Visitors in Town
The visitor to GCBFMMIII will enjoy wandering about Victoria, BC’s seat of government and a great little city of 73,500, much of which actually does appear to have been moved lock, stock and barrel from England.
Good motels nearby go for C$80-100/US$60-75 (City Center Traveler’s Inn, double occupancy, half mile from the festival). Even the Fairmont Empress Hotel, with its Old World elegance, is only C$159-479/US$120-320 (don’t miss their High Tea—it’s a gas) and a nice walk to the Royal Athletic Park (1.5 miles through old town Victoria).
In some ways, that part of Victoria has preserved all of the best that is British while still holding to the finest of Canada. Plan on spending a couple of extra days to explore.
There are six brewpubs in town (three are close). Spinnakers, the country’s second oldest, at 308 Catherine (across Johnson Bridge off Esquimalt Rd.), is the most famous. Don’t miss Buckerfields, 506 Pandora, in the basement of Swans, a splendid downtown boutique hotel (C$159-259/US$120-195) and only 0.3 mile from the Royal Athletic Park. Hugo’s at 625 Courtney (near the Empress Hotel) is best noted for Rowdy Monk, a delicious abbey dubbel, and the subtly balanced Hotel Porter.
Canadian craft brewers labor under constraints that some of us would consider uncivilized. In some provinces, Molson or Labatts are in charge of all beer distribution. Those two megabrewers have been accused of packing store shelves with multiple brands of yellow industrial beer and foreign imports (mostly US and Euro-lagers) to the point that little shelf space remains for craft beers. Until recently, when the law changed, it was almost impossible to market beer in any province where the brewer did not actually brew the beer. Molson and Labatts both built breweries in Canada’s more populous provinces, and, of course, they still dominate the Canadian brewing scene.
Canadian craft brewers make wonderful beer; but if you are a hophead, remember that Canadians are just now getting themselves addicted to hops. Give them a little more time to get there.
While you are at the festival, be sure to stroll world famous Butchart Gardens, tour the city in a double-deck bus, and take an afternoon’s drive up Highway 14 along the south coast of Vancouver Island with its splendid view of Juan de Fuca’s magnificent waterway to Puget Sound. The visitor can fly in direct or travel from Seattle (three hours by high-speed ferry).
Canadians drive on the right side of the road, speak American English like the natives they are, and treat U.S. visitors very nicely. Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien was kind enough to declare that our president is really not a moron. Now what other country in the world would be that congenial?
Please join me in surfing the GCBFMMIII in Victoria this September.