This is the Great Northwest; it was raining! We lugged our luggage out of our houses; lugged it over to the Shipley Center bus; and lugged it up the ramps into the Black Ball Line’s Coho Ferry at Port Angeles, clutching our tickets, Declaration Forms, and Passports. Somewhere in the next 90 minutes, we crossed into Canada. We sort of reversed activity when we docked in Victoria Harbor, showing our Passports once again, picking up our luggage, going down ramps, then porters lugged it across to the Grand Hotel…all in the rain.
Getting into our rooms went smoothly and later we met in the Grand Hotel Lobby to enjoy the beautifully decorated frosty windows and Christmas displays. CVS Sightseeing took us on a comfortable bus tour with knowledgeable driver, Gail, who filled us in on all the history and more interesting facts of Victoria, Beacon Hill Park, Craigdarroch Castle, and Mt. Tolme. (He later took us through China Town and Victoria West.)
The rain finally stopped for our shopping/lunch break in Oak Bay. On our return to the hotel, many of us took advantage of the IMAX Theatre showing of the Galapagos Archipelago inside the Royal BC Museum. The rain held off during the wharf walk back to the hotel showing the Christmas lights beautifully outlining everything. The Grand Hotel beds were sooo comfortable! ZZzzzz.
Wednesday was our big day and guess what, the sun was shining! Our walking tour was to be in the famous Empress Hotel but since it was in heavy reconstruction mode, we found the Festival of Trees several blocks further “up hill” in the Bay Centre. The decorated trees were fascinating and several of our group found great sale prizes to take home.
In the late afternoon, we made a quick bus stop at the Butterfly Gardens, then on to the famous Butchart Gardens. Although I have been there many times, I had never seen it at night or with the Christmas lights. It was magnificent! All trees, buildings, fences, and walks were lined in Christmas colors. The Carolers and Festive Brass filled the night with Christmas joy. I won’t give you the whole history of the gardens but they were the inspiration of Jennie Butchart. She and her husband owned a limestone quarry and the short story is that after its years of use were over, they turned it into these amazing gardens. The story is a beautiful one and though it was a magical way to spend an evening, I would recommend going on a summer afternoon and extending your time into an evening wandering within its beauty.
Our group had dinner in a private dining room at the Blue Poppy Restaurant, then spent the evening walking the paths. A skating rink was available but common sense prevailed and eventually we all gathered inside next to the coffee shop fire for our return to the Grand Hotel.
Thursday the weather alternated between a gale-force wind, rain, and eventually sunshine for our free day. Most of us went back for the IMAX Theatre presentations of Australia, Humpback Whales, and Mysteries of the Unseen World. After repeating the first paragraph above, we arrived back in Sequim. It had rained all the time we were gone but as always, everyone else in WA had been hit much harder than our existence in the “shadow of the mountains.” God Bless until next week.
Winter in the Wilderness, Minshall’s first novel (e-book & hard cover), and the fourth edition of RVing Alaska and Canada are available through Amazon.com.