Victoria, British Columbia is a delightful city to visit and probably to live in too!
My friend and colleague Betsy Crowfoot was up visiting from Southern California and as I have a story to do for HARBORS magazine about shopping in Victoria, it was a great chance to have company on my trip. Although we didn't fly there on Kenmore Air (we would have had to drive to Seattle to get the flight) we had a good ride over on the Black Ball ferry M/V Coho.
Our overnight was hosted by The Magnolia Hotel & Spa, a boutique hotel in the heart of old Victoria, making it the ideal place for visitors to stay. It is within easy walking distance of the ferry dock and the Air Harbor, where all the seaplanes have bases. We were treated like royalty with a lovely, newly decorated room, a bottle of excellent wine and chocolates on arrival! We had a view of the Parliament Buildings which are beautiful during the day but spectacular at night, when they are all lit up!
Victoria is a walking city. Numerous crosswalks and cars actually obey the rules and stop for pedestrians. The downtown area has shops of every imaginable kind. From Cuban cigars to Irish linen; from tourist t-shirts to exquisite artisan-crafted jewelry. I can happily skip the tourist stuff, the cutesy stuffed animals, the silly t-shirts etc., all made in China. But once you get past the front row, the stores are wonderful and I could easily have spent a fortune - if I had one!
We saw dainty Irish linen hankies like I used to have as a child; etched crystal glasses with First Nation art beautifully done; clothing stores proudly displaying "Hand Crafted in Canada" signs. And cooking stores galore! To go along with the foodie nature of the city! Victoria ranks 2nd in number of restaurants per capita in North America; San Francisco is number 1! What a pleasure! From the traditional "Tea at the Empress" to hole-in-the-wall places selling ethnic foods to The London Chef, whose establishment doubles as a cooking school and cafe, your taste buds are covered.
And there's Chinatown, the 2nd largest in North America apparently. Here old world meets new and unfortunately, in some cases new is winning. But the old stores are wonderful; colorful and unpretentious! We went into the local grocery store and were the only white faces there - but the food! Wow - what a wonderful assortment of weird and wonderful stuff!
All this, all within walking distance of the hotel. We barely scratched the surface of what's available and the City of Victoria definitely warrants several more trips from Granny Susu.