We have returned from our wonderful time away in the magnificent city of Victoria, British Columbia. The best way to share our adventures is with a little photojournalism. So, here you go.
The first leg of our flight was from Phoenix to Seattle. After a short layover, they lead us out the gate to our plane. Wait. What? I'm not a fan of flying in big planes, so you can imagine my shock (fear) when they guided us to this for our final leg of the journey to Victoria:
But, alas, I survived. I put my headphones on and closed my eyes for the majority of the flight - which was only thirty minutes. We were greeted at the airport in Victoria by the charming, witty and wise Heather McHugh. Heather drove us to our hotel where we were escorted to our 9th floor suite with a balcony view of the harbor and the Olympic Mountains in the distance. Spectacular!
View from our window. If you look closely, you can see the snow-covered tips of the Olympic Mountains through the clouds
We quickly changed and were whisked off to dinner at "the hottest restaurant in Victoria" for fine dining at Cafe Brio.
pictured with one of the owners of Cafe Brio
The next morning, Mark and I got up and walked around the neighborhood and down to the harbor, which was about a mile and a half from the hotel. One of the first things I noticed along our walk was this:
(I've decided that Willow Trees are my "sign" from Jack)
We walked to the end of the pier
and were awed by the view
Around noon, Heather picked us up and drove us around the city, pointing out places of interest and taking us to another fine dining establishment for lunch.
the lovely Heather McHugh
After lunch Heather dropped us back at the hotel and Mark and I ventured out on our own walking to the inner harbor and downtown Victoria.
We saw a lot of this along our many walks -- hanging flowers.
Not something you see often in Arizona. So pretty!
the famous Empress Hotel
The Parliament Building. The entire building is lit at night, but it didn't get dark until almost 10 o'clock every night and by then, I was too tired to walk back to the downtown area.
We didn't fall for this (been there, done that in New York City's Central Park)
the inner harbor
Saturday evening, we met Heather for a night of entertainment at Hermann's Jazz Club. The evening's entertainment was awesome Celtic music by the young and talented "Kierah" and her accompanists.
Sunday we were on our own. We toured the Royal BC Museum, saw an IMAX movie on Vikings, window shopped and stopped for lunch at a pub along the way.
Sunday evening, we walked several miles along the shore and found our spot to watch the sunset from. It was colder than cold (for an Arizonan), but we brought coats and blankets along with to keep us warm.
our path along the shore
not sure what it's called that these guys are doing -
para sailing without the boat - completely wind-driven
Call me a dork, but at least I was warm!
sunset looking West
sunset looking East
Monday, Heather took us to the world famous Butchart Gardens. We enjoyed noon tea before our tour.
there's that tree again!
Took a 45-minute cruise through the bay at the Gardens
We finished the day by enjoying another wonderful dinner in the company of the charming and generous Heather. After dinner, Heather dropped us off and we were on our own the rest of the week, as Heather had to be in Portland for a speaking event later in the week. I was doing great and enjoying the time away, knowing that Eric and Hilary were being well looked out for at home. Then, I got this text from Eric on Monday evening
Made me want to cut the trip short and hurry home. A week is a long time for a kid to be without both his parents. But, we talked on the phone and he was okay.
Tuesday, we rented a car and drove to Goldstream Provincial Park because I wanted to try and get some hiking in. We stopped at the information center and asked about the different hiking trails. One of the hikes was to the top of Mt. Finlayson. I asked how difficult it was and was told that it was rugged and steep. I asked if it was as steep as the Grand Canyon and was told "no". So, I told Mark, "let's go for it". The first three quarters of the hike were a steady climb through beautiful vegetation - "The park is home to 600 year old Douglas Fir trees and western red cedar, mixed with western yew and hemlock, red alder, big leaf maple and black cottonwood."
We encountered wildlife along the path
The last quarter of the trail went from tall trees to shrubs and rocks. When the park employee said the hike was steep, she didn't mention that it would require scaling rocks. I had to climb the last part of the trail by literally using both hands to pull myself up the side of the mountain. It was scary as hell, but I had made it that far and there was no way I was going to stop so close to the top. Mark didn't attempt the rock scaling part of the climb because he was wearing jeans and there was no way he could climb in them. I was questioning my sanity as I ventured on, but I made it to the top!
proof I made it to the top
views from the top
I pretty much slid down the mountain on my butt until I got back to where Mark was waiting for me - it was much safer that way. I was a little scraped and bruised, but I can now say that I hiked to the top of a mountain in Canada. Cool!
back at the start of the trail
After our hike, we drove west up the coast for about 30 miles. I was looking for sandy beaches, but those aren't to be found along the northwest coastline. I'm not a fan of rocky beaches, but the views were spectacular, nonetheless.
Later that evening, while we still had the car, we drove east from our hotel along the coast.
random chairs out on the rocks along the shore
Tuesday was a long day and I was exhausted when my head hit the pillow that night.
Our last full day was spent walking around downtown Victoria, taking in the views, doing a little shopping for the kids, checking out a few pubs along the way and, thanks to Caregifted, I enjoyed a one hour massage in the afternoon.
Thursday we made one last stop at our favorite eating and drinking establishment that was about a mile from our hotel.
brunch of champions!
and soaked in one last view of amazing Victoria!
The tears didn't fall as much as I thought they would during our time in Victoria. I suppose it's because it was a new place that didn't hold any memories of Jack. One of the times that I did cry was when we were shopping for souvenirs for the kids and I realized that I didn't need to get a gift for Jack because Jack wouldn't be waiting for me when I got back home. Oh, how I miss my sweet boy.
Notwithstanding the few moments of sadness, I am forever grateful to Caregifted and Heather McHugh for the week of respite and renewal. It was such a privilege to spend time with Heather and learn more about who she is and what motivated her to start Caregifted. There's still much to be done in the area of respite for caregivers, but Heather has started something that gives attention and momentum to the cause.
Thank you Heather for your generosity and kind heart.