Thursday, February 16, 2012

What should we do in Victoria, BC?

(Friendly Victoria Seals by Fishy979)


My husband and I used your Portland trip guide (that Joanna wrote) when we went for a weekend in November. It was fabulous. Broder was amazing and we were lucky to get a table in the first batch when it opened on Sunday morning.

Anyway, we are planning to go to Victoria, BC over president's day weekend and were wondering if any locals in might be able to write a post. Obviously it is unlikely that you could post this next week for us since you will be *ahem* snorkeling. But I'm sure lots of Seattle readers (and Vancouver and everywhere else) would be interested!

On a completely different note: Would you consider a boobs-week post about pregnancy and already big(ger) boobs? I'm totally lost. When should I buy a new bra? I'm putting it off because I'll probably go up another couple sizes but I don't know.



When I put the call out on Twitter, Rachel, a library enthusiast/government lackey/west coast adventurer, was the first and only Victorian (Victoriite?) who offered to write a guest post. Let's consider ourselves lucky that she appreciates the finer things, such as coffee coffee coffee and LOCALLY MADE GIN.

Here's Rachel:

Oh Victoria I love thee, let me count the ways. My husband, Dallas, and I moved to Victoria in August 2010 after living in Alberta for many years. I’m originally from the coast and have always wanted to move back to be closer to friends, family, and milder winters. It was easy enough to convince Dallas that Victoria was the place to be given the proximity to his true love (after me, of course) – surfing.

To be honest I didn’t really know that much about the city before moving here, but I am a quick study and have fallen in love with everything Victoria has to offer. There is an vast array of incredible restaurants, cafes, and shops – it’s no wonder that a friend of mine has referred to Victoria as the velvet ditch – once people get here they realize how sweet it is and stay put.

A word on Victoria – if you are a visitor it is most likely that you are staying downtown and/or near the Inner Harbour. If that is the case you should be able to walk to 80% of what is on this list. For the rest, a short cab ride may be in order. There is one exception to the rule, and it’s worth sorting out transport to do – The Butchart Gardens. I was a doubter for the first year of living here…I mean, it’s just a garden, right – for tourists and the elderly? However, it is pretty spectacular in every season.

(Butchart Gardens, Winter)

Try Habit, The Parsonage Café (home to Fernwood Coffee), Discovery, and Street Level Espresso. For tea drinkers out there, do not miss Silk Road Tea on the edge of Chinatown.

Victoria does not disappoint in this category. Visit Cascadia, Bubby Roses, or Wildfire. For the Gluten-Free people in your life, Origin is a gem – a bit off the beaten path, but so worth it.

Local tip #1: To combine the above, walk across the Johnson Street Bridge (or if you’re visiting from March through October catch a harbour ferry) to Dockside Green and gorge yourself on treats from my favourite bakery, Fol Epi, and a cappuccino at Fantastico next door.

Mo:Le, The Blue Fox, and Shine Cafe. A new addition, Hudson Jones is also a sure thing – Maple Bacon Sticky Bun, need I say more.

Local tip #2: if you want to avoid waiting in a long line for brunch on the weekend, check out The Superior – a creative menu, and live music as well. They also do dinner and drinks properly too!

Lunch: Hernande’z for the tacos, Foo for Asian street food, and Pig for BBQ. Red Fish, Blue Fish has, hands down, the best fish and chips in the city.

(Red Fish Blue Fish by Karlie85)

Local tip #3: if you are in Victoria from Monday to Friday, lunch at Relish or Devour are amazeballs – some of the best food Victoria has to offer at these 2 spots.
Victoria has a surprising number of beer producers for its size. Get acquainted with pints from Driftwood, Phillips, Hoyne, Lighthouse or Van Island. I like the view at the Flying Otter or Spinnakers and the low key nature of Garrick’s Head.

For cocktails, sit at the bar at Veneto, Clive’s or the Bengal Lounge at the Empress Hotel. My favourite spot for wine is Stage, where the food is also incredible.

If you’re looking for casual, Ferris’ Grill has the best falafel and the chicken penne soup that you will not regret trying (it may sound weird, but just trust me). Rebar is where vegetarians and those who love them gather. [Editor's Note: I ♥ REBAR.] If you want to be charmed beyond belief, visit Skinnytato, a mom-and-pop Polish place. Pizzeria Prima Strada serves the BEST pizza, Neapolitan-style (certified by the VPN).

(Ferris' Grill)

Local tip #4: if you’re at the Cook Street Prima Strada, you will most likely wait for a table as they don’t take reservations. But hey, it’s ok – head across the street to the Beagle Pub to continue your quest to try all the local micro brews. Your cell will ring when your table is ready!

Ulla is a sure thing for a special occasion dinner – beautiful food, drinks, staff, space. I’m also looking forward to my upcoming birthday dinner at Zambri’s, which I’ve been wanting to try since we moved here.

Believe it or not, there is more to do in Victoria than eat. Victoria is also a great place to shop – find something for yourself at Susaion, Still Life, Lark & Sparrow or my personal favourite, Smoking Lily.

Browse for books at Munro’s, jewelry at Violette, buy ESB some of her favourite deodorant at Emporia. New to Yates St is Nest & Cradle – worth checking out for you and your home. Because you’re already at the Atrium building to drink coffee at Habit, stop in at Cook Culture for your kitchen.

Now that you’ve eaten and shopped yourself silly, a long walk is in order. Victoria is notorious for views of its picturesque inner harbour, which you can walk along from downtown all the way to Fisherman’s Wharf where you will see a floating community and feed fish to friendly seals, if that’s your thing (come on…I know it is). Another great walk is found at Ogden Point, where the Breakwater stretches nearly a kilometre into the sea, and then along Dallas Road, where you look out across the strait to Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.

(Fisherman's Wharf by Hummingbird604)

As I mentioned earlier, a visit to The Butchart Gardens is worth it, even if gardens aren’t really your thing (*raises hand*). Before heading to the Gardens, stop at Hilary’s or Choux Choux for a picnic to take with you. If you are driving out that way, why not visit Sea Cider and then Victoria Spirits – two local producers who are making exceptional hard cider and gin that will make you weep.

p.s. Because I gather you are preggers, you should also stop at Hip Baby on lower Johnson, and check out the clothing for littles at Smoking Lily/Milkman's Daughter.

Also: If anyone wants to answer the bra question, feel free to dive in.



  2. Let's hope our boob- and baby-grower doesn't take too much of your advice on all the microbrews and cider and gin. You're a cruel tour guide for a pregnant lady. ;)

    Nice work, though. Makes me wanna visit.

  3. Thaaaank you!!!!! :) <3 So much better than Frommer's.
    And Don't worry, no drinking for me maybe someone else can use those recommendations. Hearing my baby's heartbeat for the first time yesterday is way worth not getting beer and gin in Victoria this weekend!

  4. if you've already grown out of your bra, you need to buy a new one. for the most part, your boobs grow the most during the first trimester, and unless you gain tons of weight, should plateau. when your baby is born, however, they will grow so large, it will blow your mind. but that does not last, and at that point, if you're planning on nursing, you will need to buy a nursing bra. you'll probably have to go through at least 2-3 bras in the duration of your pregnancy and postpartum.

    and for the record, once i got into my second trimester, i drank about one glass of wine a week. i also ate medium rare steak and runny yolks. my baby is perfectly normal and smart as a whip. you've got to do what feels safe to you, but i truly believe that a few sips of beer, or even a glass, won't do you or your baby any harm. just a thought. ;)

    have fun! i've only been to victoria once, but it was incredibly memorable.

  5. I for sure didn't mean to tease Julia with all the mentions of alcohol consumption, because this is VICTORIA FOR THE MASSES. Julia - you must return post-bebe and imbibe - you'll have earned it for sure at that point! If you do end up at any of the cocktail joints mentioned above they all do great non-alcholoic bevvies, for pregnant ladies and otherwise abstainers.

    I didn't even talk about going for proper TEA, you guys. Whoops. Skip the pricey high tea at the Empress and visit the White Heather Tea Room - make a reservation, even if you're going on a Wednesday.

    Also, check out the Downtown Victoria Business Association's (DVBA) twitter feed for the real time updates on what is happening in the city when you visit.

    1. And why is my only food aversion tea? WHY? I love tea. And can't handle how bitter it is right now. We will probably still do high tea but I'll drink water or a creamer full of milk with a splash of tea.

      We are also planning to check out the Royal BC Museum (~my 5th time there) again. It is a pretty sweet museum.

    2. Julia! I LOVE that you love the museum! Nerd alert - the IMAX film festival is on right now and it is GREAT. Check out the show on coral reefs :)

      Also - I would still encourage you to try to get to the White Heather - all of their scones, sweets, etc are made in house and so tasty.

      Have a great time in Victoria this weekend!

  6. Yeaaah Hernande’z! I may be slightly biased as it is owned by my husband's aunt and uncle, but that place has the best mexican food ever. And they are lovely and hilarious people. Go!

  7. Oh, Rachel, your suggestions would make anyone want to visit! I can see many places I will be taking in.

  8. who IS this rachel and how can i become her friend?

  9. For retro awesomeness (although it is not at all city-center) stay at Paul's motor inn. Seriously, the bar? Classic.

  10. Ah so fantastic! I completely agree with all these recommendations :) Although I would also recommend UPSTAIRS at Ferris' - it's amazing up there. We were married at the Sea Cider and it's got plenty of non-cider stuff to drink too, as well as yummy cheeses. Hope you have a great time, and it's so nice to see a great "guide" like this featured instead of only Butcharts and The Empress.

    1. Jessica - so glad you mentioned Upstairs at Ferris' - My favourite is their Sevilla Sunday nights with amazing tapas and wine!

    2. I'm kind of amazed that there are all these awesome ladies who read ESB and live in Victoria and I don't even KNOW you guys but that I feel like I need to! Glad we all have excellent taste ;)

  11. I don't want to be a brat, but do you think you could tag your "What should we do in..." posts with "travel" or something? My friend and I are looking for vacation spots and I thought I would have options by looking at a tag like that :\

    1. you're not a brat!!

      would i be a brat if called the link "esb-approved cities"?

      i've actually been meaning to create a PAGE for this.