Victoria, BC: Six Years Ago and Now

These past few weeks have been such a roller coaster. I have neglected writing on this blog for some time even if I have so many ideas in my head that I would love get out there. Right now, all I can think of sharing is the special weekend trip my husband and I made to the beautiful city of Victoria, British Columbia a couple of weekends ago. We were celebrating our 6th wedding anniversary. We figured that going back to the place where we went for our short and sweet honeymoon is just what we need.

Victoria is your quintessential tourist destination boasting its history and British-influenced culture set against the beauty of nature. Though it is the capital city of British Columbia, it’s rather small, which makes it walk-friendly. When my then new husband and I visited six years ago, we took our car aboard the Washington State Ferry. We had the freedom to drive to farther attractions like the marvelous Butchart Gardens. This time around, we hopped on the Victoria Clipper from downtown Seattle, which is a passenger only vessel. We explored the city on foot and enjoyed every bit of it.

Here are a few photos from both visits. You can totally tell which ones are from six years ago from the most recent ones. 😉

newlyweds at the Butchart Garden looking towards the Sunken Garden

newlyweds at the Butchart Garden looking towards the Sunken Garden

with the colorful orca sculpture at the waterfront walk

August 7, 2006: I was compelled to have a photo with this colorful orca sculpture along the waterfront walkway

August 4, 2012: I was compelled to reenact that pose with that same sculpture. 🙂

We’ve always loved going to parks, and six years ago, we briefly visited Beacon Hill Park. It was already getting dark so we didn’t explore much of it. I made sure we went back to that park during the day. It reminded me a bit of NYC’s Central Park. It’s 200 acres right in the city of Victoria with. It has a lake, ponds, and fountains and even a petting zoo.

August 8, 2006: Stuart and I posing by one of the ponds. Look how tiny we were! 😀

August 5, 2012: Back at Beacon Hill Park on the very day of our anniversary. Happy 6 years to us!

I promise to post more about Victoria before the month ends. It’s a charming place perfect for a weekend trip with someone you love. XOXO

Categories: Attractions, British Columbia, Canada, Experience, Parks, Victoria | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Girl Time at Green Lake Park

One of my favorite things to do in Seattle is to walk around Green Lake. A freshwater lake located in the north central Seattle, the park around it is a popular place with Seattleites. This summer, my girl friends and I made an agreement to do walking dates around the lake. We stayed true to this pact, and we have gone a few times since.

On our most recent walking date, I decided to bring my camera because I wanted to get a few shots to help illustrate why my friends and I enjoy our 2.8-mile walk around the lake.

Our conversations are frequently put on pause due to the number of adorable dogs that we encounter along the way. We point and “ooh” and “aah” at a lot of them, and sometimes, their masters would even let us pet their furry friends.

Lovely tree-lined walking trail perfect for a nice leisurely stroll with your friends and many of them four-legged pals!

But seriously, who wouldn’t want to hang out with these fun-loving ladies?

Steph and Laura exuding energy and excitement at the parking lot

Some hula-hoop action before we started our walk about.


Shaking what our mommas gave us.
L-R: Steph, yours truly, Vicki, and Laura

The flora and fauna in this area is surprisingly diverse considering its central location and not that far from the bustle of downtown Seattle. While we didn’t see any this time, there are turtles that hang out on logs around the lily pads. I think they weren’t there because it was getting dark.

A group of ducks parading in an organized fashion.

Motorized water sports are banned from the lake, so no noisy dinghies can disrupt our juicy gossip sessions. Pedal boats, canoes, and kayaks are available for rent as well as boards for paddle surfing.

Paddling her way around the lake, this lady had a great view from the water.

And you can’t go wrong with watching the amazing summer sunsets here. As we ambled on, the sky’s magical display as our background didn’t fail to lift our spirits after a full day at work.

A lot people come to fish here; I still don’t know what kind of fish they catch (if any).

Pure magic happening in the sky.

A local favorite, Green Lake is a great place for unwinding. While the trail gets really crowded as the weather gets nicer, there is also plenty of green space for a picnic or simply for people watching … or both! My girl friends and I had a blast as usual, and even better, we ended our date on a sweet note with cupcakes at nearby Cake Envy!

Categories: 42nd State, Attractions, Parks, Photography, Seattle, USA | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Livin’ La Vida Local: The Seattle Central Library

I have been thinking of ways to share my local explorations and experiences here in the beautiful state of Washington as part of this blog. I am fortunate to live in such a place blessed with natural beauty and a unique cultural vibe. It would be silly of me not to feature all the things that I love about living here, and hopefully you will be convinced to come visit! 🙂 So my first post is about the Seattle Public Library’s Central Library. This is inspired by a correspondence with the beautiful soul, Hanny @beradadisini, about books, bookshops, and libraries.

Fifth Avenue entrance and facade

The unusual design of this building peaks people’s attention upon first sighting. Designed by Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Ramus of OMA/LMN, it looks more like a modern art museum than a public library. On my way there, I happened to be walking by two couples and overheard one of the ladies talking about how she and her husband were in Seattle to catch their cruise ship to Alaska, and they chanced upon the library. The woman went about how “unusual the design is” and how it is impressive as a functioning library. I was tempted to interject, but I kept moving along. I entered via the Fifth Avenue entrance, and every time I step in there, I am reminded by how big this building is — a work of art, housing thousands of books available for the masses to borrow and read.

Upon entering the building, I find myself on Level 3 and the area that is referred to as the Living Room. Book shelves are artfully arranged with plenty of comfortable seating to settle in for minutes or hours of reading. The space is also perfect for meeting up with friends and have a cup of coffee or hot chocolate from the Chocolati coffee cart.

The book stacks in the Living Room set on a carpet of foliage

One floor up is one of my favorite parts of the library; it is the level with all the meeting rooms. Everything is red — the walls, the stairs, the doors. Red is not my favorite color, but it always makes me feel like I’m in one of the Queen of Hearts’ chambers.

En Rouge: Meeting rooms can hold 25 to 200 people.

From the hall of eternal redness, I rode the elevator up all the way to the 10th floor, where the Reading Room is located. One can read their heart’s content up there and also enjoy views of Elliot Bay. There is a lookout, which provides a great vantage point for viewing the interior of the library. Personally, looking down from way up there tests my sensitivity to heights. It gives me the heebie-jeebies.

From the Lookout: a view of the Books Spiral down to the Living Room.

Instead of taking the elevator, I took the alternative route down. No, it’s not the stairs either. I traversed through the Book Spirals, which is interestingly designed so that the nonfiction collection is arranged in a way without breaking up the Dewey Decimal system classification on different floors or sections. I find this to be a brilliant idea because it allows users to browse the entire collection without having to use the stairs or needing to venture to a different part of the building. The spiral spans up to four floors, and elevators are still accessible on each floor.

A Numbers Game: The Books Spiral is a unique design while staying true to its purpose

As I continued on my descent, I frequently took breaks in between shelves to peruse the books that happen to catch my attention, and I spent more time in areas where certain subjects and publications are stored that are  more in line with my interests. A quiet stroll among shelves of books and racks of journals and magazines can be therapeutic.

Books on Travel

Travel: A subject matter that I naturally gravitate towards.

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” ~Charles W. Eliot

I finally found my way back to the third floor and decided to peruse what they have for fiction and summer reading. I found a table full of books with a joint theme of vampires and Abraham Lincoln. Then I realized it was in honor of the recently released movie — Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. I also found the area for teenagers, where they keep an extensive manga collection.

A man perusing the fiction shelves.

I looked at my watch, and it was almost time to head out. I headed one more floor down to the Children’s Library. I love visiting this fun and playful part of the library. It brings out the child in me as I walk through shorter book shelves with cute plush animals on top of them. Honestly, I also feel a bit of jealousy with the Seattle children because of how fortunate they are to have this awesome place and all the books available for them, which is a far cry from when I was a child in the Philippines. A favorite section of mine is the world languages; it’s where you can find books of children’s stories from all over the world. I still get a kick at finding the books in Tagalog.

Ang Ibong Adarna: a classic Filipino folktale, which I read over and over as a kid.

I love books, and I love to read and even when I’m traveling, I make it a point to stop by a local bookstore or library. Whether you’re a bibliophile or an avid fan of architecture and you find yourself in Seattle, stop by our local library. It’s doesn’t cost anything to go in and they even offer free architectural tours. The lady I overheard on the street described it as unusual, and it is. But in my opinion, the oddity of its design and structure is what makes it a perfect representation of Seattle’s world class quirkiness and techie-hipster vibe.

Central Library
1000 Fourth Ave, Seattle, WA 98104

Categories: 42nd State, Explore, Libraries, Seattle, USA | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Hawaii: The Big Island

My husband, Stuart and I went to Hawaii last month for a week, which was our second time visiting the Rainbow State. However, before I can write about this most recent trip, I would like to recap the experiences we had during our first visit back in 2009 to the island of Hawaii, AKA the Big Island. We took a direct flight from Seattle to Kona and spent 6 nights there. Stuart had been to the Big Island before when he was about 6 years old, so he didn’t remember much of it. I recall being super excited to experience a tropical island other than the one I had called home for 15 years. I was looking forward to great weather, spending time on the beach, swimming in the ocean, and eating fresh fruits that only grow in the tropics. Well, those were all accomplished plus a whole lot more.

We stayed at the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel in the Kohala Coast. It’s set right on a stretch of a beautiful golden sand beach. After years of living in the rainy Pacific Northwest, this area was nothing short of paradise to me.

Hapuna Prince Hotel

The Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel and the beautiful beach just steps from our room.

We rented snorkel gear for the whole time we were on the island, so we were able to take advantage of the great snorkeling spots. We saw a group of Hawaiian green sea turtles, locally known as honu, frolicking around the reefs near our hotel. Timed around Stuart’s birthday, his parents sent us on a snorkeling tour aboard the Fair Wind II, a well-equipped catamaran for a fun day out at sea. We sailed to the Kealakekua Bay Marine Preserve, which is also the site of the Captain Cook Monument. We had an incredible time observing the diverse marine life and making use of the boat’s 15-foot water slide and high dive jump.

Beautiful Kealakekua Bay and the Captain Cook Monument

Since it was our first trip to Hawaii together, we felt that we had to experience a luau, and so we did. Everyone told us that these luaus are pretty much tourist traps, so we were sufficiently warned. Our research pointed us to attend the luau at the Marriott Waikoloa, and we were glad we did; they put up a pretty good show, had an open bar serving stiff cocktails, and the food was great. It was where I first tried poi, haupia, and kailua pig. Best of all, this was where I discovered the awesome-ness that is the Hawaiian guava cake. OMG.

A luau is not complete without the thrilling fire dancer.

The youngest of the Hawaiian islands, it’s called the Big Island because it is the largest one of them and still growing! As my birthday present to Stuart, I took him on a helicopter tour allowing us to witness the creation of new land as we flew over the Waikupanaha ocean entry. This refers to the area where lava enters the ocean straight out of the vents. Before getting to this point we hovered over the Puʻu ʻŌʻō vent, which has been active for as long as I have been alive. My fear of heights is no secret, and flying over an active volcano in a helicopter was terrifying. I only held on to my sanity because I found that looking through my camera lens tricks my mind blocking thoughts of impending doom. Oh, the things you do for your loved ones :)!

The Puʻu ʻŌʻō vent reminded me of Mordor from Lord of the Rings

Lava hitting the ocean creating new land

While on the Hilo side of the island, we stopped by to check out Rainbow Falls, but we didn’t see any rainbows because we got there in the afternoon, and apparently, rainbows are more likely to form in the morning. It was still pretty scenic, and it felt like an oasis in the relatively bustling city of Hilo.

Cave beneath Rainbow Falls

We then took the infamous Saddle Road that cuts across the island back to Kohala. This road was used for transporting supplies across the island, and there were definitely rough parts and we only hoped that our rented Jeep Wrangler would not lose any of its parts. There are no rest stops, so if you really have to relieve yourself, you’ll have to do it out there in the wild, so you might as well take it as an opportunity to commune with nature. Driving down Saddle Road offers great views of the gigantic volcanoes: Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.

Somewhere along Saddle Road, where portions of it don’t have any cell service.

In all of the exploring that we did around the island, I would have to say that Waipio Valley is the most scenic. The view from the lookout is breathtaking. It was like looking at a painting. I was in such awe staring at the majestic green cliffs rising above the ocean, and it was impossible not to feel small and insignificant.

Stuart taking a photo from the lookout

Referred to as the Valley of the Kings, we explored the mystical Waipio Valley floor on horseback passing by taro fields and crossing streams. We did this excursion with our friends at Na’alapa Stables. The guides were fun, and took great care of us who had never ridden on horses for a significant length of time. Stuart is not a fan of horses, but I made him do it anyway especially after I went on that helicopter ride with him. 🙂 After all, marriage is supposed to be about compromising, right? Fortunately for him, Sally — his horse —  did not run wild and throw him off, and he enjoyed our little trek.

One of the shallower stream crossings that we did.

On our last full day, we drove out to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where we learned more about the volcanic activities that created the island and continues to add more to its area. We stood by the gaping Kilauea caldera imagining how it was filled with hot lava not too long ago. It was a sight to behold. The terrain around the caldera was wild, and we almost forgot that we were in Hawaii because of the volcanic rocks around us and the permeating smell of sulfur coming from the steam vents.

The Kilauea caldera at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

My first Hawaiian experience was memorable. There were certainly other attractions that we missed and activities that we could have done, but that just means we have things to look forward to the next time we find ourselves there. While lazily lounging at Hapuna Beach watching stunning sunsets was something we got used to easily, we knew that our next Hawaiian vacation would be on one of the other islands.

Mahalo Hawaii!

Categories: Attractions, Beach Vacation, Explore, Hawaii | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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