Friday, October 19, 2007

family vacation 2007: oh, Canada!

I know, I know--we always go to Canada...but it's so great! You're NOT in America but the only thing foreign is remembering which is a Loonie ($1 coin) and which is a Toonie ($2 coin, has 2 colors) and the people are so laid-back. Plus, we can drive there in a half a day. Can't say that about Mexico! Since we got married this is our fourth trip to Canada and our second trip to Victoria. To me Vancouver is like Portland--very hip, very metro, but entwined with nature, something for everybody...but Victoria is more mild--a city but slower paced, and easy to navigate. Much better on a budget b/c really the "must do's" are the Museum, the gardens, and just enjoying the waterfront. In Vancouver, I just want to SHOP, EAT, SHOP, EAT...b/c the retail and restaurants are so amazing.

Our drive began bright and early toward Port Angeles where we met a 2pm ferry to Victoria in the great Vancouver Island. We'd done this before, and really enjoyed the drive. We only stopped once, b/c as we learned last time Washington has the weirdest exits: you see a sign for food or gas, then you get on this long exit ramp that doesn't really lead you to that destination, then once you get what you need, its impossible to find a ramp back on. it's like some Stephen King story where you mysteriously can't get back on the highway so you're doomed to find a job and become another pasty, slow-driving Washingtonian....Anyway, it was a lovely drive along the eastern rim of the sound, foggy at first then clearing beautifully for the last hour or so.

We got to the ferry with over an hour to spare so we staked our spot and walked around the tiny town of Port Angeles that seems to only exist for two things: the ferry ride to Victoria and crab. And luck for us it just happened to be their yearly crab festival! Blake ate crab cakes and coleslaw, while I found an organic crab salad with tomatoes and mozzarella. The girls enjoyed some fresh lemonade and I drooled over (but didn't touch) the local microbrews.

At first, I attempted this shot by setting up the camera on the metal staircase but I ended up getting us with a white banister cutting through the picture. Apparently, my attempt was making for a good show for some fellow travelers and they offered to take it for us.

We ended up getting the same unit as last time! Which was great because...well everything about it is GREAT! It's got a fully stocked kitchen, two bedrooms and two bathrooms PLUS a washer and dryer. After staying at a timeshare condo with two small kids, there is no going back. We were SO comfortable and the size made it so easy to keep clean. My god, I sound like a Worldmark, really the timeshare was not ours, it was a gift from a client (who has hooked us up with a great place every year since we got married--it has been INCREDIBLE!! I bow to you, Tammy, oh great accommodations provider!) So on days where we were out and about it was nice to come back to our place, and on days where the weather was crappy, we could just stay in and kick back.

Did mention it has a view of the bay? Blake stalked the boats there everyday...and there were some really gorgeous ones. The girls loved going on walks down there with him (while I stayed "home" and took hot baths.)

One of my favorite things we did was visit Craigsdarroch Castle, smack in the middle of this sweet residential neighborhood just east of downtown. Dude, it made me want to be extremely wealthy 100 years ago SO BAD. Nearly every room was set up to be as it was in it's heyday--decor, mannequins in period costume, and even "food" on the tables. There were too many interior pics to even choose one, so just an outside teaser is all you get. The funny thing is that the two rooms I was most curious to see were the two that they have not reconstructed yet: the bathroom and the kitchen. Classic rooms that a stay-at-home mom would be curious about--probably b/c those are the rooms with the most dramatic, modernized changes over the last 100 years.

Ah...I had to share this shot. Blake came up with it and it turned out really cool.

So Sunday was Blake's birthday. We started off by making a big breakfast of chicken apple sausages, scrambled eggs with shitakes, and toast. After the castle, we headed home for some left-over spaghetti and a rest. Blake had mentioned that he wanted some steaks for dinner but finding some good grass-fed beef was difficult--the neighborhood grocery store had a meat department that I wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole, and the nearest Capers (a great natural market much like cross between Wild Oats and Newport Market for those of you who know) was really far away in an area I didn't know. So while Blake and Mayan took a walk around the docks, I lay in the bath with Isadore and contemplated a trip to another store the hotel deskman had suggested to me. Before I could get out, Blake and Mayan were back with pink wind-kissed cheeks and a excited glow in their eyes--the fishing and crabbing boats were coming in and you could buy live crabs right off the boat for super cheap...was I into it? Um, YES! Go get them, I said. So they did and when they returned I went to the store and bought some fries and coleslaw fixings. We had so much fun cooking them (something we'd never done), eating them (something I'D never done!), and even the mess it made was amusing. Another unexpected happening that helps build the memory of a good vacation.

Here's is the guy killing them for us (we would have been total amateurs trying this at home) after Mayan and B hand picked the ones they wanted.

Bringing them home to Mama!

Never leave home without your Le Creuset, I always say.

Nothing says "happy birthday" like a really special meal...

The hilarious aftermath.

The next day we took a stroll past the legislative building (below), where there was a First People's rally, on to the Royal BC museum. Somehow we missed the greatness of this museum the last time we visited, but this time we GOT it. It holds some of the greatest exhibits we've even seen--especially the 20th Century wing which holds room after room of the most detailed replication of life 100 years ago. Cobble stone streets lead to a whole town front with a dress shop, pharmacy, Chinatown, hotel, medical supply store.....they spared no detail--even the Chinatown had a little alley you could peer down with wooden crates and secret doors. Nowhere could you see "museum" or a sign of it being merely a was like stepping into any small town a century ago where the people had just disappeared. Mayan loved the little movie house where she could sit on the red velvet theater seats while they showed silent Charlie Chaplin films. If that wasn't cool enough the exhibit them moved onto show life on the range, in a coal mine, a mill, as a nomad, and finally the icing on the cake a giant life-size stern of a cargo ship with a barrel strewn port. You could enter the ship and view the captains quarters, then stroll the mini maritime museum. I am pretty sure Blake had tears in his eyes at this point, it was just so well done--and I truly felt like I got as close as possible to understanding what life would have been like had I been born in 1880, not 1980.

Old Town, USA, circa 1890....

No little buckaroos, it's not real, but it sure looks like it...

The ship "Discovery"

The rest of the trip we stayed close to home in an effort to stay dry, and enjoyed walks around the neighborhood. Blake discovered a fish and chips place on the docks that used canola oil and soy-free breading, so I was ALL over it. Oh man, I ate sooooo many fries. I want to go back.

Cute picture of Isadore that Blake took on one of their walks in the courtyard of the hotel.

Okay, this was amazing. We visited the Butterfly Gardens on our last day, where we saw this very rare Atlas moth. Get this: the Atlas moth stays in it's cocoon for three to five years, then once it emerges it only lives for 3 to 5 days! It had just emerged that morning--we felt veeeeery special. Look how big it is!!!

Well, at 13 weeks and after a full meal of lentil stew and grilled cheese, my belly is getting very round!

To catch the 9am ferry to Vancouver on Thursday, we were up bright and early...wait, no, actually it was still dark (you can see the lights of the legislative building in the background.) Look how sad we are to have to leave....

This is a funny juxtaposition: who says Americans like things big?!

Possibly one of the greatest places on Earth--the Granville Island Public Market. Produce, meats, fish, chesses, hot food, flowers...and of course sweets all of kinds.

Our favorite restaurant in Vancouver is a hip Belgian place that Richard and Helene told us about. Isadore fell asleep on the ride over and snoozed on Blake's lap the whole time. Too bad, too, b/c she missed out on the special kid-friendly cocktails the bartender created for us: cranberry juice, lavender, aloe and a rose petal. Mayan was such a "young lady" at dinner--it's amazing how putting on a nice dress and patent shoes can make you feel so grown up.

Leaving the restaurant, Blake grabbed the camera and took another great shot--and ultimately one of the last of our fantastic vacation.
Unfortunately our hotel was a major disappointment--the downfall of choosing a place on Expedia is that despite the discounted rate and ability to find the amenities you want, you never know until you get there if it sucks and if it does you can't get your money back. First thing I see when I entered the room and opened the curtain was a razor on the window sill. Ew! This tells me right away the cleaning person was not thorough--Lord knows what else they missed! But the bigger problem was that the room, although a good size, smelled but not just of chemicals (which is bad enough) but of farts and something else that I could not identify. It was like that movie Four Rooms where the little girl in the hotel keeps asking "what is that smell?" and finally they discover the dead whore stuffed under the mattress (actually a very funny movie.) But that would have been fine if the windows opened--not one room in the whole hotel had functioning windows--lots of glass, no opening windows...the more time we spent in there, the more we craved fresh air. It was too much so at dinner we decided we would go back, grab our shit and bail. We hit the road around 8pm and reached Portland just after 1am--so glad to crawl into our own beds.


Hedro said...

I'm so jealous!!! I must go sometime soon. MUST. GO.


BreD said...

oh my GOD... i'm on the floor!! :) thank you for blogging all this... so good to see the pics and "hear" the story all in one place. i love your writing so much...
too much to comment on--the museum sounds so killer though... we are putting this on our list of anniversary trips.

Lee said...

Wow thank you for sharing!!! Loved the photos and stories! I must go sometime!

elliesmadre said...

I'm so glad you guys had such a great trip! Aside from the farty whore room. lol The fam and I will have to make the trek to Victoria soon. You know I've heard the train ride to Eugene is amazing...


Korin said...

Farty Whore Room. LOL! SOunds like a fun trip!

mamayogalove said...

oh Canada...
it was so good to see you the other day. thanks for sharing your saturday afternoon with us.

Nicole Homel-Tellier said...

The vacation sounded great! Jay and I keep talking about doing a trip to Victoria. Clearly now it has to be done. The museums look great, especially the castle.
Thanks for sharing!
N & T