The Butchart Gardens fireworks

The Butchart Gardens fireworks are a highlight for many of our guests during the summer. They are held on Saturday evenings in July and August and take place after the evening concert.

We have been several times over the years but yesterday saw them quite differently, and for free. You can too.

After a wonderful relaxed dinner at the home of friends in Brentwood Bay overlooking the Saanich Inlet we strolled down to one of the marina docls. (You might like to dine at Blue’s Bayou overlooking the Inlet.) The Butchart Gardens were the other side, no great distance away. Numerous boats were idling around with the same object in mind.

The Butchart Gardens fireworksWhat we saw were the edited highlights. The emphasis here is on “high lights”, ie those fireworks which exploded above the trees. The accompanying music was barely audible but we could picture the scene in the Gardens: thousands of people sitting on a slope above the lake where static and moving pyrotechnic displays produced oohs and aahs. For us the casual community enjoyment of local people enjoying the show in this marine setting was a pleasure, topped by the Butchart Gardens fireworks over the water.  A memorable evening!

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B&B breakfasts – Granola recipe

This year we have added a further course to our Homemade Granola:

B&B breakfasts - homemade granola

B&B breakfasts - homemade granola

Every few days, Martin makes a fresh batch of our homemade granola. He is grateful to Sally Markham of Markham House B&B for the basic recipe to which he added individual touches. He has found that a few recipe changes here and there produces many tasty and nutritious vaieties. For example, we had some dried cranberries so they were diced and added. So … adapt this as you wish.

Our Granola Recipe

Combine these in a large bowl:
4 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup chopped walnuts and/or pecans
1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts
1/8 cup chopped almonds
1/8 cup coconut
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt

Pre-heat the oven to 350F degrees while you prepare the next step.
Whisk the following in a separate bowl:
1 tsp orange rind
1/4 cup demerara sugar or raw cane sugar
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup orange juice
1/8 cup canola oil
1/4 cup honey
Dash of vanilla extract.
Pour the above mix into the larger bowl and thoroughly mix all the ingredients.

Bake for 30 minutes on an ungreased baking sheet, stirring every 10 minutes. Let this cool, firstly adding the following mix:
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup sultanas
1/8 cup chopped dried cranberries
1/16 cup chopped dried pineapple and/or papaya.

How many portions are made from this granola recipe? It all depends on appetites and greed!

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A visit to Finnerty Gardens

Four of us went to visit one of the lesser known public gardens in Victoria BC: Finnerty Gardens. Summer was very slow coming and Spring had been so cool that flowers in Victoria were about three weeks behind. So when the sun came out on a late May Sunday afternoon off we set.

Since Finnerty Gardens is in the University of Victoria campus they benefit from publicly funded care (I’m not sure if that is an appreciative or cynical comment). They are known for the hundreds of rhodendrons in the woodland setting of over 3,000 trees so this was a good time of year for a visit. Many were transported here from other collections on Vancouver Island in the last century so they are well-established. Not all parts were evergreen, there are deciduous areas too through which a maze of paths wind.

Finnerty Gardens in Victoria BC

Finnerty Gardens in Victoria BC

Entry is free to Finnerty Gardens at any time, you just pay for parking (free on Sundays) so it has to be worth checking out.

We then drove to the even less well-known Playfair Park, only ten minutes from the bed and breakfast. Only the locals seem aware of this hidden gem. Its reputation is also based on the mature rhododendrons but it has natural grasses and an impressive long border which the municipality of Saanich care for very well.

Playfair Park Victoria

Playfair Park

Two gardens in one afternoon all for free followed by a glass of wine on the terrace in the Gazebo B&B gardens. Now that’s what I call gardening!

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Elk Lake and Beaver Lake

Elk Lake and Beaver Lake are really just the one lake, the former being the larger northern body of water.  They are the largest on the Saanich Peninsula, not surprisingly are used by the people of Victoria for diverse recreational activities. The whole park is over 400 hectares.

Gazebo Bed and Breakfast is within a 20 minute walk of Elk Lake, entered by a path down from Forest Hill Road. This is an offshoot of our favourite walk, a 40 minute loop along quiet roads that is always a relaxing pleasure. Alternatively you can drive to several parking lots lakeside.

Beaver Lake on the Saanich Peninsula

Beaver Lake on the Saanich Peninsula

Last Sunday afternoon four of us decided to take a stroll along part of the path which circles both lakes. As we drew closer to the mid-point we decided we might as well continue as turn back. Guests have often asked us how long it would take to walk around. We did not know the answer but we were soon to find out! Our steady walk with one brief stop at Hamsterly Beach (where we used to swim with our children) took about 2.5 hours.

We enjoyed the variety of scenes as we walked. On the lake were ducks, otters, radio-controlled yachts, a few motor boats, sculls (the Canadian team row here), kayaks. We passed beaches, the Elk Lake rowing centre, an equestrian centre and hopeful fishermen. Our path took us through open grass, light woodland and forest where horses were ridden too.

Click for more information about Victoria parks, lakes and beaches of the Saanich Peninsula and area.

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The Raptors at Church and State Winery

There is a wonderful new attraction in Victoria BC. Yesterday we went to a preview of The Raptors at Church and State Winery, close to the Butchart Gardens, and were so impressed. We hope every single guest of ours will go to see these birds of prey because they will not be disappointed.

The Raptors, Church and State WineryWe saw a peregrine falcon, a charming owl (“Ollie”), a not-so charming turkey vulture, two hawks and a young bald eagle. Imagine sitting and seeing one of these magnificent birds flying straight at you then passing just overhead. It was thrilling! While the eagle was flying around we saw a wild adult bald eagle above; a happy combination of wild and semi-wild in their natural environment.

We were informed about their behaviour and personalities in a most engaging way by Robyn. For example, did you know that the Peregrine Falcon is the fastest creature in the world, having been clocked at 300 kilometres per hour?

Do plan to visit the winery and take in this special demonstration which takes place several times a day. You can enjoy a glass of their award winning wines outside as you watch the birds flying over the vineyard. There are 18 in total whose flying over the vines acts as an effective pest bird control.

Take the pretty ten minute drive from Gazebo Bed and Breakfast to the Butchart Gardens and in that short distance you will pass all these Victoria attractions: 10 attractions in a 10 minute drive!
- four wineries (Starling Lane, Dragonfly Hill, DeVine and Church & State),
- one distillery (Victoria Spirits),
- Butterfly Gardens,
- The Raptors,
- Gowlland Tod Provincial Park,
- the Butchart Gardens,
- and a short detour takes you to the Centre of the Universe.
There’s so much to see and do in this tiny part of the Saanich Peninsula!


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Victoria BC summer events

Festivals and events in Victoria are always a welcome “plus” for your visit here. You come to Victoria BC for its local beauty, its climate, its attractions or whatever it may be …  and then you discover that there’s a great festival happening – a bonus!

Whenever we travel I always search online to see what special events are taking place where we will visit. As a result we may even adjust our itinerary a little. So here is a quick summary of some of the main Victoria events this coming summer.

The Butchart Gardens Fireworks

The Butchart Gardens Fireworks

From May to September there are special summer events in Victoria lasting from one day to several months in duration.

Some one day events: Canadian or BC provincial holidays may have a parade, fireworks and special activities throughout the area. Then there’s the annual Symphony Splash concert in the Inner Harbour on just one evening, 31st July 2011.

There are regular events on one evening a week like the Sidney Summer Market on Thursday evenings or the Butchart Gardens fireworks on Saturday nights.

Thirdly, some festivals last a week or two like the new Victoria Buskers Festival in late July, the August Dragon Boat Festival and the Victoria Fringe Theatre Festival, to name a few.

Lastly, a few events run for some months, eg at the Royal BC Museum whose principal exhibit is Emily Carr: On the Edge of Nowhere. From 15th June until 15th September don’t miss the wonderful Butchart Gardens illuminations.

You will find lots of helpful information about all these on our website too. Get planning!

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Hiking at Finlayson Arm

Hiking at Finlayson Arm on southern Vancouver Island formed the second part of my rare day off yesterday after that wonderful introduction to kayaking in Saanich Inlet.

Finlayson Arm is a reach of water extending from Saanich Inlet. Being fjord-like it has steep sides so I expected good views across it to the Malahat where the main Vancouver Island highway passes.

Finlayson Arm

Hiking at Finlayson Arm

I was planning to explore trails in the southern end of Gowlland Tod Provincial Park, one of many BC Parks in our area, which flanks Finlayson Arm on the Victoria side. The starting point is at Caleb Pike Access (more of him later). I took the wider southern trail surrounded by foxgloves (favourites of mine) and dragonflies doing their whirly-birds acts. This route was somewhat disappointing so I suggest you ignore it and just go north following signs to Holmes Peak. This is allegedly 1.3km but don’t believe them; they’re for optimists. Actually the signage could be better says one who strayed off the track more than once. Anyway the whole 2.5 hours on different trails did produce some great elevated views, as above.  To add to the pleasure, I met no one at all en route. The paths were quite rugged at times but the runners I wear for gardening at the B&B were adequate.

Caleb Pike House

Caleb Pike House

I needed to return to the B&B but wanted to stop first at the nearby Caleb Pike House. As you can see this is an old homestead full of character if lacking in comfort (though somehow it has a sitting room, kitchen and five bedrooms).

Caleb Pike was an early colonist (what else with a name like that) who arrived from England in 1849. He and his two sons started building this house in a remote setting whose return trip to Victoria by horse and buggy took a full day. I want to bring Linda back here and we can try to get a sense of what life was like then.

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A day relaxing at Saanich Inlet

A day off in the summer is rare indeed for a B&B innkeeper but I’ve just had a wonderful one relaxing at Saanich Inlet – kayaking for the first time. My Father’s Day gift from Linda was a day off with my housekeeping work covered by my sister-in-law Pam. It was a busy one so two posts cover it – they offer good ideas for our guests.

B&B reservations have been down a bit (hence our Summer Special – 10% discount on two nights or more) so I left before breakfast despite a yearning for more sleep and headed the short distance to Brentwood Bay. I was to start the day with my first kayaking experience and later do some hiking.

I met Peter of Pacifica Paddle who showed me the ropes, sort of.  Some recent guests had had a good tour with Pacifica and I knew the waters to be quite sheltered so felt reasonably comfortable about this first time. I became totally confident about setting off with Peter whose calm professionalism allayed any fears. After kitting up (first time I’ve worn a skirt!) we put out a kayak and I gingerly stepped aboard for some instruction. It was a bit wobbly at first but later I realised that that was the only time, once out it was “plain sailing”.

Launching out there was an instant feeling of calm and relaxation: I’d left the world behind. Occasional instructional comments fitted into easy conversation. I remember Peter asking an odd question “How often have you changed the wheel of a car?”. “Never” I replied. “Well, that’s about as often as a kayak tips over”.

Senanus Island, kayaking
Kayaking in Saanich Inlet

Not only was it a lovely morning but the water was remarkably warm. Only two boats passed, one the little BC Ferries Mill Bay Ferry, and it was fun to rock gently in their wake but otherwise it was so calm. I realised that Saanich Inlet is ideal for kayaking with sheltered water, very few boats and lovely scenery near the Butchart Gardens.

We approached Senanus Island traditionally used by the Tartlip native band as a burial ground. Respecting this we circled it and returned to the Pacifica dock. In about 70 to 80 minutes I had covered only part of one of the tours they offer but it was a great introduction. Yes, I loved every minute.
Without doubt I’ll be out with them again and hope some of our guests can do so too: what a wonderfully relaxing way to enjoy this part of Vancouver Island!
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Let the Sun Shine

Let the Sun Shine may convey a song from a musical (if you are of such an age) but to residents of Victoria it has been a strong wish for weeks and weeks. The weather in Victoria has been so disappointing. When, oh when, will the sun shine – not for brief spell but for a consistent reliable period of time.

We had a mild winter and spring and still temperatures remain low and the rain continues to fall. We have felt sorry for our visitors to Victoria but they’ve nearly always accepted it philosophically. If you are planning to visit Victoria console yourself, as we do, with the thought that summer must start soon. We did enjoy a lovely day yesterday so I took this photo of the welcoming entrance to Gazebo Bed and Breakfast. As you can see, the rhododendrons have enjoyed the cool damp weather.

Rhododendrons in Victoria

Rhododendrons in Victoria

These may be handy – view a 10 day Victoria weather forecast in Fahrenheit or a 14 day Victoria weather forecast in Celcius. Also see a summary of average daily maximum temperatures in Victoria.

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Victoria flower count

The record Victoria Flower Count this spring may be long over but we are still counting our own blossoms. It is a long process to dead-heat all the rhododendrons in our B&B gardens since some have finished blooming while others are still tight buds. Once the blossoms have died we set to work removing this years colourful displays to encourage greater floral growth next year.

We have an “island” bed in front of the hour around which cars can drive within the large parking area. It houses a splendid selection of trees and shrubs including the two adjoining rhododendrons you see below. Our question to you is: how many blossoms (ie blooming heads) are there here?

Victoria flower count

Victoria flower count - rhododendrons

The number is at the end of this post. Each has to be plucked individually. The overall work involved is evident by the fact that we have about 75 rhododendrons in the acre of gardens. In mid-April we visited Playfair Park, one of our favourite Victoria gardens, where there are very large rhododendrons so we are always grateful not to have to dead-head those.

Each year is different in its gardening challenges. This year a tree at the back has tried to multiply itself many hundreds of times – we’ve almost finished tugging out the four inch baby trees popping up extensively. So when guests come and “ooh and aah” about the bed and breakfast gardens it is not always the obvious displays that involve the work but it is gratifying that it is appreciated nonetheless. (Answer: 1,582.)

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