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Victoria, B.C., August 16, 2001

The Victoria ExpressToday, we took the Victoria Express across the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Port Angeles to Victoria, B.C. We took the Express because it is faster than the other option - a vehicle-carrying ferry. The ride took an hour. Once in Victoria, we took two tours on the London-style red double-decker sight seeing buses. One tour, the Grand City Tour, took in Victoria's finest neighborhoods. The other included Butchart Gardens.

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The Butchart Gardens - Fifty acres of floral finery offering spectacular views as you stroll along meandering paths and expansive lawns. In 1904, the concept of The Butchart Gardens began with an effort to beautify a worked-out quarry site on the 130-acre estate of Mr. and Mrs. R.P. Butchart, pioneers in the manufacture of Portland Cement in Canada. Their endeavour became a family commitment to horticulture and hospitality spanning more than 90 years and delighting visitors from all over the world.
Carrying on their founders' work, The Butchart Gardens today has established an international reputation for the continuous display of flowering plants. Each year over 1,000,000 bedding plants in some 700 varieties are used throughout the Gardens to ensure uninterrupted bloom from March through October.
During the month of July and into August, the changing beds of annuals, each supplying non-stop colour, welcome the perennials to the show. The roses in all their different forms - climbing, rambling and standard - continue to delight.
The Saturday evening Firework nights from June 30 through September 1 are extremely popular especially with younger visitors. There is also musical entertainment each day from Monday to Saturday as well as the nightly illuminations.
HEAVY TRAFFIC PERIODS: During peak visitor season, June through September, they experience heavy congestion of the paths and facilities prior to 3:00 pm.
From the exquisite Sunken Garden to the charming Rose Garden, this 50-acre show-place still maintains the gracious traditions of the past, in one of the loveliest corners in the world.
In September, the displays of tuberous begonias and dahlias reach their zenith. In the perennial borders towering shocks of red, gold and blues of lychnis, solidago and fall asters form a bulwark against the shortening days. Hanging baskets, hydrangeas and fuchsias prolong the summer's glory.
The Butchart Gardens offers a discounted rate to groups of 25 or more adults who arrive by bus and pay together in one sum. The bus driver and tour escort are admitted to The Gardens free of charge and receive a voucher for a drink and a light snack at the Coffee Shop. For groups of 24 or less, the regular adult rate applies.
We started our Victoria tour on an Open Top City Tour. Starting from Victoria's lovely inner harbour we proceed toward the city centre, through the historic old town and Chinatown, passing the many churches and cathedrals, then on to the University district, making a stop atop Mt. Tolmie for unsurpassed views over southern Vancouver Island. Continuing through the exclusive Uplands residential district, we travelled through the quaintly "British" municipality of Oak Bay along the scenic Marine Drive, passing through the links of the Victoria Gold Cuub and Beacon Hill before returning to the starting point - Empress Hotel.
The British Columbia Parliament Buildings are a magnificent feat of architecture. Tile mosaics and elegant stonework make this building a landmark of the community. We took a very interesting guided tour of this building while parliament was in session.
The Jewel of the Pacific, The Empress is one of Victoria's highlights. Cresting the city's Inner Harbour, this 460-room hotel was built in the Edwardian style and recently restored to its original grandeur, with antique furniture and luxurious décor. Considered to be the most photographed attraction on Vancouver Island, The Empress was originally designed by Francis Rattenbury, and opened in 1908.
In true British tradition, the hotel is famous for its elegant Afternoon Tea - served to over 75 000 visitors annually! Savour tea in the finest tradition, accompanied by berries and Chantilly cream, scones, crumpets, preserves, sandwiches, pastries and tarts. All served with silver service in the main lobby! Reservations are necessary and must be made directly with the hotel, a week or two in advance (250) 384-8111. Tables are held for 10 minutes after reservation time.
. The placement of flower baskets on lampposts every June has signaled the start of summer in Victoria for over 60 years. First introduced to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Victoria's incorporation in 1937, they are now a trademark of the City of Victoria recognized around the world.
In the first week of May a crew of six gardeners begins construction of over 1000 hanging baskets. This process takes approximately four weeks. After the baskets are made, they remain in the greenhouses for one week before being moved outside to acclimatize to the conditions they will encounter on the streets. During the second week of June the baskets are placed on the City's signature lampposts.

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