(Original publication date: May 29/15)
It dawned on me that I had already lived half a year in my new home of Victoria, BC, therefore it seemed appropriate to conduct a post-mortem of my findings as a recent supplant to this island jewel.
Once the decision was made to head West, it was never with the intention of settling down in Victoria. Mainland Vancouver was my destination of choice. After a summer stint on contract in the Gulf Islands, I had lost the feel for a bustling metropolis and it was suggested that I check out British Columbia’s capital. Apparently, it was felt that the island’s relaxed vibe would be more my speed. I was highly skeptical but open minded enough to go see for myself.
‘Jackpot’, was my first thought as I discovered the Inner Harbour area. Quaint, yet bustling with activity, I was immediately charmed. My love affair with Vancouver Island not only blossomed, it burst open with colour, sound, fabulous sights and I knew this was the beginning of memorable experiences.
Then suddenly, the ‘reports’ started filing in. I was quickly apprised of the island ‘situation’. Victoria was/is known for its strong community with hushed references to ‘cliques’. Breaking in would be virtually impossible for newcomers, I was told. I chose not to allow that little tidbit to fester and grow in my thinking. My immediate interest was focused on discovery.
Each street, building, sightline, beach, floral explosion, café, restaurant, event etc. was there for me to dive into, inhale and absorb in every way possible. Wondering how to ‘break in’ would have to wait.
Needless to say, I made my way via key networking groups such as eWomen and WWBN and a host of open-hearted women who helped make my journey easier to navigate. These business women are on fire and it didn’t take long for me to move into the flow of things here. My newcomer status was diminishing.
My first love was James Bay. I nearly keeled over when I discovered the beauty and views of the area I had chosen to settle down in. This eclectic Victoria neighborhood is surrounded by water on three sides; Victoria Harbour to the north and west, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the south. Beacon Hill Park provides a green border to the east. I had clearly landed in paradise. Living steps away from the sea allows for amazing views on my morning walks. Cruise ships, tugboats, helicopters, seaplanes and ferries add to the postcard-esque look and feel and I often wonder if residents at some point become so accustomed to this Mediterranean type eco system, that they stop appreciating it? I couldn’t imagine doing so!
I quickly discovered fave go-to spots such as Bubby’s Kitchen in Cooke St. Village, another neighborhood full of charm and known for people watching if you’re able to snag a prime seat at one of the various outdoor patios. Bodega is my first choice to meetup with friends. This Spanish bistro is small but full of personality and hosts the best array of Sherry you can find in town. Ask for Collin when there! Cruising the shops on Yates is a must. They host a variety of individual designer names with a nice selection of style, fashion and funk.
Got a sweet tooth? Then Murchie’s is a must, not to mention it’s part of Canadian West Coast history. I love stopping by early in the morning simply to see the lineup of sumptuous offerings behind showcase windows. It’s a tasty sight to behold!
The Flying Otter, Santiago’s and The Gatsby Mansion are Inner Harbour must-see’s! The service is excellent, views amazing and food…well you’ll just have to find out for yourself. I would be remiss if I didn’t give Venus Sophia Tea Room a huge shoutout. Another stop if high-tea is an experience you have on your Victoria ‘bucket-list’. Are you seeing a pattern? 😉
Water taxies, also known as H2O Taxies are a Victoria hallmark. For a $5 fee, you can find yourself at one of the many destinations around town or simply go for a cruise and watch the magnificent sights float by. My next to-do is the Pickle Pub Crawl via water taxi!
Ice cream, there is none better than that served at the Beacon Hill Drive-in alongside Beacon Hill Park. Both the treats and the park are an excellent combination worth doing on a Sunday afternoon.
Fan Tan Alley, located in Canada’s oldest Chinatown is worth a visit. Tiny streets/alleyways host almost ‘secret’ stores to delight the avid treasure seeker.
The Oswego Hotel was my first go to place when I arrived. It continues to be a beautiful and chic place to sit, chat and enjoy smooth jazz on a Wednesday evening.
I can go on for a few more paragraphs, but I’ll l stop here. The choice in this mini-metropolis is hefty. I’m equally impressed with the abundance of events that are continuously offered. Choosing is an issue, not exactly a bad problem to have. A lively event I hope to attend again is the Flavour of Chocolate. A grand affair created to raise awareness for Soroptomist International, a global volunteer movement working together to transform the lives of women and girls.
My decision to make the move to Victoria still remains an excellent one. The temperature, people, sights, sounds and vibes have won me over. If you’re a long time resident, reacquaint yourself to the tremendous offerings sitting right at your doorstep. If you’re new or a visitor, soak up as much as you can, it’s well worth the effort!