Monday, May 30, 2011

The Road to Tofino

Sometimes the road to a place is nearly as good as the place itself.

We left Victoria last Monday morning.  The sky was blue and clear.
That's what always happens to us.   Anytime we're traveling, the weather is perfect.
That could drive us crazy if we let it.

But we didn't let it.

(How could you let it with views like this?)

 Look closely.
 Isn't the reflection in the water amazing?

Whenever I see snow capped mountains I still have to pinch myself a little.

Just past Port Alberni was this awesome area of rocks and streams to explore.  We were ready for a stretch so the timing was perfect.  Hannah was having a pre-teenage moment and wanted to stay in the van so Sasha, Ellie, Mike and I started climbing.

A few days earlier, Mike watched a short documentary on "planking".  Planking is a bit of a fad right now.  The simple version is that it involves lying flat, stiff, and face down in strange locations.  You can read a more complete definition here.  Since watching the doc, Mike mentioned that he thought planking as a family in interesting locations would be a great family past-time.   Whatever floats your boat, Mike.

Here's the first attempt at Penner Pseudo Planking.
Sometimes I really like being the one to take the pictures.

If you've ever driven from Port Alberni to Tofino, you know that the twisty, winding road through Sutton Pass and beyond is not for those with weak stomachs.  It's kind of like a roller coaster, except much much slower and with a better view.   It is simply stunning and majestic.  We had U2's "No Line on the Horizon" playing loud with the windows open.   It was the perfect soundtrack.  We saw eagles flying overhead and I knew that for me it was a sacred moment. 

As we pulled into the office of the Pacific Rim Park just outside of Tofino, Mike convinced Sasha to give planking one more try.

I don't think we've ever had such a beautiful drive.

That's not to say there weren't shrieks, fights,  and general moments of mayhem in the back of the van.  Aren't there always?

There were also some belly laughs, singing along to the tunes and even  beautiful silence.

The sun was shining, the road was long and it was a good day.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Family Holiday Part 1 - Beautiful Victoria

Last Saturday morning was the day of departure for our long-awaited family holiday to Vancouver Island.  After nearly a week of hot sunny weather on the mainland, we were hopeful but optimistic about our chances for more of the same on our holiday.  We woke up Saturday morning to cold, wind and rain in Burnaby.  We boarded a very full ferry at Tsawwassen.  Apparently May long weekend is one of the busiest to head to the Island.  We braved the upper deck for awhile and were nearly blown away by the wind and the rain!

Once we docked at Swartz Bay, the skies continued to look grey, but the rain hadn't followed us.  We stopped in Sidney for lunch, and were able to find a tiny little cafe where I had one of the best salads of my life.  Garbonzo beans, greens, shredded carrots, craisins, feta, almonds and a citrus-sesame vinaigrette.  It was worth a picture!

After stopping at  the adjoining bakery for cinnamon buns and Imperial Cookies for dessert, we wandered the town a little.  It's a beautiful little spot right on the water.  The girls enjoyed putting on a free performance in the little amphitheatre at the harbour.

A short drive later we pulled into downtown Victoria and checked into our hotel.  We started out on our tour around the downtown - beginning with the grounds of the Legislative Buildings.  Hannah had been in Victoria for a field trip in March, so she acted as our tour guide.

We continued onward down Government Street (the main drag of the downtown) towards Chinatown.  Victoria is home to North America's oldest Chinatown.  Hannah was excited to take us to a shop she's named "The Never Ending Store".  It's appears to be really small when you walk into it, but it just keeps going and going further and further back.  One room leads to another and another and yet another...

Once we found our way out of the store,  we took a stroll through the infamous "Fan Tan Alley".

Tummies were grumbling, and since we were in Chinatown, what better to eat than Chinese.  Mike has always prided himself in his chopstick-handling ability and was happy to pass on his skills to the girls. 

We were thrilled to discover that the girls all love Singapore Noodles - our favorite Chinese dish.  We polished off a lot of them.  Ellie insisted on only using chopsticks - we sat and drank tea and watched her work her magic with her newly acquired skill for quite awhile!

It was a beautiful night for the stroll back to our hotel.  There were a tonne of people out and about as a few cruise ships had just docked for the night.

We all fell in love with the historic Empress Hotel - built between 1904 and 1908.

Sunday morning Mike treated us to a Carriage ride by the sea.  The girls have always wanted to do this when they've seen them in Stanley Park.  I can remember always wanting to do this when I was a little girl too - I just had to wait a lot longer than our girls to finally do it!

The horse took us past James Bay and then through an area of 
Victoria filled with beautiful heritage homes.

This was the home of Emily Carr.

The city was filled with tonnes of teenagers that weekend.  Tonnes of marching bands from Washington were in town in preparation for the Victoria Day parade on Monday.  They took turns rehearsing on the steps of the Legislature during the day.  

We thought this was an awesome sight - teenage boys hauling their enormous sousaphones around the city!  That's gotta be a real chick magnet!

After a quick stop for lunch and watching the third period of the Canucks handing the Sharks another loss, we walked down to Fisherman's Wharf to meet up with Mike's cousin Tery, his wife Tam and their girls Willow and Sundee.   We hadn't seen the Loewen's for a few years.   They've been everywhere, man!  For the past few years they've made the island their home, and our girls were excited and a little nervous to meet their second cousins again.

We started off with a real ice-breaker - feeding the seals!

There are some really neat floating houses and shops and restaurants at the wharf.   As we strolled down the boardwalk, the girls were beginning to talk non-stop!  Obviously they had nothing to worry about!

We sat down and enjoyed some amazing fish and chips together at a little stand called Barb's Fish and Chips.  Apparently it's a Victoria landmark, and for good reason.  The fish was delicious!

I got to test out my supreme "teeth puller outer" skills on Sundee.  I pride myself in my ability to do nearly painless and efficient extractions.  Sundee's tooth was just dangling, but my hand came out with nothing!  My perfect record is now tainted.

We finished off with some ice-cream and hugs and said goodbye with a 
pinky-promise to meet up in Winkler this summer.

The next morning we were Tofino bound!