Victoria – Rainbow Island (2010)

Victoria – Rainbow Island (2010)

The Clipper ferry from Seattle splices the mist and shoots through the bay like an arrow. We’re headed towards Victoria in Vancouver Island, which can well seem like the edge of the earth! After all, it is the last inhabited island in the Pacific Northwest of continental U.S. But, it belongs to Canada and is the capital of British Columbia, an honour Vancouver city across the bay would love to wrest for itself.

The ferry is actually a motorised catamaran, a flying cat as they are referred to in these parts. What might have taken lesser ferries eight hours is covered by the cat in just three. But if you’re one for instant nirvana, there are seaplanes that can fly you there in just an hour. We spot several of them gliding gracefully and landing on the water.

Rainbow Isle

The sea-lanes are busy with heavy traffic although the horizon has disappeared into a grey continuum. Strident foghorns seem the only defence in these weather conditions. And we sail on undeterred, to the jarring cacophony of the foghorns of the many vessels that clog this route. The fog disperses after an hour, and the bay reveals itself to be an electric blue, fringed by emerald islands overgrown with Douglas Fir and pine. Finally, you step out of the ferry in Victoria’s bustling harbour. The residential areas of the town sport green neighbourhoods and spacious bungalows while the waterfront is packed with yachts and schooners. Maritime town, this.

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Victoria may be a charming town with much to offer, but most visitors to the city head straight to the Butchart Gardens tucked away on the outskirts — because it’s not just any garden! Incredibly imaginative and impossibly romantic, Jennie Butchart, a wealthy resident converted an abandoned limestone quarry into a fantastic patch of ornamental petals, branches and ferns that attracts visitors from all over the world. We’re here on a gloriously sunny day and saunter through the sprawling gardens, inhaling the fragrance of a million blossoms that hang heavy in the air.

But we’re not the only ones enjoying the sunshine. In a thicket we come across a coil of snakes vying with each other to get a patch of the sunshine. A giant broccoli bush guards the entrance to a Japanese garden with its arched bridges and lamps while a lotus pond nestles in a clearing under the umbrella of giant cedars and pines.

The Italian garden can hold its own against the English Rose Garden with its magnificent rose fountain, spacious lawns and lily ponds. There are multiple shades and gradations for every colour and they explode like fireworks on the ground while the pollen-laden air is heady with the scent of myriad flowers. The only way to recover from this pleasant giddiness is to sample the elegantly-served but exorbitantly-priced afternoon tea with freshly-prepared treats from the garden.

Canopy walks

For those game for an adrenalin rush, there are balloon rides and canopy walks, but we opt for a three-hour whale-watching ride on a boat. The spray caresses your face as you peer over the starboard gamely trying to locate the whales through your steaming binoculars. The mist plays hide-and-seek and we give up.

Back on the shore, we resume our journey on foot through the green neighbourhoods of Victoria.

(Published in The Tribune dated


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