Microsoft TechReady 9 was over and I have the weekend of August 1-2, 2009 for myself to study and prepare for an accreditation bootcamp that upcoming week. This didn't stop me from taking advantage of the time for I can do my preparation while going around (yes I can!). So early morning Saturday I transferred my stuff from where I'm staying in Seattle to a hotel near our corporate campus in Redmond and immediately headed off to the airport to catch a flight.
My destination - Victoria, British Columbia. I've seen pictures and have always been amazed with the Victorian-style architecture. Last year, I had a short visit to Vancouver but I didn't get a chance to drop by here so this time I'm flying straight to Victoria, BC with a ticket I redeemed via my Northwest WorldPerks frequent flyer program for 12,500 one-way from Seattle, which is a bit hefty for a 100-mile flight but at least I get to use my mileage. I was in the airport early that morning, armed with just my backpack for the 2-day sidetrip, and had to be in line for around 30 minutes due to lack of airline staff that morning.
Hungry - that's how I felt as soon I cleared TSA security and entered the boarding area. I immediately went to look for food but most restaurants were still closed. I settled for Wendy's and had 3/4 pound Triple with Cheese burger sandwich with fries and had an additional order of Bold Buffalo Boneless Wings (I'm drooling as I write this post). I was talking and texting with someone over the phone back in Manila at that time and she was shocked on what I just did and betted I couldn't finish all of these. In the end, I just consumed the wings and fries and wrapped up the burger for a later consumption.
Our flight boarding was on time but I was surprised to see there were only 5 of us in the plane that morning! We had to be seated all the way to the back to balance the propeller plane and we immediately went off for Victoria.
It was just a 40-minute flight and then we landed safely in Victoria International Airport (YYJ). The deplaning process was swift because the ratio of airline personnel to the passengers wass almost 1:1 (2 pilots and 2 flight attendants).
After clearing customs, I followed the recommendations of fellow budget travellers as to where I kind find Akal Airporter, a shuttle service that will bring you to downtown from Victoria International Airport for CAD18.
I asked the shuttle service to drop me off at the The Fairmont Empress Hotel because I have to pickup and pay for a package trip I reserved over the phone from Pacific Coach Lines which is just behind it. I booked for the Victoria City Tour & Butchart Gardens en route to Vancouver package that includes a couple of hours driving tour in Victoria, entrance fees to Butchart Gardens and transportation to Vancouver, British Columbia. I opted for this rather than staying in the city overnight since I have a jam-packed schedule and have time in the city only until that same afternoon.
After payment, I still got time of almost 2 hours to go around the downtown area because the tour departs at 11:30AM. The Empress Hotel is right smack in the downtown area so a lot of interesting sites are within walking distance. I am only able to pass by these places because of limited time:
The Royal British Columbia Museum is among the major attractions in the city. It was established in 1886 and has since then continued to be one of the largest museums in the world in terms of artifacts housed. It also serves as a host for limited-time special exhibits including RMS Titanic and Leonardo da Vinci artworks among others.
The Fort Victoria marker. Historically, the city was built in 1843 as a fur trading post for Hudson's Bay Company and was originally referred to as Fort Albert.
The Fairmont Empress Hotel or simply "The Empress" hotel, is an Edwardian-styled chateau hotel built in 1908.
Walking around the city, it is common to see horse-drawn carriages carrying tourists that adds up to the appeal of being in a golden era.
A group of buildings with neo-baroque style is standing diagonally acrossed The Empress Hotel. The British Columbia Parliament Buildings as it is called, serves as the seat of Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. In front of it is a statue of Queen Victoria.
Here, I met this guy whom I learned later based from research to be Vince Hartmann, a former champion cyclist. He plans to ride his bike across Canada from Victoria, BC to Ottawa in his effort to promote the National Day of Sobriety. He informed me that it was his kick off day for his campaign to get free from addiction and I am very honored to be right there because BC Parliament Building was his launching point for his ride all the way to Parliament Hill (Ottawa). Kudos to your cause Vince!
Inner Harbour or Victoria Harbour serves as the gateway from tourists coming from Seattle and Port Angeles via ferry cruise ships. I initially planned to come to the city using this transportation but I opted not to so I can do more.
people walking by the inner harbour
I visited also went to a nearby park from Victoria Conference Center where a garden of colorful flowers are waiting for delighted passers-by to stop and relax.
15 minutes prior to the time of departure of the city tour, I went back to the bus terminal to wait for the right tour bus. It wasn't a very busy day and only around 6 of us were occupying a full-sized bus.
The city tour passed a few landmarks and interesting places these includes:
The World's Largest Totem Pole, or so it claimed, located in Beacon Hill Park.
Of course, it wouldn't be complete without seeing the numerous Victorian houses and buildings in the city!
another Victorian-styled house
The Grafton Bookshop
The Penny Farthing, which is apparently a bike shop
Oak Bay Fire Hall, just outside Victoria
The Mile 0 marker. This marker signifies the beginning of Highway number 1 in Canada which stretched from west to east of the country.
peacocks in the park
A giant utility for watering plants
This sign caught my attention as we drive by - Night is for Sleeping, Day is for Resting, a work of art from Mowry Baden.
A building structure in Chinatown in Victoria, BC is the first (and oldest) Chinese settlement in Canada.