If you are lucky enough to visit Vancouver Island on a clear summer day, you’ll think you are close to paradise. And that’s where we were last week, visiting with friends from Vancouver and Italy and then taking off on our own for a tool around the environs. Not even an extra long drive home on Monday, lengthened by the inevitable road accident (no one died) between Tacoma and Olympia, marred the memory of perfect days.
Everyone has their favorite things to do in Victoria, which by the way is leaving its twee days slowly behind and embracing an edgier future of more diversity, more young people and a more varied local economy that includes software, slow food and sustainable industries. Victoria is getting more interesting, escaping the ossified fate that awaited it before the oil boom in Alberta brought in young money.
These are things I always do when in town:
See the Emily Carr paintings at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. I was stunned upon discovering Carr about ten years ago and never tire of revisiting her works. The book store sells her autobiography which is worth a read. She was an independent creative spirit trapped in a Victorian small town with a repressive, authoritarian father. So she was a little angry. Nevertheless and against such odds, she found her way.
Discover excellent Canadian writers you’ve never heard of at Munro’s book store. I like Munro’s because of the historical building that houses it, but also because it once belonged to one of Canada’s greatest contemporary writers, Alice Munro. I defy anyone to find a better writer in the English language. Her ex-husband still runs it.
Get out of the tourist-clogged Inner Harbour and take a 3-mile oceanside walk or bike ride (rentals available in town) on Dallas Road. You’ll be watching marine birds, sailboats, commercial fishing boats, freighters and ferries on the Strait of Juan de Fuca with views of the craggy Olympic Range across the water in Washington state.
Taste and pick up a selection of organic tea leaves from all over the world at Special Teas on Fort Street. Nice Roobois!
Indulge in a muckle of tea at the White Heather on Oak Bay Avenue, and avoid the more famous spots where you are treated like one of the herd and charged double for the privilege. “Muckle” means “big” — really, really high tea. The baker hails from Scotland and makes savory and sweet scones as authentic as can be and nothing like what you buy at Starbucks’. Reservations required. Don’t let the non-descript shopping street facade keep you away, as it’s what’s inside that counts.
I’ll expound on these and add another top five in a later post.