As Victoria, British Columbia’s capital gears up for its busy tourist season, new additions are sprouting up all over town. Look for these activities, restaurants and lodgings if you’re planning a visit to this seaside city this summer.
The smartly restored, former Hudson’s Bay Company building on the edge of Chinatown will be home to the city’s new public market. Slated to open in late June, the Victoria Public Market will house a mix of permanent food businesses and seasonal vendors, from bakers to produce farmers to cheese makers. Sample exotic teas from the Silk Road Tea Company, or taste a wide variety of olive oils and vinegars (including a Canadian-flavored maple syrup balsamic) at Olive the Senses.
Victoria loves its breakfast joints, and the fun-and-funky Jam Café in Chinatown — with exposed beams, whitewashed walls and rustic wood bar overseen by a golden armadillo — is the city’s newest morning crush. Go hungry, since plates such as the Gravy Coupe (an oversized biscuit piled high with fried chicken, eggs and sausage gravy) or the cocoa-infused Red Velvet pancakes could fill up a couple of famished diners.
Take one wise-cracking, fast-cooking British chef, install him in a sparkling Victoria demonstration kitchen, and turn him loose for the lunch hour — that’s the new “Lunch and Learn” cooking class at The London Chef. In just one hour, chef Dan Hayes will prep your lunch, serve you a full meal (perhaps a Spanish arroz con gambas [rice with prawns] or classics from the south of France), and entertain you with his jolly Food Network-style patter.
Get ready to do the downward dogfish. The Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre in the town of Sidney just north of Victoria is hosting the weekly “Yoga Under the Salish Sea” — a soothing one-hour hatha yoga class (combining classic yoga stances like the Warrior I Pose with breathing and energy control) next to the colorful fish tanks. As you wrap your arms into the tree pose, you’ll swear that the octopus is doing the same. Drop-ins are welcome but class size is limited, so contact the aquarium to reserve your spot.
The Victoria Spirits distillery isn’t new, but its gins are newly available in the U.S., and it’s worth sampling them at the source. Take a short tour (about 30 minutes) with one of its master distillers to learn how the distillery ages its distinctive Oak Gin and infuses its flagship Victoria Gin with a custom blend of botanicals. It brews an eau de vie and an unusual hemp vodka, too. Tastings at the distillery include samples of all the products.
Victoria’s newest hotel, the 100-room Oak Bay Beach Hotel, is a posh oceanfront that pampers guests with butler service, a Rolls-Royce to shuttle you around town and a spa with heated mineral pools overlooking the sea. If you’d rather stay closer to the heart of the action, check into the recently refreshed Magnolia Hotel and Spa, a 64-room downtown boutique hotel, just two blocks from the Inner Harbour.
Photos Courtesy of Magnolia Hotel And Spa, Tourism Victoria, Helene Cyr and Maryann Carmack