The sun has deserted us today but we are off to visit the truly beautiful Butchart Gardens, which were constructed in a former limestone quarry over 100 years ago. The colours are just unreal. Today we do see some wildlife, in the form of black-tailed deer and later seals. After the visit to the gardens, we walk round the harbour seeing the ‘Fisherman’s Wharves’, where there are houseboats and food stalls as well as commercial fishing boats. Some of our fellow travellers are whale watching but we have passed on this activity. Given our lack of success with wildlife, they are probably glad that we have decided not to jinx this tour for them. We later learn that a party of British whale watchers lost their lives on this coast the following day.
Then we take the coastal route to the ferry and even in a land full of trees, we are amazed at the amount of unclaimed driftwood. Chris is working out how he can get it home for the wood-burner. There are some very prestigious homes on this part of Vancouver Island. We eat on the ferry again and are impressed with the efficient way that they cope with all the food orders. Compared to Victoria, which is sheltered by the mountains, Vancouver’s climate is very wet but we have a fine day for our visit. Vancouver is Canada’s third largest city after Toronto and Montreal, with 2.3 million people living in Greater Vancouver, the majority of whom are of oriental descent. There are a large number of rough sleepers in the city because of the warmer climate.
The first European who is known to have set foot in Western Canada is Francis Drake, who landed on the west coast of Vancouver Island in the sixteenth century. Two hundred years later he was followed by Captain Cook who was accompanied by George Vancouver, a man of Dutch descent who was appointed to survey the coast of what became Vancouver Island. The city of Vancouver is surrounded on three sides by water. We visit the vibrant Granville Island Market on the waterfront, with its many bright, evocative-smelling food stalls. We see the Winter Olympic Village and the Stadium as well as yet another Chinatown. An area of the city is called Gastown after ‘Gassy’ Jack Deighton who opened a bar in the area and was famed for chatting or ‘gassing’. We are just in time to see the ‘steam clock’ letting off steam for the quarter hour and we pass the convention centres to reach Stanley Park. Stanley Park is 1½ times the size of New York’s Central Park and is beautiful. There are some impressive First Nations’ Totem Poles, which are basically family trees that you read from the bottom upwards, as the most significant symbol is at the bottom. They are traditionally carved from Western Red Cedar, known as ‘the tree of life’ because of its many uses. We also see raccoons (briefly) and plenty of Canada geese. The raccoons have become a problem as some are carrying rabies. Finally a photo stop at Lion Gate Bridge, which we shall be crossing tomorrow and then it is off to our final hotel of the trip.