Fabulous Butchart Gardens




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We first visited the Butchart Gardens on our honeymoon in August of 1981, almost 35 years ago. We have been back once or twice since, but it has been quite a while. This past weekend we visited once more. And it is as gorgeous as ever with many new amenities added.

The amazing Sunken Garden, considered by many to be the highlight of any visit to the gardens.
The amazing Sunken Garden, considered by many to be the highlight of any visit to the gardens.

Robert Pim Butchart and his wife Jennie bought the site in 1903, moving there in 1904 so Robert could build a cement plant. The area had natural limestone, an essential ingredient for Portland cement, so Butchart both mined the limestone from quarries on the property and built a factory to process the mineral.

Jennie started the gardens in 1906 when she hired Japanese landscape architect Isaburo Kishida to design and build the Japanese Garden, the first of many that would become the Butchart Gardens.

The first thing you see along the walking tour of the gardens is a bower of hanging baskets. Fuchsias, begonias and many other specimens make up this cornucopia of colour.

The hanging basket bower is on your left just before the entrance to the Sunken Garden.
The hanging basket bower is on your left just before the entrance to the Sunken Garden.

Hanging a left brings you to the Sunken Gardens, possibly the most striking feature in the entire gardens. Formerly a limestone quarry, Mrs. Butchart set out to reclaim it when the limestone ran out in 1909. It took over ten years of painstaking work before the Sunken Garden was finished in 1921. Workers commandeered from Robert’s plant drained the quarry and brought in tons of topsoil. Jennie Butchart had herself lowered in a bosun’s chair over the face of the cliffs to hand plant ivies.

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The Mound, a rocky outcrop in the centre of the Sunken Garden.

In the middle of the Sunken Garden stands a pedestal of plant-covered rock called The Mound. A winding staircase lets you climb to the top for a panoramic view of the Garden.

Looking out from atop of the Mound.
Looking out from atop of the Mound.

Further along the trail you arrive at a lake. Dragonflies like to fly around above the lily pads here. Butterflies are also common at the gardens.

The lake as seen from the Mound.
The lake as seen from the Mound. There are many lily pads and dragonflies here.

Walking around the lake you can look back and see the Sunken Garden through the drooping branches of two giant willow trees. Further along the trail we come to the Ross Fountain. The Butcharts gave the Gardens to their grandson Ross in 1939 on his 21st birthday and he maintained the garden until his death in 1997. Ross created the night-time illumination system in 1953 and the fountain in 1964 on the 60th anniversary of the gardens.

The Ross Fountain
The Ross Fountain

Leaving the fountain, we walk back along a trail that rises and brings us to the Childrens’ Pavilion and the outdoor amphitheatre. The rising path brings us past excellent views of the Sunken Garden on the right and in a grassy area on the left we see three deer made of sphagnum moss. There are a number of these mossy creations throughout the park, including a cougar, a couple of rabbits, some ducks and an owl.

Another view of the Mound
Another view of the Mound
Some deer made of moss.
Some deer made of moss.

The Childrens’ Pavilion and Rose Carousel were opened in 2009. The horse and other creatures were hand carved. It is the only carousel on Vancouver island. It costs $2 to ride and my wife and her friend hopped aboard.

Across from the carousel is an amphitheatre where live shows are held throughout the summer season and at Christmas. Further along the path are two totem poles and just beyond that is a vast open area and a lake where fireworks are displayed every Saturday evening in the summer.

Where the fireworks are held on Saturday evenings throughout the summer.
Where the fireworks are held on Saturday evenings throughout the summer.

Continuing our journey we come to several large apple trees flanking the amphitheatre and then the Dragon Fountain on the left. Still further along, another fountain, the three fishes.

The Dragon Fountain
The Dragon Fountain

From there we arrive at the spectacular Rose Garden. A path parallels the garden taking you through several colourful arches. Then the garden proper, a large circular grassy field surrounded on all sides by roses.

Janis and Sheila at one of the arches beside the Rose Garden.
Janis and Sheila at one of the arches beside the Rose Garden.
Roses and baskets of flowers at the Rose Garden
Roses and baskets of flowers at the Rose Garden

At the far end of the Rose Garden is a covered path, a series of arches made of roses. A stunning display.

The covered path at the Rose Garden
The covered path at the Rose Garden

Leaving the Rose Garden we come to the Japanese Garden. This garden trails down a hillside toward Tod Inlet where the family moored its motor launch and spent a lot of recreational time. The Japanese Garden was the first of the gardens built by Jennie Butchart.

A stone path leads across this pond in the Japanese Garden
A stone path leads across this pond in the Japanese Garden
Janis on one of a couple of bright red and black bridges in the japanese Garden
Janis on one of a couple of bright red and black bridges in the Japanese Garden

There is a trail from the Japanese Garden to a dock where they now offer 45 minute boat ride around Tod Inlet and the surrounding area. On the other side of the garden is a trail leading up to the Star Pond. Robert Butchart liked wild birds and kept ducks in the pond.

The Star Pond. Just decorative now. No ducks.
The Star Pond. Just decorative now. No ducks.

And just past the Star Pond is the formal Italian Garden, built in 1926 on the site of a former tennis court. The garden is surrounded on two sides by buildings, one of them the main residence which is now a restaurant.

The Italian Garden
The Italian Garden
The main restaurant
The main restaurant

Between the buildings is a path leading you almost to our starting point. Here you’ll find the famous Wild Boar statue. An exact replica of the fanous Italian statue created in 1620 in Florence, Italy. Like that statue, this one’s nose is shiny from people rubbing it for good luck.

Tacca the Wild Boar.
Tacca the Wild Boar.

Without a doubt, the Butchart Gardens are a must see for visitors to Victoria. And if you’re a local, the season’s pass is a bargain at under $60. We spent five hours there, including an hour for lunch after four hours walking the gardens. We left at 4:30 PM. But after dark, the gardens are illuminated, creating a whole different look. And on Saturdays in the summer there are the fireworks. Definitely worth a repeat visit.

Be sure to click on the Photo Gallery below for more pictures, or just scroll on through if you are on the main page.

 




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One Million Years BC – A Visit to Mt. Teide




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In 2009 we took a repositioning cruise with our friends Chris and Sheila. The ship, the Navigator of the Seas, left from Fort Lauderdale and was at sea for seven days before finally reaching our first port of call, Santa Cruz de Tenerife in the Canary Islands. As with all ports of call on cruises, there was a variety of shore excursions we could take. Or we could just wander around the town of Santa Cruz. We opted to take the trip up Mount Teide, the island’s volcano.

Mount Teide last erupted in 1909 and is considered dormant. It could erupt again in the future. At 24,600 feet (7500 meters) it is the third highest island volcano in the world after Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa in Hawaii.

The bus took us on a meandering road through fields and villages and finally into Teide National Park, which gets about 2.8 million visitors a year. As we got higher and higher we had many spectacular views of the villages and the sea below. Upon entering the park, the peak drew closer and closer. We stopped for a photo op part way there.

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Janis and I and Mount Teide

We left the verdant landscape behind as we continued on our way. Soon we were left with nothing but lava fields all around with sparse patches of vegetation. Almost a moonscape.

It was here in this wild setting that parts of the movie One Million B.C. with Raquel Welch were filmed.

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Scenery like this formed the backdrop for Raquel Welch’s One Million Years B.C.

Finally we arrived at our destination – not the summit, but a tourist area where we could get off the bus and wander around at our leisure to take in the many interesting rock formations.

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Tourists clamber over the rock formations on Mount Teide

From one vantage point you could see a frozen river of lava in a bowl between the peaks. I called it the Teide Bowl (Tidy Bowl). My warped sense of humour.

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River of lava in the Teide Bowl
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She’s got the whole world in her hand – well, at least this rock formation on Mount Teide!

After some time here the bus took us on the long and winding road back to town.

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We leave majestic Mount Teide behind

We took a slightly different route on the way back, one that took us past Tenerife Airport. This was the site of the world’s worst aviation disaster in 1977 when two Boeing 747s collided.

We arrived back at Santa Cruz with enough time to explore this bustling seaside city. It is a lovely city with a good-sized pedestrian mall and lots of shops and restaurants to explore.

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The bustling city of Santa Cruz de Tenerife

The Canary Islands are an autonomous community of Spain, sort of like a state in the U.S.A. or a province in Canada. Spain’s government is very decentralized with a lot of power residing within the smaller divisions of the country. We visited three more Spanish ports of call on our trip, as well a Lisbon, Portugal.  I’ll cover the highlights of those in later posts.




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Sandsurfing in Lancelin




129 kilometers north of Perth lies the seaside town of Lancelin (about an hour and a half drive).  It’s a sleepy little town of 600 whose population swells to 2500 in the summer months (December, January and February in Australia).

We took a day trip out from our daughter’s place in Ocean Reef in early January. It was very pleasant drive along the Indian Ocean Highway. The scenery was constantly changing from forested to scrub land to farm land and sheep grazing land. Along the way we spotted some emus in a field but we were going too fast for me to get my camera out in time to snap a pic.

We also passed a brush fire inland a bit from the highway. Brush fires are a big problem in Australia. In the summer the climate is so hot they spread very quickly. And Western Australia in particular is very windy which does not help. When we went back home in the late afternoon, we had to take a long inland detour because the fires had spread and the Indian Ocean Highway was closed for a stretch.

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Raging brush fire in the Shire of Gingin as seen on our return trip to Perth.

Sadly, another even larger brush fire occurred south of Perth later in the month, destroying most of the town of Yarloop. The lightning stoked fire destroyed 162 homes and killed two elderly men.

Finally we got to the turnoff for Lancelin and drove into town. One of the main attractions here are the giant sand dunes just north of town. They are about two kilometres long and about 30-50 meters high (my rough guess). They are very accessible and they are free.

Once we got to town, we were not done driving. The dunes are north of town and so we drove some more, finally getting to a dirt road leading to the dunes themselves. You can drive right up to the base of the dunes, though the trail is very sandy so caution is recommended. We saw one vehicle stuck in the sand as we left.

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The dunes are look like giant snow drifts and, in fact, people sandboard on them.

The dunes are spectacular – pure white sand – they look like giant snow drifts, that’s how white they are. You would think the sand would be hot underfoot under the blazing Australian sun, but we walked up the dunes barefoot and it was remarkably cool. Well warm maybe, but definitely not hot.

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The Lancelin Sand Dunes with the ocean in the background, seen from the top of a sand ridge.

I hiked up to the top of a ridge for a good look around. A terrific view of the area. We saw quite a few sandboarders up there. We didn’t bring boards ourselves so we wandered around for a while, taking in the action, before heading down again.


We drove back in to town and parked near a restaurant. Then off to the beach. Lancelin’s beach is, like most Australian beaches, sandy and beautiful. There are two islands at either end of the beach, the larger being Lancelin Island which lies about a kilometre off the shore. It is a nature preserve frequented by various species of birds as well as sea lions.

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Lancelin Island Nature Preserve

Because of the windy clime, windsurfing is very popular here. We had a swim, took a stroll down the beach and back, and then settled in at the Dunes Restaurant for a tasty meal. And then the long drive back.

Because of the detour, we headed inland and turned onto Military Road. And it was along this back road that we found another interesting place to visit. A place something like Science World in Vancouver or the Pacific Science Center in Seattle. Only this one is set in the middle of nowhere! And that’s a topic for another post.




Welcome to The Destinations Guru!

My wife and I love to travel. Currently we are on a three month sojourn to Australia. In a few days we are taking a side trip to Singapore where we will be taking a cruise with stops in Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Langkawi and Phuket before returning to Singapore for a two day stay. We have never been to this exotic part of the world before and are looking forward to it. We’ll be reporting on our trip, of course, but may not get around to it until we return.

Our ship is the Mariner of the Seas, a Voyager class ship from Royal Caribbean. She is identical to her sister ship, the Navigator of the Seas, which we have travelled on twice. 1024px-Mariner_of_the_Seas_in_San_Juan_at_Dusk

Meanwhile I am posting a couple of travel articles I wrote a few years ago and will be posting additional articles over time on other exotic locales we have visited. I hope you enjoy our travelogues and welcome comments and suggestions.