Most folks in the Pacific Northwest begin hibernating with the first rain flurries of fall. But, the mild climate of British Columbia’s elegant capital beckon you to stretch your legs. Simultaneously, its chefs encourage you to let out your belt a notch (or two). The combination is perfect for a food-filled day of sightseeing.
See the Hands of Time
Though Victoria is a central hub for BC’s tech crowd, echoes of its diverse history can be seen throughout the city. Preserved in the historic buildings and represented by multiple art installations, it’s easy to see why this isolated tip of Vancouver Island is a capital worthy of its destination status.
Dotting the Inner Harbour, you’ll find 12 bronze sculptures. They mark stops along the Hands of Time walking trail. Each is a life-size depiction of hands engaged in activities from Victoria’s past: mining gold, working in the shipyard, building railways and more.
Hop onto the statue trail on Wharf Street, just above Victoria’s Inner Harbour Seaplane Terminal. Head north. Within the first three blocks, you’ll pass: “Panning for Gold,” a tribute to the Gold Rush of 1858; “Tying a Rope to a Mooring Ring,” a reference to Victoria’s nautical identity; and “Holding Binoculars,” an acknowledgment of the city’s geographical beauty.
Stay on Wharf Street until you reach “Holding a Railway Spike.” The sculpture, attached to a lamp standard on the east side of the street (between Pandora Avenue and Johnson Street), represents the immense impact of the island’s railroad construction in the 1880s.
Continuing east on Pandora, you could make your way up to Government Street, where you’ll find “Performing with a Fan.” The most intricate of the sculpture series, it symbolizes the rich significance of Chinese culture within Victoria.
Fuel Your Belly
However, if walking has worked up an appetite, take the two-alley Chinatown shortcut: Fan Tan Alley – spanning just 35 inches in some sections – and Dragon Alley to Herald Street. Give your growling tummy a big high five. You’re just 100 yards from Jam Café (542 Herald Street).
This foodie haven’s bohemian vibe reinforces the laidback nature of their all-day breakfast menu. In a city where brunch isn’t just a good idea, it’s a way of life, eggs are a vehicle for celebration. Buttermilk biscuits come with a variety of gravy, runny yolk, hash brown combinations. Hollandaise and poached eggs accompany any number of fixings ranging from chorizo to salmon and the classic thick slice of ham. There’s even a fried chicken Benedict paired with a roasted corn salsa.
And because no brunch would be complete without a libation, Jam Café’s “drinks with a kick” feature accouterments in keeping with their flavor forward plates. Sugar cured bacon garnishes a classic Caesar. Cucumber is muddled with lemonade and spiked with gin. And should you need a little caffeine pick-me-up without missing the fun, there’s always some Baileys on hand.
Get Hop Insights
The craft beer scene in Victoria has been brewing bold flavors since Vancouver Island Brewery opened 1984. Since then, the city’s population of just over 344k, has welcomed six different breweries (and counting).
Among the well-loved brewmasters is Matt Phillips, the flavor mastermind behind Phillips Brewing Company (2010 Government Street). While the signature Blue Buck Amber has earned this small brew house recognition, their seasonal productions of chocolate porter and scotch ale have also earned a loyal following.
Get the inside scoop on how this small hub is cultivating complex flavors during one of their brewery tours. Tours are small, maxing out at just 10 people, so call to reserve your spot. But, the price is right. At just $6-per-person, they include samples and a tasting glass souvenir! (Tours typically run Tue. – Thur. at 4:00 PM and Fri., and Sat. at 2:00 PM.)
At Russell you’ll find book-laden shelves that run from floor-to-ceiling. It’s the kind of space that beckons those who love the smell of old bindings. It’s a spot where bookworms could get lost for hours and lovers might steal kisses in shadowed corners. In comparison, the soaring ceilings of Munro’s historic location offer a refreshing breath of light. Walking their isles harkens to strolling the streets on lazy Saturday – a sightseeing endeavor that mixes book titles with upward gazing.
While both stores are different, each provides an impressive collection of delectable cookbooks. And, both have well-read staffers who are as happy answering questions as they are allowing you to peruse.
Dine With a View
Since it opened, the Marina Restaurant and Sushi Bar (1327 Beach Drive) has been beloved for its breathtaking vista. Hail a cab and get there before sunset. You won’t want to miss this one. But, come ready to savor more than the white sailboats in the Marina Harbour. Executive chef Jeff Keenliside is composing seasonally inspired menus where the flavors of individual ingredients are given room to shine.
While meat’s on the menu, seafood’s the star. Stick to the island mussels in a house made chorizo, red wine and shallot broth. Aim for one of the grilled fishplates that come accompanied with sides such as Brussels sprout and parsnip hash or garlic braised Swiss chard. And should you have room, the brown butter cheesecake comes spiked with bright grapefruit and crusted in pecans.
What to Wear
Think layers. Opt for a breathable top, a light sweater and an easy-to-throw-on raincoat. Go for your walking shoes. We’re talking comfort over cute. While Victoria’s Parliament Buildings and the Fairmont Empress certainly embody high-class elegance, most of the city embraces a laidback vibe.
What to Bring
Your camera. A hat, if hats are your shtick. And, a small satchel to carry any goodies you pick up along the way.
Where to Stay
You can’t go wrong with Victoria’s iconic Fairmont Empress. Here, old-world elegance is paired with impeccable service. But for a more laid-back approach, opt for a one of the city’s numerous bed and breakfasts. These quaint establishments focus more on personalized service and indulgent morning cuisine. Among the best are Abigail’s Hotel and The Inn at Laurel Point.
If you’re looking to score a deal on lodging, Kenmore Air is pleased to offer several exclusive specials to their customers. Find the full details here.