Coming to Vancouver Island is just beautiful. The ferry from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay in Victoria takes 1,5 hours and takes you through a wonderful scenery. When the sun is setting a wonderful blue color appears on sky and water and just gives a hint of the beauty of the island. Victoria downtown is just like that. Amazing buildings, sailboats bobbing up and down in the water, flowers everywhere, great seafood restaurants and a street art festival in various locations downtown.
But... Markus and I both felt, that this is just a bit too beautiful, it felt so unreal, a bit artificial, so 'made up' for the tourists - and there are a lot of tourists...
We were rather looking for the Victoria, which you wouldn't find on a postcard, the spots where the locals would go.
Vancouver Island is very british by history and we rather expected a nice english pub or a nice tea house hidden in a side street. Well, actually these things are not that easy to find. Here are the places, where we found a bit of the 'real' Victoria.
The Bakery Fol Epi
The bakery is on the other side of the bay, about a 10 minutes walk from downtown Victoria. It is organic and a coffee shop is right beside it. There are some tables inside, but the mayority of people, especially bikers, sit outside in the sun on benches with waterfront view.
Actually it must be one of the best bakeries in town - the Danishs and other sweet things they create are just out of this world. I had a fantastic piece of cake with crispy dough, almond cream and fresh and incredible tasty raspberries on it. Markus had a sandwich with 2 huge, thick slices of a wonderful fluffy bread with a nice crust and some roastbeef on it. Hmmmm.
The place is always packed. We had to stand in line to get a coffee and got a seat inside - which is usually not possible, as an old lady told me. According to her it was rather slow business for a Sunday morning. The old lady is sitting on the table beside us, sipping a coffee and reading a book and giving the impression of calmness within this place - buzzing with activity. She is originally from Edinborough in Scotland, comes at least twice a week to drink her coffee, have a treat from the bakery and enjoy the lively place. She grins when we tell her we are from Germany, as she says the canadian often confuse her scottish accent with the german accent and ask her from which part of Germany she is from. When she gets up to leave she waves and says almost courtly "it was nice to talk to you! Have a very good day!"
The Garrick's Head pub at Bastion square
The buildings of Bastion square are old warehouses of the Hudson Bay Company, now housing boutiques and fancy shops. But the pavement on Bastion square is still illuminated by old gas lanterns, like in old times. A very touristic place, a thousand languages spoken on the streets. Then you enter the pub, sit down at the bar and feel a bit of that british flair that we were looking for in downtown. The barkeeper discusses with you the different local beers and lets you try them and your neighbor at the bar interferes with his own opinion and talks you into his favorite beer. The neighbor at your other side turns around and starts a chat and suddenly you feel a bit of the real Victoria - and you know where the locals go at 5 pm on a Sunday. They actually told us that we found the one pub in downtown, where they would go, as the others around are too touristic.
The Glo is a fancy and posh restaurant and lounge with a large terrace, lounge seats and fountains located directly at the canal. Its a walk of half an hour from downtown, in the middle of a residential area and you wouldn't find it without having the address. They have a large list of drinks and amazing food. But the scenery is deceiving. The location tries to be posh and attract the rich and beautiful, but actually there are a lot of normal people around, just having a drink and enjoying their evening. And across the water, nicely illuminated by the setting sun, there is scrapyard.