June 8, 2012
I’ve written a lot about Victoria, British Columbia, The Fairmont Empress Hotel, and our favorite restaurants there, both for this Northwest Notes blog and in my NW Edge column for Wine Press Northwest, because it’s simply one of the most fun-to-visit cities in the entire Pacific Northwest.
Now it’s time to give a “hip, hip, hooray” to Victoria as the grand old Dame celebrates her 150th anniversary!
As you might expect, there are lots of events and activities planned to help Victoria–a city that’s such a delightful blend of Old-World charm and New-World experiences–celebrate such a happy and important milestone.
Eat and Drink: This is a city of food fests, and yearly gatherings, including Taste: Victoria’s Festival of Food and Wine, prove delectable showcases for local nibbles and vintage pours. On the flip side, street eats are no less appealing, thanks to tasty fish tacones and crispy tempura pickles at Red Fish Blue Fish and spicy prawns and Baja-style fish tacos at Puerto Vallarta Amigos.
Taking Tea: For classic pours, Victoria is the place to take tea. While teahouses are sprinkled throughout the city’s neighbourhoods, an iconic cuppa is a certainty paired with signature scones and sweet treats in The Fairmont Empress’s own tea lobby. For something a tad bit stronger, savour a classic tea cocktail on the Empress veranda, cool your heels over a cold one at Canada’s oldest brewpub, Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub, or take it a little bit further afield for premier gin sips at Victoria Spirits and robust apple pours at Sea Cider Farm & Ciderhouse.
Sleeping Well: Sweet slumber is your reward after a day’s celebration. Start with cosy quarters at Fairholme Manor and count sheep in one of six elegantly appointed rooms. For an even bigger suite selection, the Inn at Laurel Point promises waterfront views and luxurious Silk Road amenities, while the grand, yet-to-be-unveiled Oak Bay Beach Hotel, near Oak Bay Village, has locals and visitors alike counting the sleeps until its summer debut. Back at the harbour, The Fairmont Empress beckons with an overnight that is at once thoroughly modern and distinctly reminiscent of the city’s historic beginnings. Like Victoria itself.
Getting Around: Hop along the harbour and let an H20 Taxi take you there; call ahead and these alternative-transport captains will pick you up. For land-locked travel, choose instead to wander through Canada’s oldest Chinatown, peeking in at quaint Fan Tan Alley shops or stopping for a sip of Dragon Tears green or the limited-edition Victoria 150 Tribute Tea at Silk Road’s Tasting Bar.
Perky Performances: This summer season is sure to be a blast — from a performance point of view. Actors, acrobats and all-around entertainers will bring their best during the Victoria International Buskers Festival, while the annual Victoria Symphony Splash, with its orchestra suspended on a floating barge in the Inner Harbour, will have you swaying to the sweet sounds of Sondheim. If birthday bashes are more your style, there are plenty of 150th-themed festivities on the roster throughout the year: 57, to be exact.
Walk the Walk: Beyond the celebration, you can take to the streets in this infinitely walkable city, and duck into Victoria’s nooks and crannies with Discover the Past’s guided historical tours. Wanna go it alone? Explore neighbourhoods under your own steam and wander through favourites that include the newly revitalized Cook Street Village, a tantalizing must-visit for foodies, and Lower Johnson Street (LoJo, to the locals), a stretch of cute cubbies and savvy shops boasting local, independent designers.