From Cuban Cigars to Irish Lace...
By Susan Colby
...and everything in between. Victoria, British Columbia, that very English, yet very cosmopolitan city is an international shopper’s paradise. Within the downtown area of this eminently walkable city, visitors and residents alike will certainly find whatever their hearts desire. Recently, a friend and I headed into Victoria on a quick shopping trip (after all, it’s more fun to shop with a friend!) and were fortunate to stay at the Magnolia Hotel and Spa, a boutique hotel on Courtney Street, right in the middle of the shopping action and within an easy walk or taxi ride of the seaplane base in the Inner Harbor. After checking in to our luxurious room and armed with cash and credit cards, we set out to explore. Of course, along the waterfront and along Government Street, we ran into the usual tourist shops, with t-shirts, mugs and other unnecessary gewgaws. (Does your mother really need a cheap teaspoon with the Victoria seal on it?) But tucked in between and hidden down alleys are the true treasures of Victoria. First Nation and Canadian art and jewelry is well represented here. We browsed Artina’s and were wowed by the quality and variety of art and 44
jewelry. The artists include aboriginal West Coast carvers and contemporary jewelers who work with gold, silver, titanium and other materials. I was particularly entranced with the glassware, beautifully etched with traditional First Nation emblems. A short walk up Fort Street and right across from our lunch spot at the London Chef is the aptly named Cuban Cigar Shop. Not being a cigar smoker, but loving the smell of (unlit) cigars, we ventured inside to find an astonishing array of cigars and smoking supplies. Not just the 24 brands of Cuban cigars fill the temperature and moisture controlled cases, but cigars from all over the world. Some of the
prices for the specialty smokes are out of this world, but for cigar aficionados, it is heaven. Remember, though, you can’t take them back into the States! Strolling back towards the Inner Harbor, we stopped in at Choux Choux Charcuterie, a tiny sidewalk shop filled with delicious meats, cheeses and specialty food items. You can enjoy a delightful plat du jour, perhaps duck confit salad with boiled duck egg, cucumber and pickled red onion, at one of the tiny sidewalk tables. As we had just had lunch, we simply inhaled the delicious aromas and meandered on. You can rest assured that no matter how long and hard you shop, you will never have to go far to find food in Victoria, which boasts the second-highest number of restaurants per capita of all North American cities. And the variety is endless, from traditional English pubs with pub lunches and beer, to fine dining in restaurants like Catalano, the establishment attached to the Magnolia. Going along with the foodie theme, for those who love to cook, there are numerous kitchenware stores, jammed floor-to-ceiling with
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