This past June as soon as school got out we took a weekend trip up to Victoria, B.C. with the younger kids. One of our goals this year is to increase our travel and since Victoria is so close to us we decided to take the plunge. Our last trip to Canada with the kids was not so great and afterwards we took a two year break from traveling. We wanted to wait until the youngest was older since he had such a difficult time on both the trips we had taken with him when he was a baby. We have received a lot of criticism for our decision to take a break from traveling when the kids were little and some people get it and others try to push the whole idea of getting kids used to traveling when they are little so it is easier when they are older but it is such a personal decision and every kid is different. Our youngest is not a good traveler and even though he has gotten way better we will probably always have to shorten or modify our plans with him to accommodate his needs. Not every kid handles travel well and in our case the change in routine, lack of “normal” foods and being confined to a car seat for long periods of time lead to a pretty disastrous trip for the kids’ first time to Canada. We are working our way up to longer trips and I am hoping to try a 5 hour flight with them at some point in the next year. My ultimate goal is international travel but I think we will probably wait to leave the continent until the kids are much older.
It was most of our first time to Victoria, B.C.. We drove across the border and took the Tsawwassen Ferry across the water to Victoria. We didn’t feel confident that we would make a 8:00 am sailing on the Port Angeles Ferry and the Tsawwassen Ferry has staggered sailing times without reservations which fit our schedule better. It was also a nice break from the drive since the ride is 90 minutes long and everyone is required to get out of their cars to go above deck. We watched a nature talk, ate some lunch and played in the kids’ play area. The kids had a lot of fun on the ferry. Although we ride the Mukilteo ferry pretty frequently it is only 15 minutes long and we almost never get out of the car. I have been riding that ferry all my life to visit relatives that lived out there and getting in and out of car seats does not always go over very well with cranky children so usually we opt to stay in the car for that one.
We got off the ferry and immediately drove to our must see spot of Butchart Gardens. We went on the last day before the price increase for the summer tourist season and saved a little bit of money. We got there at about 11:00 and it was also pretty cloudy so our first few hours there were not too crowded. It did get very busy after lunchtime and I would highly recommend going early in the day to beat the crowds. We had no problems finding parking and getting photos mostly without other people in them (see the peekaboo head in the sign picture?). Our kids don’t really like crowds so we always aim for low traffic times to avoid the inevitable meltdowns that come from over stimulation.
We love looking at gardens and I get a lot of inspiration from seeing how other people plant their flowers. There were so many ideas and great combinations of flowers that there is no way I could ever incorporate them all in my garden. I also had some guilt about how little gardening I have done this year. Time is short and adding the extra travel in has taken up some of my weekend gardening time. I don’t mind though since I am really enjoying all of the traveling we are doing. These beautiful pink flowers I took a picture of because our daughter loved them so much she wanted a picture. It was great to see her wonder and delight at all of the plants. She has been helping me quite a bit in the garden this year and I am loving how much she enjoyed the flowers, at least until the kids both got bored.
We saw quite a bit of wildlife in the gardens including this cool lizard that was just hanging out on a rock way along the staircase to the Sunken Garden. Another older girl noticed it and we spent some time looking at it before moving on to other things. We don’t really see lizards at our house so our kids were pretty excited to see something different. I bet if we hadn’t been rushed through the gardens with eager children we would have seen more of them or even a snake or two but I am glad we at least got to see one!
The gardens are part of an old quarry that was turned into an awesome display of gardening skills. There are a lot of ups and downs and fabulous vistas. My favorite part was looking out over a large vista and then walking along the path to look at the details. There were so many things to see you could probably go many times and not see it all. We are currently listening to “A Secret Garden” in the car and the Butchart Gardens kind of remind me of the story and how the gardens at the manor had so many hidden gems that came out at different times of year. I would love to look at the Butchart Gardens during different seasons to compare. We went during the height of the flower season but I wonder if the fall and winter gardens have some interesting plants as well.
There are several ponds throughout the garden and we loved looking at the water plants and how the water moved. Some of the ponds were more still and it was interesting to see how the trees on the shore cascaded over the edge. I was inspired by the use of smaller water plants along some sides of the pond to create a different effect than the larger trees and shrubs along other sides. It was cool to see how the gardeners had used light and position to create a scene with greenery.
One of my favorite fountains was the Ross Fountain. The backdrop was the quarry walls and the way the water moved against it was very pretty. The view coming up to the fountain was superb. You come out of some trees and across a gravel path and there below you is this beautiful fountain that is spraying water in many different patterns. I had a really hard time getting a human free picture of it since so many people were gathered in this area to look at it.
One of the coolest things we saw at the gardens was the owl that flew right over our heads as we were walking along the path. It then perched itself in a tree until some robins chased it off. I am pretty sure it was trying to have a baby robin snack but it looked like the robins were successful in scaring it away without harm. My kids loved seeing the owl. They still remembered the one we saw outside our deck a few months ago and since this was the same type of owl it was pretty exciting.
After we walked the gardens a bit we stopped at the cafe to have lunch and look at the boar statue out front. This statue was very amusing apparently, especially when my daughter decided to stick her finger up it’s nose (lots of tourists laughed…). The food was pretty good and I found a lot of gluten-free options as well as options for our picky kids. We spent some time in the gift shop as well but it was mostly full of kitschy stuff that we would never use. There was tons of tea, garden statues, toys for kids and flower seeds from the garden itself. I was pretty tempted to buy some flower seeds but I have not had time to garden much this year and I did not have a place to plant them so they did not come home with us. We generally don’t buy a lot of souvenirs from places we go but this trip we did buy each of the kids something. Our daughter picked out a thick super soft sweatshirt that she loves and wears all the time and our son picked out a ferry toy with a couple of cars that he plays with quite a bit. Mr. Oscoey and I usually get a picture frame with the name of the city we visited and put a picture of us from the trip but we didn’t really have time to look for one on our trip this time around and honestly we don’t miss it.
After lunch the sun came out and the gardens got crowded. We went straight to the rose gardens but we had a hard time walking around there were so many people and everyone got annoyed if you stopped for even a second to take a picture so we didn’t spend as much time there as we would have liked. The paths are pretty narrow and there were so many people we were a little bit worried about our son running off and getting lost since he was tired and having a hard time staying with us. After the rose garden we headed off to the Japanese gardens to briefly check things out. It was shaded there and a little bit cooler but our kids were tired so we decided to head out.
On our way out we were inspired by this well manicured hedge. You can’t see it in the picture but it went off at an angle which looked incredibly difficult to accomplish. Maybe when we are retired we can create a hedge with an angle in it just because it is cool!
On the way out of the gardens you walk through the Italian gardens where we happened to get some Gelato to eat in the hot sun. The Gelato was delicious and the Italian gardens were beautiful so it was a great stop on our way out. It was interesting to see that the colors in the Italian garden were much louder and stood out with the large amount of concrete. Although there were bright colors throughout the gardens for some reason the contrast was higher in the Italian gardens and it was very beautiful to see.
One of the last things we looked at on our way out was Mrs. Butchart’s private garden. It was very neat and orderly with straight lines. I loved that they still keep it separate from public access just like when she was alive. There is a small window in the gate you can look through but that is it. I don’t think you can even see the whole garden which adds to the air of mystery.
We had a great time at Butchart Gardens and I definitely want to go back. I may even plan to go at the same time every year with the kids since the flowers were so beautiful and we saved quite a bit of money going before the summer price increase. Stay tuned for my next post about the rest of our Victoria trip! I couldn’t restrain myself with garden pictures so it was too large to fit into one post!
If you go: