Love, Laughter, and Life

Adventures With a Book Lover


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Fun Things to Do in Victoria BC

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Downtown Victoria BC view from our Hotel Grand Pacific balcony

Millions of thanks to my cousin, Melissa, for taking me to Canada with her! We had such a wonderful cousin time, exploring, giggling, eating, and shopping. So much fun and tons of memories (and calories). Don’t forget your passport!

Here are some of the fun things we did.

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Picturesque views while riding on the Clipper

1. Ride the Victoria Clipper. Besides getting us to Victoria in 2 hours 45 minutes, it was a fun way to travel. Parking at the Bell Street parking garage was only $10 a day with a pass from the Clipper. And only a block from the dock. Do check in online as soon as possible. We were in boarding group 1, and it only made life easier.

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Melissa and I headed north on the Victoria Clipper

2. Splurge for a nice hotel. Melissa chose the Hotel Grand Pacific, literally one block from the Clipper dock. It was so easy to wheel our luggage across the street and down the block. Check in was a breeze. Do check. They had our room ready early, though I can’t promise that all the time. The room was fabulous and we had a combined view of the city and the harbor. Comes complete with pool, hot tub, restaurants, high tea, and very friendly and knowledgeable concierges. You can’t lose with this hotel.

3. Schedule High Tea. Do it! Sure, it’s another splurge, but where (in my neighborhood) can I get fancy high tea? Uh…nowhwere. We researched a bit and settled on High Tea at our hotel, Hotel Grand Pacific. So much food, plenty of tea, oodles of sugar, ample time, short walk, wonderful company. Instructions included wearing proper shoes (no flip flops or beach wear items), so we planned ahead and brought summer dresses and dressy sandals. We both ate most of our tea foods, and swapped items we didn’t finish. Or left them on the tier. Not saying who. But I do enjoy a good smoked salmon. And tuna. Our server was kind enough to pack what was left in a container for later snacks.

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Loved this fountain!

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Two adorable 50-somethings enjoying Butchart Gardens

4. Ride city bus #75 to Butchart Gardens. Originally, we planned and booked a day-long tour which featured many popular destinations. Due to low registrations (I think we were on the only two), it was cancelled. We hemmed and hawed and eventually overhead someone saying, “Take the bus.” Excellent suggestion. $5 Canadian for an all day bus pass. Worth the entire fiver. Saved tons of money by going to Butchart on our own. And saw some great sites along the way. Skipped the parking lot fiasco. Butchart Gardens. Two words. DO IT. Gorgeous. We had lunch at The Blue Poppy Restaurant.

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Water lilies in front of Hotel Grand Pacific

5. Wander. From the bus windows, we saw the drug store we needed, plus many other fun places to explore. Touristy shopping is right on Government street, filled with all such souvenir treats one could want. It was pretty easy pickings to find surprises to take home with us.

6. Murchie’s. Visit both sides of this landmark. Coffee, tea, breakfast, lunch, snacks. We hit Murchie’s for breakfast one morning and I was enchanted to have my hot tea come in a pot! If you do this, check for tea strength. I think there were 4 (FOUR!) teabags in my pot. A bit strong, so I pulled some out. The bran muffin was excellent. We then walked right next door to the shopping portion of Murchie’s where we sniffed teas, handled tea items, and purchased loose leaf tea and gifts. Bagged and loose leaf teas are available, as well as tins, tea cups and pots, tea paraphernalia, and assorted whatnots. Knowledgeable tea staff are on hand to help with purchases and tea choices. Sadly, they no longer sell spices.

7. Eat at 10 Acres. They have 3 restaurants with farm to table foods. They grow most of the items they use to prepare meals. We first visited 10 Acres Commons Bistro. I loved my fresh salad and French onion soup. The drink I had included a (ONE) fennel seed, which had accidentally transferred over during the herb harvest process. It was so tasty. We would definitely visit this bistro again. A different evening, we timed our visit to 10 Acres Commons for happy hour when some foods would be on special. Delighted to have an outside table with a lovely view. My bunless burger and salad were exceptionally delish and Melissa’s fish and chips looked super tasty. Just a warning. And I thought it funny. My usual take when I ask for no bun, lettuce wrap instead, is that I am saving you money and buns. Their take is sure, we’ll leave off the bun, but charge you extra for the lettuce wrap. LOL. My happy hour price was eaten up by my lettuce wrap and bacon. Oh well, it was so yummy, I didn’t care.

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Garden of Roger the Marmot…we did not see him.

8. Stop and smell the roses. Or lavender, geraniums, dahlias…Victoria is a beautiful city. We traveled north in August, and flowers were on abundant display. Bees and bumbles adorned nearly every flower bed we saw.

If you wander near The Empress, facing the Empress from the harbor, follow the path along the left of the far left entrance. You will find the home of Roger the marmot and his accompanying bee hives. Though native to the area before land development, marmots do not usually live within city borders. Somehow, be it RV, big truck, or baggage, Roger found his was to this tiny hidden corner of rock walls, trees, and flowers. Four attempts have been made to capture him, but he is wily and wants to stay where he wants to stay. We didn’t see him in person, but what a fun character! The Empress has turned his garden into a wildlife bee and marmot sanctuary. Go see it.

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No photos of Rogers’, but plenty of treats from High Tea!

9. Rogers’ Chocolates. If you love chocolates, you will want to enjoy some treats. We only stopped once for an after dinner truffle. Mine was pretty tasty. But they don’t give correct change (true elsewhere). I asked why I didn’t get any pennies back for my change. I was kind of grumpy about it. I love my pennies. But she said they didn’t have any. Then as I wandered on, I vaguely recalled Canada doing away with pennies. Yep. That was true. No more Canadian pennies. The Rexall cashier explained in detail. I don’t know who benefits most. The government does surely, as it costed about $1.40-1.50 to make $1 worth of pennies. Do shop keepers? Customers? No idea. But don’t expect exact change OR pennies.

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Harbor view from Fisherman’s Wharf

10. Walk the harbor sidewalk. Sit and rest, watch the people, watch the boats and air traffic. Even sitting still, there is so much to see. Victoria is beautiful and popular.

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Pot of tea at Hotel Grand Pacific breakfast. My kind of WAKE up time.

We need to plan another trip. There was so much we did not see. Castles, distilleries, China town, pickle boat rides, museums, Parliament buildings . . . So many more restaurants and malls and exciting things to see.

Have you been to Victoria? What was your favorite thing to see, do, or eat?

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Fisherman’s Wharf. It was a hot day when we walked here, only food and one shop! But beautiful. Most of these are personal homes.


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Motorcycle Monday: First Ride of the Year

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For us, motorcycle adventures take place in two seasons: spring and fall.

Occasionally, like yesterday, the blue skies call us despite snow-laden hills and fields and cool temps. Technically, it is still winter. So we started early this year! Most years we can squeak in a ride in February as long as we are well covered with warm layers and roads are clear.

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We are kind of like Baby Bear in The Three Bears. We need the weather to be not too hot, not too cold, but just right. The best time for us to ride is spring – not too cold, not too hot. And fall – not too cold, not too hot. Winter? Snow, ice, frigid temps. Summer? Sun and sweltering heat.

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It could be perfectly fine outside for wearing shorts and tank tops. But we prefer to cover up when riding to protect our skin from bugs, sun burn, heat, road rash (if we crashed). Plus the helmet, oh the insulator of heat it is, keeps us nice and sweaty. Unless we are moving down the road and creating our own breeze, it is hot beneath the blazing sun. Stop lights are my least favorite!

In winter, it goes without saying. If four tires play slip and slide over mogul-like roads, imagine two tires. That’s a motorcycle recipe for disaster!

Yesterday we grabbed the perfect opportunity to take a short test run. Glorious blue skies, blinding white hills, brisk air. And quite a few others who succumbed to motorcycle fever! Just enough right to whet our motorcycle thirst for adventure.

Our trip was a short loop out Ahtanum Road, going right on Slavin, and then right on Cottonwood Canyon, which lead us back towards home. Lots of folk out cleaning up and enjoying sun and blue skies.

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Welcome spring!

How do you welcome spring? What are your favorite things to do in spring?


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Flowers in France #TBT

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Ten years ago this spring, my honey and I spent 3 weeks in France. Most of our time we stayed in Paris, where flower shops and coiffured gardens displayed dazzling blooms. I loved gazing at the gorgeous blooms. And, according to my external hard drive, spent much time clicking photos to remind myself of their beauty.

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The first two photos are favorites because of the price tags. Without those French words and Euro price tags, one would assume the flowers could be found on any continent during the proper season. Well, maybe not Antarctica or the Arctic.

at monet's water lilly pond

One of my most favorite memories was taking a day trip to Giverny, the home of Claude Monet. I have been a long time admirer of his impressionistic work. With settings such as these, how could he NOT paint? Breathtaking! If you squint, you can see his featured bridge back beyond the willow trees.

 

bedroom up, studio down

This is a part of Monet’s home. We took a walking tour inside. I don’t have any photos of the inside, I think because we were not allowed to take pictures. It was inspiring to see the places he worked, slept, ate, and enjoyed family life. I would move in in a second!

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The flower gardens are all that-and more! One could spend days exploring and not see it all. Actually, I want to return one day and spend the entire day soaking in the beauty.

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Oh, the flowers that grow! Below you can see the green bridge covered in tourists. Alas, I attempted photos without the crowds, but you can see I created a false impression. 😉 Plenty of others had the same ideas we did about a day in the country.

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Have you been inspired to travel some place special? What captured your imagination and led you to visit and explore?


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The Station Wagon #ThrowbackThursday

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The Hill kids, Mark (blue suit), me (tallest), Tracy (white knee socks), and James (bib), next to the family roadster!

Station wagons and me, we go way back.

In the late 80s, my husband accepted employment with a new company, one benefit being a company car. “Anything would be cool, but please don’t come home with a station wagon. And especially not one with fake wood details.”

Ahem. Yes. He came with a station wagon. Adornment of imitation wood panels? Whew. Dodged that faux grained bullet.

Even earlier than the 80s & 90s version of the station wagon work vehicle was the early 70s family models owned by my parents. We had at least 2 different family touring vehicles, blue and white. Those wagons could really hold people and belongings. And pets, groceries, camping equipment, children, toys. Nothing like the little trunks in modern cars.

 

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The family station wagon, mid-trip exploring the Arizona desert.

Some of my fondest memories are the days we spent exploring the southwest. We’d load up 2 parents, 4 kids, and 1 collie dog. The first mandatory stop would be a mini-mart so we could purchase the required bologna, cheese, white bread, and soda for our snacking pleasure. Sometimes we ate hot dogs (always cold) instead of bologna, but either one was a treat. Then we would hit the road.

The Arizona desert is a wondrous place for questing. Forests, rivers, desert lands, mountains, ghost towns, dirt roads, historical sites. My parents loved to haul us around seeing what we could see. I have vivid pictures in my mind of those trips, but I can’t help but wonder if we didn’t drive mom and dad the slightest bit crazy. 4 kids and a dog in a station wagon? Even if we did use the fold-up seats in the way back to separate us.

Horned toads, tarantulas, snakes, spiders, scorpions, cacti, sagebrush, thorns, stickers, heat mirages, dust. Treasure is all in the eyes and heart of the explorer.

What about you? What memories do you have about a vehicle or early days with your family? I’d love to hear your tales on this #ThrowbackThursday.


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Sea to Ski: Anniversary Travel & Fun

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Pre-hike view of Mt. Rainier

While celebrating our 32nd wedding anniversary last week, we experienced what I have tagged a Sea to Ski holiday. In our area, there is a Ski to Sea athletic event, and we certainly engaged in exercise during portions of our explorations, but nothing up to iron man/woman or triathlon levels. Not even close.

Fun, fast, feast, foray. That’s was our goal.

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Seattle from Alki (West Seattle)

Sea = Day 1 Trip to Seattle

We dined on extremely tasty blackened cod tacos and salad at Salty’s on Alki. We walked along the beach, rode the water taxi across the bay to the Seattle waterfront, hiked the Pike Street Hill Climb, enjoyed clam chowder at Ivar’s, and scoured an antique store for a tiny glass bottle. Parking was just fine at Salty’s and the water taxi was a treat.

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The Seattle skyline from the water taxi

Ski = Day 2 Trip to Mt. Rainier

Technically, we did not ski. But we hiked in the mountains. And saw plenty of snow. We parked at Ohanapecosh Campground and hit the trail leading through the hot springs, past Silver Falls, discovered a new trail (for us) to the Grove of the Patriarchs, and totalled over 6 up and down miles. About 60 floors in elevation gains, according to my Iphone. For hot days, this was perfect, as most of the trail was shade covered, gorgeous, and green.

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The hiking look

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See? A nice and shady path

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Waterfall and creek at Ohanapecosh 

Ride = Day 3 Motorcycle Loop

To make up for the hiking, we sat on the bike to see the sights. We traveled up Highway 410, gazed at the packed snow and ice gracing the top of Chinook Pass, followed Highway 123 to Highway 12, and returned through Naches to make a loop ride. We took the back road around Clear and Rimrock Lake. There was no lack for beauty, but it was getting pretty hot by the time we completed the ride.

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Mt. Rainier from Chinook Pass

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We left early to avoid the heat, so the morning hours required layers and layers! Which slowly came off as the mercury rose.

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Our shadows and us admiring the snow and Mt. Rainier

Watch = Day 4 Movie to Beat the Heat

As per suggested temps of 100, we hit the theater to take in the new Pirates movie. We both loved this episode as it tied in to the original three. AND we avoided the gagging heat.

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Ferns at Ohanapecosh 

All in all, we had a fantastic anniversary holiday, me and my honey. The northwest is full of gems, just ready for exploring.

Where do you love to go? All ideas are welcome…next trip is just around the corner.

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 Fish tacos at Salty’s