FRIDAY - July 25, 2008
We had reservations aboard the Washington State Ferry so we were up and out of the Anaco Inn by 7:15 AM. We drove to the ferry docks and sat in line waiting our turn to board. This was a completely new experience for me, not having been on a ferry like this.
I marveled at the accuracy with which vehicles and passengers were ticketed and boarded. We exited the vehicle and climbed to the upper deck.
How cool was this! There was a galley selling breakfast, a duty free shop, rows and rows of seats, some booths, newspaper stands, racks of brochures and windows all around.
There was a great deal of fog hovering over the San Juan islands as we coursed through them on our way to Sydney, B.C. Because of the fog, I didn’t take any photos, hoping that the weather would lift enough for a nice, clear shot. I enjoyed watching the other boaters, some kayakers and the houses that sat atop the various islands. I got up and walked around, enjoying the crisp cool morning air on the starboard deck. I enjoyed watching the other passengers: some as clearly novice as I, others who where sleeping or reading the morning paper, or ticking away on a laptop. Obviously, some folks take this morning commute on a regular basis. Exiting the ferry, we drove through Customs and a pleasant officer asked us questions about where we were from, where we were going, our business in Canada and how we knew each other. We navigated our way through the streets of Sydney and headed on up to Victoria, and Butchart Gardens.
was truly a garden paradise. We arrived a little before noon, and had 12:30 reservations for lunch in the dining room. We strolled around the main entrance getting the lay of the land, and taking in the sights of the arbors and hanging baskets.
We strolled into the dining room and were pleasantly greeted and promptly seated. The dining room was painted a fresh sage to seafoam green, crisp white linens, bountiful vases of fresh flowers and spacious views of the outside gardens.
Our server was a beautiful young lady with a delicate British accent. I commented that she looked as if she could be British royalty; a Princess Diana look with an unassuming presence. We began with an appetizer of panko crusted calamari, preserved lemon raita, gremolata that was gently sautéed and the best calamari I’ve ever had. For my main entrée, I ordered the wild B.C. salmon fillet, Israeli couscous salad, lemon crème fraiche, with cucumber and a glass of Sumac Ridge Black Sage Cabernet Franc. Debbie ordered Line caught West Coast halibut fillet, “Panzanella salad” lemon vinaigrette, fried capers and a glass of Jackson-Triggs Grand Reserve Chardonnay.
My taste buds didn’t know what was happening! The salmon was cooked perfectly, sweetly flaking from the fork with just the perfect light seasoning. I have had a lot of salmon, but by far this was the best - the absolute best I’ve ever had. The couscous salad was a surprise, in that it was cold - but the coolness complemented the warm salmon in a wonderful combination of flavors and textures. The Cabernet Franc was a new taste to me, with a rich black sage aroma that filled in the crevices of my pallet with an explosion of sensuality.
Debbie offered me a taste of her halibut, and it was more delicious than one would expect. I also tasted her choice of wine, and found it to be a woodsy, buttery flavor that coaxed me to have a glass all to myself, which I did. Having enjoyed the appetizer, main dish and wine selections, we certainly couldn’t walk away without assuring that their deserts were equally as exquisite. Debbie ordered the Benvenuto gelato sampler, a selection of Butchart’s signature gelatos and sorbet. I ordered the vanilla shortcake, with fresh local fruit, lemon crème fraiche and fireweed honey. To die for. The shortcake was just the right amount of sweetness from the honey glaze, the crème fraiche drizzled atop with blueberries, strawberries and fresh cherries. Fresh coffee of course, and just not believing how wonderful my life is at this moment!
We strolled the gardens, with the Rose Garden being an absolute favorite. I have never seen so many beautifully perfect, abundant, large and well tended roses in all of my life!
The combinations of colors and height and various stages of bloom was artistry unlike any I’ve ever seen. The lilies - the day lilies, the Turks cap lilies, the calla lillies, the dahlias, the sweet alyssum, the salvia, the shasta daisies, kingfisher daisies, begonias, geraniums, sweet peas, foxglove…impatiens, hydrangea, hibiscus…fuchsia.. On and on and on. MAGNIFICIENT! I fell in love with a tree called aSmoke Tree. From my brief research, I don’t think it could grow in Southwest Florida. But, I’m not through trying! The Japanese Garden was tranquil, ever so zen, the Italian Gardens, the fountains… Just an absolutely magnificent display of flora and fauna. I could stay there forever!
I went into the gift shop and just absolutely had a ball. I bought vases and seeds and pressed flower jewelry. The delightfully British speaking clerk asked, “are these seeds going to the states?” and carefully packed them to be presented to customs when asked what did I have to declare.
We returned to our car parked in the Butterfly section (how delightful!) and found our way in to the heart of Victoria. We located the HoJo where we had reservations, and checked in. It was not the most luxurious, nor the most friendly front desk, but the rate was good and the bed and bath was clean. We poured ourselves a cocktail and perused the local “what’s happening” magazine. After such a full day, however, neither of us really felt like dressing to go out, and opted to grab a light bite in the hotel restaurant. The food was good, although the atmosphere and service left something to be desired. But at this point, we were well satiated and soon called it a night.