GSBA Vision & Mission

MISSION: To combine business development, leadership and social action to expand economic opportunities for the LGBT Community and those who support equality for all.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Welcoming Fall in Victoria

by Matt Landers, GSBA Public Policy & Communications Coordinator

As a new resident of Seattle, I have been anxiously waiting for an opportunity to visit our neighbor to the North. Finally, after a hectic late summer, I blocked off a weekend and bought my tickets on the Victoria Clipper just in time to usher in the first days of fall.  It's still something of a novelty to be able to leave the country for a weekend (and by boat!), but mostly it was the chance to get out of the city and see something new which drew me to Vancouver Island.

Just rated the #1 Amazing Weekend Getaway in Canada, Victoria more than lived up to all our expectations. We couldn't have asked for better weather on the first days of fall - crisp and sunny for the duration of our visit in the eminently pleasant capitol of British Columbia. The Victoria Marriott Inner Harbour was ideally located for spending two days walking around the "city of gardens."  The wonderful Marriott staff gave us plenty of recommendations of things to see and do around the city that we didn't even need to take advantage of the hotel's well-equipped gym and pool.

I'm used to seeing the opposite side of this view from Hurricane Ridge. The view from Beacon Hill Park in Victoria is even more impressive looking back across the Strait of Juan de Fuca at the mile-high Olympic Mountains.
Victorian coastline along the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Lots of narrow trails around the bluffs and easy access to secluded, if chilly, beaches with fantastic views.
We stopped by for drinks with Kyla-Rae at the Inn at Laurel Point, the only carbon-neutral hotel in British Columbia. We toured the two wings of the hotel - the Laurel Wing and the Erickson Wing - each with views of the harbor. The whole building is filled with amazing art from British Columbia and Asia, much of it from the owners' personal collections. Over delicious cocktails (try the "Butchart Gardens") Kyla-Rae told us about some of the same-sex weddings that Laurel Point had hosted this summer, including from a lesbian couple from Nevada who found them on Google but still felt a need to call and make sure that the hotel would accept them. "We're all butterflies and rainbows up here!" responded Kyla-Rae, assuring them that they were more than welcome in Victoria.  While we are still campaigning hard to approve Referendum 74 here in Washington State, same-sex marriage became legal in British Columbia in 2003 (nationwide throughout Canada in 2005).
Views from the luxurious  Erickson Wing of the Inn at Laurel Point - every room has a large balcony with harbor views.

Following Kyla-Rae's advice, we continued up the path along the waterfront to Fisherman's Wharf, a neighborhood of houseboats and food stands floating on the Outer Harbour. Small water taxis zipped in and out of their slips, ferrying their passengers between the various waterfront hotels and neighborhoods. One is even piloted by the mayor of nearby Oak Bay. Unlike most of Seattle's houseboat neighborhoods, visitors are able to walk along the docks and see the unique homes up close (several were even for sale).
Thanks for the warning.

We were too late for fish & chips out of the famous Red Fish Blue Fish shipping container off Wharf Street, but the view was still impressive.

Sunday morning began with brunch at Lady Marmelade at the corner of Johnson and Government streets. To work off the waffles smothered in caramelized peaches and vanilla cream, we wandered through the subdued neighborhoods to the east of the Inner Harbour for a mile and a half to Craigdarroach Castle, a Scottish-baronial mansion built in the 1890s. From there we wandered through the gardens of Government House, the official resident of the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, the viceregal representative of the Queen of Canada in the province. Full of many quiet path and hidden corners like Seattle's Kuboda Gardens, the grounds of Government House are a lovely place to spend a quiet hour or two.

Government House public gardens

Despite the recommendations of pretty much everyone I talked with before the trip, we did not make it to the superlative Butchart Gardens or up-island to Parksville (home of GSBA member The Beach Club Resort). Victoria is a wonderful and welcoming destination for the LGBT community and there are many GSBA members based in Victoria and around Vancouver Island, including the Victoria Marriott Inner Harbour, the Inn at Laurel Point, the Executive House Hotel and Tourism Victoria itself.

A return to Victoria is certainly in the cards for us, and we'll be sure to book more than just a single night and to get out of the city limits next time. But for this weekend, the quiet two days spent walking around the city, enjoying the many gardens and outdoor cafes in the sun was exactly what we were looking for.

(all photos by Matt Landers)

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