Monthly Archives: July 2012

Stopping to Smell the Roses…

So after my first Whale Tour experience with Prince of Whales my next part of the tour was to go to visit Butchart Gardens.  This was such an awesome end to a fun day on the water. We arrived just after 5:30pm… it was time for dinner!

These gardens have been around for over 100 years! The history of the gardens is incredible, it is still privately owned by the family that created it.  If you want to know more about the gardens amazing history I’m going to direct you to their website….HERE.

I had made a new friend on the whale watching cruise. She was also visiting Victoria for work…but was from Ontario.  We ended up chatting on the boat, and then had the BEST hotdog dinner EVER… (seriously it was awesome hotdogs at the cart at the front of the park!) Then after we ate, we made our way around through the gardens.

The gardens were amazing.  Seriously, make this a ‘must’ stop/visit if you get to Victoria… it’s gorgeous.  Walking around the gardens, it was fun to recognize and be able to name some of the different types of flowers.  I suppose those springs I worked at the Greenhouse during my Uni Years paid off… someday I’ll have a house where I can actually plant some gardens, but in the meantime I’ll just enjoy other people’s gardens!

After living in a place without trees… you gain a new appreciation for them!  Butchart Gardens did not disappoint…
It’s a place where everything is thought out and carefully planned… tree stumps become the new home for ferns… and the tops of garbage cans become a flower garden! 

This was my first look at the Sunken Garden.  Jennie Butchart set out to beautify the old pit that was left after all of the limestone had been mined for her husband’s Portland cement plant. Slowly as the years have gone by… different parts have been added as gifts from different members of the family to celebrate different anniversary’s of the gardens.

The first photo is looking INTO the gardens…while the second photo is looking UP where I took the first photo.  (just to give you some perspective!

It was so magical to walk around… as the sun started to dip behind the hills! 

The blooms were fantastic!

The two photos are of the Ross Fountain. It was created and installed in 1964 for the Gardens 60th Anniversary by Ian Ross, grandson of the Butcharts.  The water rises about 21m providing fun show to watch… it changes to as it sprays! There is also a bucket of ‘limestone’ on display to remember the past of this quarry. After leaving the Sunken Garden… the next stop was to see Annabelle.  This horse stands just outside of the Children’s Pavilion and Rose Carousel.  It has 30 hand carved wooden animals and two chariots.  It costs only $2 for a ride… you know what that meant?

Once I saw that there was a giraffe… I had to go for a ride!  (Because you know Giraffes are my favourite animal ever…man I sound like a 3 year old!)

But then off to explore more of the gardens! There are some very rare trees that the gardens have… I just took a few photos of some of them… The tree on the right it is a bit ‘spikey’ but is known as a Monkey Puzzle or the Araucaria Araucana it can be found in Chile.  And the tree on the left is a Coast Redwood or Sequoia sempervirens, that was planted as a seedling in 1934!

 I just couldn’t get over the beauty of not only the blooms…but also the buds of some of the flowers.

Then there was the Rose Garden…it sits on the family’s former tennis courts!  All of the roses were labelled…and so pretty both visually and with their scent!

One of the wishing wells…that was off to the side in the Rose Gardens. 

Lilies have always been a favourite flower of mine… and the colours of this one was amazing!

Stopping to have some fun with this ‘mirror’ gazing ball… it was fun to play around with the distorted images you could create!  

Then we headed off to the Japanese Gardens.  (We had quickly walked through them on our way to the front gate, but we went back to enjoy the peaceful, calm… despite the children squealing happily as they wandered around on the paths.) This non-traditional garden was started in 1906… Jennie Butchart had the help from Isaburo Kishida a Japanese landscaper.

…just a few stepping stones through the pond!

…this is just a small ‘window’ cut into a ‘wall’ of trees.  I missed it at first, but my friend pointed it out!  (It’s always good to have a 2nd set of eyes… that sees something from a different point of view and shares them with you! Thank you! 🙂

Below is actually TWO photos… the one on the left is a closer view of the ‘peak-a-boo’ window on the right!

Here’s two shots of the Star Pond… one from each side!  

Another cool looking pink flower!

The top right photo is a look at the picnic grounds outside of the original Butchart Homestead. Bottom right is a view of the piazza outside of the home… and then on the left is a dress that was in the Seed & Gift Store Window.  It is made of napkins!

After visiting the Gift Shop… I parted ways with my friend.  I headed back to the Concert Lawn… for a special concert from Johnny Clegg.  It just happened to be the night that the Gardens was having a concert.  Tons of people brought their chairs, picnic blankets and coolers to join in the fun!

I had never heard of Johnny Clegg before that night…but it was an awesome experience.  I will have to add some of his stuff to my music collection.  He is from South Africa…and his bands started during apartheid when he had a multi-culutural band.  It was illegal for them to talk, play or perform in public… but they still worked around, (with some risks) in order to make music.  Hearing him speak, and share the background of the songs he was playing was an awesome experience.

One of the questions that kept rolling through my head was: At what age do we STOP dancing to awesome music?

Yes, there was some dancing happening.  Johnny invited us to dance from the opening song… so there was a group of people off to the right hand side of the stage and at the very back of the lawn that were dancing.  But the majority of people sat in their chairs or on their blankets and listened.  I thought it was so strange… this was music that just made you WANT to get your dance groove on.  I admit it at the start of the 3rd song… I had my position at the back of the lawn to get my groove on.

As I stood there I saw small glimpses of dance throughout the crowd.  There were little babies (just barely standing)…in the midst of their diaper booty dance groove… there were toddlers and preschool kids… all in the midst of dance.  Some school agers (mainly girls were also dancing… practicing ballet and other types of steps.) But the teens and 20s crowd… they seems to be sitting.

Why is it that we stop? With me at the back… I was one of the youngest dancers in the crowd… but it seems that this crowd had found their dancing steps and got their groove back!

Here’s a ‘glimpse’ of one of Johnny Clegg Band’s Concerts…

…did you get up and dance? I hope you did!

The concert was such an awesome surprise… and so much fun!  I caught my charter bus back to downtown Victoria.  I was tired…and arrived back at the Empress Hotel around 10:30pm… and it was all lit up to great me.

Just like I said the other day... I wanted to get some shots of the Legislature Buildings lit up, so I headed over to the front lawn.

From the front lawn… the dark spot on the left side of the photo was a HUGE tree that was blocking out the lights!

That my friends was the cherry on top to end another great day in Victoria.  If you want to do whale watching and check out the gardens.. the combined tour with Prince of Whales is awesome!  There were several different times of the shuttle buses to get you back to the city too! Another awesome thing about the Gardens is that during the summer they have firework displays every Saturday night in July and August!  These are both two great places to visit!

A Whale of a Tale…

I’ve only been whale watching one other time in my life.  I went on a boating trip to visit Kekerten Territorial Park(which is a historical Scottish/American Whaling Station from 1857) that is in Cumberland Sound.  This post about my first experience boating in Nunavut won a 2009 Nunie Award for Best Post!

I decided it might be really fun to head out to go whale watching.  There are tons of different companies that do whale watching tours out of Victoria. I ended up going with Prince of Whales.  I did a 3 hour Whale Watching Tour then was dropped off at Butchart Gardens (will do a separate blog post about this part of the trip) and had a Bus shuttle me back to downtown Victoria.  It was a great package-deal!

After getting on board the boat, while going ‘slow’ until we were out of the inner harbour area… Gavin, the First Mate, went over safety procedures… and demonstrated how to put on a life-vest! Then I took some shots of the inner harbour, and some of the boats I saw!

We headed over to the Race Rocks…and were rewarded by seeing some sealions (didn’t get a good photo-but we were down wind of them!)… there were also some  harbour seals.  Did I mention how many BIRDS were on the island?

Yup, all those ‘white’ spots in the photo above were sea gulls!  The whole time I saw them…I had “Mine! Mine! Mine!” in my brain.  Maybe I’ve watched too much “Finding Nemo!” Now, the guides told me that these were harbour seals…but now I’m second guessing myself… are there sea lions? hmmm I’m not really sure, how does one tell the difference? 

It was a gorgeous, clear day… Here Mount Baker is in the background! It is actually located in Washington State…it also is an ‘active’ volcano.  

At this point in the tour Gavin and Hannah (the Wildlife Naturalist) had let us know that the J Pod.  (Resident Orcas in this area that eat salmon… were far away (about 4 hours by boat) close to Washington.) There might still be a chance to see ‘Transient’ Orcas… these Orcas do eat more than just salmon…and are part of the reason that Orcas recieved their names as ‘Killer Whales’.

We stopped the boat to just look, and watch this HUGE group of birds that had gathered on the surface of the water.  (There were lots of other whale watching boats in the area too!)

Gavin explained that when birds gather like that… something is happening under the surface.  Often when a whale is feeding on fish… the birds gather to see if they can get any left overs!  I was rewarded to seeing a Minke Whale pop up… I discovered that it is VERY tricky to get photos of whales in action. However, did manage to get this bit of the Minke Whale.  (I didn’t realize that I had gotten this shot until I went back through my photos via editing…in taking the photo…I missed seeing it, but I suppose my camera didn’t lie!)

Here’s a zodiac just waiting to see what they can see!

Sadly our time was almost up…and despite seeing a minke whale, we didn’t get to see any Orcas!  The boat had to keep moving to get to our next part of the tour.

Thanks to Fly, Hannah and Gavin for an awesome 3 hour tour!  I really enjoyed myself… Because I didn’t see any Orcas and I lived so far away.  Fly the skipper suggested I call back into the office and see if I could head out again the following day because I hadn’t seen any Orcas. He said it was highly unlikely to miss seeing them 2 days in a row.


I got up early the next morning… and headed down to wait to see if I would make a “walk-on” on the next tour.  There were only 50 people on that boat… and guess who got #50 as a ticket.  Yup, ME!

Here I am, a bit sun-burnt… (forgot sunscreen the day before…that was an unfortunate situation!) I took this at the end of the 2nd 3 hour tour… you can see even with sunscreen on the 2nd day… I have a bit of a tomato face!

Here are some house boats along one of the shores of the inner harbour… that must be a fun place to live, waking up so close to the water every day!

We sailed past ‘beacon’s park’...part of my walk the other day was from on the other side of the buildings along the coast…and then up the hill to the large pole!  

We hugged the coast line as we went along…we passed many houses, they must have spectator views!

We stopped to see some seals… they were hanging out on a small island! From a distance, they totally looked like logs lying along the water…

BUT…I was so thankful for having my 50-500 lens!  Because then I could actually see them!

We headed between towards Griffin Bay and the San Juan Channel… I was so hoping the Orcas has moved closer…but I didn’t know!  I was excited to see the scenery though…and it was another beautiful sunny day! As we came through the last channel… we saw a few harbour porpoises… They are very shy–and I managed to get a shot of one just before it dove under.  At this point in the tour…we were just over our 1/2 way time out on the water… and I had started to give up hope I would see any Orcas again.  

So after giving up any hope of a sighting… our boat ended up going around the top end of Stuart Island.. and what do you think we found? It was J Pod… the Orcas were out to play.  

I quickly discovered… that getting a photo of an Orca might take some work.  I still am baffled how so many awesome shots of Orcas ‘breaching’ (they jump out of the water) are taken.  The majority of my photos I took ended up looking like the one below.  I suppose it takes practice, and maybe there are other ‘tricks’… perhaps I’ll get another chance at it another time! The difficulty was you didn’t know when or where an Orca would surface… it just was luck of the draw, if you had your camera in the right spot…and were holding yourself steady on a moving boat… oh and trying to get a ‘spot’ amongst 49 other whale watchers! 

I did manage to get the following shots… I’m pretty happy with them. The one following is one of my FAVOURITE shots from the entire trip!

There were lots of other boats around… trying to get the best position, and follow the J Pod as they moved around!

Here’s the rest of my Orca photos… (I honestly couldn’t figure out which ones I liked better… so you get to see all of them!)

Here’s a shot of the first mate of my tour.  (I can’t remember his name…) he was so helpful, and had heaps of knowledge to share about Orcas, Seals… you name it!  He shared a bit about this whale below… he’s one of the males in J Pod. His finn is close to 6 feet tall!  Kind of hard to put into perspective eh? 

I was THRILLED with the experience from Prince of Whales.  I totally would go out with them again in a heart beat. The people aboard their boats are knowledgable, friendly and funny!  Thanks again for an awesome experience.  If you get to Victoria and are looking to head out on a whaling adventure… I’d check them out!

(FYI: Prince of Whales didn’t pay me anything for this endorsement…it’s just based on my experience!)

Sometimes, Taking the Wrong Street is the BEST choice!

On Friday, after my tour of the legislature buildings…on the way to grab some fish and chips, I got caught in the rain.  I love that smell that comes just before it pours.  It was funny, people were screaming in the streets…running, rushing to find cover–putting maps & papers over their heads.  I just decided to keep walking…it was a warm rain and let’s face it I was hungry and only 2 blocks from food!

After lunch it cleared up, sunny again… so I decided to go ahead with my plan to head to Beacon’s Park.  I looked at my map…and decided to walk along Government St (thinking the park would be on my left at some point, and I’d slowly wander down to the ocean and the Zero marker of the Trans-Canada Highway).  Well if you know Victoria…Government St. is NOT the street beside the park, but it is parallel to Douglas Street. (the one I should have been on.)

It was a great walk through a nice residential area.  I came across “Emily Carr’s House”.  (Please note the statue of Emily Carr is actually beside the Empress Hotel). Emily Carr is one of the Group of Seven artists.  For more information about Emily you can visit HERE.

At this point, I realized I was on the wrong street… but decided to continue on my trip down Government St. until I met up with Dallas Rd.  The views from Dallas Rd. were amazing!

After walking along to the corner of Dallas and Douglas… I found came across the Zero Marker of the Trans-Canada Highway!  Luckily a group of Asian Tourists were there, all taking photos…and were able to get a shot of me!

At this point…I ventured off the sidewalk following the road… and into this path.  I felt like a kid exploring a secret garden, the trees were grown up and you couldn’t see on either side of the path.  But once and awhile, there was a smaller trail that lead out to a bench that sat just above the ocean on the cliffs.  I sat there for awhile, looking out onto the ocean, hearing the thunder in the distance (while it was sunny and gorgeous where I was.) It was a perfect spot to have a moment and take in all the beauty around me.


I continued on my walk…not really sure how to get into Beacon’s Park…but found this sign, so thought that this was it!

Then I looked across the road and saw a trail that lead through tall grasses to the top.  When I got to the top there were two men sitting at the top enjoying the view.  I asked them about how to get back to the city, (thinking I couldn’t possibly find the park). The younger man directed me over to Douglas St.. a more ‘direct’ route.  But the older man looked at me and told me how to get into the park… just follow the trail to the ‘right’ of where they were sitting…and it would take me into the park.  He felt it was a much better route, so I took his advice…and had a fabulous walk back to my hotel!

Inside the park…I found this HUGE tree!  Of course heaps of children were climbing on it…looked like heaps of fun!

As I wandered through the park, there was classical music playing from an outdoor pavilion… when I came across the following 2 signs I realized that my tour of the park might be a bit ‘back-to-front’… and I had slipped into the park through the back-door entrance.  But honestly…it was one of the BEST choices I had made!

Walking back to the hotel… I stumbled upon these totem poles…

I had time to head back to my hotel…rest a bit before heading out to the University of Victoria.  My conference was hosted at U of Vic..the campus is so amazing… it seemed like every time I came into the campus there were deer and sometimes fawns grazing by the campus signs.  (But when I took the photo–of course no deer were to be seen!)

The conference was wonderful… so many amazing presenters!  Leaving my hotel on Saturday and Sunday mornings at 7:30am only to return late…8pm on Saturday night and 7pm on Sunday!  It was so worth it… although it reminded my university days, sitting in a huge lecture theatre at 8:15am on a Saturday morning.  (Ok so parts of that sentence weren’t all true, I can’t remember a time I sat in a lecture theatre at 8:15am…in ANY of my Uni career…because I choose night classes, but the sitting part-well I suppose that part is more true!)

The keynote speakers were pretty amazing.  They were leaders in my field and I was so inspired by their messages.  Sunday afternoon, Dr. Carla Rinaldi the president of Reggio Children spoke. Reggio Emila is a region in Italy…where they have developed a new approach to early learning.

Looking at this complex system of education is fascinating and challenging. It invites us, as teachers, to see the possibilities of what can be, if we are willing to take risks and let go of our traditional roles. {source}

Dr. Rinaldi had such thought provoking things to say…that left me thinking and questioning.  But I suppose that was her intention, to create a dialogue and to really learn the power of the pedagogy of listening…how teachers need to use documentation to help listen to the child, so they know what to teach.  She spoke how it is ok for the teacher not to know all the answers…but together with the children in their care they can become researchers and search out the answers, creating new understandings…learning from each other!  I’m excited to hear her speak one more time in Vancouver before I head back to Ottawa…I don’t think I have taken that many notes since some of Prof. Surtees History lectures back at Nipissing University!

The other amazing thing was being able to connect with colleagues, professors…and make new connections.  It was great to catch up with Sue…we were co-teachers for a few classes at Red-River College!  I can’t wait to see where our paths might connect again…

I have one more day left in Victoria before heading to Vancouver… I have a bit more exploring left to do, and some fun adventures planned…but I suppose you’ll have to wait until the next blog post for those updates!


A Closer Look at the Legislative Buildings…

The Friday I woke up to a HUGE crack of thunder at 6:02am!  As I drifted back to sleep for a little longer, I realized I might have to modify my plans for the day!  But I did know that the rain would not stop me from exploring and walking around the city.

After finding myself some breakfast on Friday Morning… I headed off to the legistative buildings. I wanted to have a tour of the buildings.

It was fun to learn some of the history… the buildings were designed by Francis Rattnebury.  He submitted a plan to a contest and won!  This was his first ‘major’ project…he went on to build & design other major buildings in Victoria… like the Empress Hotel & the Canadian Pacific Railway Steamship Terminal.  The building officially opened in 1898.

It was fun to walk around and see the amazing architecture features both INSIDE and OUTSIDE the buildings.

The Lt. Governor Steven Point is BC’s first Aboriginal Lt. Governor.  A few years ago he carved this dugout canoe as a gift to the people of BC… it is on display currently in the legistature…but my understand is that it will travel around to visit different communities in BC.  I found this CBC article about the making of the canoe.

The room with so many flags… and many memorials to soldiers past and present. 

 There’s something beautiful about stained glass windows!  The Legislative Buildings did not disappoint… there are more than 100 stained glass windows in the buildings. Many of these were installed before the opening of the building–they are OLD! I picked up a flyer about these windows… here is some of the information from there!

The architect, Francis Rattenbury, commissioned the windows to celebrate a variety of themes.  Windows in the stairwells include quotes from famous writers and honour early philosophers such as Aristotle and Plato.  Panes outside of the Legislative Chamber pay tribute to the arts and sciences, and windows on the second floor incorporate the emblems of Canada’s earliest provinces.

The following two stained glass windows can be found in the Reception Hall.

One of the most beautiful windows is the Diamond Jubilee Window. [pictured below] Created by Powell Brothers Ltd. of Leeds, England, it celebrated the 60th year of the reign of Queen Victoria.  When construction of the Legislative Library began in 1912, the window was taken from its original location on the second floor and placed in the cellar for safe-keeping.  Incredibly, it remained forgotten in the cellar for nearly 62years before being rediscovered! After extensive repairs, it was placed in the Reception Hall for display.

The other neat thing about this window is the Coat of Arms has been slightly changed.  The British flag has been moved to the TOP and the BC sun to the bottom!

The building’s newest window, the Golden Jubilee Window, was designed and fabricated by Edward Schaefer and Thomas Mercer of Victoria to celebrate the 50th year of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II.  The window fatures many of B.C.’s provincial symbols and was unveiled by Her Majesty in 2002.


The Legistative Chamber… built in the British Tradition, where the desks of the 2 parties are separated at least two sword lengths apart.  This started to ensure safety in case of heated debated between two parties-as during those times it was in fashion to carry a sword into the Legislative Chamber!

One of the things that will stand out in my mind was how there were ‘historical’ figures from different periods in BC’s history… dressed up on the grounds.  It was a really cool touch to the tour…something I haven’t run across in any other provinces/territories!


While outside the Legislative Chamber… one of these ‘players’ came to visit our tour group!  It was Mary Ellen Smith.  She was the first woman elected to serve as a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) and was elected in 1918, just after the women received the ability to vote (in 1917). She was a MLA for 10 years.  She also holds the distinction of being the first woman in both Canada and the British Empire to be appointed as a member of cabinet.  It blows my mind to think how far women have come over the last 94 odd years!


























The only thing I have to do is wander back to the buildings at night–to see them lit up!

When I was talking to someone today about visiting the Legistative Buildings…getting a tour and how fun it was.  They gave me a strange look.  I realized that my love of these ‘types’ of historic things was fostered by my Grandpa’s love of them.

My Grandpa had a love of history…he was a storyteller- sharing people’s stories from times past… and this is something I love too.

Heading West…

This morning was an EARLY start… at the Ottawa Airport for 6am… flight left at 7am!  After a brief stop in Toronto…I finally reached my destination… Victoria, BC. It’s pretty amazing how you can hop on a plane and 5 hours later you are in a different time zone on the other side of the country!

Until today, the farthest I had ventured west was Cranbrooke, BC when I was 12.  I was excited to have the opportunity to visit Victoria and Vancouver this summer.

I had a great flight…I ended up watching two movies. (I flying and being able to watch movies is such a great bonus!!!!)   The first movie I watched was the new version of Footloose.  Great ‘classic’ movies should NOT be remade!  Then I decided to watch Hunger Games.  It was so good!  Movies is something I miss a lot living up north!

After an hour nap or so… I woke up to the captain announcing that we were on our way into Victoria.  The view was so breathtaking!

After settling into my hotel…and a bit of a nap.  I set out to explore a bit of Victoria.  My first mission was to get dinner.  I ended up getting sushi at Azuma Sushi.  It was awesome… such a great service & amazing sushi!

After dinner, I took a walk.  Just to explore around the inner harbour a bit!  It was fun to have the sun on my face, with my camera in hand…

It’s so much fun to watch buskers… this young boy was playing while is mom and little sister watched! This woman had such GREAT facial expressions… ‘living statues’ are one of my favourite things to come across! 

A fun fountain…surrounded by all the provinces and territory’s coat of arms.

(This photo was taken by another couple who were visiting their daughter. That’s one of the things I love about travelling… I find sometimes if you offer to take a photo for someone in front of something, they often return the favour!)

I walked across the street to get a glimpse of Victoria’s Legislative Buildings. Maybe I’ll see if I can get a tour inside before I leave!

Here’s one last photo of me! (Taken by a visitor from Toronto-seems like everyone I talked with tonight was from there!)

…it was a fun first night of exploring!  I can’t wait to explore some more, when I have free time.

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