This Christmas I went to visit my wife's family in Saskatoon. The weather was stuck at -20 to -30 degrees, before windchill. The last Christmas we spent with them in Saskatchewan was in 1996. There's nothing like a visit to a prairie province in the winter to reinforce how lucky we are to live in Victoria. I distincly remember my first Christmas here in 2003. I was walking along Dallas road on Christmas Eve and it was sunny and warm.
My wife and I moved here from Vancouver. After 10 years in the Big Smoke, we desired a smaller community but didn't know where to go. So we packed up into storage and went travelling for a year in Southeast Asia. That year off redefined our lives. We fell in love with Thailand and Cambodia and have since returned four times for extended visits.
After the first trip, we were in culture shock returning to our own country. Vancouver seemed as big as Bangkok and we knew we could never return there. A friend in Victoria was babysitting our cat so we decided to come here for a month to end our year off. We fell in love immediately. I'd never fallen in love with a Canadian city before so I knew we had to stay. Island people are some of the friendliest and quirkiest people you will ever meet. This island is the size of Holland but the people here still have the low-key, laissez-faire attitude that I saw in the most remote islands of Thailand. We were hooked.
Our first year was spent at Portage Inlet. This is a fantastic area, a tidal inlet just 10 minutes from downtown. It's also a federal bird sanctuary and we saw wildlife daily. Every night the same flock of ducks came to our backyard. Swans had a nest on the other side of the inlet and visited regularly. Salmon spawned around us in the fall. I saw a bald eagle swooping down and attacking a duck. Herons stalked the low waters for fish or perched in the trees like caped vampires. There is nothing to compare with a good water view and, luckily, we have many of these properties in Victoria.
Victoria is 20 minutes from heaven in any direction. No matter where you live, there will be something spectacular from your home that is just 20 minutes away by foot, bike, or car. When I lived in Gordon Head, I had Mt. Doug (bike), Arbutus Cove/Hollydene park (foot), and Swan Lake/Christmas Hill (car). Now I've moved to James Bay and I have to compile a new list of 20 min faves. Dallas road is the obvious foot contender. I've only been in the neighborhood a couple of days but I love it already - such a friendly community.
I maintain a fan page for Victoria on Facebook, www.facebook.com/welovevictoria. (Here's a link: #mce_temp_url#). Please "like" the page. I do not use it for any commercial purposes and will not allow commercial posts on the page. I've found some great photographers who use Victoria as their muse and I frequently share their photos on the page. My challenge to newcombers is to identify your 20 minutes to heaven from your doorstep and post a photo on the Facebook page.
This is an incredible city. Don't take it for granted.