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In late September, we made a long-planned weekend trip by floatplane to Victoria to celebrate the 70th birthday of James’ uncle Neil. We spent two nights in our home town, exploring the city, visiting old haunts and new places, and catching up with the Hamilton clan.

Taking a Kenmore Air floatplane from South Lake Union is an efficient and enjoyable way to travel. We can actually walk to the terminal from our apartment in just 20 minutes, need only arrive about 30 minutes in advance of the flight, and the planes fly quite low for excellent views along the way.


After landing in the Victoria Inner Harbor, we quickly cleared through into Canada, and stopped for lunch at an old favorite, Milestones. The weather was sunny and warm enough to eat outside, even without heaters, and we enjoyed a lazy lunch while taking in the harbor scene.

The car ferry Coho was arriving from Port Angeles, WA as walked over to our hotel, the Inn at Laurel Point. The Coho has been plying the route between Victoria and Port Angeles several times a day since its launch in 1959 and is a fixture in both cities. We often saw the ferry arrive into the Inner Harbor when we lived in Victoria, and enjoyed watching it arrive and depart on trips to Port Angeles.


Our room in the Inn at Laurel Point was fabulous, with excellent views to the inner harbor and its entrance from a wraparound balcony. We spent ages outside enjoying the fine weather and taking in the busy harbor, with boats and floatplanes constantly on the move.


In the late afternoon, we set off on a half-hour walk through the James Bay, Victoria’s oldest neighborhood, to adjacent Fairfield. On the way, we passed historic South Park School, completed in 1894 and the oldest building in western Canada continually operating as a school. We were in Fairfield to find 212 Vancouver Street, the house where James spent much time in the early 1960s when his grandparents lived there. Despite much renovations and tear-downs in the area, we were delighted to find that the house still stood, and looked much as James remembered it.


That evening we joined the Hamilton clan, and its newest member Ersheen, for a traditional Friday night steak dinner and a decadent strawberry dessert. We hadn’t been all together since our the gathering in Santa Barbara early last year, and had a wonderful evening catching up and meeting baby Ersheen for the first time. Clockwise from James’ left in the group picture below are James’ uncle Gord; Gord’s son Ian; Ian’s daughter Ersheen and wife Uzma; James’ uncle Neil, whose birthday we are ere to celebrate; Neil’s wife Jacky; and Gord’s wife Karen.


On Saturday, we took one of the small inner harbor ferries across the harbor to Spinnaker Brewpub in Esquimalt on the north shore. The ferries operate on-demand, and can be ordered to a stop with an app or a phone call. Spinnakers has been in operation since 1984 and we almost always stop in for lunch or a pint when we are in town. The fabulous weather continued, and we had a great lunch outside with a view to the harbor.


After lunch, we stopped at check out the nearby Victoria International Marina, opened in 2018. Two Nordhavns, N60 My Serenade and N63 Kraken, were moored there. We had a good chat with the owner of Kraken, who recognized us as we were looking at the boats. We continued on a leisurely walk back into town on Songhees Walkway along the north shore of the harbor, and then past the iconic Empress Hotel and the Royal BC Museum to Beacon Hill Park, established in 1882. We found ourselves once again in Fairfield, where we stopped in for a refreshing pint at the appealing Beagle Pub in the Cook Street Village.


We looped back to the hotel along the Dallas Road Waterfront Trail, past Mile 0 of the Trans-Canada Highway and the cruise ship terminal.


We had another great evening with the Hamiltons, and Neil and Jacky’s many friends, in celebrating Neil’s 70th birthday. That milestone once seemed so distant and now feels surprisingly close. As is traditional at many celebrations of the Scottish Hamiltons, a piper performed for the gathering. James’ uncle Gord was a piper in the famed Black Watch of Canada and often played at past events, including our wedding.


For lunch on Sunday, we’d planned to eat at another favorite, the Canoe Brewpub by the Johnson Street bridge. But it had changed hands and was offering only a brunch menu. We instead found a great spot for lunch at the Flying Otter Grill overlooking the floatplane and whale-watching tour docks. On our way between establishments, we got a chance to see the new Johnson Street bridge in action as four tugs brough a large barge through. The rolling bascule bridge was completed in 2018, replacing the heel trunnion bascule bridge in place since 1924 that required about $50 million to refurbish and make less vulnerable to seismic activity.


The weather remained clear and calm for our seaplane ride back to Seattle that afternoon, giving us more excellent views, especially with an extended flyover of the city as we were delayed waiting for a landing berth.


Our route around Victoria on Saturday is shown on the interactive map below. Click here for a full-page map.

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