Since we are still not sure how to best spend our time here, we headed downtown to the main tourist info office and spoke to a young woman who had never been more than halfway north on Vancouver Island. She assured us that people don't understand how big the island is - it can take ten hours to drive from Victoria to the top. She said this after we told her we had driven here all the way from Chicago. So we picked up the brochures and maps from the racks in the office and thanked her for her time. Our GPS says that it shouldn't take us more than seven hours to do the entire length of the island. I think we learned more from our fellow campers who assured us that we were welcome to stay on, should Trump become president.
We drove along the Victoria coastline, admiring the well kept homes and flower gardens that we also admired when we were in Maritime Canada last summer. The fortunate few had homes right on the ocean, but every so often there was a park on the coast giving access to everyone less fortunate. We can't remember the last time we saw so many people out and about, walking, bike riding and throwing sticks at their dogs. Perhaps with this mild climate, getting out for exercise becomes a habit, because it's never too hot or too cold. The marine layer of clouds had a few cracks in it, revealing the distant Cascade Mountains from Washington State.
We stopped at Craigdarroch Castle. While hardly a castle, this imposing building was the home of a Scottish immigrant who made his fortune here in coal and was the richest, most important man in western Canada in the late 1800's. When he and his family first came here, they lived in a log cabin, but by the time this home was finished, his holdings were estimated to be about $20 million US. He died before the house was totally finished and his widow and their ten children enjoyed the place until the children moved out and on and his widow died, too. The house and property was valued so highly that no one else could afford it. The land was subdivided into a housing project and the belongings in the house were auctioned off. Before World War II Victoria College was based in the home and after all the soldiers came back the house became a convalescent home for the seriously injured ones. Finally in 1979 the society formed to preserve and restore the home took possession and operate it today as a historic mansion. We were amazed how many of the possessions and furnishings that originally were in the home, the society was able to locate and return. Today the house is in beautiful condition with well furnished rooms and mannikins demonstrating the clothing of the time. Each room had two plaques which explained how the family had used that room and how the groups that followed made use of the space.
Then we were off for lunch at Fisherman's Wharf, a quaint spot that began after World War II when housing was in short supply and expensive. While few fishermen live there today, the floating homes with their quirky decor were fun to see. A few were for sale; listing price about the same as our much larger house at home. They did not look like they would be leaving the dock anytime soon and the residents have to put up with tourists like us peeking into their windows.
Our final stop was at a butterfly conservatory that also housed some animals that enjoy the same hot and humid climate. Butterflies are tough to photograph; I was glad to find some animals like turtles that moved slowly enough for me to capture.