Victoria, British Columbia
For some reason, all cruise ships departing from the US have to drop anchor at an international port at least once per trip. (I’m sure there’s a very good reason, I just don’t know it.) Our foreign stop was in Canada, at Victoria. This is all I knew about Victoria as we departed the boat: Butchart Gardens, one of our destinations for the day, inspired the Canada Pavilion’s Gardens at Epcot Center in Disney World. Yup, I trace everything back to Disney, eventually.
Seriously, one of the reasons I was so excited about the stop in Victoria was that I wanted to see the Butchart Gardens – and not just because of the Disney connection. I love flowers, and I’m all the more impressed by fancy gardens because I’ve killed so many plants with my black thumb, inherited from my mother.
It was raining pretty heavily when we got to Victoria. During the twenty-something minute bus ride out to the gardens, I kept wondering if we’d made a terrible mistake – I hadn’t brought any umbrellas or rain coats, and gardens are outdoors, so there was no way I was making it through this without getting soaked.
Or so I thought.
Luckily, the Gardens anticipates stupid tourists like myself, and they provide clear plastic umbrellas for the use of their visitors.
Mom and her umbrella.
The gardens are divided into different areas – Sunken Garden, Italian Garden, English Rose Garden, Japanese Garden, etc. There’s a carousel, a stage for outdoor performances, cafes, and plenty of other ways to amuse yourself on a beautiful afternoon.
On a rainy day, when the crowds are dominated by cruise ship tourists, the best you can do is fall in line and make your way from one area to the next with the rest of the crowd. There’s a lot of cool stuff to see!
A whimsical snail fountain.
Lioness topiary. There were lots of animal topiaries, actually. Storks and rabbits and whatnot.
The Sunken Garden. It was a limestone quarry owned by the Butchart family, and when the site was more or less mined out Mrs. Butchart decided to cover the hole with flowers, rather than leaving an eyesore on the land.
Pink and blue daisies.
So very, very green.
The Fountain of Youth!
Irises that Van Gogh would love.
Totem pole. There were three or four of them lined up near the carousel.
The gardens were much bigger than I expected, and even though we spent a couple of hours there we didn’t have enough time to see everything. I completely missed the Japanese section of the gardens, and we had to speed through the English garden so I’m sure I didn’t see everything there, either.
Victoria Butterfly Gardens
Only about five minutes away from Butchart Gardens are the Victoria Butterfly Gardens. It had never occurred to me that Victoria would be a good habitat for butterflies, and it’s not - they have to import 90% of the butterflies from tropical countries. But hey, tourism! The Butterfly Gardens were included in the cruise package, so of course we went in and took a look around. It was really warm, of course, and steamy. Butterflies fluttered everywhere, but they were bloody difficult to catch on camera when they were flying about. When they happened to land on a leaf or a flower, you could catch a picture of them if you were quick.
Life cycle of a butterfly.
Totally tore up butterfly!
But butterflies were not the only creatures to be seen. There were lots of other little birds and critters scattered around to please and entertain the masses, none of which were native to Canada.
A live parrot.
Poisonous dart frogs.
Little fat bird, I don’t know what he is but he’s adorable.
The bus driver/tour guide for all of this was a funny guy. A little fond of the puns, as it turns out. He’d entertain us as we drove around the town with tidbits of history – Victoria is home to Canada’s oldest Chinatown, predated in North American only by the one in San Francisco – and random jokes that couldn’t help but make me groan.
Bus Driver: I just want to apologize for our geese. I know they fly down to where you live and make a mess, poop everywhere, filthy beasts. I’m sorry. But y’know, this one time I had a tourist come up to me after I apologized and y’know what he said? He said, “I am from Portugal. We have these birds in my country, too, sir.” I was like, oh yeah? And he sez, “But we don’t call them Canadian geese.”
So I said, “Well, what do you call them?”
And he replies, “We call them Portu-geese.”
A real thigh-slapper, that one!
His speech was noticeably devoid of ‘eh’ and ‘aboot’ and other “Canadianisms” – when asked about it, he explained that those particular speech habits were more of an Eastern Canadian thing. Good to know.