How to be a loner in Victoria, BC

Victoria, BC (October 2014) – Vitamin Daily By Adrienne Matei

When you tell people you’re going to Victoria on Vancouver Island alone, in all likelihood they won’t be enthusiastic for you. But so-called “mainlanders” are downers, and you can tell them we said that because we’re close and they’ll know we’re kidding. Better yet, don’t tell anyone at all. Just go, disappear for a weekend. Once you get to Vancouver, Victoria is both close and far away enough to do that.

depart: If you’re from Van, or here for business, leave work early on Friday afternoon. Say you’re going to the bathroom and never come back. Find yourself in Coal Harbour applying red lipstick. We like NARS Rita, because of Rita Hayworth, obviously. Wear a trench coat. If you’re not boarding your late-afternoon seaplane in red lipstick and a trench coat, you’re not picking up what we’re laying down.

arrive: Deplane and look at Parliament and think about how the last time you were here you were almost definitely 13. Book a room at the Magnolia Hotel because it sounds decadent, the kind of place that would leave leaf-shaped peppermint chocolates on your pillow, wrapped in green foil, and be super helpful about mailing back your favourite paper-thin T-shirt and black bra after you doofily forget them in the bathtub. Stunning views and a spa that offers rosemary-scented, butter-meltingly lovely massages in exposed-brick treatment rooms round out the luxury.

eat: Head to Fish Hook, a new venture by esteemed chef Kunal Ghose, with white-and-pale-wood décor and really old, really good Arcade Fire and Beirut over the speakers. Order fish curry with coconut-poached salmon, roasted cauliflower and kale saag—it’s Oceanwise and incredibly delicious. Listen to an exchange in which the young waiter calls a table of septuagenarians with leopard purses “girls,” and they tell him “Nathan is a lovely name.” Or, try Foo Asian Street Food, which is sort of weirdly in a parking lot but, at this point, so are you, and their red curries and fried noodles are perfect with piney-citric local Driftwood Pale Ale. Breakfast is at Jam, where life is buttermilk biscuits.

explore: Wake up while it’s still dark and take a jog through the old apple-rhododendron gardens of Beacon Hill Park and down to the beach to see the sun rise amidst wild bunnies and broom-scrub. Then, loop back to The Pedaler for a Beans & Bites tour. You’ll start with a breeze by Ross Bay Cemetery where Emily Carr lays and, if you’re up to it, an easy clamber up Moss Hill, which affords you Pride Rock views of all Victoria (you can spot the spires of Craigdarroch Castle, and maybe Mount Baker all the way in Washington state).

Then the treats begin—barista championship powerhouse Fernwood Coffee spoils you with a tasting that includes the best latte of your life, Silk Road Tea matches top-tier chocolate with redolent brews and, just when you think you’ve tried every macaron flavour in existence, Bon Macaron offers up bacon, salty white truffle and chocolate-pear. Make a note to watch out for Fernwood Coffee’s new carbonated cold-brew, to be sold imminently at Vancouver’s Bump and Grind café.

sip: Smitten with the cafe culture and well-oriented thanks to your bike tour, explore some of Victoria’s cutest spots to grab a drink. Armed with reading material from well-stocked, page-scented bookstores like Munro’s, Russell and Renaissance, drop in to Hey Happy for a subtle, well-balanced lavender-honey latte. The Bubble Tea Place is like a build-a-bear workshop of drink perfection, and Wild Coffee is open late and full of girls explaining their vegan grocer business plans to warmly supportive friends.

After thoroughly basking in the historic charm, improbably ubiquitous chocolate shops and generally warm, restorative atmosphere of Victoria, take a stunning sunset seaplane ride back to Vancouver. When friends ask where you were all weekend, say you went out of town, and it was really nice.