Fields of Gold

14 05 2015

Tulip Festival?  Yeah, that’s exactly what a 16 year old boy wants to do

I detected just a hint of sarcasm when my friend Kyle said this to me after I spoke of our detour plans to cap off our West Coast Spring Break adventures.

Heading back to Seattle after spending a night in Vancouver – it just made perfect sense to stop in at the Skagit Tulip Festival…especially on a week day.

The festival runs April 1 – 30 and hundreds of thousands of people visit each year to take in the immense colour story that takes place.  But, mother nature has a way of marching to the beat of her own drum and there was talk of an early bloom in March.  So since we were passing by anyway, we took a shot and although we were a little early in the season for the rows upon rows of colourful tulip fields, we did get to experience the fields of gold filled with daffodils standing tall….without the weekend crowds.

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Well, Kyle was pretty much spot on.  After an initial nod of appreciation to the seemingly unending yellow fields, Jonathan followed me around the planters filled with early tulips and hyacinth and watched as I crouched down low to get up close and personal with these perennials and tried to capture shots of the buzzing bees busy pollinating up a storm.

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He thought maybe he’d have a little more luck of some sort of entertainment tagging along with Nathan, but those hopes were short lived – as soon as we crossed back onto US soil Nathan’s phone was back ‘online’ and without the fear of exorbitant roaming fees, he was back to work and could be seen ‘enjoying’ the view weaving through daffodil fields aimlessly while talking on his phone.

Jonathan found himself drawn back to me and my honey bee stalking.  After some frustrating moments trying to capture my bees with a camera with no auto focus, I gave up, manual focus requires the guaranteed stillness of plants.  But even that isn’t guaranteed – one stiff breeze, or even a gentle sway, and everything starts to get a little fuzzy.

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Well, there’s only so long you can drag a teenager around in the flower beds, so we headed out for lunch in La Conner – chowder and fish and chips by the waterfront – something a little more exciting than flowers to our ‘foodie in training’.  Well, another visit during peak tulip season is in order, but perhaps we’ll leave the 16 year old at home.

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Spring Break: WestCoast Style

5 05 2015

Spring is here!  And with Spring comes Spring Break.

Now, it’s been years since I’ve thought about Spring Break and that’s only because I happened to visit Lake Havasu City during Spring Break and got to witness the shenanigans that took place – drunk guys wearing boxes on their heads, girls sporting pasties and old men showing off what they’re working with in waaaay less clothing than they should be wearing.  And before that, when I should have been one of those dancing beach bombshells (kidding) we didn’t really have ‘Spring Break’ – those of you at SFU know that what we had was ‘Reading Break’ – which doesn’t really inspire spontaneous trips to Cancun or Cabo or some other spring break sounding place.

Well this year, Nathan and I took Jonathan, who is now 16 years old, out for Spring Break – WestCoast style.

First up:  Victoria, BC

After narrowly missing the Black Ball Ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria because we just HAD to stop for the ‘Best Fish & Chips’ at JJ’s Fish House in Poulsbo, we found ourselves basking in the sun on the upper deck as we motored our way across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

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After an hour and a half we found ourselves in downtown Victoria – which brought back memories of Spring Break like times from yesteryear….first year university and all the girls went for a road trip and found ourselves in Victoria.  We all chipped in to stay at Paul’s Motor Inn (which I saw this trip) and after, probably more than a few drinks, found ourselves on the stage at a Karaoke Bar singing Girls Just Want to Have Fun.  And I think we made it through a verse and a chorus before somehow the song was over already and we were being ushered off the stage….still haven’t figured that one out. Ha!

Well for this trip to Victoria, we took the opportunity to walk the harbor and take in the Parliament Buildings.

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After a quick overnight, we were back on the road and headed to Tofino, BC.

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Now, this is the second time we’ve been here with Jonathan so we knew the drill.  Our first stop was to rent a couple of wetsuits and boogie boards.  And after a quick lunch on the water we were suited up like seals with hoods, gloves and booties ready to brave the balmy 48 F waters of the Pacific Ocean.

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Cox Bay Beach

 

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An hour and a half later we dragged ourselves out of the water.  I was still on an adrenaline high – for a girl who can’t really swim and isn’t the best at water sports, I was riding those waves all the way onto the beach!  Now Jonathan on the other hand, well turns out his gloves had holes in them, so after an hour in the water he ended up with white hands and what locals would call ‘The Claw’.  It took a soak in the hot tub and another couple hours inside before his hands started to resemble something other than an arthritic old man.

Our second day in Tofino we decided to ease back on the water activities, at least those as physically demanding as hurling yourself at an oncoming crush of water to see if it’ll let you go along for the ride or if it’ll twirl you around and spit you out on the other side.  So we went on a boat ride in the middle of rainy/stormy weather to enjoy the Hot Springs.

And after a bumpy, slightly nauseating ride where we saw eagles, harbor seals, seal lions and a glimpse of a sea otter, we found ourselves at Maquinna Provincial Park and just a 2km walk through a WestCoast rain forest from the Hot Springs.

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We arrived to the Hot Springs platform and change rooms about 45 minutes later and although there was a slight sulphur smell in the air, the view was enchanting.

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There’s something about sitting in geothermically-heated hot springs with the rain falling down on you as you hear the roar of the waves crash against the rocks around you that just seems a little crazy.

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After a soak and then watching some adrenaline daredevils jump from the rocks into the waves…we headed back to the dock…

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…where we were greeted by our ride home!  After enduring the hour and a half ride jostling in the waves to get there, the Sea Plane – with its 15 minute trip time – never looked so good!

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View of the Hot Springs from above

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It was a gorgeous way to see the coastline and a perfect way to cap off our time in Tofino.

The next day it was an early morning drive to Parksville – a stop in to see my parents – before hopping on a ferry to Vancouver, BC.

I always forget how beautiful and peaceful it is on the Island – I definitely took it for granted growing up there – but I never forget how fortunate I am to have called Vancouver home, even if just for a short time.  It’s just gorgeous!

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View of Coal Harbor from the Westin Bayshore

And so there you have it – ferry boats, boogie boarding in wet suits, marine life, Hot Springs, sea planes, mountain views and all you can eat sushi (not shown but definitely eaten):  Spring Break – WestCoast Style!

 





Jax Beach @ Sunrise

7 04 2013

Our last morning at Jax Beach I was tempted to sleep in, but when I saw the whispers of pink peeking into our room through the patio door, well it was enough for me to throw on some clothes and grab the camera.  With Nathan gone to pick up the rental car, and mistakenly taking both room keys, I was momentarily swayed….will I be able to get back into the room if I leave……or should I just take my chances?  With the pink creeping in further and now with touches of orange…..screw it…..let’s go.  Hopefully the front desk will understand I just couldn’t miss this sunrise.

I apologize in advance for including so many photos but…there were just too many to choose from!

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JAX Beach

5 04 2013

Jacksonville, Florida.  An unlikely vacation spot and a place that I wouldn’t have necessarily picked, or a place that I would have thought that I would be spending any real time in.   But, low and behold, Easter Weekend comes a calling and Jacksonville Beach looks like the perfect place to slow down after a week of traveling.

Picture a white sand beach with sand so fine that it’s like a fine spun sugar.  Even if you get a layer of sand on your legs, you don’t even feel it!  But truly the best part about this beach is that it wasn’t that busy.  I don’t think you could go to another Florida beach (Daytona, Miami, etc) during Easter Weekend/Spring Break and have as much space to yourself as at Jacksonville (Jax) Beach.

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This beach trip reminded me of all of those beach family vacations that we went on when I was young.  Let’s just say, I was an avid shell collector.  I think I spent most of my beach vacations hunched over staring at the sand, picking through the seashell mounds scattered on the beach at Sanibel Island and hunting for petrified shark teeth on the black sand beaches of Hawaii.  I’m pretty sure I even had a shell book as a reference guide on what I was looking for on the beach.  Well, I wouldn’t say this was as full of treasures as those other beaches, but you can’t stop a shell collector from collecting!  I walked up and down that beach in the morning, weaving in and out of the way of the tides.  The only thing that distracted me from the shells were the sandpipers scurrying back and forth with the tides beside me.  They fascinated me!  I followed them around for a while and when I saw that they were actually digging up little butterfly shells and feasting as quick as they were, well,  I was amazed that they knew where to dig to find their breakfast and could do it so quickly before the next wave came up.

On the hunt for seashells and stalking some sandpipers

On the hunt for seashells and stalking some sandpipers

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All in all a great stay.  Our beach base was the Hampton Inn, which was situated right at the beach so it was the perfect way to enjoy the beach and their beachfront tiki bar.  It was only a quick walk down the beach to get to the main drag of restaurants.  Once you hit the pier, you know you’re close!

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JAX Beach Pier

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Flock of Pelicans overhead

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Sunset at Jax Beach

A great weekend getaway with a killer view of sunsets and sunrises.  Now you know where to go if you find yourself near Jacksonville, FL.





Spring Break Spectators

31 03 2010

Five years after I’ve finished up my university experience I can now finally say that I have experienced Spring Break.  A week of crazy fun in the sun.  Where anything goes.  And whatever happens during Spring Break, stays at Spring Break, with the exception of all those spring breakers that saw what happened, and all of their friends that they tell, and the photos posted on facebook, and….. well let’s just say it’s a lot more complicated for spring breakers now a days in the world of social media.

All of this had been a mythological idea to me because I went to school in a place where “Spring Break” was called “Reading Break” and it lasted 4 days instead of 9 and you actually had to read because you had a whole list of midterms and papers due on the other side of this “Spring Break” and so, instead of leaving you just stayed on campus to study.

Now I should point out that in order to take these photos, I was actually on the other side of the channel.  The side of the channel that instead of housing the party boats and the drunken masses, held the Spring Break Spectators.  We like to call ourselves the “SBS” Crew.  It was me and Nathan in our boat, a pontoon that was decked out to look like a tiki bar, a handful of Norwegian girls, and a boat which could have held a younger (but not by much), more tanned version of the “grumpy old men” who sat in their boat with their shades on (or “cheaters” as some call them), drinking their Labatt Blue watching the parade of Spring Break festivities.

So now the truth comes out!  I didn’t partake in the Spring Break Festivities.  I only watched them.  And I’m kidding about calling ourselves the “SBS” Crew.  Really I am.

But this is really quite lucky for you.  Because if I was involved in the festivities on the other side of the channel, I wouldn’t be in any shape to give you this commentary of how things went.

You know how when there’s a big crowd  of people that you don’t know and to make sense of what’s happening you start to give people nicknames?  Well in this crowd of people there were quite a few characters who stood out.  There was Pastie Girl #1 and Pastie Girl # 2.  These were the two girls on the beach that were wearing pasties instead of bikini tops (since these are allowed during spring break as an alternative to running around topless).  When they are together we called them “The Pastie Girls”, but when they separated from each other they lost all of their charm and just became “Pastie Girl #1 and #2”.

Then, there was “The Guy with the Box on his Head”.   Don’t ask me why he had a box on his head, cause I have no idea, and to be honest, I don’t think he had any idea either.  It didn’t do him any good because he was bouncing around in the water, lost his balance and fell head first into the side of a boat.  Once he finally removed the box from his head he realized that he had a cut gushing blood above his eye.  But not to worry, he just dunked his head in the water and carried on his with Box Activities.

His close competition to most memorable character was “The Crooked Swimmer” who swam crookedly from one side of the channel to another, holding his breath the entire way as he crawled along the bottom and popping up with a bloody nose.  Although we saw him under the water with his red shorts, the two ducks that were floating in the water were mighty surprised when he popped up under them and they nearly flew into our boat.

The grand prize winner, and most talked about person of the day, was none other than “Senior Citizen in a Thong”.  He walked up and down the boardwalk shaking his money maker.  Let’s just say, if someone was walking beside him wearing nothing but “tighty whities”, they would be overdressed.  As he passed by, everyone took a second look and I’m sure he heard the telltale “click” of the camera.

My personal favourite was “Booty-Shake Girl” who held court on top of the wall above all of the boats.  She danced like she actually had ‘junk in the trunk” and the guys loved it.  That is, until she started throwing beer on everyone.

There was “The Guy with the Cowboy Hat made out of a Coors Light Box” that joined the party late in the day but soon hooked up with “Pastie Girl #2”.

A boat filled with “The Smart Kids” rolled past the scene in a bright and shiny new pontoon, dressed in crisp white short sleeved collared shirts and modest bathing suits, rolling their eyes at the slowly deteriorating scene on the beach.

And then there was “The Guy with the Band that Chased Everyone Away”.  Just as the ‘breakers’ were getting a second wind and the music was pumping, the booties were shaking and couples were pairing off like rabbits, we see a bass drum, a high hat…. no wait, a whole drum set, complete with stool being unloaded from a boat onto the side wall.  Then there’s a mic stand.  Finally “The Guy with the Band….” gets on the mic (telling the boat to shut off their music) because he came all the way from The OC (4 hours away) and he’s here to shoot a music video, etc etc.  With his silver bikini-clad hype girl by his side, he starts a song, that no ones knows and no one cares to know.  Soon, the party boat (with all the good music) leaves.  Then one by one, all of the “SBS” boats head out.  Even the younger, tanned “Grumpy Old Men” leave!  Finally, with a last plea to the crowd “The Guy with the Band that Chased Everyone Away” yells out, ‘Everyone who stays gets a free CD!

And that, is the end of Spring Break 2010 in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.





Nathan and Traci… Or is it?

31 03 2010

One afternoon Nathan and I took the boat out on the water to find a little cove to listen to music, sunbathe, and really just to enjoy the fact that we are on vacation.

We were soon joined by visitors.  A pair of ducks came by looking for snacks.  A brightly coloured “2 curl” Mallard and his sweet looking girl duck mate.  I named them Nathan and Traci.

While Nathan and I (the people) sat in the bow of the boat, Nathan said, “What’s flapping over there”, as he looked towards the back of the boat.  When I looked I saw the end of the towel flip over, and said, “It’s just the towel”.  Nathan didn’t believe me and I went to check it out and what did I see?  Little “Traci” had jumped up onto our boat and was flapping her wings.  I freaked out and then little “Traci” freaked out and flew off the boat.

I can’t believe it!  Do birds actually board boats here?  As I sat at the end of the boat talking to the ducks I could tell that she was going to do it again.  First “Traci” jumped up and when Nathan told me to leave her alone, little “Nathan” saw that they were welcome and what did he do?  He jumped right up on the boat as well.  Enough!  I yelled at them and they both dove off the boat.

But they circled the boat, like sharks circling their prey.  Soon little “Traci” had jumped back on the boat, and Nathan (the person) starts talking to her.  “Come on up then.  Come see what’s happening.  There’s nothing up here for you.”  As he extends a hand out to her he says, “Don’t slip”, as she waddles further and further into the boat.

As I watch all of this unfold (and take photos), I told Nathan, “She CANNOT jump down on the seat.  That’s too much for me, because then what if she can’t get back up and needs help, who’s going to help her get up….” So Nathan proceeds to tell her that we have commitment  issues and neither he nor she wants to commit to her jumping down on the seat.

Meanwhile, “Nathan” the Mallard, starts quacking up a storm and little “Traci” jumps off, joining him in the water.  And as they quack at each other and swim off into the distance it leads me to wonder what they are saying to each other.

And in my mind it goes something like this:

I bet I could get on that boat”

“You wouldn’t dare”

“Dare me!”

“Okay.  I Dare you”

“Excuse me, is this seat taken…:

If this doesn’t sound familiar, then go back and read a couple posts back, “Closing Down the Place” and you’ll see an almost identical conversation.  So it makes me wonder if these ducks aren’t “Nathan and Traci” Companions but “Nathan and Vanessa” Best Buds!





The City of Crawdads, Jazz and Katrina

26 03 2009

It seemed liked everyone had “Go to New Orleans” on their ‘Must Do” List and then Hurrican Katrina hit and no one knew if they wanted new-orleans-025to go to see the destruction that was left behind, or if there was an urgency to see it before another storm hit and washed it away. 

Well let me tell you, I didn’t think that I would be able to check “Visit New Orleans” off my list so soon in life, but I did, and did I ever make sure that that check mark was worth its while.  Rolling into town, seeing the broken down houses and capsized boats from the storm and 8 Hours in downtown New Orleans, taking in the French Quarter, the Riverwalk, and of course, Bourbon Street!

New Orleans has this draw, this internal pulse that just makes you want to slow down your stride, turn off your phone and find the hidden secrets of the city, which are so conveniently hidden amidst fountains in courtyards and surrounded by live music. 

Let me take you on a walk through the French Quarter, and when I say a walk, I really mean a full-course meal.  Drinking a Rainstorm (in a rainstorm) and munching on aligator bites and Crawdad Etoufee at Pat O’Brians.  Wandering down the street we found ourselves at The Famous Door where we tackled a few mid-Wednesday afternoon cocktails.  After all, it was happy hour.  After listening to a live band sing everything from CCR, The Doors, Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd, and watching middle-aged businessmen hit on young spring breakers – we were on our way in search of our next meal.  Must counteract the effects of the 2 – for – 1 happy hour deal. 

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Wandering down the street – it’s getting busier.  We found ourselves swayed, not by food, but by a deal too good to pass up – 3 – for – 1 Happy Hour Special!  There was singing, there was dancing, there were shooter girls with all different coloured test tubes in their hands, and an innocent young spring breaker who was corrupted by the bartender and shooter girls with their low cut shirts and cleavage.  It’s only 6pm now.

Now, really in need of food, we go off foraging, asking locals along the way and come across Arnaud’s.  This just so happens to be the most upscale restaurant on Bourbon Street, there is dim lighting and all of the servers are wearing tuxedos.  Obviously, we were underdressed, but, not to turn away our business, we got shuffled into the back in the “Jazz Room”, code for “you don’t look good enough to sit in the front room where everyone can see you”. 

This “Jazz Room” is where we met Adam – our server, the upsell of all salesmen.  He talked us into Souffle Potatoes, which were really just puffed up french fries, a $7 upsell to crab cakes from my original order of some sort of crab pastry, and 7 spears of asparagus, 2 baby tomatoes, 4 slices of carrot, and 10 green beans for $15!  Oh Adam, we called him on this as well, and after all of the drinks that had imbibed, congratulated him on his upsell skills.  The one thing that was our very own decision – oysters on the half-shell – and they were wonderful!

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It’s 9pm now, and Bourbon Street is coming alive with music, drinking in the streets (I seem to have lost my CA instincts – cause finally, I didn’t care!), short short skirts, and kareoke at The Cat’s Meow.   Before we leave the buzz of the city and go back to work, we must make one more stop – the infamous Cafe du Monde, where I heard that you had to drink coffee and eat beignets, which are these sinful homemade triangle doughnuts covered in a mountain of powerded sugar. 

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 Not a bad way to end a regular Wednesday afternoon.