Monday, May 28, 2012

21 Years (xoxo)

If you like reading about travel or romance, read on...

Gregg and I just spent three days in Victoria, B.C., celebrating our 21st wedding anniversary. If you've been a reader here for any length of time, you'll recognize the theme. We used to head up to Sooke Harbour House outside of Victoria, but it has changed so much during the years of our marriage that we don't go there anymore. Though I'm sure the food is still fabulous and the views and accommodations are among the best I've ever experienced, the atmosphere is not quite to our taste nowadays.

Here are the specifics:
1)  the owners expanded the inn, so now it accommodates many more guests than it used to do. It's not as cozy and quiet as it was when we first stayed there
2)  they have raised the prices beyond what we think is reasonable for the rooms that are desirable (above the bottom floor) - there is much less quiet and privacy in the ground-floor rooms
3)  they quit packing lunch for guests. The breakfast is wonderful, and delivered to your room, but the lunches and the loaner-backpacks were a big plus for us, when we used to stay for two nights and go hiking in the local parks and beaches. This is no longer offered
4)  we found the restaurant's staff to be increasingly pretentious. Sooke Harbour House has been very glowingly reviewed for many years for a variety of good reasons, but as the accolades poured in, so did famous people, and we became uncomfortable with some of the airs and graces of the newer staff.

If a few of these things were to change, I would love to return to Sooke, but thus far, they haven't, so we now stay in downtown Victoria, in a hotel that is part of a chain. It has everything that we want - and we can stay there for two nights at the price of one night at Sooke Harbour House. We drive up to Port Angeles early in the morning, park our car and walk to the first morning sailing of the Coho ferry. After settling in our seats, we enjoy the view from the ship during the hour and 45-minute ride across the Strait of Juan de Fuca:
Looking back at Port Angeles and the Olympic Mountains from the Black Ball Ferry Line's M.V. COHO
Once the ferry has docked, we go through customs and then walk to our hotel via the waterfront paths. Here is the view from our room:
Looking NW from the hotel.
That's the Victoria Clipper cruising into the Inner Harbor.
Here is the view out the other window, to the South.
Our anniversary weekend always coincides with the Swiftsure sailing race, which we love. This year, it also coincided with a gala put on by the David Foster Foundation - THAT David Foster - the musical promoter, arranger, discoverer, also known as "Hit Man." The city re-named one of its thoroughfares in David Foster's honor, for all of the charitable work that his foundation does in Canada. There was a lot of excitement in front of the Fairmont Empress Hotel, the grande dame of Victoria's Inner Harbour: police, security, big black Suburbans, a purple carpet and huge white awning, chartered buses, a Rolls Royce, Bentley and other fantastic autos...
Fancy cars lined up in front of the Empress Hotel
We do a lot of walking in Victoria - that way, the eating and drinking don't bring any guilty feelings! My favorite place to have lunch is a Japanese restaurant called Sen Zushi. Gregg loves to speak Japanese to the people who work there. We usually stop for a sushi lunch on our first day, and that's what we did on Friday, May 25th.
Then we walked some more, looked to see what was new around town, did a little window shopping, and went back to the hotel for a nap.

The concierge made reservations for dinner at one of our favorite restaurants.
I bought a cute new top (on sale) to wear for our anniversary dinner, as a surprise for Gregg. I wore a black skirt and leggings with one of my shirts and this new top (a vest with lots of hand-made details). Here we are at dinner, celebrating 21 years of happiness. We are thankful!
I had the most incredible soup of my life: fresh asparagus bisque with TRUFFLE oil on top - oh, my! Heavenly!
We walked back by the light of the sun setting over the harbour. It was a busy night before the start of the race, and with much David-Foster-related activity. There is a sort of festival atmosphere around the race, with magicians, street vendors, rides for children, arts and crafts, food for sale, and lots to see. We enjoyed it all as we walked along the waterfront and through the park to our hotel.

The next morning, we followed our tradition and ate breakfast in the hotel's waterside dining room so that we could watch the sailboats departing for the start of the Swiftsure race.
Race entrants heading out to Ogden Point (where the race begins). That arrow denoting Spinnaker's Pub is for later.

Then we walked up the shoreline to see them go out. They leave in "heats," so there are starting guns firing every few minutes. The town's inhabitants come out in large numbers to watch, with their dogs and children in tow. It's colorful, festive and friendly.
Sailboats lined up behind me (Olympic Mountains behind them) and the crowds gathered on Ogden Point
 After watching the race begin, we walked around the lovely residential neighborhoods nearby, enjoying many flowers in bloom in lavish cottage gardens, Victorian architectural details and lots of clever renovations. We visited a local farmer's market, stopped for a refreshing drink at our favorite coffee shop, did some more window-shopping, and then walked back toward our hotel. We walked 6 - 8 miles each day we spent in Victoria.

After a nap, we went out to dinner at an Irish Pub which features at least a dozen (I think it's closer to 20) beers on tap - many of them are local. They also have fabulous pub fare and a lot of locally sourced food, with live music 7 nights a week. I had a small glass of apple cider, and then a glass of red wine, while Gregg had a couple of pints of a local beer with his meal. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of setting my phone against my nearly-empty wine glass...don't try this at home! Gregg's pale blue shirt paid a high price for my foolishness:
Though our waitress brought soda water and lemon, the stains remain. My bad.
Gregg was very good-natured about it, even posing with this funny bear for my camera
As we walked back from dinner, we stopped down at the Swiftsure race headquarters' tent on the quai. They had huge computer monitors up, tracking the progress of the boats in the various races. It was fun to see how far they had traveled since departing that morning.
Next morning, a clean shirt, a hearty breakfast, and all is well.
The following day as we ate breakfast, we saw some of the sailboats as they returned from the race. The wind was very strong and there were whitecaps on the waves, even inside the breakwater. We saw a number of billowing spinnakers, and knew that the sailors were having some excitement out on the open water.

We took a walk around the harbour to the opposite side, called West Bay. On our way back, we stopped at Spinnaker's Brew Pub for lunch. We've heard about it for years, and have been curious (it was okay, but not a place to put on the list of "must-eats"). Here is the beautiful view from our table, looking back at the inner harbour and our hotel:
and here I am, happy to be with Gregg, and ready for our last lunch in Victoria.
We walked back to our hotel, picked up our bag, boarded the M.V. Coho for the States, went through customs again, and drove home.

It was a wonderful, relaxing, peaceful trip with no agenda, lots of rest, good food and drink, and many, many laughs. Gregg is the BEST traveling companion: he is easy-going, adventurous, fun, curious, thoughtful, funny and a super-packer. (That last quality is not to be under-rated, as I dislike packing intensely!)

We've been through quite a lot in our 21 years, going from two careers and no kids to one career and a stay-at-home mom of two beloved children; building a house and being swindled in the process; sharing a happy family life and then going through Katie's cancer journey, moving to Seattle and enduring her passing; transitioning to life back at home with one child living and one in heaven, and now to "empty-nesting."
I am so thankful to God for leading me to Gregg,
and to Gregg for all that he does to make our marriage a joy!


ChiTown Girl said...

I my gosh, what a wonderful trip! And thanks to your wonderful writing, I feel like I was right there with you :)

Again, happy anniversary to you and your honey! 1991 was a good year, wasn't it? ;-)

Lynn Severance said...

Karen - what a joy to follow you in your sharings about your anniversary trip to Victoria. I love that place but have not been there for so many years. I feel like I took a mini-vacation via your joy-filled words.

Happy Anniversary!

Kimberly Barillas-Tilley said...

Happy Anniversary!

Elizabeth said...

Oh, Karen -- what a wonderful celebration. Happy, happy anniversary to two of the most beautiful people in the universe! Thank you for sharing your joy with us.

kell said...

Karen it all looks beautiful, happy anniversary to you both, what a great way to celebrate your anniversary. What a life you've shared, I love what you wrote at the end, it's made me very teary!Congratulations again!

Robin Gaphni said...

What a wonderful re-capping of your weekend, and a poignant re-capping of your 21 years of marriage. You two are true role models for how it is supposed to be done. Congratulations (and lots of love!).

Everything Coastal said...

Good Morning!

I have only been to Victoria once, and it was so COLD (it was November - what was I thinking??) You are right, I do need to take Tom up there one of these summers!

Happy Happy Anniversary.

Busy Bee Suz said...

Gregg: The super-packer who speaks Japanese. Love it.
Your weekend looks are both so cute and happy. Gotta love that.
This is one area that I must visit one day. I really love the "eating/drinking and walking it off" kind of vacations. NO guilt.
Happy anniversary to one of my favorite couples!

Leslie Krom said...

Such great scenery, weather, and two very photogenic people! ... no excuses, Karen, Paul wasn't taking pictures! Gorgeous (and obviously in love) couple.

So glad to see pics of that particular hotel - I'm hoping that's the one we spoke about recently. I'm anxious to take a trip up there.

Glad you had a wonderful anniversary weekend. Delicious food, too!

Anonymous said...

Happy anniversary! Your trip was delightful. Your writings and photos are worthy of Fodor's. I've never been to Victoria, but after reading about your trips there, it is high on my list of places to visit. May you and Gregg be blessed with many more years of good health to enjoy travel and life together.

Karen B.