Our final port on the cruise was Victoria, the provincial capital of British Columbia. This was my fourth visit to Canada, and every time I come here, I’m always thinking about how the U.S. and its northern neighbor are so similar, it almost could be one country. Of course, Canadians probably would blanch at that prospect.
But with the exception of its status as a commonwealth, use of British English spelling, a smaller general population, its citizens’ slight variations in speech patterns and a greater affinity for hockey and poutine, I’d have to say we Americans do have the most in common with Canadians than with any other people in the world and its municipalities. Even in Victoria, which claims to be the most British city in the country, it still looks like any U.S. metro area that’s near a waterfront:
I would love to spend more time in Canada to truly get a feel for the differences between there and the U.S. I know that exist besides the superficial ones I mentioned above. Or perhaps, if any Canadians who are reading this would like to enlighten me, I’m all for that
On this very short visit to Victoria, we tooled around on a non-air conditioned hop-off-on double-decker bus – the kind used in London public transportation eons ago – that circled a six-stop route around town. It didn’t go to what’s arguably Victoria’s top attraction, Butchart Gardens, which isn’t even in the city. But as I mentioned in my last post, even if we had made the trek there, the girls would’ve been stone-faced at the prospect of seeing acres and acres of vibrant flowers and plants…and how incredibly bohrri-ing would that have been? Although we could have gone to Craigdarroch Castle, another pretty cool Victorian-era landmark that RAS and I would’ve enjoyed visiting and designated stop on the bus tour, the girls would’ve probably just considered an old creepy house.
Where did we go?
Knowing the girls’ growing love for all things Asian, we decide to disembark at the city’s Chinatown and look around. Granted, there wasn’t as much to see as in San Francisco’s, LA’s or New York’s communities, being spread out over just two blocks, but they did enjoy exploring some of the shops. We had planned to have a dim sum lunch, but none of the restaurants seemed all that appealing. So we opted to find other places to eat elsewhere.
The distance between Chinatown and the Inner Harbour, the area that most visitors associate with Victoria, isn’t far – just about a little under a mile on Government Street – so we hoofed it back toward the water. It’s generously lined with shops, including an unapologetically gaudy Canadian souvenirs store with all manner of red and white clothing, maple leaf merchandise, native animal plushes and maple syrup foodstuffs that’s fun to explore…and buy a package of maple leaf maple cookies. We ate so many of those, that pretty much made up our lunch.
(A travel tip: Canadian businesses accept American currency, but you will receive Canadian currency for change. Also, be careful when using your credit card. Businesses will charge about 10% tax on your purchase if you use it).
The girls and I decided to visit the Royal BC Museum, which was one of two places I really enjoyed seeing on our last trip here. The other was Beacon Hill Park, an extensive beautiful seaside spot that became our favorite running route. But this time, we merely zipped through on the bus on our way to other things. RAS decided to walk around town some more, so we decided to meet up in front of the landmark Empress Hotel later on.
The museum showcases both natural and human history of the province, with a generous nod to the heritage of the First Nations tribes, and an authentic recreation of a late 19th – early 20th century provincial town. There was also a special display of the history of gold and the languages of the regional tribes.
After meeting up, we then decided to split up again, with RAS and JRS going off to do more shopping, and NLS and I heading back to the Jewel of the Seas. Before doing that, we decided to make one more stop from the bus to Fisherman’s Wharf. Again, for some reason, I had thought it was going to look like the one in San Francisco or even the one in Monterey. But Victoria’s could have fit literally on three docks, or about 1/25 the size of the City’s. Populated mostly with lovingly restored houseboats, the Wharf also has a few shops and food stands at its entrance, one of which had a poutine that we just had to try. Other than a few fries being soggy, it wasn’t bad at all, but NLS clearly loved it more than I did.
(My apologies, but there is no picture of said poutine, because my camera and my smartphone both ran out of battery power by this time – a big travel blogger no-no, I know).
Somehow, with a gusty wind kicking up and not wanting to freeze waiting for the bus, NLS and I walked back to the ship a half mile away, strong headwind pushing us back every few steps. We somehow managed to get back on board without getting pushed over and treated ourselves to some overpriced hot chocolate, which was worth every cent.
Canada, we will be back. And I will take photos of the poutine next time