Canada in a Wheelchair by Jack Campbell © 2000
Victoria is considered the most “British” of the cities in Canada. It is located at the Southern tip of Vancouver Island just 30 minutes by plane from Seattle or 1 ˝ hours by car ferry from Port Angeles, Washington. Both methods are wheelchair accessible.
Everything mentioned here, I did with no trouble in my manual wheelchair. I think it would have worked just as well with an electric. The airport is about 45 minutes from Victoria via Akal Airport Express, 877-386-2525. The round trip fee is $23 Canadian (about $16). Some of its busses have lifts. The busses stop at the major hotels, such as the Empress.
The Empress, 800-441-1414, is one of the grand hotels built by the Canadian Railway over 100 years ago. It is a huge and impressive old hotel, sitting at the shore side in the heart of the town. Many of the rooms have grab bars around the toilet. The doors are wide enough and the rooms are spacious enough. The bed is a few inches higher than normal.
I highly recommend spending the extra money for a bay view room. A bay view room allows you to see the coming and going of the ferry boats, the pontoon planes, the whale watching boats, the fishing boats, the horse drawn carriages, the sunset and the passing parade. At night you see the Parliament building with its thousands of lights looking like a fairy castle. The room was $249 Canadian which is about $166. US. There are much cheaper hotels, but this one is so convenient and historical.
The Empress has a number of restaurants, varying from fine dining with a live harpist and a world class wine list to a buffet restaurant. They are famous for the high tea served daily in the lobby. Personally, I liked the high tea at Buchardt Gardens better.
Buchardt Gardens is one of the world’s great gardens. It is in an old cement quarry, which has been filled with beautiful flowers, water fountains, plus a rose garden and a Japanese garden. It is accessible by city bus line #75. You need to get a bus schedule, which will indicate the times when there is a low bus with a ramp. It is about a 40 minute ride through pretty countryside. The charge is only $2.50 Canadian.
Across the street from the Empress is the Royal British Columbia Museum with its Indian art and historical Canada exhibits. It is the most visited museum in Canada.
Behind the Empress is the Crystal Gardens with exhibits of birds, monkeys, and a walk through butterfly area.
On the fourth side of the Empress is the old town with lots of small shops for clothing, antiques, any kind of food and some pretty patios overlooking the bay.
Nearby there is a wax museum. One site that is not accessible is the Craigdarroch Castle. Anne Hathaway’s Cottage has recently closed.
Downtown Victoria is pretty level and has curb cuts. Among the restaurants I recommend is the Garlic Rose. It is about three or four short blocks up Wharf St., with a patio view of the harbor and good food. The best restaurant I tried was the Victoria Harbour House. It is about 5 blocks from the hotel. To avoid the steps in front you have to enter through the kitchen, but the service, the ambiance and the shrimp, lobster, scallop chowder was excellent. I was disappointed with the Blue Crab Restaurant. It has a very nice view, but the best tables are up or down stairs, the food was so-so and the service was like molasses.
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