Tag Archives: restaurants

Cool Things To Do in Victoria, BC, Canada

Victoria British Columbia and Butchart Gardens

We had only 2 days to spend in Victoria, Canada before heading to Vancouver, BC so we wanted to ensure we hit the hot spots during our short stay.  We’ve found the best way to get acclimated to a new city is to do a city tour, so we try to do that on the first day.  If they have a land/water tour (duck or hippo boat tours), even better.   Once you’ve done a city tour, you then know where all the hot spots are and how to get to them on your own.

We did that during our visit to Victoria, BC, here are the 9 hot spots we hit while in Victoria:

  1. Hippo Land/Water tour
  2. Butchart Gardens
  3. Royal BC Museum
  4. Parliament buildings
  5. Fan Tam Alley in Chinatown
  6. Craigdarroch Castle
  7. Spinnaker Pub
  8. Fisherman’s Wharf
  9. Beacon Hill Park

For a slideshow of our trip, click here: http://www.webetripping.com/Gallery_USA_Canada_Victoria.asp.

Hippo Land / Water Tour

These land/water tours are always fun. Whether it be a “duck”, “hippo”, or any other creative acronym the marketing team comes up with, it is still a land/water tour and a lot of fun. I like the combination because  they take you through the town and show you the sites then plunge into the water to give you a different perspective from the harbor.

We’ve done several now and found that not all land / water tours are alike.  Sometimes they are party-like, with the guide playing fun theme songs as he/she cracks jokes and dresses up in costumes to match the playful banter.  The one we did in Seattle was like that and it was probably the most fun.

We’ve now done two in Canada (one in Halifax and this one in Victoria).  In both cases, they are a little more subdued and business-like.  Neither cracked as many jokes, dressed up in costume or played fun music.  But they did both give you a valuable tour of the city and you left with a good sense of how the city is laid out and where to go.  Maybe our Canadian friends are little more uptight, eh?

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Hippo: Land/Water tour

Hippo: Land/Water tour

From the Hippo tour

From the Hippo tour

Water taxis are $5 per trip

Water taxis are $5 per trip

From the Hippo tour

From the Hippo tour

Butchart Gardens

If you are crunched for time, this one is a must-see.  It is about 20 miles outside of the city so you need a car or arrange  for a guided tour that will pick up/return you back to your hotel.   You will probably spend a couple of hours here, more if you are really knowledgeable about plants and flowers.   You can even see it at night, as they light up the gardens.  We did not get a chance to do that but I wish we had.

Butchart is separated into different sets of gardens (Italian Garden, Japanese Garden, Sunken Garden, etc.).  Our favorite was the Sunken Garden. It was built in an old limestone quarry and is simply stunning (first picture below).  Its views show the expanse of flowers, trees and plants.   I am not a big garden-kind-of-guy but I really enjoyed it.

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

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Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Royal BC Museum

You can spend several hours in this museum.  When we were there, they had an exhibit about the antarctic explorers that raced to be the first to claim a visit to the South Pole.   Two teams headed for the South Pole, one from Britain and the other from a Norwegian team.  It tells their story via an exhibit and IMAX movie.

Additionally, it has a Natural History gallery, First People (Aboriginal) gallery, and a Modern History gallery that shows what the city of Victoria looked like in the past.  I especially enjoyed the First People gallery, as it had totem poles, tools made by the Aboriginals, and a lot about their history.  I found their fishing techniques very interesting.

Royal BC Museum

Royal BC Museum

Royal BC Museum

Royal BC Museum

Parliament Buildings

Each hour they will allow you to tour for free.  It was interesting to see how they govern and learn more about how their style of government is similar yet different from ours in the USA.

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Fan Tam Alley in Chinatown

Chinatown is only 2 blocks long, so it is a small section of town.  It offers lots of Chinese markets and eateries.  The most famous area is the Fan Tam Alley that boasts to be the narrowest street in Canada.  To me, it just looks like an alley, but hey, whatever floats their boat!

Narrowest street in Canada

Narrowest street in Canada

Chinatown

Chinatown

Chinatown

Chinatown

Craigdarroch Castle

Craigdarroch Castle was completed in 1890 for Robert Dunsmuir, a Scottish immigrant who made his fortune from Vancouver Island coal. This Victorian mansion, built on a hill overlooking the City of Victoria bragged to Western Canada that this was a rich and important family.

Robert died in 1889, before the home was completed, leaving the estate to his wife Joan who lived in the Castle until her death in 1908.  As you might imagine, no expense was spared in this house. You will see incredible woodwork, exquisite stained glass windows, and Victorian era Furnishings.

Craigdarroch Castle

Craigdarroch Castle

Craigdarroch Castle

Craigdarroch Castle

Spinnaker Pub

This is the oldest pub in Canada and offers a good variety of craft brewed ales.  We actually stayed in their B&B, so we could walk to the brewery very quickly. They offered a very nice Hefeweizen that we really enjoyed.  Unfortunately,I did not take any pictures of the pub.

Fisherman’s Wharf

The Wharf is a pretty small area but offers up views of the marina, floating homes, and boasts the best “fish ‘n chips’ in Victoria at Barb’s Fish and Chips.

Fisherman's Wharf

Fisherman’s Wharf

Fisherman's Wharf

Fisherman’s Wharf

Beacon Hill Park

This is best known for the peacocks that roam the park and the kid’s petting zoo with about any animal a kid would like to see.  It also has totem poles and flows out to scenic views of the ocean.  As I was taking this picture of the peacock, it kept coming closer to me.   I am not sure if it wanted to attack me, wanted me to feed it, or just wanted me to her boyfriend.

Beacon Hill

Beacon Hill

Beacon Hill

Beacon Hill

Rediscovering Cannon Beach and the Oregon Coast

Cannon Beach is a Great Getaway

In April 1998, we were living in Seattle Washington and vacationed for a week in Cannon Beach — an Oregon coastal town.  Our boys were 3 and 5 years old and they have no memory of that trip.  I was surprised at how much we had forgotten about the trip.  We remembered the iconic Haystack Rock but had forgotten how the city looked.

Haystack Rock

Below are pictures of Haystack Rock, the one taken this week and the one I took back in 1998.  I have a better camera now and hopefully my photography skills have improved over time.

Note: See a slideshow of our trip here: http://www.webetripping.com/Gallery_USA_OR_OregonCoast.asp

Haystack Rock -- Taken in 2013

Haystack Rock — Taken in 2013

Haystack Rock - Taken in 1998

Haystack Rock – Taken in 1998

Cannon Beach

Cannon Beach is a cool little coastal town.  It has a few micro-breweries, kite and surf shops, and good restaurants.  The weather was about 65 – 70 degrees, a little too cool to take a dip in the ocean without a wetsuit, but it has miles of hikes and beachfront walking area that we took full advantage of.

Cannon Beach

Cannon Beach

Cannon Beach

Cannon Beach

Cannon Beach

Cannon Beach – This guy tried for 30 minutes to get airborne.

Cannon Beach

Cannon Beach

We rented a cool little house called “The Farmhouse“.  It was an old home that had been totally renovated.  It reminded me of my grandmothers home but it had a beautiful deck, great decor and a cool vibe.  We really loved it.

The Farmhouse

The Farmhouse

The Farmhouse

The Farmhouse

The Farmhouse

The Farmhouse

The Scenic Oregon Coast

We drove the Oregon Coast, from Cannon Beach to Newport, to visit the Newport Aquarium.  We snapped some nice pictures of the coast along the way.

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Oregon Coast

Oregon Coast

Oregon Coast

Oregon Coast

Oregon Coast

Oregon Coast

Oregon Coast

Oregon Coast

Oregon Coast - My favorite picture

Oregon Coast – My favorite picture

Oregon Coast - The Octopus tree

Oregon Coast – The Octopus tree

Oregon Light Houses

We also visited several lighthouses along the way.

Oregon Aquarium

The aquarium reminded me a bit of the one we visited in Baltimore many years ago.  It was well organized and had lots to view. We sat in on a feeding of Oregon sea otters, it was fun to learn more about their habitat.

Aquarium in Newport Oregon

Aquarium in Newport Oregon

Aquarium in Newport Oregon

Aquarium in Newport Oregon

Aquarium in Newport Oregon

Aquarium in Newport Oregon

Aquarium in Newport Oregon

Aquarium in Newport Oregon

Aquarium in Newport Oregon

Aquarium in Newport Oregon

Muscle and Chrome Show

On Saturday, we caught a car show called the “Muscle and Chrome show“.  It featured some really cool vintage cars and a lot of my oldest son’s favorite car, the Ford Mustang.

By the way, did you know it is against the law to pump your own gas in Oregon?  No kidding.  We drove up to our first gas station in Oregon, I jumped out to start the pump and got a tongue lashing from the attendant who told me about the law.   I got used to the full service gas stations after a week or so but I still find it very inconvenient.  It is so much faster to do it yourself and most times they don’t wash your windshield of which I always do.

Take a Ride with an Iguana

I will leave you with one final picture. We saw this taxi parked down the road from where we were staying. It is hilarious! Would you pay a cab fare to ride in the chair upon the roof? The hood ornament is also a nice touch.

Tricked out Cabby

Tricked out Cabby

Hop on the Chattanooga Choo Choo

When we moved to the beautiful emerald coast of Florida about a year ago, one of the first couples we met were David and Paula Thaggard.  They are kindred spirits, serial entrepreneurs that ran a very successful construction and interior design firm in Tennessee for years.   Wanting to unwind a bit, they purchased a home on the emerald coast and opened up a  froyo (frozen yogurt for the less hip) shop for their oldest son and his wife to run.

Paula, Lynn and David

Paula, Lynn and David

We became fast friends and last weekend they invited us to their beautiful home in Tennessee.  And beautiful it is.  They built this home and most of the other spectacular homes in this upscale neighborhood.  The quality of the home is impeccable, no expense was spared.   Paula is an incredible  interior designer — you would think this is a model home.  Here are some pictures that have no way of doing it justice, you would have to see it to fully appreciate it.

Beautiful home of the Thaggards

Beautiful home of the Thaggards

Heated pool with waterfall

Heated pool with waterfall

View of the pond

View of the pond

They live in Cleveland TN, about 30 minutes north of Chattanooga.  On Saturday, we explored Chattanooga, as this was our first experience here.  Chattanooga is re-surging city of about 200,000 people, sporting the fastest internet in the country — 1 gigabyte internet speed.

Chattanooga has a rich history.  Its early inhabitants were Cherokee Indians — they were forced out by the US government in 1838.  They left for Oklahoma, the exodus was called the “Trail of Tears” because of all of the fatalities along the way.

Chattanooga

Chattanooga

It was also an important city in the Civil War, and fierce battles ensued here.   After the war, it became a major railroad hub and industrial city.  That is probably why you will recognize the phrase “Chattanooga Choo Choo”.

Chattanooga

Chattanooga

Chattanooga

Chattanooga

We spent most of Saturday exploring the city.  We walked to the statue garden, walked the pedestrian bridge and enjoyed a nice dinner at a new upscale bar called the Flying Squirrel.  Here, we met one of David and Paula’s daughters — Jennifer.  It was great meeting her and her girlfriend, they were great fun to spend time with.

The Flying Squirrel bar

The Flying Squirrel bar

Beautiful Chattanooga architecture

Beautiful Chattanooga architecture

David, Paula, Steve

David, Paula, Steve

Wanna fly?

Wanna fly?

Lynn giving a high 5

Lynn giving a high 5

As we were walking through the historic Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel, we happened on to this carriage. Notice the dog, it is a Dalmatian / Hound mix and was more than content just hanging out on the carriage.

Dalmatian Hound mix

Dalmatian Hound mix

When we were downtown, we saw this awesome car. David and I thought initially it was a Corvette, but upon closer inspection, we think it was a kit car built by someone. Very cool.

Not a Corvette -- a kit car

Not a Corvette — a kit car

I can’t end coverage of our trip without giving David and Paula a hard time about their flip phones. We are always giving them crap because when they text with these phones, they have to press the “2” key 3 times just to type a “C”. But I gotta say, they are pretty fast with it. But come on, you can afford an iPhone, get into the 21st century!  By the way, the picture quality below is indicative of a flip phone :).

David and Paula -- proud owners of flip phones

David and Paula — proud owners of flip phones

What’s Next?
We are about to embark on a 3 month trip to the West | Northwest United States.  We will start our trip spending Memorial Day with our boys in Breckenridge Colorado.  We will then head up to the Grand Titans and Yellowstone National Park for a week or so, then to Oregon, Washington and Vancouver Canada.  Stay tuned for updates!

A couple of days in Napa Valley

We spent the past 2 days in Napa Valley seeing the awesome landscapes and visiting the wineries.  Anyone that knows me knows that I like wine but I am not a sophisticated wine drinker.  But I did learn more about wine during this trip.

We made it to Napa!

We made it to Napa!

First of all, I learned that when you go to dinner and order wine and they allow you to taste it before pouring a full glass that it has a reason.  I always thought it was to determine if the wine tasted good.  Nope.  Wine that has a cork can actually have a fouled cork which causes the wine to go bad.  If that happens, it tastes like wet cardboard or wet dog.  Yep, I said wet dog.  So the small pour is to allow you to detect if the cork was fouled and if so, you can send it back.

Robert Mondavi Winery

Our first tour was the Robert Mondavi Winery.  Here we learned how making red wines are vastly different than white wines.  With red wines, they ferment with the grape skins which gives them the red color.  They normally ferment twice in oak barrels for a time span of about 18 months.  With white wines, they press the juice out of the skins and they are also fermented twice, once in oak barrels and again in steel canisters.

Mandovi Winery

Mondavi Winery

Red wines fermenting

Red wines fermenting

After visiting Mondavi, we were famished. We had lunch at the iconic Mustards, the food was incredible.

Mustards

Mustards

Inglenook Winery

Our next stop was the Inglenook Winery.  It is owned by Francis Ford Coppola, the creator of the movie “The Godfather”.  The winery has a museum that is free to visit but the wine tasting was spendy — $50 per person.  We decided to just visit the museum, but the grounds were incredible.

Inglenook Winery

Inglenook Winery

Inglenook Winery

Inglenook Winery

Sterling Winery

We were told that Sterling was the Disney World winery because it sits atop a mountain and you must take a gondola to visit.  It met that criteria and also had incredible architecture.  It has a very Mediterranean look, you feel as if you are in Greece. Their tour is self guided and really well done.  Because it is audio/video, it puts images to the stories told by other tours.

Sterling Winery

Sterling Winery

Sterling Winery

Sterling Winery

Sterling Winery

Sterling Winery – shot from the gondola

Beaulieu Vineyard

This was probably our favorite winery in terms of taste, their reds really have a nice flavor.

BV Winery

BV Winery

BV Winery

BV Winery

Domaine Chandon

We started day 2 with a champagne tasting.  This was our first taste of bubbly and was a good place to start.

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Domaine Chandon – The Bubbly

Rutherford Hill Winery

Our next stop was at Rutherford Hill.  They store their wine in a cave for fermenting so it was really fun to visit.  They also have a link with the show The TopChef, so it was interesting to hear that they shot some episodes there.

Rutherford Hill Winery

Rutherford Hill Winery

Rutherford Hill Winery

Rutherford Hill Winery – The Caves

Rutherford Hill Winery

Rutherford Hill Winery – The Caves

They had a special class of wine called Episodes.  The cost is $200 a bottle, but you could taste it for $10.

Rutherford Hill Winery

Rutherford Hill Winery

Frogs Leap

Our final wine tasting for the day was Frogs Leap.  It had the best tour, as it is an organic winery where they don’t use pesticides or irrigation.  Everything is done naturally and very methodically.

Frogs Leap Winery

Frogs Leap Winery

The grounds were incredible, they keep their fermenting barrels in a barn.

Frogs Leap Winery

Frogs Leap Winery

Frogs Leap Winery

Frogs Leap Winery

Frogs Leap Winery

Frogs Leap Winery

Frogs Leap Winery

Frogs Leap Winery

The wine maker’s dog went along with the tour, she was very sweet!

Castello di Amorosa

Our final stop for the day (no wine tasting) was at a castle. It was really beautiful, we just visited the grounds.

Castello di Amorosa

Castello di Amorosa

Castello di Amorosa

Castello di Amorosa

Castello di Amorosa

Castello di Amorosa