BILL MURRAY Trip to Butchart Gardens in Victoria
posted April 27 2019

Janice and I had a family event in Victoria at the end of April and since we live in North Vancouver, we decided to take the ferry to Nanaimo and drive down the Island, instead of fighting the traffic to get to Tsawwassen. The ferry was quite full, which was surprising to me being it was the 10:40 sailing on a Wednesday, but the sailing was quite pleasant despite the fact that we couldn’t sit on the sun deck due to the brisker than normal wind.

We had planned to visit the Butchart Gardens and I dutifully plotted out our route to get from Highway 1 over to the Gardens using Google. At this point I would like to issue a warning, DO NOT TRUST GOOGLE! Their suggested route had us leaving Highway 1 at Helmcken Road which turned into Wilkinson Road. At one point there are two Wilkinson Roads and if you foolishly decide to take this route, be sure to take the Wilkinson road that goes to the left. Oh, yes and another thing, do not take Google’s suggested route any time after 2:30 PM on a week day as this narrow two-lane road is bumper to bumper with traffic with people heading I don’t know where at alarmingly slow speeds. Suddenly Wilkinson meets up with Interurban Road and if you aren’t in the left turn lane at this intersection, you can always hope some kind Victorian lets you cut across in front of him into the local penitentiary parking lot to reverse your course. “No, we are not checking in, just turning around, sir”. Did I tell you we were about an hour behind schedule? 

Excitement grew as we anticipated turning left from narrow little Interurban Road onto its big brother “Highway 17A”, yes we were going to get onto a Highway, no more “roads” for us! Nope, Highway 17A, (aka West Saanich Road) turned out to be narrower and twistier than Interurban. They had even closed down one of the two lanes in order to do something with the buildup of mud at the side of the road (we don’t need no stinkin’ shovels, we have a backhoe!!) So our journey was delayed even more as they alternated traffic through the one open lane. Then it was left on Wallace Drive and finally we reached Benvenuto Avenue, the narrow road that leads into the Butchart Gardens. Now I understand enough Italian to know that Benvenuto means “welcome”. However it seems those in control of the traffic in this area must think that it means “good luck” as in good luck trying to turn left at a very busy intersection with stop signs not placed to slow down cars speeding around blind corners, but set where one has to burn rubber after coming to a full stop to avoid said cars speeding around blind corners to the left and right. Did I mention we were about an hour and a half behind schedule?

So we pulled up beside the entrance kiosk, not around 3 as planned, but at 4:15, and the first thing we see is the sign that says the Gardens close at 5:00. What the heck, lets do it, and we started laughing until tears ran down our cheeks. The attendant must have thought we were crazy. Fortunately the tickets we received said the Gardens were going to close at 6. The good news is, the gardens were spectacular! The spring flowers were at their best, the place was not crowded and the weather was warm.

Bill Murray’s tip #1 – when driving from Nanaimo to the Butchart Gardens, take McKenzie Avenue East to the Patricia Bay Highway #1 and then drive North until you turn left on Keating Cross Road. Miraculously, Keating Cross Road actually becomes Benvenuto Avenue and welcome to the Butchart Gardens! Or you could just take the ferry from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay and forget all I just described.

We normally stay at the Chateau Victoria, however it was booked up so I looked at other accommodations. I finally settled on the Grand Pacific Hotel which was a little more expensive than what we were looking for, but I figured we were worth it having survived 30 years working at the CBC and 13 more at BC Ferries. Besides it is nice to splurge once in a while. The hotel is just west of the Legislative Building and within walking distance of the downtown stores and sights. I took advantage of their “Senior’s Moment” special of $287 per night  – we had the Victoria Suite with a king size bed, free underground parking, and 15% off of food and no-alcoholic beverages at their dining facilities and room service. Regular rooms run at $299 per night plus $18 a day for parking. If you did not need your room cleaned and have fresh towels every day, they also gave each person a $5 credit for their meals. We went downstairs for breakfast every morning to their Courtyard Café where one could get coffee or other bottled beverages and a scone or muffin still warm from the oven.

We found a great place to have dinner “Frankie’s Modern Diner” upstairs at 910 Government Street. You can view their menu on-line. They do offer small portions if you want, in addition to regular-sized meals, I had delicious spaghetti and meatballs and Janice had a Caesar salad with chicken. Including wine, the bill was under $40.00.

Just opposite the restaurant at the corner of Government and Humboldt, there used to be the 104 year old Customs House, a landmark on the edge of the inner harbour. They are turning it into luxury condominium suites, but the interesting thing is that they have kept the exterior façade of the building. I found it incredible that they are able to do that. I wish that Vancouver had kept more of its historic buildings intact the way that Victoria has. The Empress Hotel has had all the ivy removed, the outer walls have all been sand blasted and a new roof was installed, this fine old lady looks great!

No trip to Victoria would be complete until we visited the Rogers Chocolate Heritage Store at 913 Government Street. With our chocolate treats in hand we walked on the waterfront back to our hotel for our last night in this beautiful place.



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Outside the Chateau Victoria

Outside the Chateau Victoria

Giant 100 foot tall Sequoia tree outside the Legislative Building, planted in the 1860’s

Giant 100 foot tall Sequoia tree outside the Legislative Building, planted in the 1860’s

Rose Carousel in the Butchart Gardens

Rose Carousel in the Butchart Gardens