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!

 

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Next Stop: Somewhere New

9 04 2013

After four years of traveling around the US, I have made it to 41 states, and have realized that the country truly isn’t that big.  But with that being said, 4 years of travel included a lot of the same roads travelled to a lot of the same places.

So  it was a great opportunity to travel some highways and byways and get…not lost…but rather find some new places to explore.  Traveling up the Eastcoast from Jacksonville, FL to Newark, NJ we managed to stretch out the 900 mile drive into three days of travel.  And I discovered a couple places that I had never been to before.

First Stop:  Savannah, GA (and when you say it, you have to say it like you’re from the south)

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A cute little downtown area that has a downtown shopping/outdoor plaza that reminds me of Faneuil Hall in Boston.  Lots of outdoor parks and some great eating opportunities.

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Our intention was to have some good ol’ southern home cooking at Paula Deen’s Lady and Sons restaurant.

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But after seeing the line up, and not being able to get a reservation for another three hours, we started asking around, to see if it was worth the wait.  Turns out, the locals don’t think too highly of the place and at the first mention of the restaurant, their faces started pinching up like they had eaten a sour grape.  So I can’t give the restaurant or its food a fair review, but I can say that the locals love their BBQ, and sent us to a little hole in the wall place called Angel’s BBQ that you might have passed by if not for the little BBQ flag that hung outside its door.  And for dessert, tiny morsels of tart sweetness with key lime cookies from Byrds.  

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The best part, they have a sampling station at the front of the store so you can try out flavours from chocolate chip and chocolate macaroon to lemon, key lime, peach and apple crunch.

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Second Stop:  Myrtle Beach, SC

What can I say, it was dinner time.  And before we even made it to the Myrtle Beach city limits we started seeing signs for roasted oysters, stuffed clams and other delightful treats.  We made it as far as The Hot Fish Club in Murrells Inlet, a restaurant that has a history dating back before the civil war and who’s first club house was located on a place called Drunken Jack Island (who doesn’t love that!).  Fresh gulf shrimp, Alabama oysters (coming for a Pacific NW’er, I can say they had a great taste), Seafood Paella, Lobster Pot Pie and key lime pie for dessert.  Yum!

So needless to say, by the time we rolled into Myrtle Beach, SC it was dark and I’d had a couple glasses of wine, so I can tell you nothing about the beach.  I assume it is glorious and the reason why so many people were walking the streets that were filled with All-U-Can-Eat Seafood Buffets (some of them boasting up to 200 items) and surprisingly, one after another, giant neon/fluorescent lit beachwear stores and each time there was a store so bright it hurt your eyes, it was followed by a huge, elaborately built mini golf course.  What is going on Myrtle Beach?  It was nothing like I expected, and kind of reminded me of Niagara Falls (the Canadian side), which considering it has been named the ‘Honeymoon Capital’, surprisingly has a lot of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not type places, wax museums, and gaudy souvenir shops.

Third Stop:  North East, MD

I don’t know that this little east coast town would have ever been a destination for me, if Nathan hadn’t stumbled upon it 7 years ago.  He always thought he’d make it back around, it just took him a little while.  Cute main street and a great casual seafood place, called Woody’s Crab House.  Their specialty:  Hard Shell Blue Fin Crabs – pride of the Chesapeake Bay.  Too bad they’re scared of cold water and the waters are cold in Maryland right now….brrrr.  So, we’ll have to find another opportunity to visit North East, Maryland, hopefully in less than seven years.

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All in all, a great little road trip.  Fun to see new places and to have those places surprise you.  I love to plan things, but there’s no way that I could have planned the meandering trip that we had along the coast.  Sometimes it’s best to just let things happen and let the trip find you.





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…Where Art Thou?

19 04 2011

Just when you think that spring has turned the corner, the sun is shining, the flowers are blooming (with pollen in the air) and it’s time to dust off those flip flops….

You start driving towards Detroit and you hit snow….and winter.  Aren’t we done with that yet?? It’s time to head South, or West, or anywhere other than the MidWest!!