Let’s All Go To Victoria!

Over the past couple years, instead of Christmas gifts, Andrew and I exchange experiences with his brother Alex and his wife Anna. One year we went out to fancy a dinner at Canlis (and now I am drawing a blank on where we went the year before or last year – it might be my early on set Alzheimer’s – just a joke, but more on that later). In any event, this year we decided to step it up a notch and take a trip. We decided to head north and visit the beautiful Canadian City of Victoria, BC. We took the Clipper up early Saturday morning, it was windy and rainy and Anna and I took our motion sickness medicine to make sure we didn’t start the trip off getting sick. Which seemed to work, since the girl sitting next to me was a light shade of green mid-way through the trip and then had an extended visit in the loo – she should have invested the 25 cents! Once we arrived in Canada and made it through customs we were greeted with a lovely downpour of rain (likely so we wouldn’t be homesick). Luckily, we were staying at the Hotel Grand Pacific, which is almost directly across from the Clipper dock. After we dropped our bags off our first task was to eat! This was sort of how the weekend went: eat, drink, walk, museum, repeat. Literally, that is what we did all day. We did mix it up a little, we ran one morning which was lovely (making the eating a little less guilty), drank coffee or tea and we also did a little shopping. But really our main objective for the trip was to eat. Our first dinner out was amazing, The Black Olive. I highly recommend it if you are ever in Victoria. Andrew found this by googling where to find good Olive Oil in Victoria (Olive Oil is currently his latest passion – I will give him & Google credit, it was very good too). This is a little family owned Greek restaurant off the beaten track. As the Google review said it caters to a lot of older people, but we didn’t mind. We got in because some of those older folks cancelled their reservations. We enjoyed lovely wine, olive oil, I had a delicious white fish, Andrew had rack of lamb and Alex & Anna had delicious pastas. Unfortunately, the Baklava we had at the end was not the best I have had, but it did take care of my sweet tooth and since I was stuffed it was okay. We turned in early, since the day had started early. The next day Andrew and I went on a 4.5 mile run, I had an amazing massage and then we made our way over to the Fairmont Empress for Afternoon Tea. A must when visiting Victoria. These were just a few of the highlights of the trip, we also had an awesome lunch at an Irish Pub the first day, an amazing Italian Dinner the second night and visited some really cool museums – the Maritime Museum and the Royal British Columbia Museum, which was featuring an awesome Photography exhibit.

Overall, it was a great trip, it was relaxing, we ate a ton of great food and we saw some wonderful exhibits, movies and sights. Plus it was just fun to hang out with Alex & Anna for a weekend. I am happy to be able to put together a little recap of the trip. One of my secret dreams is to be a travel writer (not really a secret anymore), so here in my own little blog I can pretend that my whole trip was paid for by some great magazine that sent me away to write about the sights and culinary experiences of a new and exciting city. A girl can dream! Also, as I mentioned earlier, because (sadly) Alzheimer’s does run in my family, these little trip reports and this blog is really a way for me and my family to remember our trips and where we went. If I waited much longer to write, I am sure a lot of the details would be missing. So, until next time and the next adventure! Thanks for reading, kg

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Holiday On the Road

As we settle into the new year, I wanted to jot down some of the highlights of the holidays. This year for Christmas my family hit the road and headed South to California. The idea was a fun, family vacation with my parents, my sisters, their families and my little brother. We planned to start the holidays at my aunts in Camarillo, CA and spend the rest of the trip in the quaint beach town, Huntington Beach, CA. My husband and I decided to mix up the trip (and save some money) by driving down. I think this was one of our best choices of the trip. It was very relaxing driving down the 101 through the Redwood Forest, along the Pacific Coast, seeing all the beauty that is out there. During the trip through the Red Woods we discovered another traveling company, 7cees.org (looks like a very cool organizaiton). We made a detour into San Francisco so our girls could see the Golden Gate Bridge and met a friend in Palo Alto (thanks for the cookies April!). We took our time and enjoyed the ride. And of course, as I promised my girls we made sure to drive through a tree!

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On Christmas Eve, we started our day by watching the surfers and playing at Pismo Beach. Then we arrived at our hotel to swim and freshen up before we enjoyed the Seven Fishes Dinner with my extended Sicilian Family. There was plenty to eat and drink and lots of songs sung and laughs had. It is always a treat to meet new cousins and connect with the ones we don’t see very often.

Christmas in a hotel room is an interesting adventure, with 2 little girls that still believe, the story of how Santa finds us in our hotel room, gets in and puts out presents is actually a little creepy. I am pretty sure my 8 year old knows whats going on but she doesn’t want to let on. On Christmas morning the presents appeared and we tore them apart and then enjoyed some complimentary breakfast at the hotel! Christmas in California is another interesting experience, the sun was shining, it was warm and I was able to take a walk with no coat – what a concept. I do enjoy the snow on Christmas, but if there is no snow, I will take the sun!

The next day we headed South again, on to Huntington with a stop in LA to visit with the cousins. We visited Kermit the Frog’s house (a neighbor of cousin S & H), the Hollywood walk of Stars, met Shrek and ton of other crazy characters, we took an awesome walk in the hills and had some delicious Mexican food on Hollywood Blvd. When we arrived in Huntington Beach, we were the last ones, which means we got last pick on the rooms. Of course, I don’t like to complain but unfortunately our room had 2 doors and was basically a breezeway to both sides of the house. Needless to say, not much privacy. But of course that didn’t stop us from having fun. We completely enjoyed the Beach, we took runs & walks on the beach trail, Andrew and I ran almost 7 miles barefoot on the beach. The girls had a fun day splashing in the water. I spent that afternoon paranoid they were going to get pulled into the riptide. I figure if I lived in CA near a beach, that is something I would have to get over.

Of course when in So Cal, you can’t miss Disneyland! We started by fueling up at IHOP, which included another cousin visit! Then we hit the park. My sister Chrissy took charge and we all followed. I tried to make sure all kids were accounted for and then just followed along. Even though the park reached maximum capacity (80,000 people) at 10:30am, we still got on all the great rides, we learned the 5 year old twin cousins both love roller coasters and we had a super, fun time.

During the entire trip we had tons of amazing dinners and lots of lively conversations. And still fit in plenty of downtime. We did smores on the beach with our big bon fire which is so cool in December. And we watched lots of surfers catch some amazing waves. It is such an amazing culture – the Beach Life – get up, go surfing, head to work. Or take a run on the beach, pop into the ocean, then on to real life. I definitely think I could get used to it. To finish the year and the end of our trip, we spent New Year’s Eve day exploring Marina Del Ray by sailboat, another side trip to visit cousins S&H. The evening of NYE was mellow as we had to pack up and travel home the next day.

Overall the week was great. I was happy to spend time with my family that I don’t see very often. Since my sister and her family live in Virgina and my brother is in Montana, these vacations are the only chance we get to spend time together. I am grateful we had the opportunity to have this trip. I had some great talks and walks with my family and I am happy for that. As for the romantic, quiet vacation with my husband, well, that we will have to plan another time. This was not that trip. This was about the larger family, cousins hanging out together, family dinners and tons of chaos. After this trip, I am ready for another, the trip down the coast is a fun adventure that I hope we get to try again. Maybe another trip to Disneyland or just a week to hang out on a new beach! We will just have to wait and see, until next time. — kg