Since we had such a short distance to cruise today, we started the day in leisure fashion, and fixed a fancy breakfast of blueberry pancakes and Canadian bacon. It was a tasty alternative to our usual fare of Cheerios. Following cleanup, I raised anchor at 9:45 am, and we were off to Butchart Gardens. It was another gorgeous sunny day, and we motored down Saanich Inlet at a comfortable 5 knots. We reached Butchart Cove a little before 11am, and so took the time to explore Tod Inlet, a narrow, steep sided inlet which wraps around for a mile or so beyond Butchart Cove. We then returned to Butchart Cove, and were pleased to see that all 4 of their mooring buoys were open. We tied up to the small one, which is furthest in. I had Cameron retrieve the hose reel which holds our 400 foot long stern tie line from the deepest recesses of the king berth, and I placed it in a fishing rod holder. I rowed to shore with the end of the stern tie line, looped it around a convenient tree, and then returned to the boat with the stern tie line. Once back on board I pulled in the slack and tied off. This arrangement keeps us from swinging in the tight quarters of Butchart Cove.
We gathered camera, snacks, hats, sunglasses, water bottles, and other necessities for exploring the wonders of Butchart Gardens, and climbed into the dinghy for the short row across the cove to their expansive dinghy dock. An employee was there to take our line. We tied up, purchased tickets at the head of the dock, and walked up the carefully raked gravel path into the gardens. This approach took us up into the Japanese Garden area, and we followed meandering paths through the lush greenery of the Japanese Garden. We were treated to one surprise after another as we climbed on up to the level of the main gardens. First task was to make dinner reservations at their main restaurant. We wanted to eat at 6pm, with an outdoor table, so we would finish in time to take in their live evening concert, which starts at 8pm. We were pleased to find that they would be able to accomodate us.
Our next priority was to wander into the gardens, in search of the most perfect bench, where we would sit and enjoy the drinks and snacks we’d brought along. We walked up a dark, deeply shaded path which opened at the brink of the Sunken Garden, which is more or less the focal point of Butchart Gardens. It’s a stunningly landscaped area, dramatically located in a former limestone quarry. Planting of this quarry was started by Ruth Butchart over 100 years ago, and her remarkable drive and vision transformed a once stark quarry into a profusion of floral color which is one of Canada’s true treasures. We found our perfect bench, and snacked while soaking in the view. After our light lunch, we walked down the steep switchback trail to the floor of the Sunken Garden, where paths wind around, amongst the floral beds. At the far end, we peered over the railing to a large pond, far below, which is animated by a fountain, with multiple jets which trace interweaving patterns into the sky.
We then retraced our steps and explored other areas of the gardens. We sat down and enjoyed ice cream, and even took time for an extended break in the shade. I napped on a shady, sloping lawn while Cameron lounged on a smooth rock while reading his book. It struck me that, on our two previous visits to Butchart, we were on a tight schedule, with only a couple of hours allotted for seeing the gardens. This meant that we were quickly walking from one vista to another, snapping pictures as we went. This time was different. We could take our time, enjoy rests at particularly nicely placed benches, chat with other visitors who also seemed to be taking things a bit more slowly. We took pictures, yes, but we put more effort into absorbing mental images and impressions.
Our dinner at 6pm was very special. We had a corner table on the veranda, comfortably shaded and looking out on the lawn and star pond. The food was pricey, as expected, but unique, delicious, and stylishly presented. We were in the mood for a special meal, and it was worth every penny. We finished our desserts just in time to walk over to the outdoor performance stage for the evening concert. The group consisted of 6 or 7 musicians, and two vocalists. They performed a wide range of classic rock and dance music. It was a treat to listen to. In front of the musicians they have a large dance floor, and 20 or 20 couples, who appear to be part of a ballroom dance group, came up and danced up a storm. Some were extremely talented, and all were fun to watch. One woman appeared to be in her 80’s, while several young girls were also practising their steps.
After the concert we hit the gift shop for some souvenier shopping. Cameron selected several unique items to give to bring back to his sister and folks. We left the gift shop around 9:30pm, as dusk was settling over the gardens. This becomes a truly magical time, as the lights come on, and paths walked in bright sunlight are transformed into enchantingly new experiences. Shadows intrude onto the walkways, while here and there, lighting plays on the flowers. Some blossoms are highlighted by individual spotlights. Elsewhere, colored flood lights shine up into the branches of trees. Butchart Gardens at night is a place transformed. We wandered down the twisting paths of the Japanese Garden, pausing at a hole in a hedge, which framed a lovely late sunset view of Butchart Cove. This was a memorable day indeed.