Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Friday, 09/13/13 Vancouver Island, Butchart Gardens, Victoria

Vancouver Island, Butchart Gardens, Victoria

The bus arrived at 8:15 a.m., and we were off to Vancouver Island.  The bus driver was very informative, talking constantly as he drove the bus through the downtown area, then south past the airport and on to the ferry terminal an hour away.  The city of Vancouver is very neat, very well organized, very clean, without litter and graffiti.  The presence of a large Asian community is very noticeable.  As the bus drove out Cambie Street, the driver informed us that a subway line had been installed the under the street prior to the 2010 Olympics, and as a result, development was underway around the stations.  Indeed, we could see dozens of buildings under construction near the subway stations.  The area had formerly been residential, and houses near the stations were empty, with signs indicating that new buildings were planned.

At the ferry terminal, the driver informed us that the ferry transported both large vehicles and cars, as well as bicycles and even foot traffic.  The ferry held 410 cars and 34 large vehicles, including busses and even semi.  The bus pulled into the second deck, and passengers went upstairs to the fifth and sixth decks for seating and refreshments.  While on the ferry, I stepped outside to take some photos, and at one point, I noticed a young Muslim woman trying to take a self photo; I took her camera and took the photo for her. 
Then her companion, another young Muslim woman, came up, and I took both of their photos.  Then they permitted me to take their photos with my camera as well.  At the appointed time, passengers reboarded the bus, and when the ferry arrived at the terminal on Victoria Island, the driver was on his way to Butchart Gardens.  Travel time for the ferry was about 1.5 hours.

The driver described Butchart Gardens, now more than 100 years old.  It was formerly a shale quarry, and after the shale played out, the wife of the owner decided to install a garden in the pit and surrounding areas.  Now, after 100 years, the gardens are a national shrine.  Inside, the bus driver explained that passengers would have two hours to visit the gardens, and we were off.  I wandered about  and took photos of the beautiful scenery.  It truly is amazing how a former mine pit has been transformed into a beautiful site.  While I was taking photos, again I saw the two young Muslim women taking photos, so I took a few photos of them with their camera, and then again, they permitted me to take a photo of them with my camera.  I talked with them for a moment, and it turned out that they were visiting from Oman, attending a conference in Vancouver.   I was able to tell them about my one day in Muscat, Oman, on a cruise in 2010.  After wandering about, I stopped for gelato before reboarding the bus to Victoria.

The bus driver took a scenic route to Victoria, driving along the coast.  Eventually, the bus arrived in Victoria for a loop around the downtown area before stopping at the stately Fairmont Empress Hotel.  A large, imposing red brick building, the hotel was constructed more than 100 years ago.  It sits across from the Parliament building, constructed about the same time by the same architect.  After checking in, I went to my room, which seemed to be an original room, with little upgrading since construction.  With high ceilings, and a ceiling fan whirring, the room seemed to be out of a historical movie.  The bathroom was tiny, with very old fixtures, and even the furniture seemed very old.  I found it all charming. 

After my luggage arrived in the room, I took off quickly to walk the downtown area of Victoria for some photos.  Buildings along the two main streets in the downtown area., Government Street and Wharf Street, along with adjoining streets, were constructed 50-100 years ago, and had been renovated, forming a very picturesque scene.  Most of the shops were tourist shops.  I took photos until the sun set, and then returned to my room before going out again to dinner at a restaurant that overlooked the marina sitting just in front of the hotel.  After dinner, I took photos of the Parliament building which was outlined in lights, forming a very pretty scene. 

Repacking before bedtime; luggage must be ready the following morning by 7:30 to return to the mainland and then to the ship.

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