For the second half of our journey, we headed to the ferry.
After a 90-minute ferry ride from Vancouver, we entered Vancouver Island, and drove to the capital city of Victoria.
The towns are quite different. Vancouver is the largest city in British Columbia with a population of over 688,000 people, while Victoria has a population just over 97,000. Traffic was quite different, and bus rides even shorter.
Our hotel, The Grand Pacific was right on the harbor with excellent views, and the temperatures were even nicer.
While Arkansas was suffering highs in the 100+ range week 1, and in the upper 80’s week 2, we had a high one day of 85, but more commonly the highs were in the mid-70’s and lows in the upper 50’s to low 60’s, with NO humidity. It was a shock to come home after two weeks of that weather.
Our first night in Victoria, we got settled in and explored on our own, where 4 of us spotted 2 “reindeer”
a few blocks from our hotel. We swear they are reindeer, but others disagree (we are happy with our story).
The next day was the most anticipated stop on our journey, Butchart Gardens,
and it did not disappoint. Located in Brentwood Bay, about 30 minutes away from downtown Victoria, the gardens are open year-round, but the peak season is July and August with millions of annual bedding plants. It is Disneyland for gardeners!
Over 151 color beds are located in the sunken gardens,
which are the premier gardens on the property, but there are many other gardens to explore, from a rose garden,
and more. Everywhere you look, you are bombarded with color,
with unique combinations.
Since it is a display garden, and not a botanical garden, there are no labels to tell you what you are looking at, but we knew most of the flowering plants.
I would have liked a printed list of varieties and what works best for them. You can buy seeds in the gift store, and they are sealed properly so they can cross the border, but I am not much of a seed-growing person.
The gardens hire 50 people full time for the gardens,
with 20 seasonal employees. They grow almost all their own plants—some from seeds, some from their own cuttings, and others from plugs they order in. It must be an arduous task! The gardens are all meticulously maintained, with not a weed in sight! Truly, a must-see garden if you love color and flowers.
To add icing to the cake, we left Butchart for high tea
at the Empress Hotel, and then we had free time.
The following day we went into the opposite direction and toured the Horticultural Center of the Pacific
—a gardener’s garden. This large 9-acre garden is divided up into a myriad of gardeners with different groups of staff, volunteers
and students maintaining the gardens. Some volunteers are Master Gardeners, and other gardens are maintained by local organizations—the bonsai society maintains the largest outdoor Bonsai garden in Canada, the fuchsia
society takes care of the fuchsia garden, and on and on. We had wonderful docents
both times and learned a lot. Their heather garden is stunning,
as were the alpine rock and crevice gardens. We saw a wide range of shrubs, trees, perennials and annuals, along with fruits
and vegetables. It was a wonderful experience.
From there it was on to the Government House,
the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor and ceremonial home of all British Columbians. We did not tour the home, but the surrounding gardens.
Our last stop of the day was Abkhazi Gardens,
a unique home and garden built by the Prince and Princess Abkhazi back in t 1946. This one-acre garden had some interesting plants,
that were quite unique.
We also had delightful docents. A nice end for group 1 as they headed back to Vancouver via ferry for a farewell dinner and a morning to head to the airport on Saturday. Group 2
had a redeye flight the following Saturday, so we had an extra day to explore Vancouver Island, from the towns of Chemanius
and then going on a ferry out of Naniamo. The ferries were quite fun.
I saw some otters with the first group and we saw 6 whales with the second. We did not get spectacular pictures, but the siting alone was worth it.
The Vancouver/Victoria trips were both great. We learned a little on the first one to make the second more efficient, but both were fantastic. I had two great groups of travelers, and found new things in all the gardens that I hadn’t seen the first time. I am tallying the surveys now, but both trips are coming in at 9.3- 9.4 out of 10 rating. Now off to St. Louis in two weeks for my last trip of the year! More great trips planned for next year. The only one with any openings now is our river cruise the Colors of Provence, next April 25 -May 2, and that’s because we have the whole river boat. Come join us! https://twintravelconceptsbooking.grcoll.co/go/jcprovence (Code: jcprovence).