MISSION: To visit every state and territory in the U.S. For my mission a visit is greater than a stop over; I wish to explore the natural and cultural environments of these areas. Each of these locations has a story to tell, and I want to find it.

As of February 2018 I have visited all 50 states (and Puerto Rico and 2 island in the US Virgin Islands) at least once.

Friday, November 25, 2016

We Swear We Had That Trip Planned BEFORE The Election

Best Friends on an Adventure

My best friend and I planned a trip to Canada for her birthday.  She lives outside of Seattle, and after several visits to see her, we explored Seattle to death.  So, we ventured to Olympic National Park one year.  Last December we visited Vancouver Canada.  This year, the plan was Victoria, the capital of British Columbia.  When we planned it, we did not consciously make the decision to plan around the election, nor did we know how it was going to turn out... so imagine 2 vocal Hillary supporters now headed to Canada the weekend after the election.  It was comical.  It was sad.  And it was a good break for the craziness going on at home.

Honestly, I did not know much about Victoria before this trip.  I did not know it was the capital of British Columbia.  I did not know that it was heavily British influenced.  And I did not know that it was so small.  I was able to guess about its greenery and weather from our trip to Vancouver.  Locals swear it does not rain as much there as it does in Vancouver, but the weather report said it would be dreary.  We were also told to plan for a fancy city, that with its European influence, that we had to dress the part.  So, packing for this trip was a nightmare.  We looked like we were moving in!

My bestie did all of the planning this time around.  I can't tell you how amazing that felt - normally I am the planner. But she looked into everything and made all the arrangements.  I got to relax for the ride and just enjoy.  She is not just a planner but a serious regional blogger.  She runs a successful site - WhatsUpNW.com - that highlights things to do and see in the Pacific Northwest.  And with this, her first trip to Victoria, she reached out her feelers and got us incredible access to some fun things to do.  So, heading in, we had arrangements for museums and food.  Our whole trip will be reviewed on that site, in detail... seriously, check it out! 
Olympic Mountains from the
Straits of Juan de Luca

Harbor and Parliament

So our trip began with a 2 hour road trip to the land of Twilight fame - Port Angeles.  How can anyone plugged into pop culture not think of that series when in that region, yet alone a place that plays a specific part in the lore... so, I warned my friend to watch out for sparkly vampires and giant werewolves as we drove along the edges of Olympic National Park to get to our ferry.  Alas, the sun was never out to test strangers with a sparkle view, but we did pass several locations for the local Native American reservation along the way. [I should make a note that I am not a huge fan of this series but while on a road trip, stuck in bridge traffic, it passes the time.]   The town itself is a gateway area - filled with souvenir shops, restaurants, pubs, motels and other necessities around a ferry line and outside a park.  We didn't have much time to wander, but we found a quaint place for something warm to drink, and to buy another warm hat (it was freezing that day).  Once on the boat, it was smooth sailing on the Straits of Juan de Luca to Victoria.  The light drizzle and low hanging clouds made from some gorgeous scenery as we pulled away from the States. 

Fountain in front of Parliament

Once we docked in Victoria, our AirBNB host picked us up, drove us to her condo while giving us a quick overview of the city streets.  We stayed on the fringe of OldTown/Downtown in an adorable condo, that was perfect for our weekend. It allowed us to dump our bags and hit the streets.  We headed directly to the iconic harbor (yes, where we just came from). 

Veterans' Memorial

The City lights up the waterfront so that it looks like something out of a Disney Park.  It is simply stunning and obviously the heart of downtown.  The main tourist street - Government Street branches off from the harbor; harbor cruises and whale watching tours dock there, the major city sites are within a few blocks.  It is a hub.  And like a moth to a flame, we headed right to it, to stare at the pretty lights all around the area and explore the grounds.  We found Veteran's Memorial surrounded by flowers for Remembrance Day - both of us saps, we teared up at the beautiful words on the plaque  "To Our Glorious Dead - "They died the noblest death a man may die, fighting for god, and right and liberty, and such a death is immortality" listing the World Wars, Korea, and Afghanistan.  We took pictures by the Native Canadian totem pole and worked our way through the crowd staring into the lit fountain.  The whole area was packed with people trying to get that postcard worthy shot of iconic Victoria. 

We reluctantly left this gorgeous scene and headed back up Government Street for our first big event of the trip - we had a special opportunity at Bard & Banker.  My friend had arranged for us to interview the manager of this public house... and we were spoiled rotten.  Bard & Banker is simply a gorgeous old historic public gathering place - it was the city's public trading site in the early 1800's before it was turned into The Bank of British Columbia in 1895 (that was open to the 1988), transforming into a Christmas store for a few years before it was re-envisioned as a Public House.  The owner took great pains to honor its history and work the insides in a glorious marriage of old and new. And while we could have taken the gorgeous details in all evening, we were treated to a fabulous meal and great conversation with the manager- I still long for those potato chip crusted halibut chips! (The sticky toffee was swoon worthy as well).  If I ever get back to Victoria, those are a definite must!  We could have worked our food at drinks off dancing to the band... we stayed to hear a handful of songs before we headed back out to walk through Chinatown before heading back.  We had a long day in front of us. 

Craigdarroch Castle

We hit the ground running on our only full day in Victoria...and while Victoria is obviously a British city that thrives on tea, we found the obligatory Canadian staple, Tim Horton's, and stopped for some nourishment before hoofing it about 2 miles to the art museum.  After walking through the rain (hey, I am on a trip), we made it to the Art Museum for our tour, only to get there too early (we walk FAST), so a quick flip of the GPS pointed up to the castle...  so off we went in search of a Victorian masterpiece.  Unfortunately, the Castle opened the same time our tour at the Art Museum was scheduled for, so we only walked around the Castle... it's massive.  It's ornate.  The stain glass is a must see all in itself.  And we decided that it was likely haunted... can't you just see a ghost story about a woman in the window staring down at you... well, we were right!  Once we got to the Art Museum and told them where we went, they asked if we saw the window woman...

Outside the Art Gallery

Japanese Temple in the courtyard

The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria is a small museum BUT it is renowned for its Asian Art Collection.  It has pieces from most regions in the Asian and represents the most comprehensive collection of Japanese art in all of Canada.  After my summer Smithsonian Class on Asian Art and Kingdoms, there were few pieces that struck a note of familiarity, but not many.  This collection was comprehensive and diverse.  It also houses a retrospective on famed Canadian artist, Emily Carr and her pupils.  These landscapes were almost alive with their depictions of Canadian forests and waterways, filled with colors and a sense of movement.  This was easily my favorite section of the museum.  The small museum could be easily viewed in 2 hours or less, but we did it twice!  Our guide never showed, so we walked the museum ourselves, making it almost all the way through before a museum employee found us, to walk us through again!

The Leaf Bug liked my ring!

One of my favs! 

The Asian Millipede!

After our double art helping, we had to rush down to the Bug Zoo for our next tour.  Yep, you read that right - my best friend knows that I am fascinated with insects and when she noted a zoo in Victoria, she reached out.  I love her!  This place is simply amazing!  It is not a typical insect zoo with a few critters to "ewllll" at through a glass barrier!  Nope!  This place is filled with all sorts of amazing living insects and arthropods.  And guides take many of them out.  You can get up close and personal to these guys.  You can (and should) hold them.  Nothing they take out will hurt you, and while some may look ominous, they are really just fighting to stay alive.  Here you learn all about their survival mechanisms.  You see their faces, hear their calls.  You are told stories about their personalities.  The museum works with people with phobias to help them work through their fear.  They have therapy bugs and spiders.  There is no time for false pretenses, old wives tales, tall tales or flat out lies about these critters, the guides will correct you (woohoo - staff)!  Too many are frightened about stuff they know little about... Dr. Crans, my college entomology professor at Rutgers, would have loved this place.  I did!  It's amazing to see kids crowd around displays and ask questions and beg to hold them.  This is how we stop ignorance - we eradicate it through truth and education!

Rainbow Over Victoria

Okay, I am done preaching... for now... After our tour, we were starving, and a local pointed us in the direction of an Italian Grocery.  He told us to ask for an "off menu" item - a special meatball sub.  This is why you need to ask around and talk to people (get off YELP travelers).  Holy moly, he did not steer us wrong!  It was divine.  And while we chowed down, resting our weary feet, posting pictures on Instagram (@DCJerseyGirl @SeattleLesley), a rainbow broke out over the city... oh Canada, how we love thee. 

Shoe Home for the Old Woman and her Family

We could not sit too long since we had more to see... my friend's next tour/interview was cancelled because the contact was MIA, so we regrouped and headed for the Miniature Museum.  It is a museum of doll houses, dioramas and elaborate displays illustrating geography and history.  There are 85 intricate displays packed into this place... in fact they have 2 of the world's largest doll houses!  They have a working miniature saw mill.  They have the Canadian railway, where you can follow the train across the country.  But, by far, my favorite room was the Room of Fairytales, where they had representations of everything from Snow White's cottage and the 7 dwarves mine to Gulliver's Travels and the Old Woman Who Lives in the Shoe.  While there, we bumped into another local who set us up for a relaxing evening ...

With phones totally dead and a desperate need to sit after running around, we headed back to the condo to charge up before we headed off to Swann's for an easy meal.  Swann's may be a brewery, but it was filled with native art, making it a feast for the eyes as well as the tummy.  They attract quite the crowd, enough to warrant a bouncer.  We got out after our meal and after we saw someone collapse drunk at the bar. 

 Victoria's Waterfront

And because we had full stomachs, and because we did not walk enough that day, we took off, down the David Foster Harbor Pathway, to enjoy the weather (it was not raining).  We did not have time to make it around the harbor during the day, and this was a must see in Victoria, so why not do it together.  We are no shrinking violets... and my friend is a crossfit crazy person, so we were set... (no really, the path was filled with people).  We walked around the now familiar territory of Parliament and past the Robert Batemen Centre (damn, we weren't going to get that in) and the ferry terminal and just kept going.  The moon was out, since we were just a day away from the SUPERMOON.    It would have been a perfect evening for night photography if either of us had brought our camera to dinner... so, armed with our phones, we got off a few shots of the waterfront.  We made it all the way to Fisherman's Wharf and turned around... sufficiently exhausted, we headed back, we had a fancy date in the morning. 

Tea Steeping

Royal Team anyone?

The Empress Hotel

As stated, Victoria is a city steeped in British charm.  They love their tea.  In fact, tea shoppes are as prominent there as Starbucks is in DC or NYC.  Yes, it's that crazy.  So, what did we have to do before we headed home?  We had British Royal Tea at the Empress.  Translation - we had the most expensive pot of tea I have ever had in my whole life.  And while I would love to rave how amazing it was, honestly, it wasn't magic tea.  We paid for the experience  Tea included a pot of tea each and a tower of finger sandwiches, scones, and petit fours.  We were given a fantastic seat by the window.  And we drank our tea for over an hour.  Just how quickly do you want to drink a $70 pot of tea?  You sip, you don't gulp! 


Evolution of the Elephant

Skull and Tusks

We left our fancy tea service and ran across the street in the rain.  Almost every local we spoke to said we could not leave without visiting the Royal Museum... so we were going to fit that into an hour and a half (we had a room to check out of and a ferry to catch, eh?)  So, while entering, we made a plan - we were headed straight to the Mammoth special exhibit! There we were taken with the fossils, teeth, bones and preserved  specimens.  This alone was reason to come.  This grazer's teeth are bigger than my fist.  It's sheer size dwarfs elephants of today. 


After that we would wander through the sections, stopping when we saw something that we did not know about - it helps that we both have a background in some part of the natural history (especially the environmental issues, that they were reviewing).  We loved how there was no qualms about talking about Climate Change and how it would impact Canada; there was no excuse or no side statements about other arguments - it was just fact.  Gotta love a museum that does not have time for the silly anti-science crowd or the ridiculous climate deniers.  Weather changes are having a significant impact on the Canadian environment (just as they are here in the States), the museum made no apologies for pointing right at the culprit - us!
After our run through our last museum, we made a quick stop at a local jewelry shop that we had scoped out earlier to look at a few baubles.  I wanted something to remind me of our newest Canadian adventure - and after picking out the most expensive stuff in the shop, I found something stacked like the totems that we kept admiring all over, perfect for this trip!  This is my second trip to British Columbia stopping at Artina... I normally despise chains, especially jewelry chains, but this is not like that... this is the place to get handmade, local Canadian jewelry - they are a place for artists, and I love this shop.  And I have now been to its only 2 locations - Victoria and Vancouver.

It was COLD and Rainy!

Our trip to Victoria finished out with more rain, a bit of chocolate shopping at Victoria's renowned Roger's Chocolates, and a driving tour of the city park and shore line.  Our amazing host drove us to Beacon Hill Park (their central park), Ross Bay cemetery (where the oldest Victoria residents are buried) and Clover Point.  She took us to the statue of Terry Fox who inspired the nation with his attempted run across the country, on one leg.

Canadian Icon - Terry Fox

We stopped to grab a picture at the beach, rain be damned... and we were off to the ferry. 

That storm rolling in was no joke, that smooth ferry ride in was gone.  Going home, it was all white capped waves rolling the boat.  Car alarms blared and we froze in the dining area, tethered to the plugs to power our phones.  Going home from a great trip is never easy, but this one was something special.  Thank goodness I don't get seasick because, WOW, we rocked and rolled! 

So Happy Birthday dear friend.  Thanks for all the fun times.  Thanks for your access.  And people, if you are reading this, and planning to visit the Pacific NW, be sure to visit her site on all things NW, WhatsUpNW.com, it is what all the cool people are doing! 

Next year's visit, we are headed to the San Juan Islands. Can't wait!


  1. I am so amazed you're not squeamish about insects and that's inspiring! Also I have been dreaming of visiting Victoria BC and wondered what it was like, your post felt like the next best thing to going there, thanks!!

  2. (Ps. This is @wavianarts on instagram, the other Jersey girl near DC. :)