Discover the beauty of Victoria, British Columbia at Butchart Gardens & The Fairmont
Talk about amazing gardens and most people immediately think of England. I confess I did too before discovering Victoria, Canada. This charming island off the coast of Vancouver is a complete departure from Vancouver’s big city vibe.
Waiting to be discovered, the island beckons you to slow down and enjoy a while.
Stroll around the compact downtown. Boats bob on their moorings, and bees buzz around the baskets of flowers just dripping with color that hang on every light pole.
The iconic Fairmont Empress Hotel, built in 1904, dominates the harbor front. A National Historic Site of Canada, this chateau style hotel was once part of the Canadian Pacific Hotels. During the summer, sip tea with scones and clotted cream in the Tea Lobby, reservations recommended two weeks in advance.
Not far from downtown is world famous Butchart Gardens.
http://www.butchartgardens.com Designed to be visited more than once, every season is completely different. Open at 9am, closing hours vary seasonally.
Once an abandoned rocks quarry, and cement factory, today the only surviving part that can be seen is a tall chimney from a long abandoned kiln. In the early 1900’s workers moved soil by horse and cart to the bottom of the quarry one load at a time. This was the beginning of the bountiful gardens we see today. Now crisscrossed by trails, and awash with blooms, rooms of color each in a different style, await your perusal.
The tulips and hyacinths herald springs arrival. Enjoy the fragrance of thousands of flowers blooming in unison. Rhododendrons provide a backdrop for the tiny grape hyacinths, and daffodils under a canopy flowering cherries.
Summer brings out the mesmerizing begonias. Saucer size blossoms, in pastel colors, more reminiscent of a camellias with whisper soft petals. Famous for their blue poppies, enjoy peonies, hydrangeas, delphiniums and trellis’ covered with climbing roses. Summer also brings live music to the gardens.
In autumn leaves turn from green to red, and the highlights are the flaming Japanese Maples, chrysanthemums and beautiful dahlias.
When winter holidays approach, the gardens are bedecked with thousands of twinkling lights.
Like rooms in a house, different garden string together to form the whole of Butchart Gardens. Benches invite you to sit, while fountains gurgle and slash, in the background.
If you are going on an Alaska cruise chances are you are leaving from Vancouver, Canada or Seattle Washington. From either of these departure points it is easy to get to Victoria, and definitely worth a visit.
From Seattle, hop aboard the Black Ball Ferry Line www.cohoferry.com/main/
During peak season there are up to four trips a day. From Vancouver to Victoria use the BC Ferries www.bcferries.com. Bring a jacket; even in the summer evenings can get chilly. Public busses makes the trip from downtown Victoria to the gardens as well as local tours.
No matter what your plans, take the time visit to Victoria, Canada and Butchart Gardens.