I’m giving a TED talk! TEDxSFU Vancouver conference speaker. Offbeat travels in Prague, Michelin star restaurants.

vancouver fashion blogger photography portrait photographer

2020 has been topsy-turvy, to say the least…

But on my birthday (Aug 17), I’m pleased to share some happy news. I’m honored to have been selected to give a TEDx talk in Vancouver!

(Portraits by Kristin Thorogood Photography, assisted by Andre Dupuis.)

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This fall, I will be the first person ever to give a TED talk about Goths! My TED talk will break apart six Goth stereotypes, and share my personal journey into the subculture. I’ll tie this to the larger theme of unraveling prejudices, and how we should be more compassionate towards those we consider different from us.

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2020 is the 10th anniversary of the TEDxSFU conference, and this was the most competitive year yet for applicants. (I went through a comprehensive application and two rounds of Zoom interviews, before receiving the good news.) Now, my fellow speakers and I will be spending the next months honing our speeches, and running through rehearsals.

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This year’s TED Vancouver will be safely pre-recorded because of COVID, and live-streamed on November 14 or 15. (I’ll have more details for you soon, so you can watch it online). My talk will also be featured on the official website.

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In a year of cancelled projects, I’m grateful I can be part of TED, and dive into something new and meaningful. It’s been a pleasure getting to know the TEDx SFU team and other remarkable speakers. I hope you’ll tune in to the TED x 2020 Vancouver event in November, and get inspired by our “ideas worth spreading.”

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Outfit details: This summer dress is a gift from my aunt in Hong Kong, similar to the Reformation Vivianne mini dress. Love the Queen Anne cut-out neckline with a ribbon tie, and Georgette floral print. (Check out Reformation’s Victorian dress here.)

My silver skull crossbody bag is by Alexander McQueen, the king of Goth couture.

Shop my style by clicking below:

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These dreamy portraits are by Kristin Thorogood Photography, assisted by Andre Dupuis. I think you can tell that we had fun with this photoshoot! (Love how Kristin captured my hair flip in motion, with her Sony mirrorless DSLR.)

It was a joy to catch up with my friends while they were in Vancouver. Kristin has been to 70 countries, and specializes in documentary-style travel photography and portraits. Andre is a director and cinematographer (you may know of his work from the Canadian TV show Departures, which I think is one of the best travel shows ever made). Both are passionate travelers, and I hope we can do more together soon.

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Kristin shot these photos outside Roedde House, a Victorian manor in Vancouver’s West End that is now a historic museum. It was built in the late 19th century, and designed in the Queen Anne Revival style (possibly by famed architect Francis Rattenbury.)

The architecture happened to match the Queen Anne neckline of my dress! (Find Reformation’s Vivianne dress here, which has the same high neck with cut-out keyhole, and flower pattern.) My crocodile skull evening purse is Alexander McQueen,

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Love how Kristin created a “secret garden” feeling by shooting through the purple flowers.

Enjoy more of Kristin Thorogood’s worldwide photography on her Facebook page and Instagram. She’s currently traveling through Canada with Andre, and capturing unexpected sights — such as the grasslands and sand dunes of Saskatchewan.

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An enormous thank you to TEDxSFU for having me be part of this year’s conference! You can see updates about the TED 2020 Vancouver event on their Instagram and Facebook.

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The team asked what storytelling meant to me. I replied, “Sharing my lived experience with honesty, as well as amplifying voices that tend to be overlooked. In my writing and travel TV shows, I try to shine a positive light on alternative subcultures, such as Goth — in the hope that this can open people’s minds to different ways of being.”

yahoo style canada journalist freelance writer hair writers covid 19 haircuts

Speaking of storytelling, and 2020 pivots — I’ve been doing more freelance writing as of late. It’s been nice to stretch my writing muscles for new publications. (Plus, I can’t do my usual travel and television work.)

I’m delighted to share a personal narrative about my hair & self-identity, published by Yahoo Canada Style! I wrote about getting my hair done after months in lockdown (with dramatic before-after transformation photos). I also featured my friend Molly’s traumatic cancer head-shave, and my stylist Chad’s wise words on the transformative power of hair.

Intrigued? Then check out my beauty essay here on Yahoo.

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I’m also writing regularly for national print magazine, Home in Canada, and loving it.

Here’s my latest travel article about staying at a hotel during the pandemic. (You can see more from my Fairmont Victoria stay in this blog review as well.)

absinthe bottle designs absinth best labels

And now, a birthday treat for you… A Prague travel diary from Joey Wong, one of my most constant travel companions! Since he’s UK-based, he was recently able to do a safe trip to the Land of Absinthe.

Even if I can’t fly anywhere for months to come, I can bring you new travel stories from my friends around the world. Let’s begin with Joey’s favorite Prague hipster spots such as an art factory, and Michelin-starred restaurants. 

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Ahoj! My name is Joey, trusted traveller and photographer friend of La Carmina. Together we’ve traveled and photographed the far corners of the globe from Easter Island to Japan.

Like many of you, travelling has become an integral part of my life so when COVID-19 hit, my lifestyle and priorities were flipped upside down. However, if there’s one thing this pandemic has taught me, it’s to do what you can when you can. So with super-hygiene and social distancing becoming our new normal, I knew it was time to take advantage of the low COVID case numbers in Europe and start travelling again. My destination of choice? Prague!

Without further ado, join me during my week as a digital nomad and experience the unexpected perks of traveling during a pandemic, including tourist-free sites, private dining experiences, and the same incredible experiences we gain when exploring a different city and culture.

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I first visited Prague in winter 2016, and it easily became one of the most majestic, photogenic cities I had ever been to. While I typically lean towards off-the-beaten path travel, I couldn’t stop photographing Prague’s magnificent sites including the Medieval statue-lined Charles Bridge, and interiors of the St. Vitus Cathedral (above).

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During my stay, a light layer of snow dusted the city, making my experience more magical.

prague hipster travel guide attractions hip young

When my office in London closed due to COVID-19, I discovered an unexpected but welcomed consequence: the ability to work from anywhere. In July, case numbers were down, so I booked a flight to Prague. After months in lockdown, I was excited to spend a week both working and exploring.

In 2016, I ticked off Prague’s most-visited tourist sites. This time, I wanted to make sure my experience in the Czech Republic was different from my first. I was keen to base myself in a comfortable, convenient, non-touristy neighborhood where I could pop out to get anything I needed in a pinch, yet still be in walking distance to major sights and restaurants.

bohemian prague karlin neighborhood guide sights

Secret. Hip. Bohemian. These are the words you’ll hear people say when describing Karlin, the neighborhood where I chose to stay. Located close to the northeast of historical Old Town, Karlin was not just trendy. It was also extremely convenient and surprisingly affordable. The cost of my private Airbnb apartment per night was cheaper than my average per night rent in my shared London flat!

What I love about neighborhoods like Karlin is the contrast of new and old. I was endlessly discovering new things to photograph – one being the Church of Saints Cyril and Methodius, which has been standing since 1863.

karlin barracks prague art club

After a dinner out, I stumbled on the Karlin Barracks which is – you guessed it – the site of former military barracks. Now it is a huge, multi-building cultural complex that contains a bar, gallery, music club, fire-pit, and even beach volleyball! On my visit, a full-on summer cinema was underway.

David Černý sculpture tour prague czech republic

Random discoveries like the Karlin Barracks are what makes me love to travel so much, so it should be no surprise that one of my favourite things to do in any city is to just roam. Due to time zones differences (GMT +2 means I didn’t have to start work until 10AM) and long summer evenings, I had the privilege of having plenty of exploring time before and after work.

I had expected Prague to be a haven for street art, but surprisingly, it was not. But I was in for a pleasant surprise: the lack of street art was overcompensated by brilliant public sculptures by the acclaimed Prague-born artist David Černý. David Černý has several provocative pieces dotted across the city and I’d highly recommend a sculpture walk to spot them all.

head of franz kafka David Černý statue installation weird offbeat

You absolutely should not miss Černý’s latest installation The Head of Franz Kafka. This sculpture is made of 42 rotating metallic panels, all rotating individually to form the shape of the famous-Czech novelist. You’ll have to see it with your own eyes to believe it. After sending my brother a short video clip of the statue in action, he asked if it was CGI. 

When you’re on your sculpture hunt, don’t forget to look up! I spotted Černý’s work high above on the Žižkov Television Tower. Can you see the babies crawling up the tower? If you don’t look up, you’ll also miss Man Hanging Out, a depiction of Sigmund Freud dangling from a pole attached to a building rooftop in Old Town. 

hip bizarre art prague meet factory

Besides some amazing sculpture, Prague has a lot of don’t-miss galleries and culture centers — such as the DOX Centre for Contemporary Art and Vnitroblock.

If you want more of an alternative vibe, head to Meet Factory, a non-profit organisation and contemporary art factory founded by David Černý himself. While it’s a bit out of the way from the main sites and neighborhoods, you won’t be able to miss the MeetFactory complex – easily spotted with a large, red automobile hanging from the building facade. Inside, expect contemporary and alternative art from up and coming artists. One piece that stood out to me was a BDSM-themed pillow. 

When you’re finished with your sculpture spotting and art hunting, it’s time to get a bite to eat. Prague, like many cities in continental Europe, has amazing Monday – Friday ‘business lunch’ deals. Three course meals can be had at the fraction of the dinner price. 

Since I was working remotely and had limited free time, I carefully researched and reserved all the best Prague establishments. From Michelin starred modern Czech to Vietnamese street food to burgers and beyond, my highest recommendations are…

divinis restaurant menu food review prague czech republic


Elegant yet unpretentious, Divinis was by far the best meal out of my entire trip. I wouldn’t expect Prague to have fantastic Italian, but it absolutely did. I was particularly impressed with the amuse-bouche, which was a creative play on a garlic dough ball. I went in at around 2:00PM and had the entire restaurant to myself – an unexpected, yet welcomed perk to the recent pandemic perhaps?

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Cafe Imperial

I was committed to avoiding all tourist traps, so I went to Cafe Imperial with hesitation. However, it ended up being one of the most memorable dining experiences on my trip. I was quickly won over by the fantastic and extravagant Art Deco atmosphere and attentive staff. I opted for the aptly named Imperial Breakfast that included a poached egg over avocado tartar. I felt like a VIP throughout my entire experience.

Pho Vietnam Tuan & Lan

Pho in Prague? Really? I was just as surprised as you are, but Prague has a surprisingly large Vietnamese food scene — so expect to see several pho and bahn mi eateries across the city. If you need a quick Asian fix, head to Pho Vietnam Tuan & Lan. There’s more than one of these in the city, and I’d recommend the bistro venue at Slavíkova 1. Get takeaway and eat in the nearby leafy Jiřího z Poděbrad Square with the locals.

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Kro Kitchen

After months in lockdown, I definitely indulged on my trip. So after my pho in the park, I walked to Kro Kitchen just 2 minutes away to have my second dinner. They are famous for their rotisserie chicken, but I ordered their signature lechon which was served over mashed potatoes, grilled pak choi, black garlic gray, and heaps of spring onion. Yum.

Pro tip: If you don’t stay in Karlin, stay in Vinohrady. This is the neighborhood where Pho Vietnam Tuan & Lan and Kro Kitchen are located. I often found myself coming back for the amazing eats, and it’s also the center of LGBTQ+ nightlife!

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Part bakery, part cafe, part restaurant, and pure awesome, there’s nothing secret about Eska anymore. Located in Karlin and already awarded a Michelin Bib Gourmand, the airy ambience, innovative menu and hybrid-dining concept makes Eska a must-visit on your trip to Prague. You can even take home some of their famous pickles! 

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I’ll be honest – I booked my trip to Prague with hesitation but I’m so glad I went. For me, travelling has enabled me to live my life with open eyes and an open mind. Traveling is invigorating and it gives me a sense of purpose. If you feel restricted because of the current environment, do not lose hope – travel will return for all of us and when it does, it will be even more meaningful.

I can’t wait to reunite with La Carmina for more worldwide escapades where our ‘normal’ is searching for the not normal – the off-beat, alternative, off the beaten path adventures that we love to capture and share.

Until then, stay safe, stay hopeful, and look out for my next guest post with exclusive photos from Sedlec Ossuary: the church adorned with bones from over 40,000 human skeletons.

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Dík (thank you) Joey for sharing his story. And thanks to all of you who left me birthday wishes! If only I could give everyone a slice of my Miffy cake. (I got this carrot cake, decorated with the face of my favorite cute bunny character, from Whole Foods).

Coming up… I have another guest travel post for you, from Yukiro in Japan!

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Can’t wait to reveal more about my TEDx talk on Goth culture as well. Cheers to everyone who encouraged me to be part of TED.

Find my clothing below, including this Victorian high cut out neck dress and Alexander McQueen bag:


Gothic Victoria, British Columbia! Goth clothing shops, Chinatown Fan Tan Alley, Instagrammable photo locations.

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I can’t gallivant around the world to my heart’s content these days… But I can happily partake in local travels. I’m currently in Vancouver, which is gorgeous in the summer — and there’s a lot to explore nearby. 

It felt nice to stretch my wings again, by taking a short and safe getaway to Victoria, British Columbia. In my first article, I showed you my royal stay with the Fairmont Empress Hotel, which included purple cocktails and afternoon tea.

heavy metal rock punk goths victoria canada

Now, I’ll show you some of Victoria’s Goth-est places –– including a Chinese cemetery, and several Gothic and alternative clothing stores!

Read on for a guide to the spooky side of B.C.’s capital city. I’ll also show you the many ways that travel has changed in the pandemic era — such as social distancing signs, QR code menus, and face shield boutiques.

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Canada’s westernmost province, British Columbia, has flattened the Covid curve… thanks to the leadership of Provincial Health Officer, Dr Bonnie Henry. (Victoria honored Doctor Bonnie with this mural; she did so well with responding to the crisis that she was even profiled in the NY Times.)

BC residents are now in Phase 3 of the “re-start,” which means careful local travel is permitted. I studied the guidelines carefully, as I didn’t want my trip to potentially cause a burden on the community, or raise risk of transmission.

Outfit info: Black and white sun hat by Tenth Street Hats, yellow and black plaid midi skirt by Sourpuss Clothing, off the shoulder stretch top by Black Milk Clothing.

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For those of you who aren’t familiar: Victoria is the capital city of the province of British Columbia. It’s located on Vancouver Island, off the Pacific Coast.

To get from Vancouver to Victoria, you can fly or take the ferry. I recommend taking the 1.5 ferry ride from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay, and reserving tickets through the BC Ferries website well in advance. When you dock, you can drive south about 40 minutes to arrive in downtown Victoria.

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Phase 3 suggests that local travellers “bring groceries and essential supplies, if possible.” I took their advice, and stocked up on Paleo, Keto and collagen-filled treats. This way, I didn’t have to stop for snacks along the way.

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I’m all about hydration, so I take a reusable drink container with me at all times. This trip was the perfect opportunity to test out my new Zojirushi x Hello Kitty stainless steel mug!

The tumbler is well-insulated, yet lightweight, and can hold either hot or cold drinks. I’ve been a Hello Kitty / Sanrio fan since childhood, so I adore the cute cat and bows design. (It comes in white or black, with gold. They also produced a collaboration rice cooker.)

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The tight-fitting lid flips open with a safety lock, and the well-designed stopper and spout prevent spillage. Made with Japanese tech and kawaii, this Zojirushi x Hello Kitty collaboration is a winner.

(The Hello Kitty stuffed plush is from Japan in the 1990s. They don’t make them like they used to.)

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Nowadays, you’re allowed to stay in your car during the entire BC Ferries ride. (This wasn’t allowed until Covid hit.)

I prefer this new ferry policy. Finally, I can recline and take a nap inside my parked car. (The photo shows how you can now enjoy the ocean breeze from inside the garage… but the yellow Porsche does not belong to me!)

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Everyone is now required to bring a face mask aboard the ferry — a policy I agree with. All passengers must show their masks before boarding, or they may be denied passage.  

I put on my cloth face covering, and went to the outside deck for these spectacular views.

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I stayed for four nights at the fabulous Fairmont Empress Victoria, which has implemented many new protocols to keep guests safe. (See my full hotel review here.)

The city began as a British settlement in 1843, and was named after the powerful Queen Victoria. The Empress Hotel dates back to 1908, and sits in the perfect location; it’s easy to walk to all of Victoria’s main sights from here.

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In these Covid-times, it’s best to spend time outdoors if you’re traveling. Fortunately, Victoria is a terrific city for strolling — there are plentiful parks, beaches, and cultural neighborhoods. 

My favorite area was Victoria’s Chinatown. Established in the mid 1800s, this is the second oldest Chinese neighborhood in North America after San Francisco.

I did a curtsy to the lion statues guarding the Gate of Harmonious Interest. This ornate red arch marks the entrance to Chinatown, on Fisgard Street.

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You’ll be charmed by the Chinese architecture, such as century-old brick buildings and bright red doors. 

What I wore: Hat by Tenth Street Hats, skirt by Sourpuss Clothing, top by Black Milk Clothing.

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Victoria’s Chinatown was originally the makeshift home of Chinese immigrants, who came here to pan for gold or work on the Canadian Pacific Railway. Back the, some of these gritty alleys led to opium dens and gambling joints.

Today, Chinatown is a lively collective of restaurants and hip boutiques, lit up by cheery red lanterns. 

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Look for Chinatown’s hidden Fan Tan Alley, and you’ll come a cross a highly Instagrammable alleyway. This is one of Victoria’s best destinations for local-made clothing and accessories, vinyl records, handcrafted homewares, and other alternative goods. 

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I’m standing in front of Heart’s Content, Victoria’s ultimate Goth punk and alternative shop. The boutique is owned by a friendly local couple. They’ve been sourcing edgy items (like this Japanese The Clash t-shirt) for over three decades. 

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I spotted Doc Martens boots, The Misfits tees, Mary Quant tights, Ben Sherman shirts, boned corsets, and other Goth fashion. The front cases were filled with spiked chokers and belts, and skull accessories.

If you like to dress on the dark side, then Heart’s Content is the place to shop.

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Fan Tan Alley is one of the the narrowest streets in Canada. Squeeze through and take a photo (it’s one of the most popular Instagram spots in Victoria).

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If you’re more of a retro pin-up fashionista, check out Hussy Boutique (also located in this historic neighborhood). 

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You’ll encounter magic and mystery in Victoria’s Chinatown. I came across this glowing Buddha in a shop window, not far from the Dart Coon Club Cheekungtong (an association of Chinese Freemasons — didn’t realize they existed). 

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Quite appropriately, an ally put up a Black Lives Matter poster by the Gate of Harmonious Interest.

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While walking around downtown Victoria, I came across a colorful mural supporting BLM as well. There were also messages about staying safe and flattening the coronavirus curve. 2020… we live in interesting times. 

victoria oddities Little Shop of strange pentagrams

What other Goth and alt shops can you visit in Victoria? Little Shop of Strange, a quirky emporium for taxidermy and spooky oddities. Note the animal skulls with horns, and Baphomet pentagram leggings worn by the mannequin. 

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The black coffin bookcase is home decor goals. Little Shop of Strange is an eccentric and morbid spot to get local art, jewelry, clothing, and occult items. 

vintage after death boutique thrift store

Victoria has a great selection of secondhand stores as well. The ghoulishly-named Vintage After Death was one of my favorites. 

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I spy a skull above a rack of colorful clothing from the 1970s, 80s and 90s. 

vintage after death earrings Canadian designers

Use your imagination to mix and match accessories, and put together a standout outfit. 

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Vintage After Death sells bizarre knick-knacks too: goofy bunny statues, Raggedy Ann horror dolls, sequined Indian tapestries, etc.

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Face masks are currently à la mode… Quite a few clothing shops featured them in the display windows. 

face shields stores covid masks

Who could have predicted that face shields would be the 2020 must-have accessory? 

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The music store Turn Table even put David Bowie as Aladdin Sane in a medical mask. (I suppose his current stage name would be David Cowie or David Bovid.)

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Even this stuffed bunny wears a fabric facemask… and so should you!

red fish blue fish chips wharf victoria restaurant

As our BC health leader Dr Bonnie says, “Be Calm, Be Kind, Be Safe.” Victoria’s businesses have put up Plexiglass at checkout counters, and set up outdoor seating with social distancing signs. 

Dining outside is encouraged, so head to the local favorite Red Fish Blue Fish. (The fish ‘n’ chips shack usually has a long line-up, but now there is barely a wait, as there are no foreign tourists.) Order the BC halibut, and enjoy this view of the Inner Harbour waterfront.  

courtney room menu victoria bc pasta food

Victoria has many excellent restaurants with patios. A few friends suggested 10 Acres, but I wasn’t able to visit this farm-to-table bistro this time.

However, I had a spectacular dinner at The Courtney Room. Still thinking about the above stuffed handmade pasta with confit mushrooms, basil, chili, parmesan, and bolognese. 

And don’t miss out on the Fairmont Hotel Empress’ afternoon tea and award-wining cocktail bar. (I reviewed them in depth, in this post.)

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Victoria BC is an ideal destination for those who love nature and spending time outside. Hit up Willows Beach, and find a quiet spot for swimming and relaxing in the sand. 

I’m not an outdoors type, but enjoyed a socially distanced hangout with local friends at Willows. Here’s my Goth on the Beach look (I wore a hat, parasol and four layers of sunscreen!) 

willows beach victoria logs scenery

There are many other beaches and scenic spots around Victoria. You can also drive a short distance to provincial parks such as Goldstream, or to see nearby lakes and waterfalls. 

dallas point road scenic walk victoria

I opted to stay in Victoria, so I did the classic walk on Dallas Road, from Clover Point to Ogden Point. These views…

beacon hill park peacocks victoria birds petting zo

I also had fun exploring Beacon Hill Park, which was blooming with flowers. Look for the fabulous resident peacocks, who make quite a funny chirping noise! 

chinese cemetery graveyard victoria british columbia

The Chinese Cemetery is also worth a visit. Established in 1903, this burial ground was designed around feng shui principles. The wind and water elements are strong here — and the graveyard is an important spot for Victoria’s Chinese community. 

fairmont hotel victoria empress review rating

Never forget that Queen Victoria dressed in all-black and mourned her dead husband for 40 years… No wonder the city named after her has lots for Goths to enjoy! 

Cheers to the Fairmont Empress Victoria hotel for a relaxing five-star stay. See my full hotel review, including how they’re handling safety and sanitation, here.

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Victoria, British Columbia is a royal gem. Have you heard of this Vancouver Island destination, or been here? Did I miss any of the major Goth spots?