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Posted By Robin & Jim

Not only is today the official First Day of Spring, but the season has already arrived here in Victoria (the warmest place in all of Canada in the winter).  We've had temps in the 50s, and the cherry blossoms in town are already past their prime.  The daffodils have been up, and the adorable little water taxis have reappeared in the harbor in front of the Empress Hotel.

water taxis

Bob and Cathryn from Washington came up to Victoria on their boat for a few days, and we hosted a dinner party with them and our Victoria friends Diana (my knitting buddy) and Perry.  We used to have a lot of these kinds of parties, but we don't know as many people out here... yet.  We did Roxy's Ribs in the pressure cooker, and had a very fun visit!

dinner party

The days are getting longer by about 3 and a half minutes per day - it's very noticeable.  To celebrate the arrival of spring, we headed over to the famous Butchart Gardens to see what's in bloom this week.  I was afraid that I missed the cherry blossoms, but was happy to learn that the Gardens are a couple of weeks behind downtown.  We'll go back in a week or two to see how things are coming along, but in the meantime we enjoyed the crocus...

crocus

...and the little daffodils...

daffodil

...and the look of the Sunken Garden with just the earliest hints of spring.  It should be fun watching the Gardens come alive.

sunken garden

The amazing thing at Butchart Gardens was their "Spring Preview" display, where they took over the entire restaurant, emptied it completely, and installed an elaborate indoor garden complete with stones, meandering pathways, a pond, and an explosion of spring flowers.  Incredible!!  The amount of work that went into that display was staggering - all to make something fleetingly beautiful.  Lilies, orchids, rhododendron, hyacinth... I can't name most of the flowers, but it just blew us away.  I can't wait to see what will be next.

As winter departs, I'll share a funny Canadian story.  While waiting in line at the hardware store, the cashier told a story about her friend in northern Manitoba who left her purse in her car overnight.  The new Canadian money is made of plastic instead of paper, and apparently it doesn't do well in extreme cold - she found that all the new bills broke in half when she tried to use them.  You can't make this stuff up.


 
Posted By Robin & Jim

We haven't blogged in a while because we were traveling - by air and by car - back to the east coast to visit family, friends, doctors, and to attend the DeFever Cruisers Rendezvous.  It was a hectic trip where we crammed a ton of things into a short time, but it was a fantastic trip... except for the weather.  We started in NJ to see Robin's brother and sister-in-law (and their great dogs), an old childhood friend from the Sea Scouts, then we got caught in a snow/ice storm as we drove down to Maryland to visit friends.  It was pretty slippery driving that last part of the trip, but we arrived in one piece. 

Everyone laughs at us for spending the winter in the Pacific NW, but it's much warmer and nicer here than it was back east (except for the Florida part of the trip).  We weren't used to all that cold and snow!  We did all our annual doctor visits and they renewed our warranties for another year.  We saw some Power Squadron friends, and we got to see one of Jim's brothers and his wife, but missed his sister Margaret because of another snow storm that slammed us in Virginia.  We holed up in a hotel for 2 nights to wait out the record-setting snow and had a few things cancelled because of it.  We wrapped up the northern part of the trip spending some time with the Halls and then visiting with Jim's son, his wife Valerie, and to meet the newest grandbaby - James (4 and a half months).  Little Donald is 21 months already - an active little man! 

We escaped the ice and snow, driving down to Florida to visit more friends, then a quick stop in Orlando to shop at the ham radio store, then on to see Jim's Dad in Clearwater.  From there we drove to lovely Captiva Island for the DeFever Rendezvous, and it was great to see so many old friends and all those big flared DeFever boat bows!

foggy defevers

As you might notice in the photo, there is a lot of fog in the air.  What was really strange was that the fog persisted through most of both days - highly unusual.  It dampened our hair and clothing but not our spirits, though it made for a very odd "sunset beach party" since we couldn't see the sun and barely saw the beach!

We zipped down to Marco Island to visit boating friends, and they took us on an adventure looking for wildlife in the Everglades - which was terrific.  Even though we had warm days we saw lots of alligators.

alligator walking

 Our friends showed us some hidden little gems - nature walks and small state parks with interesting things, such as this example of a strangler fig.

strangler fig

We saw anhingas, wood storks, bald eagles, herons, egrets, glossy ibis, moor hens, and a nice kite, but my favorite were these little burrowing owls.

burrowing owl alert

We really crammed a lot into a quick 3 week trip, but we miss our family and friends and it made us very happy to see everyone.  There's never enough time to see everyone we want to - we keep trying.