While I was out in Vancouver, I was lucky enough to spend the entire day with some of the best tour guides in all of Canada on an excursion to Vancouver Island. We traveled by car and ferry to see Victoria (the capital of British Columbia) and the Butchart Gardens.
Technically, the city of Victoria reaches down below the 49th parallel, so it should be property of the United States. For whatever reason, the U.S. didn't want the hassle of managing the whole island, so it is entirely Canadian.
We took BC Ferries from Tsawwassen to Schwartz Bay, and drove into Victoria, through Chinatown, and past Fan Tan Alley (narrowest street in Canada), with time for lunch at Milestones. We walked through the Fairmont Empress and if we had more time, would have joined them for high tea.
Back in the coach, we headed out to see Mile Zero of the Trans-Canada Highway (road-trip to St. John's, Newfoundland, anyone?) and to tour Butchart Gardens.
Arriving at the Gardens, we heard the story of Jennie Butchart, who lived at the edge of an old cement quarry on the island in 1904. She started to grow a garden, at first because no one said it would be possible in such a poor location.
Well, they were wrong.
She served her friends tea in her own home when they came over to see her progress. Once word really spread, the family realized they would have to cut the tea and start charging admission. The gardens are still privately owned today by her great granddaughter, and about a million people visit each year. There are approximately 50 full-time gardeners, many are family members, husbands and wives, etc.
I'm not one to go crazy over gardens, but it was very nice to visit and wander with extra space to explore in the off-season. This excursion also showed me exactly how delightful it can be to travel with an insightful guide.
2015 Ed. Note: I think this trip actually *did* spark a love of gardens :)