Highlights of a Memorable 3-Day Trip to Western Canada
We arrived in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada via the Victoria Clipper on a late Monday morning in early May. We returned to Seattle from Vancouver via Amtrak on a late Thursday morning. Our time was brief, yet we’d gladly return. A passport is required to enter Canada and the country’s currency differs from the USA. Click here for more information on Canadian money.
Butchart Gardens-Brentwood Bay, British Columbia
We immediately boarded a tour bus to see Victoria before heading to world-famous Butchart Gardens. Research the Gardens ahead of time to maximize your enjoyment. Their website is very easy to use and the images represent the property accurately. Knowing the layout allows you to spend more time in the areas most appealing to you. We ate lunch in the Blue Poppy Restaurant and it was not great. The food was pricey and staff less than hospitable. The seafood chowder was watery with limited seafood. It’s a cafeteria style setting. Next time, we’ll choose another dining option on site.
The Sunken Garden, closely followed by the Japanese Garden, was my favorite area. In all fairness, the roses were not blooming while there. One can only imagine how fantastic they’d be in full bloom. Tour groups keep you on a schedule and we’ d have certainly appreciated another hour or two here.
If one believes in soul mates, Victoria and I are just that. Right after checking in at the Harbour Towers Hotel & Suites, we headed for the water, less than two blocks away. The views reminded us of our former hometown, Charleston, SC. This is a real working harbour. It buzzes with activity: water taxis, ferries, cruise ships and sea planes. Along the seawall, buskers perform, vendors sell food and drink, and visitors view the scenery, nap or read. The information center, whale watching company and restaurants can be found on the Inner Harbour. A landscaped welcome message is a nice touch. We found ourselves at the Inner Harbour often. Late each afternoon we’d watch passengers disembark from the ferry while seaplanes loaded with business professionals departed. Restaurants filled with after-work crowds. The Harbour was always active and inviting. We loved it.
Flying Otter Grill
We enjoyed a glass of wine and early dinner at The The Flying Otter Grill-one of my favorite dining experiences on the seven-day adventure. The space is quite comfortable. Staff greets patrons and serves guests with an efficient charm, usually seen in more formal settings. The restaurant clearly appreciates both locals and visitors, and serves both with equal finesse.
We maximized our 40 hours in Victoria by rising early and walking all over the city. Victoria’s Chinatown underwhelmed us. Promoted as the oldest in Canada and second oldest in North America after San Francisco, it is quite small and quiet. We were three of few visitors in the area. After walking through Fan Tan Alley, we were the first to arrive for lunch at one of the many Chinese restaurants. The Gate of Harmonious Interest at Government and Fisgard Streets is the most impressive aspect of the area. Apparently the stone lions keep evil spirits away. Joe, our city tour guide, suggested that if an honest politician ever passed between the lions, they’d roar. According to him, no one’s heard them make a sound.
Though we briefly visited many stores, including Canada’s own Hudson’s Bay, each of us preferred our extended visit at Munro’s Books. Remarkably, this store has existed for 50+ years and consistently lands on lists for the world’s most beautiful bookstores, for good reason. We lingered and admired the historical surroundings and excellent selection of reading choices.
Other than the incredible natural surroundings, our visit to Parliament tops my list of trip highlights. Watching the Canadian legislative process was fascinating and humbling, especially since I’d worked on and around Capitol Hill for years. Watching, I felt a bit ashamed of how legislative business is conducted in the USA. I long for the return of this sort of pageantry and civility in Washington, D.C.
It is very easy and comfortable walking around Victoria. We did pop in at The Fairmont Empress Hotel to see many enjoying afternoon tea. The property was undergoing major renovations during our May 2016 visit, thus our stay at the Harbour Towers Hotel & Suites. The bus station, where we boarded for our commute to Vancouver, was quite close to the hotel. Thus, this made an early morning departure more appealing. Leaving Victoria was a bit hard. It was a new city to us with a former home city feel. We created new memories and recalled past ones.
The Vancouver Area is densely populated, ethnically diverse and richly urban. More than 2.4 million citizens call the area ‘home.’ Approaching aboard the BC Ferry, it was obvious why it’s one of the “Best Cities to Live In.” It’s surrounded by the natural beauty of the Pacific Ocean and Coast Mountains. Awesome views abound.
A Wilson Transportation (like Greyhound) bus dropped us off in downtown Vancouver, Canada. We grabbed a bite to eat and wheeled our luggage to Delta Vancouver Suites.This property was our favorite hotel on the 7-day trip. Marriott recently purchased the hotel right across the street from Vancouver’s tallest and most iconic landmark: The Harbour Centre.
After checking in, we grabbed a cab and headed to one of the most popular destinations in Vancouver-Stanley Park.
Plan your visit to the park ahead of time, which we didn’t do. Prioritize what you want to see; 400 hectares can take days to cover. We enjoyed visiting the well-manicured gardens, walking along the seawall and viewing the art and totem poles. The misty, cloudy day did not deter our enjoyment, nor that of hundreds of others.
We did not ride up to the top of the Harbour Centre; we could nearly touch it from our hotel balcony. Our room location was ideal because it provided expansive views of both the city and the natural surroundings. We watched port activity from our window, once again, recalling similar activity on Charleston’s waterfront.
The ferry ride to Vancouver and the Amtrak ride back to Seattle provide priceless views. Even if we’d not spent the night in Vancouver, we’d do it the same way again. We’d take the Victoria Clipper from Seattle to Victoria and the bus and BC Ferry to Vancouver before heading back on Amtrak.
If you’re looking for a place to visit with relative ease and awesome scenery, check out these fabulous cities and sites in Western Canada. Hope the links, pictures and tips provide a bit of help in your planning.
Share this with those seeking a vacation destination that will leave a lifetime favorable impression. Start by contacting Clipper Vacations in Seattle. We did. Read more about the Pacific Northwest under the “Travel” tab.
©Copyright. June 2016. Linda Leier Thomason
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