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A Castle With No King

Canada #8 Craigdorrach Castle, Victoria BC

When Robert and Joan Dunsmuir began construction of their palatial mansion in 1887, they probably didn’t intend it to be known as a castle. But with its prominent position high above the city of Victoria, its imposing towers and ornamented gables, Craigdorrach Castle seems the perfect name for this imposing building.

Originally from Scotland, Robert Dunsmuir had several successful businesses in the second half of the nineteenth century. The fortune he made through coal, railways, shipping and timber was reflected in the lavish interior of the castle, including intricately detailed woodwork, beautiful stained glass windows and the latest modern conveniences of the time.

From the rooms on the fourth floor, including the tower high in the roof of the castle, the family enjoyed expansive views across Victoria and the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the Olympus Mountains in Washington State, USA.

Robert Dunsmuir never enjoyed the final result of his prosperity; he died in 1890 before the house was completed. Joan lived there with three of her daughters and two grandchildren until her death in 1908. Then the castle became a military hospital before being used as the site of Victoria College, the forerunner of the University of Victoria. After a third reincarnation as the Victoria Conservatory of Music, the castle was preserved as a museum.

First opening to the public in 1969, Craigdorrach Castle is now a Designated National House Historic Site. Every year, more than 140,000 people come to see the castle, experiencing for themselves the luxurious surroundings Robert Dunsmuir never did.

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For the Love of Flowers

Canada #4 Butchart Gardens

I wonder if, when Jennie Butchart first began designing her garden in 1906, she imagined how many people would come to visit in the future. Her work was the start of what would become the famous Butchart Gardens, 22 hectares of floral beauty visited by one million people every year.

Jennie’s first project was the Japanese Garden, complete with a red torii gate and traditional stone lanterns. Arched bridges span a series of ornamental lakes, and Japanese maples provide shade for beds of delicate Himalayan blue poppies.

The Sunken Garden was designed to fill the abandoned quarry which had once provided limestone to the family’s cement factory. A switchback path leads down into the garden, continuing on between raised beds of seasonal blooms, flowering trees and neatly manicured lawns.

At the furthest end of the Sunken Garden, the Ross Fountain performs a dazzling display of dancing water, at times reaching a height of 21 metres.

In contrast to the order of the Sunken Garden, the Rose Garden is almost riotous in its abundance. Fragrant blooms in every colour fill archways and spill out onto the paths. Arbors draped with climbing roses and oversized hanging baskets beckon visitors, who stop time and again to take more photos.

The Italian Garden and Star Pond are more formal in style, with trimmed hedges, waterlily ponds and ornamental fountains. Fuschias, clustered like ballerinas waiting in the wings, dangle from more hanging baskets.

Shaded seats with beautiful views are provided here for those enjoying a treat from the Gelataria.

In any season, the gardens are busy with people who’ve come to marvel at the beauty created by Jennie Butchart.

I think she’d be pleased to know how much joy her vision still brings, more than 100 years after she planted her first roses.

 

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A Change of Plans

Canada #3 Victoria

At the start, it wasn’t going to be a long walk! From the waterfront in downtown Victoria to Fisherman’s Wharf along the David Foster Harbour Pathway was just one kilometre.

We could have taken a relaxing carriage ride past the elegant buildings on Belleville Street but we were glad we didn’t.

We would have missed seeing the continual arrival and departure of the Harbour Air seaplanes. We marvelled at the skill of the pilots and the lightness with which these tiny aircraft landed on the water.

We wouldn’t have come across the Friendship Bell, symbol of a 30 year bond between the citizens of Morioka, Japan and Victoria.

We wouldn’t have seen these beautiful waterlilies, serenely floating in a water garden along the front of an apartment building.

When we arrived at Fisherman’s Wharf, the cafés, boutiques and tourist shops were all bustling with people enjoying the fine summer weather. We admired the colourful float homes lined up against the jetties and wondered about the lifestyle of the inhabitants. The queues at the cafés were long and the tables were full, so we decided to continue further along the path.

We passed the Canadian Coast Guard and the Victoria Harbour Heliport before arriving at Ogden Point, part of the traditional lands of the Lekwungen peoples. Ogden Point is the busiest cruise ship port in Canada; each year more than 400,000 passengers start their visit to Victoria here.

Ogden Point Breakwater, a 762 metre long concrete wall jutting out into the calm waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, is decorated with Na’Tsa’Maht – The Unity Wall. The mural painted by Salish Nations artists depicts the stories, past and present, of the local First Nations peoples.

After trekking out to the Ogden Point Breakwater Lighthouse and back, it was time for a rest at the Breakwater Café Bistro Bar. We enjoyed steaming hot chocolates served with a view of the snow-capped Olympic Mountains across the water in Washington State.

Continuing along Dallas Road to Holland Point Park, we joined the Waterfront Trail which passes through the park to the Shoreline Trail. Both tracks were lined with delicate pink flowers growing wild on the edge of the cliff. Huge piles of driftwood washed up by the ocean lay in stacks along the shore below.

At Douglas Street we left the Waterfront Trail, stopping first at the Mile Zero Monument which marks the start of the Trans-Canada Highway.

Nearby we paid our respects at a statue of Terry Fox, the inspirational teenager who, after losing his leg to cancer, started a run across Canada in 1980 to raise awareness and funds for cancer research. He never finished the journey, succumbing to the disease after running 5,373 kilometres in 143 days. Today, his legacy lives on in the Terry Fox Foundation.

Further down Douglas Street we entered Beacon Hill Park, where a giant watering can sprays cooling water from its spout on hot days. The ducks at Goodacre Lake didn’t need a hot day to take to the water – they were all bottoms up in search of tasty morsels.

We walked past a local school with a famous name and an intriguing place in Canadian political history and the Royal BC Museum, on our list for another day.

At last we arrived back where we’d started in downtown Victoria. Our walk may have been much longer than we planned, but we saw a lot more than we expected.

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Welcome to Canada!

Canada #1 Victoria BC

There’s something special about visiting a country for the first time. When we arrived in Victoria, British Columbia the feeling was extra special, with flags, music and colourful celebrations on every street. But we knew the party wasn’t in honour of our arrival. We were there in time to celebrate Canada Day!


This year, 1st of July was the 151st anniversary of Canada’s achievement of self-governance and we were excited to join the festivities in front of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. Proud Canadians wearing red and white formed a living flag and, all around us, the national anthem was sung with patriotic fervour. With markets, concerts and cultural displays to enjoy, we were immersed in the emotion of the day.



At dusk we stood on the crowded Johnson St Bridge to watch as fireworks brightened the darkening sky. The city lights, with the illuminated Legislature at their centre, glowed on the blackened waters of the Inner Harbour.


Even though the party wasn’t meant for us, we felt welcomed in the most special way!

Gold Fever

An Australian Point of View #3 Sovereign Hill

On the main street of Ballarat there’s a memorial commemorating the centenary of the discovery of gold in 1851. It is dedicated to the miners who toiled on the gold fields and has a replica of the second largest gold nugget ever found. The Welcome Nugget, weighing almost 70 kg and worth £10,500 at the time, was discovered at Bakery Hill in 1858.

More than 25,000 people flocked to the gold fields in western Victoria. Miners with hopes of riches came from around the world and others, who saw the money-making opportunities, provided the goods and services the miners needed. Another life-size replica, even bigger than that massive nugget, allows 21st century visitors to travel back in time to experience life on the gold fields in the 1850s.

Sovereign Hill is one of Australia’s most visited tourist attractions. History comes alive at the open-air museum located on the site of original gold workings.


Cobb & Co coaches once carried passengers and parcels of gold from Ballarat to Melbourne. At Sovereign Hill, teams of Clydesdales pull handcrafted replica coaches and drays through the streets.


On Main Street the grocer, apothecary and drapers sell traditional wares. A popular store is the confectionery, where raspberry drops, toffee apples and humbugs gleam like crystals on the shelves.

There are two hotels, a theatre and a school where today’s students can dress up in knickerbockers and braces, bonnets and pinafores for an 1850s school day. Those who work at Sovereign Hill dress up too; the streets are filled with redcoated soldiers, demure ladies and policemen ready to check for mining licences.

Closer to the gold mine, the blacksmith turns out horseshoes and mining tools. A boiler attendant works around the clock to keep up a constant supply of steam for the mine engines. At the smelting works, a three kilogram gold bar worth $100,000 is melted in the furnace before being poured into a mould to take shape again.


Down in Red Hill Gully, calico tents and bark huts like those the first miners lived in dot the hillside, and a makeshift store sells the necessary fossicking tools.



Modern treasure hunters pan for alluvial gold and, if they’re lucky enough to find some, they can take it home.


Like most of those hopeful miners of the 1850s, they won’t be retiring on their earnings!

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Born to Sing

An Australian Point of View #2 Redcliffe

There’s a lot to like about Redcliffe. This seaside suburb on Brisbane’s northern outskirts has a broad esplanade overlooking the calm waters of Moreton Bay. Redcliffe Jetty, the third to be built on the site, has heritage features copied from its forebears. There are plenty of cafes where cake and coffee can be enjoyed with an ocean view, but there’s no big city hustle and bustle to contend with.

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Perhaps this is what attracted Hugh and Barbara Gibb to the area when they emigrated from England with their young family in 1958. Three of their boys, talented musicians from an early age, formed a band to make pocket money and, in 1960 at the ages of 12 and 9, they were regular performers at interval during the Redcliffe Speedway. The boys were allowed to keep the money the enthusiastic crowd would throw onto the track.

Little did those people know they were witnessing the birth of one of the greatest musical acts of the 20th century, with eventual worldwide sales of more than 220 million records. After those early shows Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb went on to become The Bee Gees.

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Bee Gees Way, a 70 metre walkway on Redcliffe Parade, documents the amazing career of the brothers who called Redcliffe home. It celebrates their music with photos and video footage played on a large screen.

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Visitors are serenaded by the music of the Bee Gees as they view the group’s first recording contract, signed by their parents because they were underage.

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Two statues pay homage to the brothers, first as barefoot boys singing at the speedway, and then as a supergroup of the 70s and 80s.

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Barry Gibb opened the walkway on 14 February, 2013 and visited again on 9 September, 2015. Perhaps the last plaque on the walk echoes his thoughts about the walkway dedicated to the story of the Bee Gees.

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Cityscape

An Australian Point of View #1 Capital Cities

Australia is the sixth largest country in the world with a land mass of 7,692,014 square kilometres. Despite its size, Australia is composed of just six states and two territories, all with their own capital city. Every capital has its own distinctive architecture; some buildings are more well-known than others, but each plays a part in the story of its city.

Brisbane, Queensland

The heritage-listed Albert Street Uniting Church, completed in 1889, is dwarfed by the surrounding city tower blocks. By the early 1900s it was the main Methodist Church in the city and is now the home of Wesley Mission Queensland. With its Victorian Gothic architecture and its inner city position, the church is a popular wedding venue.

Melbourne, Victoria

The Arts Centre Melbourne is Australia’s busiest Performing Arts complex. Construction began in 1973 and the buildings were completed in stages, the last being finished in 1984. The steel spire is 162 metres high and is surrounded at the base by a ruffle of steel mesh reminiscent of a ballerina’s tutu.

Adelaide, South Australia

The scoreboard at the Adelaide Oval has been keeping track of cricket matches since 3 November, 1911. The heritage-listed Edwardian scoreboard is the only one of its type in the Southern Hemisphere and is still manually operated.  A tour of Adelaide Oval includes a visit inside the four storey scoreboard.

Perth, Western Australia

The Bell Tower in Barracks Square houses the Swan Bells, a collection of 18 change ringing bells. Twelve of the bells come from St Martin-in-the-Fields Church in London and date from the 13th century. They were gifted to the city of Perth during Australia’s Bicentenary, while the Bell Tower was completed in time for Millennium celebrations.

Hobart, Tasmania

The Shot Tower at Taroona, just outside Hobart, was built in 1879 and was, for four years, Australia’s tallest building. Lead shot was produced in the tower for 35 years. Next door is the home of Joseph Moir, who constructed the tower and other landmark buildings in Hobart. The shot tower is still the tallest of its type in the Southern Hemisphere.

Darwin, Northern Territory

Government House, on the Esplanade in Darwin, is the oldest European building in the Northern Territory. Completed in 1871, the house is the official residence of the Administrator of the Northern Territory. The Victorian Gothic design is complemented by wide verandas, which help to cool the house in Darwin’s tropical climate.

Canberra, Australian Capital Territory

Parliament House is the meeting place of the Parliament of Australia. This is the second Parliament House and replaced Old Parliament House, which was in use from 1927 to 1988. This new building was opened in 1988 by Queen Elizabeth II during Australia’s Bicentenary celebrations. The Commonwealth Coat of Arms adorns the front façade, and an Australian flag the size of a half tennis court flies at the top of the 81 metre high flagpole.


Sydney, New South Wales

The Sydney Opera House, opened in 1973, overlooks Sydney Harbour at Bennelong Point. Every year, more than eight million people visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site and it hosts more than 1,500 events and performances. The Opera House becomes a focal point during Sydney’s Vivid Festival each June.


Participating in Becky’s #RoofSquares Challenge