Saturday, 10 May 2014

Explore Victoria, BC (4D3Ns)

A trip to British Columbia (BC) will not be complete without visiting Victoria, the capital city of BC. Located at the southern tip of Vancouver Island, one would have to take a flight or ferry to reach this island. My mum and I spent 3 nights here after our overnight trip in Whistler (check out my Whistler blog post). We boarded the Pacific Coach Lines bus from Whistler to Vancouver International Airport (YVR) and from there, we purchased a separate bus ticket (YVR airport/Victoria) ($46) that brought us to Tsawwassen (a ferry terminal south of Vancouver). The ticket covers only the transportation to the ferry terminal. You will then be required to purchased ferry tickets ($16.25) to get onboard the ferry. The bus travels on the ferry as well. Prior to arriving in Swartz Bay terminal in Victoria (journey on water takes approximately 2 hours), you will have to board the Pacific Coach bus in the ferry. The bus will then bring you to downtown Victoria; however there is no service to downtown on their 7.40pm departure. Journey to the ferry terminal from downtown Vancouver is a little bit cumbersome if you travel by yourself; so unless you are really tight on budget and have lots of time, I would recommend you to take Pacific Coach Lines buses. It saves all the hassles as you can plan ahead with schedules in their website and purchase your tickets in advance.
For those who gets sea sick, fret not as the ferry service is not like those little ferries on a rough sea as you imagine. We are talking about a huge ferry that can fit up to 2100 passengers and 470 cars, almost like a cruise ship! Some prefer to hang out at the open deck; enjoying the sea breeze and beautiful sceneries ( my friend spotted whales during their ferry ride!). There is a nice cafe with decent prices on board the ferry. We personally had lunch there on our return trip and it was good (and initially, I was wondering why people were rushing towards the cafe area once boarding the ferry lols)
We arrived at our hotel, Chateau Victoria Hotel and Suites, late night as we had to board the last ferry due to some technical error Pacific Coach had with our bookings at Whistler earlier (lesson learnt; make sure you call and confirm with them your bus tickets prior to your trip!). Tired from the long journey from Whistler, we were happy to be greeted with a warm welcome (probably because we were their last customer who showed up at midnight!). This hotel is definitely not cheap but I bought a very good deal online for their traditional room. Their traditional (standard rooms) are newly renovated and have either 2 queen beds or 1 king bed. Nothing else beats its location; right at the heart of downtown with easy walk to attractions such as the Parliament Buildings, Inner harbour, Fairmont Empress, Big Bus tour main centre, souvenir shops and Pacific Coach Lines station. The bus stop to Buchart Garden is also  situated directly opposite the hotel building. 
Visitor Centre at Inner Harbour
Big Bus Hop-On-Hop-Off Welcome centre (kiosk) on Government St.

I would definitely recommend Big Bus Hop-On-Hop-Off tour especially if you are travelling in big groups, if you have limited time or if you want the flexibility without having to walk as a tour group and slowly enjoying the attractions. It saves the trouble of having to rent a car, find your way etc. Tickets are offered as 1-day ($29) or 2-days ($37) passes. *Tips: Groupon has good deals for these tour bus tickets occasionally for both Vancouver and Victoria :)). For Victoria, 1-day pass is quite sufficient to cover the whole town including Oak Bay Marina. The tour however do not cover Saanich area where Buchart Gardens and Butterfly Farm are located. 
Canada's oldest Chinatown and world's second oldest after San Francisco's

Fan Tan Alley : The narrowest street in whole of Canada!
Lunch at Fantan Cafe, Chinatown
Right beside Fan Tan Alley, is Fantan Cafe which has been there for 21 years! A quaint little shop with an attractive front and well-displayed menus. Surprisingly, there's quite a number of people eating inside eventhough its already way passed lunch time. We tried their special won-ton soup (wor-won ton), a version of won ton soup with chicken, shrimp, bbq pork and vegetables. The combination was good but I didn't quite like the wonton as I thought they tasted porky-ish. I would think they can improve on their marination. We also had the Thai peanut sauce noodles tossed together with sliced chicken and vegetables. I thought the combination was good (slightly sweetish but its Thai peanut sauce @__@). Usually Thai peanut sauce is used in Pad Thai (stir-fry noodles) and this would be a healthier version ? ;P 

Thai peanut sauce noodles

Wor-won ton
Overall, meal was just ok for us. My deepest regret was probably because we ordered the wrong things that did not suit our taste bud? They have a wide variety of dishes on their menu (including dim sum) and even a special make-your-own-lunch combo. Location is good and price is acceptable; pretty standard even though it is situated at a tourist area. You can easily get here at the Chinatown stop on Big Bus Hop-On-Hop-Off.

Address : 549, Fisgard St, Victoria BC
Website : Fan Tan Cafe
Opening hours : 11am to 10pm daily. Dim sum till 6pm.
Fan Tan Cafe on Urbanspoon
Swan Hotel : Super lovely with all the flowers!
This town has lots of flowers everywhere thats for sure!

Oak Bay Marina and village
Buchart Gardens
Buchart Garden is one of the world's most famous floral show gardens located at Brentwood Bay, Victoria. It is about 30-45 minutes from downtown Victoria. You can drive here, take a shuttle bus or the cheapest alternative would be to use the public transit via Route 75. Honestly, the public transit is easy, cheap and convenient (especially if you are staying at Chateau Victoria). Of course, there will be a few stops here and there ( its a public transit afterall!), but you save lots ($5.00 for a DayPass) and its not as tiresome or worrisome as you think (return trip is slightly more cumbersome because you will have to wait with a whole bunch of visitors as well-especially if you happen to meet visitors coming from cruise ships). 
The garden is open all year round but of course, summer would be the best ( rose garden and Japanese garden should best be visited during spring though). Summer admission rate is $30.80 and I think its totally worth the trip! Free brochures and maps of the place are available so that you know the garden  that you are in and the flowers that you are looking at. A perfect place to visit with your loved ones! You might want to check the weather forecast beforehand or bring a rain coat just in case it rains because it did when we were here. Be sure to browse through their huge souvenir shop and try out  The Dining Room's English afternoon tea! It was an awesome experience! Check out my blog post  on it (Buchart Gardens Afternoon Tea)~

Website : Buchart Gardens
Admission : 800 Benvenuto Ave, Brentwood Bay, BC V8M 1J8
Nanaimo bar : A popular dessert item of Canadian origin. Named after the city of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, BC

You might also be interested with :
Vancouver Highlights (Part 1)
Vancouver Highlights (Part 2)
Vancouver Highlights (Part 3)-Bard on the Beach
The Official Richmond Night Market @ Richmond, BC
To Whistler, BC on Rocky Mountaineer Dome Service

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