Christmas in Victoria, B.C.

We do Christmas together with my husbands family every other year, so on the off-years, when all my brother and sister-in-laws go home to their families, I get kind of sad because it’s not quite as easy for me to nip home to England. 🙁 This year it was just us, my inlaws, and my brother in law, Dexter–so we decided to go somewhere fun!

My father in law planned the whole trip to Victoria, British Columbia. He kept showing me photos of harbor views of the Parliament building and the famous Empress Hotel all lit up at Christmas, and was more giddy with excitement than a school girl! Secretly I was as well! We knew it would be an amazing trip… but we had NO idea just how AMAZING it would really be!

First thing on monday morning we set out from Seattle on boat across the Puget Sound, everything was going well, and we were making good time, until the wind started to pick up, and the waves got super rough! Waves were crashing OVER our boat, we started thrashing and bobbing and everything inside the boat was flung about. The glass baubaus came off the christmas tree and smashed on the floor, plates and dishes were threatening to crash out the cupboards, and the fridge door swang open. As the boat crashed against the waves, the kids were crying and screaming, and I don’t know whether it was the fear, or just the bobbing motion that got to me, but I was glued to the kitchen sink, green as can be, emptying out breakfast! My father in law, keeping his cool, asked us if we wanted to keep going for 2 hours, or stop at the nearest port! “STOP!” I begged! ASAP! Was the common consensus.

We ended up at Port Townsend… the last port in the State of Washington, and the country, before reaching Canada. I got out of the boat immediately, not caring that it was windy and freezing cold outside — kissing the ground in pure relief! We took the kids for a walk and explored the port, and the beautiful, rugged, Washington Coastline. They had fun running around, climbing on driftwood, collecting shells, and even playing in the water! {Crazy kids!} We waited for the wind to die down so we could reach our destination and continue on with all our fun plans in B.C. but the weather was so bad all night, we ended up staying.

Around the corner my inlaws found the port town. I wish I would have taken some photos, but the streets were lined with quaint little traditional toy stores all lit up for christmas, which were fun to browse around, and do some last minute shopping, and we ended up going out to dinner at a really nice restaurant. I’m glad we stayed, it was the most beautiful port I have been to yet.

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That WIND!! hair1 pier1 baben023boats2 boats1
Early the next morning, after a little prayer, the winds died down, and the Sound was as calm as could be. It was smooth sailing for two hours to Canada! We were kind of freaking out about customs… we had so many gifts on board, all wrapped up, and dreaded having to open them for inspection. We also had tons of fresh fruit and veg and meat on board, and were worried they’d make us throw it all away. But we were REALLY surprised that customs consisted of one short, simple phone call: “who are the names of the people on board? Do you have any weapons on board? Alright! Welcome to Canada!” And that was IT! It was AMAZING!

A few pics on our way to Canada:

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Watching Seaplanes land and take off is one of my sons absolute things to do {and of course my husband’s, who’s a pilot!} plane01del02dean1DSC03145
The Victoria Clipper parked across the way boat042
Happy to be in Canada!
The boat was docked in the harbor right outside the famous Empress Hotel, and the beautiful Parliament building, so we had the most fantastic views!! emp1throw1 us bradenandi1



On Christmas Eve we rented a car and travelled up to the Butchart Gardens. They decorated the gardens with the theme of the 12 days of christmas, which was SO clever, and so beautiful and festive! It was the perfect thing to do on christmas eve.  whfkqw db3wuqifgqwhjfgq wheel gemwqgu
A Partridge in a pear tree 😉 peartree04peartree10
I was so confused as to why these parrots had cell phones: “Four calling birds!” Of course!! birds1
5 golden rings! DSC03309 usbwgarden2gemsgem
3 French Hens DSC03295
Six Geese a laying…. swans2
This was the most beautiful part of the garden… it was barred off so you couldn’t climb to the top…. but I did anyway. I’m just a rebel like that! 😉 garden3u2i
Riding the Carousel
Braden insisted on riding the Orca Whale. He loves them.
When we were done with the carousel ride, we went outside to find all the lights had been turned on, and the place looked even more beautiful and christmassy!  cuties01 baben&gemslightsdhwqui 03
The Japanese gardens were beautiful too
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11 Ladies dancing DSC03446
pipers piping   DSC03493
Maids a milking maids01 meandbaben01
We took a little break and got a hot chocolate and some cookies, and when we came out, it was dark outside, and all the people had arrived! It was really busy, and we were pretty darn tired, but we decided to walk around the whole gardens again, because they looked completely different, and awesome.
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When we got to the end, there were christmas carolers singing beautiful hymns and festive christmas songs, and I felt as if we couldn’t be in a more beautiful, fun, festive place on christmas eve. It was perfect. DSC03608
When we left, there were a line of cars about a mile and a half long! We came and went at the perfect time! We had such a great day! When we got home, we snuggled up to a christmas movie, and spent about 2 hours trying to get our way-too-excited-kids to SLEEP!! Here are a couple of pics of the harbor on christmas eve. DSC03621 DSC03626 DSC03628DSC03638The next morning was CHRISTMAS! My little girl came into our room rubbing her eyes, and I said: “Gemma! It’s Christmas!” And she stopped, and gasped! “Uh!? It’s Christmas! Braden, it’s christmas!!!” They ran upstairs so fast to see if Santa had come! Having small kids on christmas is THE BEST! I just loved seeing them so happy opening up their toys I had put so much thought and love into. I was also pretty darn spoilt! But it’s not the presents that make me feel so blessed, it’s my family! My kids, my husband, my inlaws, and my family in England that I got to talk to on Christmas! It was a great day!

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My daughter, Gemma got a pink camera from Santa, and took it everywhere with her, taking tons of pictures. She was ADORABLE! dwqhil
My cute little family outside the Parliament building on Christmas Day bc1 DSC03778 empress02
We went to visit the Empress Hotel on Christmas. They must have had between 50 and 60 christmas trees in there, all lit up and themed with something different. My hubby liked the techie tree… you tell it what color to change, and it does. My son liked the pirate and construction trees, my daughter and I just liked taking pictures of them. They were so pretty. trees dwgqDSC03816DSC03819 DSC03834
We went for brunch at the hotel…. they had a last minute cancellation at the same time we asked, so we got REALLY lucky that we were fit in. The food was amazing! DSC03836 DSC03837 fwegfkg DSC03856
Dean posing nicely for all of Gemmas photos {and not mine!} >:-/ They were making all the ladies swoon as they walked past. “Aaaah!! That’s SO cute!”
cheese1cuetw parliament bird In the evening we walked around the parliament building. It looked beautiful all lit up from a distance, but it was even more stunning up close. ewhkdeangem2fam1DSC03906
The kids really wanted to go on a horse and carriage ride, but they had just given their very last ride and were done for the night. Instead, they let them sit on the carriage, and pet the horse, and they were SO happy they got to do that! DSC03913 DSC03922
A view of the stunning harbor lit up at christmas. I loved how everyone decorated their boats with lights! harbor panoramic


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On our way home, my father in law and I were hanging out while everyone else was asleep on the boat. We saw a dolphin, and all of a sudden he starts swimming alongside our boat, and I was so excited. I thought that was pretty much the best thing ever. Then all of a sudden in the horizon my father in law spots a spout of a whale! We motored slowly and carefully over in its direction. There was a research boat close by, stalking the whales. At first we saw one, then two together, then more and more started appearing all around our boat, until we realized there must be 20-30 killer whales out there!
They were still pretty far off, but through binoculars, you could see them in detail, swimming and playing in the water. It was INCREDIBLE! Then the research boat started traveling towards us — I don’t know if they were following the whales, or if the whales were swimming our direction to get away from them, but either way, all of the killer whales started swimming right at us towards our boat!!!!!

We hurried outside, it was COLD — I think my bare feet went numb, but it didn’t matter, I was so wrapped up in this surreal, utterly fantastic, breath-taking moment, that I forgot about everything else. We turned the motor off, and everything in the middle of the sound was silent, except for the splash of the water as the whales swam, and the spurts from their blow holes as they came up for air. I have heard people say that seeing Orca Whales in the wild is really an emotionally-moving, even “spiritual” experience, and they’re right! It really is!  whales1whales004whale005 whale6whales7
This one on the left was coming straight at us! I was getting a little nervous, but then he swam right underneath us!! whales008whales12whale5
A mother with her baby. I learned some fascinating things about Orcas recently while watching Blackfish: when the mother has a baby, it NEVER ever leaves her side, even when it grows to be a full-sized adult. Orcas are highly intelligent, social, friendly, and extremely emotional creatures. Maybe that’s why they are so impressive, and well-loved!
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Here’s the research boat following them as they leave to go past us. For a moment, I wanted to hop boats and join them! I could watch those Whales ALL day!
Every time I go on vacation I ALWAYS bring my super zoom lens with me, as well as my portrait one. This is the ONE time I didn’t! On top of that, my battery, which is always 100% charged, died! I was SO mad at myself that I couldn’t get good pictures, and capture the magic and magnitude of these whales, and this experience, but even with the best camera, there was no way I could have. It was a once in a lifetime experience, totally unanticipated, and one I will NEVER forget. What a way to end the perfect christmas vacation in such a beautiful part of the world. I feel so blessed to live in America, and have the chance to explore so much of Washington State where we live, and Canada–our neighbor.

One more pic of Mt. Rainer at Sunset. Everywhere we looked on this vacation was BEAUTIFUL! We had the time of our lives. Thanks so much to my amazing in-laws for planning such an amazing trip, and taking us along! This was definitely a christmas to remember, and to cherish!
mountain01I hope you all had a very merry christmas with your families too, and have some fun plans and goals for 2014. One of my new goals is to see Orca Whales in the wild again… and get some beautiful shots!! And of course, I have lots more plans and goals for the blog too!


<3 Sarah