STRAIT OF JUAN DE FUCA, BRITISH COLUMBIA
by Daniela Cubelic, tea store and spa owner
Growing up in Victoria, I always wanted a more cosmopolitan atmosphere, so I fled to Europe and Asia. But 18 years ago I moved back to open Silk Road (250-704-2688; www.silkroadtea.com), an import tea store and spa, and I discovered that all I ever wanted from a city was right here in Victoria. We have all the amenities of bigger cities, but we’re also surrounded by nature. I also love that Victoria’s a really great walking city. You can walk almost everywhere and have it be a relatively short distance. And everywhere you go, there’s the ocean. I’ll look over and I’ll see the Olympic Mountains across the water on the U.S. side. We don’t have the Olympic Mountains on this side, but I think we actually get luckier because we get to see them. Those poor people in Port Angeles! They’ve got the mountains behind them, so we’re the ones that get to enjoy the view.STAY
The Inn at Laurel Point (250-386-8721; www.laurelpoint.com) is phenomenal. It’s right on the Inner Harbour, so you get amazing views of the water. One of the wings of the hotel was designed by renowned Canadian architect Arthur Erickson, and it overlooks this Japanese garden and a big pond, so you get this really interesting effect with two layers of water, the pond and the ocean. It’s very tranquil and serene.
The Oswego (250-294-7500; www.oswegovictoria.com) is a boutique hotel that just opened within the last two years. They have kitchenette suites, and it’s modern and stylish and just steps from the Inner Harbour. If you want the classic Victoria experience stay at The Fairmont Empress (250-384-8111; www.fairmont.com/empress). The patio area is fabulous, and you really feel like you’ve stepped into another era.
One of the things that’s so exciting about Victoria right now is that it’s turned into a foodie paradise. Fifteen years ago I was hard pressed to think of three places I wanted to take out-of-town guests. Now we have this incredible food scene.
I’ve had unbelievable desserts at Niche (250-388-4255; www.nichedining.com), including this interesting chocolate and tobacco ganache. They actually used real tobacco leaves with chocolate. Tobacco has a honeysucklelike note to it. I’ve also eaten amazing salads there, with sorbet dressings that melt over the salad.
Brasserie L’École (250-475-6260; www.lecole.ca) is also great. There’s a strong connection between local food producers and chefs here, so we get food that’s locally grown and chefs who bring out the flavors, and that’s definitely on display at Brasserie L’École.
My favorite breakfast place is Rebar (250-361-9223; www.rebarmodernfood.com), where their focus is on healthy food, and they have amazing juices.
A really fun activity is to rent bicycles from Coastal Water Sports (250-391-1980; www.coastalwatersports.com) and go on the Galloping Goose Trail (www.gallopinggoosetrail.com), which is an old railway line that’s been turned into a cycling and walking path. It’s a pleasant trail with low grades. Ride in the direction of the Saanich Peninsula, which is where we have a lot of our local farms, including Sea Cider Farm and Ciderhouse (250-544-4824; www.seacider.ca), an organic cidery and orchard with a view of the water. They have really great tasting plates of cider samples and you can enjoy those while taking in the scenery: rolling farmland and hills.