Day Trip to Victoria, BC
[Victoria, BC, July 18, 2018]
When I realized we can take a ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria, BC, I jumped on it. I’d heard great things about Victoria. The major sights were right at the harbor, so we didn’t need to take our rental car – I figured this would give us a nice break from all the driving. Exploring different cities also appeals to the city girl I have always been, despite my national park obsession. The two are not mutually exclusive, right?
I booked our fare as walk-on passengers well in advance. In order to do that, we had to decide how long we wanted to spend on Victoria. We picked the earliest possible departure from Port Angeles, which put us in Victoria around 10 am. There were return ferries at 3 pm and 7:30 pm. The ferry ride takes 90 minues, so a 7:30 pm return would have brought us back to Port Angeles around 9 pm. We would see the sunset from the water, but it would make for a very long day. We weren’t planning to see the Butchart Gardens – the only thing away from the city, about 45 minutes each way – so the 3 pm departure it was. This left us about 4.5 hours to spend in the city, which seemed like plenty.The weather was overcast when we boarded the ferry in Port Angeles, but the clouds started to clear just in time for our arrival in Victoria.
Victoria is the capital of the Canadian province of British Columbia. As such, it is the home of the parliament building. Constructed in the late 19th century, it is in the Baroque Revival style, an architectural style that displays important elements of Baroque but it is not of the Baroque period (17th and 18th centuries). It’s located just five minutes away from the harbor (harbour? I feel like I should use British English when talking about the city named after the queen of England ;)). It’s a gorgeous building with beautiful grounds.
There was a fountain right outside entrance too. While taking photos of it, I discovered a new feature on my phone’s camera, shown in the video below. Do you notice the slow motion?
We also got to go inside. We took a peek inside the legislative chamber, marveled at the dome and admired the stained glass windows.
Afterwards, we decided to take a walk to Craigdarroch castle. It was about a mile away, which we thought would give us a good opportunity to explore areas away from the harbor. Not that the harbor wasn’t pretty – what with all the flowers, boats and gorgeous buildings all around.
Craigdarroch castle was built between 1887 and 1890 by Robert Dunsmuir, a Scottish immigrant who made his fortune from Vancouver Island coal. The Victorian mansion is perched on a hill overlooking the city. Unfortunately, Robert died in 1889, just before the castle was completed. His widow, Joan, moved into the castle with three of their eight daughters who had yet to be married. Fun fact: Craigdarroch is one example of a “bonanza castle,” a mansion built by a man who became wealthy during the Industrial revolution.
When Joan died in 1908, the heirs had to sell the contents of the castle and the land around it in order to divide everything up. The 28-acre property was divided into 144 lots, but there was little interest since the property was far from town at the time. The developer assisting in the sale then devised a scheme in which anyone purchasing a lot would be eligible to win the castle itself. All lots sold, and the castle is now in the middle of a vibrant residential neighborhood. (I had been wondering how that happened! You don’t see many castles surrounded by regular homes). The winner of the castle never used it as a residence but as collateral to finance his business. When he failed to pay some debts, the castle became the property of the Bank of Montreal. Over the next decades, the castle served first as a military hospital during WWI, then as a home of Victoria College, the Victoria School Board (which purchased the building from the Bank of Montreal), and the Victoria Conservatory of Music, until finally it became a museum in 1979.
The inside of the castle has been restored to the way it was when Joan Dunsmuir first took up residence. The most impressive things about it were the oak interior and the stained glass windows.
The view from the turret (the circular tower) was quite amazing also.
Afterwards, we headed back towards the harbor. The street we were on was filled with restaurants, coffee shops and cute little stores.
Upon the recommendation of a local store owner, we headed to the Pink Bicycle for lunch. We wanted to try some poutine, even though we knew the dish originated in Quebec. The classic version is French fries topped with cheese curds and brown gravy. The Pink Bicycle had two jazzed up versions. The one we picked came with cheese curds, rosemary gravy, green onions and fried shallots. It was so tasty! We washed it down with a beer and it was the perfect meal!
On the way back to the harbor, we walked by the Miniature World exhibit in the Fairmont Empress hotel. I was eager to see it and compare it to the Miniature World in Hamburg, which visited in 2016 and loved. However, we felt that the price of admission was too steep, and we were getting tired.
Since we had some time to kill before the ferry, we headed instead to a shop B had seen in a Victoria brochure. The Little Shop of Strange features cool funky hand-crafted pieces, hand-crafted jewelry and eclectic clothing. It was in Market Square, an old building transformed into an open mall and home many other cool hipster shops.
We climbed all those stairs back up to our hotel room, and dedicated the evening to doing laundry in the hotel laundromat and lounging. It was our last night in Port Angeles and we had a long drive ahead of us the next day to the west side of the peninsula.