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A Bird's Eye View of Victoria
By Jane Cassie
Photos by Brent Cassie
and courtesy of Laurel Point Inn
and Cuda Marine Adventures photographer, Gary Woodward
Sophisticated yachts and regal schooners skim the sun-glinted waves far below. They unite with ocean going kayaks, competitive dragon boats and other vessels that yearn to share their hulls with the sensational seaside. Framed by a rugged coastline and backed by powdered peaks, it's a setting that's picturesque to a fault and truly epitomizes the axiom, Super Natural British Columbia.
Although there are plenty of ways to check out Victoria's scenic sites, during this visit with my daughter we enjoy a couple of the more adventuresome options, and this one provides us with a bird's eye view.
After briefly surfing the Pacific, our DeHavilland Beaver rises to this occasion and over the next thirty minutes we share the sunny skies with soaring eagles. Cooper Air's experienced aviator, Mick, doubles as an informative guide and while navigating the seaplane he provides a running commentary of the attractions below.
"The promenade is a great place to check out the activities," he explains, "and as well as spotting herons and sea lions, it shares some pretty spectacular sunsets." Although briefly interrupted by Johnson Street Bridge the walkway encircles the bustling inner harbour to where the colourful past integrates delightfully with the present. Streets dressed with bountiful bouquets are lined with Kabuki Kabs, Cinderella horse-drawn carriages, and double-decker buses that whisk time-rich vacationers to internationally acclaimed tourist attractions, irresistible restaurants and specialty shops. And starlit skies are in stiff competition when the twinkling night lights frame the harbour's domineering and impressive legislative buildings.
From our panoramic viewpoint we can visually trace the pedestrian causeway that leads to our temporary 'home away from home,' the Laurel Point Inn. Snuggling up to her jetty perch she sparkles with contemporary sophistication and melds harmoniously with Victoria's Old World architecture. Perennial blooms and lush Japanese gardens corset her exquisitely tiered levels, and waterfalls flowing into reflecting pools lend a feeling of enchantment. Embraced by wave lapping shores she is everything we'd hoped for during our visit, and more. And although we're certainly not honeymooners, we both revel in our spacious suite that has been especially designed with lovers in mind. Maple and marble flows through the sumptuous interior that boasts a bed draped in down, a double whirlpool tub flaunting an ocean view, sweeping sun splashed-decks and loads of modern day practicalities.
The handsome décor extends to other guestrooms and opulent suites, and on the ground level the conference centres and pool pleasures share the magnificent glass atrium where light floods in rain or shine.
Our flight veers to the west and Mick shares historical tidbits along the way. "Fisguard is the oldest lighthouse on the West Coast," he informs while flying over Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Park. Although accessible only from the sea during its prime time, we can see that Ocean Boulevard now winds its way around to this once vigilant beacon en route to outlying districts.
Clusters of verdant evergreens border shimmering lakes and a few minutes to the north the Edwardian-style Butchart Gardens sprawl over fifty palatial acres, and encompass a number of theme gardens that provide a mantle of year round colour.
We putter over patchwork farmlands, grey ribbon highways, and golf greens speckled with undulating plateaus. The highlight for my daughter is when we hover over the University of Victoria, and visit from above, not on foot like she'll do in a couple of months. "There aren't too many students who get to see their campus from this standpoint," Mick chuckles, "and as you can see, it's just a quick jaunt to the beach whenever you need a break."
The strand of rocky shoreline is dotted with view boasting homes and washed continuously by gentle waves. Trillions of sparkles reflect off the sapphire waters and while buzzing closer to sea level we spot shimmering shadows, reminding us of the marine life that thrives just beneath.
In my mind's eye I retrace the previous day's activity when Cuda Marine Adventures provided a similar encounter but from a different viewpoint.
Our covered vessel had plied effortlessly along this same coastal waterway and, although shielded from head winds and ocean spray, we enjoyed marine life sightings through surrounding windows. Frolicking porpoises played leapfrog as they rode in our pressure waves and teary-eyed seals joined double-breasted cormorants from the craggy rocks on Great Chain Island. During our three hour cruise we were privy to a line up of first-rate performances and, with microbiology major Dave at the helm, we received the inside scoop on them all.
The height of excitement came though when the first signature dorsal fin sliced through the languid surface. "That's Ruffles," Dave announced without hesitation "He's about fifty-one years old and Granny, his sister, is over ninety."
The majestic crustaceans were like friends to our guide, but for us, their titles didn't really matter. It was their splendour that tweaked our curiosity and activated our zoom lenses. The way a mother and her calf arched in unison over the water's surface, then dipped beneath it, their jet-black carriages looking like partially submerged balloons. The awe of their magnitude in an undisturbed setting where the glistening backdrop of Mount Baker presided like an omnipresent sentinel. Naturally spectacular!
I shake myself out of the daydream trance just in time to get one last overview before our seaplane gently splashes down. Though our stay in Victoria is just about over, the little white aqua bus that transports us to the other side of the harbour reminds me that there is one last adventure in store. And that's the scenic BC ferry ride that will take us back home.
Where To Stay:
The Laurel Point Inn
680 Montreal Street
Victoria, B.C., V8V 1Z8
Telephone: (250) 386-8721
Fax: (250) 386-9547
Toll Free: 1-800-663-7667
Web Site: http://www.laurelpoint.com
How to Get There:
(Vancouver or Tsawwassen to Vancouver Island)
Toll free for outside Victoria from anywhere in BC: 1-888-223-3779
Things To Do:
Cuda Marine Adventures
Phone TOLL FREE - 1-866-995-2832
Web Site: http://www.whalewatchingadventure.com
Toll Free: 1-800-656-0766
Or book through Victoria Marine Adventure Centre
950 Wharf Street, Victoria BC, V8W 1T3
PH : (250) 995-2211
FAX : (250) 995-1222
Toll Free : 1-800-575-6700
Web Site: www.cooperair.com
Jane and Brent Cassie are a travel writer/photographer team. Follow their other adventures on their website - www.janecassie.com.