One thing this Navy town has in common with its East Coast counterpart Halifax are the downtown street names. You can find those in the walkway concrete at the intersections of the streets.
An artist and writer concerned with the culture of the First Nations of British Columbia, and thoroughly appreciative of the natural beauty of the place, Emily Carr is probably helped develop the culture of Victoria into what it is today. At the time she was quite progressive in her thinking and her art work, and indeed when her artwork was refused entry to the national gallery of Canada, her response was "If the works of a little old lady on the edge of nowhere is too progressive for the National Art Gallery of Canada, then I guess it can't be too progressive an institution."
Her most well known companion was a pet monkey, but she had a progression of animal companions.
The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria has a large collection of her works, and as of this writing has an exhibition of her works, though that will end on June 30, 2013.
This monument to her sits on the corner of Government Street and Belleville Street, on the edge of the grounds of the Victoria Empress Hotel (which is ironic in a way, as Emily Carr and her eccentric tiny travel home in which she camped in the far north of the province would probably NOT be welcome in that most wealthy of Victoria's institutions).
Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba and raised in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, Terry was 18 years old when diagnosed with a form of bone cancer. He was forced to have his right leg amputated in 1977. Due to the constant companionship of other cancer patients while he was in the hospital, many of which were children, he decided to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research, and help the younger companions back in the hospital have hope.
Terry started his run in St. John's, Newfoundland on April 12, 1980.
On September 1, 5,373 km (3,339 miles) into the trip, cancer appeared in his lungs and he was forced to stop the run near Thunder Bay, Ontario.
Even after his death in 1981, his story continued to inspire many.
Today, due to his "home town" in many ways being so close to Victoria, his statue and monument to his life is located at Milepost 0 of the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1), a fitting place as it was the ultimate destination of his trans-continental journey. This is the intersection of Dallas Road and Douglas Street, just south of downtown.
You will find a few of these sculptures scattered about the Victoria region. They appear to be huge map pins, but in fact they are reproductions of spindle whorls, which was a device used in the spinning of wool by the First Nations people. More than a simple device, they were considered to be central to the foundation of a coast Salish family.
These sculptures are located at places that are of significant historical and cultural interest to the local First Nations tribes.
As a collection they are called "Signs of Lekwungen".
The particular spot seen in photo 1 is today called Songhees Point, but earlier was known as P'ál∂c'∂s (PAH-lu-tsuss). When infants had learned to walk, their cradle boards were placed at this spot as the waters have unusual spiritual power at this location. Later, it was the site of a small trading settlement for exchange of goods with the new white settlement on the other side of the water.
As seen in photo 2, there is a map available at many of these landmarks. Maps are also available at Victoria City Hall Public Service Center (Douglas Street and Pandora Avenue), Victoria Tourist Information Center (812 Wharf Street), and the Beacon Hill Park Maintenance Yard.
The seven locations of the pins are:
Site of the South West Bastion of the Hudson's Bay Company Fort
Victoria City Hall
Beside the "Lookout" on Beacon Hill
Royal BC Museum
These markers form a short cultural walk through the central area of Victoria where it is possible to see a few remains of the original culture that dominated this region.
One think I liked about Victoria was that everybody (well, almost) is very, very polite:
- Always say 'hello' and 'thank you' to the bus driver
- Is very common vendors, bus drivers, waitress, shop owners, etc. asks 'how are you'
- if you're going to cross the street but you are still some meters from it, cars will stop (well that doesn't apply in big avenues of course)
- Don't forget to give a tip to the waiter.
People can be so nice and friendly that once I was waiting for the bus when an old lady talked to me and we had a very nice conversation while our buses came. I was lucky we took the same bus because she was a veteran of the World War II so, I learned many interesting things from her.
Victorians are a good example of polite, nice and friendly people, even my sister once told me she was fed up with so much politeness!! hehe
A Victoria resident explained to me that Victoria has three faces:
1. The touristy face
This is the Victoria that is marketed as being more British than Britain, where attractions such as high tea at the Empress, double decker bus tours, horse-drawn carriages, flower baskets, and quaint architecture define the city. This touristy face is also evident by attractions such as the Undersea Gardens, the Wax Museum, and shops that are immediately around the Empress Hotel. Generally this is the side of Victoria that plays little to no part in the daily lives of the majority of local Victorians.
2. The government face
Victoria is the capital city of the province of British Columbia, and it's where all the provincial politicians come to have their meetings. It's not so evident day by day, as the government workers and politicians are somewhat elusive, although perhaps it's more obvious on the seaplanes and helicopters where you'll occasionally spot nose-in-newspaper briefcase carrying politicians commuting to Victoria. Political protests that occur in front of the Parliament Building may also give you such a hint.
3. The local face
Once you get away from the Inner Harbour, you begin to see the real Victoria that the locals interact with on a daily basis. The supposed Britishness disappears and turns into a relatively scenic Canadian city on the water. Most Victorians don't identify with Victoria's British colonial history, but instead praise their city for the opportunities it provides. These include the relaxed atmosphere, the independent arts and music scene, the surprising amount of restaurants for a city its size, the non-touristy shops, the University of Victoria, and a wealth of year-round outdoor activities, whether that means sea kayaking, sailing, gardening year round (a rarity in Canada), hiking, mountain biking, skiing (on Mount Washington), camping, rock-climbing (at Strathcona Park), or even island-hopping to the nearby Gulf and San Juan Islands.
People in Victoria seem to be addicted to a little beverage called a London Fog. I've never seen them anywhere else, but if you have let me know, because I'd like to know where they originated.
A London Fog is a steamed milk with a shot of vanilla and an Earl Grey tea bag. This is the perfect drink for a typical rainy Victoria afternoon.
Update- It turns out that the London Fog is indeed an island invention. A coffee shop in Cobble Hill first made them. Our very own island beverage!
117 THINGS TO DO IN GREATER VICTORIA...and counting!
This page contains a lengthy list of things to do while visiting Victoria British Columbia. It covers Greater Victoria and most of the south end of Vancouver Island. Greater Victoria BC offers something for just about everyone. These activities are listed in no specific order.
I saw the former British Columbia crest at least two places while in Victoria on the top of Parliament and on one of the stained glass windows in the Parliament Building which was created during the time of Queen Victoria. Like the current crest, it features a stag and a ram, representing the (former) British Colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia, a Union Jack (the flag of Britain), the sun, blue and silver bars representing the Pacific Ocean and the Rocky Mountains, topped with the Royal Crest of a lion.
What is different about the crest is the placement of the sun, if you look at the photos at Parliament, you'll notice the sun is on top of the Union Jack. This was changed in 1906 so that the sun was below the Union Jack as it was contrary to the popular saying that the "sun never sets on the British Empire".
The photo taken of the gates at the Lieutenant Governor's mansion has the current crest.
Victoria is, of course, named after Queen Victoria, the longest reigning monarch of Britain. You can find a statue in her honor in front of the Parliament Building amidst a lovely display of flowers.
Victoria, and Canada, was at one time part of the British empire and unlike Vancouver, it retained much of it's Britishness, preserving it's buildings, tending to it's gardens and encouraging British things like high tea. But alas, unlike many of the other former British colonies, there was nary a sexy British accent to be found....
Victoria's Chinatown is very small and low key, compared to what I later saw in San Francisco. However, it is historical, seeing as Chinese migrants were a feature of the earliest British settlement here. The main street of Chinatown sports a gateway at its eastern end and interesting shops. Apart from that, there's not a heck of a lot to see here.
The Chinatown is a wee walk out of the main hotel areas.
While you're in Victoria, you're in a city with a British heritage. We especially enjoyed the British tradition of afternoon tea (at the Butchart Gardens). You get served fresh hot tea and a huge selection of tea sandwiches and homemade sweets. You have to experience it if you've never had it or heard of it in your life.
No matter what, when visiting another locality I try to be respectful and friendly, especially toward those supporting the tourist industry and dealing will all of us tourists/foreigners, etc. I've found that not everyone in Victoria is friendly. For instance, one evening at Murchies a terrific young lady assisted us. She was extremely helpful and packaged our goods nicely and with care. The next evening, a different young lady assisted us, but she wasn't very helpful and packaged our order in a completely different manner and without care. Generally though, you get what you give, so be friendly and respectful.
In Victoira the night to go out is Thursday. All the students flock to the clubs onThurs because it's cheap night. At Sugar night club drinks are about $1 CDN a piece and at The One Lounge about $1.50 CDN. Get there early as there are almost always line-ups. Have fun!
Americans, even though Victoria is very close to the USA and they speak English, remember it is not the USA. Be friendly, pleasant, patient, and nice. Be a good representative of America. Watch Canadian Bacon featuring John Candy if it is your first trip to Canada.