Saturday, August 31, 2013

Victoria, Day Deux

A gorgeous day full of sunshine, writing, a lot of walking, and many sights seen.

First stop: Munro's, aka The Prettiest Bookstore I've Ever Seen

Next stop: The Empress, to ogle both exterior and interior

There's a pretty waterfront walkway that goes all the way around the harbor past all the fancypants hotels and condos and then out around the point by the Strait, complete with houseboats, sea stars, crabs, and a mini Fisherman's Wharf. I followed it all the way around to the back side of Beacon Hill Park, with great views and bright sun the whole way. 

 Two divers heading out by the breakwater

Sea star and mast reflection

Next up, Beacon Hill Park, with winding pathways between spreading oaks, and then groomed and flower-filled lawns and ponds with willows weeping and peacocks wandering around. Here I found a bench and rested my legs while journaling for awhile, then heard some live music start up not far away. This turned out to be a free concert of my favorite brand of music: rollicking Celtic/Folk, heavy on the fiddle.

Wandering back into town, I slurped on an ice cream cone while sitting on the lawns of the legislative buildings as I did yesterday afternoon, watching the hubbub of the last Saturday of summer on the waterfront. This weekend has everything going on- boat festival, blues festival, buskers everywhere, and even apparently Taylor Swift is in town tonight. Accordingly, there were absolute throngs of people everywhere.

With a break in the late afternoon back at the hostel and then another after a delicious seafood dinner, I put on an extra layer and headed back out to see what Victoria is like after dark. The answer, at least on a Saturday night at the end of August: hopping. And lots of pretty lights on the buildings and the water. Every shop and restaurant still open, blues music blasting from the waterfront, carriages going up and down the streets, and tourists everywhere. 

And, for the record, any city that does this to its legislative building at night wins in my book:

Friday, August 30, 2013

Victoria, solo: Day 1

Victoria, British Columbia (is where I am!)

I've been excited for this trip for awhile, plus I'm excited to do a little travel blogging- now here I am in this gorgeous jewel of a city, full of sails and seagulls and flowers and history!

First impressions:  
:: this is a friendly city. People are smiley, friendly, eager to give directions, and of course diverse. I love being back in a place where there are people of every color and language and accent, and also some of those small delights like being able to buy Digestive biscuits to have with my tea. So far it's a nice balance of feeling that I'm in a foreign place, yet not feeling completely lost by the differences since many basic facets of life are the same here (cars drive on the right, we mostly have the same words for things). Also it's nice that I don't stick out like a sore thumb as I did in New Zealand and other places, Canadian accents and American accents being quite similar. In fact, I've already had a couple people ask me for directions, presumably laboring under the delusion that I was a local (a notion of which they were quickly disabused when they found out I was just as unfamiliar with the layout of the city as they were).

::this is a pretty city. Gorgeous architecture, hanging flower baskets everywhere, colorful facades and awnings, lovely public art etc. At least in the downtown/city center portions where I have been. Case in point:

Oh, and the ferry ride coming here was great. Having taken the train to Seattle last night, I took the 7:30 AM sailing of the Victoria Clipper to get here (Laurel deserves huge props for being my late night/early morning taxi service). The Victoria Clipper is a pedestrian-only high speed catamaran, which is very comfortable and leaves an awesome wake like this:

It was a three hour crossing, and very pleasant. I shared a table with two nice couples (one of them purchased champagne and orange juice and poured me a mimosa!), did some knitting, spent some time on the outside deck, and saw a dozen or so dolphins throughout the ride, which basically made my day.

After ditching my pack at the hostel and grabbing some delicious Tibetan food for lunch (so many types of Asian food in this town. How am I going to try them all?!?), I spent several hours at the Royal British Columbia Museum, which was superb. They had an excellent exhibit about Robert Scott, Roald Amundsen and the race to the South Pole, which was on loan from the American Museum of Natural History and was very compelling/tragic. They actually had many of the original artifacts: both Scott and Amundsen's pocket watches, the letters that were found with the bodies of Scott's team, and all kinds of other things from the expeditions. The museum also had excellent exhibits about the local First Nations people, mining, timber and other parts of the BC economy. I would recommend that museum to anyone.

There is a classic boat festival happening in the inner harbor, so I wandered around and gawked at the beautiful boats (some which I had met before, here), pretty reflections and the fairly jaw-dropping backdrop to it all --the Empress Hotel and the BC Parliament buildings.

Beautiful chairs and geraniums on the top deck of a gorgeous boat? Yes, please.

When traveling by yourself, if you want to be in a photo you have to ask a stranger to take your picture, or believe in the power of a goofy selfie.

One of the oldest houses in Western Canada, and some very beautiful trees. 

The flowers and bustle of the Inner Harbor. Please note that this shot contains both a limo and a horse-drawn carriage.

So here I am, finally traveling in a foreign (sort of) country by myself, and it feels pretty good. I'm trying to challenge myself to not retreat into myself, which is fairlly easy to do when you're on the upper end of the age demographic at your lodgings. So I'm prodding myself to strike up conversations with people in the hostel kitchen, etc. It's always rewarding when I do; it's so cool to meet people from such a wide variety of places. I'm also trying to do this trip on a bit of a budget, so I brought along granola and clif bars from home for breakfast, plus tea and a few other snacks. There is a little market around the corner from the hostel with $1 bags of fruit (yay!) and I also bought sandwich fixings, allowing myself one meal out per day.

I'm looking forward to seeing what the next couple days bring. And it doesn't hurt that the weather is lovely, and predicted to stay lovely ("abundant sun") throughout the time I'm here.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Busy/Home Balancing Act

This summer has been an exercise in trying to feel grounded in my home while being away basically half of my time. It's a workout for my brain and body, trying to keep the balance between the busy, fun goings-on of summer and my need for the peace and quiet of home and "me time." It's been a ridiculously fun summer, and will continue to be: the next month is set to include a trip to Canada, a week of camping in Southern Oregon, another camping trip with my girlfriends, and a wedding in Spokane. But that leaves a grand total of about half of September in which I will actually be here in Portland.

 'Tis the season for peach salsa!

As fun as this season has been, I struggle a bit with being away from home so much. I love being social and I love seeing new places, but I always start to feel a little frazzled when I only get a few days a week in town before the next trip. Add in the fact that I've just started dating someone (which is great, but also takes up time I previously had to myself) and I have to work hard to maintain some routine and make sure I don't crash and burn from being on the go for too long at a time. Maybe I should say that this is all an exercise in intentionality: planning ahead, staying aware of my own needs, working on my ability to predict how I will feel if I do/don't have some down time by myself. I think having the ability to say no is crucial. If I were to say yes to every opportunity and invitation I have had this summer, I would be completely overwhelmed. As it is, I'm pretty pleased with the balance I've found.

 Zinnias and yarrow from my garden

I thrive on travel and time with my friends, but I am by nature a bit of a homebody and feel pretty scattered if I don't have sufficient time to spend alone in my apartment or garden, catching up on chores and cooking, and just reading and relaxing by myself. Knowing that fall is coming and the constant traveling stops at the end of September helps; remembering that there are cozy rainy stay-at-home-and-make-soup days on the way enables me to make the most of the summer (because yes, September is still summer in Portland).

This past weekend was the first I have spent in Portland in a month. It was pretty ideal: a fun social day on Saturday, and low-key social things Sunday morning and evening, but in between most of a day to myself. After a long bike ride in the first legit rainstorm in a couple months (in which I and every other cyclist got soaked because we have been lulled into a false sense of security by two months of sunny weather and did not have rain jackets with us), I mixed up a batch of bread for the first time in weeks, and left it to rise while I went to the coffee shop and spent a couple hours on job searching and catching up on emails. Then made the loaves and set them to rise while I cooked up a batch of vegetable stock from veggie scraps I've had in the freezer for awhile. My afternoon was speckled with cooking, washing dishes, planning for the week, reading, playing music and enjoying the rare day at home, with the windows open to let in the fresh air and the smell of the rain. These kinds of days are crucial to me; it's my way of recharging, collecting myself, and getting ready for the next adventure.

The community garden is a glorious forest of sunflowers right now.

I'm know I'm not the only one that struggles with keeping a healthy balance between home and social times/travel, particularly in the summer- I'd love to hear your stories and how you cope with being on the go all the time.

Continuing with the travels, tomorrow evening I head off to Victoria, British Columbia, for Labor Day Weekend. I'm looking forward to wandering a new city with my camera and journal, meeting new people and enjoying some foreignness, and dropping back into my travel blog routine for a few days! Hope you come along for the ride.

Friday, August 23, 2013

By the Sisters

The four days after my birthday were spent in the Three Sisters Wilderness in Central Oregon, in the company of an excellent gentleman friend and some absolutely stellar scenery. For many years I've wanted to hike at least a short stretch of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, and that has now happened. Backpacking in the high country comes with so many things you can't get anywhere else: perfectly clear alpine lakes, the fresh and bracing feel of the clean mountain air, picking huckleberries for breakfast every morning, the peace of no cell phones or computers, let alone the noise of traffic or neighbors; just birdsong, breezes, crickets, fish jumping and deer snorting in the night. Wildlife sightings included adorable pikas, deer, fat toads, curious chipmunks, hawks and many kinds of birds, and wacky big crickets climbing around on the tent at night. Perfect weather, almost no bugs, and the only blemish on the thing was the fact that I got horrific blisters on both heels on the second day and had to finish the trip in my Keens. The whole thing was wonderful, but perhaps my favorite moment was perching on a rock in the morning sunshine at a ridgetop campsite, journal on my lap and pen in my hand, soaking up 360 degrees of stunning scenery and unable to think of any other location I'd rather be.

The chaos of packing.

The view from the first night's campsite.

Later, a mountain was discovered across the lake as the clouds cleared.

Skinnydipping in this lake may or may not have occurred...

On the Pacific Crest Trail in front of the South Sister.

An obsidian floe, sparkling in the bright sunshine. 

The Middle Sister.

Man with a map.

Granola and fresh huckleberries, eaten sitting on a fallen log: truly the breakfast of champions. 

Have you ever seen a cooler campsite? Yeah, me neither. 

Broken Top across the Wickiup Plains. 

Let's go back again soon, shall we?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


:: berries turned into jam in a sunny kitchen

:: a family reunion in Northern Idaho, with one of my best friends along for the ride

:: dilly beans

:: beautiful corners of Oregon

:: San Francisco with wonderful friends; crewing a sailboat around the bay

:: garden goodness

:: t-minus 7 months until I'm an aunt!

:: tomorrow I turn 29, then leave town to tick another box on my list of goals for the year: go backpacking for the first time in nine years.

Grassytop Mountain, Salmo-Priest Wilderness, August 15, 2004