IMAX Victoria – explore the universe

IMAX Victoria

We recently attended an IMAX film at our local Victoria IMAX theatre. We’ve been several times before but it is always impressive. The screen is over 80 feet wide so, here’s a hint when you attend, do NOT sit at the front – your eye’s will pop out!  There is apparently 12,000 watts of sound; I’ve no idea what that really means but it certainly sounds good. More than one film is offered daily with most being about 45 minutes.

We saw IMAX Hubble which shows footage of the repairs made to the Hubble Telescope. The space-walking sequences and behind-the-scenes views and explanations were fascinating. Then the presentation explored the realms Hubble was built to investigate taking us into the depths of distant galaxies. This was thoroughly mind-boggling.

The Royal BC Museum

The Royal British Columbia Museum is the setting for the IMAX theatre. A visit to the museum will take two or three hours so you can visit one then take a break in the museum cafe before going to the other, making a superb morning or afternoon visit in Victoria.

Royal BC Museum

IMAX is part of the Royal BC Museum

Located near the Victoria’s Inner Harbour the Museum is easy to reach. It is surely one of the best museums in North America – we often tell our bed and breakfast guests how they will really experience what it was like to be in the Ice Age or the pioneer days or within a native village. Don’t forget that it is also a great rainy day attraction (yes, there’s a good reason why Victoria is so green!).

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Gardens in Victoria

Gardens in Victoria are popular attractions for our bed and breakfast guests and are a significant element of life here in Victoria BC. One can account partly for this by the Vancouver Island climate whose mild winters, warm and damp spring and autumn, and pleasantly hot summers makes for ideal growing conditions.

Our B&B gardens - a collage

A collage of our B&B gardens

Several gardens in Victoria are open for viewing. You can find them on the Gardens page of our website including the Butchart Gardens and Glendale Gardens. Do look at the gardens webpages to see the different displays you might expect according to the season of your visit.

Further, when driving around the Saanich Peninsula (the part of southern Vancouver Island on which our B&B and the city of Victoria are situated) you soon become aware that gardening is a popular and natural way of life for many. The higher percentage of retirees here also accounts for this.

Our own bed and breakfast gardens are typical of these, featuring native and suitable imported trees, shrubs, plants and flowers to create a lovely year-round setting. You can see some in this collage of images taken within our acre. The gardens were first established nearly 40 years ago so there is a good mix of mature and new growth. We hope you will be able to enjoy them and the other gardens in Victoria when you next visit Vancouver Island.

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Victoria tourism 2009

Tourism in Victoria BC

Victoria BC tourism

Victoria tourism in 2009 not surprisingly suffered from the recession, new USA passport requirements and the dollar exchange rate. Our spring was good but then July and August were significantly down.

Since this theoretically afforded us some spare time I took four partial days off to enjoy some aspects of tourism in Victoria. The highlight was three hours sailing in Victoria with two family members – do read about it. Here you see us on the bowsprit of the tall ship Thane. It was wonderful and something to do again next year.

The other days deserve a post apiece but should be mentioned briefly as further recommendations for your planning of a visit here.

A) Flying through the upper canopy of a forest may not appeal to everyone but ziplining is fabulous. Ten of us from Victoria hotels and bed and breakfasts went west towards Sooke for an exhilarating afternoon.

B) Down to earth, the other two trips were to local regional parks to enjoy superb hiking. Gowlland Tod and East Sooke parks both offer a variety of terrain with paths for a casual stroll through to a stiff climb. The hiking part of our website has to be developed so more will follow in the future. When here do ask for recommendations and we will suggest routes meeting your requirements.

Clearly we hope that Victoria tourism will bounce back in 2010. We will take a break for some of the winter and re-open before the Winter Olympics. We hope to see you next year!

Martin and Linda.

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Whale watching in Victoria

Whale watching in Victoria is unquestionably one of the highlights for many people when visiting the capital of British Columbia. Along with a visit to the Butchart Gardens whale-watching should be considered very seriously when planning one’s travel itinerary.

Victoria BC whale-watching

Victoria BC whale-watching

Fortunately the ”season” to see orcas in the waters around Vancouver Island coincide with the summer tourist season. Even in the late summer and early autumn there are excellent sightings not only of killer whales but also of migrating sea lions and humpback whales.  You will also see many other species of marine life on the water. The three local pods, ie families, of orcas total nearly 90 whales with transient pods passing by.

Consequently there is a good likelihood of success on your trip. Eagle Wing Tours, for example, have a 95% success rate. Their boats are fast and deep-hulled for an exhilerating and surprisingly smooth trip, able to reach orcas where slower vessels fail. However do not book before you arrive since the whales may be distant or sea conditions inclement – we will check this when you arrive and help set a time most likely to result in a wonderful trip whale watching in Victoria.

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Victoria bed and breakfast for Seattle travelers

Guests at our Victoria bed and breakfast naturally are most often from Washington State (WA) or British Columbia (BC) for geographic reasons. Seattle and Vancouver account for many travelers here, being an easy drive away. And we are a very short, and pretty, drive from the magnificent Butchart Gardens.

Seattle WA to Victoria BC map

Seattle WA to Victoria BC map

Ferry crossings are about 90 minutes and the BC Ferries route is hourly at peak times so you just need to estimate driving time to the ferry and add about 20 minutes once on Vancouver Island to reach our Victoria bed and breakfast.

We recommend Seattle travelers drive north on I5 and enter Canada on that highway, which becomes #99 in British Columbia. After passing through immigration there it is an easy 45 minute drive to Tsawwassen for the lovely crossing through the Gulf Islands. This may not seem as obvious as crossing from Port Angeles but there ferries are infrequent and it is a slow road to reach it via a further ferry.

So, since it is neither lengthy or difficult to travel betweem Seattle and Victoria you can plan to relax perhaps for a romantic getaway or weekend break. Our Victoria bed and breakfast is ideal for these – in a quiet yet central location. Choose from a secluded garden cottage or elegant manor house rooms, all with high quality decor and amenities. Relax in our acre of glorious gardens, visit the 50 acres at the Butchart Gardens, have soothing massage treatments, savour fine dining, wander in parks, on beaches or downtown. There’s so much to do (or not to do!). We hope to welcome you on your next trip from Seattle, or wherever home may be, to  beautiful Victoria BC.

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Butchart Gardens bed and breakfast

Visitors to the Butchart Gardens, Victoria, BC go to see…well, the magnificent gardens, what else? It is therefore very gratifying when guests tell us at breakfast the next morning that they actually preferred our gardens here at our bed and breakfast. This happened this morning, not for the first time.

Perhaps we should call ourselves the Butchart Gardens Bed and Breakfast!

Seriously though, we can not compare. For one thing we have an acre rather than 55. For another, we fit in gardening when there’s a spare hour or two whereas the Butchart Gardens have about 50 gardeners. So you will see weeds here!

Gazebo Bed and Breakfast cottage gardens

Gazebo Bed and Breakfast cottage gardens

Instead of massed plantings we have more delicate displays in many beds. These settings include a cottage garden, nursery and cuttings area, woodland shrubs including dozens of rhododendrons and hydrangeas. There are waterfalls, a terrace, lawn, fruit trees – all quiet spots for relaxation and a stroll. But if you want to hunt for weeds, be our guest!

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The Butchart Gardens

The Butchart Gardens are clearly the leading attraction to visitors to Victoria, British Columbia. We are fortunate in being located so near the Gardens so nearly all our guests visit them during their stay.

To help visitors plan their time their we have recently added new Butchart Gardens pages to our website. These include three pages devoted solely to certain areas.

The Butchart Gardens, Victoria, BC, Canada

The nearby Butchart Gardens

There is the famed Sunken Garden whose carefully staged entrance always creates oohs and aaahs with its dramatic view over the former limestone quarry.

Our favourite is the Japanese Garden, especially in the late summer evenings when it is illuminated. After over one hundred years it is both mature and fresh. If you enjoy Japanese Gardens then also visit the very different Takata Garden at nearby Glendale Gardens.

Then there is a page combining two areas, the Rose Garden and the Italian Garden with the nearby Star Pond.

You will see why a lengthy visit is necessary, especially if you plan to enjoy afternoon tea there – the Butchart Gardens is one of the best two venues for a Victoria high tea in our view (along with the White Heather Tea Room in Oak Bay).

During the summer months you really should see the gardens lit at night after listening to the concert on the lawns. (Fireworks are only on summer Saturday nights). So there’s much to do there.

Incidentally, and we think this is very important, please do not visit Victoria for just one night in order to only visit the Butchart Gardens. There is SO much more to do: see itineraries suggestions.

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Royal BC Museum exhibit

Royal BC Museum

The Royal British Columbia Museum

The Royal BC Museum exhibit “Treasures: The World’s Cultures from the British Museum” has just opened in Victoria. It runs until 30th September 2009. Accompanying it is an IMAX film “Journey to Mecca”. We have had the opportunity to preview both and heartily recommend them to you.

The exhibit is one of the best at the RBCM for several years. Its 300 artifacts present over a million years of history. Like all exhibits at the museum it is very well presented. You can buy tickets online or at the museum.

The IMAX cinema always has several films being played over the summer with one having top billing: “Journey to Mecca”. Ibn Battuta has been described as “the traveller not of an age but of Islam”, having travelled 75,00 miles! He began these in 1325 with the journey to Mecca shown in the film and then kept going, on and on.

Do visit them both. (By the way, the mammoth above is part of one of the Royal BC Museum’s permanent exhibits which range from the Ice Age to pioneer days in Victoria).

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Easter in Victoria

Easter in Victoria looks like being beautiful after our unusually long winter. I suppose any journalist with a regular feature to write runs dry of ideas. This was true for this blog post until the day dawned with wonderfully warming sunsine. At last Spring can begin. Our tulips are barely buds but that may change by Easter.

Tulips in Victoria BCVictoria in the Spring is delightful. As well as floral beauty there are charming walks (four guests went for a hike on Whiffen Spit today and loved it). There are easter church services, a chess festival, easter egg hunts, a performing arts festival, an exhibit about the Vikings, live jazz as well as all the usual places to explore: see the Victoria Attractions page on our website.

By Easter Sunday we hope for a little resurrction of our own here. The old gazebo had to be dismantled and a new one will replace it. As our namesake, we really did have to ensure that it remained in one form or another. Maybe a photo of it will appear next time.

Until then,
Happy Easter.
Linda and Martin.

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Breakfast at a bed and breakfast

Victoria B&B breakfasts

Breakfast at Gazebo B&B

Breakfast needs to be set up very soon in the Morning Room where our bed and breakfast guests will enjoy the break from their fast tomorrow morning. So before doing this I thought a quick breakfast blog entry was in order.

Attending a trade show last weekend I stayed in a hotel for its convenient proximity. Overnight parking cost $12 and the breakfast was over-priced. Oh to be in a bed and breakfast with free parking and a free full breakfast!

So before I load our dining table with all the accoutrements that make our breakfast table so elegant I thought a little background might be of interest.

The Morning Room (read Dining Room) receives the morning sun so, poetically, one might describe rays of morning sun glancing across the table but I will refrain from that. The furnishings are a blend of antique Canadian heirlooms and more contemporary items like botanical tapestries. Elegant glass and silver add sparkle. Flowers vay according to the seasons. All this is set up the previous evening and necessary preliminary kitchen preparations made.

In the morning Linda and I silently (always) enjoy our coffeee, toast and marmalade (what else for an Englishman?) before turning to the baking, blending, cooking etc. You can see a sample of typical results on the breakfast page of our B&B website. It is tasty and nutritious, “setting up” our guests for the days excursions. A few recipes are also on the website including our favoured Fruit Fool which also makes for a quick yummy dessert.

We hope you will be able to enjoy it soon too!

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