Last month, my husband and I embarked on one of the most pointless trips of our lives. We had travel points to burn so we booked a 3 day trip to Victoria, B.C.
Whenever possible we try to avoid flying out of LAX and opt to fly out of John Wayne Airport in Orange County or the Long Beach airport. Trying to find somewhere we could go out of one of these airports I was thinking about the Pacific Northwest. After an outstanding trip to the San Juan Islands with my girlfriends a couple months ago, I can’t seem to get enough of the “Upper Left”. I want to explore it all and we’ve already done Seattle and Vancouver so I suggested Victoria, B.C. because of my grandmother’s mug! Yes! My grandmother’s mug…
My maternal grandmother had a profound impact on my life (I wrote about her in a past blog as well) and she had a mug she always used that’s been etched in my memory. It was a mug from Butchart Gardens with a painting of colorful trees, leaves and flowers.
As a child, I was more interested in the word Butchart and how my grandmother pronounced it, because any kid would be tickled by But-Chart but my grandmother was fancy and pronounced it all fancy. She was born and raised in Lebanon where she was taught Arabic, Armenian, French and English. She always taught us funny French and Arabic words. I wondered why she was so attached to that mug and I would ask her about it all the time and she would tell me about this fabulous place that seemed so far away and unreachable. Maybe it was the Hawthorne Effect that caused me to glorify this place in my mind’s eye but anytime I heard anyone talking about Victoria I would silently recall that my grandmother’s mug was from there.
We decided to fly into Seattle and drive across the border because why not? We booked a rental car with our free points and the drive up to Canada was absolutely beautiful. The trees had changed colors and Fall was in full effect. The border crossing into Canada at the Blaine – Peace Arch Border Crossing was a breeze. We arrived at the Tsawwassen ferry terminal, parked the car in extended parking and had about a 30-40 minute wait until the next ferry’s departure. It was my husband’s first time on this type of ferry.
Upon arriving in Victoria, we took a taxi from the ferry terminal to our hotel downtown which we also booked using our free points. We had selected the Delta Hotels by Marriott Victoria Ocean Pointe Resort. Things got a bit twisted at check in. We had requested a room with a King size bed, but my husband asked the receptionist if we could switch to a room with two queen beds. She made the change and upgraded us to a room with a view. As we walked towards the elevator I told my husband that she probably upgraded us because she felt bad for me. For sure she thought we had an argued or he wasn’t that into me HA HA! The truth is, he had a bad cold and didn’t want to pass it to me.
The view from our room was breathtaking. I enjoyed the sunrises and sunsets overlooking the Parliament building which lights up like a wedding cake at night!
(Images via Panoramio and Marriott)
After settling in we didn’t want to venture too far because it was getting late and we were exhausted so we had dinner at LURE. The hostess informed us that there was a DJ in the bar area and we asked if we could be seated in a quieter part of the restaurant. Based on our choice to vacation in Victoria and sit in quiet areas one would assume we’re in our 80’s but let me just mention that I’m in my late 30’s. Our request worked to our advantage because we ended up with a table right in front of the window so we got to enjoy the beautiful views of Victoria Harbor.
The next morning we had breakfast just over the bridge from our hotel at Fuego where they were serve Marley Coffee which I had been meaning to try. Right after breakfast, the first item on our “to do” list was getting a fall themed coffee beverage from Tim Horton’s. I don’t understand the hype about Starbucks, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf or Dunkin Donuts really. I would trade all of them for Tim Horton’s. Every holiday season I indulge in one pumpkin spice latte and one peppermint mocha and I allow myself one other festive specialty latte. I got to check off my pumpkin latte at Tim Hortons in Victoria. After crossing that task off the list we began our journey to Butchart Gardens via public transportation.
We hadn’t done a good job of researching this so it took much longer for us to figure it out than it should have, but after a while we found the correct route. I was so eager to get there, that even though the bus driver had told me he pulls right into the parking lot of the Gardens the minute we saw the sign for Butchart Gardens I pulled the stop request string and we got off. Basically this earned us a much needed bathroom stop and a 3 kilometer walk to our destination.
After our 20 minute walk we arrived! It seems my husband and I have inadvertently made a tradition of visiting botanical gardens in the off season. This was our second time at a botanical garden and both times it wasn’t good timing. Our first visit was a couple years ago, during the month of December to Descanso Gardens. December is an awful time to visit because all we saw were stark trees and nothing was in bloom. I think we’re showing improvement because this time it was October. Since I love Autumn and we don’t get that in Southern California I didn’t mind that only a handful of Dahlias were in bloom. I think it was my first time seeing Dahlias so that in and of itself was something to write home about! Not to mention the beautiful red, orange, and yellow maple leaves that I couldn’t get enough of. I reckon we may be improving and the next time we visit a botanical garden it may actually be spring!
Upon completing our walk through of the gardens we grabbed warm beverages from the cafe. This time I opted for a London Fog. It was only fair since I first learned about this delicious drink in Canada! After grabbing our drinks, we wandered over to the gift shop. I didn’t intend to buy anything, I just wanted to see if I could find it… and I did! My grandmother’s mug! I guess it’s a classic, because my grandmother had that mug over 25 years ago!
That evening, my husband found an Italian restaurant he wanted to try. Usually, I would have veto-ed this suggestion because who goes to Canada to have Italian food? but we had walked so much that day I wanted to indulge in some carbohydrates and he was fighting a cold and being a trooper so I knew I would have agreed to whatever he wanted to have for dinner that night. We walked from our hotel, over the bridge and spotted the place he’d chosen. It was right there so we were both thankful that we wouldn’t be doing too much more walking! Il Terrazo knocked our socks off! Although the restaurant was packed & we didn’t have a reservation we only waited about 10-15 minutes to be seated. Their drink menu is extensive and the dinner menu has so many great options we found it challenging to make our selections. The complimentary bread and olive tapenade we were served were so good I could have made a meal of them! We started with the roasted garlic bulb and cambozola cheese. What a pairing! We also had the caprese. The balsamic on this caprese was outstanding. My husband ordered the Cannelloni that was filled with pulled pork and mozzarella cheese. It had a smoked bacon cream, and a balsamic granny smith apple compote. I had a bite and wished I had ordered it! I had ordered the bisteca con fungi. It was cooked to perfection as was the carbonara my steak was served on. Did I mention that the service was exceptional? Our waiter was so warm I felt like I was a guest in his home. My only regret was being too full to enjoy some dessert. This was the perfect way to end our evening.
I wish we had an extra day in Victoria so we could have taken a tour of the Parliament Building, visited the Royal British Columbia Museum, and had tea at the Fairmont Empress Hotel or Abkhazi Garden, but alas we had to get ourselves back to Seattle. I had planned for us to visit the Starbucks Roastery and have a short visit with my cousin, but luck was not on our side this day. We missed our ferry by all of FOUR minutes and had to wait an hour until the next one. The Swartz Bay ferry terminal is not a fun place to wait for an hour. Luckily we were traveling light so we walked over to the cafe in the parking lot and grabbed small snacks to hold us over until we could have a proper breakfast on the ferry. Well, my husband had a proper breakfast on the ferry. I was pouting about our lost time so I had poutine. It was a pouting appropriate poutine! HA HA!
Crossing the border back into the United States was a completely different experience than what it had been like crossing into Canada. Crossing into Canada took us all but 5 minutes with the friendly customs agent asking us where we were going and how we knew each other (my passport still has my maiden last name). He welcomed us into Canada and wished us a good weekend. The American customs agents weren’t nearly as friendly or welcoming. I was asked to turn off the car and remove my sunglasses neither or which had to be done on the way into Canada. While one agent walked around the car, tapped on the back bumper with a baton and inspected the trunk and back seat, another played 20 questions with us stopping short of asking us our blood type. Crossing back into the U.S. took about 25-30 minutes.
Between the missed ferry and unnecessarily long border crossing I didn’t want to risk missing our flight home so we didn’t go into Seattle as planned. I was already upset that due to getting lost on our way to Butchart Gardens we hadn’t had enough time to do an afternoon tea somewhere AND now having to skip the Starbucks Roastery had added on to my disappointment. I was left feeling like we didn’t accomplish enough on this trip. What changed my perspective (as always) was hearing my usually quiet and reserved husband speak up. Despite fighting a cold the whole time he found the trip pleasant and loved it. He kept talking about how nice the people in Canada are. So I changed my attitude and instead of harping on the things we didn’t get to do I began thinking of all the things we did get to do. Considering what had sparked the idea for this trip was a picture on a mug and we got to visit that place and we found the mug’s twin the trip should be considered a success!
I can’t wait to see where we’ll be off to next… I’m leaning towards Portlandia!