Tuesday, July 29, 2014

10 things to do in Victoria, British Columbia

1. Rent a Scooter
There is so much more to Vancouver Island than just downtown Victoria. While there are multiple options for sightseeing, my favorite method is renting a scooter and putting along the coastline. Scenic routes are clearly marked and the cost of renting a scooter is surprisingly low. We only spent $40 for our three hour scoot adventure. 

2. Go to the IMAX
The IMAX, which is located in the Royal B.C. Museum, shows more than just Hollywood hits. We had the choice to watch Godzilla or other lesser known films. We always choose the lesser known films. I have watched documentaries on tornadoes, the African safari and Great White sharks while in Victoria. My favorite movie was the one we just watched on Madagascar. For just $10, we watched the Island of Lemurs, which was a beautiful film about both Madagascar and these amazing creatures that live nowhere else on the planet! 

3. Eat mouthwatering Irish food
My favorite restaurant in Victoria is the Irish Times Pub. The food is authentic and delicious. Even better, the second you step inside the restaurant, you step into another country: Ireland. Live music blares and in every nook and cranny you can find Irish culture. 

4. Ride in a horse-drawn carriage 
Okay, I have a thing for horses but can anyone say that it is not incredibly romantic to take a sunset ride along the water with the clop clop of horse's hooves echoing off the pavement?! An easy place to catch a ride is in front of the Empress Hotel. The rides go along the waterfront and include an informative guide. 

5. Explore the Maritime Museum
Most people who visit Victoria go to the Royal B.C. Museum. As they should. It's great. But so many people neglect the Maritime Museum, which is sad because so much of Victoria's history and the Pacific Northwest's history is bound up in maritime. The museum has antique artifacts and interesting exhibits that illuminate the importance of maritime in the growth of the region.  

6. Zip line in the forest
While expensive, booking a zip lining tour is a great way to see more of Vancouver Island's forest. The tour is 30 minutes outside of downtown Victoria and an absolute blast! 

7. Walk around the harbor
The buildings along the harbor are stunning. The architecture is really un-Canadian/American and more European in nature. My favorite building is the parliament building. At night, a thousand lights illuminate the outline of the massive building. 

8. Ride the Coho
Even if you arrive in Victoria via highway, it is well worth the fee to ride the Coho ferry through the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Port Angles, Washington. The view of the mountains and water is spectacular and the old fashioned ferry is throwback to the 1950s. Round trip, the experience takes about four hours but it is one of my favorite parts of visiting the island. 

9. Whale watch
Many whale watching boats go out daily from the harbor. These boats have extremely high sighting rates of Orca whales and Humpback whales. While a sighting is not guaranteed, the anticipation and sense of adventure make the trip totally worth it. 

10. Have high tea at the Empress Hotel 
Unless you are filthy rich, you will not be staying at the Empress Hotel (the cheapest room is $300/night). That said, it is fun to look at and a great place to spend an afternoon having high tea. You get those little tea sandwiches and delicious English tea. The lobby of the hotel is like stepping into a luxury magazine and it is well worth the money to indulge and people watch and wonder what life is really like for those who can afford to actually spend a night at the hotel. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

riding the coho

This Friday was our fifth wedding anniversary. To celebrate, we took a trip back to where it all began: Victoria, B.C. When we got engaged, we were 22 and 23 years old and did not have much money. The best we could do for our honeymoon was a three-day getaway to Canada, which is a simple ferry ride away from home. At first, the jet setter in me was disappointed. I imagined honeymoon destinations like Bali or Paris. As it turns out though, despite the fact that I have since traveled to both Bali and Paris and many other bucket list places, our honeymoon to Victoria is still by far the best trip I have ever taken!

Five years ago, we spent three days renting a scooter and putting all over the island (maybe this foretold of things to come??), wandering around museums, indulging in horse drawn carriage rides, watching cute films at the IMAX, eating really good Italian and Irish food and also zip lining through the forest. This time around, fast forward five years, we had less than 24 hours in Victoria and simply sought to relish in memories and our wonderful first five years of marriage and ponder what the next 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45 and 50 years (and I reaching here?) will hold.

One of my favorite things about going to Victoria is the act of getting there.
You see, we get to take a ferry.
The Coho, to be precise.
It is an old-fashioned ferry that runs multiple times a day from Port Angeles in America to Victoria in Canada.

The ferry ride is 90 minutes long, which is the perfect amount of time to go outside, snap some photos, get your hair all messed up by the fierce breeze, shiver a bit and then go inside, grab a coffee and play some card games until arriving in downtown Victoria.

By far, taking ferries is my favorite act of actual travel.
It's not hard to figure out why, huh?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Port Townsend: Home Sweet Home

I think most travelers stumble across a place that steals their heart.
A place that is more than just a place.
For me, my special place is one simple hour away from my childhood hometown and not a plane ride away or on another continent or in another country.
My special place is a little town called Port Townsend.

Port Townsend, Washington is my place for a few reasons.
First, it's where I started out.
It's where we started out.
It marked the beginning of my career and marriage and intrepid lifestyle.

But it's also so much more than that too.
The town is like no other place on earth (at least that I have found so far).
The physical feature are stunning: Mt Baker peeks up over the clouds, the Olympic & Cascade Mountains rise up in the distance, the Strait of Juan de Fuca meets the Puget Sound, islands poke up through the water and beaches and forest line the landscape.
The human features are intriguing: Port Townsend is artistic and playful and a little old fashioned with its Victorian homes and waterfront buildings with huge, worn murals painted on the sides and subcultures here and there.
It's a unique place that just feels like home to me.

Plus, there is an old fashioned ice cream parlor.

What's not to love??

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Lavender Festival

Attending the Sequim Lavender Festival has become one of my favorite summer traditions. Usually, my mom and I head north to wander the fields of purple, buy copious amounts of lavender scented body products and picnic under the sun while listening to live folk music. 

Sequim, Washington, which is located in Western Washington, was not always full of fields of purple. In the mid-1990s, local farmers searched for a way to use the neglected fertile fields of the Sequim Prairie. They wanted to do more with the land than just graze herds or grow foodstuffs. They wanted to do something that would cause both locals and tourists and passersby to appreciate more than just the water and mountain views but also the gorgeous land itself. 

After careful research, the answer happened to be lavender. 

Sequim is known for being the retirement community of the Western Washington. It draws the elderly for a few reasons. One of them is the great weather. The Pacific Northwest in general, especially Seattle and the rest of Western Washington, is known for being a wet and dreary place. However, Sequim, due its location within the Olympic Rain Shadow, experiences far better weather than the rest of the region. In general, the weather in Sequim is drier and sunnier. 

This makes the region perfect for growing lavender, which does best in warm and dry places. 

Initially, a handful of local farmers began converting their fields to lavender fields and the concept spread. Now, every summer there is a three-day lavender festival. The whole town is taken over by purple and the farms are open for tours and offer food and live music. Even if you cannot attend the festival itself, most of the farms are still open for tours year round and some even have shops in downtown Sequim where customers can buy house and bath products.