Commentary: Staycation…time to discover the joy of where you live

Commentary: Staycation...time to discover the joy of where you live
The Butchart Gardens
A look at The Butchart Gardens at the end of April.

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Ian Haysom’s coronavirus diary will appear here regularly.

We are looking at tulips. Thousands upon thousands of tulips. Red, yellow, violet, green, multi-coloured. They are vivid and loud and fantastic.

“Who needs Holland?” said my wife.

She had a point. We’re not going to have Holland, or France, or Australia or Britain or Africa or anywhere in our near future. Dr. Bonnie Henry said no flights out of British Columbia this summer.

We will travel in our own backyards, and in this case, the backyard is The Butchart Gardens, just a bike ride from our home, and we are here on reopening day.

Butchart has been closed for a few weeks, and once they announced plans to reopen under strict conditions, we were literally on our bikes. We expected some crowds, but it was splendidly quiet. We tapped in our annual passes at the gate and were asked if we had coughs or colds or anything else that might endanger everyone’s lives, and I thought of mentioning the hay fever, but we were waved through and into wonderland.

The drinking fountains were closed. The benches had all been taken down. And there was a strict one-way route around the gardens, but there was a wonderful lack of tourists.

“I guess we got our gardens back for ourselves,” I said to one of the many guides around the garden.

“Yeah, it’s kind of eerie,” he said. “But kinda cool. This is my favourite time of the year. The tulips are at their best.”

I snapped a multitude of pictures with my phone and enjoyed the splendid solitude of spring. Many of the facilities are closed – the main restaurant and gift shop are locked up – but you can get a takeaway coffee or ice cream at the coffee shop.

Butchart’s reopening gives us hope for the near future, however, and hope that other attractions – and stores – will find creative ways to get us back towards a new normal.

The thing is, if we’re going nowhere, then nobody’s coming here for a while either. Premier John Horgan made it clear in his Wednesday statements that we are going to ease back into a new normal. And the border isn’t going to open any time soon.

The tourism business is going into freefall right now, so we need to find ways to help us discover and rediscover where we live. Dr. Henry said, rightly, that we need to discover and embrace the pleasures closer to home.

And Horgan punctuated that Wednesday when he said, “Wherever you live in B.C. is outstanding. Please stay there and enjoy it.”

READ MORE: Elective surgeries, restaurants and hair salons highlight first steps of BC’s reopening

We’ve certainly been discovering small roads and deserted beaches that we never knew existed on our bike rides around the peninsula over the past couple of months. We’ve taken our own picnics, but it’s also been fun to stop at bakeries doing takeout as they reopen.

And the spectacular flowers aren’t only at Butchart Gardens. There are bazillions of wildflowers out right now, including bluebells, fawn lilies, camas and trillium in small parks around greater Victoria and up and down the island.

We walked along some pathways in Beacon Hill Park the other day that we’d never seen before. The peacocks were putting on a show near the petting zoo, and we peeked through the fence to see the baby goats. We also went to see the Moss Lady, the 26-yard-long sculpture made of moss and stone in the park. Very cool.

The opening of provincial parks is a smart move, even if we won’t be able to camp in them for a while.

If the economy is going to get going again, and particularly the tourist economy, then we’re going to need to be tourists in our own towns and villages for more than just a week. There’s plenty to discover and, with luck, we’ll see the museum and downtown stores reopening under grocery-store-like restrictions, maybe even whale watching… keeping our distance from the whales of course.

In the short term, it’s staycation time. So enjoy. And, when Butchart starts to do its summer planting, smell the roses.

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Ian HaysomIan Haysom

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