Day 3: Victoria
This was such a good day. Oh Victoria, you have stolen my heart!
BC Ferries to Vancouver Island
We had breakfast and left just in time to make the 9am ferry to Vancouver Island. And I mean barely! In order to save some money, we parked the car and walked on to the ferry. No, we ran on. We got in to the terminal to buy our tickets and the agent at the counter told us, “You have 10 seconds!”
So we ran.
And we made it.
The ferry ride from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island is about an hour and a half. And it is beautiful the whole way, but especially as you pass through the gulf islands. Our ride was windy and drizzly, but for sure enjoyable. When we finally got a little chilly, we grabbed a hot cocoa and sat in their comfy seats next to the big windows so we could still enjoy the view.
The BC Ferries are HUGE! I’ve taken the Washington ferries over to the San Juan Islands, and they were great. These totally dwarf the ones I had been on before. With several levels of seating, outside decks and even a little kids play area, it’s a great ride.
On the ride home that evening, we got dinner from the restaurant- sort of a cafeteria feel. Then we got hot cocoa and stood on the deck watching the stars and the birds and lights off in the distance. That night on the deck will be one of my favorite memories with my family- we were all so relaxed from the day, the air was crisp and the wind was in our faces. It was just one of those peaceful happy moments that will stick with me for a long time.
Like I said above, we left our car back at the terminal (saving over $100) and took the bus from Swartz Bay into Victoria. We did this because we knew we were just going to be there for several hours, so being on foot wouldn’t be a big deal. We took the bus that stopped at every stop along the route to Victoria. Holy smokes! The people are so polite! At every single stop, everyone who got off of the bus said “Thank You” to the bus driver. And guys- it’s not like they were right next to him. The exit was in the middle of the bus – so they raised their voices and looked up so he could hear them. Gosh! I was blown away. You hear a lot of talk and joking about our friendly neighbors to the North, and it is so true. The whole trip was refreshing! We all need to be kinder to others, it just feels good.
So we had about five hours in Victoria. Honestly, in planning the trip, I almost cut Vancouver Island out completely because there wasn’t enough time for what I wanted to do (which was explore a whole lot more of the island than just this capital city). But I just couldn’t do it- I’ve wanted to go here for most of my life, so even a few hours would be much better than nothing.
And I’m so glad we went.
There’s just this feeling of peacefulness there. So much beauty.
Anyway, by this time we were hungry so we walked down Government Street until we came across Frankie’s Modern Diner. It looked fun and tasty so we thought we’d give it a try. Frankie’s had great atmosphere and amazing service. I ordered the Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese Sandwich and it was to die for. Seriously guys- this tomato soup is the best I’ve had! It’s not silky smooth- definitely made from scratch with a touch of basil on top. Other orders at the table included the Fish and Chips and of course a Cheeseburger. We hit the jackpot here- it was all so delicious!
And dare I say, the nicest bathrooms in town. Sorry- but I have issues with public bathrooms (or washrooms as they are referred to here), so when I find a good one I remember it. The nicest bathroom I’ve ever been in was in the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton in Manhattan. The washroom at Frankie’s was the second nicest one I’ve been in. Just saying.
This is the main touristy street the runs from the parliament building deeper into town. Full of great shops of all kinds- souvenirs, clothing, candy, restaurants, etc. You could spend a lot of time and a lot of money here.
We wandered down and Carey made sure to stop and get a photo with every statue along the way. We did a little shopping and made our way to China Town.
Fan Tan Alley
Victoria’s China Town is one of the oldest in North America.
In it you will find Fan Tan Alley, which is the narrowest street in Canada, and full of little shops. We picked up some danishes and perused some vinyl. It was definitely a unique little spot.
British Columbia Parliament Buildings
Victoria is the capital of BC, and home to the most beautiful Parliament Building. It is open to the public, where you can take a guided or self-guided tour.
The architecture is amazing- built in the 1890’s. I love the dome. I’m sort of obsessed with domes- It is the thing I go ga-ga over whenever I visit a state capitol building. I was mildly bummed that I couldn’t stand directly centered beneath it because of display that blocked off the area. But I enjoyed it nonetheless. There was also some beautiful stained glass, which seemed to be Carey’s favorite part.
After visiting the Parliament Building, we still had a little time until we had to catch our bus back to Swartz Bay. So the boys all went back to do a little shopping (window and otherwise), while I found the most peaceful area and enjoyed a quiet view of Inner Harbour. The harbour sits directly across the street from the Parliament Buildings and just gives the town an old worldly, heavenly feel. I could have sat there all day, under my unbrella, just taking it all in.
We will most assuredly return to Victoria- it was a highlight of our trip.
TIPS OF THE DAY:
- Enjoy the ferry ride. Don’t just sit in one place- explore! It’s its own adventure. Take time on the deck- especially when passing the gulf islands. Please don’t waste that time by staring at a screen. But if you do- they have free Wi-Fi!
- When you dock, be on the top deck and let your kids watch some of the cars drive off the ferry- it’s pretty cool, especially when you see the semi trucks start coming out.
- You need to spend time in Victoria- actually on Vancouver Island in general. If it works, plan at least a couple of days here, or make it its own trip. BUT- if you don’t have the time for that, a day trip like ours will leave you plenty satisfied.
- Have exact cash for the bus – and make sure it’s Canadian Dollars. (I’ll post more on currency on day 5.)