|Subject: The other Victoria (was Vancouver/Victoria)|
I didn't catch the original message in this thread so I apologize in advance if this isn't useful.
As a resident of Victoria for the last 40 (whoops, make that 50) years, and a traveller who likes to blend in as much as possible with locals, may I suggest that you take a day off from the bustle and hype of the typical Victoria tourist itinerary and experience the city like its inhabitants do.
First, park the car and buy a day transit pass ($5.50Cdn = approx. 3.75US). They are available at most convenience stores, some drug stores, and also at the Eatons Centre shopping mall. It's on Douglas Street in the centre of the downtown area (go to the service office/money exchange which is by the bank machines just inside the Fort Street entrance into the mall). Also ask for a copy of the Victoria Transit System Rider's Guide which contains schedules and maps. Don't pay the 75 cent charge printed on the cover because it's given out free of charge on each bus and at the entrance of the Greater Victoria Public Library on Broughton Street among other places.
With transit pass in hand exit the Douglas Street door of the mall, turn left, and walk one block northward to the bus stop in front of the Chapters Book store. Try the #14 UVic (University of Victoria) run. It uses new double-decker buses http://www.bctransit.com/regions/vic/ which come along about every 10 minutes (daytime weekdays) and offer good views from the upper floor. It takes about 45 minutes to reach the University terminus but you may wish to break up the trip by getting off at Fort and Vancouver Streets to check out antiques and collectables in the several shops and two auction houses in the 900 and 1000 blocks of Fort Street, then at the Fort and Moss Street stop to visit the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, http://aggv.bc.ca/ about 5 minutes from Eatons Centre, or just a little further along Fort Street at the Joan Crescent stop to visit Craigdarrock Castle (ok, maybe the castle is a bit touristy) http://www.craigdarrochcastle.com/visitorinfo/map.html and the grounds of Government House (no charge) http://www.ltgov.bc.ca/gardens/default.htm . Craigdarrock is about 5 minutes on foot from the bus stop, some of it uphill, and Government House is an addition few minutes, mostly level walking.
Continuing to the University, get off the bus at the University exchange (it's at the book store) and walk southward across the campus to the Finnerty Gardens (no charge) which specializes in species and hybrid rhododendrons and azaleas which bloom here from late winter to early summer http://victoria.tc.ca/Environment/UVicGdnFriends/#dir
Leaving the University there are a number of choices (see diagram of UVic transit exchange on page 2 of Riders Guide).
If you want to return on a double decker bus using a different route choose the #4Downtown route. It's a little more direct and takes about 25 minutes.
For a non-tourist high tea that is very popular with locals take the #7Gonzales bus (not double decker) from the University and get off at the corner of Foul Bay Road and Oak Bay Avenue, about 12 minutes. Walk westward along Oak Bay Avenue (level walking) to the White Heather Tea Room, 1885 Oak Bay Ave. You will need to make reservations a day or two in advance as it is a small tea room and well patronized. After lunch the staff will direct you to the nearest bus stop along Oak Bay Ave. to board the westward heading #1Richardson or #2Gonzales bus back to the Eatons Centre, about 15 minutes.
If you want to return travelling through one of Victoria's nicer neighbourhoods, the #11Beacon Hill (not double decker) will take you through the Uplands area. This route takes about 30 minutes. Staying on the #11Beacon Hill bus through town will take you southward passing by the Parliament Buildings, through James Bay, a pre-1900 neighbourhood that retains its Victorian flavour in domestic architecture.
For a pleasant afternoon or evening walk on a warm day get off the #11Beacon Hill bus near the corner of Niagara and Douglas Streets in James Bay and walk southward a block or so to Dallas Road and the waterfront with views across the Straits of Juan de Fuca to the Olympic Mountains. It's about a 20 minute level walk westward along the seaside cliffs to the breakwater and entrance to Victoria harbour. You can extend the distance by walking out the breakwater, about 10 minutes each way, and if you're lucky you may spot seals or other sea mammals. It's also the location where cruise ships dock and is the heliport terminus for helicopter connections to Vancouver and Seattle. At the entrance to the breakwater is a diving shop and a cafe which serves inexpensive light meals indoors or on the sheltered deck. It's also very popular with locals, but cafeteria style, so you can drop by anytime. Ask the cafe staff where the near-by bus stop is on Dallas Road so that you can hop the #30/31 Royal Oak back to town.
I'm only scratching the surface of non-tourist activites here so if anyone has specific interests or questions email me privately and I'll try to offer related information.
I should close by mentioning that I have no financial interests in any of the above businesses or services except for a membership in the Victoria Rhododendron Society which administers the Finnerty Gardens in a voluntary capacity.
Regards from Jerry in Victoria