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Notes on the Geography of Canada (B.C.): Victoria's Inner Harbour

This is a harbor that, like so many, has gone from gritty industry to bourgeois amenity.

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Canada (B.C.): Victoria's Inner Harbour picture 1

An unnamed breakwater calms the waters of Juan de Fuca Strait at the entrance to Victoria's harbor. That's a pyramidal lighthouse at the end. This picture must have been taken on a very chilly day, because it's missing the usual spray of fishermen, walkers, and dogs.

Canada (B.C.): Victoria's Inner Harbour picture 2

Turning into the harbor--closed to the left foreground but opening to the sea around the point. This is not the entrance to the famous Esquimalt navy base, which is farther west, but rather to Victoria's own harbor, hardly used by freighters but of huge amenity value, as the highrise apartment suggests.

Canada (B.C.): Victoria's Inner Harbour picture 3

Despite waterfront condomania, there's still room for houseboats.

Canada (B.C.): Victoria's Inner Harbour picture 4

"And once again, Shoal Point has proven to be the popular choice by discerning judges from coast to coast." That's the text from an ad, and it refers to Shoal Point's "project of the year" award in 2003 from the Canadian Home Builders Association.

Canada (B.C.): Victoria's Inner Harbour picture 5

Continuing to the right into the Inner Harbour. Beyond the Johnson St. drawbridge lies a chain of waters--Upper Harbour, Selkirk Water, The Gorge, Portage Inlet--that have been a recreational attraction and a real-estate focal point for a century. To the right lies James Bay, a stubby extension of the Inner Harbour.

Canada (B.C.): Victoria's Inner Harbour picture 6

Stubby it may be, but it's thick with tourist-focussed developments, including a batch of hotels.

Canada (B.C.): Victoria's Inner Harbour picture 7

The B.C. parliament buildings are at the end of the stub and have managed to hold their own against importuning developers. At the far right, mid-height, there's a statue of the lady herself.

Canada (B.C.): Victoria's Inner Harbour picture 8

Victoria, R.I. Queen-Empress. And if one turned left, one would see the Empress Hotel, named for her at a time when the Canadian Pacific not only ran trains and hotels but also steamships across the Pacific to places where other such statues stood in warmer climes.

Canada (B.C.): Victoria's Inner Harbour picture 9

Entry to the parliament buildings.

Canada (B.C.): Victoria's Inner Harbour picture 10

Detail showing the deer and ram symbolizing the once separate colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia.

Canada (B.C.): Victoria's Inner Harbour picture 11

From the Parliament Building toward the water and, on the right, the Empress Hotel.

Canada (B.C.): Victoria's Inner Harbour picture 12

The hotel trades on its facade and reputation. Inside, it's been much reduced, though there is still a Bengal Room serving curries.

Canada (B.C.): Victoria's Inner Harbour picture 13

Across the street, there's the former office of the Canadian Pacific's coastal steamers, modest sisters of the company's ocean liners. The steamers were named after princesses; the liners, after queens and empresses.

Canada (B.C.): Victoria's Inner Harbour picture 14

Not to get dizzy, but we've jumped just for this one picture to London's Trafalgar Square to look at this relic, still attached to what was once the province's London office. From the perspective of Canadian Pacific's steamship operations, in other words, we're at the other end of the line.

Canada (B.C.): Victoria's Inner Harbour picture 15

Back in Victoria, most of the downtown, which extends north from James Bay along the Upper Harbour, has been thoroughly upgraded. Here and there, though, there are buildings frozen since the 1960s, when the whole neighborhood was in decline.

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