I decided that since I was back home visiting Washington and had renewed my passport in 2019 that I would take the opportunity to make a visit to Victoria B.C.
Day 1 (December 29, 2019) – I boarded the Blackball Ferry Coho for the 2:30 P.M sailing in Port Angeles, Washington. The day was a little overcast and cold. The hour and a half crossing to Victoria B.C. was pretty uneventful, other than a short stroll I took out on the deck for a few pictures and spotted the tail of a whale. I waited around for a bit hoping I would see the whale resurface but I never did. It was pretty windy and cold to be outside so I wandered back in where it was warmer.
I arrived in Victoria B.C at about 4 P.M and after 45 minutes of waiting in line to get through customs, I was finally on my way to spending 4 days exploring Victoria. Now the last time I was here was about 37 years ago when I (being pregnant with our son Aaron) came with my husband Randy, our daughter Erika, and my parents.
It was quickly starting to get dark so I pulled out my map and my instructions to get to my hotel. I had done my research before I left the U .S as to how to get to my hotel from the ferry…..boy was I off base and it turned into an hour and a half public bus ride craziness, first of all, it appeared to me that I could ride the bus or walk it in about 15 minutes, so I started out walking and realized after walking a few blocks that I was at 700 Douglas Way and my hotel, Island Travel Inn was at 1850 Douglas Way, so I caught the bus and it was my understanding from previous research if I rode the bus I needed to get off at Jackson and Douglas. So I paid my $2.50 bus fare and got on the bus….so we’re traveling along a bit when the driver turned down a different street. I was like … Oh no, this is not right…. I have not ridden the public bus in a long time and I was in a place I was not familiar with and not completely sure of my directions. So after we traveled a couple blocks I asked the driver if this bus would circle back to Douglas?, He said no…..you need to get off at the next stop, walk to the corner of Qudra and cross the street to catch bus #6…..so I did….I get on bus #6 pay my $2.50 bus fare again and I tell the driver where I need to go….he said he was not sure where that was but that I needed to get off at Douglas and View and catch bus #30 or #31 because that is still a ways to walk….so I ask him for a pass since I have now paid $5 in bus fare and for $5 you can get an all-day pass. He gives me a pass, I get off and find my way to the next bus stop. I get on bus #30 and I tell the driver where I need to go….he doesn’t speak English very well and I finally get out of him that I need to get off at Hillside. I get off at Hillside and see the building address is 2610 Douglas…. Really!!! Now I have gone to far….by this time it’s been dark for awhile other than street, traffic and store lights….I’m still in the downtown area and plenty of people out and about. I cross the street to catch the bus going back the other way. I get on the bus and again explain to the driver where I am going and how I keep getting fouled up…the driver says he thinks he knows where my hotel is at. It seems the drivers know cross streets and bus stops, but not so much the addresses and this hotel is not well known I guess…..so we’re rolling along and this lady on the bus has obviously overheard my situation…..she tells me she is staying at the same hotel and will show me the way…….our stop soon comes up, we get off and sure enough it’s just a block and a half from my motel. I was so thankful for this lady and told her she was my angel. So finally I made it to my hotel, my room wasn’t ready so I got a deluxe suite with a Jacuzzi, King Bed, little refrigerator, and two separate sitting areas. This is an older hotel, a bit dated, but clean and decent. What an adventure!
Day 2 (December 30, 2019) – After a really great nights rest in the very comfortable, huge King size bed I ventured off to the Butchart Gardens by public bus.. ..let me tell you after yesterday’s escapade I figured out the bus system…..so with a little more map quest research I knew which bus to take and I was right….made it there and back with no issues….I have to say I knew that the gardens were not going to be in bloom like they are in the Spring and Summer, but I really thought there would be more colorful winter plants and some flowers, so I was disappointed. Don’t get me wrong it was a very awesome place and I can imagine how gorgeous it is in the Spring.
The Gardens began as a limestone quarry dating back to the early 1900s. Over time the quarry was transformed into one of Canada’s premier garden attractions. The floral gardens were started by a cement contractor by the name of Robert Pim Butchart.
Robert and his wife, Jennie Butchart, moved to Victoria, BC from Ontario, Canada. The Butchart family has carried on the legacy of these now-famous gardens. Jennie Butchart recognized that the mild temperatures and the lush environment was an ideal setting for gardening. Slowly the gardens grew and the Butchart Gardens were born. The Butchart’s received many accolades…… Robert Butchart was given the key to the city and was made a Freeman of the city of Victoria in 1928 and Jennie Butchart was named Citizen of the Year in 1931.
After the death of Jennie Butchart, the gardens fell into despair. The grounds were left unattended until 1946. It was then that Ian Ross, the grandson of Jennie Butchart and his wife, Ann Lee Ross, brought the Butchart Gardens back to life. In order to help with the costs, they began charging admission and generating revenue from their seed and gift store, as well as the Benvenuto Tea House.
The gardens are open year-round and you can see hundreds of different colors and varieties of flowers. During the holiday season, the Butchart Gardens are decorated with Christmas lights and decor depicting the 12 days of Christmas. I had arrived at about 2 P.M in the afternoon so I stayed till the evening to see the lights. Here are some photos I hope you enjoy.
Day 3 (December 31, 2019) – Rain was in the forecast for today so I made plans to be indoors and go see the Craigdarroch Castle which turned out to be amazing……so gorgeous and so much history. Craigdarroch is a four-storied stone mansion that wow’s you the minute you see it, it sits on a hill in an older, nice residential area overlooking Victoria B.C. You pay an admission fee in a modern building just a short walk across the driveway from the castle. Tickets are at $14.85 for adults, $13.85 for seniors (I don’t know what the senior age is…..I completely forgot to even ask and paid the adult ticket price), students 13 or older $9.75, children 6-12 $5.35 and a family $36.00 (2 adults/seniors and 2 students/children).
The castle was built by wealthy coal baron Robert Dunsmuir during the reign of Queen Victoria and is now a National Historic Site. Visitors are able to have a glimpse of privileged life in the 1890s. You are met at the front door by a guide who gives you a self-guided tour brochure that takes you through all rooms on each floor. The tour starts on the 1st floor and up the front formal staircase. On each floor, you are able to view reception rooms, bedrooms, and studies that are furnished, with a portion of the furnishings being original to the home. The woodwork and stained glass in the formal areas of the home are so amazing and beautiful. The view from the top floor at the top of the stairs gives you a panoramic view of the city of Victoria. Once you reach the top you are then directed down the stairs to the backside of the house where you will find a few servants quarters, the kitchen, pantry, and storerooms which are still in the stages of being restored. Robert Dunsmuir died April 1889, 17 months before the home was completed. His widow Joan and a few family members lived in the home for a short period of time, but eventually, it was abandoned since none of the children wanted the home. For a time it was used as a residential school and a military hospital then was saved from ruin by the government and opened for tours.
After my day at Craigadorrch Castle and being a little soggy getting to and from the bus and castle I stopped for a late lunch at a restaurant just across the street from my hotel called the “White Spot Caledonia” which was pretty good. I got a small caesar salad with a toasted turkey sandwich, fries, and a soda. I went back to my hotel room to watch some TV and just relax as it continued to rain. It was on my mind that being in was New Year’s Eve I had wanted to check out the “Wonder of Lights” exhibit that was just a block and a half up the street from my hotel, but with it raining I did not really want to go out and I was feeling so warm and cozy in my room. I had relayed this thought to my daughter as we were texting……she said: “Mom you went to explore and experience what is there, so you best go check it out”……I pondered on it a little longer and the rained had started to let up so I went. Centennial Square in downtown Victoria was transformed into a holiday wonderland. There were themed light exhibits, light tunnels, and a 40 foot live Christmas tree that was decorated. When I arrived around 7 PM it had recently just stopped raining, it was still early and so there were not very many people out….it was all free, soft Christmas music playing and people walking around, and taking pictures. I did not stay long, I just wanted to check it out and see what it was all about and take some pictures……. and that was how my New Year’s Eve wrapped up as I then walked back to my hotel and hunkered down for the night.
Day 4 (January 1, 2020) – Happy New Years Day……Today there was no rain and a nice day to be outside, so off I went to the 11th annual Habitat for Humanity Gingerbread fundraiser at the Parkside Hotel and Spa. I had run across this event when I was looking on the internet for things that were happening in Victoria while I was here and this was free and sounded interesting so I went and checked it out. It was a small venue that featured Gingerbread exhibits that were created by professional and amateur bakers. This year’s theme was “Building a Diverse Community.” Habitat for Humanity Victoria brings communities together to help families build strength, stability, and independence through affordable homeownership.
Across the street from the Parkside Hotel and Spa was an interesting old church…..The Church of our Lord….It was not open to go inside but there was a historic marker out front that said that this building was constructed in 1875 for the Reformed Episcopal Church. This building is one of the finest expressions in wood of the Gothic Revival Style in Canada. The architect enhanced the building’s Gothic character by exploring the advantages of board-and-batten siding to reinforce the vertical thrust of its pointed roof, pinnacles, and spire. Inside is a Gothic Hammer beam ceiling that spans the broad open space to provide an unbroken view of the apse and pulpit. I really love old buildings, and churches with their history, and architecture.
From there I walked up Belleville Street that runs in front of the Parliament Building. The very beautiful and grand BC Parliament Buildings sit on 12.5 acres of land on the waterfront of downtown Victoria. The building was started in 1983 and completed in 1897 but details, refinishing, additions and upgrades were ongoing right up until 1915. The parliament building was designed by 25-year-old architect Frances Rattenbury, a “Free Classical” Romanesque and Renaissance style. Rattenbury and his crew used local material, resources, and expertise. At night the 500-foot long building is illuminated with thousands of light bulbs.
I walked a little way along the waterfront on Government Street, sat on a bench for a while to people watch and admire the view of the Parliament Building, The Harbor and the Empress Hotel. Fairmont Empress Hotel commonly referred to as The Empress is one of the oldest hotels in Victoria, it sits in downtown Victoria, facing the city’s Inner Harbor and also was designed by Francis Rattenbury. The Empress Hotel has been a symbol of Victoria since its opening in 1908 and has hosted Kings, Queens and Hollywood stars from around the world.
I next made my way to the nearest bus stop and caught the bus back to my hotel and stopped by a small mom and pop Chinese restaurant you could eat in or take out. I ordered chicken chow mein to go and it was very filling and good.
Day 5 (January 2, 2020) – Today I was up early, checked out of my hotel, caught the bus to the Blackball Ferry Coho to catch the 10:30 A.M sailing back to the United States – Port Angeles, Washington. The hour and a half sailing back was again uneventful and that concluded by adventure to Victoria B.C.