Victoria

Length of stay: 3 days
Visited: April 2022

Victoria is located at the southern tip of Vancouver Island and boasts of having the most moderate weather in Canada. The scenery is also stunning with views of the ocean, snow-capped mountains and tall towering trees. With so much nature surrounding Victoria, there’s so much to see and do outdoors.

Day 1: Butchart Gardens

We spent most of the day driving from Tofino to Victoria and stopped at a few points of interest along the way. Since we arrived in Victoria earlier than expected, we decided to hit up the Butchart Gardens in the hopes that it wouldn’t be very busy towards the end of the day. And to our surprise, it wasn’t.

The Butchart Gardens contain an impressive display of colourful flowers, trees and other interesting plant species. It was named after the Butchart family who transformed the area into a garden just over a hundred years ago. One of the main highlights is the Sunken Garden, which was built in an abandoned limestone quarry.

Butchart Gardens also features a Japanese garden, Italian garden, Mediterranean garden and rose garden. All the spring flowers were in bloom and the landscape looked so colourful.

After wandering around the gardens until closing, we drove to our accommodations to check in and eat dinner. We still had some energy left, so we went to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria since they were open later than usual on Thursdays. This turned out to be another great call as we had the place all to ourselves. The art gallery featured a few different exhibits, including Emily Carr: Seeing + Being Seen (highlights Emily Carr’s legacy and how it’s connected with the landscape), the Places We Live (focuses on the world around us), and the Blue & White (contains blue and white porcelain from China, Japan, the UK and Europe).

Day 2: The Drive to Port Renfrew

One of the wonderful things about Victoria is its close proximity to nature. While we had plans to explore the city, we decided to first check out the trails along the west coast. We planned to drive all the way to Port Renfrew (and back), and first stopped at Sooke Potholes Regional Park to stretch our legs and go for a hike.

The park features a series of naturally formed deep pools, or potholes, that have been carved into the rocks along the Sooke River. We parked at the middle parking lot in P2 and found the access point for the Riverside Trail. We hiked north towards the campground.

The first stretch of the trail follows a wide gravel path, which progressively becomes more rugged. Along the way there’s a series of viewpoints to see the river in action. We turned around just after Ripple Rock Beach near the gravel pit and walked along the Galloping Goose Trail for a change of scenery. Once we looped back to the parking lot, we walked in the opposite direction along the Riverside Trail to see the Potholes Overlook.

We hopped in the car and continued our day-trip along the west coast. We stopped at French Beach Provincial Park, which is a small day-use park that features a beautiful pebble beach on the Juan de Fuca Strait. From the parking lot, it’s a short, but steep path down to the shoreline.

We then drove to Sandcut Beach, which features a picturesque waterfall that cascades from a small ledge down to the ocean. There’s a small parking lot right off the highway and a short trail through the mossy forest (about 400 metres one-way) that leads down (key word being down) to the beach. The path is well maintained and there’s even a boardwalk for part of the way. Once we made it to the beach, we turned left and walked a few hundred metres along the pebbly shore to get to the waterfall.

We hopped back in the car and continued our drive to Port Renfrew, which is a teeny tiny town situated on an inlet known as Port San Juan. It serves as an access point to the West Coast Trail and Juan de Fuca Marine Trail. Since we were visiting early in the season, most of the town was closed, including the gas station and most of the shops and restaurants.

We drove to Port Renfrew to see the Avatar Grove, an old growth forest that contains Canada’s gnarliest tree. However, a sign had indicated that the grove was temporarily closed. We figured we might as well just drive by it since we came all this way, except the road was in real rough shape with huge potholes everywhere, which probably explains why Avatar Grove was closed. We didn’t make it very far before turning around. We didn’t want to risk getting stranded since there was no cell reception and most of the town was still closed.

And so we drove all the way back to Victoria, stopping at a few more points of interest on the way. This included a visit to Sheringham Point Lighthouse. It was built in 1912 after a fatal shipwreck and is still used today for navigation. From the parking lot, it’s a short trail down to the rocky shore to get to the lighthouse.

We then stopped at East Sooke Regional Park to go for a hike. There are a few different trail options depending on length and difficulty. We hiked along part of the Coastal Trail to Beechey Head (5.5km loop). The trail follows the rugged coastline and provides sweeping views of the water. It was challenging though with all the ups and downs and maneuvering around and over all the rocks along the cliff.

The first part of the trail wasn’t too challenging as the path was wide and relatively flat. After hiking for 1.5km, the trail passes by a series of petroglyphs which are located amongst the rocks by the shoreline. These petroglyphs were carved into the rocks by the Coast Salish First Nations hundreds of years ago. Eventually these images will fade away entirely from natural erosion.

From here the trail gets much rougher and tougher as it continues to weave along the rocky cliff. But the seaside vistas were spectacular. It took us longer than expected to reach Beechey Head, but we still had a few hours of daylight left, so we weren’t too concerned. We were just getting really hungry and tired.

At Beechey Head, there’s a shortcut back to the parking lot, which follows a wide path through the shaded forest. There were some ups and downs, but it was relatively flat and much easier compared to the Coastal Trail. Once we wrapped up our hike, we drove back to our accommodations, stopping at Tacofino in Victoria to see how it compared to the original Tacofino in Tofino. While we had to wait 30 minutes for our food, our tacos were delicious.

Day 3: Seeing the Sights in the City

Today was our last day in Victoria and the last day of our vacation. Naturally we got up early to try to make the most of it. We started off at Beacon Hill Park, which is located downtown near the shore of the Juan de Fuca Strait. The park spreads across 200 acres and contains multiple walking paths, landscaped gardens, a petting zoo, tennis courts and other amenities. Some of the notable points of interest include a super tall totem pole that when installed, was the world’s tallest totem pole and the mile zero marker for the Trans-Canada Highway, which travels across the east to west coast of Canada.

We then walked along the waterfront where there’s a paved path, along with a few viewpoints and access points to the shoreline. Notable highlights include a sundial and the Ogden Point Breakwater which leads to the Breakwater Lighthouse. The breakwater and wharf were built to take advantage of the increase in pacific maritime trade due to the opening of the Panama Canal. A second breakwater was initially supposed to be built, but was later deemed unnecessary. We walked along the entire breakwater to the lighthouse located at the end.

We continued along the waterfront to Fisherman’s Wharf, a marina which contains a few restaurants, small shops and colourful houseboats. Not much was shaking since many of the shops were still closed for the season, but we still admired the lovely views of the shoreline and ships.

We strolled through the inner harbour and stopped to check out the parliament buildings and the fancy Fairmont Empress, one of Victoria’s oldest and grandest hotels. From there it was a short walk back to Beacon Hill Park.

After eating some lunch, we drove to Craigdarroch Castle. It was built in the late 19th century as a family residence for Robert Dunsmuir, who was once the wealthiest man in western Canada. Following the deaths of Mr and Mrs Dunsmuir, Craigdarroch Castle switched hands over the years. It was used as a military hospital, college and music conservatory. The castle has since been restored and converted into a museum to showcase the history of the Dunsmuir family and offer self-guided tours.

Afterwards we went to Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Sites, which are two historic sites in one. There’s a suggested path that loops by many of the historic buildings, points of interest and the lighthouse. We started at the upper battery and made our way around the grounds.

Fort Rodd Hill once served as a fortification to protect the harbours at Victoria and Esquimalt from 1878 to 1956. It contains upper and lower batteries, which were designed and equipped to counter enemy warships, and a few historic buildings, including sleeping quarters, a command post, and a blacksmith shop. Some of the buildings and rooms were open, but many of the rooms weren’t set up yet for the season.

Fisgard Lighthouse was built in 1860 and was the first permanent lighthouse on the west coast of Canada. There is actually no meaningful connection with Ford Rodd, except that they share the same location. The lighthouse contains a few small exhibits on the shipwrecks in the area, the expansion of lighthouses along the west coast, and more information about the first keeper of the lighthouse. After exploring the inside of the lighthouse, we walked along the rocky shore and found a pair of Parks Canada Red Chairs overlooking the water.

We wrapped up shortly after 3p.m and headed to Nanaimo to catch the ferry back to Vancouver. Except we went to the wrong ferry terminal at Duke’s Point instead of Departure Bay. And then we went to Departure Bay the street instead of Departure Bay the terminal. But eventually we made it to where we needed to be. It was a scenic and smooth ferry ride back to the mainland. We planned to fly out of Vancouver the next morning.

Until next time.

L

94 thoughts on “Victoria

  1. kagould17 says:

    Looks like you hit all the highlights. We did not go to Butchart Gardens this time as it was the May long weekend and the place was slammed. We found several other spots, as my upcoming posts will show. It has been a while since we were in Craigdarroch Castle when the kids were young. I can still recall my kids snickering when the tour guide explained one small room as the place where the servants cut the cheese. Well done seeing so much. Definitely worth going in low season. Happy Friday Linda. Allan

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The timing of our trip worked out rather well with not having to deal with the crowds. The Butchart Gardens are beautiful, but I don’t think our visit would have been nearly as enjoyable if it were busy. I don’t blame you for staying away over a long weekend, especially in the spring. We typically like to visit the popular spots either first thing in the morning or later in the afternoon. It’s crazy how huge the Craigdarroch Castle is and it’s hard to imagine what it might have been to like to live (or work) in a place like that. Hope you’re having a nice weekend so far. Take care. Linda

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Rose says:

    Butchart Gardens was full of blossoms in April (we still had snow on the ground here)?! Oh My Goodness how Gorgeous!! You picked the perfect time to be there, before the busy season. I love how you entwine photos, with history, and your story. A great travel story always has a few wrong turns. 🙂

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. Sometimes it’s all about the journey rather than the destination! It was nice to get a sneak peek of spring and to see all the blossoms during our visit to the west coast in April, especially since we had a really long winter in Ontario. We also really lucked out with the weather and had more days of sunshine than rain.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I know what you mean, the name of the park doesn’t sound very appealing. Thankfully these potholes are located in and around the river, rather than on the road leading into the park. These potholes are smooth depressions that have been carved into the rocks from the rushing river.

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  3. Thattamma C.G Menon says:

    Wonderful Victoria to view 🌷👍🏼👏🏼 Awesome photos and so clear explanations
    Beautifully posted , beautiful lighthouse, the mountains, lonely forest roads and
    Amazing the seaboats also gorgeous nature 🏝️⛴️🇧🇷🌴worth to see this post 🙂
    Thank you for sharing and grace wishes 💓🙏

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. The scenery in and around Victoria is beautiful. I couldn’t get enough of the seaside vistas. It was also neat to see all the different shapes and sizes of sailboats in the harbour. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. Victoria, and Vancouver Island in general, is beautiful. I couldn’t get enough of all those tall trees and coastal rainforests. We’re thinking about returning next year, but to visit the west coast in the US.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Lynette d'Arty-Cross says:

    My nephew has been a gardener at Butchart Gardens for many years and as you can imagine has lots of information about it.
    You definitely covered a lot of ground. Too bad that many things were closed, but the crowds during high season can be intense. Nice photos.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      What a wonderful place to work if you’re a gardener!! Now that we have our own backyard, I’ve become obsessed with gardening, both plants and vegetables. It was too bad that a few of the shops and restaurants were closed when we visited Victoria, but it was so lovely how it wasn’t very busy. And hey, at least we had fabulous weather!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Darlene says:

    You certainly made the most of your visit to Victoria and area. I’ve been to all these spots so it was a very nostalgic post for me. Craigdarroch Castle was used as a setting for one of the LIttle Women movies a few years back. I love the Butchart Gardens so much!

    Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It helps that we had amazing weather and that it wasn’t very busy. I didn’t know that Craigdarroch Castle was one of the locations used to film Little Women. Now I want to watch that movie (the one from 1994) again! I ended up keeping the plant guide that we received during our visit to Butchart Gardens and have been planning out my garden for next spring.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Little Miss Traveller says:

    We adored visiting Victoria and would love to return. We also visited the Butchart Gardens which we enjoyed. Whilst there we treated ourselves to a seaplane trip for the four of us from the harbour but it had to be cancelled because of poor visibility even though it was summertime. They tried to rearrange it for us the following day but the weather was still bad so we never went! Maybe next time if it’s not too expensive now!I

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      That’s too bad that your seaplane tour was cancelled because of the weather. That seems like it would have been a neat experience and a great way to get a different perspective of the city. I’ll have to keep that in mind for the next time we’re on Vancouver Island. I would love to go back someday.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Lookoom says:

    It looks like a well-prepared visit. You’ve seen everything I’ve seen and even a little more. I enjoyed seeing the places I visited a few years ago, with some changes. I think of the railings along the Breakwater, its narrowness did not make it comfortable to walk on at the time. Well done and thanks for sharing.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. We managed to visit Victoria at a great time when it was still considered low-season and travelling wasn’t popular yet. As a result, the city wasn’t very busy. I can see the pathway along the breakwater being uncomfortable if there were a lot of people on it, but for us, there was hardly anyone around. It was awesome.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The Butchart Gardens was one of the highlights of our time in Victoria and on Vancouver Island. I could have spent all afternoon wandering around the sunken garden and admiring all the blossoms. I’m glad we visited towards the end of the day and practically had the place all to ourselves. The houseboats along Fisherman’s Wharf were pretty neat. I wonder what it would be like to live somewhere like that.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. leightontravels says:

    Linda…. what a beautiful place. Butchart Gardens are just immaculate, I particularly like that shot overlooking the small lake (or large pond?). What a setting for the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, while a picturesque, idyllically-located lighthouse always lifts my spirits. Appreciated the historic info on Fort Road Hill! Great piece.

    Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. The Butchart Gardens are gorgeous. It was nice to visit in the spring when all the blossoms were just starting to bloom. The smell of the air was divine. I can’t imagine how much time the gardners spend on weeding and landscaping. Victoria itself is such a lovely city and I liked that the downtown was very walkable and along the shoreline. The views don’t get much better than that.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Ab says:

    I am always amazed how much ground you and K are able to cover in your travels. I really enjoyed your summary of your travels. Butchart Gardens looks so beautiful! And the hikes through French Beach and Sandcut Beach look so nice. Port Renfrew looked like a nice visit. And the Beacon Hill Park looks nice. The sleeping statue looks very cool. It seemed like a wonderful way to end your trip.

    In 2011, we did a San Fran/Alaska cruise and did a 3-hour sunset stop at Victoria to have high tea at the Empress. It was such a rushed experience and I didn’t enjoy it too much. But I remember the drive through Victoria making such an impression. I would love to explore it more one day.

    Enjoy your weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It helps that we had fabulous weather and hardly any crowds, which always provides great motivation for being outdoors and wandering around. Butchart Gardens was gorgeous. I kept the little plant guide that we received with our tickets as something to draw inspiration from when planning out my own garden. I’m not sure I can stay on top of all the weeds though. It’s like a full time job.

      The drive to Port Renfrew makes me want to return to hike along the West Coast Trail. I think we need a bit more experience with backcountry camping though. We usually travel by canoe, which means we can pack a bit more stuff.

      I would also love to do one of those Alaskan cruises!! That’s neat that you stopped in Victoria and went for high tea at the Empress. How fancy!! That’s too bad it felt rushed though. I guess you’ll just have to return!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ab says:

        I hear gardening can be quite addictive and meditative. So you never know!

        Backcountry camping always sounds adventurous but I don’t think I can do it. 😆

        Maybe wait until you and K are older to try an Alaskan cruise. I could see you two getting restless on a boat in the middle of the ocean. 😆

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      • WanderingCanadians says:

        For sure, gardening is very therapeutic and I can’t help but get attached to my plants. I’m trying to grow some vegetables this year and I refer to them as my little plant babies.

        I’m curious to see what a cruise is like, but good call on waiting until we’re older. It also seems too soon “after” COVID.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Bama says:

    I love the look of the Butchart Gardens. All those colorful blooms really make this place even more interesting. You really know where to find picturesque hiking trails, Linda. That small waterfall at Sandcut Beach is definitely enough reason to go there. You definitely saw a lot during this trip! From beautiful gardens and scenic hiking trails to a handsome castle and an interesting fort.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The Butchart Gardens were outstanding. I can’t imagine how much work is required to keep the gardens looking so clean and colourful. I now have something to aspire to when I plan out my gardens, something we hope to do next spring. The drive to Port Renfrew was so scenic. I’ve never seen a waterfall quite like the one at Sandcut Beach before. We certainly covered a lot of ground in three days, but it helps that we had fabulous weather and lots of sunshine.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      What more could you want from a city!? Victoria is very beautiful and I love how there are so many parks and walking paths along the shoreline. We had a wonderful time wandering around. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. I’ve recently gotten into gardening, so it was nice to visit the Butchart Gardens for some great ideas. The timing worked out well as we visited later in the day when it wasn’t very busy, which is always a huge plus.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Victoria is easily one of the nicest cities in Canada. The views of the ocean alone are worth visiting for. The scenery is spectacular and there’s a nice range of activities in and around the city. Thankfully we had such lovely weather to enjoy it all.

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  11. wetanddustyroads says:

    Oh, I almost missed this post (but happy I didn’t), because wow, the Butchart Gardens are stunning! And how lovely is the waterfall on the beach and as always, great pictures of the lighthouses 😊. Thank you for taking me with you on your strolls through Victoria – it’s a beautiful city with so much to see!

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. Victoria really is beautiful city that I love that there are so many different outdoor activities. The Butchart Gardens were gorgeous. It was nice to visit in the spring when everything was just starting to bloom. We recently put in some garden beds in our backyard earlier in the spring and now have something to aspire towards.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. BrittnyLee says:

    This was a busy bit of time for you guys! You saw some nice stuff !! That Dunsmuir Mansion looks beautiful. They have something like that in Jim Thorpe. It’s really neat touring places like these. The trails looked tough but they were worth it with all the nice lighthouse shots and sea shots you took . Beautiful place. I love the different gardens you saw. That’s neat that they had different styles. I love rose gardens 💓. They chose a great way to keep the land beautiful

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The timing of our trip out west worked out rather well. We managed to get away before tourism picked back up again and didn’t have to deal with any crowds or issues at the airport. I love that there’s a nice range of indoor and outdoor activities in Victoria. But the best part is how walkable it is and that there’s lots of great paths by the shoreline. I was obsessed with the Butchart Gardens and have something to aspire towards someday when it comes to my backyard. I’m not sure I can stay on top of all the weeding though!

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      • BrittnyLee says:

        That’s awesome! I’m glad you beat the crowds . 🙂 That’s always a nice relief. Sometimes I find I have to be so patient on trips with getting the photo shots I want to get. It always pays off, though :). Yours definitely show your ability. They’re excellent photos! I know how you feel about weeding. We have to weed a lot and it’s tiring work. I like to do it in the late evening or early in the morning when the sun isn’t burning. Both of those times I find are best for weeding 🙂

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      • WanderingCanadians says:

        I know what you mean. I hate having random people in my pictures. Sometimes this requires waiting several minutes to get the perfect shot, which drives my husband crazy. Weeding is definitely a lot of work! I find it very therapeutic though. And agreed, it’s always good to garden when it’s not so hot outside.

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      • BrittnyLee says:

        Exactly, you can’t enjoy it when it’s too hot. It can drive people walking with me crazy too,.mostly my brother . Matt is more patient haha . It’s definitely worth the wait once you get that one special shot 🙂

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  13. Janet says:

    Your Butchart Garden photos came out lovely! When my husband and I visited in 2016, we had limited time since we were on a cruise tour. It was so crowded that it took away from the garden’s beauty.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks so much! We lucked out with the timing and the crowds during our visit to Butchart Gardens. I can see why this place is usually busy as the gardens are gorgeous. Agreed, the crowds can definitely take away from the whole experience.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Dee Min says:

    I love this part of Canada. Victoria was one of the stops on our Alaska cruise. I absolutely adore Butchart Gardens. Your photos brought back great memories. Another lovely share. I thoroughly enjoyed this trip. Thanks Linda!!!

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      You are too kind. Victoria is easily one of the most picturesque cities in Canada. The views of the ocean and mountains are breathtaking. I enjoyed how walkable it was and that it doesn’t take long to leave the city and be surrounded by nature. The Butchart Gardens were definitely a highlight. By the way, a cruise to Alaska sounds like an amazing adventure. I’d love to go to Alaska someday.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Dee Min says:

        You took such amazing pix Linda and told an equally beautiful tale, make me wanna go back and follow your trek. The pic of the statue laying on his side with just the face and hand of stone stood out for me. Loved it all.

        Alaska cruise was absolutely fantastic. I took my mom. We had a blast. I’m happy I chose the route that included Victoria. I hope you’ll get to add that cruise to your many many adventures.
        Have a great weekend!!!!

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      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Thanks! We’ve been wanting to go out west for awhile, but the flights have always been pricey. Thankfully we managed to find a good deal and visited before tourism picked back up again. It was wonderful timing and nice to visit in the spring when all the flowers were just starting to bloom.

        What a wonderful place to take your mom! I’ve never been on a cruise before and am curious to see what the experience is like. We might wait a few years to try it out though given some of the lingering restrictions and concerns around COVID. But Alaska is high up there on my travel bucket list.

        Hope you had a wonderful weekend too!

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. The Butchart Gardens was one of the highlights from our time in Victoria. It was nice to visit in the spring when all the spring flowers were just starting to bloom. It’s provided much inspiration for our garden. Now I just need to stay on top of all the weeding (and preventing the bunnies and squirrels from eating all the flowers and bulbs!)

      Liked by 1 person

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