Whalechaser's Musings

No Matter Where You Go...
There You Are
Make the Best of It

Saturday, November 17, 2012

On the Road...Butchart Gardens, Vancouver Island, BC Canada

After taking the ferry from the City of Vancouver, we stopped at the north end of Vancouver Island in order to most easily travel to world-famous Butchart Gardens.  I had heard about the gardens first from my dear friend in NJ at least 20 years ago.  I remember it well because she was quite taken by them when she visited and I knew if they had that effect on her...well then, they must be spectacular.  And they are!

The admission tickets were arranged for in advance and box lunches were prepared so all that was necessary was to go and pick them up. Then wander through the gardens at a relaxing pace and eat whenever the mood struck.

What is pretty interesting is that the gardens were really an after-thought.  Originally, the land was used for mining limestone for the production of cement...not a very good start for world-famous gardens.  The wife of Robert Pim Buchart was mortified at the devastation caused by the mining technique used and decided that she would truck in some soil and start a garden to make the place pretty again.  Fifty-five acres is a lot of soil and I have to say she did a heck of a job turning an eyesore into spectacular gardens.  OK that is really the story, I will let the pictures speak for themselves... if you double click  you can see enlarged photos.

This is an overview of the actual pit left from the mining operation

Then I wanted to get up close and personal with a few of the flowers that really got my attention

 if you closely at this pretty yellow flower you will see a very attractive bee near the center, that was a bonus for my patience!

 Don't ask me what these are, I only thought they were picture worthy.

 Off in a little nook they built a carousel for the childern.  Not using standard horses though.  Here I caught a shot of a reindeer, a cat with a mouse and a frog...ah the fantasy of it all!

These flowers were just so pretty, I kept saying  (out loud -- to anyone who would listen) they are so pretty they don't look real!

 We then boarded the bus to travel to the southern end of Vancouver Island where we stayed for two nights to the Royal Scots Inn and Suites.  They had a real, live Bag-piper to "pipe" us in.  You don't find that everyday!

This was one of the most enjoyable days of the entire trip.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

On the Road...Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

We left Seattle early in the morning on another Amtrak excursion to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  This was not the exclusive train that was the Amtrak Cascades, but the ride was pleasant enough and I got to see a lot of the coast on the four hour trip.

Vancouver is a very special City and it seemed everything about it beckons to the senses.  They are proud that there are no major highways into the city, and it doesn't seem like any are needed.  It is a city that is made up of neighborhoods where the folks live in the city and have at their disposal all the comforts they could want within easy distance.  So there is no crazy rush hours or heavy throngs of people at rush hour. It was very refreshing to see.  We stayed in the city for several days and it never felt crushed, tense or overly busy.

We used our first afternoon visiting the waterfront and Stanley Park.  Here they had a large collection of Totem poles.
 Then it was on to Gastown or the older section of Vancouver.  Some of the buildings begged to be photographed.
 The following day we toured Granville Island which is a high-end crafters community with a large Public Market of produce, meats, fish, cheese, baked goods and all sorts of goodies to eat.
This was a broom craft shop, they construct the brooms from the hand-hewn wooden handles and the brush materials and cord to hold it all together.  Very high quality and sturdy.
 I was most impressed by the public market.  Below is a cheese stand.  If you look closely, you will see they have six different varieties of Feta Cheese.  Six different varieties...well, it was just amazing to me!
 Three kinds of fresh figs and lots of other fresh fruits.  Sweet!
 You can really see how they care about presentation...look at how they stacked the cherries!
 The meat markets were simply incredible, this shot below is only lamb, and I wasn't able to get everything that they had to offer in the way of lamb in this shot.  It just went on and on.
 In Morton Park, nearby our hotel, we got to walk among some wonderful sculpture called "A-Maze-Ing Laughter" by Yue Minjun, a Chinese artist. He used his own iconic face in a state of hysterical laughter as a signature trademark for each of the pieces shown below.

You just cannot help but feel fabulous among these laughing statues!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

On the Road...Seattle, Washington

We arrived in Seattle with enough time to have dinner and a quick presentation at our hotel before calling it a day.  Then we got to tour the city and visit the Hiram M. Chittendon Locks.  We also saw how they  adjust for a 20 foot change in water level, as is demonstrated by the sail boat utilizing the locks from the Puget Sound side to the Lake Washington side.  It had just entered the lock as shown below and the gates behind the sailboat are closing.  The lock will then fill with water and the boat will rise to be level with the tan looking thin horizontal line just about at the top of the gate. 

Once that level is achieved, the sailboat can then proceed through the other end of  the lock and on to Lake Washington.  The whole process took about 15 minutes.

What I found even more interesting is the Lake Washington Ship Canal Fish Ladder which is located just opposite the locks on the other side of the river.   This Fish Ladder was constructed on July 4, 1917 and refurbished on June 1, 1976 and is used annually by the many different types of Salmon that spawn through this section of the canal.   Below is a guide explaining how the fish ladder works, while you can see in the background a rather large Salmon using the facility.

 Here is a view of the fish ladder from the top and outside...the depth of course is as deep as the canal which in this section is at least 20 feet.  I think it is pretty amazing that the fish are able to utilize a man-made structure so they can complete their naturally driven spawning requirements.

 Then it was on the the University of Washington Conservatory.....yep, more flowers.  No roses here but lots of tropical plants, carnivorous plants and other wonders that kept me mesmerized.

 These are some of the carnivorous plants that they had on display; they were so colorful and inviting, it's no wonder the bugs don't stand a chance
 Orchids, orchids and more orchids....so much eye candy!

On the same campus as the conservatory was a museum of Asian artifacts, where I had to visit with this poor lonely camel.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

On the Road -- Columbia Gorge, Oregon

My on the road trip continued to the beautiful Columbia River Gorge, National Scenic Area.  We had a great tour guide, a geologist from the local university.  He sprinkled the tour information with plenty of geology talk and (surprisingly) humor.

Here we were looking down on the beautiful Gorge, it is easy to understand how this became  the first planned scenic highway in the United States.
 I could not pass up the opportunity of taking a photo of this artist and his rendering of the Gorge.  I think he did a pretty nice job.  I wanted to take lots of shots, but settled for just this one.  I somehow felt even this was an invasion of his privacy.
 Then it was on to Multnomah Falls, just a little further down the river.  It is almost impossible to get a shot of the entire falls in one photo.  They are that tall....620 feet from its origin on Larch Mountain.  It is the second tallest year round waterfall in the country.
 We had to hurry to catch the Amtrak Cascades train to Seattle.  This was one of the most enjoyable train rides I have ever taken.  Very classy.
Next stop...Seattle, Washington; stay tuned.

Monday, November 5, 2012

On the Road...Portland, Oregon

I finally took the trip to the Pacific Northwest that has been playing on my mind for quite a few years. While it probably would have been better if I had driven and stayed in each place as long as I wanted, I did see things that I would not have, if I had not taken the Road Scholar trip. It was more a sample of each city; allowing one to get a taste of many things and perhaps then, planning a longer trip to go back and see and do the activities that are most appealing. At that point, one would have a pretty good working knowledge of the city and further exploration would involve specific interests. Our first big stop was the International Rose Test Garden, which is located in Portland and operated by Portland's Park and Recreation Department.

Roses are not a plant that I have ever had to desire to grow but I certainly can appreciate viewing them for their delicate beauty and the aromas while walking through this park were truly phenomenal.  So I did not make note of any of the names of the beauties I have pictured below.  I suggest you do what I did...just take a few moments and enjoy each one.  Names are really irrelevant.


No these are not roses...but I thought they were pretty just the same!

Then our group worked our way through the City of Portland to enjoy some of the Public Art Program that is offered by the City.

One would have to look very closely to see this very nice rendering of Nassaridin Hoja, a classic Turkish philosopher/comic.  I found it atop a post that was used to cordon off a pedestrian mall walking area.
I suppose no trip to Portland would be complete without taking in the view of the famous Portlandia, a 1985 copper repousse by Raymond  Kaskey.  The work is based on the official Seal of the City of Portland and it is really big...34 feet 10 inches high.
This last item really caught my attention.  I saw it just at the end of our microbrewery tour.  So it is a kind of beer wagon but look closely and you will see that it is pedal driven and the peddlers sit facing each other and are perpendicular to the direction of the wheels.  I thought it was very interesting and I would have loved to see the thing in operation.  Notice in the green circle on the wooden fascia of the vehicle is a picture of how the people would be sitting.
Some things I did not get to see were: Powells Book Store; though we did drive by it and it is a full city block in size.  Oh my...I could spend some time in there.  Another place that we rode by but could not manage to fit into our schedule was a place called VooDoo Donuts...I understand it has almost a cult following and the donuts can get really weird, but no matter...rumor has it that they are all fabulous.  Maybe next time.