Friday, July 18, 2014

Oh Canada, eh!

After months of reading, planning, and reserving, John and I joined my family on Vancouver Island for a Potter family vacation. We left exceptionally early... Early enough for me to be missing mascara, early enough for John to think this was a good look. ;)

The final hop from the US mainland to our Canadian island adventure was on an old school, leather seat "prop job". 

First stop was Butchart Gardens. Liam was instantly enamored by John and 
insisted on being in many of our pictures that day.

amazing assortment of fuchsias

 My sister Shanna, the midget, and JD

After checking into Hotel Rialto in downtown Victoria, we headed over to the Irish Times Pub for dinner. Yummy curry, local beer, and a lovely pub atmosphere. :) 

What is that piece of hair doing???

Two blocks down the street and we were on the water. 

Olympic Mountains (US) in the background

Completely unedited sunset :)
British Columbia Provincial Parliament
THE FOLLOWING DAY we woke up to a beautifully clear Canadian morning and headed down to Fisherman's Wharf for a little whale watching with Eagle Wing Tours.  They provide you these enormous wet/warm suits that ended up being incredibly necessary. 

We started out looking all cool but then quickly added the layers, gloves and all!

We ended up seeing about 20+ whales around San Juan Island that morning. I have been lucky enough to have been left in awe of the world in which we live twice: once while watching midnight lava in Hawaii, and this week when I saw a whale in the wild close enough that, with good tailwind, may have been within spitting distance. :) To see the super close whales, watch the video link above.

We also got to see some super cute harbor seals and their pups. 

The rest of the evening, John and I explored Victoria on foot. First stop was Beacon Hill Park, which truly puts most American city parks to shame. Populated by old growth redwoods, Douglas firs, beautiful flower gardens, and nesting herons, we were genuinely impressed as we wandered the pedestrian roads winding through the park. 

 Beautiful section of redwoods AKA heron poop-fest 2014

At the very southern tip of the park and island we found a beautiful rocky beach. The driftwood, cool winds, and sounds of the water rushing through the smooth rocks made you want a campfire and a beer. :) 

My feet are in Canada. The mountains are in Washington. :)
Later that night we visited Darcy's Pub. Here's a Darcy sitting at Darcy's drinking The Darcy. :)

OUR SECOND FULL DAY AS PSEUDO-CANADIANS we ventured into the Great White (or green) North for some hiking at Goldstream Provincial Park. It's also of important note that this was the first of the next 3 days that I forgot to bring my good camera. Everything is from my stupid little iPhone...

the OTHER Niagra Falls... for real

A little wiggling and hopping of fences brought us to the top of the waterfall. I tried to get a picture looking down at the pool below. 

John did a little of his own hopping to get over to this photo spot. In the process he ripped the crap out of his shin leaving an enormous bloody bruise.

We finally got to the top of the hill/mountain and found this abandoned railroad bridge. We walked across the top of the bridge. I only NEARLY wet my pants. 

You can't tell, but this bridge is probably 30+ floors above a river below. It took my spit at least 8 seconds to hit the foliage below. Super scary. Super awesome.

After hiking, we drove to Duncan to see totem poles and have a kitschy dinner. Here's just another of the many roadside photo-worthy stops. 

random Duncan street art
Liam ♥ John

Tuesday night, Shanna, JD, John, and I headed for The Bard and Banker for some classic British pub time. 

WEDNESDAY WAS A WONDERFUL DAY. We woke up when our bodies decided to wake up. John got a call that he was moving into a different, far superior position at his school, and we had afternoon tea at The Empress!

The rest of the day was pretty relaxed. We hung out at the park with Liam, ate Caribbean food (go figure) downtown, and then called it a day. That night, John and I had drinks at Cafe Veneto and ate the most delicious fried brussel sprouts...YUM!

OUR FINAL FULL DAY was spent in Sooke. We hiked along the Sooke River until we found the famed potholes, deep swimming holes in the rocks created by glaciers. The beautiful weather and shockingly comfortable water temperature made us incredibly disappointed that our swimsuits were back at the hotel. 

Not potholes but pretty

 We had to actually climb down a somewhat precarious path to get down to the potholes. SO FUN! The potholes were quite deep and filled with the clearest of water. The next time we go up to Vancouver Island you better believe we'll be wearing swimsuits. :)

At this point my parents and sister's family had hiked further along the river until the reached a pebble beach. Once we found them, John (who was wearing Keen's) volunteered to give me a piggy back ride across the river, which of course ended up with us BOTH in the river. :) 

The rest of the day we hung out at my parents' campground visiting, beveraging, and entertaining the midget. John is a pro. My nephew is madly in love with him. :) 

BRIGHT AND EARLY, we flew back to Texas and shockingly into the same temperatures we left in Canada! It was a wonderful vacation. I very much enjoyed getting to see my entire family and baptizing John into the silliness that comes with all of us together. We jokingly/seriously contemplated how much it would cost to stay on Vancouver Island for just a few more days last night but instead came home with great stories to tell and visions of future vacations. :)