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Monthly Archives: September 2015

Seattle to Vancouver and Victoria- Day 10

Sun. Aug. 30, 2015:
Sooke to Victoria, BC to home:

It was nice to already have a breakfast ready-to-go and an iced coffee as well. It made getting up early that much less painful. I drank my iced coffee while standing on the balcony watching the river otters play. In total we counted about seven of them. Two came ashore and we realized it was a mother and her baby. They groomed each other for a bit and then swam off. We had printed our boarding passes the night before (why it never occurred to us to do this every time, who knows).

As we drove on the highway a bird flew right in front of our car and it had nearly cleared us, but as it was passing by *THWOMP* it was a goner. In a highway median we saw at least 40 black and grey rabbits. I guess at the first sign of rain they were eating what little grass had already started to sprout.

There was no easy way to get to the airport. We had to take a coach bus and that hour seemed to go on forever. The people behind us were talking so loudly the whole time, the guy barely came up for air. The bus stops were not announced and we were unsure of when exactly to get off. We got off at what we thought was our stop, but in walking to the airport we realized we had missed the stop. Even still, there was no bus that actually went into the airport and where we were walking there were no sidewalks. It was poorly designed. Later on there was a bike lane so we walked in that instead. Near the airport there was a large grassy field, apparently there was a bull who grazed there, but I saw nothing.

Our flight had been overbooked and they were offering a $400 credit to anyone who would take the next flight, arriving two hours later. Alas, a lady had beat me to the counter and she got it instead.

 
 

Seattle to Vancouver and Victoria- Day 9

Sat. Aug. 29, 2015:
Salt Spring Island to Sooke, BC:

It had rained itself out again in the night, which worked out great for everyone. We still had nice vacation days, and British Columbia was getting some relief from the drought. I awoke really happy again, swung the door open only to find no muffins. Did we not get muffins because it was the weekend? Because we were checking out this day? As we left for breakfast we found our muffin delivery at the main door (there were two suites in our building). Now that we were walking to breakfast though we saved the muffins for later. Breakfast was the same as the previous day, more delicious granola and some objectionable fruit. We walked down to the edge of the property to have one last look for eagles. Overlooking the marina, we still saw nothing. We walked next door to the restaurant and down into the marina. No eagles. This was our last full day of vacation, our last chance to see an eagle and time was running out. Walking back to our room we saw a large bird high atop a lone tree. Could it be?! It was a crow.

As we drove to the ferry the sun started peeking out from behind the clouds. We had just missed the ferry by a few minutes. We queued up the car and parked. Standing around I was getting antsy. There was nothing nice to look at and nothing nearby to walk to. We were trapped. We decided to plan the rest of the day which was rather open other than driving to Sooke and an evening dinner reservation at the hotel. Google said our hotel in Sooke was a good spot to see bald eagles. Apparently we would also be driving by two more promising spots. Our plans were set: we would stop at Goldstream National Park (which I had seen on our way up) and then another smaller park. Operation Spot An Eagle was a-go, we had it all planned out. As we started driving onto the ferry the car in front of us took a left turn and drove off. They had been trapped in the queue for 30 minutes! We had a good laugh at their expense. It was a good thing we had saved the muffins, I devoured mine (blueberry) while we waited to board the ferry.

Driving back south down the TransCanada Highway there was an overhead sign saying the highway was closed at GoldStream Park. There had been some construction signs so I figured maybe it was an old message? Maybe the delay was just past the entrance? Or maybe we could find a detour roundabout way to get to the park? As we sat there in traffic as far as the eye could see Brent Googled the hold-up. As it turned out there had been a horrible car crash that morning… right at the entrance to the park. We had jinxed ourselves the day before wondering what happens when the highway is shut down.

The first detour suggestion was to take a ferry to Victoria but we figured everyone would go for that and we decided not to risk it. When I tried to pull it up on my phone and on the GPS neither would acknowledge that there was an alternate route. I had to pull up the map and look for the detour road given in the news item. I then had to navigate us to a nearby city and from that city navigate us to this road. Neither the GPS nor my phone would take me directly to it without taking the TransCanada Highway- it was infuriating. We backtracked to where we had gotten off the ferry and a little further north, then we had go all the way across until we hit another road going south. We drove in the shape of a giant box and it added at least 3 hours to our drive.

Instead of driving directly south, this was the only other option, as there were not other roads.

In back-tracking we drove right into the rain storm we had been slowly leaving behind. Adding to the crappiness, the road we were on was a logging road so it was windy and narrow. There was nothing to look at but clear cut forests. It was no wonder both Google and the GPS did not want us going this way. I was getting sleepy, hungry and I had to go to the bathroom. We pulled over at a viewpoint but there was not much to see, just the Olympia Mountains off in the distance.

We stopped at Juan de Fuca park, we both needed to stretch our legs. We walked down to Juan de Fuca China Beach through a forest where apparently cougars and bears roam enough for there to be a sign warning of this. Again, we saw no eagles. Things were not looking good for us. The beach had gorgeous views of the American side, there was a lot of driftwood and some bluffs on the beach. We watched as a guy jumped rope with a piece of kelp. I was going to make fun of him to Brent until I saw he was doing this to amuse a child which made it less dorky. We also heard a jay and then saw one. He posed on a branch not nearly long enough for me to properly photograph him though.

Walking back Brent remarked that at least it had only rained while we were driving- and it proceeded to rain on us. We stopped at McDonald’s for a late lunch, we still had 3 hours before dinner. There was nothing wacky on the menu. We stopped in at Serious Coffee next door, I was hoping maybe they would have nanaimo bars, alas they did not. All they had was a weird guy from Alberta talking about the Blue Jays (after he saw Brent’s hat). Before heading to the hotel we stopped at Shoppers Drug Mart so I could get an iced coffee for the next morning. We had an early flight and the airport is nowhere near downtown Victoria where we had to return the car.

We were staying at the Sooke Harbour House and it was super fancy. In our room we found a complimentary bottle of port wine and a plate of cookies. Additionally there were cookie jars throughout the hotel that we could help ourselves to. All this and our room did not have a TV. Our room even had a sunroom (great when it’s raining, not) and a balcony, we could look at the ocean and surrounding islands from our windows.

We walked the grounds before dinner, secretly on the lookout for bald eagles. Instead we spotted a bride and groom having their wedding pictures taken in the park next door. This also stopped us from walking to the end of the jetty in the park. There was even a rainbow in the background. We saw four seals and watched river otters play tag and chase each other in the water. We would have ended up late for dinner if the otters had not swum off into the distance.

Dinner was not outstanding, although the seafood dish of mussels, clams and scallops that we split was amazing. The rose wine was from the Okanagan valley. We were too full for dessert, but when the bill came they gave us little complimentary desserts. They had figs, it was unpleasant. Maybe I was not as impressed with the food because there was so much other stuff going on in the restaurant around us. The bride and groom were having their pictures taken outside the house and were paraded through the dining room. The couple to the left of us were looking at her and all the woman (who was in her 50s-60s) could say to her husband was “look at her boobs” in reference to the bride. I was floored. At the other table there was the most insufferable man of all time, dominating the conversation. His wife only said stuff to please and support him. The other couple never even had a chance to say anything. We knew they were there by the “uh huhs” and other such barely verbal sounds. This guy had once known Jim Flaherty and now the world needed to know. And lest they forget, five minutes later he would start another story with “Jim….” His wife then took the reins for a moment to complain about Toronto and the welfare state and then she passed the mic back to him. It was unbelievable how long the windbag could go on for. When we got there they had already started their mains, when we left they were considering dessert. As we sat there waiting for the bill, I happened to look up. I was sitting facing the window and suddenly I found myself staring at a deer. Close behind her was her young fawn, who was so fuzzy and fluffy and cute I wanted to scream. She was eating the flowers in the windowsill box.

Because we were checking out of the hotel early we had the option of getting breakfast delivered to our room the night before (at this hotel you have breakfast brought to your room in the morning). We found croissants, cookies and yogurt in paper bags in our fridge. After dinner we changed and went back out to the park. The sun was setting and it was getting dark but we wanted one last look. We saw a heron wading into the water and the river otters were back and playing again.

 
 

Seattle to Vancouver and Victoria- Day 8

Fri. Aug. 28, 2015:
Salt Spring Island, BC:

During the night it had rained but thankfully by the morning it had slowed down a bit- although the weather report called for rain later in the day too. I awoke with a flurry of excitement. I had read in the binder that in the morning, around 7:30am, the staff leave you a basket of muffins at your door. I checked the clock and bolted for the door. MUFFINS!! They were not in a basket, but they were still warm which more than made up for it. I devoured it right there by the door, still in my pajamas. Breakfast was in the main dining room where we had dinner the night before. I had come to expect my name on the place setting but it was just a menu. I did not feel like having eggs or bacon. Granola, yogurt, toast and were fruit sounded much more appetizing-housemade granola no less. It was amazing, but I could have done without the dried bananas. I felt similarly about the honeydew melon and pineapples.

It was still lightly raining out so we headed back to our room for Netflix and to plan out the day, see if maybe there was a movie theatre in town. On the TV I found a USB input which made me feel like a genius: I could just plug the iPad in and we could watch Netflix on the TV! So simple and yet somehow (for some technological reason) it would not work. All I could do was display photos. I instead resorted to watching The Price is Right and yelling at the contestants. As I sat there with my feet up I suddenly had an odd sensation… something warm on my arms… coming from the window… could it be?! The sun was out?! The weather was improving and we wasted no time getting outside. We stopped in again downtown to grab snacks and check out the liquor store (again). I found another BC cider, Rock Creek, which was made with Okanagan apples. There was another cider too, but it was in a giant swing top bottle which posed two problems: the first was that it would be too much to drink (as I still had one of a similar size in the fridge) and the second was that having to lug two swing top glass bottles around just seemed impractical.

Driving back to Ruckle Park (there had been two trails and we had only been on one so far) we passed signs for Mt. Maxwell. We decided to reverse the order of our plans as it made more sense to go to Mt. Maxwell first. The plan was to try hiking to the summit and depending on the state of the trail, see how far we could make it. The road was not in the best condition, not quite a dirt road but not paved either. It was incredibly bumpy the whole way up. Near the top there was a sign warning us that the road ahead was bumpy. We looked at each other, “oh god!”, how much bumpier could it get?! We got to the parking lot only to find out that this was the summit. So much for hiking it. There was a ridgeline trail we walked along with absolutely stunning views of the valley, oceans and a marina way down below. Because it had been raining there were some low-lying clouds adding to the “we are so high atop this mountain” feeling, even though the elevation was not actually that high. The lookouts along the path provided stunning views of the landscape. All this and still no eagles.

It was a slow drive down the steep, curvy, bumpy road. On our way into Ruckle Park we saw another deer crossing the road. At this point we had seen so many deer we were no longer fazed. It was like “oh look, another deer.” We walked along the other trail in Ruckle Park, heading in the opposite direction than the previous day, but still along the coast. We could see where we had been hiking the day before. Still we saw no eagles. We did see some kingfishers and a lone seal swimming about. Every time he went under we wondered if he would resurface or if we should keep walking. I almost stepped on what appeared be animal guts being eaten by wasps. Walking back was a lot faster because we were not stopping every few minutes to take in the view. Despite the earlier rain our hikes were a success, the paths were not muddy and easily traversable.

We got back to the hotel 5 minutes before afternoon tea began, which was just enough time to grab a drink at the hotel and eat some snacks. The jalapeno cheddar Doritos were so good, it totally hit the spot. I sort of regretted having finished off the Oh Henry! bites in the car, because now I was craving chocolate. The selection of desserts at tea helped satiate that craving. It was nice to sit by the fireplace eating mini cookies and drinking tea from a fancy teacup… for about 5 minutes. Back in our room we had Netflix and more ciders!! The Salt Spring wild cider was well worth the price, it was delicious.

We were having dinner again at the hotel, but this time at the more casual bistro. Out of all the dishes we ordered the appetizer was the clear winner: house-smoked salmon adorned with quail eggs. My main course was better but Brent’s side was tastier, it’s too bad we could not just switch sides and keep our mains. Gnocchi is so much better than shredded potato. The dessert also fell a little bit short. It was a vanilla caramel flan but there was no custard! We did find out from our waitress that there is a bald eagle nest near the parking lot next door and another one near a lumber yard. There was still hope!

Back in the hotel I finished off my cider while we finished off an episode of Lost. As part of turn-down service I found the cutest travel memento of all time on our pillows. A little sheep made of local wool with a tag reminding us of our stay at Hastings House. I was seriously falling in love with this place.

 
 

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Seattle to Vancouver and Victoria- Day 7

Thurs. Aug. 27, 2015:
Victoria to Salt Spring Island, BC:

Our hotel did not have free breakfast and we were all out of snacks. My iPod would not open iTunes and in my hungry state I actually attempted to load podcasts onto the iPad- it was not a good idea, in fact it was quite awkward. I made in-room coffee but somehow while I was brushing my teeth it had managed to overflow the mug and spill everywhere. When we got to the car rental place I noticed that the internet had lied and it actually opened a few hours earlier (even if that meant having to wake up early).

The TransCanda Highway appears to be the only route between Victoria and Nanaimo. We wondered aloud what happens if there is an accident, and then we saw that they had u-turn pull offs for just such cases. They also had scenic overlooks. We missed the first one and there was no easy to way to get back to it. Five minutes later there was another one so it all worked out in the end. We had gorgeous views of the river and the islands the mountains. We could see Salt Spring Island where we would be staying and the San Juan Islands where we had previously stayed. We were using Brent’s phone to determine what we were looking at.

We were going to Nanaimo, BC with sole purpose of me getting to eat as many nanaimo bars as I could whilst IN Nanaimo, BC: the namesake and the birthplace of one of the best desserts of all time. There were many (seriously, over twenty) places to choose from. I had researched it ahead of time and had narrowed it to two contenders, with an open slot: if I passed anything whilst walking between the two I might stop. Nanaimo bars are rich and prone to melting, making them terrible to binge-eat and difficult to save for later, hence the truncated tour of the Nanaimo Trail. (Seriously, they called it that and there was even a map on the website).

The first stop on our mini tour was Serious Coffee. Although it is a chain coffee shop, apparently only in Nanaimo do they serve nanaimo bars. The reasoning was twofold: 1.) coffee, enough said. 2.) they were the popular choice, having been voted best nanaimo bar a few times. It gets creativity points for having peanuts in the base and it had a lot of filling. Was it the best? That is hard to say, it was good but not outstanding. We also made the mistake of getting a lemon bar, it was not that good and too much food. To fuel me for our walk I had a cinnamon latte. On the way we passed by a bakery that had a Nanaimo trail sticker in the window. I had to go in to Mon Petit Choux and investigate. The nanaimo bars looked delicious (even though I had just eaten one). It was served to me in a small box with a ribbon. Maybe it would survive transport to be eaten later? it would have to because there was no way I could eat it at the moment. I was really intrigued by it, the filling was a lighter shade of yellow making me think maybe it was not as rich and somehow that made it seem even more appealing. Stop two, well now three, was Pirate Chips: a pirate themed restaurant. This nanaimo bar was the exact opposite end of the spectrum: the novelty pastry. I was here for the deep-fried nanaimo, finally I would get to sink my teeth into it. For years I was curious about it since it was supposed to be sold at the CNE until the vendor pulled out at the last minute. I placed the order to-go and the lady warned me that it would not survive well later. We walked down to the marina with it and pretty much devoured it. The ice cream and the whipped cream were completely unnecessary. The nanaimo held up surprisingly well, maintaining its structure and it deep-fried very well. It was so melty and delicious and it had just the right amount of batter. I had reached nanaimo-satiety. Downtown Nanaimo was ok, it was like any other small town main street. The whole time walking back I was worried that my massage bar from LUSH was going to melt, I had left it in the car.

Driving to the ferry to take us to Salt Spring Island we drove by the world’s stinkiest factory. It was a mixture of sauerkraut, all-dressed chips and stale farts. We had a clear view of the smelly offender from the ferry. As we queued up to board the ferry there was a giant truck in front of us, however it was not clear if he was also queued up or just waiting for the ferry traffic to clear. Once the cars ahead started moving he just sat there so we started going around him. As we pulled up beside him Brent rolled down his window to clarify if we had cut or not, and if need be to apologize. Turns out we had skipped the line but the guy did not seem to care at all. We also had no idea what he said, we guessed all this. We had missed the 12:10 ferry and assumed we would be departing on the next one at 1:15. However, as soon as we boarded the ferry left. No arguments here, I do not care if they stick to the schedule or not. The ride itself was only 15 minutes long. Again we had many beautiful views of the surrounding landscape and we saw a seal. Walking back to the car I passed by the giant truck and for a second was alarmed to see feet sticking out from underneath. Sitting in the car waiting to disembark, even with the windows rolled down, the car was a sauna and we could not turn the engine on yet. I was getting antsy in addition to the dizziness. I was worried about my nanaimo bar and massage bar. Both did not deal well with heat.

We drove by a yellow-grass dried out golf course. I could hear in my head what it was must sound like to walk on it, crunch crunch crunch. You could see how bad the drought was. We passed a sign for the Salt Spring Cider Co. but I had noticed it too late. Or so I thought, Brent pulled a nice u-turn and we headed back. On the side road we also saw a deer on its way back into the woods. It stopped for a moment to look at us. At the ciderworks I could see people peeling apples and feeding them into a big juicing machine. I had high hopes for this cider. It had better be good I thought, what with the exorbitant price I paid. The high price was only slightly dampened by the nice swing top bottle the cider came in. And the size of the cider bottle too I guess.

We were staying at the Hastings House, it was cute and cozy. There was no a/c but at least this time the room had a fan. Our names (yes, my behemoth of a last name) were written on our door. It was a nice touch. The info binder in our room informed us that there is lots of wildlife to be seen on the island, especially bald eagles. We had not given up on that quest. Our room also had a gorgeous antique wooden chest just mocking me. I was tempted to steal it, for only a split second. Nanaimo bar #3 had suffered from the heat and was in a terrible state of melt. I put it in the fridge but after about 20 minutes I could not wait. Surely it would have re-solidified and regained structural integrity? If only I had been more patient. The nanaimo bar was still very melty and difficult to hold. It was an awkward situation and almost as if in slow motion, I brought it to my lips and in that upward action it started to teeter and collapse in on itself, tumbling in the air, bouncing off my shirt and *plop*…. A terrible, horrible, awful mess on the carpeted floor. It was just about the worst possible thing that could have happened. At least if I had gotten one bite! But no, all I got was a lick of filling. And it was damn good filling, much better than Serious Coffee. Quite possibly the best nanaimo bar filling I have ever had. And now it was all gone, in a horrible CSI-worthy mess on our hotel room floor. The kicker was that this was lunch. And it was too early for afternoon tea at the hotel. I was lunch-less.

Drove to see what “downtown” was like. It was just a few shops around a marina and no sign of fast food. We were going to Ruckle Park because according to the internet this was our best bet for seeing a bald eagle. On the way we passed by a lot of hitch-hiking hippies, quite a few of whom were heading to Ruckle Park. We started to wonder where exactly it was we were going. Was Ruckle Park actually a hippy commune?! It was a nice easy hike, really more of a scenic walk. We had beautiful views of the other islands, and we could see the ferry we had been on a few days ago, off in the distance. Again we could see the San Juan Islands too. There was a lot of looking at places we had just visited and realizing we had been looking at where we were now. We did not see any whales or any eagles. All we saw was dried out landscape. We had to cut our hike short because the path was quarantined. The only wildlife we saw was a deer in the parking lot a few feet away. We could hear it rustling and slowly it came into view. Driving back to the hotel we saw 4 young deer grazing by the side of the road.

I was getting hangry, very hangry. Back in the hotel, we had just missed afternoon tea so I resorted to eating the lemon bar. With each bite I made a face. Watching the Food Network did not help matters. Thankfully the Merridale Cider I had from Vancouver was delicious and enough to distract me until it was time for our dinner reservation at the hotel restaurant. The hotel had two restaurants, one was a fancy place with a prix fixe menu and the other was a bistro. Tonight we were having a fancy dinner so we had to dress the part. We had quite the debate over who had ordered the better appetizer. It was really difficult to decide, both the scallop ceviche and the venison carpaccio were delicious. I contend I won for the best main, I am not a fan of halibut but it was delicious. I’m also not a fan of lamb, even if it is locally raised lamb from the island. For dessert we split a chocolate pate and a cheeseboard. The chocolate pate was a little too rich for me. I was also not having the goat cheese, although I discovered that plum preserves can make it (and by proxy themselves) quite palatable. The overall winner of the dinner was actually the amuse bouche: a pickled quail egg topped with salmon and caviar. We overheard the lady at the table ask the waiter, in the utmost serious manner, “who peels the quail eggs?” and then she chuckled to herself at the thought of someone sitting in the kitchen peeling a pile of small eggs.

 
 

Seattle to Vancouver and Victoria- Day 6

Wed. Aug. 26, 2015:
Vancouver to Victoria:

I grabbed a coffee and some mini muffins from the hotel for the walk over to the bus terminal which was at the train station. This time the walk was much easier, as it was downhill. Our tickets warned that we should show up at least 30 minutes early. This was unnecessary and showing up 5 minutes early worked out perfectly. We were taking a coach bus to a ferry terminal to get to Victoria, BC. The bus went through a tunnel that had a sign banning people from wearing sunglasses. It makes perfect sense but still it made me giggle. We were unsure of the exact process of getting to Victoria. I did not expect the coach bus to drive right onto the ferry, dropping us off in the cargo bay. As it turned out the ferry not in downtown Victoria, so we would have to board the bus again in an hour and a half.

There were annoying people cramming into the elevator and yelling to each other as if it was the end of the world and all 6 of them had to be in this elevator, god forbid they split up or wait for the next one. We had all of our bags with us and I did not feel like going to the open deck. I found a comfy window seat and dug in for the long haul with all our bags. I arranged them so I could put my feet up. It was great, sitting there staring out the window at the passing landscape and listening to podcasts. My peace was soon broken as we had to get back on the coach bus. It was odd to be sitting on a coach bus in a cargo bay. I was getting antsy, this was not helped when a baby started crying.

The bus station in Victoria was across the street from the Royal BC Museum but we had to backtrack to the hotel first to drop off our bags. As it turned out, the place that Brent had decided on for dinner was connected to our hotel and we got a discount there. We had a nice little hotel room that got a million bonus points for having a stovetop and a kettle. This almost made up for the lack of a/c and no screens in the windows. The Royal BC Museum was much smaller than what I had anticipated. I was expecting a huge museum like the Royal Ontario Museum. They had an interesting exhibit about the BC gold rush. Apparently there was a lot I had not known. There were no dinosaur bones. The last exhibit we saw was more geared towards children with a lot of recreated spaces from the turn of the century, interactive gold panning and pop culture objects.

I had grabbed a tourist map from the hotel front desk and circled a bunch of things I wanted to see. Thankfully we were in Canada now, so we could supplement the tourist map with our phones. The British Columbia legislature was next door to the museum. Unfortunately the sun was right behind it, making it difficult to photograph and to appreciate the architecture. Making things even worse, I had not brought my sunglasses because when we checked the weather it said it would be cloudy all day. Cloudy my foot, my fried retinas beg to differ. I was starting to get hangry as we meandered along a waterfront path through marinas on our way to Fisherman’s Wharf. It was a very inefficient path, they could have built a bridge instead of making us go up to the main road and then back down into the next marina. It was in complaining (and swearing) about this inefficiency that I realized how bad my hanger was getting. In my notebook it says “yeesh” referring to it.

Fisherman’s Wharf turned out to be a few restaurants and houseboats. At the end of the dock there was a hilarious sign that said, “if you are past this point you are in the ocean.” Knowing that we still had a 20 minute walk ahead of us to lunch, I remedied my hanger with chocolate soft serve from the ice cream shop. When I ordered I said “small” to save face, but this was all ruined when he called out my order, “kiddie size.” We took a more direct route to Red Fish, Blue Fish: a taco stand in a repurposed steel shipping container. We walked right by and did not realize, the directions could have been clearer. We had to go down a set of stairs to a marina to get there. We were hungry and this place was apparently really good. We ordered one of each type of hand-rolled fish taco for a total of five: grilled salmon, tuna, tempura fish, jerk fish and another iteration of salmon. They were all really good and it was difficult to rank them, there was a lot of hemming and hawing. We finished all but one and ate that one as we walked.

On the map I had seen another nearby point of interest: Bastion Square. We walked through it and I did not understand for the life of me why it was a POI. It was just a few restaurant patios and cobblestones. It was nothing special. Up next was Canada’s oldest Chinatown. We walked down one side of the street, dipped into an alley, crossed the street and walked back to the main arches. It was nice to see, but not that many shops and not very busy. On the way back to the hotel we stopped at Starbucks. When we ordered the tacos I had made the mistake of not ordering soda and I was feeling dehydrated, I was in desperate need of a green tea lemonade. Afterwards we walked through Centennial Square. Apparently there was a fringe theatre festival happening because the square was packed. There was an annoying guy in a spacesuit on a unicycle and I wanted to get away from there and fast.

We stopped at TD bank so I could get coins for Sunday (I did not enjoy this reminder of the real world, having to think about being back home and doing laundry). I was exhausted by the time we were back in the hotel. I wasted time on the iPad while drinking tea. I was desperate for some nice products from LUSH. My face had layers on sunburn on it and now it was starting to get dry and peely. It was a truly awful feeling. As it turned out there was a LUSH nearby and Brent was in need of restocking his beer supply. Having rested a little, we headed back out. On the way to LUSH we passed a liquor store, rather than having to walk to the one Brent had Googled, we checked out this one to save us a trip. The stock was amazing, I found two different BC ciders. It felt so good to buy a massage bar from LUSH, I also got free samples of hair product and a lotion for Brent’s sunburnt neck. We saw the best passive-aggressive mad kid of all time, she was walking really slow, little shuffles and with every step she stuck her tongue out.

The first of my two ciders, Tod Cider (fermented apples and sulphites said the ingredients list) was terrible. It had a funny aftertaste. Thankfully Firefly and Futurama on Netflix were enough to distract me. Instead of cracking open another drink we headed downstairs to the Argyle Attic. On the website the menu had listed perogies, but they were nowhere to be found when we got there. Instead I ordered the whisky-BBQ chicken wings. Thankfully they do half-orders and so it was the perfect amount of food, as we were still full from the tacos earlier. I decided to change it up from ciders to cocktails. The first one had Old Dad bourbon and a locally-made cola. The second one had Okanagan (local-ish?) peach vodka in it. I did not even know that Okanagan peaches were a thing. The restaurant was really busy and the service was slow, but we had been forewarned so it was OK. At least the drinks arrived fairly quickly. There was no way we would be ordering dessert, partly because had already eaten so much and partly the slow service.

 
 

Seattle to Vancouver and Victoria- Day 5

Tues. Aug. 25, 2015:
Vancouver :

I woke up at 7:30am and decided to stay awake, we had a long day ahead of us. I grabbed a coffee, bar and yogurt from downstairs. The Vector cereal bar I grabbed was disgusting. I took so long getting read that we did not leave until almost an hour later. Our first stop was Granville Island where the shops did not open until 9am so it worked out in the end. The walk to the island was along the marina, the whole time we searched the nearby trees and masts of sailboats, desperate to spot a bald eagle. We had read that they often sit atop masts. We did see a heron hunting down some breakfast. On Granville Island there were a bunch of storefronts and a community centre. The main attraction was the farmer’s market building. This was what I had expected when we went to Pike Place: a giant building, full of stalls, not too busy. Brent ordered a chicken sandwich, but it was too early in the morning for me to eat a giant sandwich. Plus our lunch plans were sandwiches. I opted for a donut and pepperoni sticks with an iced coffee from JJ Bean. We tried to eat outside but a wasp kept bugging us.

We walked to Kitsilano Beach after breakfast. We saw a rocky beach, which at first we mistook for Kitsilano. However Brent pulled up the map and it turned out we were just walking along the shoreline during low-tide. Kistilano was the next one over. Looking back we had gorgeous views of Vancouver with the mountains in the background, all across the river. We could also see Stanley Park across the way. It was our next destination, we were so close, we could see it, yet we had to backtrack to the bridge to get back across. This added about 30 minutes to our trek.

Stanley Park was our best chance of getting to see a bald eagle, so said the internet. We Googled the best spot to see them and got a very precise location of where an eagle nest had been spotted this year. The park was huge and a real gem. Once you were in the heart of it you forgot that you were near downtown. It was only when a road cut through the park and we had to go over a bridge that I remembered- that and the occasional distant siren. But in the thick of it you would think you were out in the deep wilderness. The whole time we walked, we kept our necks craned upwards, desperately searching the tree tops. Nothing, not even any false hopes.

We got to the outdoor theatre, the nest was in a tree somewhere nearby. We stood near the theatre, looking up and turning in circles. I am sure passersby thought we were nuts. Brent spotted what could possibly be a nest, I took a photo and zoomed in as much as I could (which is not much, as my lens only goes to 55mm). We circled the theatre to get closer to the tree. As we walked we would periodically lose sight of the nest. Finally we had a good vantage spot. And so we stood there looking and discussing. Was it? Wasn’t it? It defineintly looked like a nest and it was high up. But what if it was old and had been abandoned? What if it was just a pile of dead branches? What if it was another bird nest? That last one we ruled out quickly, the potential nest was enormous and very high up- no way it was anything but an eagle nest. I suggested looking at the ground around the tree. And so we started circling the tree hunched over and examining the ground. I noticed a few pigeon feathers and some white fluffy ones. Brent noticed a few bones. I saw a bird wing. He saw two bird skulls. I saw a severed gooseleg that was bright red at the joint where it was torn. We looked at each other, our little CSI episode was a success! We had discovered and confirmed an active eagle nest!! Now all we had to do was look up and there were would see the eagles. Right? We stared and stared. There was something up there, something white and small. Turns out it was a feather stuck in the nest. Why were they not home?! We were so close!!! After 10 minutes of nothing we left. We checked out the aquarium but it was too big and we would have had to rush. I did stop at their snack bar for some soft serve and a rocky road brownie (for later). We went back to the nest for one last look, maybe, just maybe, they were back? Alas, there was still no sign of them.

I decided against a third cup of coffee on the way to lunch, I was way too hungry to delay. On the way we passed by the Olympic torch and decided to take a small detour. It was a good detour, we also found an orca made of LEGO bricks and we got to watch seaplanes take off and land. There had been a sign about a bathroom, but the sign lied. Until then we had been having a good run of public bathrooms.

The main reason we were lunching at Meat & Bread was so that Brent could recreate a photo of Josh, who had been eating a sandwich there last week. That, and when we Googled it the menu sounded amazing. At 1:45pm it was incredibly busy, you would think that by then the lunch rush would have died down. Brent ordered the porchetta sandwich, I went with the daily special which was soy ginger beef. While Brent waited for our sandwiches I managed to snag a table near the front. It was one table over from where Josh was sitting, and it would have to do. Before we could dig in, we had to take the photo. It took some adjusting but finally we got as close as possible. The sandwich was delicious. My only complaint was that it had not been cut in half, so having to bite into it crust first was less than pleasant. It was also rather messy with all the sauce running everywhere. I was covered in it by the end. Now that my hunger had been satiated, my caffeine craving came back. We walked back one block so I could get a nitro-cold-brew coffee from Timber Train Coffee. It was a novelty, poured from a tap like beer. It poured so creamy that I forgot to put milk, it seriously looked like milk had already been added. Only as it started to warm did it regain its true dark colour. It was a little too winey to be had black and it was tough on the stomach.

My hanger taken care of, we headed off to Dr. Sun Yat Sen’s Chinese Garden. The problem was that we had to walk along E Hastings St. Now, were not at the bad part yet, but the parts leading to it gave us a glimpse of what to expect. It was not nice and I can only imagine what the infamously bad part is like. We passed through one intersection of Chinatown and it was not at all what I had expected, partly because the road was under construction and partly because we did not continue exploring Chinatown. (As a point of reference, I am used to Spadina Ave. in Toronto).

The garden itself was very peaceful and pretty. It was nice to walking around, sipping on a cup of green tea. We had managed to just miss the tour, alas we kept getting stuck behind them. We resorted to going out of order. Afterwards we went to the Chinese public park that partly surrounds the Gardens. It was not as pretty but we did get to see a turtle and a koi pond.

Dr. Sun Yat Sen’s Chinese Garden

It was a long, slow, very tired walk back to the hotel. Minus the 20 minutes of sitting at lunch and 10 minutes at breakfast, we had been walking for about 7 hours. We stopped at the liquor store next to our hotel for beer. When we got to our hotel room it was being cleaned and it was awkward. I changed into my flip-flops and we headed back out. We went to Shoppers Drug Mart to get snacks for the next day. We also went back to the liquor store, Brent had his beer list with him this time. It felt so good to rest back at the hotel. I plotzed and watched Under The Dome.

It was a 30 minute walk to Tojo’s, and it was east, therefore we were walking into the sun. We were dressed up fancy, and my sunglasses case doesn’t fit in my fancy purse. The whole while I wished for my sunglasses to make the walk a little more tolerable. As it turned out, we did not need to dress up fancy at all. There was a guy in shorts and a t-shirt. The only fancily dressed people were a bunch of guy in suits near the bar. We had really high hopes and Tojo’s delivered, and then some. We ordered the two dishes the chef was known for: marinated tuna and the BC salmon sushi roll. Both dishes were outstanding, amazing and beyond delicious. All we could do was look at each other wide-eyed in disbelief, as in: can you believe how amazing this is?! We also ordered a plate of assorted sushi so we could try a wide range. It was difficult to split as there was one piece of each type. It got messy at times. Some of them fell apart and I had to take it in two bites:rice and then the fish. The sushi platter only further confirmed my love affair with eel. It’s the best sushi. After all this we were still a little bit hungry. We ordered the Pacific West roll (i.e.: the original California roll). Turns out what we thought were good California rolls in the past were only subpar. It had the added bonus of a scallop adhered to the top of the sushi with wasabi and then sprinkled with roe!!! This was easily the best sushi I had ever had, and one of the best restaurant experiences ever. (Both at home and on vacation). The waitress was really nice. She even complimented us on not using soy sauce (why destroy something so beautiful?)

We had ordered the perfect amount of food- although I was tempted by Marble Slab on our way back. I managed to resist, I still had the rocky road brownie back at the hotel. It went perfectly with a cup of tea and Netflix to round out the evening.

 

Seattle to Vancouver and Victoria- Day 4

Mon. Aug. 24, 2015:
Seattle to Vancouver, BC :

I was starting to wake up and I feared another sleepless night. As I was rolling over I found Brent about to wake me up 5 minutes early so we would have time to grab food. I may or may not have screamed. I grabbed a coffee and a packaged muffin from the hotel. There was a really long line-up at the train station. Even though we had bought our tickets, we still had to reserve seats. Thankfully we did not have to clear customs, so the line moved quickly.

We settled into our seats, and no sooner had we gotten comfy, our peace was ruined. There was a woman on the platform yelling “IT’S IN THE FRONT POCKET!!!”… then it was silent… and without missing a beat: “LARRY!!…. IT’S IN THE FRONT POCKET!!!’ This went on for a few more minutes. Our seats were on the crappy side of the train, we did not get a view of the coast. The train featured free wi-fi but there was a pop-up message saying that it blocked video streaming. What is the point of free wi-fi on a train if you cannot watch Netflix?! The only thing it was good for was checking my messages. Marianne had written hoping I had not been sleepless whilst in Seattle, which was just brilliant. Across the aisle we could sort of see out the good windows. We saw small hazy mountains off in the distance, lots of boats on the ocean and a lone seal.

We were heading to Vancouver and thus would no longer need our American money, what little we had left of it anyways. This was the perfect opportunity to spend it on snacks. We had barely eaten breakfast as it was. I was also starting to fall asleep, and it was only 9:30am. I made the mistake of ordering a breakfast bagel for us to split. My suspicions of how wrong I was, were only confirmed when I heard the beeps of the microwave. Trying to cut it in half proved difficult: the bagel was rubbery. The sausage’s presence was only evident by the grease it left everywhere. There was barely any cheese to go with barely any sausage. I ate it as fast as I could, trying hard to ignore the texture, taste and grease. Thankfully I had also gotten a coffee and a Snickers bar to wash away the awful taste. It was a good thing I had that coffee, because my iPod was starting to infuriate me. It would not download any new podcasts. The book I had gotten from the library turned out to be a cookbook, so the only book I had with me on vacation was Pride & Prejudice, which is not easy reading.

British Columbia! We were back in Canada and I had another province on my list (even though I do not keep track of that one). This also meant that there was only one hour left- of a four hour train ride. We could see giant mountains off in the distance and below us on a bridge logs being towed in the river. In my head I started singing “this log is your log, this log is my log” and it made me giggle quietly to myself. I thought the wait at customs would be much longer, partly because of how long it took for the train to get to the station since the message that upon arrival we would have to clear customs. The train had to turn around, and at some point we were past the station. On a map we could see that we were close to the hotel, alas the train had to backtrack. Thankfully we breezed through customs.

My first impressions of Vancouver were that it is a really nice city, from the get-go I was certain it would be near the top of my list of all-time best cities. The only part I did not enjoy was the walk to the hotel. But that was because we were lugging our heavy bags and my calves kept seizing because we had been sitting on a train for four hours. Our first destination of the day was the University of British Columbia to see their Anthropological Museum. It was not within vacation-acceptable walking distance (two hours is too far) so we took the bus. We tried to pay with a $5 bill, but apparently buses in Vancouver only take coins? The driver let us on for free. I was still very tired and I kept falling asleep whilst listening to podcasts.

UBC campus was unfairly beautiful. It had ocean and mountain views, I do not know how anyone actually went to class, as I was mesmerized by the scenery. It made all other university campuses I have been to thus far look terrible. The Museum of Anthropology was awesome, they had a broad range of artifacts from all over the world. I did not expect to see objects from Kiribati. There was an info panel showing where Kiribati was located, so I learned a little bit of geography too. The totem poles throughout were enormous and stunning. The craziest piece of craftsmanship however was the wooden boxes made of one plank of wood that was BENT INTO THE SHAPE OF A BOX. A solid plank of wood… was bent… into the shape of a box and nailed into place. I could not believe it, I just kept staring wondering how. Even though there was a detailed and clear explanation of exactly how. Still I could not fathom this feat. All I could think was this would be a great modern-day Pinterest fail.

Before heading outside to see the lodges and some more totems, we stopped at the museum café. We needed change for the bus, and I was starving. It was the perfect situation for a cookie. After the museum we walked to a nearby beach accessible from campus. Wreck Beach was at the bottom of an unending staircase. With every step I thought to myself, I’m going to have to climb back up all these stairs. At the top we had noticed a crowd gathered around the beach sign, it warned that the beach was clothing optional. Somehow, for some reason, I did not think that there would actually be nude people. Not only was I wrong, I was very wrong, the beach was packed. There were so many nude people walking about. Needless to say it was difficult to take in the nice beachfront ocean view. We sat down on a piece of driftwood and tried to relax and enjoy the beach. Our experience was only made worse when some annoying people sat down nearby and would not shut up. “Oh my god, where the F*CK [emphasis theirs] did you get those shades?!” was enough to make me reconsider my fear of the stairs. I needed to get away from there. They were intolerable, insufferable and I could not stand to listen to them. It was a long slow stair climb back to the top. I was huffing and puffing towards the end.

We stopped at campus Starbucks, I was in desperate need of a green tea lemonade. The bus ride back was even worse than earlier. The bus was crammed with people and I was dangerously hangry. As we drove I stared out the window, we passed by LuLuLab and I made note of it, as it was near Tojo’s sushi restaurant (our plans for the next day). I was also using the fact that LuLuLemon is based in Vancouver as a potential reason to shop the next day. The bus had stopped and I watched as a guy in his car, waiting to turn at the intersection was jamming out to the radio.

We took a mini-break in the hotel. I had enough time to catch up in my notebook and swap out my purses. It was a 45 minute walk to BierCraft. The restaurant was in former Little Italy, now hipster-central. The Toronto Star newspaper had recommended this. As we walked I saw a cat, but he was not having it, he wanted nothing to do with me. An ambulance was about to turn and Brent had started going into the intersection. He moonwalked out of the way to let them pass and it made the driver giggle. In a residential neighbourhood that was not the nicest we saw six pairs of shoes hanging from an overhead wire.

The restaurant was not too busy. I overheard people at a nearby table saying they had been there before (in total I heard three groups say so, it bodes well for the place). We were at a Belgian beer bar, therefore I had to order beer of some sorts. I ordered a sour cherry lambic, Echt Kriekenbier, that I had never seen before. It was the best one I have had thus far. I ordered the poutine dish because the gravy was made with beer. We split a pound of hot wings as well. I was starving, we had barely eaten all day. It was just the right amount of food, except for Brent who had ordered a second beer. There was no way I would get a second beer, it was too much of a gamble and there were no bathrooms on the walk back to the hotel. As we sat on the patio, a lady who was drunk as a skunk kept pestering people on the patio nearer the sidewalk for a dollar.

Walking back we passed a guy in a Blue Jays hat and jersey. Brent shouted “Yeah! Jays!” at the guy. The guy looked bewildered at first, “what?… YEAH!” He was so bleary-eyed and stoned, it was incredible he was able to remain upright and walk. We stopped at a Tim Horton’s. I was curious to see if the west coast had any wacky donuts- they did not, I was very disappointed. Brent had gone looking for a bathroom and came back right as I was choosing timbits (I had decided to change it up and get 10 timbits instead of a donut). He changed my order and added a chocolate timbit. The coconut timbit was not as good as I had remembered. I made Brent eat his two chocolate ones, as I am not a fan of them. The best ones by far were the usual go-tos: birthday cake and sour cream.

We saw two more cats but they were also completely uninterested in me. A guy had stopped at a red light and we started to cross… and he started to drive. He had stopped paying attention and nearly ran us over. A fearful moment like this is not good when you have to pee. I was exhausted by the time we got back. All I wanted was to sleep, but I had to shower- my feet were filthy from wearing sandals all day.

 
 
 
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