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Travel Gluten Free

Oct 1, 2018

Episode #20
Fun Things To Do in Victoria, British Columbia
Welcome to the Travel Gluten Free Podcast, where you, my friend, listen in on how to lead a gluten-free lifestyle with more fun and ease!

Why Victoria?
Do you love small towns that are walkable and easy to get around with a charming Main Street with more stories and tales than you can listen to in a week? Do you love boating, being near the water and harbors? How about museums which celebrate native culture, a town with inspiring stories from amazing people and the best "running of the goats"? All of this and more can be found in Victoria, British Columbia.
How to Get to Victoria
Have you been to SEA-TAC - the Seattle airport? Let me be the first to tell you its a zoo. Planning to fly into SEA TAC give yourself a good 2 hours between getting off the plane, renting your car and getting anywhere in Seattle. If you are within driving distance, I would suggest doing the drive. Beautiful scenery, great places to stop along the way - I've got to tell you I took the most stunning rest stop photos on this trip during a rainstorm - and then take your car on the ferry across from the US to Victoria. Ferry rides are so relaxing and fun. Families putting together puzzles, people playing games or just sitting back with food from the concession on the ferry or the lunch they've brought, and enjoying the scenery. My favorite activity to do on the ferry - sleep! I'm like a baby in a car when it comes to ferries.
And if you've never ridden a ferry, check out my Instagram pictures and here's a tip - make sure that as soon as you park and you are able to move, grab a seat by the window! This is prime real estate on a ferry and if you don't move fast, you will be resolved to sit in a seat away from a window without a table. While still a good view (and you can always go out on the deck during the ride, which is a real treat and gives you amazing photo ops) its definitely harder to sleep in a single seat than in a booth next to a window.

Victoria, the town with a history of history

Have you seen the movie Inception - the movie with Leonardo Di Caprio plays Dom Cobb is a skilled thief, the absolute best in the dangerous art of extraction, stealing valuable secrets from deep within the subconscious during the dream state when the mind is at its most vulnerable.  One last job could give him his life back but only if he can accomplish the impossible-inception. Instead of the perfect heist, Cobb and his team of specialists have to pull off the reverse: their task is not to steal an idea but to plant one. If they succeed, it could be a perfect crime. But no amount of careful planning or expertise can prepare the team for the dangerous enemy that seems to predict their every move. An enemy that only Cobb could have seen coming.
This is Victoria, except take out stealing out secrets and insert history. Starting over 4000 years ago with the nations of the First People, Canadians Native Americans, the Royal BC Museum contains an exquisite language exhibit featuring native speakers welcoming you to the museum in over 2 dozen languages! Being an anthropology major and having a keen interest in Native American culture, this exhibit alone held my attention for a good 2 hours. Walking in, there are posts with the native language scribed on the pole, then you push the button to learn how to say welcome in their language. Just in British Columbia's native peoples alone, you can say welcome so many different ways, from Hello and Good Morning to How are you and your family? The language symbols used by native peoples of Canada are extraordinary - I've not seen these in other cultures. Most of these languages have only been spoken - writing them down is a recent phenomenon. Although many First Peoples do not speak their native language, the First Peoples' Cultural Council now provides community-based immersion programs for the next generation to learn to speak their native language - which was, for many years, illegal to speak. In addition to language, the cultural council also supports aboriginal artists. Look for the link to this great organization in the show notes below!
As you continue to walk through the Royal BC Museum, the local history unfolds of the white settlers taking over the region, the industrial era and the types of issues the white settlers brought onto the natives of the area. To this day, only one Native tribe in British Columbia has the right to own the right to their land. Walk through totems of more recent eras, with the large, bold carved faces and bodies of the local natives standing tall and prominent on the main floor.
The Natural History Gallery gives you a feel for walking back into pre-history with a selfie-spot in front of the megafauna wooly mammoth, hallways of local and current flora and fauna and the diverse deltas and forests which are a part of BC's coast and interior.
The Royal BC Museum is a must-see on your stop to Victoria!
Walking Tour anyone?
Speaking of history, the walking tour is amazing! So many different little cultural hubs in Victoria including a China Town, where of course, you can purchase bubble tea! Fan Tan Alley, part of China Town, with Canton Cafe, calling the bubble tea lover with their picture sign, a woman happily walks out of the restaurant with her cup full of bubble tea, being sipped down until it eventually is transformed into the look of bliss on her face. The China Town Arch, which by the old tradition, should only be walked around and not directly under, because it is bad luck (or so our tour guide tells us ). Walking along the Main Street of Fan Tan, there's a vendor selling fresh produce, including fresh lychee fruit - a real delight when sweetened well. I find out that the Chinese immigrants who first came to this town were not treated well and were not allowed in the public school system, so the immigrants created their own Chinese school. Towards the middle of china town, Victoria decided to build an office complex in the 1960's AKA bomb shelter - which is a stark cultural black hole in the middle of rows of beautiful antique buildings with Chinese art influences.
There's also Bastion Square where you can find buildings made with beams from the Union Iron Works in San Francisco California circa 1861, modern art in the square and many historical buildings which now house offices, stores and apartments - each of them with their own unique story to tell.
Market Square in Victoria holds true to its name with a local outdoor market, an alleyway with history and unique feel when you walk between the red brick buildings, where you can almost hear the history if you can imagine the stories the brick and painted doorways tell when you walk by them. Their secrets are hidden under many layers of paint and story.
Downtown Victoria

Trounce Alley - one of the main alleyways of downtown Victoria, is an interesting mix of modern and antique architecture, however, unlike the central bomb shelter of office buildings built in the '60s, these are tastefully created to blend in with the historical facades surrounding Victoria.

Many upscale, gluten-free and fun eateries and shops abound in the downtown area. The Tobacconist, an original shop from the mid 1800s that has only known purveying of tobacco products since its inception, lies in the middle of Main Street in Downtown with a half-dome of hand-blown glass and metal welcoming you to the entrance to the store. There's Munro Books, where I picked up the Gluten is My by April Pevetaux, conversed with some locals, then moved on to Roger's Chocolates, established in 1885 and teeming with gluten-free truffles (of which I ate a FEW) chocolates and other delectable delights. Speaking of delightful, you must check out Chocolats Favoris, where the celiac-friendly ice cream shop will take your ice cream and dip it in one of three dips of your choice in the back separate from the gluten-infested dips in the front of the store! I must say this is NOT the choice of those who are faint-hearted when it comes to eating chocolate! My cup was SO full of delicious dark chocolate ice cream shell I wasn't able to finish the delectable fountain of goodness lying there, begging me to eat it - even when I saved the remainder in the hotel fridge overnight.
Jump out of Downtown into nature!
A short and beautiful drive from downtown, visit the Butchart Gardens. Started in the late 1800s by the wife of a prominent mining company, when the home they built was adjacent to the land they mined. Being that the land wasn't, let's say, easy on the eyes, the Jennie Buchart decided enough was enough and pulled workers from the mines to start to move dirt, plant and cultivate the area. The result is a magnificent garden, with over 100 years in bloom which include waterfalls, themed areas including a Japanese garden with a small creek meandering through the many plant residents and a rose garden. During holidays, the gardens put on holiday displays in different areas. One of my favorites in the garden was the cafe, with all of the gf choices labeled, including an incredible dessert, which I will talk about on the next episode: Gluten-Free Victoria with Ellen from the Celiac Scene. The gardens host a carousel, which, for $2 admission, you can be a kid again (I didn't bring any kids with me, I just love carousels, then stroll through the gardens and visit the dragon water fountain!
After the gardens, I headed over to Victoria Butterfly Gardens "a vibrant jungle experience" reads on their brochure. While I've been to a real jungle AKA rainforest, I can say that this is a sample of a jungle experience, but, an amazing butterfly experience to be had by all! There are a dozen species of butterflies, tropical birds and an insectarium where you can see bugs from the rainforest like the golden scarab beetle. They also have a small herbarium to check out poison dart frogs and the like.

Empress Hotel and the Running of the Goats

Among the many historical buildings, the Empress Hotel is one of the most impressive. Recently having a multi-million dollar renovation, this hotel stands tall and proud facing the waterfront and beaming in the rays of the sun setting on the horizon. There is a history behind this building -  a mix of marriage, divorce, an affair with an 18-year-old chauffeur and a battle for inheritance. Typical typhoon story of the late 1800s. The Empress is still up and running today, if you are looking for a luxury stay in Victoria, this is the place you want to be.
speaking of the waterfront, I took strolls down here almost every night, the weather in Victoria picking up the Japanese current, is very mild. Only freezes twice a year and the high temp runs around 75-80. There are 1500 palm trees in Victoria, I didn't see any, but they are apparently there somewhere. The harbor is always teaming with artists, tours, activities and just as you start the climb to Main Street, you can visit the tourism center to book tours, get local information and maps to guide you through Victoria.
The location on the southern end of the Saanich Peninsula gives Victoria such an abundance of outdoor activities. One of my favorites was the walking path called the Harbour Walkway. From here, you can walk several miles around the harbor and take in the views, sit on a park bench and watch wildlife and the cruise ships docking in the harbor. For nature lovers and those who love to walk and enjoy the outdoors, Beacon Hill Park is the perfect spot to ride a bike, walk and especially enjoy the goats at the petting zoo.
Yes, petting zoo. I will totally own being the only person in the petting zoo sans small children. I can't help myself - I am a baby goat addict. When I found out there were baby goats nearby our hotel I was there. This is what I wanted to do for my birthday! Of course, being a baby goat addict, I had to be there as soon as the petting zoo opened. Then, I found everyone asking if we were in line. In what line? I watched as the sea of people who walked in after giving their donation parted like Moses himself had walked down the middle of the crowd. Then, they announced: The running of the goats was here!
Looking for a beautiful place to go, that's gluten-friendly and fun for all ages and interests, I would highly recommend Victoria. There's so much to see and do. After 7 days, I wasn't ready to leave for home and would have loved to spend another 2 weeks exploring the streets by foot.
Listener Shout-Out!

Gluten-free blogger who navigates gluten-free travel like a boss! She has recently been in Thailand and tagged Travel Gluten Free in several of her photos! Carrie @forglutensake, thanks for tagging Travel Gluten Free on Instagram, this shout-out is for you!