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(2019 - Spring/Summer Issue)


Biking is a great way to see a city the size of Victoria, B.C.

This thought occurred to me as I contemplated intersecting crosswalks, which had been embellished with white stencils that seemed to mimic New York City’s Chrysler Building. The crosswalk art at Fort and Blanshard streets is the work of a local tattoo artist, Gerry Kramer. However, according to Gerry, the design represents sunflowers, not art deco skyscrapers!

Regardless, it got my creative juices churning, as I took a break from my two-wheeled tour of the downtown area.


It’s obvious this town has a serious love affair with bicycles. New additional dedicated bike lanes have opened during my stay and most restaurants have parking space reserved for bikes. Many have special interior spaces for employees to store their bikes. In the downtown area, there are bike shelters and even a bike station where free tools on chains attached to public work stands are available to cyclists who need to repair their bikes.

Next stop, I’m standing on my bike at the Filipino-inspired Dobosala drive-in restaurant for cyclists. Yes, you heard that right: a drive-in restaurant for cyclists! It strikes me that this isn’t the coolest thing I’ve seen in Victoria—it’s merely one among the many cool, unique experiences I’m enjoying here in the space of a few days.

At Silk Road, I enjoy a lovely morning tea break, tasting anything but the traditional teas you might associate with tea time. I’m talking thirst-quenching iced tea and Berry Victoria and Buddha Dragonwell, for example. Silk Road offers classes on the health benefits of their teas.

I get some real exercise as I crank up my ambitions and head off to areas removed from the regular beaten bike tracks.

I catch glimpses of the Pacific Ocean as I make my way up to Beacon Hill Park to view the monstrous Lekwammen totem pole. I coast by peacocks (a fixture since 1891) and speed past the immensely popular Beacon Drive-in, an institution since 1958. The Ross Bay Cemetery should be part of any bike trip and I find the grounds of the Lieutenant Governor’s residence truly lovely.

Back in town wafts of fresh air from my extended bike trip open up my mind to help me concentrate more on the details. I note the magnolia trees, a tiny garden next to the Empress Hotel and tiny sculptures by B.C. artist Crystal Przybille, The Hands of Time, celebrating Canada’s 150th anniversary. They create a kind of adult treasure hunt; I managed to find three out of 12.


Leaving my bike in Victoria, I visit a farm near Sidney where the owners bought a Christmas tree farm only to convert it into an unlikely, but successful, enterprise in a totally different domain. Laura Waters of the Snowden House has opened a business based on Douglas fir tips-infused vinegar! Only in B.C., you say?

To the west of Victoria near Sooke we meet two other sets of ingenious entrepreneurs. Jess and Jeff started Saltwest Naturals, knowing nothing about the complexities of sea salt extraction. They were inspired to start their sustainable gourmet Canadian sea salt business and now offer mineral-rich bath salts as well.

Speaking of sea and salt, Amanda Swinimer has created a fabulous niche product with her seaweed harvesting enterprise, Dakini Tidal Wilds. Traipsing along the beaches near Muir Creek Beach, we soon easily identify the winged kelp and bull kelp Amanda collects from the beach or in the shallow waters near the shore. It’s a surreal scene, investigating pieces of seaweed resembling inedible junk. We’re so close to the State of Washington that our Canadian cellphones think we are on American soil. Amanda teaches us the benefits seaweeds have been providing Asian cultures for centuries. Naturally, she can identify every seaweed draped on the beach at low tide.

Our entire day of visiting unique places was organized by Chef Shirley Lang of Spirit Culinary Excursions. Her tour also includes a trip on a fishing boat, on which we search for fresh salmon and crabs. It turns out to be too harsh a day for salmon fishing, but the crabs we find in the traps previously set turn up some really fine specimens. And Shirley has a trick up her sleeve. Fresh salmon from another day’s catch is available and we are treated to an outdoor BBQ in front of the pier where our fishing boat is kept when not in service.


Finally, friends who recently retired in Victoria drive me to Butchart Gardens, Victoria’s No. 1 must-see outdoor spot. Although many visitors are awed by the gardens’ size, it is the details that impress me. The rose garden is in bloom and I marvel at many of the hybrid roses there. My favourites include Cherry Parfait, Lady Like and Love and Peace, respectively from France, Germany and the USA.

The Japanese garden blows me away with its subtle surprises. The ultimate surprise is a forest of Himalayan Blue poppies, truly a rare find. In Canada, the only other garden where you’ll see them on display is the Jardin de Métis in Québec on the St. Lawrence River’s south shore.

As we enjoy High Tea at the Gardens, I comment on how staff at even the humblest restaurants appear generally friendly. “Unlike in the big cities, staff working at a diner here don’t take transit for hours to get to a minimum-wage job. In Victoria, they can bike to work and get off at three, ready to enjoy the day.”

I contemplate that thought as I mount my rental Simcoe bike back in town, intent on discovering more hidden and subtle beauties. I decide to rediscover coffee at the Discovery Café on Blanshard Street, near where I first saw the crosswalk motifs. Earlier during my stay, I had visited their rotisserie and tasted some delicious options, next to where the Yonni Doughnuts are made. I opted for a gluten-free doughnut. Yes, the crowds were fierce, the wait was quite long. Yet, the service was friendly and fine.

Travel Planner

For more information on all there is to see and do in Victoria, B.C., visit tourismvictoria.com. Other venues and excursions mentioned include:

Butchart Gardens: butchartgardens.com

Dakini Tidal Wilds: dakinitidalwilds.com

Discovery Coffee: discoverycoffee.com

Hotel Fairmont Empress: fairmont.com/empress-victoria

Saltwest Naturals: saltwest.com

Silk Road: silkroadteastore.com

Spirit Culinary Excursions: spiritculinaryexcursions.com

The Pedaler: thepedaler.ca

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