Why I'm Tempted To Become A Canadian Citizen

For the price of an extended weekend in just about any major U.S. city, you can enjoy a taste of European charm, British elegance, and breathtaking natural beauty. British Columbia's city of Victoria (located on Vancouver Island) has something to offer just about any taste and personality and is certain to win a special place in your heart if you visit.

I have had the privilege of visiting Victoria during two times of the year--autumn and early spring. Both seasons proved to be magnificent, and I am told that summer and the winter holidays are just as wonderful. In autumn, I found the glorious colors of the season (reds so brilliant it took my breath away) contrasted against lush dark green deciduous foliage. In spring, I was dazzled by the crisp pastel colors of tulips and daffodils and found myself heady from spring breezes saturated with the scent of hyacinths of all imaginable shades and hues.

Victoria's crowning glory as far as lodging is without a doubt the Empress Hotel. An historic landmark and exquisite place to lay one's head, it is located along the waterfront kitty-corner from another historic edifice, the Parliament Building. In the Empress, guests travel fantastic antique corridors to retreat to their rooms where they will find the accommodations quite warm and inviting. If you want a bargain, look for special off-season deals (particularly in autumn, late winter, and early spring). For Americans, the exchange rate makes these deals even more attractive.

Speaking of exchange rates, when traveling to Victoria, don't forget to keep some U.S. cash on hand. Most shops are eager to accept U.S. currency and will give you an even better exchange rate than any bank. Taxi drivers and waiters also are quite pleased when given a tip in U.S. currency. You will, however, want to exchange some money into Canadian currency for vending machines and such.

Victoria is an easily "walkable" town with small city blocks and easily navigated streets. Make use of the tourist information center across from the Empress Hotel. Located in a large kiosk, you can find free brochures and tourist maps for everything imaginable. Victoria and Vancouver Island have a lot to discover for the curious traveler including the Parliament Building, Crystal Garden (an indoor tropical paradise), Butchart Gardens, lovely city parks great for picnics, Craigdarroch Castle, and much more.

Eating is a real treat in Victoria. Inexpensive yet succulent meals can be found at many of the eateries about town. Much of the produce served in restaurants has been grown on Vancouver Island with its mild climate. Repeatedly, we have found the food in Victoria to taste better than its equivalent in the states. Even pre-packaged foods and sodas taste better (try the Cadbury chocolate or a can of Canadian Diet Coke).

The Empress Hotel houses a tea room serving a daily British-style tea with all the trimmings as well as Kipling's which serves the most elaborate and vast breakfast buffet I have ever encountered. Often, off-season packages will include the Kipling's breakfast buffet for every morning of your stay at the Empress.

Getting to Victoria can be an adventure as well. I have taken two options, both of which I recommend. You can take a high speed ferry like the Victoria Clipper from Seattle, WA into Victoria or from the north an auto-carrying ferry from Vancouver. [We also found exceptional values utilizing the vacation packages on their website.] You can also catch a connection out of Seattle into Victoria's smallish airport (I flew Horizon Air, a commuter airline of Alaska Airlines). The ferry ride can be quite exhilarating and the views of the Puget Sound are unparalleled. However, flying in is quicker and gives one a bird's eye view of the Sound. It's fun to experience each of them.

How much time should you allot for your visit? That's up to you. I've done an extended 3-day weekend as well as a full-blown 10-day stay. It is close enough to Seattle to even make a day-trip of it, although an overnighter at the Empress is something not to be missed. Victoria is a romantic city for couples (my husband and I honeymooned there), however, singles can enjoy it immensely as well (I went first as a single gal). Traveling families seem to have just as enjoyable a time as visiting college students. What can I say? It's got something for everyone!

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