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Victoria, Canada: Old world charm
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief
Victoria is the capital city of the Canadian province of British Columbia, located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island off Canada's Pacific coast. It's about 100 kms from Vancouver.
Named after Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and, at the time, British North America, Victoria is one of the oldest cities in the Pacific Northwest, with British settlement beginning in 1843. The city has retained a large number of its historic buildings, in particular its two most famous landmarks, Parliament Buildings (finished in 1897 and home of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia) and the Empress Hotel (opened in 1908).
From Vancouver, one could exercise all the three options of travel - air, sea and surface. We opted to take the seaplane. The flight time was just 35 minutes whilst the other two would have taken hours. Of course, the savings come at a price. A return air ticket on Harbour Air would cost at least $500, depending upon the time and season of travel.
We were booked for the flight departing 9AM. It was nice to walk to the airport from our hotel! The terminal is located on the waterfront. Our plane was a 9-seater. Costs $10 to select a seat. Not to take a chance, I paid for it to take a window seat. I could imagine the view from a low-flying plane would be dramatic. Sure enough.
For day-trippers like us, walking the old town and visiting the Butchart Gardens should be on the top of the to-do list. We had used the services of Viator to purchase the garden's entry ticket. That included return transportation by bus from Victoria Port and also a complimentary entry to Butterfly Gardens which is only a couple of kilometers before the Butchart Gardens.
We were out from the Victoria terminal at 9:45. Our bus would depart for the gardens at 11 AM from the Empress Hotel, which is now a Fairmont property. That gave us an hour to walk the Old Town.
The Government Street is the main road that cuts across the town. On both sides are restaurants, pubs, store fronts, historic buildings and squares notably The Bay Centre, Bastion Square and Market Square.
At the stroke of 11, we were at the designated departure point. Enroute, Butchart Gardens, our bus driver filled us with interesting history of the town. Our first stop was the Butterfly Gardens.
The enclosure is home to thousands of colourful butterflies as also to turtles, variety of plants, free-flying birds and an insectarium. We spent an hour there. The next bus in, dropped us at the gates of the world-famous Butchart Gardens.
It was past noon when we arrived at the gates. Since tickets were pre-purchased, we could avoid the long lines. Our plan was to return to town by the 3 PM bus. That would give us some time to see the Parliament Building and walk the inner harbour before catching our flight back to Vancouver, scheduled at 5:30 PM.
With a former limestone quarry for her backyard, Jennie Butchart envisioned landscaping a sunken garden in its place, transforming the property for her family, and visitors, for generations to come. The gardens are spread across 55 acres under the supervision of 50 full time gardeners.
Coming from Ontario, husband and wife, Robert and Jennie Butchart moved to Vancouver Island to build a cement plant on a rich limestone deposit at Tod Inlet. As cement production exhausted the limestone deposits, Jennie envisioned a grand garden in its place and began transferring top soil by horse and cart. Little by little, the quarry blossomed into today’s Sunken Garden.
Between 1906 and 1929, the Butcharts expanded The Gardens, designing the Japanese Garden on the seaside, the Italian Garden on their former tennis court and the fragrant, overflowing Rose Garden.
With just about 2 hours on hand, the advised route was as follows:
Sunken Garden: Passing through Waterwheel Square arrive at the iconic Sunken Garden. Stop and take in the view at the lookout before descending into the garden oasis, surrounding yourself with layers upon layers of garden beds, trees and shrubs.
Ross Fountain: As you leave the Sunken Garden, the path naturally leads to an area overlooking the Ross Fountain. The fountain was installed in 1964 by Robert Ian Ross, Jennie and Robert’s grandson, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of The Butchart Gardens.
Rose Garden: From June through August, treat your senses to the stunning Rose Garden in full bloom. This garden offers spaces to “stop and smell the roses” and the Rose Arch offers the ideal backdrop for pictures.
Japanese Garden: After the Rose Garden, find yourself surrounded by lush greenery in the tranquil Japanese Garden. With a West Coast influence, this peaceful space features Japanese landscaping techniques, an abundance of trickling streams.
Star Pond: After the Japanese Garden, discover the splendid Star Pond—originally designed for Robert’s collection of ornamental ducks, this twelve-point pond, surrounded by colourful annuals (spring/summer/autumn), has a charming frog fountain rising from its centre.
Italian Garden: Beyond the pond, stands the Italian Garden bounded by two arched entrances. This garden, originally the Butchart’s tennis court, has a bronze statue of Mercury and an intricate cross-shaped pond.
That was it. As planned, we took the 5:30 PM sea-plane back to Vancouver. Tomorrow, we will head back home thus ending a memorable trip of Canada – coast to coast.
Victoria Image Gallery Photo viewer
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