Thursday, July 21, 2016

So Long Anacortes and Fidalgo Island

Our month long stay is up and it's time to move on to those new places to see and explore.  Anacortes, the wonderful seaside town located on the northern tip of Fidalgo Island, has been almost the perfect home base for us.  We enjoyed so many elements that the town had to offer. Strolling the Anacortes and San Cap Marinas and viewing them from Cap Sante Park Viewpoint, enjoying the surrounding quaint communities and fishing villages, local casinos and tasty restaurants. With the added bonus of a surprise visit from our RVing friends, John and Suzanne, this month was most memorable.  Here are a few left over highlights of our stay on Fidalgo Island.

The Anacortes Farmers Market is a highlight everyone should see.  It's held every Saturday morning.  We went there 4 times!

We loved visiting the historic waterfront village of Le Conner..

Driving northwards to the city of Bellingham, we accidentally came upon the quaint village of Edison.  Established in 1869, it's the home town of Edward R. Morrow.  Art galleries and bread shops were there for our "poking around" pleasure.

One of the most scenic and historic highways in Washington is the Chuckanut Drive, Hwy 11.  It winds along the mountain side of the Chuckanut Mountains, offering gorgeous Samish Bay vistas, hiking trails up into the hillsides and delicious oysters.

Folks on the waterfront, enjoying their freshly steamed oysters bought at Taylor Shellfish Farms.  We got some and cooked our own back at our campsite. They were fresh and excellent.

View of the Samish Bay and the oyster farms.

Panoramic views of Anacortes from the Cap Sante Park Viewpoint.

Exploring Anacortes up close and personal with our friends, John and Suzanne.

We have since moved on to Portland, Oregon where we plan to be there for a couple of weeks.  Farmers markets, breweries, the Columbia River, Mount Hood, more notable gardens and the Willamette Valley..

More Later.

Victoria, Vancouver Island

Arriving by ferry from Anacortes to Vancouver Island, we had a smooth but lengthy 3 hour trip. The Washington Ferry System delivered us to Sidney, British Columbia and from there we drove on to visit the Butchart Gardens.  Once we were finished at the gardens, we drove northward to the city of Victoria, the capitol of British Columbia.

We checked into our hotel, located in the downtown middle harbor district.  We enjoyed strolling the various city blocks looking at shoppes, galleries and restaurant pubs.  We also found the city to be busy, hustling with folks going here and there.  We saw all kinds of people from families and tourists like ourselves to business men and women.
There were also plenty of "characters" playing musical instruments for what ever cash donations they might receive.

Chinatown was a couple of blocks from our hotel as well.  We just had to stroll down the sidewalk and see the unusual wares for sale.

Walking from block to block, amazed at all of the cultural sites, we soon found ourselves at the lower harbor section.  The Centennial Square Area is where the Provincial Legislature, the Empress Hotel and the CoHo Loading Bay for the cruise ships are all located.  It was fascinating to watch the busy harbor, eyeing all the yacht traffic and watching the sea planes land.

We saw lots of excellent public art but as evening was falling, the sunlight was fading.  I found it a challenge to take photos with just my cell phone so I gave up and just enjoyed the stroll soaking up all of the unusual visual sights!

The Fairmont Empress Hotel, built around 1908 is one of the oldest and most famous hotels in Victoria.  We didn't take time to go inside, we were just so tired at this point..maybe next time. From the outside, the hotel's architecture and elegant appearance reminded me of the Biltmore Estate, which was built around 1889-1895.

View of the Provincial Legislature Building.  We were too tired to walk over there too.

We've walked about 8 blocks by now and it's time to head back to our hotel for some rest.  The city of Victoria has so much diversity with so many different types of experiences to explore.  There's Fisherman's Wharf, Beacon Hill Park, Craigdarroch Castle and several interesting historic villages within the city limits. We definitely want to come back and spend more time here exploring all the museums, galleries, cafes and city parks.

We're up bright and early the next morning to explore Vancouver Island before we have to be back at Sidney to board the ferry.  We take the southwestern drive (Hwy 14) through the village of Sooke to French Beach Provincial Park.  Walking down the paved path to the beach is exciting, we can hear the waves crashing into the shore and we smell the salt air. 

It's stunning!  The rocky shore, lined with lots of drift wood..and "drift trees" is a wonderful sight to see. It's an unspoiled beach with just a few visitors this day.  It's still a little foggy on the horizon so the Olympic Mountains across the Strait of Juan De Fuca are obscured a bit

  1. Time flies while we're having fun and before we know it, it's time to drive northward back to Sidney.  We don't want to miss our ferry and we just plan to eat a late lunch there.  After a meal of delicious Greek food, we enjoyed walking the Sidney waterfront, admiring their public art.  Gotta love those pirates!

Our ferry ride returning us back to Anacotes is uneventful, we pass through US Customs and arrive back to our motorhome ready to relax. 

Our brief trip to Vancouver Island goes by way too quickly.  No doubt, it's on our list of places to revisit because we left way to many shoppes, galleries, pubs, museums and beautiful unspoiled beaches yet explored.

More Later

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Butchart Gardens

Somehow, I accidentally published the photographs for this blog before I wrote the narration.  Here's our story to go with the pictures.

One place we really wanted to visit before we left Washington and the San Juan Islands was the city of Victoria and the Butchart Gardens.  Since we were in the area, we made the decision to take advantage of our convenient location to the Washington Ferry System for transportation to Sidney and also our friends John and Suzanne were willing to check in on Little Boy for us.  We were only gone one night, but we crammed in as much sightseeing and interesting experiences as we could for the short time we were there.
We took the Ferry from Anacortes to Sidney on Vancouver Island, the trip taking approximately 3 hours.  Once on the Island, our first stop was the internationally famous Butchart Gardens.  We strolled the gardens for about 3 hours, constantly stopping to marvel at the colors of the flowers, the textures of the various plants and the almost intoxicating sweet smell from the mass of flowers we saw at almost every turn.

The Gardens have a unique history as they are constructed on a used-up limestone quarry.  Jennie Butchart had the idea to beautify her husband, Robert Butchart's, spent quarry with exotic plants, trees and flowers they collected from their travels abroad.  The Gardens, encompassing about 55 acres, showcases the world famous "Sunken Garden", the Japanese, Rose, Italian and Mediterranean gardens.  These wonderful gardens celebrated their 100th year anniversary in 2004.  They are still owned by the Butchart Family, receiving over a million visitors a year.  On this day, it was crowded as well.

Views of the Dinning Room Restaurant, once the historic home of Jennie and Robert Pim Butchart.

Walking into the gardens, you are immediately enveloped into the colors and textures of the flowers and plants.  The paths wind and meander throughout the various garden plantings offering surprise areas of popping color and then suddenly you are in restful, quiet green zones to calm and allow reflection.

The Sunken Gardens were quite the spectacle. It was like looking at a paint palette.

The Ross Fountain, installed in1964 for the Garden's 60th anniversary, was a constant changing formation of dancing water.  It was so entertaining to watch!

The Children's Pavilion and Carousel was a surprise to see, we weren't expecting to see this unusual art form amongst all the trees, flower gardens and dancing water fountains! There are 30 hand-carved wooden animals and they are so beautifully painted.

The Dragon Fountain was a gift from the People's Republic of China and Victoria's sister city Suzhou.

The Rose Garden is surrounded by stunning arches covered with twining vines and huge, colorful hanging baskets.

The Rose Gardens peak in July and August.  Oh my! The smell of all these roses was unforgettable!

There are many, many varieties of Hybrid Tea Roses with their name, country of origin and the year they were registered with the American Rose society.

The Japanese Garden provided a quiet, peaceful respite from all the high color and intense sunlight.  It was like experiencing two different and night, light and dark, shade and sun, noise and quiet.

The Star Pond is unique in that it was originally designed to showcase Mr. Butchart's collection of ornamental ducks. 

Entrance way into the Italian Garden

The Italian Garden was once the Butchart's tennis court and the long, narrow building to the left housed their bowling alley.

The Show Greenhouse Garden was a special treat.  There was only one window to peep through, it was like looking into a kaleidoscope.

Once we finished our tour of the Butchart Gardens, we drove on to the city of Victoria, about 25 miles south of Sidney.  No doubt, our visit to the Butchart Gardens will be a highlight in our RV travels. 
More later.