Wednesday 20 and Thursday 21 May 2015

We had initially wondered why this “excursion” existed at the end of our holiday as frankly we knew nothing about Victoria and given that we lose a large chunk of one day travelling we did wonder about the value of it.  So coach travel to the ferry – Spirit of British Columbia – which operates in much the same way as the ferries to France being RORO.  Then a further 40 minutes or so down the highway to Victoria.

First point of positivity – the hotel room here is a suite with an extra living room – so it is all very spacious.  Second point of positivity – the sun is shining even brighter than in Vancouver.  Travelling takes it toll and so we decide to take a rest this afternoon.  We have a free day tomorrow and want to make the best use of day.

In the evening we head out for a meal at Matisse which is, according to Trip Advisor, the best restaurant in the city.  Given the name it is hardly surprising that it is French and we have an excellent meal based around their tasting menu.  I open with an excellent lobster soup, follow it with a stuffed crepe and then I have a rather nice piece of stuffed rabbit leg which had been deboned and sliced; this is the second time I have eaten rabbit on this holiday and I hope that is representative of the frequency it appears on Canadian menus.  Jackie had a piece of char for main course and the original plan had been to eat half each and swap – but once she saw it she decided she was eating all of it!  We have the wine flight and the total bill was about £120 in total – pretty good value for money anywhere.

On Thursday with the sun still shining we wander around the back of the hotel for a croissant and coffee as recommended by a member of the hotel cleaning staff (many thanks – a good croissant).  We then did what we would do if we arrived here on a cruise ship – we took the open top bus tour ride.  We always find these to be pretty good value in giving an insight into the place we have landed and also hitting the highlights in terms of sights to see.  Which I have managed to catch in some of my photographs.

Once we have returned to the city centre we take some pictures of the Empress Hotel and then take a walk along the shoreline to Fisherman’s Wharf – it turns into a car park at one point and seems a little inconsistent, but it is great to watch the little ferries popping about around the inner harbour and the seaplanes coming and going.  Number one seaplane airport in the world apparently.  There is a colourful floating village plus the usual range of expensive yachts to admire.

Victoria is a lovely place; rainfall is about half of Vancouver and it enjoys a far less extreme climate change.  No sign of the less fortunate and opportunities to sit in the sun and enjoy a drink.  Something I have hardly mentioned is the existence of local breweries across Canada – there seems to be a real craft brewing background and there has been a wide selection of beers accompany meals.  Around Victoria there are gardens and other attractions which our fellow travellers strike out to do.  One common occupation for visitors such as ourselves is whale watching which we had planned to do.  However our earlier bus trip had allowed us to see out to sea – with a huge fog bank hanging between the Canadian and American land masses.  Those who do go out to sea admit on their return that the whales had not been visible and indeed the boats were cold and not entirely smooth.  I am sure Jackie’s objections to water borne transport would have been heard.

We catch one of the little bobbing ferries back across the harbour.  Interestingly they do not seem to have a particularly fixed timetable.  The captain asks where we wish to go ($5 each per journey) and then sets off to the furthest point before heading back.  Our stop is actually closed so he drops us off at an adjacent pier – which is alarming for my wife as she can see the water through the boarding.

Dominating the harbour is a bascule Johnson Street bridge built by the same engineer as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.  Originally there was another span for the trains but these ceased operation a few years ago.  The bridge now limits the traffic flow and is in the process of being replaced.  Somehow it seems unlikely the trains will return.   We head to Johnson Street for lunch – “Il Terrazzo” which is but a few steps away and well signposted as it is slightly off the street itself.  Another good meal is enjoyed before we wander back to the hotel for a rest before thinking about packing ahead of our return home – which is going to be a long journey tomorrow.