Monday, July 6, 2015

2015 PNW trip day 11-13: Vashon Island to Forks, WA

In my last post we were saying goodbye to Victoria, the capital of the Canadian province of British Columbia. Early on July 3 we took the ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles, WA and from there headed to friends’ house south of Seattle. On the Fourth of July we went to Vashon Island on their boat where we anchored offshore and later that night experienced one of the most spectacular fireworks displays I’ve ever seen. On July 5 we left for Forks, WA on the Olympic Peninsula where we’re spending tonight; if you were a Twilight fan (or foe), you may remember this is where the saga began.

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But let’s start early on July 3. The ferry from Victoria, BC to Port Angeles, WA left at 6:10 a.m. but we had to be there an hour earlier to go through U.S. Customs and Immigration. That meant getting up very early—not my favorite thing to do. The upside was seeing the sun rise to the left of the Empress Hotel in Victoria’s Inner Harbour.

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Friday, July 3, 2015

2015 PNW trip day 10: Victoria, BC

This morning we visited Butchart Gardens, with close to a million visitors a year one of the most popular public gardens in North America. Located in Brentwood Bay about 15 miles to the northwest of Victoria, the garden was started in the early 1900s by Robert and Jennie Butchart. They made their fortune manufacturing Portland cement for the West Coast building boom. When the limestone deposits in their quarry were depleted, Jennie turned the giant pit into a sunken garden—still the centerpiece of the Butchart Gardens. Over the next 20 years, the Butcharts added the Japanese, Italian and rose gardens. Word about the remarkable gardens near Victoria spread far and wide, and what had started out as the Butcharts’ private wonderland has become a major destination for tourists from all over the world.

Often called the Disneyland of gardens, Butchart Gardens definitely appeals to folks who love their flowers frilly and bright. A million (!) bedding plants are grown in 26 greenhouses, and 50 gardeners work diligently to keep the blooms going. For the spring extravaganza, 200,000 bulbs are imported from Holland every year!

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“Over the top” is definitely the default here. And the recipe is hugely successful. I quickly lost count this morning of how often I heard exclamations like “the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.” I would love to know how many photos are taken here every day. I bet the number is staggering. Free Wi-Fi in several spots throughout the 55 acre (22 hectare) property lets visitors immediately post their snaps to social media.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

2015 PNW trip day 9: Canada Day in Victoria, BC

Today is Canada’s birthday. 148 years ago, on July 1, 1867, the British North America Act turned New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and the United Province of Canada into one country called Canada. It technically remained under control of the British parliament until 1982 when Canada received its own constitution, which finally eliminated the last traces of British control over Canadian sovereignty.

Today we’re in Victoria, the capital of the province of British Columbia. Our hotel is located very close to the Inner Harbour and the city center so we’re able to walk to all the main attraction. That’s a major benefit since the waterfront is packed with people celebrating Canada Day. Here are some photos I took in the early afternoon:

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Empress Hotel (left), Parliament buildings (rear center), and part of the Inner Harbour

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Canada Day snaps

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

2015 PNW trip day 8: Vancouver to Nanaimo, BC

We ended our three-day stay in Vancouver with a walk among the trees—75 feet above ground. The Greenheart Canopy Walkway at the UBC Botanical Garden (UBCBG) is a series of suspension bridges that connect platforms attached to trees. The UBCBG website describes it like this:

The Greenheart Canopy Walkway will spark your adventurous spirit as you navigate suspended walkways and tree platforms high above the forest floor.  Located in the heart of the UBC Botanical Garden, the 310m long tree top canopy walkway hangs from huge Douglas firs, Red cedars and Grand firs, many of which are over 100 years old. Reaching a height of nearly 20m above the forest floor, the walkway will give you a bird’s eye view of Vancouver’s magnificent coastal temperate rainforest.

On paper it sounds like a great nature experience, with a touch of adventure thrown in for good measure. Look at the photos below. Doesn’t it look awesome?

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Greenheart Canopy Walkway, UBC Botanical Garden

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Greenheart Canopy Walkway, UBC Botanical Garden

In reality, however, it verged on terrifying.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

2015 PNW trip day 7: Vancouver, BC

My day began with a visit to the University of British Columbia (UBC) Botanical Garden. I got there right at 9:30am when the garden opens and for a few minutes I had fairly even lighting. It didn’t take long for the clouds to dissipate, though. Before I knew it, I had to contend with the harsh light that makes photography challenging.

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UBC Botanical Garden

The UBC Botanical Garden is quite large—78 acres (32 hectares) in total. It is divided into two sections (north and south), separated by a tunnel under Marine Drive. The south section, where the entrance and parking lot are, is occupied by the David C. Lam Asian Garden. The north section consists of a number of smaller gardens, including the Alpine Garden, Food Garden, Physic Garden, Arbor, etc.

One of the biggest attraction, the Greenheart Canopy Walk in the Asian Garden, is a series of suspension bridges 50 feet above the forest floor. We’ll do that tomorrow morning so look for photos in my next posts.

Monday, June 29, 2015

2015 PNW trip day 5-6: Vancouver, BC

We’ve been in Vancouver, British Columbia for two days now, and it hasn’t been love at first sight. True, its location is stunning, as you can see below.

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But the city is very large, very crowded, and very noisy. In addition, everybody seems to always be doing something: running, bicycling, speed-walking. It’s as if life is happening at a faster pace here than elsewhere. More than once I was reminded of an old documentary called Koyaanisqatsi. Its time-lapse and fast-motion sequences of modern life left quite an impression on me when I first saw in in the mid-80s.

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I will say that on the morning of day 3, I’m getting acclimated to Vancouver, and that we’ve progressed from frenemies to acquaintances. Who knows, by the time we leave tomorrow, we may have struck up a friendship.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

2015 PNW trip day 4: Seattle, WA

Day 4 of our summer trip was spent in Seattle. Even before we left our hotel by the airport we heard about the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision ruling in favor of marriage equality. The rainbow flag was flying over the headquarters of Starbuck’s as we drove (or rather crept) by on the freeway. It was a great day for America, and a great day for us, filled with dazzling visuals and indelible impressions.

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EMP Museum in Seattle Center

I’d been to Seattle before, but only very briefly, so I consider this my first real visit. The weather was perfect, albeit a bit on the warm side for Seattle, and the Seattle Center where we spent most of the day, was thronged with people. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

2015 PNW trip day 3: Tacoma, WA

Day 3 of our 2015 Pacific Northwest road trip took us to Tacoma, Washington’s third largest city (after Seattle and Spokane). My personal highlight of our half-day visit was the garden of Peter Herpst, the Outlaw Gardener. Peter was gracious enough to show me around even though I hadn’t given him much advance notice.

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Peter’s picture-perfect Victorian, complete with the most densely planted hellstrip I’ve ever seen

Thursday, June 25, 2015

2015 PNW trip day 1-2: Portland, OR

If from yesterday’s post you guessed that we’re headed to the Canadian province of British Columbia, you would be correct. But we’re not there quite yet. Day 1 (really just a half a day) and day 2 were spent in Portland, Oregon, one of my favorite cities in the U.S. You may remember that I attended the 2014 Garden Bloggers Fling in Portland just about a year ago. I have very fond memories of the many gardens we visited. I haven’t even blogged about all them yet but am slowly catching up.

We spent Tuesday evening with Loree Bohl of Danger Garden fame and her husband Andrew. Loree made the best margarita I’ve had in a long time, and we had dinner at an Iraqi restaurant in NE Portland I can highly recommend: Dar Salam.

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Hanging out in the backyard of Loree’s ever-fabulous Danger Garden

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Off to the land of poutine and Nanaimo bars

Do you know what poutine and Nanaimo bars are? If so, you know where we are headed on our 2015 summer vacation.

Here’s a photo of poutine:

Poutine. Photo by Yuri Long from Arlington, VA, USA (road_trip-9349.jpg) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

It’s basically French fries topped with brown gravy and cheese curds. If you think that’s a weird combination, welcome to the club. But I’m willing to try it.