I did indeed go on one of the bus tours and also took a bus out to Butchart Gardens but not with Gray Lines. When I stopped by the nearest of their booths about 10:15 this morning, I learned that although the brochure I picked up yesterday and the company's own web page both say they offer a combination ticket including the Gardens, they don't. So I went to the nearest booth of one of their competitors, the local branch of the Big Bus company.
Big Bus also doesn't run a bus out to Butchart Gardens, but they do sell tickets for that company and at a discount if you get their combination package. And the bus to the Gardens leaves from right in front of the Empress Hotel.
I got on the Big Bus tour about 10:30 and rode it all the way around. I've never done that before, and was very impressed by how rugged the terrain is down here in this part of Vancouver Island and saw lots of interesting geology with frequent outcroppings of the underlying granite. The tour pretty much follows the coast around this end of the peninsula and goes past some spectacular scenery and through some lovely neighborhoods with very nice houses and shops and restaurants. I didn't take a lot of pictures, though, because it didn't feel like I had very much time before we'd go around another corner and what I had been trying to take a picture of was quickly behind us.
It was quite grey & cloudy then and rather chilly for me, around 60 degrees Fahrenheit at the time. And as we traveled along the coast, exposed to the ocean breezes, it was chilly enough for me to have to zip up my sweatshirt all the way and often to put my hands in its pockets.
It was well worth it, though, since the scenery along the way, and the several very attractive neighborhoods we went through were lovely and pleasing.
I hopped on the next bus out to the Gardens and we were there by 2:00 PM. I've been to the Gardens before, the first time with the family shortly after we moved to Portland, and at least one other time, I'm pretty sure we went there when I came with a friend from UPS during Spring break senior year, and I might have come to Victoria when I was living in Seattle and going to the Library School at the U.
I had almost forgotten, though, how spectacular the scenery is between downtown and out to the Gardens.
I needed to eat lunch, so I had some butter chicken at the Blue Poppy, one of the restaurants there. The bus back to the Empress Hotel leaves the Gardens on the hour, except for some reason not at 5 PM today, so I either had to catch the bus at 4 or wait until 6. I was very pleasantly surprised that I was able to see almost all of the Gardens, and take lots of what I hope will be very good pictures in spite of the hordes of other people visiting the Gardens today, and still catch the 4 PM bus back here, especially since I still needed to use the treadmill before dinner.
I didn't make it down to the bottom of the Japanese Gardens or out to the Cove since they are a long ways down. I had been to them on a previous trip, I remember.
I hung out in my room for about 45 minutes before going to use the treadmill. Afterwards I came back up to my room to get my sweatshirt, hat, camera, and pack before heading on out to dinner.
I decided to go check out the Bard & the Banker, which I thought had looked like a very nice place when I stopped in on the way back from Chinatown Sunday or yesterday. It is indeed really lovely, kind of like something out of the 1890s, with lots of wood and seating on balconies on both sides of the main floor. The restaurant is in what was originally a bank, where the Bard of the Yukon, Robert Service, worked for a time.
For some reason, Robert Service was the only poet I can remember Dad liking. When I was much younger, Dad would sometimes recite from "The cremation of Sam McGee".
On the way back to the hotel, I stopped in at the 7-11 to pick up some snacks and a couple of breakfast-replacement type drinks just in case.
It was still light then, although it was well past 8 PM. I knew that if I went back here to my hotel room, I wouldn't want to go back out to take pictures of the Legislature building all lit up after dark, so I just sat on a bench across the street from the Empress Hotel until the lights on the Legislature came onand very pretty it is at night.
My plans for tomorrow are to go to the Provincial museum and the maritime museum around the corner, and to try and have tea at the Empress Hotel at one of the afternoon seatings. I'll call and make a reservation in the morning.