Sunday, September 29, 2013

Getting to Know Victoria

 Travel offers such a wonderful opportunity to step into a way of life often different from our own.  For a short time we open our minds to new sights and experiences all the while learning new things as we go.

When we began planning the British Columbia portion of our recent trip, a visit to  The Butchart Gardens was occupying the #1 spot on my list of "must sees."
It wasn't until we started researching the various places we planned to visit that we realized the gardens were not in Vancouver, but in Victoria which is located on Vancouver Island.
In the process of making flight arrangements, hotel reservations, rental car arrangements along with researching the many different places we hoped to visit, it somehow seemed like the way to get from Vancouver to Vancouver Island would be to hop on another plane.

 Hence the reason for our 13 minute flight on the prop plane.
We have since learned that most people take the ferry.
Like I said, we can learn a lot as we go. :)
Not only that but, the prop plane was an interesting experience.
I think that's the first time I felt my entire body vibrate on take-off.
Once we were airborne things smoothed out and we very much enjoyed viewing the islands below as we made the quick trip to Vancouver Island.

Our time in Victoria was short so we wasted no time in getting started on our adventures.
We had read about the highly recommended drive along the Scenic Marine Route and thought it sounded like a great way to get a true feeling for life on this very pretty island.
This drive took us along the Pacific Ocean with breathtakingly beautiful sights all along the way.

When we came to the Ogden Point Pier we felt it was a good opportunity to stretch our legs.
We walked to the end of the pier and back pausing to appreciate the beauty and also noticing many jelly fish in the water below us.

We noticed piles of driftwood along the coast.
This is driftwood like we've never seen before.  Huge pieces, more like logs of driftwood.

The weather during our stay in Victoria was picture perfect.
The blue of the sky coupled with the blue of the ocean  ...  well, what can I say... beautiful.
I think that is Mt. Baker in the background.
If any of the BC gals are reading perhaps you can verify this or correct me if I'm wrong.

Driving a little further we began to get hungry and stopped into The Beachhouse Restaurant for lunch.  We sat outside on the deck and enjoyed this view as we ate.  I'm not sure, but I think I could get used to this.
I should also mention how much we enjoyed fresh seafood all throughout our time in BC.  If I can ever find halibut around here it costs an arm and a leg.  So, I ate plenty of it (and also salmon) on the trip.

We also spent time walking the streets of Victoria checking out the shops and restaurants.
We first saw the Parliament Building when it was all lit up in the evening.  Many people were across the street taking pictures.
I had planned to be one of them the next night.  Seems we got so busy I neglected to do that, but here you see it during the day.
Pretty impressive, eh?

Also impressive was The Empress hotel.
After looking over the various options we decided to spend the rest of our day at the Royal BC Museum.  We felt that it would be a good way for us to learn more about the history of British Columbia.  We spent several hours there and were not disappointed.  It is very well done.  While there we also saw the IMAX film entitled Flight of the Butterflies.   I am fascinated by the fact that monarch butterflies migrate to Mexico every year.  They seem so fragile and yet they are able to make that long journey.  This film chronicles that journey in a way that will amaze you. 

These topiary in the shape of whales were near the museum.
I'm not sure what that big spot is all about, but you get the idea.
We were so impressed with Victoria.
People were so friendly and it was so clean.  We noticed the great strides being made in the recycling effort here and also in Vancouver.  In fact at the museum there was even a basket for used paper hand towels which would be used in composting.
We were also impressed with how physically active people seem to be... everywhere there are people walking and biking.  The roads are very bicycle friendly.  And speaking of friendly, it seems to be a very dog friendly place as well.  Often we would see bowls of water in front of the shops for the doggies.  

By now you may be wondering what happened to our plans for visiting The Butchart Gardens.
We went and they were so amazing that they deserve their very own post.  Once I sort through my 200+ photos I'll be back to share this gorgeous garden with you.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Autumn's Arrival

~ Autumn's Arrival ~

I spent  a good portion of the day gathering things from around the house to welcome the arrival of the autumn season.  
As the days become a bit cooler it is a pleasure to open the windows and breathe in the fresh crisp air of an autumn day.
Ideal conditions for cozying up the house in anticipation of the pleasures to be found as summer gives way to the delightful fall season.

I do enjoy a slight decor change with the arrival of each new season.  Having said that I don't think the word slight would quite describe what happens around here for the Christmas season.  We won't concern ourselves with that now though, will we?
Anyhow, moving right along...
While I do incorporate autumnal hues into my decor, there are some colors (bright oranges) that just don't work with what I have going on around here.
Today I took out four different tablecloths before settling on this one.  It seemed to work best with the rug that sits beneath the kitchen table.
Riveting content here today, eh? :D

I like to assemble my centerpiece items onto a platter or tray so that they can easily be whisked off the table, if need be.
I tried using a wood tone basket-type tray, but thought it seemed out of place.
After ransacking the cupboards a bit I settled on this transferware platter as I liked how the patterns worked together.

 I pulled out the pear candles that I've had for years and promptly decided they would look better with something under them.  Enter the blue and white saucers I had recently obtained from the thrift shop.  I knew they'd come in handy sooner or later.

A pear themed plate.
The color and texture tied in nicely.
Too bad I only have one.
Oh well, this is blogland where we can pretend the entire table is set this way.  Right?
Our little secret ;-).

On another note I tried something new today.
Making a blog header in PicMonkey.
I wouldn't even want to admit how many hours I devoted to that.
I hope those gigantic pictures in my header didn't scare you.
I started with four... one and a half of them were cut off.
I went back and created another one with three and that is what you see now.  Looks more like one and three quarters to me.
I went in again and made yet another one.  Before saving it I entered a smaller size for the photos.  After watching the little monkey do somersaults for hours I gave up.  For now the gigantic header stays until I have the patience to attempt this again.
If any of my PicMonkey savvy blog friends have an easy solution to this I would be so grateful.  I'm sure it is an easy fix if you know what the heck you're doing.

From the southeast United States I'd like to extend a Happy Fall Y'all.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Stanley Park

Along the borders of downtown Vancouver sits an amazing urban park.

Stanley Park is a 1001 acre public park almost entirely surrounded by the Pacific Ocean.

 We couldn't have ordered better weather for our visit.
As we stood gazing across the ocean to the mountains in the background it was at once easy to see why so many people were out enjoying this gem of a place.

If I lived or worked in a big city like Vancouver I would love to head over here on my lunch hour or after a busy day in the office.  What a wonderful place to come and feel the cares of the world slip away.  
We saw so many people walking and bike riding the day we were there.  I have a feeling most days are like this.  It seems like Stanley Park offered something for everyone.


 Lawn Bowling

You would have a hard time getting me away from the beauty of the gardens.  The colors were so vibrant on this late summer day.

I've been doing my best to avoid the "b" word, but really there is no other word to describe a garden like this with a glimpse of the mountains and ocean as a backdrop... Beautiful with a bit of gorgeous thrown in :D.

A better view of the garden backdrop.
You know how I said if I worked in Vancouver I would come here for my lunch hour?  Well maybe that wouldn't be such a good idea after all.  I think I would find it nearly impossible to return to work.
There was a magic to this park.  The natural beauty and the many different activities going on made me feel so calm, yet so alive.  
I had a hard enough time leaving when the day was up.
It seemed like the best way to end the day was with a late lunch on the patio of the Fish House.

Fish and Chips for him.
Veggie, goat cheese omelet for her.

We had a few other small adventures while in the Vancouver area and then it was time to board a small prop plane (interesting experience) for a 13 minute flight over the islands...

 to another highly anticipated destination before our final destination, the wedding in Seattle.

To be continued ...


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Happy to be Home

13 days
6 flights
5 hotels
& now ...

My mom used to say "it's nice to go away, but nice to come home too."  I completely agree.  I loved every moment of our vacation, but as the end was nearing I was growing tired of ordering from menus, hotel beds and public restrooms/washrooms.

I have a few more trip highlights to share once the laundry is done, the pile of mail is tended to, the plants are watered, etc...  Oh, and I need to change my blog header before fall officially arrives.

" When you're safe at home you wish you were having an adventure,
when you're having an adventure you wish you were safe at home"
~ Thornton Wilder

Be back soon,

Thursday, September 12, 2013

On To Whistler

While researching the "must see" things to do while we were in Vancouver a drive along the Sea to Sky Highway seemed like a "must do" so off we went happily munching on the hazelnuts we had purchased at the local farmer's market.

 The weather was picture perfect and the sights were... well, beautiful.

 Not long after arriving in Whistler, we enjoyed a delicious vegetable pizza while watching the cable cars make their steady ascent up the mountain.  I knew getting to the top of the mountains was the "must see" way for fully experiencing the beauty of the area.  However, I wondered whether the height would be an issue for me.  It's been a long, long time since I've been on any type of cable car or ski lift.  I decided to throw caution to the wind and go for it.

After lunch we purchased our tickets for the Peak to Peak Gondola and with slightly sweaty palms I hopped in and off we went.

 Stepping out of the cable car at the first summit, we were in awe of the natural beauty to be found in every direction.  The air was so fresh and clear.  I felt like I had just stepped into a postcard.

We were interested to learn about the small animal who was instrumental in the naming of Whistler Mountain:

We then boarded the 2nd gondola to continue our trek up the mountain.

By now I was a seasoned gondola traveler and quite enjoyed the gentle glide through the treetops.

  Soon it was time to exit the gondola.
Right away we saw a large group of people squatting down with cameras poised.  We were soon pointing the camera at this:

 The Whistling Marmot!
He wasn't whistling, but he sure was attracting a lot of attention.

We enjoyed a cup of coffee while overlooking this amazing sight.
Oh how I wanted this day to never end :).
But, all too soon, it was time to board the gondola and return to reality.

I'd like to extend a special thank you to the British Columbia gals for your comments on my previous post.  I nearly cried when I found out about your upcoming book signing at the Granville Island Ten Thousand Villages.  Oh how I would have LOVED to be there for that.  The hardest part of this trip has been being so close and not having the opportunity to meet you.  Through the years of reading your blogs and following your Mennonite Girls Can Cook story I have been completely enthralled with your beautiful province.  The chance to experience it has been more wonderful than I can begin to convey. 
Anneliese, to answer your question in comments,

 Yes, I have noticed the logo on your license plates.
In fact this is one of my over 500 photos.
I now know, without a doubt, that it is indeed a beautiful, beautiful place.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

As Beautiful as Expected

As the plane prepared for landing, I couldn't help but wonder whether our destination would live up to all I had expected it to be.  You know how sometimes you can build a place up in your mind over time and then it isn't quite as you had pictured it once you get there?

~ Scenes from the Vancouver International Airport ~
(not the clearest photos as Brett was rushing me along to the customs line, but let me just say this welcome to Vancouver makes a real statement complete with the sounds of duck calls)
 Upon stepping off the plane I knew my expectations would most likely be met, if not exceeded.
You see, it was when I began blogging (five or six years ago) and began visiting  Judy's Front Porch  that I saw the beauty of British Columbia for the first time.  Each time Judy would do a post featuring scenes from her front porch and surrounding areas, I was awed by the beauty.  In fact at one point I felt it necessary to find another word than "beautiful" to use in comments.  Ha!  It was a challenge, but I've tried alternating amazing, stunning, gorgeous, awesome, etc.  
Through the years I have had it in the back of my mind to someday, somehow get myself to British Columbia to experience this beautiful place.
When the invitation for a wedding in Seattle arrived, the light bulb went on.  Brett has listened to me sing the praises of British Columbia for so long that he was willing to add a few days to the trip.  We did a little research on some of the "must sees" while in the area and made a list of what we could reasonably see in our three short days here.

Before leaving the airport we marveled at the interesting sights to be found there.

Tall Totem Poles on the way to the rental car desk.

A wall of live plants grows alongside the parking deck.
This warranted a closer look ...

 after a long day of travel we spotted this:

a unanimous decision was reached to start the culinary portion of the trip with one of these:

I'm not sure but I think calories don't count when you're on vacation.  At least that's what I'm telling myself. :)

As of this post our time in Vancouver has come and gone. 
We packed every moment of our short time here with memory making experiences.  I have taken hundreds of photos and will share a few in upcoming posts.  When we were first planning the trip I hoped it might be possible to meet up with Judy, but it soon became evident that time would not permit.  However, our travels took us here:

the name sounded familiar so we went in and saw this:

which made me think about Judy and the rest of the Mennonite Girls .   It also made me think of the interesting connections that are made in blog land.  Had I not discovered Judy's blog all those years ago, I don't think I would have found myself in British Columbia and that would have been most unfortunate.  This has been a most memorable trip and one that I will not soon forget.