We've come to Sidney, a suburb of Victoria which lies on a peninsula just north of the capital. It is a major transportation hub and we're here to take the ferry back to Washington state. An international airport, another big ferry that takes people to Vancouver and some smaller ones that link little islands are also here. Back in the day a railroad was also in the picture. Originally, we thought about taking the ferry that goes into Vancouver and traveling on into British Columbia to the Okanagon Valley, but we're running out of time. We've been gone from home long enough. People have told us that Sidney is a popular place for retirees to live. When we wandered around downtown nearly everyone we saw had gray hair, but that is often the case when we are out and about during the time when most younger people are at work.
We didn't plan on visiting Butchart Gardens once again, having enjoyed them twice on cruises, but they're just around the corner and on cruise stops we felt somewhat rushed. The guide book said to plan on spending two hours here. This time we spent the better part of a day and really saw it all. Mr. Butchart bought the land for its limestone in the late 1800's and made a fortune producing concrete for the growing Pacific coast. He profited greatly from the reconstruction of San Francisco after the earth quake in 1906. Once all the limestone quarries were empty, his wife looked at the holes and saw the opportunity to create a garden there. Her first attempt was a Japanese garden, which she planted near the shore. The sunken garden fit easily into the quarried land and was followed by an Italian garden and a rose garden. The grounds stayed in the family until World War II, when all the able bodied men went overseas and there was no one left to tend the plants. The Butcharts tried to donate the land to the province, but it didn't want the responsibility either. After the war a Butchart grandson took on the responsibility and worked to recreate and build on his grandmother's work. Today a great granddaughter is raking in the cash and maintaining the garden as a world class destination. Even though no cruise ships were in port today, bus loads of international tourists clogged up the paths and we were glad we had come early to see most of it in more serenity. We were especially taken with the blindingly bright orange athletic shoes the Asian visitors wore as they took selfies every ten feet.
The azaleas are finished for the season and the roses were just starting to bloom, but there were so many other blossoms to enjoy. I especially like the dual color varieties of peonies that I've never seen before. Ken busied himself taking photographs, working especially hard to capture the bees that were enjoying the flowers just as much as we were. We took a boat ride in the cove from the garden and saw some lovely homes with lovely views of the water. Some people live in boats anchored in the area.