No, it has nothing to do with Christmas, we're not counting down the 'sleeps' until the big guy in red comes crawling down our chimney – mainly because it's July and we don't have a chimney! No, what we're counting down to is our departure date, seven days, one week! We're stunned that we're at this point already, it means we've been away from our friends, family and our pets for 56 days!
On Friday we ventured into the booming metropolis that is Victoria – yes, that is some tongue-in-cheek humour there – and navigated our way to the Royal BC Museum where we were blown away by their exhibits. We'd been a little disappointed in the offerings in Vancouver, major city and all that, so weren't expecting very much from this small coastal town. What a mistake! The museum is GREAT! We passed on the IMAX theatre, as neither of us is good with the 3D thing, and just viewed the main floors. The array of items they have on show was brilliant, currently they're highlighting a display on the Queen, and her life in pictures, so we ambled around those (getting thoroughly lost with it!) and eventually surfaced somewhere near where we'd started. From there is was a stroll through history in BC, initially we'd expected something like the brief 'decades at a glance' that we'd seen in Vancouver, but no, this one was brilliant. It chronicled the earliest indigenous settlements, to the various incomers and outgoings before the British made permanent colonies, from there it was a showcase of all sorts of different industries and interests; fishing, lumber, mining, food services, ferries, fashion, music, home and lifestyle, railway, you name it they had it covered! From there we walked through a streetscape very similar to the one we'd seen in the UK (at the York Castle Museum if you're interested in going) and peered in through the early 20th century windows into the shops, homes and business they had on display. After wandering around in their for another hour we finally made our way out into the main foyer and ventured into the First Nations exhibit and were once again awed by the display. They've included two of the traditional houses – a long house and a round hut – the latter being very similar to that of the round houses seen in the UK, just in the ground instead of on top of it! They also had a very interesting and educational display on the daily practices of the indigenous population – pre colonisation – before leading the viewer into a showcase of different masks and jewelry from different tribes.
By the time we stumbled out of the museum it was getting dark, so we decided to head back to our digs for some dinner and to get our jackets. No, the day wasn't over yet, not by a long shot! Refueled recharged we returned again to the city centre and our activity for the evening – a ghost walk around the city and it's most haunted buildings! Meeting at the visitor centre at 9.30, and right on twilight as it happens, we headed off first to the Empress Hotel and heard tales of an English lady who passed away there in the 1950s and to this day still wanders the hallways looking for her room (I won't tell you why, that would spoil the story if you ever get to hear it first hand). From there it was up towards the old red light district (yeah, that never ends well does it) and heard another tale of a Hawaiian boy who'd… again, I'm not telling, you'll have to check it out for yourself. Anyway, we walked around the city's lesser streets and were told some pretty interesting stories that sadly didn't always highlight humanity's better angles, but we really enjoyed the evening and our guide was a lot of fun!
Saturday we arose late (due to a late evening and slightly restless sleep) and headed out to the Butchart Gardens for a lovely day's exploring in the sunshine. By the time we drove over, waited in the massive queue to get a park, then almost lost our way again on the way to the gardens we were in dire need of a stiff cup of tea and a sit down! Afternoon tea? What a lovely idea! A huge pot of tea, some tasty morsels and some rather unique and refreshing scones and sweets later and we were ready for the adventure to unfold. First we delved into the Sunken Garden, and what a treat it is. From there we sauntered up to the carousel and watched as it span merrily around, we took in the two commemorative totem poles before strolling down into the Rose Garden and were swept away by the myriad of sweet aromas and colourful blooms that were caught up in the shining sun. Having soaked in the afternoon rays we then explored all the shaded nooks and crannies in the Japanese Garden oo'ing and aah'ing at the miniature rivulets and bridges. Returning again to the bright sunlit paths of the Italian Garden which was a massive paved area with semi-raised beds filled with bright summer colours and star shaped fishpond. We'd read on one of the site's brochures that the average time spent at the gardens is 1.5hrs, we're not sure how that can be true?! We arrived at a little after 1.30pm and even with the afternoon tea and talking things at a generous pace we were only just finishing a 'brief' visit at 5.30pm! When we say the gardens are big, we're not joking! 55 acres!!! Massive! Between the various buildings/houses – fuchsias and the hothouse – then the four main gardens – Sunken, Rose, Japanese and Italian – we're really baffled as to how anyone could limit themselves to 1.5hrs, it's just not possible! Desperate for some relief from the miles we'd hiked, we wandered into the gift shop (much to K's horror and J's delight) where J commenced browsing. A short time later both returned to one of the nearby venues for some more rest and relaxation – namely dinner! Why were we still there at dinner time? Well, every Saturday night in July the Butchart Gardens have a fireworks display! So we lingered on the main lawn (the viewing area) and awaited the show! It was well worth the wait! Once again we won't give you all the gossip, but suffice to say it is a VERY entertaining show and well worth catching if you happen to be in the area at the right time!
Having had two late nights in a row, Sunday proved to require a well earned sleep in! However, by noon we were ready for more adventures, so once more we braved the traffic and the crazy Canadian drivers and ventured into the city and our last museum for the trip – the BC Maritime Museum, home to Tilikum an incredible boat that sailed around the world, and an impressive display of other maritime memorabilia. From there it was up the street and around the corner for a bite to eat before being entertained by some of the performers at the Buskers Festival. For nearly half an hour we stood and watch les Walkyries, a trio of performers (fire spinning and acrobatics) from Montreal before calling it a day and heading back to our digs for our final night in Victoria.
Onto today and the journey that is drawing us ever closer to the end. We left Victoria bright and early, but not too early, and headed for Port Alberni, where we're staying for a couple of nights before heading to Nanaimo on Friday. Can't tell you why we're here for the next two days, you'll just have to wait and see! So until then, happy trails to you all!