City Girl Gone Wandering
One day, about four months ago, a friend and I journeyed down a long windy road to spend the day at the beach. Suddenly, a car pulled over and asked if we needed a ride. The driver looked friendly, so we climbed in and headed down toward Ho’okena together. Sitting in the backseat of that girl’s car, blue ocean sparkling in front of me, green trees dancing in the wind, I started to fall in love with Hawaii.
“When I first came to Hawaii, I stayed for three months and then went home to Victoria,” the girl said. “But when I got back, I started to realize how much healing I was really doing here. I didn’t know it while I was in it, but this place was purifying me. So I came back. And now, I spend half the year here, and half the year in Victoria. I have my two magical islands.”
I remember wondering if that’s how I would feel when I left. If the same thing that pulled her back to Hawaii would one day drag me back as well. Sure enough, when I got to Tahoe, the undertow of Hawaii came looking for me. It made me remember the premonition of that car ride, and Victoria quickly rose to the top of my post-Tahoe travel list. I knew that I had to see the enticing island capable of stealing someone away from Hawaii for half the year.
As it turns out, Victoria is the capital of British Columbia, and one of the oldest cities in the Pacific Northwest. It is a quaint harbor town, boasting a population of 80,000 and playing host to millions of tourists each year. The swarms of travelers were quite present during my stay here, and the Ocean Island Inn (where I stayed) constantly buzzed with activity. The lobby was full of various languages, cultures, and ages, all melding together into a whirlwind of excitement and anticipation.
My first day in Victoria, I went out for a walk along the harbor. Little did I know that the city was so walkable that I would accidentally end up at its southernmost point. Surrounded on three sides by water, you can walk along the lapping shores for hours, constantly discovering new things and places.
When heading south from downtown, you start at the inner harbor. Sailboats line the water and float planes take off and land amongst the towering mountains.
Then, there is Laurel Point Park.
And then, Fisherman’s Wharf: a collection of house boats and fish and chips shops.
If you work your way even further down, you arrive at the Ogden Point Breakwater. Tourists and locals alike traverse the path and head toward the lighthouse to admire the views.
One of Victoria’s crown jewels is Beacon Hill Park. Spanning two-hundred acres, it is Victoria’s answer to New York’s Central Park. Green, lush, and visibly arising from a rainforest climate, the park is beautiful. There are ponds, animals, and a band-shell that hosts countless free concerts throughout the summertime.
Victoria is also known for its pristine beaches. The southern beaches are mostly rocky, with piles of large driftwood for passersby to sit and rest on.
The east, however, is full of sandy shores and water that extends toward snow-capped mountains. Sunbathing on a sunny beach and staring off toward piles of snow is a unique experience that warps the mind.
The city is also a haven for artists, and the streets pulsate with numerous festivals and artisan markets. Street music is everywhere–jazz, blues, and classic rock bounces through the streets, blurring with the sound of seagulls squawking and the ever-present smell of sea salt.
At night, many of the European-style buildings are lit up, and the city shines like a radiant beacon of light on the peaceful lapping shore.
All in all, I fell in love with Victoria. Vancouver Island is beautiful and I wish that I’d had more time to explore the other quaint, artsy towns that comprise it. Of all the places I visited, Victoria was the only one that I knew I would somebody return to. There is a quiet magnitude to life there, a serenity that is difficult to walk away from. I understand why my Hawaiian driver friend chooses to spend time in both places. The two places share several qualities (kind souls, beautiful landscapes, etc.) but they each have their own form of connecting with the people who cross their paths for a moment in time.
Victoria is the type of city where you can be walking along, minding your own business, and then suddenly come face to face with a deer trying to cross the road.
What’s not to love about that?