Canada | The Butchart Gardens Photo Essay

The Butchart Gardens began life as a quarry. In 1904 Robert Pim Butchart developed a quarry and built a cement plant near Tod Inlet. Robert and his wife Jennie established their home near the quarry. As Robert exhausted the limestone deposits, Jennie thought something beautiful could be made from the pit and so the pit blossomed into the Sunken Garden. People heard of Jennie’s flowers and gardens, and began to visit. Today the gardens consist of five separate gardens: Sunken Garden, Japanese Garden, Rose Garden, Italian Garden and Mediterranean Garden, and is a designated National Historic Site of Canada. I couldn’t put into words the beauty of these gardens and so I thought a photo essay was more appropriate to see the beauty for yourself.

Need To Know

The Butchart Gardens is situated at 800 Benvenuto Ave, Brentwood Bay, BC V8X 3X4, just 23km of Victoria. You can get a CVS Tours bus outside the Fairmount Empress Hotel to The Butchart Gardens if you don’t fancy driving yourself. The cost varies depending on the season, at peak season you’re looking at $61.75. But the ticket from CVS Tours includes admission to the gardens as well. The gardens are open all year round even Christmas Day! Hours vary depending on the time of year. Rates vary also depending on the year, the cheapest time of year to visit is between January 7th – 14th where tickets are $17.75.

Have you been to The Butchart Gardens? What did you think of it? Would you like to visit?

Marteen x

Come on a walk with me through The Butchart Gardens with my photo essay.

Canada | Craigdarroch Castle

Craigdarroch Castle is a Designated National Historic Site and coined ‘Canada’s Castle’. Being from Ireland and with all the castles that we have in the country, I just knew I had to visit this place.


Craigdarroch Castle was built for Robert Dunsmuir, a Scottish immigrant coal baron. The castle was finally completed in 1890. Robert and his wife Joan had two sons, eight daughters and one child who passed away in infancy. Robert unfortunately passed away before the completion of the castle. His death caused much strife among his family as he had verbally promised his two sons that the castle would be left to them, but instead he left his entire Estate and business holdings to Joan. The only people to ever live in the original 28-acre estate were his wife Joan, three of their daughters and two orphaned grandchildren.


Joan passed away in 1908 and left her Estate to her five surviving daughters, one son-in-law, and three of her grandchildren. In order to split the proceeds between the nine of them, the contents of the castle were sold in a three day auction. Since Joan’s death the castle has been a military hospital, Victoria College, offices for the Victorian School Board, and the Victorian Conservatory of Music. Today it’s the Craigdarroch Castle Historic House Museum.


During the 1880s and 1890s there was a revival of the Romanesque style of architecture. Robert commissioned architect Warren Heywood Williams of Portland, Oregon to design Craigdarroch Castle. Williams’s colleague Arthur L. Smith completed the project when he passed away. What became known as the “Richardsonian Romanesque” style can be seen throughout the castle. 11th and 12th century southern French, Spanish and Italian Romanesque characteristics are incorporated into this style.


From the outside the castle reminded me of a fairytale castle with the turrets, almost ‘Walt Disneyesque’.  Walking around I felt an air of mystery about the place, not in a spooky way, but that there was a lot to explore, even beyond what the public were allowed to see. I found it sad that the contents had been auctioned off but was delighted to discover that some pieces of furniture were original to the house, like the table and chairs in the dining room. I loved the grandness and opulence of it, it reminded me of Kylemore Abbey in Connemara. I kept imagining what it must have been like to live and work there, with the hustle and bustle of entertaining and holding dances and how everything had to be just so. Downton Abbey sprung to mind also. It was nice to view the servants’ rooms at the top to learn what life was like for them. I was in awe of the work that the conservationists and restorers put into maintaining the building. What sticks for me from the visit is the frame in the dance hall with the beautiful fans and the dance cards with gentlemens’ names written on them. There was stiff competition among ladies to get as many names on their card as they could by the end of the night.


Need To Know

The castle is situated at 1050 Joan Crescent, Victoria, B.C. V8S 3L5. From Downtown Victoria it’s about a 35 minute walk. The castle is open daily from 10am – 4.30pm with extended opening hours from 15th June to 6th September, 9am to 7pm. Admission is $13.95 per adult. Once you’ve paid you’ll receive two leaflets, one a map and the other a history of the castle and you’ll be asked to clean your shoes on the shoe cleaner before entering the main hall. Once you enter the main hall there’s a guide waiting to welcome you. They will give a brief explanation of the castle and what’s permitted and not permitted. The tour is self-guided but there are volunteers dotted around the place if you have any questions. They’re super friendly and very knowledgeable. Oh and photographs are allowed.


Craigdarroch was a fascinating castle for me in terms of history and architecture. Have you been to Craigdarroch Castle? If you have, what did you think of it?

Marteen x

If you love castles you need to visit the magnificent Craigdarroch Castle, coined as Canada's Castle!

Canada | Victoria Photo Essay

Victoria is a beautiful Canadian city situated on Vancouver Island. As the capital of British Columbia it boasts marine wildlife, Victorian architecture, First Nations culture, and so much more. Victoria holds a special place in my heart and I think you’ll understand why from these pictures.

Have you visited Victoria? What did you think of it? If you haven’t visited Victoria, is it a place you think you’d like to visit?

Marteen x

Come along on a tour of Victoria with my Victoria Photo Essay

Canada | Victoria Gallery Walk

While I’m not an expert, I love art in all its forms and mediums. I admire the time and work an artist puts into their pieces and how open and curious they are of the world around them. I love how it sparks something in me, not necessarily to paint or to draw or to sculpt, but to create something. So whenever I visit somewhere I like to stroll around discovering street art or galleries and Victoria has a thriving art scene. What I adore about Victoria’s art scene is how it supports local and indigenous art. What better way to learn about the culture of an area you’ve come to visit then through it’s local and indigenous art.

Legacy Gallery

Legacy Gallery is situated on 630 Yates Street. It features the University of Victoria’s permanent collection of work by some of the best known artists of the Pacific Northwest.


Madrona Gallery

Mondrona Gallery is situated on 606 View Street. It features contemporary and historical Canadian paintings and sculptures alongside important First Nations prints, drawings and carvings.


West End Gallery

West End Gallery is situated on 1203 Broad Street. It features art from significant new and established artists from across Canada with a focus on original paintings and glass sculptures.


Alcheringa Gallery

Alcheringa Gallery is situated on 621 Fort Street. It features masterworks from contemporary indigenous artists of the Northwest Coast of Canada, Papua New Guinea and Australia.


What’s wonderful about the Victoria Gallery Walk is that all these galleries are within close proximity of one another and it’s a lovely way to spend an afternoon in Victoria. Does art inspire you? Do you like to learn about a specific culture through their artwork?

Marteen x

 Learn about the culture of the Pacific North West of Canada through its indigenous art work on Victoria's gallery walk.

Farewell Quiet Man

Well it’s the end of an era. Monday is my last day working in The Quiet Man Museum. I still can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that I’ll be finishing up and moving to Canada. I don’t know where the last three summers went to; time flies when you’re having fun. I’ve certainly had a blast tour guiding.


For those of you who don’t know the film, The Quiet Man was made in 1951, directed by John Ford and starred John Wayne and Maureen O’ Hara. The film tells the story of John Wayne’s character coming home to buy his ancestral home and falling in love with Maureen O’ Hara’s character in the process.


This quaint, romantic film was shot around the small village of Cong in Co. Mayo, Ireland. Little did the cast and crew know that they would be making one of the best all time films and that sixty-five years later it would have a cult following. It’s a film I’ve fallen in love with.


I’ve met some wonderful people and made some good friends along the way. Mateli Lopez (who has the biggest crush on John Wayne; she actually sends her husband out of the room if John Wayne is on TV so she can be on her own 😲) and Toss from Co. Cork (who threatened to send his wife to some slimming classes!) spring to mind. Mateli and I are Facebook friends now. All are Quiet Man Crazies in my eyes!


My most memorable moment was a proposal last summer. And no it wasn’t me who was proposed to. I gave a tour to two lovely couples. We arrived at the last stop of the tour where I like to re-enact one of the scenes from the film. I picked the younger couple to kiss and the gentleman from the mature couple to be the matchmaker.


I explained to them what was happening in the scene, made the matchmaker say his lines and told the young couple that I wanted to see the biggest kiss in cinema history. Next thing I know the young gentleman is down on one knee asking his girlfriend to marry him, she’s in hysterics and the mature couple and I are looking on in excitement and anticipation for her answer.

Thankfully she said yes. I had no idea that he had planned to propose to his girlfriend. He told me afterwards that he was going to pop the question inside the museum. In my opinion the way it turned out was much better. It couldn’t have been more perfect and I was so glad to have been apart of that special moment in their lives. That’s why I have no pictures of the moment.

I’m going to miss Gerry and Margaret, two of the nicest people I’ve ever worked for; Mary who worked in the gift shop with me, we had some laughs; all the CIE bus drivers/tour guides; the view from the museum entrance and of course Aisling, Jon, Louise and Thirza from the Hungry Monk, they do the best food and hot chocolate in town.


Marteen x

I'm saying a fond farewell to The Quiet Man Museum where I've worked as a tour guide for the past three summers.

From Ireland With Love | Clare Island

Clare Island is 6 km off the west coast of Co. Mayo. Once the home of Gráinne Mhaol, the island boasts a rich cultural heritage that the islanders are extremely proud of. Whether you’re the adventurous type or want to switch off from it all, Clare Island has something for everyone.


My Day On Clare Island

I was looking forward to visiting the island as it was on my wanderlust list. Visiting Clare Island with my mother was a chance for us to spend some quality time together before leaving for Canada. We took the ferry over, which was an experience in and of itself. I felt quite dizzy crossing over and felt sick on the way back. It was like having constant butterflies with your head spinning. Thankfully I recovered quickly. I’m definitely a landlubber.

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Arriving on the island was magical. The first sight you see from the harbour is Gráinne Mhaol’s Castle. Gráinne Mhaol was chieftan of the Ó Máille clann during the 16th century. She was well-educated and was thought of by contemporaries as being exceptionally formidable and competent. Her castle is fine a example of a tower house.


The history nerd in me just couldn’t wait to have a closer look and explore. I tried to imagine what it must have been like back then. While walking around the island what struck me was the quietness. All you could hear were the birds singing, the sheep bleating and the sound of the ocean. There wasn’t even a gift shop in sight.


If I’m completely honest I was fully expecting the island to be thronged with visitors and tourists. But I was pleasantly surprised and delighted that it wasn’t a tourist trap. Apart from the few modern houses dotted around the rolling landscape and the telephone and electricity poles, the island is practically unspoiled. It’s like stepping back in time. The locals were so friendly, giving us a wave and a hello as we passed.


After browsing through the heritage centre and taking a leisurely stroll to the 12th century abbey, we were feeling peckish. 40 minutes later and we were entering the Sailor’s Bar and Restaurant. I tried the falafel burger with homemade chips (they left the potato skins on, yum!) and my mother had good old fish and chips. The service was second to none and the view of the ocean from our table was stunning.


We had an hour kill before taking the boat back, so we decided to head to the beach. There we just sat and chatted about the day we had. The beach was empty and the air smelled of salt. Looking out to sea the boats were bobbing in the waves waiting to set sail and the seagulls were screeching overhead.


How To Get There

There are many ferries to choose from to get you to the island. My recommendation would be O’ Malley Ferries. You can take the ferry from Roonagh Pier, which is 7.3 km outside of the village of Louisburgh. Tickets can be bought at their offices on the pier but if you book through their website you get a 10% discount. The crossing only takes 10 minutes. They claim it to be the fastest crossing.


What To See

  • The Church of The Sacred Heart
  • Archaeological Sites
  • Flora & Fauna
  • The Abbey
  • The Beach
  • The Castle
  • The Lighthouse
  • The Napoleonic Tower
  • The Sea Cliffs


What To Do

  • Angling and Boat Trips
  • Craft Workshops
  • Adventure Activities
  • Horse Riding
  • Heritage Centre
  • Walking and Hiking
  • Yoga


Where To Eat

  • Sailor’s Bar and Restaurant
  • Clare Island Community Centre


I didn’t get a chance to explore the whole island. To walk the full loop of the island takes about 19 km. I would recommend a weekend on the island to experience everything it has to offer. And there is plenty of accommodation to choose from. Have you ever been to Clare Island? Let me know what you think of the island.

Marteen x

Clare Island is 6 km off the west coast of Co. Mayo. Once the home of Gráinne Mhaol, the island boasts a rich cultural heritage that the islanders are extremely proud of. Whether you're the adventurous type or want to switch off from it all, Clare Island has something for everyone.

From Ireland With Love | Cliffs Of Moher Photo Essay

The Burren and the Cliffs of Moher on the west coast of Ireland are unique landscapes that everyone should experience at least once. The changeable weather shouldn’t stop you, just come prepared.

Have you been to the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren? If so what did you think?

Marteen x

Join me on a tour of the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren with my Cliffs of Moher Photo Essay.