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Sometimes Vancouver, the metropolis of western Canada, can seem too big, too fast, too busy and too crazy.  Even the usual escapes to Whistler or Stanley Park can seem ordinary after a while.  If you want a bit of an adventure, perhaps take a weekend trip to the capital city of British Columbia – Victoria!

Named after the legendary English queen, the city boasts beautiful gardens in the spring and summer, while having a smaller, more relaxed feel compared to Vancouver.  Unlike the cosmopolitan atmosphere of Vancouver, Victoria is mostly known as a university town as well as a retirement destination, hence the nickname of it being the city of “the newly wed and the nearly dead.” The heart of downtown is the Inner Harbour, where you can see artists, carvers and jugglers on the concrete causeway walking area in the summer.

The Legislative Buildings, Royal BC Museum, and historic Fairmont Empress Hotel all overlook the harbour, while Beacon Hill Park (with its view of the ocean and the American Olympic mountains) and Bay Centre shopping mall are both within a 20 minute walking distance.  All sorts of shopping can be found along Government and Douglas Streets. One great location is Russell Books, a two-level store that specializes in new and used books at 734 Fort Street.

Perhaps the best part of a visit to Victoria is the boat trip from Vancouver.  BC Ferries operates from Tsawwassen terminal to Swartz Bay, and the 90-minute ferry ride is a refreshing respite with wonderful views of the ocean and the Gulf Islands.  You might be fortunate and see some orca whales along the way!