Victoria: Pianos and Pansies

Pianos and pansies? What does that mean, you ask? In our time RVing, we’ve come across a few oddities – weird statues, eclectic people, comedic squirrels. Our first double take was a (poorly) tuned piano in Rossland, BC in 2016. Our son saddled up to it and played his favourite tune. Which in turn, inspired other budding pianists in the area to tickle the ivories when he was done.

Canada 150 piano – Oak Bay, Victoria, BC

So imagine our delight when we passed a brightly painted piano in Oak Bay! Of course we pulled over and suggested our son play his current set list (a series of 5 songs as he’d taken his Level One RCM exam two weeks before). It was amazing! The first piano was set along the side of the road in a small park setting in a beautiful residential neighbourhood. We did some Googling as there was an indication that it may not be the only piano in the area.

Turns out, there were FOUR* pianos in Oak Bay! As part of their plan to have more public art in the area, 2017 was their fourth year to have the pianos out and about in the neighbourhoods of the small municipality on the southern tip of  Vancouver Island. Located along the scenic Beach Drive, the indicated five locations were Turkey Head, Loon Bay Park, Cattle Point, Willows Park and Estevan Village. We now had a mission – would we find all of them before we left the Island in the morning? 

Harbour Side Piano, Oak Bay, Victoria, BC

One was deserted when we found it, another was being played when we pulled up (to which I exclaimed “Look! I’m not the only Mom who makes their kid play!”). The pianos were well tuned and each had it’s own cover. The pianos are covered each night and uncovered each morning by volunteers. Of the two we found, the Canadian themed one was probably our favourite – in part because it looks over the ocean (Oak Bay) – how incredibly perfect. We were serenaded by a man who happened upon the first one we found while we were exploring the beach just below. He was a very accomplished singer and pianist. It was a wonderful experience for all of us – because art should be enjoyed. Thank you Oak Bay for the beautiful and thoughtful art projects found throughout your community!

Many will tell you that a visit to Victoria is not complete without a stop at Butchart Gardens. A national historic site and with gardens dating back to the early 1900’s, it is a site well worth the drive! It is not located in Victoria proper and it is a bit of a strange drive to find the gardens but it is an amazing and immaculate oasis tucked away deep on the Saanich Inlet.

  • Waterwheel Square at night
    Waterwheel Square at night
  • Pretty painted poppy
    Pretty painted poppy
  • Chinese Dragon Fountain at night
    Chinese Dragon Fountain at night
  • Sunken Garden in the evening
    Sunken Garden in the evening
  • Rose Merry-Go-Round
    Rose Merry-Go-Round
  • English rose
    English rose
  • Totem pole
    Totem pole
  • Beautiful blooms
    Beautiful blooms
  • Chinese Dragon Fountain (daylight)
    Chinese Dragon Fountain (daylight)
  • Butchart Gardens Welcome!
    Butchart Gardens Welcome!

 

 

 

The site of their depleted limestone mine, Mrs. Butchart set about reclaiming the quarry by creating a sunken garden. Originally hauling top soil in by horse and cart in 1912, by 1929, she had created the sunken garden, Japanese garden, and Italian garden and the sprawling rose garden. In 1939, Mrs. Butchart’s grandson took ownership of the gardens and transformed it into a tourist destination.

With over one million plants, night lighting, music concerts, restaurants, cafes and year round activities, the Butchart Gardens is one of the most romantic and peaceful places we’ve visited. Since it’s inception, the gardens have continued to grow and include new garden and natural areas, water features, a concert venue, boat tours and a beautiful merry-go-round!  The gardens are owned by the great grandchildren of the Butchart’s and operate all year long. 

Thank you, Vancouver Island – for the most memorable two weeks we’ve ever enjoyed. See you next time! xo

 

*Our initial search told us four – when doing some research for this piece, we discovered there were actually five.

 

Victoria – Carr, culture & the West Coast experience

What do Beacon Hill Park and Emily Carr have in common? They are probably the two most famous things about the city of Victoria! Emily Carr is from Victoria and one of our favourite Canadian painters. Of course we had to tour her family home!

Located in the gorgeous downtown section of Victoria, Emily Carr House is both a National and Provincial Historic Site. The home is part art gallery, part interpretive centre. With it’s sprawling period gardens, it is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. Parking can be a bit tricky (as there is street parking but it can be difficult to find). The neighbourhood is old with many towering trees and older historic homes so having to walk a few blocks is part of the experience.

Pacific Rim National Park – Part Three: Wildlife! (Vacation 2017)

Wildlife! A trip to Vancouver Island would not be complete without a whale or wildlife watching tour. There are many companies in both Ucluelet and Tofino that offer tours (Victoria has them too). Our tour was with Subtidal Adventures, with Captain Brian, an informative, fun-loving, dedicated wildlife conservationist and former Pacific Rim National Park park warden. Their whale watching tours are typically done in a zodiac (their company was the first to offer zodiac tours in the area) and are not recommended for anyone with back problems. This is something to keep in mind if you’ve got any issues with back pain or have had back or neck surgeries.

Welcome to Part Three of our excursion to Pacific Rim National Park Reserve! Please check out Part One and Part Two!

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve – Part One (Vacation 2017)

Sunset at Green Point

After our stay in Ucluelet, the next stop on our journey was Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. There are three distinct parts to PRNPR: Long Beach Unit, Broken Group Islands and the West Coast Trail.  As we only explored the Long Beach Unit, we will be sharing some resources for discovering the other two portions of the Park (see the end of this article for links). 

 

 

 

 

 

Ucluelet (Vacation 2017)

If there was a place a vacationer could stay forever, it would be the west coast of Vancouver Island. We easily (and quickly) fell head over heels in love with Ucluelet (and area). See our Vacation Series here!

We stayed at “Surf Junction Campground” – a cute little spot, eight kilometers north of Ucluelet and less than one from the Highway 4 junction. The staff were helpful, kind and very friendly. It was clear they had passion for their job and their community. We had a reservation (which was a good thing) although they did have RV sites available, their tent sites were full.