We had a somewhat more ambitious schedule than we did yesterday, and it certainly demonstrated itself in a somewhat late start, given that two of our party (not including myself) ended up chatting until after 1AM the previous night. That meant that this morning we were fairly laid back in getting started, and that was alright by me. Given that the first place we were going to didn’t open up until 10AM anyway, I was not particularly bothered by the somewhat long preparation time for our departure.
We first went to the Butterfly Garden, which ended up being a bit smaller than I expected but was still lovely to see. Before going into the garden proper, which is set to a tropical or semi-tropical weather that reminds one of Florida or Southeast Asia, there is an insectarium that provides some ants and stick insects in pleasant homes. The butterfly garden itself is quite lovely, with a mixture of moths and butterflies flying around, some of which enjoyed alighting on my hat, with plants that they use for food but which are also lovely to look at, and animals like koi, poison dart frogs, flamingos, a friendly macaw and parrot, a somewhat lazy iguana, and some turtles and tortoises that were in full “bask in sunshine” mood when we were there, as well as a somewhat overpriced but well-stocked gift store. It was definitely an enjoyable place to visit and one that would well-reward those who like to see living gardens.
After changing in the washrooms of that place we headed to Abkhazi Gardens for tea, dealing with slow traffic from an accident that blocked off a lane along the way. There was no parking closeby, so I drove up a hill and parked at a nearby mansion and walked down the hill to the gardens. The four of us had no reservation but were able to enjoy a good table because we were dressed up nicely, and ended up having a high tea where we enjoyed a variety of black and herbal teas (my favorite tea was the house Abkhazi black tea with a hint of vanilla and the herbal drinkers in our party liked the Philosopher’s blend with its heavy zest of lemongrass and citrus with some cinnamon overtones). As far as the food was concerned it was rich and tasty, but the overall winners were the elk pemmican with some tasty berries and the candied salmon, which is definitely a dish to add to my repertoire. After eating and paying, which proved to be a complicated experience, we walked in the gardens, enjoyed some reading and the sight of some more pond turtles, and then I got the car and picked up the member of our party who felt least comfortable climbing uphill.
After that we headed to the Buschart Gardens, and by the time we arrived there it was around 4:30 or 5:00PM or so. The Gardens were about $25 to $30 a person, by no means cheap, but well worth it for what we saw at least. After getting a bit of a slow start, we wandered through the areas of the park with our customary thoroughness. We first went through the sunken gardens and got ideas for combinations of flowers that looked striking and provided contrast. We then went to a beautiful fountain before walking by a small bog garden. This then winded its way by an old-fashioned carousel and a lawn where they have free concerts (see below). After walking a bit we saw the seed garden and the place where the fireworks lift off over the waters before viewing some fruit trees a bit before their season and an organ room. Eventually we wound our way into the rose garden that was the only part of the garden where the varieties were labeled. This took a bit of time and we then went to a beautiful and large and somewhat dark Japanese Garden that was old and full of gazebos and surprises. We rested our feet by the Buschart Cove and looked out over the water and then finished with the Japanese Garden and walked around the Star Pond into a lovely Italian Garden on pavement that had formerly been a tennis court. By this time both of the restaurants in the garden were closing at about 8PM and it was time for the free concert by a group called Odessey. This particular group was a string quartet by people whose normal work was for the Victoria Symphony Orchestra but who out of season had to work to supplement their income with other projects. The first violinist for the group was the mother of a newborn child and she was sleep deprived but definitely still in full violin hero mode. The violist did most of the talking and introduced the songs they sang, which were a pleasant blend of pieces from the classical repertoire and pops. They began with English songs, including Palladio and Handel’s Water Music, progressed through sets that included French songs (like a fantastic “Cake Walk”), various classical and folk dance songs, including the “Can Can,” a familiar section from the “Barber Of Seville” and the “Tico Chico” and some tangos. After that the performance moved into songs from the swing and big band era (the only disappointment being a slow version of “My Funny Valentine”) and then a look at contemporary music, including Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years,” a rousing version of Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters” that could have come from Metallica’s S&M album with the San Francisco Orchestra, and a fantastic closer in Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean,” where the baseline was played with some real authority by the cellist. The concert as a whole lasted about an hour and a half as the late afternoon became night, but it was time well spent.
The only problem with having a late concert, though, was that it put us behind the eight-ball as far as finding dinner was concerned. Our GPS chose that moment to be a bit high-strung, leading us in circles in rural Victoria, before we found ourselves at a Tim Horton’s on the outskirts of town and with a cashier who was somewhat unseasoned. He was friendly, to be sure, but not particularly competent, unfortunately. The restaurant was quite busy–there were a lot of people eating and drinking late–and the verdict of our group was that the chili and chicken noodle soup were definitely good, and the tea and coffee blends were thought of highly as well, but the fried cheese melt was definitely disappointing. After that we drove home, and it was well after 11PM by the time we arrived home, and we were generally tired, so we went to bed fairly quickly.