Sunday, July 29, 2007

About Victoria for those of you who don't know.

I should start out by saying that this post is quite link and picture heavy. I hope the pictures and links help to give you some ideas of what the area is like. Of course we hope to see our friends and family on visits once we are there! :)

(The Wiki entry has a good amount of information on the area, as well as good links to related topics too. Most of what is covered below is also found here.)

Victoria is the Provincial capital of British Columbia, the westernmost province in Canada, and is found on the southernmost tip of Vancouver Island off the western coast of the province.

Travel time by ferry (indicated by the dotted red lines in the picture above) varies from as little as 1.5 hours to 3 hours, depending on whether the ferry is a passenger only ferry, or one that carries vehicles since the former can go much faster than the latter even if the distance is the same. Additionally, starting and ending destinations affect the overall time. For example, ferries that drop off at Schwartz Bay in Sidney are still about 30 minutes away from downtown Victoria as opposed to a ferry docking in the Inner Harbor in downtown by the Parliament/Legislative buildings and the famed Empress Hotel.

Some people have wondered why we picked Victoria, specifically, to move to in Canada, especially as yours truly was born in Montreal, Quebec. One word: CLIMATE!!

A few words about the weather in Victoria, from the City of Victoria tourism site.

"About Victoria> Climate

Located in sub-Mediterranean zone, Victorians enjoy some of the most moderate weather in all of Canada. Victoria boasts an average of 2,183 hours of sunshine yearly, and an eight month frost free season. Average annual rainfall is 26.2 inches (compared to over 50 inches in New York). The average monthly rainfall in winter is 5 cm (2 inches) and in the summer is less than 2.5 cm (1 inch).

Victoria has a very low humidity ratio, and almost constant offshore breezes which keep summer days from becoming too hot, yet summer evenings can cool off; therefore a sweater or a light jacket is recommended. Although winters are mild and rarely include snow, warmer clothing is recommended between the months of November and March.

Comfortable walking shoes are a must. This resort style city is made for strolling, with downtown hotels, restaurants, shops and parks within close proximity to each other."

Some would argue that it is the mildest climate in Canada. High today is about 70F and about 50F for the low, and later next week the highest daily temp is estimated at 78F for Wednesday. Of course one has to realize that averages are one thing, and daily weather is another. For example, in the chart here the average for February was 8C, though in 2006 when we went, the daily average was about 6C in the day and neared around -1C for the low according to the records from the day we were it was mid to high 30s/low to mid 40s in the day and high 20s/low 30s in the evening on Fahrenheit scale. At one point, the day we left, I actually got warm enough to take my wool coat off! It was very sunny, but still very windy! We were quite worried that we'd have nothing but rain the whole time, as winter is the time for rain on the west coast, but apparently all of January rained so February was kind enough to give us some sunny days on our trip. :P Despite the mild temps in winter, it does snow on occasion. Typically it never reaches the ground, and if it does, it rarely stays. Occasionally though, there have been snowfalls. November of 2006 had a snowfall that lasted for about a week or two, if I remember correctly.

The weather is something we are both looking forward to, in terms of heat and humidity (we are SO over Florida summer), though clearly the winters will affect me more than Chas. I expect it will take a few years for me to adjust, but my Plan B is to spike my coffee or drinks. :P I get pretty warm when I drink alcohol, which I rarely do, but I bet just a dab of ammaretto in my coffee would do the trick. Also, learning how to dress for a real winter will help. I am sure I will get along ok, and that over time I will be used to it. Additionally, we hope to do more walking and make use of the excellent public transportation, so we aim to be more active, and the more active you are, the warmer you are, and the jackets and coats with good insulation will keep us warm.

Now for some pictures, courtesy the City of Victoria website!

Aerial view of Victoria

This is a view of the Inner Harbour (and part of the Upper Harbour), with Downtown to the East, James Bay to the South, and just a tad bit of green representing Beacon Hill Park.

Inner Harbour

Inner Harbour Causeway

The Fairmont Empress, also just known as "the Empress"

One of the world's truly grand hotels. Now, with a magnificent $45 million restoration, all the grandeur and elegance of a bygone era have returned to The Fairmont Empress.

Located on the Inner Harbour, The Fairmont Empress is in the heart of Victoria. The full service, 4 diamond hotel is surrounded by quaint shops, double decker buses, manicured gardens and sailboats bobbing gently on the water.

Legislative Buildings at night (you can see them in the Inner Harbour pics)


The majestic Gate of Harmonious Interest welcomes you to the oldest Chinatown in Canada. More on Chinatown here.

Beacon Hill Park

A well-loved green space, with a Petting Zoo, formal rose gardens, and a band shell for outdoor summer concerts. Scottish-born John Blair, considered one of the best landscape architects in North America, won the 1889 competition to design Beacon Hill Park. The hybrid rhododendrons he planted around Fountain Lake are still glorious more than 100 years later. For a dose of peaceful elegance, take a stroll among the beautifully cultivated gardens.

More about Beacon Hill Park here.

On the subject of Beacon Hill Park, Chas and I have done some research into the areas of Victoria that we'd like to live in, and the general agreement between us is that we want to live close to Downtown (within 5-10 minutes with public transportation or about 15-20 minutes max walking distance), close to the water..either the Inner Harbour or the Strait of Juan de Fuca at the southernmost tip of the city, and...close to Beacon Hill Park. Since Beacon Hill Park is so huge AND has close proximity to Downtown, we are thinking about the areas/neighborhoods of James Bay and Fairfield. The city of Victoria is actually fairly small, so it can be accomplished that living in the areas mentioned will get us to most places in 10-15 minutes, and public transportation in this region is excellent. From the map below, Downtown is to the north of the park, James Bay to the west, and Fairfield to the east. Note: this map does not show much of Downtown or Fairfiled.

More on James Bay here. Note that in the picture on the site, the massive green space which is Beacon Hill Park. I also love the fact that there is a local, community run, public market. The James Bay Community Project also looks very interesting.

Fairfield wiki here. The pdf map link in the entry highlights the geographic divisions or borders of the neighborhoods. Looking at the map you can see the sort of square-ish area in James Bay where the word "Bay" is...that is Beacon Hill Park. If you couldn't tell from the other maps, this one is pretty clear on the correlation of Downtown, James Bay and Fairfield. Fairfield is also fairly community driven, and there is also a community-driven farmer's market there.

Well, I think that is about all for now. I know I laid a lot of links and pictures in this post, but I do appreciate you all taking the time to check out the links and pictures relating to our future home.

Oh, and PS...if we could live here, that would be so sweet! Everything sounds so perfect with it. The area is right where we wanted, amenities included are a bonus, the size is quite genorous, and so on...and while the price tag is higher than we'd like to pay for rent, it covers a ton of stuff like utilities and professional cleanings 3 times a month. When you add it all up, the price is quite reasonable for the whole package.