WE'RE the Garden City of Canada," Veral Park says proudly.
The comment might seem self-serving, coming from a saleswoman at
Dig This, a gardening shop in downtown Victoria, British Columbia.
But the nickname is apt for this city, nestled on the temperate
southern tip of 300-mile-long Vancouver Island.
In February, while much of Canada remains locked in winter,
bulbs and rhododendron blossoms are starting to come out here.
Baskets of flowers hang from lampposts in the summer, and the
harbor greets visitors with a huge floral message: "Welcome to
All this is just a modest prelude to Butchart Gardens, a short
drive outside town, where a dazzling variety of garden landscapes
is on display, complemented in the evenings by colored lights and
Saturday-night fireworks shows.
This city with a green thumb, the capital of British Columbia,
differs in many ways from Vancouver, the province's mainland port,
and both are well worth a tourist's visit. These urban experiences
provide a pleasant counterpart to exploring the region's justly
famous natural beauties - mountains, lakes, forests, and islands.
Vancouver has plenty of gardens of its own, such as the Van
Dusen Botanical Gardens. Mountains rise as a splendid backdrop to
the city's skyscrapers. But, as the economic hub of this Pacific
Rim province, Vancouver is more cosmopolitan than the capital, and
has 1.5 million residents to Victoria's 300,000. A stock exchange
and the site of Expo '86 are among the downtown attractions.
While Vancouver has become a haven for Asian immigrants,
especially those fleeing Hong Kong before the planned Chinese
takeover in 1997, Victoria's much smaller Chinatown has been merely
holding its own in recent years, local merchants say.
Dee Alexander, who lived in Vancouver for four years, says she
found life there had "a very fast pace." A year ago she moved to
Victoria, which she prefers because "it's more like my home-
town" in Ontario.
But Ms. Alexander worries that now the small-town feel is at
risk in Victoria. The city will host the 1994 Commonwealth Games
this summer: Athletes from many former British colonies will gather
here from Aug. 18-28. She suspects visitors to the Games will "see
how beautiful it is" and want to move here, as she did.
Vancouver, for all its big-city energy, offers plenty of
respites from working life. On summer afternoons, many locals
congregate in cafes or stroll along the waterfront in enormous
Stanley Park, adjacent to downtown. Canada's British heritage
surfaces here as cricket players, clad in white trousers, are
silhouetted against the green grass - while native totem poles keep
solemn watch in the distance. …