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The charm of Victoria, Vancouver Island, Canada

Across the harbor, Victoria

Across the Inner Harbor, Victoria, with The Empress in the background

Amazing flowers

As the heat continues to build in Houston, it was wonderful to be able to get away to a cooler part of the U.S., specifically the Pacific Northwest, and then on to Victoria, Vancouver Island, Canada. July is always a terrific time to visit that part of the country, because you can pretty much depend on beautiful weather, warm days and nights with a chill in the air.

A walk along Puget Sound

A walk along Puget Sound

I flew into Seattle and stayed for a couple of days in the little town of Mukilteo, which is absolutely charming. The landscape is hilly, the flowers bloom recklessly, and Puget Sound is blue blue blue. On the first full day of the trip, we all drove into Seattle to experience both a foodie tour, and Seattle’s Public Market. The foodie tour, which was guided by Liz McCune of EatSeattleTours.com, was terrific. We started early, going from booths to stalls to shops, taste-testing everything from coffee to cheese, to mac and cheese, to pastries and chocolate. Yum-o!

Seattle food tasting tour

Seattle food tasting tour – the Public Market

After which we stopped for lunch! Despite having dipped tongue into so many foods, we were all still hungry, and it was terrific sitting in the pub overlooking the bay, having brunch. The weather was really beautiful…basically, you could say it was Goldilocks’ weather: not too hot, not too cold, but just right. Lucky us!

Rambling round Mukilteo

Rambling round Mukilteo

IMG_0052

The rest of the day I spent rambling around Mukilteo and getting ready for the brief but exciting trip to Victoria and Vancouver Island.

Driving through potato fields on the way to the ferry

Driving through potato fields on the way to the ferry

Monday morning, we drove the two-hour stretch from Mukilteo to the ferry. I loved the entire drive – through open farm country, with potato fields covered in their purple flower,

One of the picturesque barns

One of the wonderful picturesque barns

past picturesque old barns, and through tiny towns…stopping for a bite to eat in LaConner, one of my favorite towns in this area. It really is a “tiny town” … you can walk the main street in a minute. It’s filled with small boutiques, great little restaurants, and galleries. Just fun to wander around in the sunshine (and wish you lived here.)

Eating our way to Canada! A delicious cinnamon roll for breakfast in LaConner!

Eating our way to Canada! A delicious cinnamon roll for breakfast in LaConner!

Then on to the ferry, and my first glimpse of Canada. We didn’t wait long, and the ferry ride itself, although about another two-hour trip, was immensely comfortable, with booths set alongside the windows so you’re able to look out onto the islands and get the first glimpse of the Canadian shore. I really was excited…never having been to Canada before.

The ferry to Sidney by the Sea, Canada

The ferry to Sidney by the Sea, Canada

Coming to Canada

Coming to Canada

We arrived at Sidney by the Sea on Vancouver Island, and as we drove through, my first thought was: I’ve never seen such a spotless town. Not a scrap of paper, a tin can, or a piece of garbage was anywhere in sight. I didn’t know whether to wonder if the Stepford Wives lived here, or if everyone was extremely careful of the environment. Very impressive!

Victoria - Parliament

Victoria – Parliament

A tiny water taxi

A tiny water taxi

We arrived in Victoria towards the end of the day, and got ourselves settled in the Victoria Chateau, a sweet little hotel with a great restaurant perched atop with 360o views of the city.

After cleaning up, it was a short walk to dinner, and then we strolled around the harbor, watching a mime performing in the twilight,

A mime performs - the harbor in Victoria

A mime performs at the Inner Harbor, Victoria

and the lights coming on at the Governor’s Mansion. Magical. We took another stroll through the Empress Hotel, where we planned to have High Tea the following day.

The Empress Hotel

The Empress Hotel

The Empress is the grand old lady of hotels. Overlooking Inner Harbor, and close to Government Street and the Parliament buildings, its ivy-covered brick façade is absolutely enchanting. Inside are shops and boutiques, the tea room where we’ll have High Tea at 4PM, and history out the wazoo…. After which, we turned in early to get ready for the Butchart Gardens the next day.

A view at Butchart Gardens

A view at Butchart Gardens

Up at around 7:30, I ordered Room Service breakfast, which is such a great way to start the morning (for me, anyway!). Then we were off to the Gardens, and it really was a sight to behold. The flowers were out in full force, colors blending in garden vistas as far as the eye could see. But the green was what held my attention: from the cedars and yews to the beautifully mown grass, the boxwood edgings and the fences and walls covered in ivies, it was a most impressive and glorious place.

The green is amazing!

The green is amazing!

Incredible flowers - but the hydrangeas were awesome

Incredible flowers – the hydrangeas were awesome

More views of these incredible gardens

More views of these incredible gardens

We stopped mid-tour for a drink in the tea room. As we couldn’t order just a drink, we ordered high tea (despite the fact we were having High Tea at The Empress later that day!) Tea consisted of – well, tea….as well as sandwiches, small quiches, scones and dessert. Yikes! Not to say we didn’t eat it all – we did, and it was great. (But we had to move High Tea at The Empress back an hour or two in order to feel at least some hunger pangs by the time we got there.)

A view of the tearoom

A view of the tearoom

The weather was perfect. And getting to the Gardens at an early hour was smart, because by the time noon rolled around, it was packed with tourists. By arriving early, we could take our time wandering the pathways. The most spectacular part was the quarry gardens…photographs don’t do it justice. But needless to say, you were just encompassed by the beauty.

The Quarry Gardens

The Quarry Gardens

Ride a cockhorse to Banbury Cross....

Ride a cockhorse to Banbury Cross….

Finally, we drove back to our hotel and after a rest and freshen up, it was on to The Empress for High Tea. People took tea in all manner of dress…certainly wasn’t important to dress up for the event. After the requisite glass of sherry, we ordered….a 3-tiered cake stand offered a wonderful variety of finger sandwiches, quiches, desserts of all types…in other words: High Tea!

High Tea at The Empress

High Tea at The Empress

After the tea, we drove around Victoria, and then Vancouver Island. The day, which had been warm, eventually cooled down into the 60s, chilly but not unduly so. We viewed the Parliament buildings across the water, chatted with some locals who lived in the area, and just wandered around looking at everything and anything…it was great.

Doing my Howard Roarke imitation

Doing my Howard Roark impression, in the cool of the evening

The final day on Vancouver Island was spent touring Craigdarroch Castle, a Victorian era Scottish baronial mansion, with amazing woodwork and stained glass.

Craigderrock Castle

Craigdarroch Castle

We walked down the road from the Castle, to the Lieutenant Governor’s Mansion and grounds, which were beautifully landscaped…hydrangeas out in full force, and magnificent. And it had a teashop – the cry goes out! Another high tea was then addressed….and it was equally delicious!

Teashop - the cry goes out!

Teashop on the Lt. Governor’s grounds – the cry goes out!

The remains of the day were spent driving around the island and visiting a used bookshop, until it was time to catch the ferry back to the U.S.

Stopping to smell the ... sweet peas

Stopping to smell the … sweet peas

Although we had no time for hiking on this trip, it was a wonderful, eventful, a magical time. Next year, Banff!!

About carpediemrosemary

I was born in England...and moved to Wales when I was two years old...to a small fishing village called The Mumbles, just down the railroad track from Swansea, along the sea. Back in the day, this village was everything you'd want to live in as a kid...surrounded by the sea and the mountains, cliffs and fields full of buttercups, hedgerows high and filled with brambly scrambling vines and flowers...Red currants and peas from village vegetable gardens were plentiful, and we were able to play among the sheep wandering everywhere. The green of the fields was intense. We left Wales to come to Houston, the other side of the world and not QUITE as green, and since then I've travelled more or less constantly...later in life I took up hiking, when my first hike with a friend took me to the Cornish coast in England. There I was able to walk the causeway from Marazion to Mount St. Michael, visit Mousehole where my mother was born, and return to The Mumbles decades after I first lived there. Cornwall is one of the most beautiful places on the face of the earth...but then, there are so many beautiful places...you have to seize the day, or it passes you by...gone in the wink of an eye.

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