Sunday, August 16, 2009

Victoria BC

So after scoring a prime parking spot the section of the marina right in front of the Empress, we got settled in and then LawyerX and I headed up to the Visitor Center which was just at the top of the causeway. We wanted to find out some information on getting to the Buchart Gardens. Which we did. And then I said to the cute-ish guy behind the help desk at the visitor center, "So where's the nearest gay bar?" And he's say, "Oh, it's not far. I can't remember it's name, it just changed it's name, but I can show you where it is on the map. It's not far at all." Yes, *it*. As in singular. Sigh. I thought Victoria was a little bit larger than that, but apparently not. As he's pulling out the map to show us where it is, he goes, "Now, I remember, it's called Paparazzi." And both LawyerX and I say, "Of course it is."

Fully armed with information for our stay in Victoria, we proceeded to explore the very cute downtown area which included a quick stop to Roger's for a carmel milkshake for me and a rootbeer float for LawyerX. Sorry, it had to be done. Afterwards, wegot our shopping on. We went to "The Bay" which is their version of Macy's I guess. All of the stores had Olympic gear in addition to the normal touristy stuff for sale. The 2010 Olympics are taking place in Vancover, so the Olympic marketing machine was in full gear. I did find the cutest little shirt for my niece that has all of the Olympic mascots on it. And since I got her something, I had to get the nephew one as well. And then I felt left out in the shopping so I bought one as well.
After shopping, we returned to the boat for evening cocktails and then dinner. Post dinner, we were ready for adventure into the exciting gay nightlife of Victoria. So we headed to Paparazzi! Well, the best thing I can say is the the bartender was kind of hot. Located in the basement, it had a fairly decent size dance floor considering, a smallish bar, a little sitting lounge area, and then some pool tables. As is typical for small town gay bars, they try to be all things to all people and don't do any of them really well. But we grabbed some drinks a
nd proceeded to watch the other dozen people in the bar. Sometimes it's all about the people watching. But it had been a long day and I bonked hard and we ended up leaving fairly early.

The next day, LawyerX and I got up early to walk the long walk to the showers. We changed clothes, went to get our tickets for the Butchart Gardens and then quickly walked to the buss that left at 0900. We got their at 0859. Atleast that's what time our ticket said. So we were cutting it close. I tried to pay attention to the bus ride, but really didn't. Once we left the city, it looked like the country side was pretty nice. It took a little over 30 minutes to get to the gardens. Now LaywerX kept saying that he was going to "drag me" to the gardens and despite the fact that I really did want to go, I wasn't sure what to expect.

Think of a Disney World for gardeners and flower enthusiasts.

It really as spectacular. Originally a quarry, the owner's wife worked to transform the quarry and then the surrounding area into a collection of different gardens with different themes, plants, flowers, etc. It was really incredible. And we were there at the perfect time of year. We were probably just past the full bloom of most of the flowers. And I took lots and lots and lots of pics. As you can tell. It really was quite amazing. And I'll say one of the best things about getting to the gardens so early was that it wasn't *that* crowded and we did get to wander quite a bit looking at all of the fantastic flowers, plants, and trees. And LawyerX and I got to spend some quality alone time and just talked as we wandered. So that was really nice.

After we wandered our way through the gardens we headed
back to Victoria where we had lunch at a small little bistro we had spotted the previous night. Bon Rouge was just a block off the main drag in downtown Victoria, but it had this open terrace area where LawyerX and Ijust sat and ate some
really good food and drank some really good beverages. And since it was Friday, it was $5 martini's. And who were we to say no to that. So we probably had one of the most leisurely and decadent lunches I canremember. And it was fantastic. Afterwards, we headed back to the boat so we could change in time for tea at the Empress.

The Empress is one of those famous old hotels that has been renovated several times and it's famous for it's high tea. So before we had set sail, we had made reservations for tea. So we all got dressed up in our "smart casual" wear and headed across the street from the causeway to the Empress Hotel. There was a very nice selection of tea, but almost all of us decided to go with the house special blend, "The Empress Blend", and I took mine with some milk and a couple of sugars. It was really delicious. In addition to the tea of course, you get the all of the little finger foods. AndOMG they were delicious. So tasty and if you liked one, you can ask some more of them. So we asked for seconds on the cucumber sandwiches (so light!) and the chicken curry sandwhiches (spicy, but not too spicy). It was very much a fantastic afternoon and we sit and chatted for while as we sipped our tea and noshed on the nibblies. Unfortunately between the very nice lunch and the fabulous tea, I was heading towards a very hard food coma. So we headed back to the boat where I proceeded to take a much needed nap. When I woke up, the sun was beginning to set in Victoria Harbor and the light was just amazing. I quickly snapped some photos and then went back to the ship to indulge in some more cocktails. And if you haven't gotten the clue that this trip involves a lot of eating and drinking then you aren't paying attention.

MuseumMan, Lawyer X, a
nd I headed back to Bon Rouge for some more drinks and a light dinner before hitting Paparazzi's. Our experience at Bon Rouge the second time was not a good. Despite there being a cute bar area, the whole interior of the bistro was reserved for a private party, so were back on the terrace. Which is fine, except the private party had a singer in the restaurant. A very loud singer. It was not too bad on the terrace when the doors were closed, but when one of the doors opened you couldn't hear the person next to you. They must have been deaf inside. Anyways, we had some more good food and $5 martinis before heading to Paparazzi's.

Now LawyerX and I had take some 5 Hour Energy shots, so we were flying. We get to the bar and it's a little bit more crowded. It is Friday night after all. But it's also "Friday Night Sass!" Yes, we're there on lesbian night. Well, ish. It was definitely mixed, but still mainly female. But that's okay. We're having a good time. We order our drinks and are a little surprised by the less that fabulous quantity of alcohol. While the drinks are cheap, we were expecting our martini glasses to be filled to the brim. Not so much. Because here in Victoria, you can only serve 2 ounces of liquor per drink. And no, you can't do doubles. So we started calling that the "Victoria pour." After a bit, the music started to improve and we actually got up to dance once or twice. The music was all over the place but they did play a couple of my favorite songs of the summer. But . . . I'm used to the extended dance versions of these songs. Long enough to really get into them and to work up a sweat. No so much here. Both of the songs were strangely short and didn't include some of the fun chorus or anthem parts of the songs. So we started calling them the "Victoria Mix." When you recognize the song, but the song is sort of short and a little bit tragic. We ended up bailing a little after 1AM and headed back to the boat.

The next AM, I got up early to take some early morning photos of Victoria Harbor. It was very quiet in the AM which was kind of nice and I did get some good shots. But it was an early departure from Victoria because we needed to get to Roche Harbor by early afternoon so we could get a good moorage there. So we said farewell to Victoria, BC and headed back to the United States.

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

DC to Victoria

So last year Museum Man invited me on his family's annual sailing trip up to the San Juan Islands in Washington state. We had a blast and it was so relaxing. And so this year he invited me again, and LawyerX as well. It would be the three of us, his Mom and stepdad, and then a couple they know from Wenatchee, Washington. And while LawyerX and I are going to Europe later this month, I really wanted to go. So we did.

Let me tell, first class is the only way to travel these days. Since we procrastinated in buying our tickets, I ended up using miles to get two first class tickets to Seattle. LawyerX is like 6'5", so he needs the legroom. And with a direct flight from Dulles to Seattle, we didn't have that OMG early get up that morning. Now I was a little concerned
about this trip because LawyerX hasn't seen me in my airplane mode. I see air travel as a series of obstacles to be overcome as quickly as possible and I never really relax until I'm actually in my seat on the airplane. But I think I managed to be fun and not to
o stressed. Mind you, we walked up to the gate and got immediately on the flight. So we were doing the just-in-time thing. Now they had switched out aircraft on us, so we weren't sitting together which kind of bummed me out. But, instead of seats, we got these kick ass little pods that actually let you lie flat. So nice. And some good quality entertainment with movies, games, and music. And the screwdrivers we had weren't bad either. We got to Seattle a couple of hours before MuseumMan, so we had lunch and then got manicures. Yes, we're that gay.

Once MuseumMan showed up, we got our bags and his Mom picked us up and we headed north to Anacortes which is the hopping off point for the San Juan Islands. Most of the north west ferries leave out of there and just on the opposite side of the ridge from the ferry
landing was the little marina where we picked up our boat. The Sienne. A 50 Bennato. For those who know those things. It was very nice and fairly spacious. And I say fairly because while we did get one of the
larger cabins, LawyerX is kind of big, and I'm not exactly petite myself. Needless to say there was a lot of banging of heads. But I digress. We loaded up the boat and started doing inventory while we awaited the rest of our party. They finally showed up and everything was squared away for a departure the next AM. That evening we had a fine dining experience at the Brass Lantern. Think small town dive bar/restaurant. I will have to say the fried olives were delicious!

The next day we got up, showered at the facilities at the marina (reminded me of being in a barracks!), had breakfast and then prepared to get underway. Since we had such experience sailors on board, they let us go without a ship check so we got underway a little
bit earlier than planned. Which was good because our plan was to bee line to Victoria so we can get a good moorage (parking spot) in front of the Empress Hotel. The weather was a bit cold and overcast. After a week of over 100 degrees heat which is really freakish for them, the pendulum swung the other way and we had highs in the lid 60s. So kind of chilly on the water. But of course, I loved it!

Anacortes is actually a little bit north of Victoria, so we had to swing a little bit south and sail just under Lopez island and then started to hug the coast of San Juan Island so we could cut straight across Haro Straight to Victoria. We did raise the sail once, but the wind wasn't really that strong and we had a mission, so we used the motor most of the day. As we approached San Juan Island, we got the binoculars our because that's where we would see whales if we were lucky. And boy were we lucky. We actually saw quite a few whales including one killer whale that breached, jumping out of the water, to slam itself back into the water. Quite spectacular. And I wish I had caught it on film, but I wasn't quick enough with my camera. But I did get a few semi-decent shots. Plus we did see some other wildlife. But eventually we had to leave San Juan Island and head to Victoria.

Sailing into Victoria is always so great. Such a pretty little town on the water. There were a couple of cruise ships who were there as well, but the sun had come out and the weather was great so it was a great trip into Victoria. After clearing Canadian customs (something we couldn't do last year, long story, don't ask), we got the princess parking in front of the Empress Hotel. Yeah!

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