Day 2 of our whirlwind trip to Victoria, British Columbia last weekend started out overcast. That was perfect for taking photos along the waterfront:
And perfect for visiting Finnerty Gardens on the campus of the University of Victoria and Abkhazi Garden in the Oak Bay neighborhood. I’ll have separate post on each garden since there was so much to see.
By 2pm the sun had come out and we headed a little further west to the town of Colwood. Our destination was Hatley Castle, a place my daughter really wanted to see. Read on to see why. If you’re into Marvel movies, it might look familiar!
Here’s a map to help you visualize the places I’m covering in this post.
Hatley Castle is now part of Royal Roads University, which until 1995 was a Canadian military college. The grounds slope down to the waterfront, making for a uniquely scenic spot. I couldn’t get enough of the large trees dotting the property.
Hatley Castle was built in 1906 in the Scottish baronial style for James Dunsmuir, lieutenant governor of British Columbia. In 1939 the property was acquired by the government of Canada and a year later contingency plans were being made for King George VI of England and his family (which included the current queen, Elizabeth II) to relocate there in order to avoid the turmoil of WWII and a possible Nazi invasion. However, the royal family decided not to leave England because they feared it would destroy public morale in such difficult times.
Between 1948 and 1995 Hatley castle was part of Royal Roads Military College, a naval training facility. In 1995 it reopened as Royal Roads University, a public university that leases the campus from the Department of National Defence for $1 a year. It is part of the greater Hatley Park National Historic Site.
As interesting as all of that might be to history buffs, the real reason why my daughter (and, I suspect, the majority of people who flock here) wanted to visit Hatley Castle is because it is…the X-Mansion!
Yes, the exteriors of Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters for the movies X2: X-Men United (2003), X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) and Deadpool (2016) were filmed at Hatley Castle.
While I’m not a big comic book fan, I do enjoy the X-Men movies, and some of the nerdy vibe at Hatley Castle rubbed off on me. Plus, there were lots of cool plants to look at.
Pieris japonica was everywhere in Victoria…
…as were rhododendrons
Wikipedia says there are 1,024 species of rhododendrons, plus who knows how many named cultivars. I know virtually nothing about them so I can’t tell you which one this is.
All I can say is that it was pink and very, very pretty.
What would a castle be without ivy?
I loved this oval cutout for narcissus. I wonder what they plant there in the summer?
One of several bowls with spring-flowering bulbs
A few hours later we were back in downtown Victoria at the Inner Harbour. This may not be Holland but there were tulips everywhere. Plus, Vancouver Island where Victoria is located is the size of Holland. Just in case this ever comes up on Jeopardy!
Something you won’t see in Holland: totem pole across the street from the British Columbia Parliament. Canada is very proud of its First Nations heritage.
More tulips and flowering annuals. I must admit that I eventually got used to them.
And here it is, the Empress Hotel. I took this photo last July. Right now the front façade (and the back of the building) are covered with scaffolding as part of a $30 million renovation.
But the Inner Harbour, the Parliament Buildings and the Empress Hotel were simply pleasant distractions on the way to our real destination: Chinatown. Victoria’s Chinatown is the 2nd oldest in North America, after San Francisco’s. Revitalization efforts beginning in the 1970s paid off big, preserving the historic character of this section of downtown and culminating in the construction of the Gate of Harmonious Interest at the intersection of Fisgard and Government Streets. In 1995 the entire district was designated a National Historic Site of Canada.
Because of dinner reservations—at the request of daughter#1 at the Old Spaghetti Factory, natch!—we only had an hour to walk around Chinatown but it was one of my personal highlights on this trip. I can’t want to go back and explore the many small shops.
What makes this time of year so special are the many flowering cherry (or plum?) trees. They are a perfect complement to the hanging lanterns strung across Fisgard Street.
Some of the stores look like the usual tourist traps but many have an authentic feel to them, like the produce store above or the restaurant below:
I love signs like these!
Mural at the edge of Chinatown
Where east and west meet
To end this post, here is one final shot of the Parliament Buildings, taken on our way back to the hotel:
Our hotel was just a few blocks from the Parliament Buildings, and we walked everywhere in downtown. Chinatown, for instance, was less than 20 minutes away. That’s one of the advantages of a small town (Victoria proper has a population of about 80,000).
In my next post I’ll show you photos of the University of Victoria where daughter #1 will be a student beginning this September.