Quaint spirit of Victorian culture

Vibrant Victoria

Victoria — a gem in the midst of a sea of modernity impresses the tourist with a blend of natural beauty, ancient charm  and the cosmopolitan bustle of a contemporary city. This city indeed has preserved the quaint spirit of Victorian Britain in Canada. In fact, it reminds the Indian tourist of the Victorian Calcutta or the Bangalore Cantonment besides the number of hill stations created by our colonial rulers.

Walk down the streets in the downtown, you find bakeries, coffee shops, book stores, pubs, souvenir and antiques shops and shops selling woolens. One can shop for typical European goods here like English candies and toffees, Irish linen and British porcelain. Everything seems steeped in the ever-so-familiar British traditions that an Indian tourist ironically feels at home.

There are metropolitan and tourist buses running along the city roads and pedestrians walking on the pavements. The roads do not look squeaky clean and spotless like in the US of A. Maybe that adds to the feel-at-home factor. Most of the buildings are single or double-storied structures. Elegant Victorian houses and heritage buildings have been converted into impressive hotels and museums.

From the harbour in Seattle a tourist can sail to the harbour of Victoria. This part of Canada consists of mostly islands, peninsulas, or coastal towns. That explains the natural beauty of this area. Besides Victoria, Vancouver Island has many beautiful towns like Sidney and Sooke. Enroute to Victoria by road the tourist should visit Vancouver city, which has so much to offer besides the pleasure of eating delicious pongal, dosa and Mysore bonda in far away Canada. The Indian population especially from Punjab is quite large here.

Vancouver is actually preparing to host the 2010 Olympic winter games. It will be the first-ever Olympics to officially recognise indigenous peoples as partners in hosting the games. These ancient inhabitants of this area are called the first nations, which include the various tribes – the Lilwat, Musqueam, Songhees, Squeamish and Tsleil Waututh. We learn a lot about these people through a visit to the museum of anthropology at the university of BC. Vancouver museum, maritime museum, space and science museum and an aquarium with Beluga whales, two–toed sloths and sharks are interesting tourist spots. The Stanley Park covering acres and acres is an enchanting garden to walk around.

Vancouver can be the primary destination or a gateway to the Alaskan cruise. While Vancouver is couple of hours drive from Seattle, the latter Victoria, takes more than four to five hours, which includes a ferry ride of nearly two hours. There might be long queue at the ferry point or at the border between USA and Canada. This ferry ride is a wonderful experience by itself. The car is parked in the carrier. Around 200 cars get parked in several decks (it takes container trucks besides). The passengers can stand and breathe in fresh air, watch the surrounding bounty of nature and keep clicking their digital cameras.  Sadly there seems to be no camera efficient enough to capture the beauty in all its entirety.

If one is lucky one gets to see killer whales, bald headed eagles, porpoises and more. Seagulls and seaplanes keep flying round. The calls of sea lions are heard throughout. You are transported to a different world to be one with nature.You feel rather sad that the sail comes to an end after nearly 100 minutes.

An hours drive takes you to Victoria. Victoria is full of life. Soothing sounds of sea birds and the refreshing coolness of the ocean breeze beckon a visitor. The inner harbour bustles with marine activity. The few days we spent in a hotel in inner harbour were so refreshing and energising. We come across people cycle along on sandy beaches and roads.

Millennia before Columbus and Cabot set foot on the shores of America and Canada Vancouver islands, first nations constructed huge cedar plank houses and towering totem poles. They stand today as testaments to their ancient heritage.  Colourful and colossal totems are found everywhere.

Keep half a day free for whale watching. Flights are available from all major cities in. The weather is pleasant throughout the year.

Colourful totems Symbols of ancient culture.

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