An Oasis In Winter

An Oasis In Winter
An Oasis in Winter

For most, Canada is synonymous with extreme, harsh winters, and the term Mediterranean Climate is never associated with any of its northern destinations. But Victoria, on Vancouver Island, in British Columbia, is a surprising oasis. Virtually no snow falls on this most southern city in Western Canada, and its mild climate, influenced by westerly winds and that big influential body of water called the Pacific Ocean, hail it as a favorite. Average winter temperatures hover at a pleasant, but wet, 46F during the wet seasons or winter, while perfect golf weather comes in at around 68F during dry or summer months. The rain shadow effect influenced by the Olympic Mountain range transform Victoria into the driest place on the British Columbian coast in summer. Victoria is undoubtedly a paradise and best-kept secret.

The mild climate influences many factors in the city's appeal. It is a mecca for retirees, a haven for youth and outdoor adventure enthusiasts, and a sanctuary for those motivated by flowers and rare fauna. Victoria is known as the Garden City, and all through January, it is possible to see snowdrops, crocus, daffodils, rhododendrons, etc bloom. Seeing palm trees survive in Canada in winter is another clue that everything is different and unique in Victoria.

Easily accessible by plane or via a scenic ferry, Victoria is a great place to hibernate and explore the historical aspects that steep this harbor city in history. In the downtown, it's impossible not to understand that this vibrant core is rooted in the Victorian era. The iconic neo-baroque Parliament Building, completed in 1897, is home to the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, and an ambassador often pictured on postcards and pamphlets advertising the historic city. Sitting on its right shoulder, and facing the Inner Harbor, is the elegant Empress Hotel completed in 1908 and a grand compliment to the city of Victoria. Meandering in the quaint downtown, often rife with tourists arriving on the many cruise ships that anchor in the harbor (500,000 tourists embark yearly) and mingle with the estimated 3.5 million visitors that overnight. (Luckily, they don't collide all on one day.)

Tourists come because it is a favorite destination and includes a plethora of historical sites and venues to explore. A popular destination is Butchard Gardens, a National Historic site and feast for the senses. North America's second-oldest China Town, behind San Fransisco, is deeply linked to Canada's Chinese community and its invaluable contributions to the building of our country. From downtown, it's easy to book whale watching expeditions, or simply people-watch. Highly recommended venues include visiting the high caliber culture scene, notably the symphony, the opera, the theatre, the ballet, museums or one of the many music festivals. For those fortunate enough to spend time in the city, Beacon Hill Park is a 200-acre greenspace rising up from the Juan de Fuca Strait. In this sanctuary, it's possible to unwind, enjoy the ducks, geese, stunning display by its peacock population, while listening to the gurgle of the water fountains. Or stop for a photo-op with one of Canada's true legends, the Terry Fox Monument.

Victoria also prides itself on being progressive in education and has a large, non-local student body. City council is an eagre promotor of bike culture, and extensive bike trails lead the way throughout the scenic city. The Galloping Goose Trail is also a favorite with walkers, and locals and tourists explore sports like rock climbing, hiking, kayaking, rowing, and other outdoor activities fit for both young and mature. Victoria can also boast of an efficient transit system, a great way to explore the city on a rainy day.

By far, a favorite location is Victoria's downtown and its harbor. While strolling along the picturesque streets, a visitor can enjoy many shops geared towards tourism, enjoy a decadent meal, indulge in a sumptuous snack, and undoubtedly have an interaction with a seal, a seagull, or a friendly local or visitor. And although these famous people no longer live here, they share a proud heritage with Victora. Alice Munro, Emily Carr, David Foster, Carol Shields, Nelly Furtado, to name a few. Oh, and Meghan and Prince Harry.

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