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When visiting beautiful Victoria, be sureto talk to strangers!

by Maria Powell

I first fell in love with the charm of Victoria, B.C., when I visited soon after moving west to Calgary from Atlantic Canada in 2007. The Victoria Harbour is reminiscent of the Halifax Harbour (providing a taste of home for me) and the city offers beautiful scenery, kind people and endless adventures! Over the years, Victoria has become the vacation spot of choice for my fiancé Paul and me.

Our favourite time of year to visit is in May just before the height of the tourist season, and where the weather is generally more temperate than Calgary. We typically arrive on Thursday and stay until Sunday, spending our nights at a lovely local hotel, and our days exploring the city and beyond.

The hotel is situated on the water, and is within walking distance to downtown Victoria, which features an eclectic variety of shops and restaurants. We like to head to Victoria’s Chinatown, in particular, Fan Tan Alley, to check out a wonderful ice cream shop and a chocolatier.

Water taxis are available in regular rotation from a dock next to the hotel and the are an inexpensive and enjoyable way to reach the Fisherman’s Wharf in the Inner Harbour. Keep an eye out for harbour seals who surface from time to time along the wharf.

Whale watching is an experience not to be missed while visiting the island. There are several operators to choose from along the Wharf, and they offer a variety of ves sels ranging from Zodiacs—brace for a cold, bumpy ride on the waves—to catamarans. You might encounter orcas, humpbacks, seals and sea lions while at sea.

Plan to take a drive along the coast of Victoria to an area called Oak Bay with beautiful seascapes, as well as to Ogden Point for breathtaking sunsets. There is a stunning viewpoint of the city from Gonzales Hill Regional Park, and you might be lucky enoughto see a few deer while you’re there.

Some of the most memorable experiences that we’ve had during our visits to Victoria have been connected to the people that we have encountered during our travels.

When we landed at the airport during our last trip, while picking up a red Mustang convertible for fun, Paul overheard a man at the car rental counter saying he was in a bind as he couldn’t remember his PIN number for his credit card. Paul offered to drive the man to his bank to get it looked after, we waited for him, and then took him back to the airport. He was a great guy, very appreciative, and it was easy for us to do it. Paul’s kindness and social personality are two huge reasons why I love him so much.

We also met two lovely elderly ladies in Tim Hortons with whom we visited for ages. As it turned out, one lady was originally from an area of the Maritimes near where I lived for years—how I love “small world” stories.

On our last full day in Victoria, we drove for half an hour to Witty’s Lagoon Regional Park, a very picturesque area that we had heard about from a friend during our trip. While there, we met an older gentleman who had recently moved to the island, and Paul took his hand and helped him up on to the rocks to walk along the beach with us. We spent a couple of hours with this man, listening to his stories and enjoying his company while we all explored nature.

I highly recommend engaging with locals and other tourists while on vacation as it truly feeds the soul. Do talk to strangers, as it is sure to enhance your Victoria experience!


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