Tag Archives: Travel

A Day in Victoria BC

Well, it’s been two months since we took this trip but my excuse is that you may find it more enjoyable to visit now that the summer high season has ended. (How’s that for turning procrastination into a benefit?) Fewer tourists and cruise ships make it a lot nicer to maneuver through downtown. On the minus side, though, it’s more likely to rain so the crossing could get a bit rough.

I won’t begin to attempt a comprehensive travelogue, especially at this late date. There’s a ton of info online, after all. The lovely thing about Victoria is that you leave the very American city of Seattle and three hours later it feels as though you’re in Europe. Heaven for an Anglophile like me.

We stayed in Seattle the day before and the day after, which made for a nice little getaway. There’s plenty to do in both cities if you have time.

But if you only have 24 hours, as we did, here’s a quick snapshot.

We board the Victoria Clipper ferry in downtown Seattle. Food and drink options, plus a basket of free chewable Dramamine. Because who wants to be sitting near someone who’s seasick for three hours? (Tip: half a tablet keeps your stomach calm without making you too sleepy.)

(Can we say “Bad hair day?!?”) Arrive at Victoria’s Inner Harbour around noon. Check in at our hotel, the Grand Pacific, which is modern and spacious.)

Lunch: Steamship Grill and Bar. Waterfront views and delicious seafood in a beautiful Beaux Arts building. A glass of wine and now I really feel that I’m on vacation. Check out this adorable water taxi!

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Walk off lunch: Victoria’s easy to get around on foot. Other attractions, such as the famous and gorgeous Butchart Gardens, are a short ride away.

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IMG_2573Up Government Street past Parliament and Royal BC Museum…

FullSizeRender (3)to Market Square, lower Johnson St. shopping area (LoJo to the locals) and Canada’s oldest Chinatown.

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After sampling a couple of chocolate shops, my recco is Pure Lovin’ Chocolate in twisty, cramped, Dickensian Fan Tan Alley, named after a popular gambling game from the 1940s.

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Rare photo of husband looking relaxed!

IMG_2561 (1).jpgThere are flowers everywhere!

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Amble back to hotel via Wharf Street to enjoy views of ferries and seaplanes.

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Cocktails and dinner: If you don’t opt for the Empress Hotel’s lavish and pricey afternoon tea — or aren’t staying there — grab a drink before dinner in the Q bar and scarf down their yummy charcoal-dusted popcorn.

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IMG-2563The restaurant is good too.IMG_2567.jpgIMG_2569.jpg

 

After dinner, stroll through the public spaces and lavish grounds of this venerable grande dame, and see the government buildings all lit up.

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The next morning, we grab some coffee and explore the neighborhood, which is quiet and peaceful. IMG-2578IMG-2577Winding up with a scenic walk along the Foster pathway, named for (and presumably funded by) David Foster, Canadian musician and ex-husband of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’ Yolanda.

We catch the 11:30 ferry back to Seattle, which arrives at 2:15 pm — time to enjoy the city!

Do’s and Don’ts for Your Visit to Lisbon, Porto and Beyond

For my last post about our recent trip to Portugal, I was inspired by the wonderful photography and stories of blogger The Insatiable Traveler and want to share some of my photos along with a few suggestions and observations.

DO pack hiking boots or sturdy shoes to manage the steep hills. I can’t say this enough!

DO eat a hearty breakfast. All our hotels included lavish buffets in the room rate, which set us up perfectly for a day of exploring.

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DON’T be intimidated if you don’t speak Portuguese. Learn a few key phrases and politely ask someone if he or she speaks English. Most do, especially in the larger cities.

DON’T speak Spanish instead. There’s a long history of discord with Spain, and Portuguese is not a dialect but its own distinct language.

DO venture into grocery stores. I love seeing how local products are different from the brands I get at home, and people are friendly and helpful.

DO rent a car and tour the beautiful countryside.

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DON’T expect world-class museums. If you’re used to the Louvre, Prado, British Museum, Met or Uffizi, you’ll find museums in Lisbon to be charming but not on the same level.

DON’T forget to look up, down and sideways. Many buildings still retain their original azulejos (tiles) and the cobbled streets often have intricate designs.

DON’T you wish your commute was this stunning? The São Bento train station in Porto is covered with tiles depicting festivals, transportation and historic scenes.

DO visit the port lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia and go wine tasting in the Douro Valley.

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DO try vinho verde, the light, refreshing “green” wine that’s young and slightly effervescent.

DON’T expect high-end shopping. Instead, splurge on local crafts and designers.

DO bring home some hand-painted pottery. Prices are way lower than in the States and the quality is magnificent.

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DO have lunch at Casa do Leão when you’re exploring the Castel São Jorge in Lisbon. The food is good and the view over the city is spectacular.

DO visit historic Coimbra, a short drive from Lisbon. It’s home to one of the world’s oldest universities — worth the trip for the ornate chapel and examination hall, medieval library (which maintains a bat colony to eat insects that could destroy the books) and academic prison, where misbehaving students served time. (Good thing this wasn’t my alma mater!)

DO try local specialties, such as porco à alentejana, an unlikely but delicious combination of chopped pork and tiny clams.

DO ride the tram (especially #28), an inexpensive way to tour Lisbon. However, DON’T bother with the pedi-cabs unless you negotiate a price; they can be more costly than a taxi.

DO visit the markets for the vast array of produce, snacks or lunch among the locals, and great people watching.

DO be aware that tips aren’t generally included in the bill. Leave 10%.

DON’T plan on eating dinner early, though it won’t be as late as in Spain. Most restaurants, even in hotels, open around 7:30 p.m.

DO have a fantastic trip and tell us all about it!