Monday, November 15, 2010

Victoria's Namesake

To continue with the Victorian theme that TAJ has taken lately...

I recently traveled to Victoria, British Columbia and was amazed by how devoted this city was to Queen Victoria and nineteenth-century Britain. In many ways, I felt more like I was visiting Great Britain than British Columbia. Though in a Commonwealth country and almost on the other side of the world from Britain, I was struck by how this city has retained a British sensibility. 

Founded in 1843, during Queen Victoria's reign, Victoria became the capital of British Columbia, Canada in 1866 when Vancouver Island united with the mainland. A statue of Queen  Victoria stands in front of the Provincial Legislature Building, called "Parliament."

Statue of Queen Victoria in front of Parliament at night. (RS)
Scottish and English colonists ventured far from their homeland, bringing with them not just their hopes and dreams for a new life in a new world, but also their British customs and a domesticating Old World awareness to this new corner of the Empire.  

When Vancouver across the Salish Sea began to draw business away from Victoria in the 1920s, British patriotism and customs could have followed, which would have resulted a very different Victoria than what I saw. Instead, an American by the name of George Warren, in the Victoria Publicity Bureau, devised a marketing campaign to publicize Victoria using the theme of "Olde England" to sell Victoria as more akin to the Old World. 

While Vancouver leveled its downtown to make room for a modern city-scape, Victoria preserved its heritage buildings and added gardens and city parks. This urban plan to nurture the city as it was enabled a lively, walkable historic city center to be maintained.

Though modern buildings were to be erected:

View of Victoria (RS)
downtown Victoria to this day has more of a European feel than a North American. The walking pace in downtown is comfortable and many streets are pedestrian only. And most importantly, the gorgeous architecture reminds you of Grand Victorian England:

The Empress Hotel and harbor at night (RS)

Just as enjoyable as walking the city and viewing its beauty is another British custom that has been preserved - High-Tea. Considered a delicacy, it is offered in many locations for the weary tourist to indulge in.  And indulge I did.

Wikipedia: Victoria, British Columbia -

1 comment:

Debra Brown said...

Victoria is a fabulous long weekend vacation for us Anglophiles. I've been sad to see some of the greatest things disappear for commercial reasons, mainly the Olde English Village Inn, which became a wedding venue, and Anne Hawthorne's Cottage next to it, which they can no longer show because the city feels that the thatched rood is unsafe (but they know nothing about thatching, obviously.) Oh well.