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Art being welcomed by the "Welcome to Sydney" sign on Vancouver Island

Victoria, BC

Ferries, Castles, and Gardens

Aug 29, 2013 by Arthur

When would a 39-room castle seem to be small?

The answer to that question will come in just a moment. But first, let me tell you that after we left Seattle, WA, we headed for a foreign country. Yes, that’s right! Canada was our next destination. We were headed for Vancouver but would make a stop-over on Vancouver Island where we had some pretty cool experiences in Victoria and Sydney.

In order to get to Canada from Seattle, we decided to take a ferry instead of driving all the way on I-5. So, we headed to the city of Anacortes, Washington, where we boarded a ferry that would take us around the San Juan Islands and deposit us on the doorstep of Vancouver Island in the city of Sydney, British Columbia. We had about a three-hour tour onboard the M/V Chelan, which what was to us, a pretty big boat. I thought of our friend Charles Barker who during his career in the Navy was captain of an aircraft carrier. I could imagine our little ferry boat sitting atop the main runway deck looking pretty small (I don’t know the sizes of the two vessels, but I can imagine it).

Anyway, it was nice to leave our van at the bottom of the ship and go up on the 5th or 6th deck to look out over the islands. It was a trip that we would recommend to anyone to take, instead of driving the interstates (or expressways, as some would call them) that makes a nice relaxing break in a trip. But, of course, you’ve got to be near some water that would give you some great views . . .and we were! Just look at these pictures.

Our ferry that transported our van around the islands
Bonnie says she’s not really that fat. The wind was blowing up under her coat
A small fishing boat we met while on the ferry ride
One of the small islands we met while crossing to Sydney
Walmart in Uptown Victoria BC

After arriving at Sydney, BC, we headed over to the city of Victoria. We were going to find a place where we could spend the night at one of our “campgrounds” of choice. . .Wal-Mart. So we plugged in “Walmart” into our GPS and followed the directions to get to “Uptown” in Victoria. We’re we surprised to find that this particular Walmart Supercenter was in the middle of a very “posh” grouping of stores. And, parking was underground in a parking garage. Needless to say, we weren’t able to stay there for the night. But, no worries, we found another Walmart not very far away and made that our “campground” choice for the next couple of nights.

Trying to see Vancouver Island in only a few days is an impossible task. There is much to see and we only saw a very little portion of the island. But we were able to see the Empress Hotel in downtown Victoria and we also made a trip over to Craigdarroch Castle. That brings us to the answer to the question asked at the beginning of this post: when would a 39-room castle seem to be small? The Craigdarroch Castle is quite the house! But, compare it to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, and it would appear to be quite small. Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable visit to hear a little of the history of the castle and the people who lived there. The stained glass was amazing!

Empress Hotel
The Empress Hotel in Victoria, BC
Craig Darroch Castle
Craig Darroch Castle in Victoria BC
Fisgard Lighthouse
Fisgard Lighthouse

We also enjoyed seeing the Fisgard lighthouse. Our daughter, Laura, has a picture of the Fisgard lighthouse on her shower curtain (along with other lighthouses - obviously she likes lighthouses) and it was fun to see the actual structure. The Fisgard lighthouse is right next to Fort Rodd so we saw both of these historical sites in one visit. The man working as a volunteer at the ticket booth for the attractions, reminded us of our friend Richard Pike. His appearance, manner of speaking, and friendly disposition almost made us think that he was related to our friend, Richard. So Richard, theres a doppelgänger out here that you should be aware of, if you travel this way. We wanted to take his picture but he wasn’t willing for that…unlike our friend Richard.

I think the capstone of our time on Vancouver Island was our visit to a former rock quarry. I’m referring to Butchart Gardens. We weren’t sure that we would actually go to the gardens because the day was a rather rainy one and we thought that the off and on rain would spoil our visit. But as we ate our breakfast we had the opportunity to talk with a local who really encouraged us to take in the site, even though it was raining. She said we wouldn’t be disappointed. So, we did! And, we weren’t disappointed! The flowers and landscaping were absolutely gorgeous. I kept telling Bonnie that I wasn’t taking “bulletin” pictures anymore but that if I were, I would have enough for the entire year. The off and on rain actually added a little to the experience and we were able to get some really good pictures that would help to remind us for years to come of this amazing place.

Sunken Gardens at Butchart Gardens, Victoria, BC
Beautiful Bonnie on bridge at Butchart Gardens
Beautiful Dahlias at Butchart Gardens
The original Art model for the sculpture in the back
Barry and Rose

While visiting Butchart Gardens we had the opportunity to meet and talk with a couple of island folks who were quite enthused with what we were doing in our travels with the van. They too are a retired couple and Bonnie and I had a great visit with Barry and Rose. They shared several of their experiences and we thoroughly enjoyed talking with them. Hopefully they’ll see this blog post and let us know how they’re doing and where they’ll be off to next.

Art & Bonnie at Butchart Italian Garden

Bonnie and I have been impressed with every area we’ve had the opportunity to visit. Each location has a unique story to tell and scenery to see and people to meet. Getting away from the city and taking a trip like this opens the door to see how other folks are living and dealing with everyday life. We have seen many who are really having a rough time and others who are doing OK but who still have problems and concerns. One individual shared some very personal things with us that made us realize that no matter where people may find themselves, they are still people just like us who need a hope to hold on to and a reason for living. We know, of course, that the things of this world are passing away and one day the only thing that will be left is for Jesus to return and set up His kingdom where He will reign and rule with love and grace and truth. It will be a day when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is the Christ, the living Son of God who is Lord and Savior. Our desire is that Christ will clearly be seen in us so that others will also have the hope of eternal life with our Savior, Jesus! May God use us and you to that end!