The City of Gardens

3 Aug

The former limestone quarry!

Victoria has been nicknamed the city of gardens, and it is well deserved.  The climate here must be perfect for flowers and fruit!  Today was spent exploring some of the beautiful garden spots in the city.  It is our last full day in Victoria and we’ve enjoyed it so much!  What a beautiful place!  I was surprised to learn that the climate here is cool and dry in the summer (which we have marveled at after the heat in Kentucky) but that the winters are mild as well.  They don’t get a lot of snow here and it only dips below freezing a couple of times in winter.  The cherry trees here (and they are everywhere) begin to bloom in January and with the blackberries still blooming now and not fully in until the end of August or September, it makes for a very long growing season.  I would guess that there’s probably something in bloom about anytime you visit here.

Our last full day in Victoria was spent taking in some beautiful sights.  We tried to use every bit of our time wisely in order to get every thing  checked off of our must see list, but it is so beautiful here, we could easily have enjoyed more time.  We ate breakfast at a little place near the hotel that was run by a Viatnamese couple (but the food was American) they were very friendly and once we were done, we set out to catch a bus to Butchart Gardens.  Butchart is one of the top tourist attractions here and it is beautiful.  In the early 1900s, Jenny Butchart, the wife of a man who made his living mining limestone, converted a left-over limestone quarry of his into the beautiful gardens they are today.  They are breathtaking.  We took lots of pictures as we strolled through the different areas.

Hundreds and hundreds of roses in full bloom!

After walking through all the gardens and taking lots of pictures, we caught the bus back to our hotel, and decided to eat lunch at Nauticul Nellie’s.  I had a really good fish taco and Jimmy had prawns and fries.  We are trying to get our fill of the excellent seafood in this area before we are gone.

After we ate our lunch, we walked over the Market Square where we had seen a local farmer’s market advertised for today.  This one wasn’t as big as the one on Bainbridge Island, but we bought some wonderful truffles from a lady at a booth full of her handmade chocolates, and we bought a box of blackberries and raspberries to take back to our room for an evening snack.  They were huge, and I could hardly wait to try them.

After lunch, we took a long walk up the hill from our hotel to Craigdarroch Castle.  It has an interesting history and was a delight to tour all 4 floors.  The home was built in 1890 for a coal baron (Robert Duinsmuir) and was full of stained glass windows, intricate woodwork, and Victorian-era furnishings.  Robert, however never lived in it.  He passed away before it was completed.  He left his vast wealth to his wife (despite what he’d told his two sons) and the sensational court battle that followed was headline news back in the day.  His wife lived in the house with her daughters until her death in 1908.  Since then, it has housed a military hospital, a college, a school board, and a conservatory of music.  Interestingly, at one point in time, the owners tried to sell parcels of land from the vast acreage surrounding the castle with very little success, so it was decided that the parcels of land be disposed of by lottery.  One lucky winner received (in a drawing) the parcel of land  that held the castle.

view from the top floor of the castle

After the castle tour, we walked a short distance to Government House.  It is the official residence of the lieutenant governor of British Columbia.  It is also the place that the queen stays when she visits Victoria.  We weren’t allowed to tour the house since there was an event going on.    We walked around the grounds though and took lots of pictures of the beautiful gardens.

By this time, we had walked quite a few miles, so we stopped at the first bus stop we could find and hopped on a bus back to the hotel.  The bus drivers are very friendly here and very helpful.  Also, quite a bargain.  Our round trip fares out to Butchart cost us 2.25 each, and it was about an hour ride round trip.  Of course they are an even bigger bargain in Seattle since they are free in the large downtown zone were we stayed.

Once we got off the bus, we decided our legs had rested enough to take a walk around the upper bay.  We hadn’t explored this section very much so we were anxious to explore it.  The walk was about 2 miles, and once we crossed the big wooden tresstle at the end of the bay, we were on the opposite side where we were able to catch one of those cute little water taxi’s.

The wooden walkway on the banks of the upper harbor

the long trestle across the upper harbor

upper harbor

We walked down the little dock that was a taxi stop and the sign instructed us to call the number listed.  We did, and they said they’d send one right out to get us.  In about 5 minutes, a friendly little driver welcomed us aboard and narrated our ride back with local history and points of interest.  We even got to see our first harbor seals swimming near the taxi.  It was a real neat way to travel and gave us a different perspective of the city from the water.

The water taxi stop

After all that walking, we went back to the hotel to get cleaned up for dinner, and walked over to one of the downtown restaurants called Ric’s.  Jimmy got seafood again and I settled on a big delicious salad.  After we ate, we went across the street to a chocolate store called Roger’s that has been part of Victoria since the 1800’s  We bought some chocolate, then headed back to the hotel room to eat our berries and watch the Olympics.  We enjoyed every part of our day, and tomorrow we head back to Seattle with beautiful memories of our time in Victoria!

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One Response to “The City of Gardens”

  1. Jim Grayson August 3, 2012 at 12:11 pm #

    Hi, Deb. Beautiful photos, as always. I was noticing something- it’s so VERY easy to tell which meal belongs to Jimmy and which one is yours. (snickering loudly- chortling, actually…) Me? I never could eat all that much, as was evidenced by my slim, trim, yet muscular figure, very much built for the Paso Doble. :o)
    I’m so happy you guys can go and do the things you do. The Lord has blessed you with a wonderful family and many, many memories.
    My love to you guys…
    Jim

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