Monday, May 20, 2013

Victoria to Butchart Gardens, Part 1

Butchart Gardens, British Columbia
A man in dark slacks and vest, with medium-length wavy grey-brown hair and wire-rimmed glasses, stands next to the coach. He introduces himself as Lyle, our driver. In his early-sixties and slight of build, Lyle speaks with a lilting cadence that makes everything sound like a question. He could be a character out of a Kids in the Hall sketch, played by Mark McKinney.

Lyle is so stereotypically Canadian that it's difficult to keep from smiling whenever... well, whenever he does anything. His anecdotes are torpedoed by odd tangents, and punctuated by nervous laughter and sighs of “ANY-way” that connect non sequiturs.

After apologizing for being 5 minutes late and then admitting that he is 15 minutes early instead of his usual 20, Lyle takes our tickets and welcomes us aboard. Sandra and I sit on the right side toward the back, and soon the coach fills with people much older than we are.

The gentleman across the aisle notices me taking notes by hand and taps my shoulder. “It's so unusual to see someone doing that,” he says, pointing at my spiral-bound book. “Everyone uses a computer nowadays.” He points at the book again. “I like it.”

“So do I.”

Lyle fires up the engine and starts us on our 21-kilometer (when in Canada...) jaunt to Butchart Gardens. He has lived here his whole life and tells us about the city, the gardens, and Vancouver Island.

We learn about Victoria's architecture and the Empress Hotel, famous for its high tea. Government Street is the oldest street west of the Canadian Rockies. There are more than 700 restaurants in town. Blanshard Street is named after Richard Blanshard, the first governor of British Columbia, and is home to Andrew Carnegie Public Library.

Gold was discovered here in 1858, shortly after British Columbia became an official colony of Britain. Migration from California during the Gold Rush increased a settlement of 600 to more than 20,000.

The city of Victoria now has a population around 80,000, with a greater metropolitan area around 350,000. This constitutes roughly half of the people that live on Vancouver Island, which at nearly 300 miles long is the largest island on the West Coast of North or South America. The island is named after Captain George Vancouver of the British Royal Navy.

Lyle could go on, and does, but that's a story for another day.


  1. Still enjoying every stop on this trip, and all the miles between. Haven't been to Victoria since a family road trip when I was about twelve. My mom was from Vancouver, B.C., so we were there to see family, as well as the beautiful (astonishing even to a twelve-year-old) town.

    I gotta think there's a great book in this blog, and probably several more great books in you.

  2. Thanks, Lance. I'm glad you're digging our journey.

    The little time we spent in Victoria whetted our appetite. I would love to take a future trip just to Seattle, Victoria, and Vancouver. Maybe one day we will.