I recently returned from a short trip to Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Once again, pre-planning by using the Internet assured me of having a flawless adventure. Just two motels and two ferry crossings required reservations, and all were easily booked.

I took a circular route, crossing the Strait of Juan de Fuca on the Black Ball Ferry at Port Angeles and returning via Sidney through the San Juan Islands to Anacortes. The weather was stellar, with sunshine and mid-70s throughout the trip. Although it’s the height of “tourist season,” I was there mid-week, so the activities and events weren’t as busy as anticipated.

After just one day, I realized the need to ban the word “pretty” from my vocabulary. Suffice to say, the extremely colorful enormous blooming flower baskets hanging from almost every light pole absolutely took my breath away at every turn.

The popular waterfront area bustled with many different types of boats, seaplanes, and street fair booths. The Royal BC Museum, Wax Museum, Undersea Gardens and Thunderbird Park are all within easy walking distance. The majestic Empress Hotel commands attention, yet it’s the Parliament Building that steals the show, completely outlined with lights at night.

Talking with people is my forte, and I’ve found many “off the beaten path” surprises by doing so. This trip, a security guard outside the Parliament Building gave me the inside scoop so I could have breakfast in the Legislative Dining Room the next morning. Surrendering my photo ID in the security office and wearing a coded visitor’s badge to scan my way through the maze of hallways made me feel like a true VIP.

“Uncle Petey sent me,” I told the elegantly uniformed waitress. She laughed and nodded knowingly, told me some of the history of the room, then made sure I got to sit in the Speaker’s chair while she took my photograph.

Later the same day I found myself on a “Prince of Whales” whale-watching tour. I hadn’t planned to do that particular activity before I left home, but once I got there, it just seemed like the thing to do on a glorious Tuesday afternoon. Perched on the top deck of the Ocean Magic II, I spotted over two dozen Orcas frolicking in the Haro Straits.

And yes, of course, I spent an afternoon and evening in Butchart Gardens. Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty—I just couldn’t restrain myself! Listening to a Dixieland concert on the lawn that night, I felt like kicking off my shoes and dancing. The mind and heart were willing, but the body was rather pooped, so I sat and happily tapped my toes and waited for nightfall, when the lights turned the garden into a virtual fairyland.

Three very full days in Victoria, and I returned feeling like I’d visited another planet. One where they speak English and my US currency is accepted just like cash, eh?