After almost seven months in Victoria, the Brit and I have quickly adjusted to ‘Island life’. Our scenic new town has a much slower pace and it has been a welcome change. Like any new place, there’s been some quirks to get used to; namely, no rapid transit or tap cards (which I knew I’d miss), and NO IKEA (we struggled with this one #firstworldproblem). But we love it and our cozy city life.
Numbered, but in no particular order, here’s what we’re enjoying about Victoria so far:
1. Sunny days
According to worldatlas.com, Victoria is one of the sunniest cities in Canada. I’d never thought about it before, but it’s absolutely true. Almost any time I’ve ever visited Victoria, it’s been sunny, and there have definitely been more sunny days than not since we moved here.
The numbers: Victoria receives an average of 2109 hours of bright sunshine a year and has an average of 308 sunny days a year. I’m told that this also means we will live a few years longer, so there you go.
2. It’s so quiet
Having travelled to many a big city, I know that Vancouver is considered a small city. But Victoria is even smaller, and delightfully so — very cozy and snug. I love that it’s a slower pace and quiet, and it didn’t take me long to get used to it.
3. Year-round Legislature light
I always used to think that the Legislative Assembly building was only outfitted with lights at Christmas time. A couple years ago I was very delighted to find out that I was wrong, and that it is lit up every evening by the thousands of white lights. Thank you, Government of BC!
4. No bridges to get to nature
I am a seasonal hiker; I don’t like hiking in the rain or the cold. And now that hiking weather is upon us, I’m pretty pleased that (I’m told) great hikes like Mount Doug(las), Mount Tolmie, and Thetis Lake are less than half an hour away and don’t involve getting stuck in bridge traffic. We are also a 15 minute walk away from walking along the water.
5. Fisherman’s Wharf & Inner Harbour
While I am not a swimmer, I am a water baby in that I’ve always lived by the water and find it very soothing to be around. Fisherman’s Wharf reminds me of Steveston (where I grew up), and the incredibly scenic Inner Harbour downtown waterfront reminds me of the Vancouver Seawall. Both are lovely I am grateful to have equally beautiful places to walk around and explore.
6. Butchart Gardens
I’m a big fan of a garden, as is the Brit. (He is English, after all.) When we came to Victoria to apartment hunt last summer, we made sure to visit The Butchart Gardens. I hadn’t been since I was in high school, and never not at Christmas. So it was a treat for the both of us. My photo doesn’t do the Sunken Garden justice, but it’s magnificent. As are the fountain, Japanese Garden, and Rose Garden.
Get Thrifty: If you’re local and want to wander around the stunning gardens whenever you want, or know that you’ll be coming to Victoria on a regular basis, buying an annual pass to Butchart Gardens is the price of two adult tickets (and includes . It’s an easy decision that has been validated by the fact that we’ve already been 4 times in less than a year!
7. Walking the Ring
I work at a university campus and it’s unique in that most of it is inside what is called “The Ring”. My lunchtime routine is to walk the Ring twice, which takes about 45 minutes and totals 4km (1.22 miles). I do it every day, rain (or snow) or shine. Having this routine has made a big difference for me as I get some cardio in and listen to a podcast or audiobook, and it’s always nice to get outside and away from my desk. Victoria is, overall, a great walking city.
8. Downtown is a 30 minute walk
To some, this may sound like an eternity, but to the Brit and I, the fact that downtown is a 30 minute walk, not train ride, away is a treat. We tend to walk into the city and take the bus back (less than 10 min), but we’ve also walked off dinner many times (which will be even more pleasant when the weather warms up!)
9. Fan Tan Alley
With its red lanterns, brick walls, and charming locally-owned shops, Fan Tan Alley is the narrowest street in Canada and located in the country’s oldest Chinatown (also as the second oldest in North America, after San Francisco). This could be Diagon Alley, and is one of my favourite spots in the city. But as summer comes closer, I have the feeling that I’ll need to arrive earlier in the day to avoid the tourists wanting to get the perfect shot.
10. Flowers for days
There is a reason Victoria is know as the Garden City. There are flower everywhere. (And I don’t mean just at Butchart Gardens!) It’s a really beautiful place live. And flowers are taken seriously enough that there is an annual flower Count in March. No idea how they can be accurate with everything but the 2019 Greater Victoria Flower Count had the city of Victoria as the winner with 19.9(1) billion flowers out of the overall total of 44,588,324,077(!!) for the area.
11. The grand dames
I’m fairly directionally challenged and need landmarks to keep me going the right way as a pedestrian. In Edinburgh, it’s the Scott Monument, in London it’s Big Ben, in Vancouver it’s the mountains. In Victoria, it’s what I’ve decided to call the grand dames: The Empress (east) and the Legislative Assembly (south).
12. The sunsets are unreal
I love a good sunset. So I knew it was a good thing to have moved here when the sunset on our third day in the city, the sunset was SPEC-TA-CU-LAR. The above is no filter, taken on my iPhone 8 from the front porch of the house that our apartment is in. Subsequent sunsets have not disappointed.
13. No plastic bags
Originally something that took me by surprise when we got here (see below), I love and appreciate that the City of Victoria is working towards being very green. The city (not the whole Great Victoria area) recently passed a bylaw stating that businesses cannot provide customers with single-use plastic checkout bags. Not even for a fee. They can sell us a $0.15 paper bag or a reusable shopping bag and there is a hefty fine to show the city means business. Out of survival and a dislike of paper grocery bags without handles, we have fallen in line, keeping our reusable bags by the door and in the trunk of the Brit’s car; I also have a bag that folds up to the size of a candy bar that I keep in my purse.
14. Foodie heaven
Victoria is apparently up there with San Francisco and Montreal in how many restaurants per capita it has. I don’t know that this is a fact, but a concrete fact is that there are enough excellent restaurants serving up locally-sourced-ingredient-infused cuisine to keep almost every foodie happy. We have been to a a fair number since arriving in the city, and so far, the favourites (his/mine/ours combined) are:
- Little Jumbo $$$ (tasty cocktails, fab food)
- Fish Hook at Mermaid Wharf$$-$$$ (savoury Indian-French fusion)
- Fernwood Inn $$ (delicious brunch)
- Spinnaker’s $$-$$$ (fantastic craft beer, excellent food)
- Prima Strada $$ (authentic Neapolitan, wood-fired pizza #YUM)
15. Craft breweries and brewpubs
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve noticed that the Brit and I enjoy craft beer and visiting tasting rooms wherever we are. Victoria is home to an OG of the craft beer industry, Spinnaker’s (also an excellent restaurant (see #14) and B’n’B). Spinnaker’s was the first brewpub in Canada and helped change Canadian beer laws. They also serve dark beers year-round, with truffles — hello — so that makes me a happy girl. Aside from Spinnaker’s, current favourites include:
- The Churchill (not a brewpub or brewery, but an excellent selection of craft beers, and good food)
- Swans Brewpub
- Canoe Brewpub
- Phillip’s Brewing
- Moon Under Water
16. Wine isn’t far away
A getting more well-known fact about Victoria is that it is a short-to-long drive away from some excellent wineries. Church & State is next door to Butchart Gardens, and the Cowichan Valley is full of award winning vineyards like Blue Grouse Estate Winery, Unsworth Vineyards, and Averill Creek Vineyard. We’ve had wine from all, but have only visited Unsworth so far. Will provide an update as in the summer!
17. It’s just a ferry or plane ride away
Aside from having the Brit with me, I think that what made the move to Victoria so easy is that it’s really not that far away from Vancouver. Being in the same time zone is helpful. Only a ferry or float plane ride away, I can go see my parents and friends whenever I need/want to, or for them to visit; and you better believe that I’ve kept my family doctor (and have visited him since the move). Getting a doctor in BC, particularly on Vancouver Island, is next to impossible.
18. Colour-changing purple gin
Our friend Michelle from Townsite Brewing recommended a few places for us to go to dinner when we made a pre-move visit in the summer, and I am forever in her debt. Why? Because she told us to go to Smith’s Pub, and that is where I discovered Empress 1908 gin. I ordered a gin flight, and how delighted was I that the middle tasting glass contained indigo coloured gin? “But wait,” said the waitress, “it also changes colour when you pour the tonic in.” Mind blown. Because the Brit is well-trained, he picked up my phone and said he’d film my purple gin experience. (Click here!) We’ve since visited Victoria Distillers for more purple gin fun and I look forward to going back soon!
19. I get to be a Disney Princess
Birds, deer, and squirrels, oh my! I have never seen so much wildlife in an urban area before. It isn’t uncommon to see a deer or two walking along the street, waiting at a bus stop (my picture didn’t turn out, sigh), or munching on some grass while I walk the Ring (#4). There is a stag that likes to wander around our neighbourhood and who also pays his respects with his fellow deer at Ross Bay Cemetery. Birds are constantly singing around me and squirrels are abundant. There apparently used to be a gaggle of rabbits at the campus that I work at, but no longer. (Some locals have a conspiracy theory about this…) I also had a hilarious encounter with the neighbourhood racoons on our first night here.
20. Improved balance in my life
When I got home from the first day at my new job, I realized that I had gained three hours back in my day that had previously been eaten up by commuting to/from my Vancouver job, as well as at said Vancouver job. This realization made me feel so FREE. My overall commute is now a grand total of 45 minutes (to/from via bus) and I now work 8:30-4:30 in a job I am getting way more fulfillment from and I’m home before 5pm. The Brit’s commute is now 10 minutes each way. I have more time to write and do other things, the Brit has more time to decompress after work or do his own thing. And most importantly, we have more time together. We are very fortunate and I am grateful.
21. Our home
We live in Downton Abbey. Well, not really, but it’s pretty darn close. Our apartment is in a GORGEOUS heritage Neo-Tudor house in a neighbourhood that is full of equally or more-so gorgeous heritage homes. When we came to view our apartment, we knew we had to have it. Hardwood floors, big windows, gas stove, crown molding, all the things. And the house foyer is what makes me feel like it’s Downtown Abbey with all its wood panelling and stained glass. Sigh.
22. Colonial charm
Victoria reminds the Brit of England. This is no surprise as Victoria was founded by the British and named for Queen Victoria. The architecture and double-decker buses are very much a lasting legacy of colonial roots. Personally, Victoria reminds me not of London or Brighton, but of Edinburgh with it’s small city colonial charm and alley streets full of boutiques and restaurants.
23. Playing tourist
Maybe it’s because everything is still ‘new’, but I doubt the novelty of living in Victoria will ever dissipate. I look forward to playing tourist in my new town for years to come!
23.5 There is so much to explore!
23.5 There is so much to explore!
“Be a true traveller, don’t be a temporary tourist.” ―