Spring Break 2017: Oregon Coast

Over the past six and a half years of marriage, Peter and I have tried to take advantage of Spring Break as much as we can. In 2012, we were young and broke but wanted to get out of town so we spent a few days in Washington, as cheaply as possible and had a blast.

In 2013, we went to Whistler and in 2014 we visited friends in Victoria. In 2015, Pearl was about two weeks old so we stayed home and slept very little and felt very thankful.

Last year, we fit a few things into our Spring Break.  A trip back to Whistler (that was cut down to one night because Pearl slept so terribly), a visit to some good friends in Kimberley (and Pearl’s first plane trip), and some general fun around our own town.

This year we decided to be slightly more ambitious. The baby we lost in the Fall was due right before Spring Break and so very early on I told Peter I didn’t care what we did, I just wanted to get out of town for Spring Break. We decided to take a road trip down to the Oregon Coast, as well as a couple of days in Portland. It was perfect and so great to have something to plan and look forward to as we came closer to that due date.

After our experience driving to and staying in Whistler last year, we weren’t entirely sure how Pearl would do on the road. But, figuring you don’t know until you try, we went ahead and took the plunge. (Spoiler alert: she did great!)

We left early Monday morning (on the first ferry off the Coast) and drove to Olympia, Washington. We basically bundled Pearl out of bed and into the car, feeding her breakfast on the ferry. She got a thrill out of being allowed to stay in her pyjamas all day. She fell asleep again once we were back on the road and basically slept until we arrived in Olympia around noon.

Neither Peter nor I had ever been to Olympia before so we had fun poking around downtown, popping into a few shops. It was pouring rain but it was nice to stretch our legs and see a new place. We stayed that night just outside of the city at a place we found on AirBnB. Our hosts were friendly, the room was a great size and Pearl slept decently well. Before her bedtime, we took a stroll along the boardwalk at the waterfront.

We left after breakfast the next morning and took our time driving down the coast. We opted to avoid the I-5 as much as we could and instead took some back highways where there weren’t many cars but lots of trees and we caught glimpses of small towns along the way. It rained heavily, which also made avoiding heavy traffic nice.

We stopped in Long Beach and got out to run around. It was pouring rain (sensing a pattern?) and windy and poor Pearl got covered in sand.

It was pretty cool to have this huge beach all to ourselves for a little while. We poked around the town a little, buying saltwater taffy and posing with the largest frying pan in the world.

To be honest, I thought it would be bigger.

We drove onwards (in the rain, always in the rain), crossing the Columbia River and entering Astoria.

This is a very long bridge that takes you from Washington to Oregon.

We had lunch in Astoria and then, because the rain had let up, found a playground where Pearl could run around for a bit. She fell asleep in the car when we got back on the road and headed to our next destination: Manzanita.

When we first began planning our trip, we found a super deal for a hotel in the tiny coastal town of Manzanita and then planned the rest of our time around that. We stayed a total of four nights in Manzanita, renting a suite in a hotel across the road from the beach. There’s not a lot in Manzanita itself but we were able to do small trips each day to towns nearby like Cannon Beach, Seaside, and Tillamook. The suite was simple but perfect for our needs. Pearl had her own room (so we all slept very well), we had a small kitchen, a balcony, and a fireplace. It made for a great home base.

Our beach in Manzanita.

On the balcony.

We spent a day in Seaside and took Pearl to the Aquarium there. While not a huge space, Pearl seemed to enjoy looking at the fish and she loved the touch tank. She did touch a starfish but mostly she liked splashing.

We spent time on the beach in Cannon Beach, where Pearl loved digging in the sand with sticks. She got a lot of use out of her rain pants on this trip.

Various beach shots:

On Thursday, the sun came out and so we decided to hike a trail we’d heard about there. Oregon is full of state parks but, unfortunately, due to weather conditions, a lot of them seemed to be closed recently or have parts of their trails closed. We were able to see a little bit of Cape Meares Park that day, including a short walk to a lighthouse. Turns out, Pearl loves lighthouses and insisted that her stuffed cat, Gerald, is a lighthouse keeper. She also enjoyed this “funny tree”.

The Octopus Tree

We had planned to visit the Tillamook Cheese Factory and had really been hyping it to Pearl, telling her she could eat as much cheese as she wanted (which is a lot of cheese), and I was excited to try their macaroni and cheese (my favourite food). Well, it turned out to be a good thing that she had fallen asleep when we pulled up because they were closed! Probably the biggest disappointment of the trip! Hey, we’re a dairy-loving family!

The next day we headed to Ecola State Park where we planned to hike the Indian Beach Head Trail. Unfortunately, due to weather and erosion, part of the trail was closed. The park was beautiful though and had amazing views and we got to enjoy it all the same. (Again, in the rain.)

We ended our trip with two nights in Portland. Peter and I honeymooned there in 2010 but hadn’t been back since. While it was quite a different trip with a two-year-old in tow, we enjoyed seeing the city again.

We ate delicious food, taking full advantage of the food trucks, and I made two excellent visits to Powells Books.

We booked a private room in a hostel, something we’ve done a couple of times before. If you’re okay with sharing a bathroom, it’s a great way to get a cheaper place to stay. This hostel was a converted heritage house and our room ended up being quite large.

We knew from experience that downtown Portland was small enough to walk everywhere and it was nice to park the car for a couple of days and stroll through town (often at the pace of a two-year-old). We got lucky and didn’t have any rain while in Portland. And I finally got my mac and cheese, at Deschutes Brewery, and it was amazing.

All in all, probably our best Spring Break ever.

Pearl’s First Camping Trip

IMG_3863Peter and I have camped several times together in the years that we’ve known each other. We’ve camped with friends or just the two of us but we’ve never camped with a toddler. Until now!

When it comes to parenting, I’m learning that often you simply have to take the plunge. We’ve always known that we want to camp with Pearl and it’s been a given that camping will be a common summer activity for our family. But that thought of actually doing so with a seventeen-month-old was kind of intimidating. I asked friends how they did it, Peter and I talked it over and, finally, we just picked a week and we went for it.

Very early in the morning.

Very early in the morning.

We decided to start easy with one night away in a location not too far away. We went to Keats Island, somewhere we’ve camped several times before, and is only a short boat ride away. (We took the public ferry from Langdale but we’ve also kayaked from Gibsons in the past.)

View from our site.

View from our site.

The good news is that we had a terrific time. I can’t wait to try it again. Hopefully, later this summer. Hopefully, with a few lessons learned.

We left Thursday afternoon on a direct ferry from Langdale to Keats Landing. The provincial campground at Plumper’s Cove is a 2km hike from the Landing where the ferry drops you off. (Hence the advantage of taking your own boat over.) We packed as light as we could for our one night. I carried Pearl in her big Deuter hiking pack, along with our dry food, our water, and Peter’s clothes. Peter carried everything else (tent, blankets, mine and Pearl’s clothes, and our little cooler). He’s a champ.

Just getting started on the hike in.

Just getting started on the hike in.

Pearl actually walked a good portion of this hike on her own, for which I was thankful. Normally, the hike takes around 30-40 minutes but it obviously took us a little longer that afternoon.

Also note Peter's giant bag.

Also note Peter’s giant bag.

Plumper’s Cove works on a first-come-first-served basis so arriving on the Thursday before a long weekend meant it was busy but there were still sites available and we were able to find one with decent privacy.

Our tent was one of our first big purchases as a married couple and it’s been awesome ever since. It is technically a 3-person tent though I doubt I’d want to sleep in it with 2 other adults. For the three of us, it worked well.

Having had some co-sleeping success on recent trips, we opted to make one big bed in the tent with one sleeping bag and a blanket. Fortunately, the weather was fantastic all week so staying warm wasn’t an issue.

As soon as we set up camp, we headed for the beach. The water was perfect and Peter and I enjoyed a swim while Pearl stayed on dry land, wearing her life jacket.

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In fact, she insisted on wearing her life jacket for most of our camping time, regardless of distance from water. Safety first is Pearl’s motto!

We kept our meals simple in the interests of packing light. Dinner was hot dogs cooked over an open fire. Pearl became an unusually picky eater and subsisted primarily on crackers and cucumbers and bites of granola bar.

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Night-time sleep was, of course, our biggest concern going into our adventure and the thing I’d asked most people about. Here’s what we did and here’s what I would do differently.

We kept Pearl up until about 8 o’clock, around an hour after her bedtime. We tried to follow her usual routine as close as possible and read stories and cuddle in the tent. At home, we then put her in her crib with her bear and let her fall asleep on her own. That definitely did not happen while camping. Especially when she figured out how to get out of the tent on her own. I rocked her and sang and Peter and I took turns laying down with her but it took a long time and there were a lot of tears. In the end, at around 10:30pm, both Peter and I got ready for bed and lay down together with Pearl. It helped that it was dark by now and she fell asleep shortly after this. She did wake once in the night and seemed scared in the foreign space until I held her close. In the morning, she had squirmed her way to sleep in the top corner of the tent, on her own, bum in the air. We were all up and eating breakfast at about 5:30am.

Very early in the morning.

Very early in the morning.

So here’s what I would do differently: First of all, the tent was too exciting. I think if we had set it up in our backyard a few days earlier and let her nap there or even camped out for a night, Pearl would have had an easier time associating it with sleeping. Sticking her in it and expecting her to fall asleep the first time was, perhaps, overly optimistic.

Second of all, I think next time we camp we’ll simply all go to bed at the same time. If that means Pearl stays up late (and until it’s dark), so be it. I think we’ll all get a better sleep that way.

But even on a lesser amount of sleep, we had a fun day. We made morning s’mores on the campfire, went for a hike (which Pearl slept through), and swam some more. In the afternoon we hiked back to the ferry landing. Pearl slept the whole way this time so I packed all twenty-three pounds of her.

Pearl liked putting Big Bear in her pack. He would have been much lighter to carry.

Pearl liked putting Big Bear in her pack. He would have been much lighter to carry.

I’m sure this is only the beginning of our family camping adventures! If anyone has further tips on camping with a toddler, I’ll gladly hear them!

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Our Summer So Far

Our summer got off to a hectic start and things are just beginning to settle down again.

At the tail end of June, we headed to the Okanagan for a wedding. We left directly after Peter got off work on the Friday and drove straight, taking the Coquihalla Highway. (Well, one stop of burgers at Five Guys in Chilliwack, in the pouring rain. I’ll be honest, I don’t miss living there but I do like Five Guys.) We arrived in Okanagan Falls way past Pearl’s bedtime to discover that the hotel we were staying at was above a bar. Pro-parenting tip: Don’t stay in a hotel above a bar with your baby. Rough night.

Fortunately, the next morning we found an awesome diner across the street and made our way to the lake-beach a few blocks away.

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The beach (and the playground) was more mud than sand but there was also a splash pad where Pearl had a blast running through water and kicking the spray. Then we all went back to the hotel and had naps before the wedding.

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This is the only picture I took of this beautiful, garden wedding but others caught some pictures of the three of us so I hope to share a couple soon (Along with the conclusion of my 30 Day Dress Challenge. I know, I know.) The weather was perfect and the ceremony and reception were held in a lovely garden with games planned in between. The bride and groom had a lot of thoughtful touches – including goodie bags for the kids!

After breakfast the next morning, we headed home. We opted the more scenic, southern route, which took us through several small towns along the way.

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Our original plan was to take our time on the way back and stop in a few spots. But when Pearl fell asleep leaving Penticton we decided to just keep driving. Of course, you can’t leave the Okanagan in the summertime without fresh fruit so we did make a lightning quick stop at a fruit stand in Keremeos for blueberries and cherries.

Pearl woke up as we drove through Manning Park so we stopped for a late picnic lunch and to look at ground squirrels.

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An important feature of every childhood road trip through British Columbia.

An important feature of every childhood road trip through British Columbia.

We made it to the ferry terminal with enough time for an ice cream break before getting on the boat (Pearl’s second time. She’s a fan.) and then home and to bed where we all slept through the night.

We had a few days of work and home time and Canada Day.

Last week, Peter was away for a few days so I took Pearl into Vancouver. She had her latest check-up at Children’s Hospital and we stayed with family for two nights and got to catch up with friends.

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Like these two who I’ve been friends with since I was seven years old! Pearl was definitely past her bed time here but she did really well the whole week and got to hang out with all of her cousins.

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I lived in Vancouver for fifteen years but four years in a small town on the Sunshine Coast mean that I’m not quite used to the hustle and bustle of the big city anymore. I’d also forgotten that smiling at and greeting people on the street or on public transit is not normal. I used our stroller a lot but for busier locations, the Ergo was great for our introverted little girl.

Our hospital visit went well. I’ve accepted that returning to Children’s Hospital will always be filled with emotions for me and so I was more prepared for it this time. Pearl’s test results on her kidneys, while not perfect, were good and a slight improvement on last autumn’s. Her kidney function is good and one is almost completely normal now. Most importantly, Pearl continues to be symptom-free from her hydronephrosis. I met with the renal specialist who said there’s no reason to do surgery now or, most likely, ever and we’ll simply continue to monitor her kidneys.

Pearl and I headed home on Thursday, arriving home shortly after Peter. And so, this week, our summer begins in earnest. I think it’s going to look like this:

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And some of this:

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And a whole lot of other fun!

Book Review: Children’s Travel Books by Miroslav Sasek (Reading with Pearl)

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If you’re not familiar with Miroslav Sasek’s travel books for children, you should be. Filled with colourful pictures and facts about cities around the world, the books are beautiful and interesting. And not just for children.

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But children do enjoy them!

A Czech writer and illustrator, Sasek was first inspired to write about Paris, condensing the key sites, history, and interesting tidbits about the city in a format both endearing and easy to read. Thus, travel books for children!

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We currently have four of the series (as pictured above), each from cities we’ve been to and enjoyed. I purchased This is Hong Kong years ago and often displayed it on the coffee table (before Pearl was around/old enough to grab everything off the coffee table).

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Guests often seemed to enjoy flipping through the pages.

Originally published in the 1960s, most of the series has been re-released as of the early 2000s. While the original information and illustrations are all there, the books now include footnotes to tell the reader what’s changed since Sasek first wrote his books.

The series includes several major European cities, as well as a book about Australia and a couple in the United States. Sadly, Sasek never did one for his own city (and my favourite European city) of Prague.

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For now, Pearl enjoys the colourful pictures but I hope that as she gets older, her dad and I will be able to share our own stories of some of the places we’ve been to and spark her interest in seeing the world.

Spring Break 2016 – Kimberley

At the end of 2015, some good friends of ours moved from the Coast to the Kootenays. Peter and I decided to take the opportunity of Spring Break to go and visit them. Their littlest girl is just a few weeks younger than Pearl and it so happened that we got to be there for her first birthday. I loved being pregnant at the same time and I’m sad that we won’t be raising our girls in the same area but we’re hopeful that we can make them pen pals one day. (Do kids still have pen pals these days?)

We left home on Thursday afternoon and flew that evening from Vancouver to Cranbrook. This was Pearl’s first time on an airplane. The flight is only about an hour and a half so we knew that even if it was a horrible experience, it wouldn’t last too long. Thankfully, it was not a horrible experience.

Waiting to board in Vancouver.

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The plane was small – seats for about 20 passengers – but we were able to pre-board and claim the very rear where there was a bench for three. Pearl loved looking out the window and waving the safety pamphlet around. I had packed a special bag of toys and distractions for her that was moderately successful. It held: snacks (baby biscuits and cheerios because she likes them both and they’re not too messy), ribbons of various lengths and colours, a photo book filled with pictures of her and Bella the dog (her favourite things to look at), her favourite book of farm animals, Stripes the Tiger (who I had hidden a couple weeks before so that he would be more exciting), and a little doll that she usually gets excited about. Nothing held her attention for that long but it was good to have a variety of things to keep pulling out. Eventually, she just wanted to run up the aisle of the plane and so Peter and I passed her back and forth between us, trying to keep her somewhat still.

More than the plane, I was actually the most nervous about her sleep while we were away from home. After our rough experience in Whistler the previous weekend, I tried to prepare myself for the idea of a weekend without sleep. But Pearl did really, really well! (Cue angels singing!) Our friends put us up in their basement where we had space to ourselves and Pearl slept in a pack-and-play next to our bed. (Visiting friends with kids of similar age is awesome because they already had so much baby stuff for us to use!) I was nervous about being in the same room with Pearl but it turns out the key was a really dark room. Pearl doesn’t need total darkness to sleep at home but basically, when away from home, she needs to not notice that she’s in a strange place if she wakes up at night. While she didn’t sleep through the night while we were there, she did settle back to sleep easily when she woke and she even napped during the day.

We had a great time seeing their new home and life in Kimberley. On Friday we all headed out to the Fairmont Hot Springs to spend the morning. The setting is beautiful – surrounded by snowy mountains – and the warm pools were the perfect contrast to a crisp, clear, and cold day. Pearl loved it! She loves being outside and she loves the bath so this was a pretty perfect combination of the too.

She also loved the fries she got to try for the first time at lunch afterward. Oh, and prosciutto too. Turns out, she likes salt. And sugar, because she also tried ice cream for the first time and liked it a lot. (Cranbrook has a Dairy Queen and as soon as I found out, I requested that it be a stop on our visit.)

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We explored Kimberley a little bit, walked some trails near their house, and visited some stores and a pretty delicious bakery. But mostly we got to spend time with some people we like and that we miss. We were thankful for the opportunity to see them and thankful for their generous hosting.

Spring Break 2016 – Whistler

To kick off Spring Break 2016, we headed up to Whistler for a night.

Way back in 2013, Peter and I had ventured that way for spring break. We had a little less snow and a whole lot more child to deal with.

Now, I could show you some sweet pictures and let you think this was a relaxing time away but…that would be a lie. Don’t get me wrong – we had fun and it was nice to go and do something different. But I wouldn’t describe it as relaxing. We had originally thought we might stay two nights but at about 2 am on Sunday night, I was pretty sure one night would be enough for us.

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Pearl’s favourite part of the trip was this window in the condo, where she could stand and look out and bark at any dogs that might pass by below.

After writing this post on Saturday,  it may be clear that we weren’t going into our trip with the best sleep under our belts. And Pearl, bless her little heart, is a home body. While she’s fine with some flexibility in her schedule, she does still need two naps a day and she loves sleeping in her own bed.

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She also loved admiring herself in a mirror the length of one whole wall.

We only had to pull over once on the drive from the ferry to Whistler and Pearl’s annoyance at still being in her car seat was placated with baby biscuits. She eventually fell asleep and we opted to not stop for lunch in Squamish (the original plan) but drove onwards and spent our afternoon in Whistler.

As sacrificing parents, Peter and I set up Pearl’s portable bed in the condo’s bedroom and took the living room’s (very uncomfortable) pull-out couch. Pearl went to bed with minimal fuss and Peter and I enjoyed take-out pasta and cable television. The rest of the night? Well, let’s just say when Peter went out to get us coffee in the morning, I asked for a large.

But looks what a happy family we are!

But look what a happy family we are!

We spent a quiet morning in the village and then worked hard and long to get Pearl to take a nap. Which ended with her asleep on the big bed and me laying down beside her, not asleep.

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Having decided one night was enough for us, we packed up and drove to Brandywine Falls, where we’d heard there was snowshoeing. Unfortunately, we were missing that key component of snowshoeing – snow. So it was more of a hike while carrying snowshoes.

But the falls are pretty.

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Family shot!

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Can you tell that Pearl is edging ever closer to being done with family bonding/hiking time?

We made it as far as the bungee bridge, me feeding an increasingly fussy baby bits of rice cake. We stopped there for a quick snack and let Pearl out of her carrier to run around in her snow suit. Which she did not like.

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But at least she looks cute.

Look out point at the bungee bridge.

Look out point at the bungee bridge.

About five minutes after we’d turned to head back, Pearl started hollering and crying for serious. Peter and I launched into a rousing rendition of “The Wheels on the Bus” (Pearl’s favourite song, stretching it out to make it all the way back to the car. Since one of Pearl’s favourite things right now is animal sounds, the song morphed into a song about a bus full of animals (and some dinosaurs) but Pearl quickly grew quiet and before long was fast asleep.

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It really was a pretty hike.

We all slept (pretty) well that night, happily in our own beds.

Powell River Getaway

This weekend, Peter and I took off for a couple of days to the furthest reaches of the Sunshine Coast – Powell River!

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Peter had been before but I never had so it seemed an appropriate getaway for the weekend before my birthday.

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Waiting at the Earls Cove ferry terminal.

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We had better luck with the camera timer and the top of a garbage can. Plus, this way you can see that little baby, now in our third trimester!

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It was a beautiful Saturday morning ferry ride.

Powell River’s old Townsite area is a historic region, centred around the mill on the waterfront. The town was designed for the mill workers, stretching back up the hill from the water, all the streets named after trees. While both the mill and the town have had their ups and downs, in recent years there has been a lot of work put into revitalization and the town looks lovely.

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We stayed in the Old Courthouse Inn – lovely and historic.

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The view from our window.

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The Patricia Theatre is the oldest still-running movie theatre in the country.

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A tiny lending library.

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Two of my favourite things? Yes, please! (The fudge was excellent.)

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Powell River also features a microbrewery – Townsite Brewing – and Peter and I happened to show up at the exact right moment for the free weekly tour, followed by a taste test. Well, Peter taste tested and I sniffed.

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Saturday night, Peter and I drove to the end of Highway 101 to a little spot called Lund where the road ends.

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It was dusk when we arrived and dark before we left but still nice to check that destination off our list.

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Like our own small town, most things were closed on Sunday so we spent the day exploring trails, lakes, and oceanside before we turned and headed for home.

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Spring Break 2014

Halfway through Spring Break and feeling thankful. I love lazy days at home with my best guy.

I also love adventuring with him.

For the first half of Spring Break, we took off to Vancouver Island to visit with friends and wander down memory lane. We made a road trip of it (complete with sound track) – two ferries, a drive down the island, and we were knocking on our friends’ door mid-afternoon on Saturday.

I lived in Victoria from 2003 to 2011. Peter moved there in 2007. It was the first place I ever lived on my own. It was the city where I made amazing friends, grew in my spiritual walk, met my husband. We spent our first year of married life there. So many good memories.

We struck a great balance of seeing friends, visiting our former church, and wandering through our favourite spots. We had a late night and a lazy Sunday with two of our favourite people (three, including their super cute baby boy!) and then fancied it up in a hotel downtown.

View from our hotel.

View from our hotel.

We ate at our favourite spots, and some new ones, and did a bunch of those things that you jsut don’t do when you live in a city.

Market Square

Market Square

Gates of Chinatown

Gates of Chinatown

Spring is a little closer in Victoria. Their blooms are out while ours are just beginning to bud on the Sunshine Coast.

Dragons and cherry blossoms

Dragons and cherry blossoms

There were a lot of “remember whens”. Our first apartment, the house I used to share with five other girls, the coffee shop I once worked at, the park Peter took kids to when he worked for a summer camp. The restaurant we went to on our first date. The spot where we first held hands. The beach near my old house where we made ‘smores and I first thought, “I might be in love with this guy.”

The Inner Harbour

The Inner Harbour

The Ledge

The Ledge

 

The Legislative Buildings and Queen Victoria

The Legislative Buildings and Queen Victoria

Views from Mount Doug

Views from Mount Doug

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I spent a lot of time up here over the years.

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Mount Doug Park

Mount Doug Park

Downtown Victoria and the Johnson Street Bridge

Downtown Victoria and the Johnson Street Bridge

We took a twilight walk along the waterfront to Ogden Point.

The Inner Harbour

The Inner Harbour

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Fisherman's Wharf

Fisherman’s Wharf

Ogden Point

Ogden Point

It’s good to be reminded of so many lovely places and the wonderful moments they hold. And it’s good to return to our lovely little home and to remember that both good and bad have followed us everywhere. But mostly the good.

The Ledge at night

The Ledge at night

Our Road Trip 2014 Playlist

1. Hot Tonight – Tokyo Police Club

2. Hopeless Wanderer – Mumford & Sons

3. Stars (Hold On) – Youngblood Hawke

4. Step – Vampire Weekend

5. Madness – Muse

6. Get Lucky – Daft Punk (feat. Pharrell)

7. Lover of the Light – Mumford & Sons

8. Stay – Rihanna

9. Ends of the Earth – Lord Huron

10. Unbelievers – Vampire Weekend

*Bonus – This list will get you from Nanaimo to Mill Bay

 

 

Happy Made-Up Long Weekend!

Here in British Columbia, we have this new holiday that we get to celebrate every February. It’s called Family Day. I can’t think of it without being reminded of that Simpsons upside where the card companies make up Love Day.

Nonetheless, it’s a stat holiday in February, so I’m really not complaining.

It’s been uncharacteristically cold around here lately.

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Trust me, that’s cold for our part of the world.

Don’t believe me? This is the ocean in front of our house right now:

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The ocean is frozen.

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Looking down from the deck. The ocean is frozen.

Also frozen – Trout Lake, which is located not far from us. (Does every town in Canada have a Trout Lake?) So this weekend (after a very productive Saturday round of errand-running) Peter and I were driving home along the highway and we saw this sight:

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Someone ice skating on Trout Lake. Within seconds, Peter had pulled over the car and we were gingerly stepping onto the ice ourselves.

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That’s a first for me. I finally feel like a real Canadian!

To continue our Canada celebration, we took advantage of that extra day off and spent some time in the city. I love visiting Vancouver, which is always both familiar and new. After several uninterrupted months here in our small community, the amount of choice you find in Vancouver is delightful and overwhelming.

One of my favourite Vancouver spots:

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Possibly because it’s where these live:

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Not because it’s where these live:

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Blurry selfie.

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Night-time boat trip.

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And the grey Vancouver view from our hotel.

 

Europe Trip 2013 – Part Twelve: Bad Segeberg, Germany

This summer Peter and I went on an adventure to Europe. With the help of a stellar memory and my obsessive journalling, I’m sharing those adventures with you.

Part One: Duisburg, Germany

Part Two: Fritzlar, Germany

Part Three: Bern, Switzerland

Part Four: Lake Como, Italy

Part Five: Venice, Italy

Part Six: Florence, Italy

Part Seven: Rome, Italy

Part Eight: Vatican City, Italy

Part Nine: Cinque Terre, Italy

Part Ten: Cannes, France

Part Eleven: Paris, France

From Paris we caught a night train back to Germany. This was our longest train trip but, in many ways, our most fun. From Paris to Hamburg was about 15 hours on an overnight train. I was not looking forward to this trip, expecting it to be similar to our overnight trip from Duisburg to Bern – sitting up, uncomfortable, listening to strangers snore. So we were pleasantly surprised to find that we had bunks on this train.

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We were in a berth with four other people – six bunks in total. Peter and I had the top two, across from each other. The bunk is supplied with a sheet, a pillow, and a blanket and you make it up yourself. The sheet was very German and confusing but the bed was decently comfortable. More so for me than for Peter, who is over six feet tall.

Since there wasn’t much room to sit up in our bunks, we headed out to the dining car to get a beer. There we found that the only cash we had on us was a 50 euro note. European vendors tend to prefer as close to exact change as possible so we weren’t sure if we’d be able to get anything. But we asked the bartender politely. He was a burly, tattooed German with good English.

“Okay,” he said to Peter, “As long as I get a smile from your wife.”

I gave him my prettiest smile and a thank you and we got our beers.

The dining car was crowded and so we headed all the way to the back of the train (the caboose, if you will) which was a luggage car but held only a couple of bikes. A few people were hanging out back there already. Peter and I started in on our beer. One of the men sneezed.

“Gesundheit,” said Peter. The man began to explain, in French, that he didn’t speak German and then we tried to explain that we spoke neither French nor German. The French man and his wife motioned to our beers, portraying that a drink was a good idea. They left the car, only to return in a moment with 2 small bottles of wine. They lifted their bottles to us and we lifted ours in return. Along with the other man in the car, a German speaker, we each offered a “cheers” in our own language and then tried out each others’ languages amidst laughter. It was an entirely wonderful moment of international communication.

Our view from the caboose.

Our view from the caboose.

Two more quick trains from Hamburg and we reached Bad Segeberg. This is a small city in northern Germany and we were visiting friends there before we ended our European Adventure and headed home. I hadn’t met these friends yet but they are a family that Peter’s known for a long time. It was great to meet these people I’d heard so much about and who had influenced my husband in his younger days.

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We spent a day in nearby Lubeck, a port town with a lot of history to it.

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Because of its location on the water, Lubeck was traditionally very wealthy. They traded in exotic things like almonds. To make the almonds last longer the people of Lubeck invented a little something called marzipan.

This is all made of marzipan. Seriously.

This is all made of marzipan. Seriously.

A person who likes marzipan could have a field day in Lubeck. Looking at marzipan, tasting marzipan, buying marzipan. If you’re like me and you don’t like almond-flavoured things, you can eat ice cream and still be happy.

Lubeck

Lubeck

Our German friends also introduced us to an Italian treat called “spaghetti ice”. So while my marzipan-loving husband might have been happier, I did okay.

We also learned that Germans will not allow you to order pancakes for breakfast because that is clearly a dessert item.

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Before we headed home we got to dip our toes in another sea – this time the Baltic. Literally, all I did was dip my toes. It was cold. But my brave husband went swimming.

And then…a few more trains and back to Frankfurt and on a warm Friday afternoon we found our way back to Vancouver and the Coast.

Already, Peter and I hope to travel in Europe again. It may not happen in the near future but that continent has not seen the last of us.

Thanks for coming along on our adventures!

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