Friday, August 29, 2014

Victoria, B.C. - Day 3


It was a good thing we called it an early night, because we decided to visit Craigdarroch Castle the next day, which would mean 5 miles of walking just to get there and back.  On the way, we happened to be near the Empress Hotel and stopped to ask about their tours.  As it happened, there was one starting within half an hour, so while it seemed a little odd to pay to tour a hotel, we decided to give it a try.  We had discussed having the legendary tea at the Empress, but at $60 a person for a beverage I don't even particularly like, we'd been hemming and hawing, and decided to wait until we saw the place. 

The hotel is lovely, 
 and has some beautiful furniture,
and the tour guides are in costume and aside from it being a tad warm with the humidity, we really enjoyed ourselves.  We opted to skip the tea as I'd already made reservations for tea at Butchart gardens later in the week, and instead wandered off in the direction of the castle, finding a lovely antique bookstore on the way,
where we were saved by the humidity and the idea of carrying books all the way to the castle and back from my spending too much time and money here.

The castle is on a pretty decent incline, so we stopped to rest outside for a bit and catch our breath,
 and to check out the neighbor's lawn. 
One of the things I really appreciated about Victoria is that since it was dry, lawns were brown.  Victoria gets only slightly more rain than we do, but Idahoans are maniacs about green lawns in a desert state in spite of water shortages, but Victoria is very laid back about this.  If it's dry, things will be dry.  Far more sensible approach in my opinion.

Craigdarroch Castle is an interesting place.  Built in the "conspicuous wealth" era of the industrial age, it was built to proclaim to the world that Robert Dunsmuir was the richest man in Victoria,
in spite of the fact that he died before it was completed and never lived there.  The woodwork is amazing,

 as were the antiques.
 The knitter in me particularly enjoyed this:
which is a hands-free reading chair complete with light (candle). 

The castle is a popular tourist spot, and initially our visit was plagued with one of those uncontrolled children that makes one long to have birth control doled out like candy as soon as puberty strikes, who was accompanied by a mother that didn't seem at all bothered by her little demon screaming and jumping on roped-off furniture.  To avoid the pair, we stopped to talk to a volunteer, which turned out to be a wonderful chance as the tour map with the itty-bitty 6-point print was pretty useless, and the signs were fairly repetitive.  One of the challenges the restoration process faced was that there was only one photograph (or perhaps two) ever found of the inside of the house when the family lived there, so the efforts to restore it were really interesting.  And, like so many large houses too expensive for future owners to maintain, it had been altered for institutional use--first as a hospital after World War 1, then as a college--you can still see the names of the bright sparks who carved their initials into the lovely woodwork--then turned into school administration offices when everything was painted that ghastly institutional green.  Our new friend clearly loved the castle and his volunteer work, and we had a great time with him. 

Waiting also gave us time to play on an actual Steinway piano,
left over from the era when the castle housed a music academy, and then to hear a young girl sit down and play something lovely.  Believe me, she was worth the wait.

 After all the stairs, we sat down on a bench for a bit to enjoy the view

and sympathize with a man and his son who were roundly chastised by the wife/mother for them being lazy--until we saw that they had a car parked right outside the entrance and were only tired from walking IN the castle--not to it.   
We could kind of see her point after that.

After hiking back down into town and making it an even LONGER walk because I had seen an advertisement for a Polish restaurant that I wanted to try (Boise not generally being overrun with nonchain restaurants and rather limited ethnically), only to discover it wasn't open on Mondays.  Luckily, we found the India Bistro, which was so wonderful that we recommended it to other tourists later in our visit. 

The day had been really warm--uncomfortably so in buildings--so when we found ourselves passing the heavily advertised Miniature World which proclaimed itself air-conditioned, we decided it was worth a try. 

The interesting thing about Miniature World is that it is so heavily advertised that we expected it to be as tacky as Ripley's Believe it or Not or any of those sad little attractions that never live up to expectations.  Luckily,
most of it was really quite fabulous.  There were a few sets that weren't as well done, and like most of the things in Victoria, we found it spectacularly lacking in information on how it was started, who built most of the miniatures, how they were built, or anything else, but there is a little information here that shows the man who started it all.  He built a fully functioning miniature lumber mill, though unfortunately the fire martial won't let it be operated even behind the glass.  But one can see a video of it actually working.

 Andy is posing here with a Dickens Village,
though I forget which one. 

By this point it was dark and late and things were closing up, so it was time to walk the mile back to the hotel.  Did I mention it wasn't too difficult to fall asleep each night?

1 comment:

retriever said...

Nice place for visit and beautifull fotos,
greeting from Belgium


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