The Empress Hotel, situated on Victoria's inner harbour. No, we didn't stay here, but our hotel was nice and located nearby.
Victoria is definitely the most beautiful Canadian city I have ever visited (and I hope to visit Ottawa, Montreal, and Halifax sometime in the future). I was impressed to see that eco-friendly, green living has taken firm root here. Many lawns are dotted with dandelions and little white and purple flowers, which do not detract from the overall appearance. As usual, the city's public landscaping is breathtaking and I stopped frequently to admire the tulips along the sidewalks near the harbour: "Gasp! Oh wow, look at those burgundy tulips!"
The gardens we visited:
Butchart Gardens: These gardens are a a truly impressive display of floral colors draped over impressive terrain, with sunken gardens in a former limestone quarry pit being just one feature. However, they are less interesting for the botanically-inclined, as they feature large numbers of similar plants rather than collections of interesting specimens. Any non-gardener would be impressed with these gardens though, in the same way I'd be impressed with a 5-tier ornate wedding cake with fancy icing. We got there early, avoiding the traffic congestion at the entry gates that resembled the US-Canada border crossing. At $25, this is the most expensive garden, but it really is the Disney world of gardens. Unfortunately, the large gift store is largely geared towards tourists, not gardeners. Click on any of the pictures to see a larger image.
View from the entrance to the sunken gardens, built in a former limestone quarry:
Moving fountain, with mechanized dancing sprayers:
Spring flowers on "the mound", a rocky outcrop in the center of the sunken garden:
Thousands of tulips were in bloom on our visit, (April 26th, 2008):
Drumstick primulas and daffodils:
View of Brentwood bay, looking over the fence into the Japanese gardens:
A nice combination of peony-flowered tulips and blue forget-me-nots:
Butterfly Gardens: Close to the Butchart gardens, this attraction is mostly about the butterflies. It is a humid conservatory containing a few tropical birds and plants, living harmoniously with 3,000 butterflies. We learned that most of the butterflies come from butterfly farms in Costa Rica and the Phillipines. We got to see a real live vanilla orchid, and smelled its fragrant seed pods. The guide demonstrated some eggs and caterpillars on a potted Passiflora (Passionfruit). Apparently the plant had never bloomed. (I asked if it had bloomed. The guide said she didn't know why it hadn't bloomed. Pity.) Kids would love this place.
An orchid of unknown variety: