Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A feast for the senses

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

ESQUIMALT — Sights, sounds, scents and flavours tickled our senses throughout this lovely day. With all the things we wanted to see and do, it took some figuring and discussing to work out how we would attempt to accomplish everything. But we managed it all.
The Butchart Gardens were at the top of our list of activities, and we decided to let our GPS lead us there by typing the famous landmark into the little gadget. Then we sat back to follow its directions, but after a few unlikely turns, we began to doubt its choice of routes. We were taken along a very secondary, twisty, bumpy road through farms and wild areas that were quite picturesque but certainly did not appear to be the approach to a world famous garden that draws visitors by the millions! When our patience was almost at its limit, we finally saw the first sign and sure enough, we arrived at our destination. Our return route, we decided, would definitely not be the reverse of what we had just experienced.
The gardens themselves were gorgeous. I had been there some years ago, but it was Val’s first visit. We were both enthralled by the expansive beds of begonias, roses, dahlias and snapdragons, as well as the hundreds of brightly coloured flowers and trees with names unknown to us. Fortunately, we had a handy guidebook to give us the names, classified by colour. The pictures of the bleak limestone quarry that existed there before the Butcharts set to work on their garden were quite a contrast to the beauty around us. There were hundreds of visitors there, speaking languages from every continent. Every now and then the scent of roses or other blooms was carried on the breeze, and we heard the cooling sound of trickling streams and splashing fountains as well.
Taking a much shorter and more direct route, we returned to our campground for lunch, locked up the camper and set out on foot along the boardwalk toward the centre of town. It was a lovely walk, with the harbour on our right the whole way, and parks and condos on our left. We didn’t go the whole way in to town, because our plan was to connect with the Big Bus near a restaurant called Spinnakers. It’s the same hop-on, hop-off tour bus system we used in Vancouver, and that was the closest spot for us to meet up with it.
The bus gave us a 20-stop tour, with commentary, through all of Victoria, including Chinatown, the antiques area, the tony Oak Bay section with its well-groomed mansions, and the harbour. We hopped off near the Empress Hotel to see about stepping in for a spot of tea. When we learned that the pleasure of such a visit would set us back $120, we quickly changed our minds! We couldn’t believe it.
Back on the tour bus, we continued the circuit until we got back to our starting point. It was just about time for supper, so we stopped in at Spinnakers and had an absolutely scrumptious meal. Val had wild BC salmon fettucine, in a sauce with mussels, spinach and coconut milk. The noodles were made on the premises and cooked to a perfect al dente. I chose the fish and chips with garden salad – the fish was salmon for me as well, in a light tempura batter. The chips were crisp outside and soft inside, and the salad had lots of interesting greens and a lovely dressing. Our server told us that the restaurant prides itself on locally grown produce and home made items such as the vinegar and the desserts. Val ordered fresh, homemade raspberry sorbet (fabulous) and I had three delicious dark chocolate truffles, also made on the premises. It was delicious from start to finish and the bill came to $53 for the whole thing! Forget the Empress!
We strolled back to the marina and our camper truck as the sun set on another wonderful day.

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