Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Little Vacation

Gregg and I went away on Friday, and returned last night (Monday, May 26th -- Memorial Day). We were celebrating that anniversary that I mentioned in my last posting.

It has become our tradition to go to Victoria, B.C. and spend a few days hiking, exploring, window-shopping and eating, rather than purchasing gifts for one another. Since our anniversary falls on Memorial Day weekend, we have an extra day off, and it coincides with the Swiftsure race, in which sailboats depart Victoria on that Saturday, and return on Sunday.

We enjoy being in Canada; we feel at home there, and often dream of spending more time in British Columbia in our retirement. We love the culture of the salt water and the people of B.C.

Gregg and I both love to travel, walk or hike, eat and drink well. Our personalities and temperaments mesh well in "explore and discover" mode; I am an instigator, and Gregg is a nurturer. He does all of the packing. I generate ideas and think of the variables. We both make preparations, decisions and plans together; we each carry our weight. Gregg is the easiest person to be with that I have ever known. He has his own ideas, yet is open and flexible. Gregg is happy-natured, a good story-teller, has a great travel-memory, loves being immersed in new cultures, good food and drink; he is sensual, yet considerate and free. He can look at everything, yet not feel the need to buy anything. Traveling with him is wonderful.

After taking a walk and having coffee together at home Friday morning, Gregg and I left David and my dad cutting rounds from newly fallen trees in our woods and loading it into the Explorer to take to my parents' house. We drove to Port Angeles, where we parked our car and boarded the Coho ferry, which is coincidentally as old as I am. I recall riding that ferry as a little girl (and experiencing the first --and only-- seasick feeling of my childhood). We carried our bags on, and looked around at the many sailors heading over for the race, with their bags of gear -- and the anticipation, excitement & camaraderie showing on their faces.

After arriving in Victoria, we walked along the harbour to our hotel, which has a marina and a great view of the waterfront. We checked in, stashed our bags and began to explore some of our favorite browsing streets. We stopped in to have a drink at an Irish pub, listened to some music, and then walked back to the hotel to freshen up for dinner, which was at Camille's in Bastion Square. Our friend, the Rev. Dick Middleton, has recommended some great restaurants in B.C., so we have taken to calling those "Dick's Picks." Camille's is one of those. We walked in, down a short flight of stairs, and sat in a cozy booth. The food was excellent, and beautifully presented. We took our time over dinner and wine. Then we walked back to the hotel, about a 15-minute stroll.
The next morning was the start of the Swiftsure race, so during breakfast, we were able to watch the yachts heading out of the harbour to the embarkation point. It was very exciting to see the various sizes and types of sailboats going by. Susie, are you paying attention? I am going to email you more, later. Yachts of all types and sizes, with captains & crews aboard!
We walked to the starting point, mingled with the crowd and heard the commentary over the loudspeaker. It was sunny, cool and festive. Then we walked around the Beacon Hill park and back to our hotel to change and get cleaned up for the rest of the day.
Our plan was to pick up a rental car and head out to one of my favorite places in the world, Sooke Harbour House in Sooke, B.C. We have spent most of our anniversaries there. It is the coolest beach house inn that I have ever encountered. We have have tried a variety of the rooms, and we have our favorite, where we usually stay. No two rooms are alike, but all are full of local artwork and comfortable antiques, a port decanter, fresh cookies, a small refrigerator, coffee, tea, etc. Each room has a fireplace, and all but one has a view of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountains. The restaurant is rated as one of the best in Canada; they specialize in organic food, and they have their own, amazing, beautiful, enormous garden. This is just a part of it, shown below.
Having said that, we found that they are starting to cut a corner or two, which is sad (especially when one is paying a premium price for a room). They used to pack your lunch for you, and that is an "extra" charge now. So enjoy the breakfast, but don't expect lunch anymore.

We checked in, changed into walking clothes and went out to walk Whiffen Spit, which is adjacent to the inn. The spit has a little lighthouse at the end of it, and it gives lots of opportunities to stop and admire the view of the harbour and the Strait.


We had a wonderful prix fixe dinner that night, starting at 8:45 p.m. It included four courses of fantastic, local food. Organic salad with edible blossoms, smoked tuna, scallops, grilled halibut, chocolate bombe, blueberry clafoutis. We enjoyed every bite, and savored our wine with it.
The next morning, breakfast & coffee were delivered to our room, which had a sitting area, sofa and a deck overlooking the water and the garden. We took our time with breakfast, and then packed up and headed out to Sooke Regional Park, my favorite place to hike. We had a picnic sitting on the rocks on the shoreline, as we watched a group of kayakers and a whale-watching boat go by. We also saw some of the Swiftsure boats on their way back to Victoria. Then it was time for us to head the same way.

After checking back in to our hotel in the city, we walked some more (starting to see a pattern?) and returned to dress for dinner. That night, we went to Restaurant Matisse, for the first time. It is an intimate, unpretentious, excellent French restaurant, and we loved our dinner and beverages there. The fresh petit-pois soup, bouillabase, halibut, wines with dinner, flourless chocolate cake and tawny port were heavenly. We spent two and a half hours eating and talking, drinking and enjoying each other's company.

I cannot begin to describe how much fun I had this weekend; it is the best time I have had since Katie got sick, in September of 2006 (she was diagnosed in October, but we were trying to find out what was wrong for three weeks prior to that). I am so very thankful to my parents and brother and sister-in-law for showing David such a good time. I am grateful that Gregg and I could take the time to be alone together, and that we love each other's company. We both have hurting hearts, but we still love each other. This is a gift, as it does not always work that way after the passing of a child.

I thought about Katie (and our family and friends), but I did not tell a single person about her. Not on purpose; the subject of children just didn't arise with anyone we met. Gregg and I discussed David and Katie, along with many other topics, but I was just Karen all weekend, the Karen who is in love with Gregg, who has a future with him, God willing: helping David to prepare for college; meaningful work; retirement; shared interests. We had no responsibilities on this trip, except to show up for our reservations, breathe and discuss what we wanted to do next. It was bliss.

13 comments:

Maggie said...

Karen, your weekend sounded beautiful and certainly well deserved. The pictures are absolutely breathtaking. Thank you for sharing your journey.

Susan said...

Sounds like heaven!!! Two little girls and no babysitter keep us from doing something like that - maybe next year.....

Jennifer Stumpf said...

good for you two lovely people. happy for you. =)

Sis B said...

It looks absolutely glorious! I'm so glad you had that time together, and that you got to be just Karen. As moms, that's really hard to accomplish, regardless of the other extenuating circumstances.

I hope you feel refreshed and that the feeling lasts for awhile!

Smileygirl said...

What a beautiful post. It seems that this anniversary weekend away was just what you both needed. The Beach house Inn is incredible and looks so inviting. I'm sure it must have been hard to leave!

You and Gregg are such an inspirational married couple. You really don't find too many of those nowadays. Amazing role models...

p.s. I loved "Dick's Picks". Reminds me of my uncle's golf buddies. He golfs with "Two Dicks and a Gary."

Laurie Keller said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laurie Keller said...

Whoops ... I had a typo up there. You write beautifully. I love the mermaid mosaic. "I was just Karen this weekend" ... I had hoped you would feel that way on your trip. I want to double date with you and Gregg!

Sheri said...

It brings tears to my eyes to hear you had such a wonderful time and got to just be yourself and put down your burdens for a little while. I am constantly learning from you. I am very happy for you and proud of you and Gregg making 17 years together with the goal and desire for so many more. Blessings to you always my friend.

Dreamer girl said...

What a lovely trip! I am so glad that your husband and you nurture each other. Having a wonderful husband and relationship is sort of rare today. Your pictures are so beautiful and what glorious smiles you two have on your face. It is making me want to change my summer vacastion plans and go on a date with my husband.

Diane Walker said...

Fabulous. You so deserved this; couldn't happen to a finer couple.

karengberger said...

Thank you for the sweet words of encouragement!

Susie Parker said...

Karen, I am still an unseemly shade of green, but my goodness, what a fine trip you had and I can think of no two people more deserving. If it can't be ME having all that fun messing around in boats, then I'm so glad it's you in the fine company of Greg. You were busy breathing in the salt air and I was inhaling Vick's...there's something oddly weird about that, but hey, I should have had the good sense to catch bronchitis back in the winter. Oh well, I guess I'm relegated to living through your adventures in print. And you know what? They're fine adventures! Sail on, Karen! Seems you're in fair winds and following seas! I can't wait to hear of the next adventure! Susie

The Engine of the Family said...

What a nice getaway! I love to travel and see pictures of new places. I'm so glad you guys got away and were able to spend some together time!