The Saanich Peninsula

Our final day on the island and we awoke to rain – the first we had encountered during this trip and a forecast of worse to come. Well we’d done quite a lot – again – and not enough – again – so today would be a “quiet day”. We had contemplated a visit to the world-famous Butchart Garden, a must see if you have not been there and like gardens of course. Instead we decided on the little known Abkhazi Garden in Oak Bay, which has been designed around the glaciated rocky slopes and magnificent Garry oaks.

It is probably far more colourful in spring or summer, but it is the overall design which is impressive. The garden is a visual interpretation of a love story that had to wait for twenty years to blossom. The story began in Paris in 1920 when British ex-pat Peggy Pemberton-Carter met and fell in love with a Georgian Prince, Nicholas. However, life interfered and then war and Nicholas became a prisoner of war in a German POW camp whilst Peggy was held by the Japanese. After the war Peggy tracked her prince down and married him and they moved to Victoria in 1946 and as Peggy was now too old to bear children, they created the garden of their love.

The one acre garden fell into a period of decline after 1988 when Nicholas died and after Peggy’s death in 1994 it became under the threat of the developer. Fortunately Victorians raised money to save it and it is now being restored to its former glory.

From there we hit the beach road and the scenic drive stopping at several viewpoints along the route over the Strait of Juan de Fuca although expecting a view was slightly optimistic. The weather was deteriorating and was now a dismal heavy drizzle but we continued to meander up the peninsula for a look at Brentwood Bay not far from the Butchart Gardens and the State and Church Winery.

(Butchart Gardens are definitely deserving of a visit if you ever travel this way and like visiting gardens, it is rather expensive, but very beautiful in the summer months, though it can get very busy as large coaches visit – I will create a separate post to show the gardens in their glory)

Brentwood Bay is the home of the Brentwood – Mill Bay ferry. It is a quaint little village but hideously spoiled, in my view, by a large condominium complex overhanging the harbour. With the weather closing in we didn’t even get a glimpse of the view across to Mill Bay and completely missed the harbour seal bobbing about amongst the boats (we were informed of his presence by a local fisherman).

Arriving at Sidney by-the-Sea (which is also referred to as Booktown on account of the many unique bookshops offering browsing opportunities of new, second-hand, antiquarian, speciality books and children’s books) we decided to brave the inclement weather and wander down to the seafront.

Sidney is a tourist’s dream with a friendly port, loads of galleries, shops, restaurants, bakeries and coffee shops and I suspect you can take interesting trips out to the surrounding San Juan Islands as well as ferries to Washington State in the USA.

The diver in this picture was carved from an 80 foot standing seasoned red cedar tree.

Thoroughly drenched and cold, we were literally blown into a lovely little coffee shop where we had a well-deserved hot drink. Defeated by the storm blowing later that evening we regrettably ate in the nearby Smitty’s Family restaurant where we had the most tasteless burger I have ever eaten. Fortunately we had bought a bottle of BC Pinot Noir whilst out in the afternoon so had something to look forward to in our rather dark and dreary motel room.

A bit of a damp ending to our Island adventure, but at least the following Sunday dawned clear and bright again for the crossing over to the mainland from Swartz Bay, meandering between the Gulf Islands. Sadly no orcas this time, but lounging on deck in the glorious sunshine we were pleasantly entertained by a group of young musicians for the 1 ½ hour crossing to Tsawwassen on the mainland. And before very long we had dropped off the car at the International airport on Sea Island and having a relaxing lunch with a final glass of BC Pinot Noir before our long flight home.

(Ferry crossing between Vancouver and the Island cost CAN$ 73.50 each way + $15 for reservation, if you need one for a car and two adults. You can go as a foot passenger and use Pacific Coach to get to and from the terminals – prices 2010)


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I live in the UK, but when I was younger I spent several years travelling the world followed by a period living in South Africa. I look forward to a long and leisurely retirement doing what I like most - gardening, photography, walking and travelling.

16 thoughts on “The Saanich Peninsula”

  1. Lovely story about Peggy and Nicholas, though a shame about the weather that day. I am sorry to see the end of this trip, but not as much as you must have been! Regards from an overcast Norfolk. Pete. x

    1. I think that the whole of Vancouver Island is a relaxed place. And very friendly too. Driving, going on the ferries, nothing is rushed. I feel vey calm there, a shame I can’t live there 😦

        1. Shropshire is very calm too – you have to be very patient when there are no motorways and it takes over an hour to reach one on the windy, narrow roads! And following tructors (my word for tractors or trucks) that clog the roads slows you right down 😉

          I hate driving on motorways now! So much traffic!

  2. I know I shouldn’t care about the weather but I cannot stop myself caring. It is truly picture postcard despite the poor day. You have probably said but what time of the year was your trip?

        1. I think it is one of those destinations that has all sorts of weather at any time. We went in August the first time and it was mostly lovely and warm and dry, but the further north we went the cooler and foggier it became. Victoria however was glorious and quite hot. I believe they have a milder climate there, so September should be fine.

  3. I loved reading about Peggy and Nicholas, how romant♥c! 🙂
    Such stories put meat on the skeleton and give the travels another quality. And your photos goes very well with it. In my opinion, a good photographer is good storyteller, with our without words.
    Before I went to Sissinghurst this summer, I read 3-4 books about Vita and Harold, Virgina W. and… and… it was exciting to walk around, almost being familiar to the grounds.
    I know the weather is always a matter when you are travelling, even more a matter when you are seriously interested in photography. Actually, I think the bad weather is more interesting. I love storms, rain and the brilliant light when the rain has just stopped. Earlier this summer I went to Oslo to see the magnificent Opera House. I only had this one day and of course it rained. Grrrr. It turned out to be so moody and my rainy day at the opera was so special. The atmosphere in your photos is great!

    1. Thank you Dina. I am always interested in the story behind a place if there is one. I think it just adds to the experience. Sissinghurst is one of my favourite gardens, but unfortunately a bit too far to travel to in a day from where we currently live.

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