During my recent afternoon in picturesque Victoria, B.C., I didn't plan on being on such a tight budget. While fishing around in my purse for my wallet on the Clipper trip up from Seattle, I discovered....it wasn't there. (It was in my camera bag back at home.)
Fortunately we already had prepaid reservations for Tea at the Empress Hotel, so going hungry wasn't a problem for this day trip from Seattle. Beyond that, though, I can say that not much money is needed to explore and thoroughly enjoy this charming and historic city.
After we finished the wonderful tea (read about it here), my niece and I had about 3 hours before boarding our ferry back to Seattle. For starters, we explored a bit of the beautiful Fairmount Empress right behind the Tea Lobby.
Vancouver Island is home to rich Northwest Coast/First Nations aboriginal art and culture, and striking totem poles are scattered around Victoria. As we walked through the Empress lobby past elegant shops and the adjoining Victoria Conference Centre to the street beyond, we passed some fine examples of this art.
I always love Chinatowns outside China. Suddenly you feel transported to a fascinating cross-cultural hybrid of East meets West, but often in time capsule form because they're usually historic districts.
About halfway down the block after passing the Chinatown gate, we noticed a very narrow passageway to our left. Entering Fan Tan Alley was like I imagined it would be to enter Daigon Alley of Harry Potter fame. (Maybe the photo below was purposely blurred to evoke the sense of passing into another reality. Or not:)
While the alley widens a bit after the first stretch, it's lined with an eclectic collection of shops, no doubt catering to tourists. Historically a reality-altering industry did occur here: it was a popular place for opium dens and factories until 1908, when opium became illegal in Canada.
Then we wandered back toward the Inner Harbour, stopping in a few shops that drew in my niece and enjoying the charming old buildings. We weren't hungry, but noticed a lot of appealing cafes, restaurants, and coffee shops.
"This would be a great city to come back and eat in," observed my niece Willa.
|A Storm Trooper in a lower window keeping watch over the street below.|
|Parliament Building in the background.|
Well....on a budget, it was a bit much (over $40 for my niece and I), and we really didn't have enough time to do it justice. But I enjoyed the displays of impressively huge old First Nations carvings in the lobby while my niece browsed the gift shop and got a cute sweatshirt (because she didn't forget her wallet).
|Royal BC Museum|
Instead we found a perfect place to recharge, Nourish Kitchen & Cafe in a cozy converted Victorian villa. They specialize in wholesome and nourishing food, so my niece spotted me the $4.50 Canadian for a glass of their housemade water kefir, a flavorful fermented drink full of probiotics.
|My kind of place.|
Too soon we were boarded back on the Clipper (about 4 pm) for the return trip to Seattle on this now cloudy and rainy summer afternoon. I'm not complaining, though, because I love a good summer rain.
|So long Victoria!|
Next time I'd take my bicycle and stay a night or two like I've done in years past, but with the tea and exploring, this was a fun day. Highly recommend! But don't forget your wallet. :)
When You Go
The Victoria Clipper leaves Pier 69 in Seattle 7 days a week, weather permitting, year-round. The trip is under 3 hours each way, with good food service on the trip up and back. If you're lucky, you might see a whale in the Salish Sea, but we didn't. Here's a map of Victoria where we wandered.