Our first day in Canada began with walking from our hotel to the Parliament Buildings – just a couple of blocks from our hotel.
Victoria, is the capital of the province of British Columbia, Canada and the Parliament Buildings are quite beautiful.
This very English city is said by many “to be more English than England.”
As for me, I don’t know if I would call Victoria more English than London, but I do know that I miss the British accents 🙂
However you feel about the ‘Englishness’ of Victoria vs. London, the Parliament Buildings certainly look very English.
It’s important to note that the Europeans weren’t the first people here in British Columbia…
Native Americans came here first and their importance in the past and present in this Canadian province is evident everywhere – especially when you see their iconic totem poles.
The sight of a totem pole in front of the very English architecture of the Parliament Building is a great illustration of Victoria with two different cultures coming together and calling this beautiful area ‘home’.
We decided to take the self-guided tour and were handed a guidebook and got started.
The rotunda was beautiful and filled with scenes describing the history of British Columbia.
We all know that Elizabeth II is Queen of England, BUT she is also Queen of Canada. So it was no surprise that a significant portion of the tour involved things related to English royalty.
This stained glass window was created for Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee in 1897.
And this stained glass window was made for Queen Elizabeth II for her golden jubilee in 2002.
The Queen has visited Canada many times, including the Parliament Buildings.
Here is where the legislative assembly meets when they are in session.
When it was designed, the seats were positioned two swords lengths to prevent any ‘accidents’ in the middle of a heated debate.
Large beds outside of the Parliament Buildings contained a variety of colorful annuals.
Our next stop was at the Fairmont Empress Hotel.
Commonly referred to as ‘The Empress’, there is nothing common about this famous hotel.
The Empress is the oldest hotel in Victoria and opened in 1908. She has over 477 rooms and is perhaps best know for her ‘Afternoon High Tea’ where participants indulge in finger sandwiches, scones and tea.
Many people were enjoying the afternoon tea. The Empress even has their own China pattern available in the gift shop.
While the hotel is not inexpensive, you don’t have to stay there to enjoy the experience.
Walk through the lobby and see the fancy Royal Mail box or one of the staff dressed up in period costume…
The grounds of the hotel were beautiful with white wisteria vine and dark pink rhododendron.
The flowers are huge.
A hedge of California lilac shrubs (Ceanothus) added beauty to the grounds.
I love their flowers, although they aren’t fragrant.
The The Empress Hotel sits just off of the water.
The presence of boats, ferries, sea planes and mini-water taxis won’t let you forget that you are on an island.
Native American vendors sold their products nearby where I bought a pair of earrings.
Next, it was on to Government Street and more shopping.
There were a lot of the typical souvenir shops that each sold the same items. Many of them were rather overpriced, so I limited myself to buying a small gift for my granddaughter, Lily.
We did enjoy some of the specialty shops, but did mostly window shopping.
Lavender is widely planted in this area and looked great in this window box.
Soon, it was time for a lunch that really wasn’t a lunch at all…
Like I’ve said in earlier posts, I will really need to get back to healthy eating when I get home!
Victoria is well known for their iconic lamp posts and their hanging flower baskets.
Sadly, they hadn’t hung the flower containers yet during our visit. But, have you ever wondered how they water all those baskets?
Notice the drip irrigation lines…
The restaurant where we ate breakfast had drip irrigation going to its flowering containers.
After doing a lot of walking and exploring, we took a small break back at our hotel before heading out to afternoon tea.
There are a number of places in Victoria that serve ‘high’ tea and we made reservations at White Heather Tea Room.
In addition to your choice of a number of hot tea, you get a selection of finger sandwiches, smoked salmon, mini-tarts, scones, cookies and other pastries. Top them off with clotted cream, lemon curd and/or raspberry jam and you are in heaven!
After tea, our day was winding down and we headed toward our last stop – The Government House’s gardens.
From the description in our guidebook, I expected a few acres of nicely landscaped gardens around the house. But, I wasn’t prepared for the sheer size of the gardens or how beautiful they were. I even found some plants growing there that are also growing at my home in Arizona.
An enclosed area boasted of fragrant rose bushes, including old-fashioned roses. The sound of the water fountain made this a very peaceful spot.
This blackbird found the fountain a great place for a welcome drink of water.
Benches were strewn throughout the gardens, inviting you to stop, rest and enjoy the view.
Everywhere you looked, there was a new place to discover, including somewhat hidden areas that invited you to go in further and explore.
Parts of the gardens were covered in grass and filled with colorful rhododendrons, but there was a large section that was filled with winding garden paths flanked by colorful perennials and succulents – the majority of which, were drought tolerant.
*Note the agave in the lower left corner? Many plants that grow in both cooler climates, such as peonies and hellebores, co-existed alongside agave, Santa Barbara daisy and salvias.
Can you guess what this purple-flowering plant is?
Believe it or not, it is the herb sage. Mine flowers at home, but not this much.
Santa Barbara Daisy (Erigeron karvinskianus)
‘Hot Lips’ (Salvia greggii)
This salvia is growing in my garden right now.
Several huge trees dotted the property.
The 36-acre landscape surrounds the Government House where the lieutenant governor resides.
I must confess, that I took only two photos of the house and over 300 of the garden 🙂
While there many plants in bloom in late spring, you could also see plants that flower in winter and also those getting ready to bloom in summer.
Much to my delight, my favorite flower (that I cannot grow in my desert garden) was in bloom. I never get over how beautiful peonies are!
These plants were growing in shallow pockets on top of this large boulder.
Large groves of Garry oak trees stood throughout the gardens. You could almost imagine that you were standing in a California garden.
As I stood admiring the oaks, I noticed out in the distance, a mountain range across the bay.
It turns out that the view is of the mountains in the Olympic National Forest in Washington state. We were there, enjoying the beauty of those majestic mountains only the day before.
It’s really amazing how much sightseeing you can do in a short amount of time!
As I finished up my tour, I circled back around the house toward the parking lot, when I saw this squirrel sitting up in the grass.
Whenever I find myself near a beautiful garden, I tend to disappear in order to explore more. My husband and my mother understand this and are so patient. In this instance, my mother and I had expected a smaller garden that would take us a few minutes to see. But, it was soon evident that there was more to see.
My mother understands me so well and my love for gardens. So, after she explored parts of the garden, she patiently waited in the car for my return.
The next day of our journey involves a return trip to the world famous, Butchart Gardens. I can hardly wait!