The Potters packed a sturdy pair of hiking shoes and a walking pole each and travelled to Canada recently to go walking. John was hoping to see some bears and Lyn was keen to avoid them!
We had had a great time in Whistler and on Vancouver Island walking in the mountains and through trails in the rainforest. But the only wildlife we saw was the occasional hawk. John’s quest for a meeting a bear in the wild had come to naught.
Before going back to New Zealand we had a few days to relax in Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, a small and charming city and a mecca for the elderly. Nearly 1/5th of the population is over 65 and it boasts the highest number of over eighty-year-olds in any Canadian city. Many have moved here because house prices are much lower than in Vancouver and the climate is more temperate.
Victoria is known as ‘the home of the newlyweds and the nearly dead’ but its citizens undoubtedly prefer the title bestowed on it for four years running by Amazon: “Most Romantic City in Canada.” They must spend a lot of time reading about love here!
City Walks: Downtown and the Inner Harbour Walk
From our apartment, we set out for a short walk past the historic Emily Carr House, the old Empress hotel, and the House of Parliament to hunt for a good coffee downtown. There were many touristy shops in the Main Street as cruise ship passengers often come here.
Then we headed for a relaxed 45-minute harbour sidewalk stopping off for lunch at Fisherman’s Wharf, a very popular eating spot with lots of small restaurants and food trucks. We sat outside in the sunshine and watched the little yellow water taxis darting around in the harbour and the float houses.
We love the plentiful seafood here. I ordered a halibut taco with a creamy slaw dressing and hot sauce. John chose salmon in a soft bun with a salad.
Afterwards, we completed the trail and walked back to our apartment. Some of the gracious old wooden homes on our street were built around 1800.
The BC Museum
The BC museum turned out to be a fantastic museum with strong environmental and cultural messages. I was especially impressed by their large collection of totem poles collected from different parts of British Columbia over many years.
Behind the museum, a food truck festival was in full swing so we descended there for lunch. As we were eating outside a small swarm of wasps surrounded us. John was stung but not badly enough to spoil our day. We carried on for a walk through Beacon Hill Park.
Beacon Hill Park
This beautiful park (62 acres in downtown Victoria) is a great treasure. It was once the site of an aboriginal cemetery and is sacred to the Songhees First Nation. In 1882 it was granted in trust to the city of Victoria.
But as Janis Ringuette, a local historian, has pointed out it continues to be at risk.
“New buildings will continue to be proposed. Developers will continue to see the Hill as prime real estate, “unused” land ripe for “improvement.” Defenders of a more natural Hill will be needed again and again to advocate the preservation of Garry oaks, wildflowers, birds and open views on Beacon Hill.”
Here we saw some wildlife at last! But it was only the grey squirrels scampering around on the grass. There were peacocks too but they did not spread their tails to display their feathers as it was not the mating season.
There was an afternoon concert in the park.Groups of seniors were sitting in the sun listening (or snoozing) to popular old songs by a young performer called Sam who also shared some of his own compositions for the first time. We joined in for a while.
The Butchart Gardens
This was one place I had longed to visit. It takes about ½ hour to drive there from Victoria. To avoid the cruise ship crowds we had planned to arrive at about 3 pm. When we got there it was not overcrowded but there were still many visitors around.
A walk in these spectacular gardens which are spread out over 55 acres turned out to be a highlight of our holiday. From humble beginnings (it was once a limestone quarry and a scar on the land) it was gradually filled in and transformed by Jenny Butchart with the enthusiastic support of her wealthy husband and a team of gardeners.
There are seven gardens here each with its own character and charm as well as many features such as a 70-foot fountain and a carved and painted carousel with 30 animals.
Two favourites: The Japanese garden which had a serene beauty but was not as formally laid out as a traditional Japanese garden. And the Rose garden where it was easy to succumb to sensory overload. We were rather surprised to discover a rose here named after Maggie Barry.
We really enjoyed our short time in Victoria. But all too soon it was time to head back to New Zealand via Vancouver with many fond memories of our Canadian walkabout.
There was a slightly embarrassing moment when we returned our hire car at the Vancouver depot. John had had a little altercation with a beam in a tight parking spot and there was now a visible dent. Luckily we were fully insured!
By Lyn Potter
Lyn is an Avid Traveller (both local and international), always with a camera at the ready.