I spent the May long weekend in Victoria, BC.  The city is significant for one reason, one of my closest friends moved there over a year ago.  For the sake of anonymity, I’ll refer to her as Jabba.  The move proved difficult for her, Vancouver held a sacred place in her heart and to leave it was devastating.  The power of a place and its memories can stay with you.

Crowned the capital of British Columbia in 1871, Victoria is Western Canada’s oldest city.  In recent years, British Columbians flocked there for the mild weather, affordable retirement housing, and government jobs.

Tourists also come in droves, attracted to the historic downtown, with a tour typically ending at the Inner Harbour to catch stunning vistas of the famous Empress Hotel and the Parliament Buildings.

Until last year, I wedged a sleepy reputation of Victoria in my mind, but Jabba showed me a different side.  Beyond the retirement jokes and staid government image, Victoria is littered with intimate boutique shops, accessible local restaurants, and fabulous outdoor parks minutes away from one’s residence, instead of miles.  Ocean views are free.

Even though Jabba questions her decision, Victoria is the cooler, laid back cousin to Vancouver’s craziness.

Summer Festivals

A myth about Victoria is the dearth of kicking summer festivals.  A few of my picks for summer 2010.

JazzFest International (June 25-July 4)
Location: Royal Theatre, Centennial Square, Alix Goolden Performance Hall, Open Space Gallery, Victoria Event Centre, and numerous other downtown venues
“Ten hot days and nights of the coolest music in town.” Enjoy over 90 high calibre individual jazz performances taking place in numerous indoor and outdoor venues/stages with over 400 musicians. A series of free admission performances in Centennial Square will also take place during the daytime with ticketed and cover charge performances scheduled in various theatres, clubs and restaurant venues in the evenings. Free workshops by visiting musicians as well.  Contact for more Information: (250) 388-4423 or visit www.jazzvictoria.ca.

Festival Mexicano (July 9-11)
Location: Victoria Event Centre and Centennial Square
Celebrate Mexican/Latin American culture – features an open air main stage with local performers sharing traditional music and dance, kiosks showcasing Mexican/Latin American food and beverages, arts and crafts.  Contact for more Information: (250) 216-3664 or visit www.1415broad.ca.

Free B Film Festival in the Park (Aug 6, 7, 14, 21, 27, 28)
Location: Cameron Bandshell, Beacon Hill Park
Go beyond the summer blockbusters and enjoy a movie under the stars with another great line-up of B-movies from the “Family-Friendly” to the “Funky and Fun”.  Contact information: (250) 389-0444 or www.victoriafilmfestival.com.

Eats

Pluto’s, 1150 Cook Street, (250) 385-4747
This restaurant stole my imagination because it’s a gas station converted into an eatery.  I gobbled a ginormous salmon omelet. Review of Pluto’s.

The Black Olive, 739 Pandora Avenue, (250) 364-6060
Jabba raved about this spot.  Delicious pastas, succulent rack of lamb, BC and West Coast wines make this restaurant a culinary jewel in Victoria.  www.theblackolive.ca.

Bean Around The World, 533 Fisgard Street, (250) 386-7115
Nestled in charming Chinatown, Jabba and I sparred at cribbage while sipping lattes.  This North Shore based company adheres to ethical business practices, something I’m proud to support.

Shops

Salt Spring Island Soapworks, 575 Johnson Street, (250) 386-7627
Us solo women travelers need pampering once in a while.  I had a chance to try the Body Gelato.  Even typing those 2 words is deelish!  Made of pure sea salts, infused with natural moisturizers and oils, I exfoilated myself to baby soft skin.  Actually, forget babies – pre birth skin.  With hair care, body lotions, and foot care – fortifying your toiletries is easy and decadent.
www.saltspringsoaptworks.com.

Smoking Lily, 569a Johnson Street, (250) 382-5459
No, this store isn’t practical, but I love it just the same.  A Victoria store that expanded across Canada, all the clothes are locally made and unique.  What appears impractical may not be.  Pick up a cute t-shirt or a skirt that can roll up nicely in your compression sack.  smokinglily.com.

Russell Books, 734 Fort Street, (250) 361-4447
When I published my get rid of books post many commenters fell into the die-hard book club.  You love the feel of pages between your fingers and are willing to absorb extra weight in your pack.  You can indulge those desires at Russell’s.  They opened a second store at 702 View Street, which adds up to over 13,000 square feet of books.  I was vastly impressed with the selection of classics, literature, and non-fiction.  So, enjoy book lovers!  www.russellbooks.com.

To research city parks visit www.webvictoria.com.

Without further ado, a gallery of memories from my weekend.

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