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Trip Report 4 glorious days in Victoria

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Got back late Friday night and had a really fabulous time! I'll post a full trip report here later tonight or tomorrow morning -- but wanted to just start w/ thanks to those who helped me w/ advice/suggestions. Saw tons, ate LOTS of good food, and walked my legs off :) (And helped the BC economy quiite a bit along the way)

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    laverendrye I will leave "bated" to Shakespeare and go with
    Geoffrey Taylor

    Sally, having swallowed cheese,
    Directs down holes the scented breeze,
    Enticing thus with baited breath
    Nice mice to an untimely death.

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    Here goes -- Finally (!)

    May 22 - Seattle - Clipper ferry - Marketa's

    I flew in early AM from SMF to SeaTac on Southwest. Wouldn't you know -- I get a really low number (A26) but didn't hear the announcement for the flight so ended up boarding in the B group. Thankfully the plane was only about 1/2 full so got a window seat in the exit row of 2 and no one sat in the aisle seat. So I didn't miss out by missing my boarding group. That's a first.

    Since I only traveled w/ a small carry on I went straight to the light rail station w/o having to wait for luggage. Just missed a train leaving. Next one came in about 5 minutes- just long enough to figure out the ticket machine -- and figure out you really don't want to use a $20 -- anyone want several $1 coins - I got lots in the change :)

    A young guy w/ what looked like a marine boot camp hair cut asked me everything about the light rail/ticket machine/route -- just peppered me w/ questions. I told him it was my first time too but I'd help if I could and walked him through buying his ticket. He suddenly became my BFF and stuck to me like glue for the ride in to Seattle. We got on an empty car and he sat across from me and TALKED all the way into town. Heard his whole life story - that big cities make him nervous and he'd never been on a light rail or train and only flown 2 times. He wasn't dangerous or anything - more a bit overwhelmed by things.

    The light rail was great - I sure wish they figure out how to finance an airport extension for ours in Sacramento. Get on the train at the airport and get off at Westlake center in the middle of Seattle for $2.50.

    I walked about 5 blocks from the station to the office where Fodorite suze works. She had graciously offered to stow my carry on until the afternoon ferry. It was great meeting suze -- a mini GTG :) -- she is really warm/friendly and we had a fun lunch later that day. (But aren't ALL Fodorites warm/friendly -- Don't answer that.)

    I walked back towards Westlake - did a bit of shopping at Macy's and Nordy's and then down to Pikes Place market. I've been there before but didn't even get as far as the fish throwers because it was sooooo crowded. This was on a Tuesday morning and the place was slammed. I was really surprised. So I got out of there and wandered up Post Alley and visited a tea shop and a few others I had been to previously.

    It was bout 11:30 so I walked back to suze's office, picked up my bag and we walked over to Cutter's for lunch. I had the beer sampler -- three local beers (2 pale ales and a stout-ish brew I don't remember the name of). It was $5 and since most of the beers on the menu were $5 or $5.50,I figured it would just be a few ounces of each. I figured wrong. They were nearly full sized glasses - maybe 6 oz I ended up w/ a bit of a buzz ((B)).

    I ordered a Scallops/Tiger Prawns/Salmon/Rissotto plate that was REALLY tasty. There was a sort of guacamole but not really side that was one of the best avocado dishes I've ever had. Suze had a fish taco plate and she said hers was yummy too. After lunch she walked me down the elevator and partway to the ferry terminal. It was a beautiful day - I walked along the water front to the clipper terminal and checked in. Still had an hour+ so I wandered through the sculpture garden and back to the ferry. Stopped for an iced tea in a small place and the girl behind the counter knows Spencer Hawes and Jon Brockman (two of my favorites - Spencer was a King until he was traded about a week ago and Jon is a restricted free agent still on the team)

    It was then time to board the ferry - they made several announcement that they sell Mec-lizine (sp?) for 25¢. I don't usually get seasick but they were pushing the meclizine and it was pretty windy so figured what the heck. I figured - for 25¢ it can't be much of a dose. Once again I figure wrong. :) I took the two tiny pills and while I didn't exactly sleep across to Victoria -- I wasn't exactly awake either :D Maybe it was the beer instead ??

    OK -- I can be as "green" as the next person -- and hey I do get recycling. Honest. But really. The Captain/first mate/somebody kept making announcements about recycling. Not just something like "We recycle on the Victoria Clipper so please place your trash in the appropriate receptacle". But full blown lectures about recycling, the environment, the damage people do. REALLY droning/preachy/loooong. I was almost tempted to toss my water bottle overboard. >)

    Arrived in Victoria a little past 6:00 and it was absolutely beautiful. Marketa's is a quirky B&B about 4 blocks from the ferry landing so it was an easy walk. When I walked up the front steps there was an envelope on the door w/ my name on it. Marketa had been called away and here were my keys to the front door, my room and info about b'fast etc. Apparently there are 3 sorts of rooms -- budget w/o private bath, budget w/ bath, and deluxe. I opted for budget/bath and it was great. Nice room, Victorian decor w/ several of the owner'spaintings, decent bathroom (but only a shower - I would miss that soaking tub after walking my legs off every day), next to the residents lounge and across from the kitchen and breakfast room.

    After unpacking I walked over to the Blue Crab in the Coast hotel which is only about 3 blocks from the B&B. Someone (traveller69 ?) recommended this place for dinner w/ a view. I'll have to try it another time -- it was totally booked up but it did look really nice.

    I walked over to the BC Museum and wandered through the grounds looking at the totem poles and the longhouse. It was after 7:30 so I figured the Tourist Office was long closed - but after walking through the Empress I walked over to the TO and while the building itself was closed they are still staffed at walk up windows until (I think) 8PM. I picked up a better map and booked my trip to Butchart Gardens for Thursday.

    While at the TO I noticed Milestone's restaurant in the same complex. The menu looked good and I was starving. Was going to have seafood -- well duh -- but the description of their lamb sirloins w/ pomegranate chutney sounded too good to pass up. It was really terrific - and quite a large portion. Washed it down w/ Raspberry mimosa. Yeah I know they don't seem to go together - but what the heck. I'm on holiday and rules are to be broken.

    Stumbled back to Marketa's and was probably asleep before 10PM . . .

    Next: Day 2 -- Gov't House Gardens, Craigdarroch Gardens, Royal BC Museum, Tea at the Empress -- walking my legs off and meeting some characters . . . .

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    It was bout 11:30 so I walked back to suze's office, picked up my bag and we walked over to Cutter's for lunch. I had the beer sampler -- three local beers (2 pale ales and a stout-ish brew I don't remember the name of). It was $5 and since most of the beers on the menu were $5 or $5.50,I figured it would just be a few ounces of each. I figured wrong. They were nearly full sized glasses - maybe 6 oz I ended up w/ a bit of a buzz ((B)).

    Stumbled back to Marketa's and was probably asleep before 10PM . . .
    woohoo! You're on vacation! :)
    It was only $2.50 to get to Seattle by rail? Boy, next time we'll skip that cab ride for sure. It PAYS to be patient. :)
    looking forward to day 2.....

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    All this food description is making me very hungry, janis! Keep your report coming! I've been to Seattle but never to Victoria - so can't wait to read about the rest.

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    May 23 -- Gov't House Gardens, Craigdarroch Gardens, Royal BC Museum, Tea at the Empress -- walking my legs off and meeting some characters . . .

    One loose end from yesterday . . . When I let myself in to Marketa's the doors to the two front bedrooms (in the front hall just after passing the teensy office area) were standing open. A middle aged woman was sitting in a chair in one room and a tiny white haired woman was reading the newspaper in the other room. At first it seemed weird-ish to have the rooms open like that. I said "hi" and continued down the hall to my room. I figured the two ladies might have been here a while so might know where the nearest ATM is. I went back front and asked the younger woman. She said her M-i-L across the hall needs to find one too. So I cross the hall and tell her if I find an ATM, I'll be sure to let her know.

    Wellll -- this started a long conversation and I have another BFF :). They were a 3 generation mid 20's daughter, early 50's mother, 87 yomother-in-law from Florida visiting for just a few days while the rest of the clan stayed on Whidby Island. First thing out of MiL's mouth was >>That's very nice of you -- even if you ARE from California!<< Thought she was just kidding -- but it was a theme. Each time we spoke over the next two days she said something like >>everyone knows folks from FL and CA don't get along - but you just prove some of you are OK<< :)

    A couple of days later D-i-L whispered in my ear during B'fast "She REALLY likes you -- how about taking her off our hands for a bit. It might save a manslaughter conviction" :D

    OK - day 2. They supposedly breakfast from 8:30 - 9:00. But they really mean starting then because there is no way they can serve a full house in 30mins. And Tuesday was a FULL house. Every seat was occupied and the FL ladies were out on the deck. I don't know what they would have done if it had been cold or rainy. Fortunately it was a GORGEOUS morning.

    The breakfast menu has something for eveyone -- eggs benedict, eggs florentine, French toast, or just bagels w/ smoked salmon and everything in between. The breakfast menu has something for eveyone EXCEPT for the woman who sat at my table w/ her 5 yo and 14 yo sons. She was most upset that there was nothing she could eat. She went into much detail about her dietary requirements (while the 14 yo dug into french toast and the 5 yo had bagels w/ cream cheese and his first ever smoked salmon, and capers which he ate like candy)

    Apparently she can only eat 5 things - she brings 4 of them and relied on the B&B to provide the non-dairy dairy. They had both soy and rice milk on hand - but that wouldn't do. There was sugar in both. She was outraged (honestly fuming) that she would starve and she could feel her blood sugar levels crashing while the kids were enjoying their meals immensely. This was another theme -- the next morning she fumed that there was only one place in all of Victoria she could find w/ appropriate foodstuffs. I'm sorry -- but if there are only 5 things you can eat, and they have to have specific ingredients, and it is life threatening (that is the term she used) -- wouldn't you darn well bring your own???

    Anyway - I had a wonderful breakfast -- and the two boys were nice table mates, partly making up for the ditzy mom.

    I mentioned to the kids (yes, in Marketa's absence 4 young adults were in charge and managing some pretty complex dishes) that I was going to walk to the Gov't House Gardens, Craigdarroch Castle, the museum and finally tea at 5:15. They said it might look walkable on the map, but it would all be up hill to Government House and a bus would be better. Looking at the map -- by the time I had walked over to Fort St to catch the bus, I would have walked half the distance to Gov't House. So . . . I took the practical way out and walked over to the Coast Hotel and hailed a cab :)

    Man - the gardens are beautiful, and w/ gorgeous views to the mountains across the water. 35 acres, two rose gardens, lots of perennials, alpines and bedding plants mostly tended by volunteers.

    Appearances can be deceiving . . . While I was walking through the gardens I saw a woman coming towards me walking a Welsh Terrier. OK -- here is the first impression part. I live in N.Calif and this lady looked like a very typical character one would often see in the Chinatown neighborhoods in Sacramento or SF. Elderly Chinese woman in a gray high necked jacket, baggy black pants, fabric shoes, sort of shuffling along. What you might call a "Mama san". Around here most of these elderly Chinese women speak little or no English - my friend's grandmother fits the description.

    Well even though I just "knew" she wouldn't understand me -- I said "Hi, is that a Welsh Terrier?" . . . . Not only did she speak perfect English -- she is a retired nurse who studied in Edinburgh, lived in Liverpool, lived in Paris for a couple of years, and had so many adventures to share. I've had Welsh terriers, Airedales and Scotties and so has she. She had just lost her elderly Airedale and the Welsh terrier was pining for her friend. They keep asking her to volunteer in the Garden, but "Those women - they just want to pull up everything and make things too manicured. Let things GROW!" We sat on a bench in that beautiful garden looking at the views for nearly 1/2 and hour. Another BFF!

    I reluctantly pulled myself away and walked the couple of blocks down the hill to Craigdarroch Castle. This is a huge/fascinating/ornate Victorian mansion and you are allowed into almost every room. The most amazing paneling --but interestingly -- not local Fir or redwood, but white pine imported from Chicago. I spent maybe 45 minutes exploring the house and then met a fellow out on the lawn painting really vibrant/almost neon colored images of this dark/Victorian house. By this time it was bloody warm and I decided it was time to head down to the BC museum. Caught a bus just down the road from the castle.

    To be continued -- Royal BC Museum and Tea at the Empress . . .

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    whoo-hoo! hey i've never been in a Trip Report before. this is cool. i'm flattered. thanks for the fun lunch, janisj.

    (socaloc) the Lightrail from the airport is brand new, so probably wasn't yet available unless you've been in Seattle just the past couple months.

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    janis--I am thoroughly enjoying this! Seattle is our second home, if you will. DH lives there during the week actually. Anyway, we too loved Victoria. We found Milestones on our first day and had a nice meal there. I was surprised it was as good as it was. With the location I wasn't expecting much. Can't wait to read the rest!

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    Thanks everyone - here is the rest of day two:

    May 23 cont. - Royal BC Museum and Tea at the Empress . . .

    The bus goes runs from just down the hill from Craigdarroch Castle down Fort St almost to the harbor and only about 4 blocks from the Royal BC Museum. It was a very warm day but w/ the breeze off the water it was fine. I walked to the museum and went up to the ticket window and asked what qualifies as "senior" - I said "darn, I don't qualify, one adult please." She charged me the senior concession price and I said -- "oh -- I don't qualify for the discount."-- And she said "Welcome to Victoria" :)

    This museum is amazing -- there is also an IMax theatre and you can buy a combined ticket. I decided to just concentrate on the museum and the bldgs in the grounds. The museum is basically divided w/ the third floor dedicated to Human History from the First Peoples up to the 20th Century, and the second floor being the Natural History/Animals galleries.

    I went up to the top floor and worked my way south. The displays are really well done -- some of the more modern (19th/20th century) galleries reminded me a lot of the wonderful York Castle museum in England. My only 'issue' was the light levels in most of the First Peoples galleries are extremely low. I know they need to protect the artifacts from light damage -- but I don't think I've been in any museum w/ so many rooms w/ such low light levels.

    Then down to the 2nd floor for the natural history areas. These held some of the best dioramas I've ever seen. I missed by 2 days the opening of the new "Behind the Scenes" exhibit that looks really interesting.

    I went down to the cafe - my booking for tea was not until 5:30 but I didn't want to eat and risk spoiling my appetite. So I had a small beer, phoned home, and then discovered they have an internet cafe. $2 for 20 mins (I think that's right) so I checked my e-mail and just caught up a bit.

    Then I walked back out into the Museum lobby and spotted the 5yo son of the B&B "crazy food lady". I walked up to him and said "Hi, are you having a good time?" He sort of freaked and ran to hide behind his big brother -- and then peeked out and realized it was me and ran back to me and "oh you are from breakfast!" and hugged me. His mom looked none too pleased -- I think she also didn't recognize at first. She finally said "Hi" and left the boys to chat w/ me. She was asking the info desk how long a drive to a campground somewhere up along the NW side of the island (I sure hope she'd found a source for her special foods)

    Hit the very nice museum gift shop -- but exercised total sales resistance :)

    It was 4:15-ish so I wandered out into the grounds where there is an old one-room schoolhouse and the interesting Helmcken House which is apparently the oldest bldg in the city still in its original location.

    On to the Empress - which is basically across the street form the museum.

    I've had tea at the Peninsula in HK and several times at the Ritz in London - and this was just as nice. Only difference - at the other two venues they do re-fill your plates if you eat all of any one item. I'm not sure they don't at the Empress, but my plates were not re-filled.

    I had booked a table for one and immediately upon sitting down, the host brought me a really interesting book about the history of the hotel/family. I glanced around and none of the other tables had any reading material -- I can only assume they offered me the book as an "in case she is uncomfortable sitting solo" diversion. I didn't need the book for that -- but it was a fascinating book and I'll be on the look out for a copy (should have asked when I left but it slipped my mind)

    I started w/ a glass of Champagne and then had the full afternoon tea. I opted for the Empress blend tea The sandwiches included smoked salmon, ginger/carrot cream cheese, curry chicken w/ mango (maybe my fave), minced mushroom/truffle oil, and cucumber. They were all excellent. Plus fresh fruit w/ cream, scones/clotted cream/strawberry preserves, and 5 different pastries/tarts/sweets.

    When she brought the bill - on the tray was a decorative tin of 10 special blend tea bags to take home as a souvenir. Total cost including $12 for the champagne and taxes was $71. I think the tea alone is about $50.

    After wandering around the hotel, checking out the rose garden, scoping the Bengal Room maybe for dinner or lunch Thurs/Fri, and the amazing jewelry shop and art gallery, I walked out around the harbor and through the grounds of the BC Assembly bldg and listened to some really good street performers. Eventually trudged back to Marketa's and fell into bed around 9:30

    Next: May 24 - Butchart, Butchart, Butchart (and sleeping through dinner) . . . .

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    On our trip we hit these same places. I too remember how dim the lighting was in that exhibit, but agree that it is so well done. The entire museum was excellent! DD and I had tea at the Empress one afternoon while the guys went fishing. We didn't need dinner that night as we were still full.

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    "Did you finish all that food?" Yep -- every last crumb :)

    But then again -- it was lunch AND dinner . . . ;)

    (actually I think I did leave one marzipan covered chocolate thingy)

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    May 24 - Butchart, Butchart, Butchart (and sleeping through dinner) . . . .

    After another wonderful breakfast - and again sharing the table w/ the mother, and her sons who are still eating like trenchermen while mom is eating her 'special' diet. She apparently found some sugarless soymilk somewhere in town so got to eat w/ the rest of us. Not sure what the entire diet consists of but it just looked like cereal and fruit to me. I did ask her the morning before what sorts of things she could eat but she never really answered -- instead she went on about she used to weigh 200 lbs, and dyes and prepared foods are killing people. But apparently - not her children :?

    After breakfast I chatted w/ the Florida trio for a while and we watched a bit of the 3rd day of the Isner vs. Mahut Wimbledon match.

    By then it was too late to get one of the early coaches to Butchart Gardens. I walked over to the bus station and caught one sometime after 10:00 - I think about 10:20/10:30.

    Sat next to a very nice woman from Anchorage. We chatted all the way to the Gardens and said we'd look for each other during the day to maybe have lunch together or something. Well - after getting inside the gardens any thought of that was totally out the window. The place was packed.I cannot imagine what it would be like after Canadian schools break for the summer and there are more families on holiday.

    The gardens are absolutely amazing. Almost overwhelming in ways - but really, REALLY beautiful. Sort of like Disneyland for gardeners -- by that I mean not a blade of grass out of place, not a spent bloom to be seen, not a single bit of trash anywhere. One of the Fodorites who posted on my planning thread mentioned that Butchart wasn't his favorite because there "are too many plants" and I now sort of see how one could feel that way. But I still loved the place.

    Not totally sure what parts I enjoyed most. The first view of the sunken garden does take your breath away. There are a couple of routes down into this vast area built w/i the old quarry - and from up top it was amazing to see literally hundreds of people filing down single file like trails of ants. I honestly don't know how they'd manage the crowds in high season.

    The roses garden was beautiful of course (and even more packed than the sunken gardens). Every rose was clearly named - which wasn't the case in some of the other areas. The whole rose garden was surrounded by really tall/lush lupines so it was an absolute riot of colour. Somehow, even w/ the thousands of people - they never really got in the way of enjoying the views/flowers.

    The Japanese Garden was a bit quieter and nearby is the cove w/ all the boats and really pretty views.

    They have a plant identification centre and I popped by there assuming I'd have to try to describe the flowers that I didn't know -- but they had a display w/ about 75 small vases each holding single blooms or leaves and w/ the Latin and common name of each. Both plants I wanted info about happened to be there and the woman staffing the counter was very helpful.

    I circled most of the Gardens but not everything in about 2 hours so decided to stop for lunch in the main restaurant (and giving upon ever finding my Alaskan friend). The place was booked up and the group ahead of me was told there would be an approx 25-30 minute wait. But for some reason when I next stepped up to the hostess, she said they could seat me as soon as they finished setting a table (?). I ended up out on the open air terrace (where I wanted to be in the first place since it overlooks the Rose Garden, Italian Gdn, a big lawn and the water in the distance). For a moment I was the only one sitting out there - but w/i about 10 minutes 5 other tables were occupied. It was the PERFECT place to sit!.

    I started w/ a glass of champagne (see a trend here :) ) and had a sort of roasted veg pannini w/ portobello mushroom, asparagus, sundried tomatoes, arugula and some sort of cheese. It was absolutely delicious. Followed by a creme brulee, which I didn't totally finish but was tasty.

    After lunch I wandered around for about another hour and made a second trek through the rose garden. Unfortunately -- I'd had a very slightly ingrown toenail that was rubbing against the end of my shoe. It was a bit annoying but not very sore -- UNTIL - a little boy who was standing on a small rock posing for his father, decided at that moment to jump backwards off the rock and land squarely on that toe. OMG it felt like I'd been stabbed in my foot! The poor kid - he didn't even realize anyone was behind him and I'm sure I scared the bejeezus out of him. I was really hobbled so I hit the gift shop and then caught the coach back to central Victoria.

    In all I spent about 4.5-5 hours in the gardens and that was a good amount of time - the crowds were a bit much in places but all in all a totally enjoyable day - except for the foot.

    From the bus station I (slowly) walked back to Marketa's. Then remembered I wanted to hit an ATM before checking out the next morning. I got a metal bowl out of the kitchen and filled it w/ hot water and salt and soaked my toe/foot for about 20 mins before walking to the convenience store just down the street where there is an ATM. I asked them where the nearest pharmacy was and (just like asking directions in England) >>Oh it's not far, just down two blocks, around the corner and you can't miss it<<. Well that 2 block walk was really about 6 blocks and my foot was killing me. But find it I did, bought outgro and bandaids and walked back to Marketta's.

    I decided I didn't want to walk far for dinner and the convenience shop had some decent looking sandwiches. Knowing the shop closes at 9PM and it only being about 6:45 I decide to soak my foot a bit more, watch some telly and hit the store around 8-8:30. Well - next thing I know -- I open my eyes and the clock radio shines 9:20. Slept a good 2 hours! So dinner that night was a banana from the kitchen and plain chocolate digestive biscuits from my stash.

    next: Friday: Chinatown, a little shopping, lunch at the Empress, and riding co-pilot on the seaplane back to Seattle

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    June 25: Chinatown, a little shopping, lunch at the Empress, and riding co-pilot on the seaplane back to Seattle

    Got a good (great actually) night's sleep and my foot felt a little better. Another really good Marketa's breakfast. Not sure b'fasts I had which mornings - but the three were 1) regular cooked breakfast w/ 2 poached eggs, bacon, sausage, toast, fresh fruit; 2) Bagel/cream cheese, smoked salmon, fruit; and 3) Eggs Benedict, fruit.

    I packed, paid my bill and made arrangement to leave my bag in the residents lounge and pick it up later. It was the 4th straight day of glorious weather and I walked back to the harbor, by to the Kenmore seaplane terminal just to see where exactly I had to check in and then to Chinatown. Probably this was the least memorable thing my whole time in Victoria.Not sure exactly what I was expecting - and there is a decorative gateway similar to San Francisco, London and other places. And maybe w/ more time and a less gimpy foot I would have found more of interest. Looked into a few shops and bought some tea but that was really about all.

    I walked back towards the harbor and down Government street and stopped in Lush and the Bay department store. Picked up a couple of small things in Lush that I haven't seen in my local shops and was tempted by several things in the Bay (assuming that is a shortening of Hudson Bay???) as they were having some terrific sales. But I resisted.

    It was about 11AM and I walked back to the Empress -- there is an amazing fire opal & diamond ring in the jewelery shop that keeps calling my name and I had to check it out once more just to make sure I could live w/o it :). Thought I might eat in the Bengal Room - very nice decor and I'd read the menus earlier and they looked interesting.

    But - it was such a gorgeous day, I really wanted a water view and preferably outside seating. The Empress Veranda would be seating at 11:30 so I sat on a bench out by the street/harbor and waited maybe 10 mins just soaking up the sun and sea air. I ordered a ploughman's - and ya know - I can't remember if I had another glass of champagne or an ale -- it all sort of blurs after a while ;)

    The ploughman's was "Empress-fied" w/ a sort apricot puree instead of Branston Pickle - things like that. Three wonderful cheeses, sort of mild chorizo-like sausages, cold cuts, salad, toasted bread and crackers. It was excellent.

    It was a little cool on the the terrace but not uncomfortable and my cardigan was all I really needed. They do have those gas heaters and each chair has a lap rug draped over the back just in case.

    I was supposed to check in for the 3PM flight at 2:00 and it was nearing 1:00, so I walked through the rose garden once more and sat a while. If my foot wasn't sore-ish, walking from the Empress to Marketa's and back to Kenmore wouldn't have been bad at all -- my bag was small and light and wheeled. But I had CA$ left (not many though :D ) so I went to the taxi queue at the front of the Empress and explained I want to go to the B&B, have him wait while I got my bag and then on to Kenmore. We were half way up Superior St when the cabbie realized he hadn't flipped the meter. He did it then, but I knew it had to be at least $3 or $4 short.

    At Marketa's the front door is kept locked so I showed the cab drive where he could turn around at the rear and I went up the back steps and into the kitchen. The young folks who had been holding down the fort were all in there chatting to a woman w/ a definite arty/semi-exotic look to her. This was Marketa herself and while we only spoke sort of in passing she seemed really nice and I can see her personality in the place.

    Picked up the bag, back down the stairs to the waiting cab and on to the seaplane terminal. I said he should tack some extra on to the fare to cover the meter shortage, but he wouldn't. So I just topped up my tip to make up for it.

    I was a little early but what the heck - you need to check in early for an international flight, eh?

    It was then I found out the flight was delayed due to bad weather in Seattle. Huh? It was glorious in Victoria but I guess so foggy in Seattle that their schedule had been affected all day long. It was now clear enough in Seattle but the domino effect was still being felt. They estimated 4PM but would know more around 3:15-ish.

    OK what to do now - the plan was land at Lake Union at 4:00, take the Kenmore shuttle to SeaTac arrive at 5PM and fly out on Southwest at 6:40. I might make it - but not if the flight was delayed past 4:00.

    The Kenmore agent printed out my SW earlybird boarding pass so I wouldn't have to deal w/ that on the rush and I called Southwest to ask about later flights. That was the last flight of the day to SMF - so it we'd either make the 6:40 or I'd be staying a night in Seattle (which wouldn't have been a disaster)

    I walked around for about an hour and returned at 3:00 to see i there was an update. Allis well - they were now looking at a 3:30-3:40 departure. The plane came in just about 3:15 and the captain did his paperwork/loo break/whatever and we were ready to board @ 3:35. He asked if anyone would like to sit up front w/ him? Moi!!!

    What a kick! This was a single engine, 10 passenger float plane. The bags are stacked in the rear w/ a net enclosure and there is one seat on each side of the aisle. No problem reaching the overheads - there are no overheads :). We had 8 passengers plus the cutest dog. She was likely a Papillon/chiuaua/something else cute mix and was coming home to Seattle w/ her 'parents' after spending a month on their boat. She wasn't in a carrier/kennel - just walked around and got cuddles from everyone and then laid down on the floor before we took off.

    Takeoff was very VERY smooth. The weather was still beautiful and the water/islands/mountain views were amazing. But as we got closer to Seattle it did get dark/gloomy/high fog. The landing was pretty bumpy but not scary or anything. They do come in fast, that's for sure. The only iffy thing about the whole flight is boarding/disembarking. It is via a 5 step ladder w/ VERY narrow rungs and you have to step down from the dock and then up into the plane, and the reverse when you land. I was OK -- but I can see it would be difficult for some.

    We landed about 4:45 and I though "no worries - they said the shuttle would take off as soon as I cleared Customs". Not. They had to wait from another couple who was coming in on another delayed flight. The Driver said 'not to worry' - or words to that effect, 'the traffic isn't bad'.

    We finally left about 5:15 and the traffic was HORRIBLE (this was Friday afternoon after all, how could it be anything else). But really - once we got outside of Seattle proper it opened up and we did make up some time. He dropped me at Southwest about 6:10-ish maybe a tick earlier, and I figured if security was awful I could beg to jump the queue.

    I rush in and . . . nobody was there. Well, not NO body but practically on one. There were all these ropes for a looooong security line - and there exactly 4 people in front of me. At 6PMon a Friday night??? It still took me about 5 mins to get through because I kept setting off the alarm and stripping down and trying again. I always wear a very narrow 14carat gold bangle and never once has it set off the machine - nowhere in the world. But it did this time.

    Oh well, we got that sorted out and I made it to my gate in w/ time to spare - even had time to but a croisandwich from one of the foodshops.

    Flight was totally uneventful and w/ my low number boarding pass I got my choice of seats. Landed on time and since I didn't have to wait for luggage I was across the terminal and in my car in less than 5 minutes.

    Four fabulous days in Victoria (w/ a bit of Seattle as a bonus). It was a little short - I think 5 days would be about perfect for Victoria - more if you rent a car and explore more of the island. But I managed to see a lot and eat a lot and sleep a lot and walk my legs off.

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    What a wonderful short getaway. And isn't it wonderful when the timing works out like your does? (although I guess if a person was high strung they might have been a little stressed)

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    Oh - I was a little stressed -- but was still jazzed from the float plane flight. As I described it on another thread - that was an E ticket (for those old enough to know what an E Ticket is)

    So I was in a great mood- and the stress level never got TOO high ;)

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    Glad you enjoyed your visit to Victoria, Janis. Seems like that was the right choice! You packed in a lot... and taking the two different modes of transportation there and back was a great idea.
    I've been away in Alberta and just got back this evening, so I read your report in one fell swoop. It makes me want to head over to the Island myself.

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    You had a fabulous trip janisj! Thanks for the great read! You are quite talented describing all the characters you met along your journey. And yes, I saw a 'pattern' and good for you! It's 5 o'clock somewhere. :)

    (suze) thanks for the clarity regarding the Lightrail. I thought we might have missed it since we just ran out of SeaTac and grabbed the first cab.

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    janis - I really enjoyed your report. Now you have to come back and spend longer - see the rest of the Island!

    By the way your comment about "E Ticket" I think it should be those who are "young" enough to know what that is!!!

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    On your next visit try to get down to the west coast. there aren't many seascapes like it. Huge pines thrown up on the beaches like matchsticks. Wildlife everywhere - in and out of the sea but too many dark shapes in the woods.

    We had a week in Sooke - second best week we ever lived.

    Loved Victoria - the Savannah of the east. More character in its' little finger than Vancouver could ever muster.

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    Very much enjoyed reading your TR Janisj. You sure packed a lot into 4 days.

    All the younger members of my family make it a point to stay at Markettas and they love it. My nephew is an artist, and she and him get along famously. 2 Years ago he stayed a week with her while he set up an exhibition of his work at The Empress and she was of invaluable assistance to him.

    Speaking of the Empress, did you visit the Native art shop in the concourse level (1 below ground) ? It has the most amazing contemporary Native art I've ever seen. I saw a few pieces that I'd love to add to my small collection (those animated masks that incorporate native spiritual icons), but my Lotto numbers didn't come up that day.

    Butchart gardens is an unbelieveable treasure and your description of it did fair justice. I'm an avid gardener myself and was in 7th heaven for the 6 hours we were there. Did you see the neatly laid out squares of checkered material on the grass lawn with packed wicker baskets set upon each, waiting for those who had pre-ordered a picnic lunch ? What a cool idea !
    We went in July when the summer blooms were in full swing and then stayed on for the firework show at 10.00pm, one of the most unique I have ever seen. Everyone sits on a grassy slope in front of a lake, and on perfect cue, the music starts up and these mechanical contraptions attached to high wires move out from among the trees surrounding the lake, while automated boats and canoes glide across the lake, all bearing lit fireworks that go off in time to the music, and are reflected in the lake. Stunning.

    Next time, and since you seem like an adventurous sort, who invites excitement and interesting company if she doesn't follow it :) , rent a car and drive to Tofino. Its an easy 3 hour drive and the scenery - both en route and when you get there - is stupendous.

    Thanks for the report.


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    Taggie: "taking the two different modes of transportation there and back was a great idea. That was sort of an accident. Someone (I think Gardyloo) suggested flying - I didn't even know it was a possibility.

    The timings were better to ferry over and fly back. Ended up giving me about 4 extra hours in Victoria -- PLUS the E Ticket factor :)

    SOCALOC: If you get to Seattle again - the light rail is just terrific. Only problem was the recorded lady kept announcing the wrong stations. The poor kid (marine haircut/chatty guy) was really nervous about that. Guess the driver couldn't just turn her off??

    Traveler69: You gave me so many good tips - Thanks bunches.

    Markrosy: That sounds amazing. Yes - I'd really like to go back and explore more of the area.

    Mathieu: Staying for the fireworks was on the radar - but it would have been such a loooong day and once I hurt my foot I gave that up. And yes, the Native art shop was more like a museum than a 'store'. Some unbelievable pieces.

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    I enjoyed reading the rest of your report. I'm glad you seemed to appreciate Butchart's Gardens as much as I did. I love some of your phrasing of your visuals (i.e, "a riot of colour") and I equally found the first sight of the Sunken Garden absolutely breathtaking. You know, somehow I feel that for Butchart's that the word "Gardens" strikes me as a bit misleading: to my eyes, a bit of an understatement or somehow not quite pinpointing what the experience is? Sure, there are "gardens" but the experience felt to me more than a "garden". However, I struggle to find another way of describing the place; Butchart's Quarry of Floral and Boreal Majesty for example doesn't quite work and sounds a bit over-the-top LOL ;). Ah well, I suppose "garden" will do.

    Thanks for taking the time to share your experience.

    Best wishes, Daniel

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    7 Sea otters, 3 Deer, 6 purple huge starfish, 50 seals, one black bear, a racoon, hedgehog, 3 bald eagles, crabs the size of footballs - that's what we saw in 3 hours on a walk from our cottage in Sooke.

    The casual eating (ie pub food) was the best we have ever had.

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    Hello Janisj,

    Glad you enjoyed your trip. We did a similar trip in 2006 covering Seattle, Vancouver and Victoria. Our favorite places were the Royal BC Museum, Butchart Gardens and the Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver which is really stunning too. DH took a photo in the Italian gardens of Butchart gardens by this glass globe to make it look like we were stuck in the globe with the gardens surrounding us--a fabulous photo. In Vancouver, the Queen Elizabeth park is free and the landscaping is just amazing. There was a bride and groom there at the time taking wedding photos.

    I am trying to settle back in from our European adventure. Will write my trip report of Paris and London soon. Thanks for all your advice.

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    Hi Janisj,
    Your trip report was inspiring. You have given me some good ideas and I hope to be able to follow in your footsteps one day. I will be spending an evening in Victoria in the beginning of September since it is one of the ports of call on the Alaskan cruise I am taking. I think I could get a good taste of the place and plan to walk around.
    Thank you very much

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    Janisj, you were right in my territory (Seattle) and I didn't know! And furthermore we're just back from a trip to California, flying into/out of Sacramento.

    I've really enjoyed your helpful posts about Britain. It would have been nice to organize a slightly bigger GTG.

    I love the BC museum. It's one of my favorites along with the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver. However, I've kind of boycotted Victoria in late years since they insist on dumping raw sewage into the strait.

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    I loved the float plane adventure too -
    glad you enjoyed Victoria- I have family who live there so visit at least once a year.
    Its a beautiful city and sounds like you did a great job seeing most of it.

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