Clipper Ride from Downtown Seattle to Victoria - $100 USD
I debated driving to Victoria. But after extensive research, I found that it's more affordable and faster to go on a Clipper vessel. Driving would've took 5 hours each way and the ferry would've costed $216.60 USD roundtrip. Since Victoria is a very walkable city, we decided to ditch the car. The Clipper ride was only 2.5 hours each way and was equipped with restrooms and a little cafe.
With my travel agent card, I was able to get a deal for roundtrip Clipper ride for only $100 USD for two adults. Typically, purchasing tickets at industry rates require stand-by, but I was able to guarantee the seats by combining with a hotel stay. I decided to go with the Parkside Hotel & Spa, which is a modern hotel with only suites and located 2 blocks behind the Empress. I chose the Parkside because of its amenities: swimming pool, hot tub, spa, theatre, restaurant, suites. Altogether, the hotel and roundtrip transportation costed $406 USD. Still, this was a good deal considering that purchasing a hotel separately would've costed that much alone.
Walking around Downtown Victoria - Priceless
After we dropped off our luggage at the hotel, we walked around downtown Victoria. My first impression is that the city is very royal. I've never been to Europe before, but it reminded me of parts of Europe that I've seen in pictures. There were lots of brick builds, lamp-shaped tall street lights, red/green Christmas decorations, horse carriages, and chilly weather.
We were mostly trying to kill time while we waited to go to the Buchart Gardens. We walked by a beautiful flower shop and many cute shops. The photo on top is of Brian in front of the flower shop.
On our walk, we came across this restaurant called Pagliaccis. I immediately thought about the Pagliaccis back home, which is a pizza place. So I thought, "hmm, ok, Italian sounds good." We were immediately seated. The restaurant was loud and filled with guests. It felt like a local favorite because of the artwork that was hung up and how busy it was.
Brian and I decided to order our own meals. I can't remember what my dish was called but it had scallops and prosciutto. It was meh. Brian's pasta was also meh. The caeser salad tasted better than the actual pasta in my opinion.
Holiday Lights at the Buchart Gardens - $123 CAD
We purchased a coach ride + admission tickets to the Buchart Gardens through Clipper Vacations. Since we didn't have a car, going with a tour company made most sense. The other option was to take a cab, which would've costed ~$80 one way. Buchart Gardens is located about 35 minutes away from Downtown Victoria. Besides the blasted AC on the Clipper coach bus, the ride was smooth. I was able to take a nap and woke up right when we arrived around 2:45 pm. At this time, it wasn't dark enough to enjoy all of the magical holiday lights, but we still liked walking around with our cups of latte.
There was also a small ice skating rink, but we didn't go in since neither of us could skate very well. We really didn't want to fall on our asses in front of a bunch of Canadians who are born to ice skate. I had just as much fun watching them skate because it looked so effortless and beautiful. Since the bus ride back to downtown wasn't until 5 pm, Brian and I decided to do a half loop around the park to enjoy the lights one last time now that it was dark enough. I have to admit...we were kind of noobs to go so early because around 5 pm was when the crowd started go enter. This was when the lights were most magical.
Afternoon Tea at the Pendray Tea House - $56 CAD
The next morning, we went to experience our very first afternoon tea at the Pendray Tea House, which is also the site of a Gatsby hotel named the Huntingdon Manor. It's conveniently located across the road from the Clipper Vacations, which made it very easy to spot since I had noticed it after departing the vessel yesterday.
I made reservations for 11 am, although reservations aren't necessary since we were the only guests present at check-in. It wasn't until noon that other guests started to trickle in. My boyfriend and I decided to share one order of the Winter Tea which costed $56 CAD. I was quite surprised at this price since I was told that Pendray's afternoon tea was more affordable than the world famous Fairmont Empress'. Pendray was only slightly cheaper by a few bucks. We decided to share since our server informed us that one order of a 3-tier tea should be enough.
Imagine cold sandwiches and cute little desserts. This is essentially afternoon tea anywhere you go. Our order came with Red Christmas Tea which was a very soothing choice. It wasn't too herbal nor cinnamon-y. It was just right for the holiday theme. The whole experience felt very regal. From the antiques of the tableware and fine china to the crowning around the perimeter of the ceiling. Since we were the only guests in the restaurant, I felt like royalty. We were left alone to eat - the server didn't stop by too frequently which I actually appreciated because it gave us more intimacy.
Overall, the price you pay is not for the food, but more for the royal experience and great service. We took it up an extra notch by dressing up, but I noticed guests who were dressed very casual. It really depends on how you want to embrace the environment. Since it was our anniversary weekend, we made it more of a formal event.
45-min Horse-Drawn Carriage Ride around Beacon Hill Park - $85.68 USD
Craigdarroch Castle - $20.68 USD
For a taste of what privileged life was like in the early 1890s, we went on a self-guided tour at the Craigdarroch Castle. It first belonged to Robert Dunsmuir, who was at one point, the richest and most important man in Western Canada. There are artifacts around the house that detail his family's fortune and history. For someone who's not into history, this tour was quite interesting. I think it's because of all of the drama that occurred in the family and the many functions of the mansion thereafter. Before it was restored into a Victorian castle and the Dunsmuir's home, it was once a hospital and school.
Summary Itinerary of our Trip
SATURDAY, DAY 1
SUNDAY, DAY 2
MONDAY, DAY 3