s in many great cities of the world, sometimes the most delightful discoveries are found behind a brick façade or in a winding back alley—Victoria is no exception.

In a recent afternoon of urban exploration, I came upon what seemed like a ‘secret garden’ in one of Chinatown’s alleyways. There among the weathered wooden benches and bright hanging flowers, sat a young women working on her laptop in what she called her “favourite coffee shop in Victoria,” the Union Pacific Coffee Co.

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Cloistered ‘secret garden’ of Union Pacific Coffee Co.

Here at the back of a restored brick and beam building was a cozy haven where you could sip your coffee (or savour your lunch) in a wonderful juxtaposition of caffeine and calm. It’s the perfect reprieve to stop and get your fix, then keep calm and carry on into the hustle of tourists and traffic that fill the streets near Victoria’s harbour.

According to a recent article in Douglas magazine, there are at least 52 coffee shops in downtown Victoria—that’s almost one on every block—and I’ve been to at least a third of them. However, I haven’t discovered any with a secret outdoor garden, where you can hangout and chill out in a little piece of secluded happiness.

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For me, a café-garden is one of those fabulous, unexpected urban surprises and a place to linger with two of my favourite things—good coffee and great ambiance. And just for the record, Union Pacific Coffee’s modern rustic interior is equally charming with just the right mix of vintage and vibrant. Check it out at 537 Herald St., in Chinatown.

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