  It hosted many famous names, but in the year 1919 Edward, Prince of Wales, danced in its ballroom. Fifty years later when old ladies died, their obituaries carried a note that they had been singled out by the Prince of Wales for dances.
The old and the new
British Columbia Parliament Buildings
Dolphin topiary 
The inner harbour bustled with buskers, entertainers and local craftspeople selling handiwork 
Ice cream parlour.jpg
Lunch in a soda shop
Ice cream sorta lunch.jpg
Choosing flavours is the best kind of dilemma, don’t you think? Especially when you have something like this at the end of the queue…
Maple & pecan ice cream.jpg
… a cone topped up with maple and pecan cream
To carry him away, or not. The niece and I with the hapless bear.
Making our way to Bastion Square.jpg
Bastion Square where farmers hold an open market and where once stood Fort Victoria named after Queen Victoria. The pale pink building was once the seat of Hudson’s Bay and today is a Canadian retail chain.
For the emotional well-being of all, they play on.
Bastion Square.jpg
Pubs on Bastion Square
Shopping in Victoria
Who else would we meet in Canada, right?
Grand old bookstores
Bard & Banker. A Scottish pub that is housed in old building that in 1885 opened as the Bank of British Columbia. The other half of the pub’s name is derived from one of the bank’s most famous employees, an Englishman named Robert Service.  He was transferred to the Yukon branch of the bank where he was mistaken for a robber by a bank teller and almost shot. It led to his penning a narrative poem called The Shooting of Dan McGrew. He became so popular with his poems that he was dubbed ‘Bard of the Yukon’.
The poem takes place in a Yukon saloon during the Yukon Gold Rush of the 1890s.
The tee that got Adi but he did not get it. He remembers it ruefully.
Fort Victoria in the old days
Hip n’ cool Victoria



The alley which houses one-of-a-kind stores recalls a pioneer called Thomas Trounce. Those gaslights are about 125 years old.
W&J Wilson Clothiers is a family outfit that has been there at this present location on the corner of Trounce Alley since 1862 (the same year Victoria was incorporated as a city). 
The moon peeks at us from the behind the shapely ankles of Captain James Cook. He overlooks the harbour in Victoria, he who discovered it in 1778.
Prince of Whales
Inner Harbour.jpg
Inner harbour when dusk gathers
Lit-up Victoria .jpg
The British Columbia Parliament Buildings and Royal London Wax Museum lit up
The Empress at night.jpg
And I leave you with the grand beauty of The Empress

Published by

Arundhati Basu

The great affair in my life is to travel. I count myself immensely fortunate that my partner shares this passion. We are a team that likes to spend time planning and plotting out places to go. Destination check, flights check, accommodation check, cheesy grins check. Off we go.

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