Season 2

DOWNTOWN VICTORIA

Victoria, British Columbia

by Susie Lee

Victoria’s tourism catch phrase is “Full of Life.” It’s a distinct place where old world Victorian charm meets new world adventures. Victoria is the capital city of British Columbia and is situated on the south side of Vancouver Island.

Here are the great attractions and places I visited in downtown Victoria.


VICTORIA CARRIAGE TOURS

VICTORIA CARRIAGE TOURS

One of the most unique ways of exploring downtown Victoria is on an old fashioned horse drawn carriage. Since 1978, Victoria Carriage Tours has been providing visitors with this unforgettable experience. The informative drivers and guides will share with you the rich history and fascinating facts about Victoria.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Victoria Carriage Tours

Tel. 1-877-663-2207
Tel. 250-383-2207
www.victoriacarriage.com




ROYAL BC MUSEUM – History Coming Alive

ROYAL BC MUSEUM

I love going to museums and it was a delight to visit Victoria, as this is the place where you'll find some of the most fascinating museums in Western Canada. I especially enjoyed browsing through the Royal BC Museum because of the unique galleries that display both the human and natural history of British Columbia, as well as travelling exhibits from around the world.

There are three main exhibit halls at the Royal BC Museum: the Natural History Gallery, the Modern History Gallery, and the First Nations Gallery. The Royal BC Museum has a collection of over seven million unique objects and documents. Ancient treasures and timeless knowledge, from pre-ice age to the present day are found under one roof! It was incredible to see authentic artifacts and walk through the recreated cobble stone streets of old Victoria.

I learnt about the effects of the devastating smallpox epidemic of 1862 on First Nations peoples, entered a ceremonial long house, admired totem poles and visited a gallery showcasing a magnificent selection of First Nations masks. My favorite exhibit was the life size woolly mammoth that stands in front of a thick wall of ice in the Natural History Gallery.

Visitors and locals alike will enjoy learning about our past at the Royal BC Museum. Remember to give yourself ample time to browse through the exhibits . I could have easily spent a day at the museum to explore everything under the roof.

ADVENTURE TIPS

  • Pick up a museum guide at guest services, to maximize your time
  • Displays and activities on the ground floor are free
  • One-hour guided tours of the First Peoples, Natural History and Modern History
  • Galleries are available with your paid admission
  • Visitors may take pictures for personal use but flash photography is prohibited as it may damage the artifacts. No tripods allowed.
  • There is a cafe and concession within the museum
  • Give yourself enough time to browse through all the exhibits
  • Designate a meeting spot if people separate from the group
  • Browse through the museum gift shop, they have beautiful and unique items
FOR MORE INFORMATION

Royal British Columbia Museum

675 Belleville Street
Victoria, British Columbia
Telephone: 1 (250) 356-7226
www.royalbcmuseum.bc.ca




ROYAL LONDON WAX MUSEUM (Closed Until Further Notice)

ROYAL LONDON WAX MUSEUM

This is probably the closest I will ever come to meeting famous people! Royalty, celebrities, and historical figures stand alongside political personages (including past US presidents and Britain’s Winston Churchill) in the Royal London Wax Museum. The museum also accommodates a chamber of horrors, a crown jewels theatre, and exhibits depicting Canada’s frozen north and the Last Supper. One of my favorite areas was a section dedicated to Walt Disney and his animated characters.

The practice of ancient wax artistry has long been committed to impeccable detail and recreating life-like people. This is evident at the Royal London Wax Museum as it brings close to 300 wax figures alive right in the heart of downtown Victoria.

It is unbelievable how much work is involved in creating these figures. It takes a minimum of 6 months to complete a single figure! Reportedly, it takes 60 hours to perfect just the hair, as each strand must be painstakingly set in place individually. This craft may involve numerous man-hours but it is awe inspiring for visitors to see close to 300 wax figures come alive.

But aside from the fun, this museum offers an educational component in which they display prominent historical people. They also offer personal educational tours for students.

PROCESS OF MAKING A LIFE-LIKE WAX FIGURE

  1. The artist will generally use photographs as a guide to get accurate measurements and details of the person they are recreating.
  2. A wax sculpture is molded from beeswax, the same material used in candles. Once the mold is made, it is filled with hot petroleum-based wax. The shape of the wax image will be roughly 2 inches thick after it has hardened.
  3. The artist will trim the excess wax and carve detailing features on the wax sculpture through precision and skill.
  4. The skin tone will be created through a mixture of colored wax and oil paints.
  5. The body and facial hair is painstakingly inserted one at a time with a special needle. This is a long process, depending on how much hair the person has.
  6. The glass eyes and porcelain teeth are carefully placed within the wax sculpture.
  7. For finishing touches, clothing, jewelry and other personal items will be added to highlight their personality and bring life to the wax figure.

ADVENTURE TIPS

  • Bring a camera, this is definitely one attraction where you’ll want to take pictures
  • Warning: "The Chamber of Horrors" may frighten younger children (and even some adults), visitors may choose to bypass this part of the museum
  • A group discount will apply if you are traveling with 5 or more people
FOR MORE INFORMATION

Royal London Wax Museum

Closed until further notice




MINIATURE WORLD – A Whole New World

MINIATURE WORLD

After visiting Miniature World, I can understand why they call it “the greatest little show on earth”! They feature displays of miniature art, from collectable dollhouses to historical scenes. For many children and adults, this form of art may look like tiny toys but this is truly a craftsmanship of skill and precision. It was fascinating to have a bird's eye view of so many famous landmarks, fairy tale worlds and real life places.

Everyone will appreciate the time, attention to intricate details, and effort that has been put into creating these models and scenes. What makes this believable and realistic to the eye is that the measurements of each piece are carefully calculated to the chosen scale. In other words, the houses, furniture and landscape had the proper scale and proportion size to the actual real life object. This is probably one of the challenging elements for the artist when creating the miniature world. The artist will then add detailing, texture and create a 3-D element to the objects. It is a hobby and craft that is a unique form of art.

As I peered into one of the dollhouses, what impressed me was how perfect the insides of the rooms looked. If you take a snapshot of the room in the dollhouse, it would be so hard to tell whether it was actually real or not. I especially admired the paintings on the walls. The artist’s attention to detail was astounding in the picture, from the facial parts to the strands of hair. One would need a magnifying glass to really appreciate the art within the art. The artist did not leave any detail out in the house from the crown moldings to the gutters on the side of the house. Everyday things we take for granted, the artist has not left anything out in creating this miniature world. I commend the artists for their precision, skill, patience and passion for this craft.

Miniature World is an engaging place that will leave visitors with a sense of wonder and awe.

ADVENTURE TIPS

  • Special family rate for 4 or more people
  • Miniature World is least crowded during the early evening hours
FOR MORE INFORMATION

Miniature World

649 Humboldt Street
Victoria, British Columbia
Phone: 1 (250) 385-9731
www.miniatureworld.com




THE FAIRMONT EMPRESS HOTEL – Victoria’s Grandest Tradition Lives On

THE FAIRMONT EMPRESS HOTEL

A trip to Victoria is not complete without experiencing Victoria’s grandest English tradition of taking afternoon tea at the elegant Fairmont Empress Hotel. The hotel is exquisite in every way, from the furniture in the rooms and the interior decoration, to the mouth-watering bite size food served with afternoon tea in the opulent lobby.

I sat back and enjoyed a fine selection of teas, delicate sandwiches, and the renowned Empress scones. It is a good idea to make reservations as afternoon tea seatings start at 12:00 noon and are regularly fully booked.

For attire, I suggest wearing smart casual wear. Flip-flops, jogging pants and tank tops are inappropriate for this location. I would also encourage you to relax and make the most of the afternoon tea experience by turning off your cell phones and electronic devices - if not for your own benefit, then as a courtesy to other patrons. If you want to take a memento home with you as a reminder of your visit, you may wish to drop into the gift shop. There you may purchase a selection of tea blends to recreate your experience at home. I purchased the Fairmont special blend and Earl Grey – I am enjoying a cup of tea now as I write.

INTERESTING FACTS

  • The Empress Hotel is famous for their elegant British Afternoon Tea, serving over 130,000 guests each year!
  • Sir Thomas Shaughnessy, president of the Canadian Pacific Railway, was not interested in building The Empress Hotel because he thought there would not be enough business.
  • Hollywood celebrities such as Katherine Hepburn, Bob Hope, Harrison Ford, John Travolta, just to name a few have stayed at the Empress.
  • In 1965, the faded Empress Hotel was at risk of being demolished and replaced with a modern hotel. Thankfully, in 1966, they decided to renovate it.
  • For many years The Empress Hotel did not have a hotel sign above the front entrance. Finally, as the sign was being put up, there was a comment "Anyone who doesn't know this is The Empress shouldn't be staying here."

ADVENTURE TIPS

  • Reservations for hotel and Afternoon Tea are highly recommended
  • Daily seating for afternoon tea starts at 12 p.m.
  • Stop at the gift shop and purchase Empress Tea and souvenirs
  • Dress attire is smart casual to formal
  • Take your time and enjoy the beautiful ambiance of the Empress Hotel
  • Please turn off handheld devices to be respectful to other guests around you
FOR MORE INFORMATION

The Fairmont Empress

721 Government Street
Victoria, British Columbia
Phone: 1 (866) 840-8402
www.fairmont.com




PARLIAMENT BUILDINGS – One of the Most Photographed Buildings in British Columbia

PARLIAMENT BUILDINGS

During the day, it is hard to ignore the grandeur and presence of the parliament buildings in Victoria’s inner harbour. But in the evening these buildings become even more spectacular as 3,300 light bulbs illuminate the dark velvet sky. Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia, is home to the government buildings where the province’s laws and provincial government decisions are made. This architectural masterpiece will catch the attention of every visitor and their camera.

In 1893 a talented young 25 year-old architect, Francis Ruttenburg, designed and constructed the parliament buildings. It has been said that during construction he recognized the importance of supporting and working with local businesses; he tried as much as possible to use local materials and labor. The granite that was used in construction was brought in from nearby Nelson Island on the Sunshine Coast. Advanced beyond his years for creativity and talent, Ruttenberg can be lauded for the fruit of his labor.

The parliament buildings in Victoria are arguably the finest of all government buildings across Canada. During the summer months, visitors can enjoy daily tours of the buildings.

INTERESTING FACTS

  • Francis Rattenbury, a recent English immigrant, entered the provinces' architectural competition to build a new legislative building. Under a pseudonym, A.B.C. Architect, he submitted his sketches and ended up winning the competition at the age of 25 years old.
  • The building project was estimated to cost $500,000 but the final cost, in 1898, of the BC Parliament buildings was $923,000.
  • After this success, Francis Rattenbury was commissioned to design the Legislative Library, The Empress Hotel, the Crystal Gardens, the Vancouver Court House which is now the Vancouver Art Gallery.
  • The Parliament buildings are considered to be an architectural gem and one of the most beautiful government buildings in the world.
FOR MORE INFORMATION

BC Parliament Buildings

Inner Harbour on Belleville Street, Victoria
Phone: 1 (250) 387-3046
www.victoriabc.ca/victoria/parliamentbuildings.htm
www.tourismvictoria.com

FINAL THOUGHTS

In Victoria old world meets new. There is a strong flavor of English sensibility, tradition, and architecture. Enjoy all that Victoria has to offer from its incredible variety of eateries to its sights and attractions. If you are a local resident, I encourage you to become a tourist in your own town and explore it from the perspective of a tourist. And if you are a visitor, enjoy Victoria’s beauty and uniqueness, learn about the rich history and share the highlights with others back home.

I wish you happy and safe travel in all the journeys of your life.

To sum up this adventure in one phrase: CULTURALLY RICH

PHOTO GALLERY

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Episode 4 Guide:
Victoria

Click on any image below to visit and watch the video segment
Downtown Victoria
Downtown Victoria
Victoria Whale Watching
Victoria Whale Watching
Victoria Butterfly Gardens
Victoria Butterfly Gardens
Victoria Butchart Garden
Victoria Butchart Garden
Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre
Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre
Victoria Hang Gliding
Victoria Hang Gliding

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