March 20, 2018
Sometimes in life, we just need a new perspective. That’s exactly what you’ll get exploring BC’s scenery and wildlife from the water—not to mention some…
By Judi Zienchuk August 25, 2015 #php comments_number('0 Comment', '1 Comment', '% Comments'); ?> #php echo wpb_get_post_views(get_the_ID()); ?>
While I call BC home, I still like to take time out to be a tourist in my own province. When discussing road trip ideas with some friends of mine, I was forced to confess that I had never yet been to Victoria, which was met with grotesque shock before a universal agreement that this needed to be fixed as soon as possible. As BC’s capital, Victoria is steeped in history and I decided I wanted to experience as much of it as I could.
While it’s well know that Vancouver is quite a bit larger than Victoria (over 500,000 people larger), the island city was named the province’s capital way back when they joined the confederation in 1871, as it was one of the oldest colonized cities in the province (being discovered by James Cook in 1778). Following the province joining Canada, it still took an additional 27 years for the parliament buildings to open in 1898. The parliament buildings are the current home of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia and house many significant government artifacts. You can join a free public tour or explore the building on your own self-guided tour.
A short two-minute walk later, I found myself at the Royal BC Museum (dubbed as “Royal” by Prince Philip in 1987 on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II). The museum has three permanent galleries featuring over seven million objects, making it one of the Canada’s greatest cultural treasures. I personally enjoyed fooling around back in time in the modern history exhibit!
From there, it was off to the Victorian-era Craigdarroch Castle. While I knew Victoria was teeming with Canadian history, I wasn’t expecting too much from a Canadian castle. Let’s just say I was 100% wrong to make that assumption! This four-story, 2,323-sq m (25,000-sq ft) chateau was simply stunning.
The castle held history juicy enough to rival a modern soap opera. Built by a Scottish railway worker-turned-coal baron in 1890, Robert Dunsmuir led his two sons to believe that they would inherit the manor when he passed away. However, in his will, he left the castle to his wife, resulting in years of lawsuits between the two generations until shortly before her death. When Robert’s eldest son died, quarrels between his second son and eight daughters broke out while many of them continued to live together in the residence.
When it came time for the third generation to inherit the property, Robert’s coal fortunes were long gone (spent on extravagant purchases and gambling addictions). From there, the establishment passed hands several times, servings as a military hospital, campus to Victoria College and home of the Victoria Conservatory of Music, before becoming the museum and National Historic Site of Canada it serves as today.
Next it was off to the oldest Chinatown in Canada (and second oldest in North America, after San Francisco‘s). The area has long been known for its maze of alleyways and courtyards, which I was more than happy to get lost in!
There’s no other way to end a day exploring Victoria’s history than with a night at the Fairmont Empress. The hotel is the most iconic in the city and another National Historic Site of Canada (I’m a bit of a sucker for these, can you tell?).
Since it’s opening in 1908, high tea has been the hotel’s specialty and today, they serve over 800 people specialty selections of teas, sandwiches and desserts daily. There was no way I could resist trying it out for myself.
While the Edwardian hotel has undergone a few facelifts and expansions since its opening, it still holds its classic old-world charm.
Altogether, for anyone looking to take a step back in time, experience the original BC, or just relax and enjoy some island air, I (along with the late Queen Victoria,) would recommend stopping by the capital city.
Things to do in Victoria, British Columbia
Did you know that British Columbia, Canada, has the longest lift-serviced vertical in North America? Or that you can go cat-skiing for $10? Or that…
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