F is for…
…Fan Tan Alley
Fan Tan Alley is one of the landmarks in an area of downtown Victoria known as Chinatown. Chinatown in Victoria is the oldest Chinatown in Canada, and apparently second oldest only to the one in San Francisco. I would have to say it looks like it is probably also the smallest, being really only one block of Fisgard Street (it used to be a lot larger back in the day), although you could argue for it being a bit bigger given that some of its landmarks are on different blocks. You can read more about Chinatown in Victoria at the websites listed below. My personal note is that I am amazed at how many restaurants, little groceries, and shops are crammed into this small space. And it is the place we always turn to for delicious BBQ duck!
Now, on to Fan Tan Alley. Fan Tan Alley lies between Fisgard (the Chinatown block) and Pandora in downtown Victoria and it is, as its name would suggest, an alley. But what a cool alley! Very narrow as you might expect an alley to be (3 feet across at its narrowest – hardly room for two people to walk side by side it seems), with brick walls and shop doors and windows welcoming you in from either side of the alley.
The name Fan Tan Alley, according to the Chinatown Library,
…is named after a gambling game that reached the height of its popularity in this location in the early 1940s. The game is named after its component parts: “Fan” being to turn over, and “Tan” meaning to spread out. The dealer takes a handful of buttons or beads and covers them with a brass cup. The players bet on how many buttons will be left after the dealer has removed all multiples of four. Once the bets are made, the dealer turns over the cup and spreads out the buttons to count them. (http://chinatown.library.uvic.ca/fan_tan_alley)
It came into existence (can you say an alley was “built”?) between 1885 and 1920 and “was a popular location for opium factories”. While today it is home to an eclectic mix of shops, such as Triple Spiral Metaphysical Gifts, Hearts Content (http://www.heartscontentvictoria.ca/) – Kevin loves going into this store – and Devil May Wear (http://devilmaywear.ca – locally made, eco-friendly clothing).
You can read all about Fan Tan Alley’s history at the Chinatown Library, so I won’t repeat everything here. One thing I will note about Fan Tan Alley is its spot on the Ghostly Walks tours (http://discoverthepast.com/ghostly-walks/).
Suffice it to say, if you’re ever in Victoria, make sure to check it out…maybe on one of those Ghostly Walks!
Some pictures of Chinatown
Don Mee’s – famous for it Dim Sum (but not the best in Victoria in our opinion)
And now on to Fan Tan Alley. From Fisgard…
Looking out onto Fisgard…
Past some of the shops
Looking out to Pandora…
And out on Pandora. Journey through the darkness completed.
- Chinatown Library, Fan Tan Alley: http://chinatown.library.uvic.ca/fan_tan_alley
- Fan Tan Alley at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fan_Tan_Alley
- Finding History in Fan Tan Alley: http://blogs.theprovince.com/2012/01/14/finding-history-in-fan-tan-alley/
- Victoria’s Chinatown: http://www.travelingtales.com/deefholts/chinatown/index.html
- Victoria’s Chinatown at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinatown,_Victoria
- Haunted Victoria Ghost Tours: http://www.where.ca/british-columbia/victoria/haunted-victoria-ghost-tours/
- YouTube video of Fan Tan Alley: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPDG7txVnCY