Thursday, September 8, 2011

STAMP #2: Victoria

Delicious breakfast at the Beaconsfield Inn - fresh fruit cup, single egg benedict and muffins straight out of the oven. Good company with couples from Montreal and New York. Spent half an hour with the binder outlining the history of the inn.

On to Beacon Hill Park a block away, which James Douglas gave to the then Colony of Vancouver Island. Lovely, huge park  that goes down to the Strait of Juan da Fuca and many old trees. Peacocks all over the place and I saw a deer nibbling the oak trees near the sea. Grass burnt brown everywhere.

On to see Craigdarroch Castle built by Dunsmuir, the coal baron, in 1889. He died before it was finished but his wife and family lived and entertained in it lavishly. It sits on the top of a hill in what was and still is a very wealthy neighbourhood. Only one word for the castle - sumptuous. The grounds are now nothing what they used to be - in Dunsmuir's time they were woodland, and lawns, and a lake. Today, just the lawns remain. Inside is magnificently restored and the rooms are as they were. It's a mixture of Scottish baronial and French chateau! Lots of golden oak paneling and gloomy Scottish landscapes. I went to immerse myself in the lifestyle of the wealthy in the 1890s to 1910s, which is the period of the inns I'm staying in.

On to a local charcuterie for lunch on Fort Street that was recommended. Choux Choux's a tiny rather funky place with two tables in the window. Smells of French charcuteries and fromageries. They make their own fresh and cured sausages, hams, and other delectables. Most of the cheese is from Europe with a few English cheeses that have been carefully selected. I had the plat du jour which was a Chef's Salad, the like of which I've never tasted. Curls of their own honey cured ham, from local pigs were memorable.

Next stop was the Lieutenant Governor of BC's residence. Could not go inside but the grounds are open to the public. The residence is impressive and modern - it was rebuilt in the late 1950s after it burnt down. It looks south over the Strait with a magnificent view of the Olympic Mountains. Down the slope from the house is one of the largest stretches of Garry Oak woodland left in BC. The gardens reminded me of a big English garden rambling over rocks and terraces.

Drove through the Ross Bay Cemetery looking for James Douglas and Dunsmuir's grave. Found the former by myself, but not Dunsmuir's. There's no map or office to help a visitor. The cemetery is huge and filled full; some graves are cared for and many are not. It dates back to the earliest days of Victoria. The wealthy erected huge monuments and mausoleums, so I was surrounded by larger than life angels, crosses, and statues. JD's grave was immaculate - even the railings surrounding the gravestone were freshly painted.

By then too hot to continue and headed to Abbeymoore Manor, which had my room ready. The Rose Room. Another beautifully restored 1912 house of 8400 sq. feet. It has five rooms and four one bedroomed apartments. Ian McPhee is the innkeeper and immensely proud of his inn. I got the full tour. The floors slope and the stairs creak. My room has a king-sized bed, a fireplace, mahogany hard wood floors, an overstuffed couch and chair, and a steamer trunk as a coffee table. The walls are brick red and the armoire is 1910. Meant to be haunted - I'll see what the night brings.

Tonight, dinner at Paprika in Oak Bay.

Abbeymoore Manor 

Images: (c) Julie H. Ferguson 2011

STAMP #1: Victoria, BC
STAMP #3: Victoria, BC