Crackalackin’ Canada – Victoria and Vancouver

Please don’t blame me for that cheesy title. It’s just that my toddler M, loves Madagascar (the movie) and I’ve had to watch it so many times that I’ve started talking like Marty! Also, I think that word just works with ‘Canada’ – “Hey, how was Canada?” “Oh, it was crackalackin’!” See? it fits! and it also describes my experience perfectly! S and I had to get out of the country anyway to get our visas stamped so we decided to make a trip out of it.When life gives you lemons, right? 😉
We couldn’t do much in Vancouver city but we got a few days to explore Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia.

British Columbia Parliament Buildings

Statue of Queen Victoria outside the Parliament Buidlings

Victoria, named after Queen Victoria is a 2-hour ferry ride (Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay on the map) away from Vancouver. We spent most of our ferry time on the deck or at the cafe sampling some Canadian classics – Poutine and Nanaimo bars. Victoria charmed us, right off the bat. Our first stop was Butchart Gardens, probably the most beautiful floral show garden I’ve ever seen.

Sunken Garden

The Garden is actually an abandoned limestone quarry. You can see some remnants of the quarry in the sunken garden. There is an astounding variety of flowering plants here and I’m sure it must be a herculean task to maintain them. We were extremely lucky to go in spring when the tulips had just started blooming. Carpets of gorgeous candy colored tulips are a sight for sore eyes!

The gardens also have themes! They have a Japanese Garden, an Italian garden, a Mediterranean and a Rose Garden. Lots of great dining options too! We particularly loved the Gelateria in the Italian Gardens. Their cherry gelato was beyond delicious! And do not miss high tea served in the Dining Room Restaurant, every afternoon. You get a perfect view of the gardens while sipping your tea with scones, finger sandwiches and other delicacies. Very very European!

Our next stop was to one of the most popular tourist destinations in Canada – Capilano Suspension Bridge. The bridge is named after a Squamish Chief Kia’palano who lived there in the 1800s. It means ‘beautiful river’. So aptly named!

View from the bridge

We shopped for souvenirs at the Trading Post. But the best thing I bought there was the Grade-A amber maple syrup. I mean, you cannot come to Canada and not buy maple syrup! Won’t that be like dishonoring their national flag? 🙂

We were back in Vancouver for just a day and we decided to visit Stanley park, because we were told not to miss it. Stanley Park is like a green oasis in the middle of bustling Vancouver. This is a 1000 acre park surrounded by the English Bay. It is full of greenery and numerous walking and biking trails.

A view of Vancouver Harbor from the park

We were awestruck by the many marvelous totem poles. These totem poles are representative of First Nations artistry. Many of the original totems were carved as early as the 1880s!

My most favorite part of the park was the seawall which skirts the entire waterfront of Vancouver. You can walk or ride a bike with beautiful views of the harbor and this lighthouse.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of things to do in Victoria and Vancouver. There’s so much more! But this was my first experience with Canada. The only other time I had seen it was from the US side of the Niagara falls. Canada comes across as a delightful mix of Europe and America. And now, having actually been there, I hope I get another chance to see more of this gorgeous country. Canada Travel, are you listening? 🙂

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