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The last full day of our Northwest road trip began with a ferry ride yesterday.



The ferry was to take us from Victoria to Vancouver.

When we arrived for the ferry, approximately 60 minutes early, we got in line with our car – it looks like a bunch of cars stopped on a freeway.  You then turn off the engine and sit in the car or lock it up and head over to the rest stop, complete with restaurant and shops until you are notified to start boarding the ferry.


We felt a bit more experienced this time with the process of bringing our rental car onto the ferry (as it was our second time) and walking upstairs to the passenger levels.

What we weren’t prepared for was how huge this ferry was.  There were 3 levels for cars, busses and even semi-trailer trucks.

Food options consisted of a large cafe and coffee shop.



There was a very large gift shop AND a video arcade – my kids would love this!


You could also venture outside to see the beauty of the islands we passed by.

After docking just outside of Vancouver, we promptly headed toward the city.


We were somewhat surprised at how much traffic there was and it took a very long time to arrive at our hotel downtown.


This morning, after a quick breakfast, we were going to take the city trolley tour so that we could hop on and off to see the many attractions of this vibrant city.

However, we were informed because of the ongoing transit strike, that the tour was delayed.  So, we decided to go out on our own.

We headed toward Granville Island Public Market, which is located in the downtown area.


It is a fun and creative place with artist studios where you watch art being created before your eyes – a definite draw for both locals and tourists alike.


Stores offering unique wares are scattered throughout the small island.


If you have pets, this shop in a railroad car likely have just the right thing for your 4-legged friend.


When I travel, I like to find stores that sell handcrafted items made from local residents.  I found a beautiful Christmas ornament in this little store made by an 80-year old woman.


As we walked through the streets of the public market, there was a small dog that was walking about in its own.

He was obviously at home and comfortable with his surroundings.  He paid no mind to us or any other passersby.


Now before you think that this is a lost dog – think again.  He belongs to one of the local vendors and has free reign of the market.


Our attention was drawn to a nearby lake where a family of Canadian geese were swimming.


On shore, we met up with another feathered family.  I found it symbolic that on our last day in Canada, that we would see Canadian geese.

We had hoped to see more of this beautiful city, but there was so much traffic due to the transit strike and it took a very long time to travel small distances, so we made the difficult decision to cut our visit short by a few hours and head back toward the States.


On our way out of the city, we spotted this community garden.

Vancouver is quite close to the U.S. border and we  soon found ourselves sitting a long line to cross over the border.  We settled ourselves in for a long wait.


As we inched our way closer, we saw this archway at the actual border.  I like this wonderful statement about our two countries.


People anxious to visit the United States took turns taking pictures next to this sign while waiting for their cars to go through the border crossing.


It’s almost our turn!

While we had a wonderful time in Canada, I didn’t like having to pay for an international phone plan, which had extremely limited data (which I went over).  

While waiting in line to cross, once we got within feet of the border my phone suddenly got a  ‘No Service’ signal and then once we crossed, my regular carrier took over and I was so happy to be able to use my normal cell phone allowances again.


Since we had some extra time to fill due to our shortened visit to Vancouver, we stopped by the Fairhaven historic downtown neighborhood in Bellingham, WA.  


Many of the stores had garden themed products and while I have no plans on seeing the ‘Fifty Shades of Gray’ movie, I may need to read this book 🙂


We spent about an hour shopping, spending time in a clothing boutique, checking out the local bookstore and admiring some really lovely handmade woodwork.

The last night of our road trip is to be spent in Mount Vernon, WA before we leave in the morning for Seattle where we will fly home.

Mount Vernon is known for being the largest producer of flower bulbs.  They also have the Skagit Tulip Festival every April.

Choosing Mount Vernon for the last stop of our trip was largely due to its proximity from the Seattle airport AND a small garden that we wanted to visit.

LaConner Flats Farm & Garden is an 11-acre display garden of a large family-owned farm.

The gardens are free to visit and you are welcome to walk around on your own.


The centerpiece of the garden is made up of circular beds of rose bushes surrounding a gazebo – an ideal place for a wedding.


The backdrop for the roses and gazebo are formally shaped shrubs underplanted with flowering perennials.


However, it was what was behind the formal garden space that really interested me…


Behind the formally-pruned shrubs were the more informal areas of the garden.


Trees, shrubs and perennials were planted in a carefree mixture, tied together by pathways of green grass.


To be honest, there were plenty of weeds intermixed with the flowering shrubs and plants.  But, it is this untamed, natural type of garden that I like best.




Several, large flowering shrubs provided vivid displays of color.

As we were admiring the flowers, we rounded the corner and came face to face with four little goats…


They were busy eating the fresh green grass and initially paid no attention to us.

A little robin stood in our path and was quite friendly.



He didn’t move until we got quit close and then hopped to the fence. Robins are rare in my neck of the woods, so I always look forward to seeing them when I travel.


The goats finally noticed our presence and came over to see if we had any food to share.  Sadly, we didn’t.


I crouched down to take a picture of the friendliest goat and didn’t realize how close I was until he licked my camera’s lens.


Even though we didn’t have any food for them that didn’t stop one of them from following my mother as we walked along the path.


The pathway along the goat’s enclosure was just on the other side of the formal garden, which was separated by large shrubs.


Alongside the pathway, I saw a plant that I have rarely seen before – holly!


As we neared the end of our tour of the garden, I looked back toward our cute little friends and was trying to figure out how I could possibly talk my husband and HOA into letting us have goats 😉


This garden is surrounded by fields of wheat and the Cascade mountain range can be seen in the distance.


It is well worth the visit if you ever find yourself traveling in Northern Washington State.

We have had so many wonderful adventures during our fifth annual road trip.  But, I am excited to come home and see my husband, kids, grandkids, dogs, garden – you get the picture…

Our last day in Victoria was reserved for a visit to a very famous garden.  Butchart Gardens is the place to go for visitors to Victoria.


Years ago, my in-laws took me and my husband, as a college graduation gift, to Seattle and Victoria.  The year was 1998, and I was finishing up the last semester of my horticulture degree.


Flush with my new knowledge of plants and horticultural practices, I was especially looking forward to visiting this beautiful garden.  Fast forward 17 years later, I was excited to go back.



My mother and fellow travel companion.
Immediately upon leaving the parking lot, we were faced with fragrant, yellow wisteria that draped over an arbor.


Walking a few steps further, was another splash of color with anemone flowers in pinks, purples and white.

I hadn’t even gone through the entrance and I had already taken a number of pictures – it was going to be a veritable photographic feast!


Like most areas in Victoria, colorful hanging baskets could be seen all over the garden.

Butchart Gardens are over 100 years old and were created by the Butchart family.  Almost one million visitors come to visit this special place, which sits about 30 minutes outside of Victoria.


Today, I’d like to share with you some of my favorite areas in the garden.

Garden art is tastefully spread throughout the garden, usually in the form of animals.



One of my favorite color combinations is the bright green, spiky foliage of iris and its vibrant, purple flowers.


One of the many things that I liked was that the trash receptacles had plants growing on top.


I really think that this was a great idea.  Imagine trash cans acting as the base for plants that add beauty.  I love it!

Here are a couple more…



The garden is separated into several smaller gardens.  My favorite is the Sunken Garden.


This spectacular garden was created in a former quarry.

A long stairway leads to the bottom of the garden and winding paths invite your to explore more.



It was interesting to watch the people exclaim over the beauty of the gardens many were from other countries including Australia, China, Great Britain, Japan and Spain plus the good old U.S.A.


Because I had visited the gardens before, I didn’t feel as if I had to hurry in order to be able to see everything.  Today, I decided to walk slowly through my favorite parts.  As a result, I spent most of my time in the Sunken Garden.




At the end of the Sunken Garden is a lake with a ‘dancing’ fountain.



Different variations of spray patterns made onlookers stop for a few minutes to enjoy the dancing waters.  

After climbing out of the Sunken Garden, I strolled through other areas of the garden on my way to the Rose Garden.




Blankets of flowers surround, what I believe are crab apple trees.


Love the black bearded iris, don’t you?


Brightly-colored dahlia.


Clematis growing up on an old stump.


There is one flower in the Butchart Gardens that is a favorite of many.  This is the Himalayan blue poppy.


You can find them scattered throughout the gardens and their vivid blue flowers attract everyone’s attention.


They aren’t easy to grow.  To get them to germinate, you need to place the seeds in a moist paper towel and put in a Ziploc bag.  Then you place the bag with the paper towel and seeds and stick in the refrigerator (in the vegetable crisper) for 4 weeks before planting.

There are blue poppy seeds available in the and I bought two packages to try to grow them in my own garden.


There are several water features scattered throughout the gardens and I liked this one with the three fish, encircled with colorful anemone flowers.


The Japanese Garden is not to be missed.  I love the varying shades of green and contrasting textures.


As you can imagine, it takes a lot of work to take care of many garden spaces within Butchart Gardens.


Watching these young girls working, planting new annual flowers, reminded me of the years spent as a horticulturist on golf courses.


These are but a select few of the 319 photos I took of these truly stunning gardens.  

I hope you enjoyed them!

Before leaving Butchart Gardens, a visit to this special place isn’t complete without rubbing the nose of the ‘mascot’.


This is ‘Tacca’, which is a bronze replica of a wild boar – the original was created in 1620 in Italy.  ‘Taco’ is named for the sculptor who made the original.


It is said that if you rub his snout, you will have good luck.  So, millions of visitors have rubbed Tacca’s snout over the years.

After leaving the gardens, we drove onto get on the ferry to Vancouver, where we will embark on the next adventure of our trip.

More to come tomorrow!

Day 5 of our Northwest road trip was filled with a wonderful adventure and for the first day since we left I didn’t spend any money in gift shops, which was a welcome respite for my wallet.


Our day began in Port Angeles.  Since our hotel didn’t provide breakfast, we headed to out to eat.



We ate at the Chestnut Cottage with was an English-themed restaurant that had a fabulous menu.  It took me a while to decide what to eat, but at the end, I knew that I just had to try the giant apricot scone.

It was delicious!

Now at home, I am fairly healthy in my eating habits.  But when on vacation, part of the experience of learning different regions, is to try out the food.

After breakfast, we headed out to the Olympic National Forest, which takes up the majority of the Olympic peninsula in Washington state.


After driving to the Olympic National Park’s Visitor Center, just outside of Port Angeles, we decided to take one of the nearby trails into the beautiful, lush forest.


Everywhere you looked, you could see evidence of lush, green growth as a result of the large amount of rain that falls in many areas within the national park.

Ferns carpeted the ground.

I’ve always loved ferns, especially as their curved ends gradually unfurl their leaves.



Moss also covered many of the exposed surfaces of the trees.


While parts of the forest were very shady – there were also areas where the sun shone through.


Big leaf maple trees added a bright shade of green to the darker foliage of the other trees in the forest.


Did you know that the majority of a tree’s roots grow outward and not downward?

This is the root mass of a large tree that had fallen and you can see how wide the roots grew.


I really enjoy bright green moss and there was plenty of it.


Throughout the forest were fallen trees that were slowly breaking down and returning to the ground.  Here you can see fungi that are growing on a recently cut tree.  Over time, they will help break down the wood, which will return it back to the soil.


Walking down the path, my mother noticed this tree, which at first glance, appeared dead since it was hollow.


Yet, when you looked up, you could see live branches filled with leaves.

How can that be?

The living tissue of trees or in other words their vascular system that brings water and nutrients up and down the tree is located on the outer portion of the tree – not the inside.

**It might be interesting to some of you to find that the ‘Twilight’ book series was set in the Olympic National Forest and small towns nearby.


After our hike into the forest, we got in the car and took to the road to Hurricane Ridge, which is high up in the Olympic National Forest.

As we climbed, we began to see snow-capped peaks.  


18 miles later, we arrived to a breathtaking view of  Mount Olympus alongside other notable mountain peaks.


It was cold and windy at the top, but that didn’t keep hikers away.


Looking at the trees next to the visitor’s center, you can see the evidence of the hurricane force winds and how they affect the growth.


Adjoining the visitor’s center is a large meadow, flanked by trees.  There were several walking paths and we got started on the second hike of the day.


There were a few deer grazing nearby who didn’t seem worried about our presence.


In fact, the closer we got, more came out from the trees to graze.



Wildflowers were beginning to grow with blooms soon to follow.  This lupine will soon be covered in purple blossoms.  In the meantime, you can see where water has collected in the center of the leaves.


Soon, it was time to head back down the mountains in order to catch our ferry to Victoria, Canada.


I am not afraid to admit that I am relatively inexperienced when it comes to taking ferries.  While I have been on them a few times (another trip to Canada and one in Scotland), this time we were taking our car with us.

We got in line waiting for the ferry to arrive about an hour before it was due to depart.


We had to fill out a yellow paper with our names and birthdates, which also listed the items we couldn’t bring into Canada.


The ferry arrived and the vehicles on it drove off while we waited.

I was shocked to see five large trucks coming off the ferry.  Some even had two trailers attached.  I know next to nothing about boats, but I was surprised that they could carry so many cars AND big trucks.


Finally, it was our turn to board.



We were directed into a lane and then told to lock our car and go up to the passenger area.  No one could stay in their vehicle during the voyage.



The trip took over an hour from Port Angeles to Victoria, Canada.


As we approached Victoria, we were told to go downstairs and get in our cars while the ferry docked.

Then we drove off, showed our passports and were on our way to enjoy several days in Canada.

Tomorrow, we will explore the very English city of Victoria, which is also known as the ‘City of Gardens’. 

Do you like to travel?


I bet you do.  But, if you are like me, you don’t like the having to tasks such as packing, finishing up last minute things at work and such.


Since I will be traveling without my husband and kids, I’ll also need to stop by the grocery store so that they don’t starve while I’m gone.


Below, is my kid’s puzzle of the United States and on it, I have placed the states that I have visited – many of them on annual road trips with my mother.




As you can see, there are some empty spaces and our road trips are an ongoing effort to visit all the different regions in the United States.

So before I reveal where we will be going this year, let’s look at the options for the road trip we considered:


Southern and Plains states.


A few Rocky Mountain states.


New England, including Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine.


The Northwest, including British Columbia, Canada.

and


Texas and surrounding states.

Before I reveal our destination, I have to confess that it wasn’t our first choice.  We had initially decided to travel to New England and had worked hard on an itinerary filled with fun things to do and see.

But, that was before the harsh winter that they experienced.  We were advised by many New England natives that a trip this year would be difficult due to spring being delayed and numerous road crews repairing damaged streets due to pot holes left from the cold winter.

So, we decided to postpone our New England trip to next year (hopefully).

The destination that we finally decided on for this year is a region that we have both visited, but wanted to explore further…


We will be visiting the Northwest and British Columbia, Canada and I can hardly wait!

I have been to Seattle twice, but not by car and I look forward to exploring more of this dynamic city.

I’m ashamed to admit that I have never visited Oregon.  It has always been a state that is flown over on my way to Washington and I have always wanted to explore it further.

Here is a detailed map of where we will be going:


Our journey begins in Portland, where we will visit the world famous rose garden.  Of course, we will also explore other areas of this fun city.

After leaving Portland, we will drive to Astoria and spend some time before heading up to Seattle.

Later, we will stay in Port Angeles and visit the Olympic National Park.

The next leg of our journey involves a ferry to get us to Victoria, Canada.  I was fortunate to have spent a day in this very English city including Butchart Gardens, which I plan on seeing again.

Another ferry ride will take us from Victoria to Vancouver, which I have always wanted to visit since the Olympics was held there.

The last portion of our trip will bring us back toward Seattle with a stop in Mount Vernon and more gardens to visit.

**If you have any helpful advice on what to do and see in this area, I’d love some advice.

I hope you will join me as our journey begins!  I will be blogging from the road, sharing the sights and experiences along the way.

It all begins on Friday