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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Getaway - Christmas in Victoria

Going to Victoria 
After my grandfather retired he and my grandmother took a trip to Canada. They enchanted me with stories about Victoria. At age 12, I was hooked. I started my "bucket list". Many decades later my husband and I jumped at the chance to join a December Sports Leisure trip to Victoria for four wonderful days

We joined a congenial group of 32 travelers plus the tour guide, Chris Galloway, a young man who travels extensively and takes excellent care of people who travel with him. Getting us through customs twice both ways made his job a little more challenging.

Chris had planned our trip well. We boarded a bus for Sidney where we had an excellent lunch. People who had the halibut fish and chips agreed it was the best fish and chips they had ever eaten. After lunch we had free time to explore Sidney, known as "Booktown" because of its many used book stores.

As we drove into Victoria, the blend of the old with the new fascinated me. The Bed and Bath, Wall Mart, Subway, Mac Donalds, Wendy's, and dozens of other ubiquitous businesses seemed out of place beside the grand old English looking buildings that dominated the center of the city. Our hotel, the Chateau Victoria stood 18 stories tall. The 18th floor housed a bar and restaurant with wonderful panoramic views of the city. On the day we arrived, a reception for our group at 4:45 was followed by a wonderful dinner an hour later. We got there early and had a chance to view the city through the floor to ceiling glass windows that encircled this spectacular restaurant. From our seats next to the windows we watched lights transform the city into a sparkling jewel framed by the sunset over the distant ocean.

High Tea at the Empress Hotel highlighted a trip full of wonderful experiences. Among them a self-guided visit to Craigdarroch Castle, Butchart Gardens lit up for Christmas, the Victoria Butterfly Garden, the Touch of Saltspring Christmas Arts and Crafts Fair, a two hour city tour narrated by our bus driver, David, who lives in Victoria. We had ample free time to explore on our own as well.
We got home with little time for Christmas card writing, tree and house decorating, and any other usual early December activities. Tradition is nice, but flexibility can bring great experiences such as Christmas in Victoria.