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Three Perfect Days: Victoria, B.C.

Once a rugged outpost, the serene and surprisingly balmy city of Victoria, British Columbia, is an island home to bicycle trails, whale pods and Native American culture.

Author Melissa Nix

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GHOSTLY VICTORIA

Victoria is known for its abundance of spooky lore, and while apparitions are said to inhabit some of the city’s top tourist spots, they don’t appear to be troubled by guests—so long as they mind their manners.

THE FAIRMONT EMPRESS

THE LORE
Francis Mawson Rattenbury, the hotel’s architect, was murdered by his second wife’s lover in 1935.

IF YOU LISTEN CLOSELY, YOU’LL HEAR…
The cuckolded ghost walking the parquet floors of this luxe haven, rata-tatting his cane along the way.

ROGERS’ CHOCOLATES

THE LORE
The oldest chocolate maker in Canada

IF YOU LISTEN CLOSELY, YOU’LL HEAR…
The disembodied sound of a little girl laughing, as well as the clacking of high heels striking the ceiling above. Manager Mark Harrison reports chocolates thrown at him, lights going out and cabinets closing by themselves.

BASTION SQUARE

THE LORE
Once the city’s gallows, bodies of the condemned were buried beneath it—and remain there still.

IF YOU LISTEN CLOSELY, YOU’LL HEAR…
Echoes of muffled footsteps and dragging chains. The ghost of the city’s hanging judge, Sir Matthew Baillie Begbie, has been spotted on numerous occasions in Bastion Square, which is considered the most haunted part of Victoria.

DEADMAN’S ISLAND

THE LORE
In 1867, teenagers swim here and set fire to a First Nations’ burial ground.

IF YOU LISTEN CLOSELY, YOU’LL HEAR…
Otherworldly howling resounding from the island and crossing the Upper Harbor. Fishermen have also reported seeing flashes of light through the island’s trees.

LOCAL HAUNTS

Illustrations by Esra Croline Røise

BILL COWEN
OWNER, STUDIO 16

“I love the culture here. It’s creative, welcoming and optimistic. Something not to miss in Victoria: Street Level Espresso at 714 Fort Street. The café is run by an amazing local artist named Ken Gordon. And the espresso will wire you.”

DANIELA CUBELIC
CO-OWNER, SILK ROAD AROMATHERAPY & TEA CO.

“It’s a great walking city, and the buildings have a sort of heritage charm, and that’s incredibly visually appealing. I’m also a huge foodie, and the culinary community here is amazing. On Fort Street, one of my favorite places, I’ll visit Plenty, an epicurean pantry.”

PETER HUNT
DISTILLER, VICTORIA SPIRITS

“For a quick meal downtown, my favorite place is Ferris’ Oyster Bar & Grill. They have, like, dozens of different oysters.”

TIFFINY DOBSON
CO-OWNER, HEMINGWAY

“In Victoria, you’re surrounded by woods and water. I often go down to Dallas Road to walk along the harbor. It feels like you are nowhere near the city of Victoria, yet you’re just blocks away. When I’m in town, I usually go to Darcy’s at Wharf Street and Bastion Square. There are tons of young people and great cocktails.”

KAYAKETY-YAK

Victorians get exercise—lots of it.

New York has cabs, Venice has canals, and Amsterdam has…um, it has canals, too. Victoria is crawling with bicycles, but residents’ true love is the humble kayak, which is appropriate, since it was the native Inuits who first developed this little kazooshaped craft.

One look at scores of locals paddling in the harbor and it’s obvious why Victoria is one of Canada’s fittest cities. Even those kayaking commuters linger on their paddle home to enjoy the orcas, seals, sea lions and eagles. Feel like getting your feet wet? Try Ocean River Sports (www.oceanriver.com), which offers tours of the area.

TEA PARTY


Tea at the Fairmont
Empress Hotel

Get classy with a storied afternoon break

Few places outside of the stuffy antechambers of Notting Hill take their afternoon tea as seriously as Victoria. Every day at around 4 p.m., residents engage in a ritual dating back to the days of King Charles II. Choose from a variety of brews, then pluck snacks from a three-tiered trivet, including finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream, and chocolates. A number of Victoria’s restaurants and cafés vie for the distinction of best afternoon tea, but the top purveyor is the singular Fairmont Empress Resort Hotel, the reputation of which is borne out by its list of tea-takers: Barbra Streisand, Mel Gibson, John Travolta, Bob Hope, Queen Elizabeth II, Rita Hayworth, Spencer Tracy, Shirley Temple and the King of Siam have all raised their pinkies in the hotel’s famous tea lobby. Good show, old chap.



One Response to “Three Perfect Days: Victoria, B.C.”

  1. Nightwood Says:
    August 8th, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    Victoria is a fantastic place, but Francis Rattenbury was murdered in Bournemouth, not London, and Willie's Bakery isn't exactly the oldest in British Columbia if you count the several decades when it was out of business. No local calls our most historic and prominent hotel the Fairmont — it always has been and always will be known as the Empress.