a heroine’s travel guide to Victoria, BC / by Victoria Fry
The city of Victoria captured my daydreamer’s heart before I moved here, before I’d ever stepped foot here, before I even knew where it was (particularly as I am, to this day, horrific with geography). I first read about Victoria between the covers of one of my favourite childhood books, Awake and Dreaming, by Kit Pearson. I read it so many times that I felt like I knew the shy, lonely Theo, and that I was walking alongside her through the streets of her neighbourhood and the cemetery across the road from her dreamlike home.
Years later, I did walk through that very cemetery and saw the very statues Theo came to know in Awake and Dreaming … but we’ll come to that.
Our journey in Victoria, BC, begins not in this storybook neighbourhood but on a sweeping green lawn at the southern end of Government Street.
People watch by the Parliament Buildings
The broad expanse of green, lush grass in front of the Parliament Buildings is the perfect spot to sit and people-watch. You can perch on the edge of the soaring fountain or on the steps in the shade of the majestic stone building, wherever suits your fancy.
If you happen to be there anytime from June through to early September, you might even be able to strike up a conversation with Queen Victoria or Francis Rattenbury (the architect responsible for many of Victoria’s most stunning buildings, with a soap opera-worthy past), or at least the parliamentary players representing them that summer.
Have a browse at Munro’s Books
When you’re ready, stroll north up Government Street to Munro’s Books. Once owned by Jim Munro, the ex-husband of writer Alice Munro, and now owned by his employees, this bookstore is both breathtaking and chockful of good reads.
Scour the shelves for your next literary pleasure, take in the elegant quilted tapestries, and, once your tummy starts to grumble because you’ve gotten lost in this book and that one, slip right next door …
…to Murchie’s Tea & Coffee!
… to Murchie’s Tea & Coffee! This busy little café can sometimes have a lineup out the door, but you can usually find a table (preferably in the salon at the back), and it’s well worth it.
Their tea lattes are delectable, their scones divine, and their carrot cake positively scrumptious! They have a wide selection of black and green teas, as well, many of which are available for sale in their adjoining store if one particularly suits you.
Listen to the Library Buskers
Now that you’re sufficiently sufficed, you can wander a few blocks over to the Central Library on Broughton Street. Rather than go into the library, though, take a seat on one of the benches inside the covered courtyard and listen to the music inevitably being played by a busker.
The courtyard is two stories high with a glassed-in roof, and the acoustics make even the simplest ditty sound utterly enchanting.
Ready to take a wander back in time?
Walk up to the Patch, Victoria’s most well-known vintage clothing store. While it can be a bit on the pricy side, you sometimes luck out with an incredible deal or happen upon one of their big sales, and their selection can’t be beat. I found a gorgeous 50’s frock here in a soft blue-and-pink floral pattern, and other decades are well represented, too.
If you want a simpler, less extravagant souvenir, rummage through their bins of silk scarves: pretty to wear, or perfect for setting out Tarot cards or a small display at home!
Enter the pages of Awake and Dreaming at Ross Bay Cemetary
Just a bus ride away (the #3 or #7, to be exact, hailed right on Douglas Street) comes the end of your day’s journey, and the beginning of my love affair with Victoria, within the pages of Awake and Dreaming: Ross Bay Cemetery. Here you can find the graves of Sir James Douglas, BC’s first governor, and Emily Carr, the local writer and artist, among many others.
The small cemetery’s greatest charms, however, are the statues, monuments, and tree-lined pathways in its midst. You could spend ages wandering through here, feeling the weight of thousands of stories on your shoulders and brushing the back of your neck.
Victoria Fry is an avid writer and writing coach, who specializes in helping writers (re)discover the joy in their writing process. Dig deep into character development with her free course, delve into a podcast on reading, writing and crafty things, or simply say hello on Twitter! She’s always happy to chat about gaming and knitting, along with all things writing.
Xandra recommends: Which creative season are you in?
Is your hometown the perfect fit for a heroine? I’m always looking for fabulous locals to contribute to this Fit for a Heroine travel guide series. Get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org