July 14 – 16
With another glorious morning ahead of us (good weather would follow us the whole trip) we set out on the bikes on a route laid out in a cycling map that our campground host loaned me. We’d end up with 26.5 miles in total and almost circle the peninsula.
The first part of the ride took us over terrain similar to that at home in North Carolina, mildly undulating roads with fairly short ups and downs. We pedaled directly north and in a short time, hit the coast where we turned right and rode towards the town of Sidney, where we would catch the ferry to San Juan Island the next day.
From there we followed the coast line south to the outskirts of town, stopping at a McDonald’s for a coffee and apple pie, before turning inland towards camp. With about a mile to go we grabbed a foot-long Subway sandwich to take back with us for lunch. It had been a very good ride, new sights to see, not terribly taxing, and temperatures nearly perfect for cycling.
Our plan for the afternoon was to head over to Butchart Gardens, one of our main reasons for staying in this area, to check out this world renown tribute to nature. This meant getting cleaned up and thus our one futile attempt to regulate water temperature in the shower tent. In and of itself, the facility wasn’t bad, the tent roomy with nooks to hold shampoo and soap, the flooring amendable to standing, but that water heater and its indecipherable dial meant we either got freezing cold or scalding hot water.
Somehow, we managed to get clean and properly attired for an afternoon of refined pursuits and made our way to the gardens just a couple of miles away. This would not be a cheap date, running us almost $60 for the afternoon, but its incomparable beauty and the ability to dawdle in it made it all seem worthwhile.
Receiving over a million visitors each year and designated as a National Historic Site of Canada in 2004, the gardens began in 1909 when the quarry that had been used to supply limestone to Robert Butchart’s Portland cement company became exhausted and his wife Jennie set about turning it into the Sunken Garden, which was completed in 1921.
Located on the grounds of their estate, they began to receive visitors to the gardens and in 1926 replaced their tennis courts with an Italian garden and in 1929 did the same to their kitchen vegetable garden with a large rose garden designed by noted landscape architect Butler Sturtevant of Seattle.
In 1939, the Butchart’s gave the Gardens to their grandson Ian Ross on his 21st birthday and he would be involved in the operation and promotion of the gardens until his death 58 years later. To this day, ownership remains within the family, now under the direction of Butchart’s’ great-granddaughter Robin-Lee Clarke.
One of the more tiring aspects of being a tourist are other tourists, who often wander about with real awareness of their surroundings, taking up more than their share of a sidewalk, dawdling needlessly in front of an exhibit and best of all, endlessly posing for pictures. The last was in full effect at the Gardens. Just shoot me if I ever suggest posing stylistically in front of a rose bush.
After a couple of hours of the garden though I’d reached my limit (those that know me will concur that I did my best) and I took off, Joanna staying on to spend more time enjoying the beauty, agreeing to call me if she needed a ride to camp, but eventually relishing the walk back.
Overcome by my extended exposure to the garden, I repaired to Category 12, the local brewery we’d noticed on our way in and out of camp. This turned out to be a wise choice, as the beer I had was delightful, the only thing keeping me from drinking more was they closed about 30 minutes after I arrived. So, I picked up a big bottle of their seasonal IPA, the Subversion, which Joanna and I would enjoy some days later.
With a later ferry sailing the next day to San Juan Island, we made plans for another full day, our last in Victoria. Up early with the chickens, we enjoyed one last waffle and scrambled egg breakfast and checked out from Gardenside, our tab for the three nights, two full breakfasts and a bag of granola bars a very reasonable 134.70 Canadian or 103 USD.
We drove into Victoria and found a parking spot not far from the harbor for the couple of hours we planned to spend there. It was a short walk to our destination, the British Columbia Parliament Building. The Legislature of the Colony of Vancouver Island met in a couple of different buildings from 1856 to 1898 and in 1893 construction of a new Parliament Building was authorized by an act of the provincial legislature.
Competition to design the new building was heated and a recent English immigrant Francis Rattenbury progressed to the second round, signing his drawing “For Queen and Province” and eventually won the competition. The story of this life is interesting for its twists and turns (a whole bunch of scandal included) but won’t be covered here. Despite many problems, including exceeding budget (the original was $500,000; the final amount was $923,000) the British Columbia Parliament Buildings began operation officially in 1898.
As with most edifices made for this purpose, it’s an imposing yet beautiful structure and best of all, free to enter. We finished up, walked back to the car and headed to our next destination, Craigdarroch Castle.
With 39 rooms and over 25,000 square feet, it is an imposing structure on a view filled hilltop. It was constructed in the late 1800s as a family residence for the wealthy coal baron Robert Dunsmuir and his wife Joan, but he would die in April 1889, 17 months before construction was completed.
Upon Joan’s death, the estate was sold (the family’s children had no interest in the house and led dissolute lives, squandering most if not all of their inheritances) to land speculator Griffith Hughes who subdivided the estate into building lots. To stimulate sales during a slow real estate market, Griffiths announced that the castle would be the subject of a raffle, to be won by one of the purchasers of the residential parcels carved from the estate.
The winner, Solomon Cameron, mortgaged the castle to finance other speculative ventures which failed, leaving him broke, and in 1919 ownership of the castle passed to one of his creditors, the Bank of Montreal.
Since then, the home has been used as a military hospital, Victoria College, and the Victoria Conservatory of Music. Now owned by a historical museum society, it has been faithfully restored and contains many of the original furnishings, including a large amount of stained glass.
The comprehensive and informative self-guided tour kept us easily occupied for a couple of hours such that when we left, we had just the right amount of time to kill before the sailing of the ferry. We’ll cover our stop in Sidney and the ferry ride to San Juan Island’s Friday Harbor in the next post.
Butchart Gardens: https://www.butchartgardens.com/
Category 12: https://category12beer.com/
British Columbia Parliament Building: https://www.tourismvictoria.com/see-do/activities-attractions/attractions/british-columbia-parliament-buildings
Francis Rattenbury: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Rattenbury
Craigdarroch Castle: https://thecastle.ca/