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.
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!
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!
The rest of the day I spent rambling around Mukilteo and getting ready for the brief but exciting trip to Victoria and Vancouver Island.
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,
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.)
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.
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!
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,
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 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.
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.
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.)
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.
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!
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.
The final day on Vancouver Island was spent touring Craigdarroch Castle, a Victorian era Scottish baronial mansion, with amazing woodwork and stained glass.
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!
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.
Although we had no time for hiking on this trip, it was a wonderful, eventful, a magical time. Next year, Banff!!