My Mom flew up for a visit a few months ago and offered to watch our toddler, Owen, while we went away for the weekend. Our friends had recently mentioned that they had found an awesome deal for the Resort at Port Ludlow for the same weekend. We quickly texted them to make sure it was okay for us to hijack their trip and then we reserved our room.
It took us a few tries to get on the ferry in West Seattle (Friday evenings are rough) but we managed to get on the small ferry and start the trek to Port Ludlow. By the time we got to
What was really cool about the hotel is that our room was the same layout as our room at Willow's Lodge in Woodinville (absolutely amazing place for a romantic getaway!) Not only do they have a large soaking tub that is open to the room, but they have a fabulous fire place. The only drawback is that we couldn't see the TV from the bathtub, which is our ultimate setup.
We ate dinner with our friends at their on-site restaurant The Fireside. The food was very tasty and we ended up closing the place down. They were so nice about it, as they left us a pitcher of water and headed out so we could continue gabbing away in the empty restaurant. It was such a nice gesture!
We enjoyed the massages at the Ludlow Bay Massage and Wellness Spa before heading up to Port Townsend. We did a quick driving tour of historic Port Townsend before stopping to check out the shops. One of our favorite shops was Whistle Stop Toys and I found Owen a cute condiment set for his play kitchen. We also had lunch
While we were at the Port Ludlow Inn, I kept thinking that we needed to bring Owen this summer. The location was very peaceful and there were many beach opportunities nearby for wading in the water and digging in the sand. The hotel grounds were perfect for taking walks.
Outside of Port Ludlow, we'd probably check out the Olympic Game Farm in Sequim as a half-day trip. We'd also spend time up in Port Townsend eating lunch and visiting Whistle Stop Toys. And we'd need to check out Don's Soda Shop because it looked so nostalgic! Finally, we'd make a stop at the Port Townsend Aero Museum because we are nuts about airplanes in this family.
On our way to the Kingston ferry, we passed through Port Gamble, which is a quaint little town that looked like a fun place to stop for lunch on our next trip. We can't wait to return!
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When I found out I was pregnant for the second time, one of the first things I did was secure my maternity photo shoot. I know that sounds totally crazy, but I had a complicated pregnancy last time and spent my whole 3rd trimester in the hospital. Taking maternity photos was my chance to really celebrate this pregnancy and our growing family.
I decided to schedule the photo shoot on our 5th wedding anniversary at the same place where we did our wedding photos, so it'd be even more special. It's fun when dates work out like that! As part of our wedding, we sealed a time capsule that was to be opened in 5 years. We thought that incorporating the time capsule into our photo shoot would be a great way to celebrate and reflect on how much our lives have changed in 5 years.
We filled up a wagon with our props, and umbrella and a change of clothes for everyone. My toddler wanted to ride in the wagon, too, so it was quite full. We roamed around the garden and anytime our photographer found an interesting spot, we'd grab our toddler and do some photos.
I used a photography company that's known for doing formal shots as well as playful ones because that suits our personalities the best. We spent about 1/3 of the time looking at the camera and posing for photos. The rest of the time was spent interacting with each other and mostly laughing! Our toddler wanted to run around and explore halfway through the shoot, which gave us time to get shots of just my husband and myself.
We spent a lot of time tickling our toddler to get some big grins and used some phrases that always cracks him up. We also sang songs and chased him around. If your child has a favorite toy, that would also be a helpful tool in getting genuine smiles. By the end of the shoot, our son was posing himself and smiling for the camera!
5 Maternity Photo Shoot Tips:
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The Program for Early Parent Support (PEPS) has been around since 1983 in the Seattle-area. Their mission is to enable parents of infants and young children to build communities that empower them to meet the challenges of parenting through mutual support and sharing of information.
By the time I joined PEPS, I had endured a year of fertility testing/treatments, 3 months of bed rest (2 of which were in the hospital), an unscheduled c-section, and the NICU experience with my preemie son. While I know every pregnancy and birth is unique, I just wanted a "normal" experience for a change. I found out about PEPS through a friend of mine and I thought it might be a good way for me to get out of the house and meet other Moms. PEPS was instrumental in providing a safe haven to learn and grow as a new Mom.
My group was located in South King County (where I reside) and there were 7 sets of Moms and babies. It was reassuring to hear everyone's stories of how their baby arrived into their lives. We shared our highs and lows and had a topic (like feeding, sleeping, emotional changes, etc) each week.
It was such a relief to laugh about bad parenting advice we'd received, confess about our vices for surviving and open up about the realities of living with a brand new person. Being so open and honest with this group of women made it really easy for us to bond at a deep level. And it was fascinating to watch the babies grow and change every week! I left after every meeting feeling recharged and more able to navigate the new waters of balancing the needs of a newborn, my spouse and myself.
When our group ended, I was invited to their annual fundraising luncheon and I saw they were in need of more captains. In my past life, I was a special event fundraiser and I know how vital table captains are to a luncheon. One of the other Moms in my group asked if I'd like to co-captain a table with her and I knew I needed to do that. The luncheon was so inspirational and moving to me. I saw how many lives were affected by the program and how imperative it is for new parents to connect with other parents. It's too easy to hermit yourself in your home and let the isolation and depression take over.
While captaining a table at their annual fundraising luncheon, I was compelled to volunteer to lead a group. I co-led this group with another Mom from my PEPS group and we got so much joy out of the experience that I decided to lead 2 more groups after that. I also had the opportunity to assist in the Little Peppers program, geared for parents with toddlers and newborns. It really opened my eyes as to the challenges for raising two kids and the conversations were very different than in the Newborn Group.
One of my PEPS Moms recently told me that she did PEPS with each of her kids because it's important for them to have their own individual group of baby friends to grow up with. I'm taking this to heart as I figure out which PEPS program will be right for me when I have my second child.
I'm happy to report that all the PEPS groups I've been a part of have continued after the program has ended and they each have grown stronger as friends and allies. Something special happens when these groups get together. It's been so fun to watch the babies grow into toddlers and see them playing (and occasionally arguing) with each other. They made their first friends at 2 weeks-4 months olds and they always seem to recognize each other like no time has passed.
PEPS programs are available all over King County and South Snohomish County. They have programs for parents with newborns, babies ages 5-12 months, newborns and toddlers, and newborns and older children. PEPS recently just expanded their newborn program to Portland. Scholarships are available. For more information, visit www.peps.org.
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Mambino Organics Bun in the Oven
I'm a big believer in prenatal skin care. The first time I was pregnant, I was shocked at all the changes that happened just to my skin. And with this pregnancy, I noticed that there were different changes than before. I would never consider myself a crunchy, granola mom, but I am very particular about the products I use on myself when I'm pregnant and what I will put on my child. I've had mixed luck with organic body products in the past and was interested in seeing what else might be out there. I stumbled across Mambino Organics and was intrigued. They are passionate about their ingredients and source raw, environmentally sustainable ingredients of the highest quality directly from family owned organic and fair trade farms.
Mambino Organics sent me their Bun in the Oven skin care line for pregnant moms to try out. I really liked the packaging as it felt like I was opening up a present! As soon as I received it, I knew it would be PERFECT for traveling! The sizes are great to stash in a purse or an overnight bag and could easily be refilled.
Mambino Organic Moisture Me Body Toning Oil
I have been using body oils during this pregnancy and my first one. It really helps my skin feel taken care of. I always apply right after I shower and sometimes I apply again before bed if my skin feels extra tight or itchy. This body oil is a bit thicker than the ones I've been using, but that's a good thing. It almost has a creamy feel to it. I like that there isn't really a scent but there isn't that weird smell of unscented body products. It soaked into my skin pretty quickly.
When I checked my tummy about 8 hours later, I was borderline shocked that my skin was still soft and moisturized! This usually isn't the case with the products I have used in the past and normally I'd need to reapply at this point. I was able to wait until after my shower the next morning to apply.
Mambino Mandarin Creme Clarifying Body Wash
I really liked that the mandarin scent was light and didn't linger too long. This body wash is a bit thicker in consistency than others I have tried, which made for a really luxurious lather. This really sets it apart from other organic body washes. It definitely felt like there was some lotion in it, so I wasn't worried that my skin would dry out.
I tried it in both the bath and the shower and it worked well. I could barely reach my legs at this point in my pregnancy, but I was able to test it as a shaving cream. It lathers perfectly to use as a shaving cream and my legs felt so soft after.
Mambino Kissable Lips Glossy Lip Balm
I am an avid lipstick wearer. It runs in my family and I can trace my need for constant lipstick to my Great-Grandmother. It's ingrained in my brain that I'm not fully dressed until I put on my lipstick. Because of this, I usually mix lip balm with my all-day lipstick. I almost exclusively use lip balm in a tube because I don't like to get my fingers all goopy.
This product didn't leave much on my finger and I was able to just rub it into my skin. It was a bit tricky to get much on my lips, but maybe I wasn't digging into the container very hard. I think the Juicy Red Grapefruit must be the color because I didn't notice any scent to this lip balm. I appreciated that my lips didn't feel waxy or strange after I applied it and it stayed on my lips for longer than I expected. If this was offered in a stick form, I would be more into it.
Mambino Organics Oh Baby! Belly Butter
I love belly butters! They are usually thicker than typical lotion and they keep my skin moisturized for longer. It's amazing how quickly a pregnant belly can grow, even just during one day, and staying moisturized is key for comfort.
The Oh Baby! Belly Butter has been voted a "Top 10 Pregnancy Must Have" by Disney Editors. As opposed to a tradition body butter, this is more of the consistency of coconut oil. While I didn't appreciate having to dig out a chunk of it (because it got under my fingernails,) I loved how quickly it melted in my hands and easily spread all over my ever-expanding tummy. And it smelled really nice! Not too strong but very appealing. I've been obsessively touching my tummy since I started using the Belly Butter and my skin is so soft and hydrated. I also like that my hands don't feel sticky or greasy after applying. I'm able to take the lid off my deodorant without any issues, which is the real test!
Mambino Organics Youth Glow Omega Face Complex
With both of my pregnancies, the skin on my face always looks a bit splotchy and dried out. I definitely don't get the pregnancy glow that I hear so much about! I think part of the reason is that I usually avoid wearing my makeup because of all the chemicals in it. This makes it even more important that my natural skin is taken care of.
During this pregnancy, I've tried a few different serums for my face but haven't found anything amazing. I really like how easily this Youth Glow soaks into my skin. I wish that instead of just pouring out in my hand or on my finger tip that I would have been able to use a dropper or something to get just the right amount. But, after just using once I could already feel a difference in my skin! I have since been using it every morning after my shower and my skin feels so good and I swear my skin looks younger!
Overall Review of Mambino Organics
After using the products for a couple of weeks, I would definitely recommend them to friends and family who are expecting a baby. I think it would not only make a great baby shower present but would be a great way to treat yourself on a Babymoon or while traveling pregnant. The Bun in the Oven kit has the perfect sizes to thoroughly try out the products before buying the larger sizes. If you want to buy individual products while pregnant, I'd say the Moisture Me Body Toning Oil and Oh Baby! Belly Butter are must-haves. Secondary would be the Youth Glow Omega Face Complex and Mandarin Creme Clarifying Body Wash (which I think would be fabulous postpartum, as well.)
Mambino Organics sent me these products for review purposes.
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When we agreed to a family summer vacation in Florence, Italy I had no idea that I'd be 13 weeks pregnant. I was worried that I'd have severe morning sickness and not be able to endure the 14 hour flight from Seattle. Thankfully, I was worried for no reason and it ended up being a fantastically relaxing trip!
Since my husband has limited vacation days, I headed over to Italy a week before him with my in-laws. We stayed in Florence for the first few days and developed the perfect pace of travel for older folks and pregnant ladies. Since we had all been to Florence before and had seen the major sights, there wasn't so much pressure to be on the go. In the morning, we'd pop in to visit a Museum (and soak up the A/C) for about an hour and then head to the cafe for a cold beverage. Freshly squeezed orange juice was available at most cafes. Then, we'd walk a tiny bit though the streets of Florence before stopping at another cafe for more cold beverages and to sit down. Eventually we'd stop for lunch and gelato before heading back to the hotel for a long siesta. After an extensive nap in our air conditioned room, we'd go have dinner and enjoy the beautiful Florence evening before calling it a night. By slowing down the pace, we got to absorb the ambiance.
After we got over our jet lag in Florence, we took the train to the famous Cinque Terre. It was nice to just sit on the train and stare out the window at the rolling countryside. We stayed in Monterosso overlooking the water and I felt like I was in a movie! There were several options for food within walking distance and there were plenty of gelato stands. We were even able to walk to the next town for dinner and it was a pleasant walk in the evening. The only tricky part was when we took the ferry around to see the other towns. I felt pretty queasy partway through and had to get fresh air. I also ate my weight in freshly steamed mussels (they were so yummy) before realizing that pregnant women are supposed to avoid mussels. And I ate a lot of prosciutto and melon (also incredible) but again found out I was supposed to avoid.
We headed back on the train to Florence to meet up with my husband and the rest of his family after our jaunt in Cinque Terre. We stayed at a castle outside of Florence and our room was on the top floor. That was a lot of stairs for this pregnant lady to hike so I basically became a pack mule and grabbed everything I could think of from our room and headed down for the day. The lower level of the castle was the coolest, so I parked it there for most of our time.
We did a few half-day trips from the castle. We hit up the outlets, which offered very little shade. The stores had the A/C cranked, so we absorbed as much as we could and then quickly waddled to the next store. Their bathrooms had long lines and were so hot. I ended up grabbing papers and fanning myself so I wouldn't faint. We also found several restaurants with outdoor dining in the shade that were lovely. And we headed into Florence for a family dinner and to see a few of the sights.
7 Tips for Pregnant Travelers:
Recently, my husband and I celebrated our 5 year wedding anniversary. We are truly amazed with how much our life has changed in these 5 years: I quit my job, we had a baby, my husband changed jobs within his company a few times, we moved, and we had another baby. In between all this, we managed to travel to Hong Kong, Thailand, Mainland China, Italy, Greece, Maui, Kauai, Disneyland, Vancouver, Victoria, Sonoma and numerous local trips.
We spent our anniversary looking back at the fun times we had at our wedding. We love to travel and it's something that we wanted to incorporate into our wedding theme. I'm a big fan of vintage travel posters and memorabilia so that was a great jumping off point. Below, I have outlined how we created a travel-themed wedding.
Venue: The Museum of Flight in Seattle
Because of our shared love for airplanes, we decided to hold our wedding at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, WA. We had the ceremony and reception overlooking their Great Gallery of planes, which made for a fun photo backdrop.
Invitations: Vintage Airline Tickets
We wanted our invitations to reflect the theme of our wedding, so I designed them using vintage airline tickets as the outline. I also incorporated a Hawaiian theme since that has been a big influence on my life. We also had small cards for our rehearsal dinner boat trip, also using a vintage travel poster for the graphic.
Rehearsal Dinner: Boat Trip
We had a lot of family travel from out of town to attend our wedding, so we wanted to make sure to thank them by inviting them to our rehearsal dinner. Keeping our vintage travel theme, we rented an Argosy Cruise boat and sailed around Lake Union. This was a fun way to chat with our guests before the wedding and for both families to get to know one another.
Name Cards: Tropical Theme
We incorporated the tropical flower theme into our name cards so they would be cohesive with the rest of our items (programs, guest book, etc.) We found blank cards online and had a family friend handwrite each name for a more personal touch.
Guest Book: Vintage Hawaii Postcards
On one of my visits to Kauai, I picked up as many different vintage Hawaii travel postcards at gift shops and we scattered them on a table with pens and asked guests to write their messages on the postcards. After the wedding, we put the postcards in a photo album that also had a Hawaiian theme.
Program: Vintage Hawaii Poster
I put one of my favorite vintage Hawaiian postcards on the cover of our program. I chose an off-white paper for the vintage feel. I printed them at our local Costco, which made it very reasonable.
Music: Traditional Hawaiian
It was important to me to have a Hawaiian element to our ceremony, as I've been a hula dancer most of my life and the Hawaiian culture has been a big influence on me. I was lucky enough to know some amazing local Hawaiian musicians who were available to sing before the ceremony. They sang the Hawaiian Wedding Song when I walked down the aisle.
Ceremony: Time Capsule
As part of our ceremony, we created a time capsule to be opened on our 5th wedding anniversary. We included photos of our travels, love letters to each other, and special wine to drink. All the items were placed in a wooden wine box and we hammered it shut with real nails and a hammer. It added a fun, unexpected element to our ceremony. As it turned out, I was pregnant on our 5th anniversary, so the wine was saved until later.
Flowers: Tropical Hawaiian
My cousin owns an amazing floral company called Contemporary Floral in the Seattle-area and when I told her the theme of our wedding, she created gorgeous centerpieces highlighting stunning tropical Hawaiian flowers. This added a much-need pop of color to our venue and tied in the tropical travel theme. I also wore purple orchids in my hair.
I'm a sucker for fun photo ops, so I was determined to create a photo booth at our wedding. I had a blast finding fun props and displaying them in vintage reproduction suitcases I found at Marshall's. I found most of the props at our local party supply store, dollar store and I made several items.
Reception: Hula Dance
I've been a professional hula dancer for 20 years and it's traditional for brides to dance a hula for their husbands at their wedding reception. Not only was this a great way to emphasize our travel theme, but it also added a unique element to our reception. I practiced for hours in secret and gave my husband the heads up right as we walked into the reception for the first time. It was a total surprise to my husband and our guests!
Cake: Tropical Flowers
We went with a small cake for the cake cutting ceremony and then got a large sheet cake of the same flavor. This way, the caterers were able to pre slice the cake and serve immediately after we cut the cake, eliminating any wait. We asked the florist for a few extra orchids so we could keep with our tropical travel theme.
Dress Change: Chinese Cheongsam
To celebrate my husband's Chinese heritage, I changed into a Cheongsam during our reception and our nieces changed into Chinese silk pajamas. Not only was it a nod to my husband's culture, but it was also much cooler than my layered wedding dress in the August heat!
Extra Fun: Send Invitation to White House and Disneyland
When we realized we had some extra invitations, we decided to send one to the White House and one to Disneyland. We sent them about 2 months before our wedding and we received both greetings back in time to display them at our wedding. It added another travel element, which was fun!
The White House sent us an official greeting from President and First Lady Obama. It's a lovely feeling to find a letter from the White House addressed to you personally!
Disneyland sent us this congratulatory autographed photo of Mickey and Minnie Mouse. They also sent us a couple of celebration buttons, which were a nice touch. We also received a certificate from Cinderella and Prince Charming.
Additional Ideas to Add a Travel-Inspired Element to Your Wedding
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Our toddler Owen has been so fortunate to have opportunities to travel the world at such a young age. He's been to Thailand, Italy, Greece, Canada, Hawaii, Disneyland, and more. We know that he won't remember most of these trips years from now, but he definitely remembers them vividly for months and has absorbed so much about other places and cultures. I believe that these global experiences will impact the person he becomes.
With Baby #2 expected this Fall, I know our lives are going to be a bit more chaotic. However, I really hope to continue exposing our kids to the amazing people and places in this world. We plan on traveling with our kids as they grow up, but there are definitely some places that would be cool to see as a young child.
Toddler Travel Bucket List:
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If you're wishing for a taste of Hawaii, but you're in the Pacific Northwest, you should check out the Live Aloha Hawaiian Cultural Festival at Seattle Center on Sunday, September 11 from 11am-7pm. This free festival is organized by volunteers who are passionate about Hawaiian culture. Not only is it a fun festival to attend, but it's extremely family-oriented.
I've gone every single year. I actually co-produced it for several years and have performed as a hula dancer in other years. The entertainment is always fun and the food is delicious! Plus, you can always splash around in the International Fountain or dance by the Amphitheatre if your kiddos need to get their wiggles out.
8 Tried and True Tips:
My son Owen is a binky baby. He was born premature and they recommended using a pacifier when he was in the NICU to strengthen his sucking skills so he could nurse. They also encouraged us to use it to reduce the risk of SIDS. He entered this world fighting and the pacifier seemed to really comfort him in a stressful situation.
He was very particular about the brand of binky and would only use the kind we got at the hospital. Thankfully we were able to stock up and it was quite normal for him to have 3-4 loose binkies in his crib at any given time. We were very thankful to discover pacifier clips when he was older and we would clip them to all his clothes. The tricky thing about the clips is that we still had to pop them in his mouth frequently.
I ran across the Snuggin while looking for innovative baby products for Baby #2 and was instantly intrigued. Not only are there several places to attach pacifiers and/or toys, but there is a velcro storage unit in the back! This is perfect for if/when it fall on a dirty floor when we are out and about and I need a clean pacifier pronto! I also like how big it is because it's great for tiny hands to grasp.
Owen's been having fun playing with the Snuggin. He's now 2.5 years old and we're just starting the trying to wean him off the binky. Part of our process is explaining that binkies are for babies and he's a big boy. He will be getting a little brother in the next few weeks so we've been using the Snuggin as a tool to show how he can help soothe the baby with the pacifier.
When my Mom offered to watch our toddler Owen for a weekend, we figured it would be perfect timing to go on a babymoon.
The drive up from Seattle did not go as planned. Thankfully, we listed to Kunal Nayyar’s audiobook for the drive, which kept us laughing and in good spirits. We decided to take a ferry instead of driving down to Tacoma and then over to get up to Port Angeles. We didn’t realize how long the ferry line in Edmonds would be and we ended up in line for 2 hours before we were able to get on a boat. This meant that we missed the ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria that we had planned to go on and had to wait another 4 hours. This was a bummer, but it meant that we got to have a leisurely dinner in Port Angeles and then continued listening to our audiobook in the car before walking onto the ferry.
We docked in Victoria at 11:30pm (which is really, really late for parents of toddlers.) Thankfully, we splurged and stayed at the Fairmont Empress Hotel just a hop, skip and jump away from the ferry terminal. (The hotel is absolutely amazing and I wrote a blog post all about the Fairmont Empress Hotel that you can read here.)
We actually slept in until 8am, which is really late for us! It was fantastic to just relax and think about what we’d like to do. My pregnant tummy started rumbling, so first stop was breakfast downstairs at the Q restaurant. I had delicious Banana Bread French Toast and Darren had very fresh Eggs Benedict. It was a fantastic way to start our day.
Next, we boarded the Greyline Victoria Sightseeing Hop-on Hop-Off Tour bus where we watched the Water Taxi Ballet perform before heading on our tour. The bus tour took us to Chinatown, the Wharf, Beacon Park and all over Victoria. We got off at Craigdarroch Castle, which was a beautiful home that has had major restoration. It reminded me a lot of Iolani Palace in Hawaii, as they are slowly collecting items that use to be part of the estate.
After we toured the Castle, we caught a taxi to Abkhazi Garden because we had a 1pm Afternoon Tea reservation. The garden is very small and intimate. We strolled around taking photos before sitting down at our table. We sampled the Royal Abkhazi tea that was made especially for the garden by Silk Road. It was so tasty that we ended up buying some to bring back home. The Afternoon Tea menu was fantastic! We weren’t even able to finish the dessert portion because we were so full. Just being able to taste these yummy treats while sitting outside in the sunshine soaking in the private garden felt like such a special moment.
When we could eat no more, we called a taxi to take us to Oak Bay Marina, where we heard the sights were picture-worthy. We walked around looking at the water and the San Juan Islands. We also chatted with an older couple visiting from the Channel Islands and it was fun to hear what they thought of Victoria and Vancouver. After we strolled around the harbor for a bit, it was time to hop back on the tour bus and continue seeing the sights on the way back to the Fairmont Empress.
We got off at the Fairmont Empress because the bus was going to wait there for awhile before starting the next tour. I needed to use the restroom so we headed into the hotel. Darren thought we should check out the hotel spa and see if they had any availability. We were able to reserve treatments for later that night. In the meantime, we decided to walk up Government Street and do a little bit of shopping and people watching.
When we were done shopping, we headed back to the waterfront and grabbed a water taxi through Victoria Harbour Tours and toured around the harbour. Our guide was very friendly and pointed out interesting facts along the way.
We disembarked the boat and figured we’d check out the Royal BC Museum before heading to our spa treatments. The museum was just steps away from both the harbor and our hotel, which was extremely convenient. They had a Mammoth exhibit and that was our first stop. We really enjoyed seeing the life-size animals and the detailed displays! The rest of the museum reminded me a lot of the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle, which was very cool.
We finished at the museum just in time to head to the spa. I had an amazingly relaxing facial and Darren had a deep-tissue sports massage.
By the time we finished at the Spa, it was 9pm and we decided to eat dinner at the Q restaurant again so we’d just need to head upstairs to go to sleep after. The food was again very delicious and the staff members were incredibly friendly and helpful!
It was a long day, but so much fun and very rejuvenating!
We decided to take the 10am CVS Tour bus to Butchart Gardens since it also included a stop at the Butterfly Gardens. The timing worked out so we were able to get all cleaned up and packed and check out of the Fairmont Empress. We left our luggage with the porter so we could retrieve it on our way to the Coho Ferry. At that point, it was 9:30am, so we walked up the street a couple blocks to Sam’s Deli to grab breakfast to go. It’s a really cool deli with all kinds of breakfast and lunch options that are easy to take out. It would be a great stop for a picnic!
We hopped on the CVS Tour bus to head to the world-famous Butchart Gardens. The ride lasted about 40 minutes and was full of great information about Butchart Gardens and the Butchart Family. When we arrived at the Butterfly Gardens, we checked the time and realized we wouldn’t be able to do both, so we saved the Butterfly Gardens for next time so we could bring our toddler. The drive into Butchart Gardens was bumpy because the concrete was original and had spaces in between each slab for expansion/shrinkage. I didn’t mind the bumps because it reminded us how the Butchart’s made their fortune.
When we entered the Gardens, we were transported to another time. Even the courtyard was laid out very nicely. We grabbed a map and they had a general route that we could follow. We walked toward the Sunken Garden first. As soon as we turned the corner, I was blown away! The Sunken Garden really pops out and I felt like I had entered the Secret Garden because it is so hidden. It was absolutely stunning! It had everything from water features to beautiful flowers to views from various vantage points. We weren’t sure how much time we could spend there, so we went a bit quicker than we should have and headed up the Carousel.
The Carousel was really adorable! We learned on the CVS Tour that each animal on the carousel was from one of the family’s travels. I really loved this concept because it made it more personal. It also reminded me of the carousel at Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, especially because it’s enclosed in glass, which is perfect for Northwest weather. When we come back with our toddler, we’ll be sure to take a ride!
Then we headed to the Rose Garden that smelled lovely! It reminded me a lot of my Grandma, who used to grow stunning roses in her garden. I was surprised that the roses were still in full bloom since it was a bit late in the season and many other rose bushes I’d seen elsewhere were fading fast. We liked how this garden highlighted the open space so we could see a lot of it as we were walking around.
The Japanese Garden was simply serene. It had everything we’d expect from a Japanese Garden. We had learned on our CVS Tour that the family had been given a hundred Cherry Blossom trees from the emperor of Japan when they visited more than a hundred years ago. A Japanese gardener also came back with them and created the Japanese Garden. It was through this garden where people could take a boat tour of the cove. We didn’t have time to do it this trip, but it’s a must-do for our next trip.
We ended at the Italian Garden, which was very small and was in a courtyard with a gelato shop. Darren felt compelled to taste the gelato to see how authentic it was. He thoroughly enjoyed it! Just up the hill, they had several benches for people to eat and soak in the Gardens. We spent awhile here just catching our breath and then headed to the bus area for our bus back to the hotel.
We arrived back at the Fairmont Empress at 1:45pm and realized we had time to grab a quick bite. The lady at the Spa had suggested the Tapas Bar in Trounce Alley, so we quickly walked up there. When we entered, we let the waiter know we only had 30 minutes to eat and he gave us recommendations for quick bites and immediately brought us our check. We had the most amazing mango balsamic mushrooms, coconut lime mussels and bacon wrapped dates. It was the perfect post-Gardens lunch! We quickly paid the bill and sped back to the hotel to grab our luggage and board the Coho Ferry back to Port Angeles.
The ferry ride home took longer than expected but we got to see a whale for about 10 minutes of the trip! The whole ferry rocked vigorously as all the people on board rushed to the side of the boat to try to get photos of the whale. It was quite exciting!
The rest of our drive took much longer than anticipated due to draw bridges and ferry lines, but thankfully we started a new audiobook that helped pass the time. We really should know by now that sunny weekends in Seattle will always have traffic delays!
Tourism Victoria provided admission to Greyline Sightseeing Victoria, Craigdarroch Castle, The Teahouse at Abkhazi Garden, Victoria Harbour Ferry, Royal BC Museum, CVS Tours and Butchart Gardens provided one admission for review purposes.
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I'm a mom to a 3-year-old and a baby. We believe in traveling as a family as soon as possible and sharing our tips and tricks with other families!