Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Who Would Have Thought?

In order to catch up, I'm writing again this afternoon. Mostly because I've seen so much since we went to Victoria that I am just bursting to show you what is happening NOW.  Birds, in fact, but that will come soon enough, it isn't every day that a girl gets to go to the Butchart Gardens! For those of you who have never heard of it, and I would have been in your camp a few years ago had Angela and Matt not gone, here is some information. While it was fantastic, if you can believe it, I was disappointed it was so darn SUNNY! Thus, most of my photographs are not great. In addition, as I mentioned about the flowers in Victoria, the same held true for the gardens; transitional season in progress. Nevertheless, I am thrilled that we went and perhaps you will be as well.

Before leaving the hotel, this was our view. Hard to imagine that there is snow remaining on the mountains isn't it? At least to a Floridian!
The sign gives you a notion about how long they have been showing the world what they have to offer.
Yup, that is a ball of flowers in the sign! Set in a former limestone pit, the only reminder of that is the remaining chimney stack.
The flowers are fantastic, as are the many decorative fountains found throughout the 55 acres. Mr. Peck took my photo in front of one of them. And yes, that is a homemade blouse.
This little guy is super cute.
The granddaddy of the fountains though is the Ross Fountain with water shooting in ever-changing, intricate patterns. Set in the quarry, it is pretty darn spectacular.
Peonies, peonies, peonies. Oh my goodness that is a fantastic flower that I've never had exposure to. Sure, they sell some every now and again at Publix, but seeing them on their lush plants is, well, in my opinion, awesome.
Since I've seen these I've seen a couple around town and they do NOT look like this. Must be a different variety?
Seriously, the architecture of flowers is nothing short of amazing isn't it? Apparently we lucked out because the Himalayan Blue Poppies were in bloom and who doesn't want to see a blue poppy? None of you I'm certain.
Apparently they are very difficult to grow, but if anyone can, the 79 gardeners there seem to be up to the task.
Pretty unreal isn't it? Set in the Japanese Garden, there were loads of great things to see, however, in the interest of keeping you engaged, let us enter the Italian Garden like Bruce.
There is a great plaza this leads onto and I'm showing you that because one of the most special aspects of the gardens are the great variety of trees in many colors. The contrast is wonderful. The giant trees, or so we learned from one of the gardeners are Purple Beech trees. He also said they are crazy messy when blooming, which we just missed. Can you imagine cleaning up the spent blooms from trees this size?
The building on the right is the wing which formerly held the Butchart's bowling alley! If you've got a few minutes, it is a very interesting story how one woman came up with a plan to transform the former limestone quarry into world class gardens. (see above link)

I've learned from our short time here that I am crazy for all poppies, however, this one, there are no words for the exquisite color.
Irises aren't half bad themselves and we can grow them in Florida which is a plus. It's a shame I've been exposed to all of this when I no longer have a yard, however, we do have a small plot and we plan to make the best of what we've got when we get home.
As if the gardens weren't enough, there is a greenhouse, adjacent to the Blue Poppy Restaurant with even more beautiful flowers and plants. Bonus points because I can actually identify some of them.
That said, many of the summer plants here we may very well know as I saw some city workers planting coleus today along with geraniums and begonia. Pretty soon I may not be in a perpetual state of wonder.😀

I just gave you a whirlwind tour that took us about four hours to see and what a joy it was. For our return ferry I'd not made reservations because we learned the ferry runs on the hour, so after lunch we drove about 12 miles to the correct location on Victoria. The ferries are quite large, some of them hold up to 300 cars! I think I've figured out how we got on the wrong ferry. Are you curious? Curious or not, here goes! Bruce printed our tickets for the outbound ferry, handing them over at the entry gate and the fellow took our money after asking B if he were a BC resident. In other words, should he really be getting a discount for that? Yes, he does have a BC license. Because the sign above the booth said Victoria, and I've checked my photo to make sure I wasn't remembering it incorrectly, we assumed we should just go forward, following the cars in front of us. Well, you know what they say about assumptions don't you?

This time around, the attendant not only handed us tickets with the lane clearly stated, she also told us where to go, something we are pretty darn sure the previous fellow neglected to do. In Tsawwassen there are about 15 lanes so getting it right takes some previous knowledge, or so it seems. Lane 7 she said, and lane 7 it was.
A woman we were chatting with on the first ferry said that the route we were meant to take was more scenic and she was not kidding as you travel between some of the islands, a whole bunch in fact. According to this article there are 15 between the mainland and Vancouver Island.
This ferry is something like 50 years old and still running great.
On the upper deck I began asking people the names of various islands, not getting an answer until I met a young father with his two children who was full of information because he lives on one of them. I asked him what the appeal of living in the ocean was and he replied that life was very simple, more like living was 30 years ago. Make of it what you will. I do know it is very beautiful, especially close to shore where the water color looked turquoise.
What we learned was that traveling via the BC Ferries, if you are in the correct lane, is a pretty simple way to travel, with no security measures and all the hassle that comes with that. You drive on, go up a floor or two and sit back and relax, watching the beauty before you unfold. Nice is one way to describe it.

Without incident, we made our way back to the city.
Short, sweet, and memorable. Not a thing to complain about.

I began writing this post yesterday afternoon and then lost my internet connection until this morning, something that has rarely occurred while we are here. That happened all the time at home with Brighthouse, a constant source of frustration. I wonder how it will be now that we have AT&T at home? I guess we'll find out in the next couple of months, won't we?

yours truly,

Gail

Monday, May 28, 2018

Visiting Victoria

In my last post, you learned that we were taking a short trip to Victoria for Bruce's birthday. You also learned that to get to Vancouver Island you must take a ferry, and even more importantly, the correct one. Since we did not follow that advice, getting on the Duke Point ferry, rather than the more direct one to Swartz Bay, our drive to Victoria was longer than we anticipated, but not without sights, so all's well that ends well. Right? We think so. Taking Canada 1, we drove South, seeing amongst other things, beautiful yellow flowers growing everywhere, and I do mean everywhere.
Naturally I was going crazy wondering what they looked like up close; stopping for gas, at more than $6 a gallon I might add, I had the opportunity to do just that. A quick internet search has led to this informative article that tells me, and you, should you care to know more, that it is Scotch Bonnet, an invasive species which has spread throughout the island and beyond. Now we know.

After traveling through a beautiful forest, we came to Victoria, and more specifically the Doubletree, set behind the Fairmont Empress hotel. Wendy suggested the place, having taken her parents there last month. Furthermore, when booking the hotel she said to make sure to request a room on a higher floor so as to view the harbor from the balcony. Indeed, that is what happened.
Dropping off our bag, we immediately set to exploring, beginning with the lovely Fairmont Empress. We poked our head in and roamed around a bit, coming across this funny little, well, what do you call something like this anyway? For the corgi lovers in the audience perhaps?
A large solarium led to a conference center, the lobby filled with many impressive totem poles, a recurring them in Victoria.
The weather was perfect for strolling, seeing in person what before had only been on a computer screen.
The only bummer, as shown above, was that it is somewhat of a transitional time for flowers so instead of gorgeous beds of flowers, mostly they were bare dirt. Maybe I needed a break from flowers? Maybe not. 😁

One of the main attractions in Victoria is the Parliament House which was but two blocks from our hotel.
Queen Victoria graces the front lawn, apparently, although she was meant to be facing the grand entrance, a decision was made to have her face the street which so angered the sculpture that he refused to attend the ribbon cutting. Or, so we learned when we took the 5:00 tour. Before going in though, we checked out the grounds.
We learned all sorts of stuff, such as the architect was only 25 years old and designed the buildings to be very grand so that moving the capital of British Columbia to a more central location would probably not happen. I wondered why the capital was on an island and now I know. The rotunda was one of the best features,
however, and this was not part of the tour, it was not without controversy because it depicted what is now considered degrading images of Indigenous people. That's one thing that is a constant here, apologizing for past behavior. Plus, some people call them Aboriginal people whereas others use the term Indigenous. Furthermore, you are always reminded, whether it is at church, or a tour, that you are standing on the unceded territory of the Coast Salich people. The article I've linked to reminded me that there is yet a third term and that is First Nations. All of it is pretty fascinating stuff.

Here is the British Columbian coat of arms that also helped explain something I've observed.
There are no vanity car license plates here, rather they all say "Beautiful British Columbia" on them, both of the front and back of the vehicle. Turns out the above is where that term comes from and I just thought it was because people here are so proud of their home. Which they most certainly are as you hear it constantly. My observation anyway.

Here is a better view of the Empress. Note the flowers below the sidewalk that say Welcome to Victoria, or at least they did on our first day, on our second, they'd been removed!
Following the tour we made our way to our dinner destination, walking along some lovely streets with a decidedly British influence. Or make that United Kingdom.
Again, a Wendy recommendation, Il Terrazo turned out to not only be charming, but delicious as well.
And here's the birthday boy!
Should you be wondering about his shirt, James McMurtry is one of his favorite musical artists, the son of the famed novelist, Larry McMurtry, both of whom are excellent storytellers.

Speaking of which, on our walk home, we came across Munroe's Books, founded by one of my favorite Canadian authors, Alice Munro, although according to this, she's not had any connection to it for quite some time.
To tell you the truth, we did not see the Parliament building lit up in total darkness, because, well, it stays light for so long it was past our bedtime!
Up with the sun, I took a walk to the nearby Beacon Hill Park.
Part of it looks barren, if you don't count a random chair, while other parts are beautifully manicured.
As is my custom, I just roam around and see what I come across.
Not entirely true in this case however, because while I was roaming on the rocky hilltop, a man suggested I head towards a beautiful Japanese garden, advice that I followed.
That stone bridge has stood for quite some time my friends. Well, not so long for my English friends, but long for the West coast.
There was a noisy heron colony, and of course, some Canada geese.
We'd been given a handout the previous Sunday in Vancouver about an Egyptian artifact exhibition at the Royal British Columbia Museum, located across from the Parliament House, which is where we went after breakfast. More, very impressive totem poles on the lawn, as well as a longhouse.
Also on the grounds we came across this former residence and statue of Dr. Helmcken, a very accomplished Londoner who played a pivotal role in the history of this region. As is the case with many folks in these parts, he arrived here via the Hudson Bay Company. More to our point, we walk on Helmcken Street, here in downtown Vancouver, very frequently, so I was delighted to find out more about him.
The museum is huge, filled with the history of BC, both the natural and human experience. The Egyptian exhibit was very impressive, although with the rooms very dark, after a while I was getting very sleepy having gotten up so early. Everything was so well done!
The natural history part--whoa...very cool.
I loved seeing everything and oftentimes I find it hard to skim over stuff in a museum, just ask Matthew about the time we visited the Museum of London and he will heartily agree. Anyway, this poster was fun as I've told you in the past how this event put Vancouver on the public radar.
Speaking to one of the docents, she told us about a few places to eat lunch, one of which was on the water adjacent to the "airport." Watching the seaplanes come and go was fun while we were enjoying our lunch.
A bit of a research mission actually as we will be taking one of these in the next couple of weeks when we go on a fishing trip set on the west coast of Vancouver Island. A little nervous perhaps, but I'm sure it will make for some spectacular photographs. Or so I hope.

The rest of our day was pretty low key, spent walking the streets and popping into inviting shops. Then again, window shopping was also part of our experience.
In front of our hotel, there was this, a one person electric car made mostly in Victoria. Amazing right?
Perhaps we'll be seeing something like this in the future? It certainly looks futuristic doesn't it?

The next morning we left Victoria, heading north to the Butchart Gardens where the entryway was cloaked in what I've now learned are Golden Chain trees.
My goodness, the gardens were stunning with something to delight the senses at every turn. I'll tell you more in my next post as I suspect this has gone on long enough!

yours truly,

Gail

You Just Never Know