A DAY TRIP TO CHILLIWACK

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It finally dawned on me that this was the last weekend of the summer so I try to cram as much outdoor activities as possible to make sure I fully utilize the sunshine before it is gone! Weather forecast for Chilliwack that week was a little like the stock market; one day it showed rain, the next sunny and the day after, cloudy. Since all the activities I planned for the trip were outdoors, we would need a plan B if it was to rain. With a final verdict of a cloudy forecast, we decided to take the risk and head to Chilliwack anyways.

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After a 1 hr 10 minutes’ drive on Highway 1, we finally arrived at our first destination, the Sunflower Festival! We bought our tickets online the night before, saving us each $5 a ticket!

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Although it was a Saturday, it was not as crowded as I had imagined, possibly because it was still early in the day and because of the cloudy forecast. The sun was peering through the clouds so my photos turned out not so gray after all!

 

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We had a great time wandering through the sunflower fields, taking photos with various props provided by the farm and with the beautiful mountain backdrop. They even had an area where you can pick your own sunflowers home for $2 a stem. The greedy me picked the baby sunflowers so I could maximize their life spans in my vase at home!

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Unfortunately, there is very little sunshine in my patio so my sunflowers still have not yet fully bloomed ☹ Since it was the second week already, some of the taller sunflowers were already withering away. The farm had great facilities – clean, portable washrooms; two food trucks; picnic area and a playground for the kids. Parking was free and admission prices were reasonable. This is the first year of the festival and I think it was a great success!

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Our next stop was a 10 minutes’ drive into town for high tea at Dickens Sweets & British Museum. At this location, they have a shop which sells teas, teacups and other British sweets.

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Next to it is a high tea room and a small collection of British artifacts! Reservations are recommended for high tea during the weekend as it can get busy.

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For $15, we each got a choice of tea, a scone, some finger sandwiches and some baked savoury pastries. The food was delicious, fresh and served relatively promptly.

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After a good meal, we navigated through the British museum which features a full display of a British pub, a grocery store and a computer hardware shop. There was also an Expo’86 collection as well. The owner’s collection was well organized and displayed!

Before we left, we also purchased some tea and British Cadbury chocolates. They also sell their high tea pastries in the store as well but since we were full, I just picked up two Madeline cakes for the road!

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After a delicious meal, it was time to do some exercise to burn off those calories! We headed for the Bridal Falls Provincial Park to see the waterfall.

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Since I am not a huge fan of hiking, this trail was perfect for me as it only took 40 minutes in total.

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However, it still proved to be a challenge as going up was a steep uphill climb and it was a little hard to find footing at times when climbing up closer to the falls on the loose rocks. However, the effort was all worthwhile as we got some amazing pictures!

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Another 30 minutes’ drive took us to the Cultus Lake Provincial Park.

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The sun has come out fully at this point so the park was busy with families playing in the water and also set up for picnics.

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The scenery at the park was very beautiful with bristling waters, tall trees and luscious mountain.

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We had a great time playing in the water and relaxing on the floating deck. This defines a perfect summer day in Beautiful British Columbia!

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Before heading for dinner, we made a stop at Tap-Ins Putting Course to do some putting. They also have a golfing range next door but for a golf amateur like me, putting was good enough! For $15, you get access to 18 holes and equipment rental which is a good price. The course is also very family friendly and easy to follow. Not to mention, the scenery was absolutely amazing and breathtaking. I’ve played mini golf several times before but all of them were indoors. This was my first outdoor experience and I had a great time! Although I did a horrible job (+56 from par) but it was the participation that mattered the most!

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Our final stop before heading home was at Bubba’s Big Bite. This was one of the most highly rated restaurants in town on Yelp and most importantly, opened until later! It is a small hole in the wall in a small plaza, but surprisingly we had an awesome experience. Everything is made fresh to order and done in house.

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The shop is ran by a couple who named it after their son’s nickname, Bubba. The owner was very nice and came over to make recommendations for their menu and made small talks with us. Although they were busy handling a take out order, the wait for food was not too long. We ordered the vegetarian calzone and the Meatball Oinker to share.

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The signature sandwich also comes with soup and the soup of the day was the hamburger macaroni.

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The proportions were very generous that I had to pack half of it home and the taste was delicious. I like how hot the food was and how fresh it tasted as well. It was so good I actually got a triple meat calzone for lunch the next day!

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Finally, it was time to head home! It was really nice to get out of the city to enjoy the beautiful scenery of our province and enjoy the fresh air! At first, I was afraid that there will be nothing to do in Chilliwack as I have never been out there except for that one time many years ago for the corn maze. However, when I was doing my research on the Chilliwack tourism website, I realized that there were so many things to do that it was impossible to fit them all in one day! I realize that sometimes you don’t have to go on a plane or travel far to enjoy a nice vacation. Even when you drive an hour or two out of the city, you may discover another world that you have never seen before! Chilliwack is definitely more than just corns but don’t forget to pick up some fresh, juicy and sweet corns before heading home!

 

3 DAY WASHINGTON TRIP – DAY 3

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We grabbed some breakfast at a café near our AirBnb before we headed for the Museum of Flight. There are lots to see at this museum so allocate at least half a day here for you to see everything. When you purchase your tickets, make sure you grab a brochure to find a list of the free tours offered throughout the day. Each tour is about 30 minutes long and are led by volunteers of the museum.

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At the entrance, you can also purchase admission for the two 3-D shows that they have. They cost $5 each and are approximately 30 minutes long. We watched the one about planets and we really enjoyed it. They also have paid rides on some simulators but the line ups were long and it was pricy so we skipped it.

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Before lunch, we were able to get through the Great Gallery, the Tower and the Red Barn. There are lots of aircrafts, artifacts and reading in these two areas.

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It was particularly interesting to learn about the work performed by air traffic controllers. The view from the Tower was also very nice as it was high up.

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We decided to have lunch at the Wings Café. There is another café inside the museum which serves a similar menu. It was quite busy as it was lunch time. The prices are reasonable at this Café and there is a decent selection of items to choose from.  I ordered the pulled pork burger and my friend ordered the hummus pita bread. The presentation was good and taste was not bad.

After lunch, we went to see the World War II Gallery. They had a very large collection of aircrafts and artifacts about World War II.

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I have been to the War Museum in Ottawa last summer which was also based on this era. Although this gallery was not as extensive as the Ottawa museum, it was still a good representation of what happened during the war.

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Then we crossed the helix bridge to the Charles Simonyi Space Gallery which is a small gallery which talks about space aircrafts.

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There are some interactive exhibits here to check out but we went through it relatively quickly.

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Cheese!

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Finally, we made our way to the Aviation Pavilion which was my favourite exhibition in the museum.

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In this exhibition, they have many 777s and 787s on display, some of which you can go inside to take a look. They even have a retired Air Force One here!

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There are two short walking tours that you can sign up near the entrance for the Boeing B-17F and Boeing B-29.  We did the one for the Boeing B-17F and we learned a great deal about this bomber which was used by the Allies during World War II.

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This Pavilion was well organized which made it easy to navigate. Before heading out, we visited the gift shop and I purchased some postcards and pins.

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There are two more shopping stops along the way home. Our first one was Trader Joe’s where we picked up some grocery items. I love Trader Joe’s as they sell organic items for decent price. My favourite is their organic dark chocolate bars and their cold pressed apple juice. Traffic was bad on I5 so it took us very long to get to our next destination, Seattle Premium Outlets. It has been at least two years since I’ve been here and it seems like they have opened up quite a few new shops. It was already 5 p.m. when we got here but the Outlet was still pretty busy. I suppose it was because they were having an early sale for their 4th of July celebration.

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We shopped for almost 3 hours and then went over to Olive Garden for dinner. We used to have an Olive Garden in Richmond, but it shut down a long time ago. The food was great so I really missed it!

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For entrée, we ordered the stuffed chicken marsala and the mushroom ravioli.

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Each entrée comes with unlimited soup and breadsticks! I had the chicken gnocchi and my friend had the minestrone for soup.

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Everything we had that evening was super delicious, just like how I remembered it used to be!

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With a full belly, we began our drive back home.

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It took us about 1.5 hours to get to the border from the Outlet Mall. Fortunately, since we came back so late, there was a very short wait at the border. After we crossed the border, it was smooth sailing going home. The three-day Washington trip was a success! I am surprised that I was still able to find new attractions and restaurants to check out in Washington even though I have visited many times in the past. Hope I don’t have to wait another 2 years before I visit again!

 

3 DAY WASHINGTON TRIP – DAY 2

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We had a little mishap in our AirBnb that morning; our shower and toilet decided not to work as we were getting ready, so we were put behind schedule for an hour. Frustrating as it was, our host was very kind and got it fixed while we were out that day and even gave us a bottle of wine and cupcakes to make up for it!

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Our first stop that day was the Pike Place Market. It was about 9:30 a.m. when we arrived and the place was already very busy. We parked in the underground parking lot right underneath the market. I think this is the closest parkade with the lowest rate ($3/hr). For some odd reason, the parkade right next to us was almost $5 more expensive per hour so make sure you read the rates carefully before you drive in!

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We headed to the Crumpet Shop for breakfast. When we got there, there was already a short lineup but the line moved very quickly. We were lucky that a table freed up by the time our food was ready.

We ordered three to try – Pesto with fresh tomato and parmesan cheese, Nutella chocolate spread & ricotta cheese, and egg & English cheese on ham.

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Out of the three, my favourite was the Nutella as I think it was the best pairing of all.

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The crumpets are made fresh in the kitchen inside the restaurant; they have a window where you can watch them kneel and bake them.

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However, the savoury items (i.e. eggs and ham) are heated up in the microwave. I think the savoury crumpets would taste better if these items were actually cooked on a stove. For  breakfast, I would say 1.5 crumpets is a good amount. They also have unlimited refills for their tea and brewed coffee which is self-served. Both are organic. Overall, the crumpets weren’t mind blowing for me but it was still worth a try.

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They also had a guest artisan market that day so we took a stroll around the booths. The artwork was quite nice but a little pricy as expected. We also went through the market to do some shopping. In the market, they sell fresh flowers, fruits, honey, seafood and other handcraft items. I bought some lavender body lotion and dried lavender. My favourite store in Pike Place Market is La Buona Tavola Truffle Café. I always do lots of shopping here everything I visit Seattle. They sell wine and honey as well but my favourite is their truffle collection. I always buy their squid ink pasta, truffle pasta, truffle salt and truffle cream. It is very easy to do a lot of damage here! Their products are not cheap but everything is made in Italy and I have yet to find a store in Vancouver with the same quality they have here. I wish I could come back more often to stock up!

My friend wanted to try the Starbucks at the first Starbucks store and Piroshky Piroshky but both line ups were very long.

We only had time for one so we picked the Piroshky Piroshky. We waited about 30 minutes but it went by fast as we were given menus to look out so we can pick out what we wanted as soon as we get into the store.

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We were chatting with the person who stood in front of us, who was a local, told us the Pike Place Market location is actually not the first Starbucks Store, the real one was actually a few blocks away but they shut it down and moved to this location. She also told us to visit the Starbucks headquarter as they are not as busy and they actually serve better coffee. Finally, it was our turn inside the little store and we ordered the potato and cheese, apple cinnamon roll and the cinnamon cardamom braid.

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Prices were moderate for these Russian pastries but it was very delicious and baked fresh. Credit card and cash accepted – good to know before hand so you’re not standing in line for 30 minutes for nothing!

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Our next stop was the highlight for me on this trip. We got a Groupon deal ($39 for 2 VIP tickets) to see the Julia’s Queen of the Brunch Drag Show at Le Faux which was only about a ten minutes’ drive from downtown. There is a parkade next door for $3/hour parking. We were seated at the two seats by the wall on the left-hand side of the stage. The place was already very full and the place felt a little cramped.

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Our server took our order for drinks and we waited for the show to start. This was my first time seeing a drag show so I was not sure what to expect. The show ran about 1.5 hours and we had a great time!

20180701_131045.jpg The performers had excellent make up and costumes and they were such amazing dancers! They were also very funny and entertaining. There was never a dull moment during the whole performance. Many people were here to celebrate birthdays and bachelorette parties so there were many large groups. The funniest part was when they had to get on their knees to eat the penis shaped cake!

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It is definitely an adult only event but the performance was very professional. I will definitely come back for a show again next time! Don’t forget to bring $1 bills to tip the performers. There is a girl that goes around before the show to help people break their change as well.

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After the show, we headed over to the Starbucks Reserve at their headquarter. The woman was right!

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This location was way less crowded than the one we visited the day before and the décor looked even nicer!

20180701_144241.jpgMy friend grabbed a brewed coffee and I had a smoked salmon arugula flatbread. The flatbread was not bad but a little pricy at $7.50 USD for a light snack.

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Be sure to check out their fancy washroom which is unisex.

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We relaxed here for a bit and then headed back to the AirBnb to catch a quick nap!

Our attempt yesterday to try Cheescake Factory failed so we decided to come earlier today. We parked our car at a nearby parkade ($13 flat rate!) and went to grab a table. This was 5 p.m. and the wait time was already 30 minutes. They gave us a buzzer which buzzes when your table is ready. However, the maximum distance you can go is to the sidewalk which isn’t really useful if you wanted to go walk around.

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We came back after 30 minutes and got seated. Cheesecake Factory is one of my favourite restaurant chains in the States and I try to squeeze in a lunch or dinner every time.

20180701_172855.jpgI always order the same thing too because I can never find something similar in Vancouver! I got the Pasta da Vinci which is a chicken breast and shitake mushroom pasta served in wine sauce. It never fails to satisfy!

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My friend was not very hungry so she got a parmesan stuffed mushroom as a snack. She also said it was very delicious! They also give you assorted bread and garlic butter to start which are also very yummy!

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If you still have room left, make sure you try their cheesecakes! They have so many flavours to choose from but I am usually full after the pasta so we would get one for the whole table to share. The proportion is huge for one order and it is served with a generous amount of whipping cream!

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We walked about 15 minutes down to the Pier to board our 6:45 p.m. Arbosy harbour cruise. It had been cloudy and rainy the last two days but we were very lucky that the sun came out just in time for our cruise! The cruise runs for an hour and takes you around the harbour of Seattle while their guide provides a narrated presentation.

20180701_184957.jpgYou can get beautiful pictures of the Seattle Space Needle and the Seattle Great Wheel from here.

20180701_185830.jpgMy favourite part of the tour was when we got really close to the cargo terminal and we were able to see the cargos being moved around. It was really scary because at one point, it looked like one of the cargo was going to fall over! The boat is clean with plenty of washrooms and a concession stand.

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There are indoor and outdoor seating, both on deck and above. We had a great time and enjoyed the beautiful scenery! They take a photo of you at the beginning and you can purchase these at the end of the tour. Not a bad deal if you get two photos.

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Our last stop of the night was the Flatstick Pub. We also got a Groupon deal as well ($25 for one pint of beer, one souvenir cup, a round of golf and a game of duffleboard for 2 people).

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This was another one of the highlights of my trip! This place was so much fun! If the Pub were not closing so soon, we probably could have easily spent another hour or two here.

20180701_212823.jpgWe first started with the duffleboard and it was my first time playing. Instructions are provided at the boards as well as the point cards.

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Each station had a unique Seattle sports theme which was really cool. It took us about 30 minutes to get through all of them. We took a break and grabbed some beer and snacks. They have a large selection of beer but limited options for snacks.

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We grabbed some nachos and guacamole. Next we headed down to the putting area to play golf. The golf course is spelt out by the letters of Seattle and the last round was to putt by a model version of the Space Needle.

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Absolutely loved it! It took us about an hour to get through the course as we had to wait for the other groups before us to finish. There are so many other activities to do here as well – they had giant version of jenga and other board games. They also provide free water and pretzels! I really wished we had something like this in Vancouver!

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However, my one caution of warning is that the Pub is in a slightly more sketchy area of downtown. We walked here from the Pier and the walk was a little scary because there were many homeless people along the way. Catch an uber or drive here instead. We took an uber back to our car.

We were one of the last few cars left in the parkade and the security guard escorted us to our vehicle which was nice given that it was already 11:30 p.m. at night. We drove back to our AirBnb and I finished off the leftovers from my pasta as I was getting hungry already from our early dinner. I had a great time today!

3 DAY WASHINGTON TRIP – DAY 1

We decided this year to celebrate Canada Day by visiting our neighbours down south 😊 We thought we would avoid a long line up by getting to the border at 8 a.m. but I guess everyone was thinking the same thing! It took us an hour to get through the border which was absolutely no fun, especially when you need to use the washroom!

I have been to Washington many times so it becomes more and more of a challenge to find places or activities that I have not done before. This time, we have decided to go visit the corporate headquarters of Starbucks and Boeing!

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Our first stop of the day was at the Restoration Center & Reserve Collection. Admission is $5 and can only be purchased at the door. The center holds the aircrafts and automobiles that needs to be repaired before being sent back to the Museum of Flight.

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Repair can take between five to ten years because the repairs are all done by volunteers! Volunteers are usually retired Boeing mechanics who come to repair aircrafts as a hobby. Unfortunately, there were no volunteers doing repairs the day we visited so there was not much to see.

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We stayed about 45 minutes before heading to our next attraction. It is a hit and miss with this attraction as you cannot find out beforehand if there will be volunteers coming in that day. I think you won’t miss out too much if you decide to skip this though.

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We decided to grab lunch before we visit the Future of Flight. With the help of Yelp, we found a Greek restaurant called Kostas close by. Despite the fact that it was lunch time on a weekend, the restaurant was almost empty. We were a little worried about the quality, but we decided to try it anyways.

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We ordered veggie wrap with soup and chicken delight from their lunch specials menu. To our surprise, the food was actually very delicious!

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My rice pilaf was cooked in broth which made it more flavourful and the chicken was marinated with a lemon spice rub. The chicken was also very juicy. They also provide complimentary bread with garlic butter spread. The food here tasted better than any of the Greek restaurants I have tried in Vancouver!

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After getting gas, we headed to the Future of Flight Aviation Center. It was quite busy here so we had to park a little bit further away in their free parkade.

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We made reservation for the 2 pm Boeing tour so we explored the Aviation Center Gallery first. Be sure to allocate at least 45 minutes here as there are actually quite a lot to see in this gallery.

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There are many interactive exhibits and displays where you can learn more about the different types of planes, the future of jet fuel and the parts of a plane. They also provide a complimentary photo that you can e-mail to yourself or print from the store with various backgrounds to choose from.

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The highlight of this aviation center is definitely the 90-minute Boeing tour. Make sure you reserve a spot a few days before because they sell out very quickly! You are not allowed to bring anything with you on the tour so you must store your personal belongings in the free lockers provided. Washroom breaks are highly discouraged, and photos are prohibited. Moderate pace walking is required so make sure you wear comfortable shoes!

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After a quick orientation, you hop on a tour bus that takes you over to the Boeing factory. The Boeing factory is the largest building in the world and they also hold the Guinness record for the largest painting in the world (painting of a plane on their sliding doors).  They employ over 30,000 people and has their own fire department and six cafes.

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Our tour guide took us around various viewing areas of the Boeing factory from the second floor as she explains about the different types of planes they assemble and the assembly process. We also learned which countries all the different parts of the plane are sourced from. It is definitely an information overload but it was very fascinating. The facility is top notch and well equipped with the manpower and technology to assemble these large aircrafts in a short period of time. It was interesting to see the 747, 767, 777 and 787 planes in various stages of assembly!

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After our tour ended, we browsed around their souvenir shop. There are lots to see there and the souvenirs are reasonably priced. We also took the stairs to the top floor which is an observation deck to get a better look at planes landing or taking off. In total, we spent about 4 hours at the Future of Flight Aviation Center and we had a great time.

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From the Aviation Center, we drove about 35 minutes to the Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room on Pike Street. Parking in the area is very limited so be expected to park on the streets a few blocks away. Boy, was it busy in there! Each area was flooded with people and there were no empty tables so we grabbed a drink and walked around.

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Towards the back of the café, there is a cold brew bar and the Princi bakery (Starbucks has a partnership with them). In the middle, they have the coffee bean station where you can see them roasting the beans and also kiosks to purchase Starbucks merchandise.

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On the other side of the café, there is another bar and a quiet reading area. This tasting room is the fanciest café I have ever been to; it looks like a collaboration between a high-end bar and a coffee shop.

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I don’t drink coffee but I loved the vibe here! I bought a coffee mug and some coffee beans as souvenirs. The coffee beans are sold in the Roastery only for a limited period of time before they are launched in the regular Starbucks.

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Our next stop was the Chihuly Garden and Glass. We purchased the Museum of Flight 3 Pack which includes the admission for the Museum of Flight, the Chihuly Garden and Glass and the Space Needle which is cheaper than purchasing them separately.

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You can purchase the tickets a week in advance of your visit on the Space Needle website.

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Remember that you must visit the Chihuly Garden and Glass and the Space Needle on the same day!

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I am not a huge art fan but I enjoyed my time at this gallery. The blowglass artwork is beautiful and colourful. I am amazed at how malleable glass can be and how it can be molded into so many different shapes and sizes! Don’t forget to check out the garden as well!

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Like the Future of Flight, they provide a complimentary photo which you can e-mail to yourself. The gift shop is a little pricy but I think it is still worth taking a look.

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We asked he cashier at the gift shop to recommend us a good place to grab dinner nearby and she suggested the Seattle Center Armory. This is a performing center for shows or events held in the city with many eateries to choose from.

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My friend decided to try Mod Pizza which was highly recommended by the cashier and I decided to try this place called Skillet Counter.

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My friend waited almost an hour in line but he said it was well worth it. He said it was one of the best pizzas he’s had as the price was good and they were generous with the toppings.

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I ordered the salmon burger with tomato bisque. My food was freshly cooked and tasted delicious. The salmon patty was juicy and the rest of the ingredients were very fresh. It was a little pricy for a food court but it was worth every penny.

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There was also a stall selling kettle popcorn outside and we grabbed a mixed bag (salty and caramel). It was pricy for $7 but I was craving it since last summer so I bought it anyways!

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After dinner, we headed up to the Space Needle to see the night view of Seattle from up top. It was cloudy that day so the view was not the best.  However, it was still pretty busy as everyone was trying to catch a selfie of themselves near the glass windows.

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The restaurant was still under renovation so everyone was hanging out in the open area. You can also get a complimentary photo here and you can e-mail it to yourself using the kiosks in the gift shop. Although the view wasn’t the greatest, I had a good time chatting with the staff working there.

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They were very helpful in answering the questions we had regarding the various landmarks of the city. It is always nice to learn something from the locals! We headed back down and walked around the souvenir shop.

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The souvenir shop is actually quite big so we spent almost 30 minutes here looking at the merchandise. By the time we finished, it was already dark outside so I was also able to snap a night view of the Space Needle. The Space Needle looks great both at day and at night!

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My friend did not want head home yet so we decided to make one more stop at the Pike Place Market.

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It was my first time visiting the Market at night which was much quieter than the day. We went to check out the famous Gum Wall which I find personally a little disgusting… The Gum Wall has grown quite a bit since my last visit many years ago!

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We then drove down to the pier to get a picture of the Seattle Great Wheel at night. It’s too bad that it doesn’t change colours! It was 11 p.m. and we finally headed to our AirBnB. It has been a long day so it was time for shower and a good night’s rest!

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VICTORIA BUG ZOO AND RESTAURANT REVIEWS!

We made our second attempt to Victoria this weekend and thankfully the weather was much better this time! The weather was still pretty windy but at least we had some sunshine in there! I’ve blogged about my past Victoria trips before so I’ll just focus my review this time on the Bug Zoo which I visited for the first time and also on the new restaurants that I tried in town.

Victoria Bug Zoo

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The bug zoo is located in downtown Victoria so it is very accessible. The admission is a little pricy for $12.60 per adult and operating hours are not very long (11 a.m. to 4 p.m.) but it is definitely worth a visit if you are into bugs. The zoo is not very big but if you do look at each exhibit, read up on the facts and touch the bugs, you will need at least 2 hours. The guide is very friendly and knowledgeable about the insects.

She took us around to the different exhibits and let us touch the insects that were gentle and did not fly away (i.e. prying mantis, Australia stick insect, hissing cockroach).

I was very scared at first but after a while, I was feeling much more comfortable to actually hold a few of them in my hand. I am not a huge bug fan but I still had a good time learning about the different types of insects and the warm enthusiasm of the staff working there touched my heart. I was sad to hear that their ant exhibit was dying as one of their queen ants had died. I hope it will pick up soon! They also have a gift shop as well but we did not get a chance to visit as they were already closed.

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Il Terrazzo

We had dinner here the first night. I picked this restaurant as it was rated the #1 Italian restaurant in Victoria on Yelp. The restaurant is located on the outskirts of downtown in an area similar to Gastown in Vancouver. The main entrance of the restaurant is a little hidden in the alleyway so it was difficult to find. The restaurant was relatively busy for a Sunday night at 8 p.m. We made reservations but there were still tables available.

I ordered the paella della casa and K ordered the fusilli con sugo di manzo. Our two friends ordered the linguine con fruitti di mare and another pasta dish. The food was served very promptly; it felt like we waited less than 10 minutes! I was very surprised as most Italian restaurants actually take longer than typical restaurants to cook their dishes. The proportions and prices were very decent. They included a generous portion of seafood as well.

The server was prompt to ensure our waters were filled. However, it was a little annoying how he checked with us a few times to see whether we were ready to pay. Perhaps the restaurant closes at 10 p.m. so he was ushering us out. Overall, I had a good dining experience so I do recommend this restaurant for others to try.

 

John’s Place Restaurant

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We came here for lunch on Monday afternoon. The restaurant was not too busy as we had a late lunch at 1:30 p.m. We also picked this place as it had great reviews on Yelp. The restaurant‘s walls covered with signed photos or posters by various celebrities. It was neat to go around and see the owner’s collection.  I love how the restaurant serves all day breakfast so I could still order my favourite breakfast item, Belgian waffles! The restaurant was showcased on Food Network’s “You Gotta Eat Here” in 2011 and they highlight on the menu which items were shown on that episode.

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I ordered The Odd Couple which is a Belgian waffle with two eggs and three piece chicken strips. This dish was showcased on the Food Network. The chicken strips had a good amount of batter, the eggs were buttery and the waffle was crispy. Overall, the dish was well prepared. K had the Nemo’s Fish Tacos which came with a side of fries. He also ordered a cappuccino which tasted quite delicious as well. Proportions were decent sized and well priced for a restaurant downtown. The servers were very nice and they seem to know all the regular diners there by name. Parking in the area is a little difficult to find but if you circle around a few blocks, you should be able to find a spot. If you are downtown, I do recommend grabbing a quick lunch here.

Nautical Nellies Steak & Seafood House

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Originally we had plan to go to Ferris’ Upstairs Seafood & Oyster Bar but since they were closed on Mondays, we decided to give this restaurant a try since it was rated the top seafood restaurant in Victoria on Yelp. The ambiance of the restaurant was decent and we had a nice booth seat by the fish tank. It is not right on the water so there is no view of the pier unfortunately. Service was prompt and friendly.

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However, the most disappointing was the food!  K ordered the one piece Atlantic cod fish and chips. The fish and the fries were both over-fried. In fact, they were over-fried to the point where you can simply tell by looking at the colour even before eating it. After trying it, the fish and fries were both very dry and the fish became crispy and shrunk half the size. We sent the dish back to the kitchen and the second attempt was better but still over-fried. When you are paying $17 for this dish, you would definitely have expected better quality from the top seafood restaurant in Victoria!

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I ordered a bowl of the lobster bisque and the blue crab brioche roll. The lobster bisque tasted decent but the texture was a little gritty which is odd for a bisque.Usually a bisque is creamy.

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As for the brioche roll, the roll was really delicious as it was very soft and buttery. There was a generous proportion of the crab meat but they seasoned it way too much. They put so much black pepper on it that it made it way too hot and covered the freshness of the crab meat. We had such high expectations for this restaurant and it simply just did not live up to its ratings on Yelp. If you had to pick a seafood restaurant in Victoria, I would highly recommend trying Ferris’ instead!

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VANCOUVER LOCAL GETAWAY

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K and I had originally planned to do 2 days, 1 night trip to Victoria but our ferry got cancelled last minute because of the windstorm! We had already packed our bags and were really anticipating our trip so we decided to find a local hotel to spend the night so we can still make a trip out of it! I went on Airbnb and various hotel websites to see what good deals we can find. I was shocked to see how expensive accommodation is in Vancouver even when it’s low season! Even crummy inns and hotels downtown were priced at $120 plus for a night! In the end, we decided to book the River Rock Casino Resort since it was the best bang for the buck – $183 a night for a 4 star hotel with free parking and an awesome swimming pool!

Check in time was at 3 p.m. so we went out for lunch and did some shopping at Richmond Center before hand. We parked our car in the West Parkade and went to the front desk to check in. We got our room keys shortly and headed over to the South Tower. The room had a nice scent and the bed was very spacious. We were on the 10th floor and you could see the Canada Line station as well as the skyline of Richmond. My only complaint about the room was the bathroom. The tissue papers were damped for some odd reason and our white shower curtains had black stains. However, these were quickly taken care of after we complained to the front desk. I also didn’t like the fact that all restaurants on premise are closed after 11 p.m. You could only get snacks at the gift shop or alcohol and savoury food through room service. The staff also did not seem well trained as they had difficulty answering some of our basic questions regarding the premise.

After we relaxed for a bit, we headed downstairs to the Buffet restaurant for dinner. The buffet dinner on Sunday costs $33.95 but you get a 10% discount if you have the Encore point card. The buffet had a good selection of food and beverages that caters to everyone’s taste. They also serve all day breakfast on Sundays.  My favourite savoury dishes were the roast beef, salmon sashimi and wonton soup. Make sure you also make space in your tummy for desserts as they also have a large selection and taste pretty decent!

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After dinner, we headed down to the casino to do some gambling. The casino was doing a special promotion until the end of the month where you can sign up for membership for free and you also get a free buffet voucher and $10 free play money. I signed up and used the free money right away on the slot machines. For a Sunday night, the casino was pretty busy.

We played for a bit and headed over to the swimming pool. The swimming pool is located in the East Tower so it did feel a little awkward walking through the lobby in our bathing suits. This swimming pool is one of the best ones I have visited before! It is an indoor pool with a hot tub and a 7 feet slide! The pool was clean and had very nice décor. It is also opened until midnight so we had sufficient time to play after dinner.  K and I had a great deal of fun on the slide as it has been ages since I have gone on a slide. We enjoyed ourselves as much as the kids who were there! After swimming, we called it a night and headed back to our hotel room for a good night sleep.

We had a good night sleep and lazily headed down to the lobby to check out and grab brunch at the Curve lounge. K ordered the kimichi brisket burger and I ordered the prime rib beef dip. The French fries came in a cute little deep fryer basket. Both sandwiches were pretty delicious and I don’t think I’ve ever had a beef dip with red cabbage before. The lounge was pretty dead considering it was lunch hour but I guess it was a week day after all.

After lunch we headed over to Cineplex Marine Gateway to watch Molly’s Game. The movie was 2 hours and 21 minutes long so we made ourselves comfortable with pop and popcorn. This has now become my go to movie theatre as it is less busy than Riverport but I hate that you have to pay for parking. The movie is based on the memoir of Molly Bloom, an Olympic-class skier who ran one of the world’s most high stakes poker games. I won’t spoil the movie for the people who haven’t seen it yet but I do recommend checking it out in the theatres as it is up for 11 Academy Awards nominations!

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It is time for Dine Out again! We had our first one that evening at Wildtale Coastal Grill in Yaletown.

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Traffic wasn’t too bad that day so we were able to find parking close by. We were seated at the back of the restaurant where there were fewer tables so it was relatively quiet. There was a funky bathroom smell as we walked in but the smell went away after we got seated (not sure if it was because we just got used to it…). For $30, I felt like the menu was a really good deal.

I ordered the lobster bisque, wild mushroom and braised short ribs pappardelle and chocolate tart.

All three dishes were decent proportions and tasted really delicious. K ordered the AAA beef carpaccio and the duo of lamb. I tried the carpaccio and it was one of the best I’ve had before! The meat was very tender and fresh. It was paired nicely with small pieces of pita bread and arugula.

For entrée, my mom ordered the steelhead trout and I got to try that too. The fish tasted a little like salmon and did not taste fishy at all.

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Food came promptly and the service was really good. We finished within the 1.5 hours allotted time and the next table was already waiting at the door. Dine Out was off to a good start this year! I can’t wait to try the next one on Saturday!

And that concludes our 2 days’ local trip in the city! Although we did not end up leaving town, we still had a great time exploring locally. We’ll try again for Victoria next month!

 

WHISTLER – DAY 2

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After a good night’s rest, we packed up our stuff and checked out of the hotel. Then we headed over to Crepe Montagne for breakfast around 9:30 a.m. We wanted to sit inside as it was a little chilly so we waited outside in the outdoor seating area until a table was freed up. Options are relatively limited for this restaurant and prices are moderate but the crepes are absolutely delicious! At first, I was a little skeptical about how good the crepes could be given that it is a French dish served by a Japanese owner…

However, I completely fell in love with the crepe after my first bite! I’ve had crepes in Paris and Quebec City before but I think this one was by far my favourite! I ordered the Rockies which comes with 2 free range eggs and a choice of ham or bacon with a side of chicken. What makes this crepe so unique and fluffy is the touch of green onions that they sprinkle on top and the positioning of the egg as a layer in the folds of the crepe. It is also made with buckwheat and white flour which I’ve had elsewhere but the texture of this one is a lot smoother unlike the ones which have a grittier taste.

We also ordered a maple sweet crepe, a side of toast and hashbrown (actually potatoes) and they were also very good! The house coffee is also amazing and there are free refills! As the restaurant is very busy, we quickly left after we finished our food and headed over to Nita Lake Lodge for our massage appointment!

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I came to Nita Lake Lodge two years ago for their massage and I had a great time so we decided to come back. The prices are very reasonable (by Whistler standards!), they have a selection of massages to choose from and I love how you get unlimited time access to their sauna and Jacuzzi. Parking is free and also the view from the Jacuzzi is amazing! Just make sure you reserve online at least two weeks in advance so you can get the time slot you want. They will send you an e-mail to confirm your reservation a few days before your appointment as well.

After you arrive, they give you a key to their changing room where you can change into their robe and slippers. They also give you a free locker for you to put your personal belongings. After you get changed, you can sit and relax in the lounge area until they call you for your appointment. My friend and I both wanted to do the RMT and since they had only one massage therapist, we had to take turns. I was up first! I had a kink in my neck from my poor sleeping posture the night before and the massage therapist really helped to loosen it. The 60 minute massage was really relaxing that I think at some point I probably fell asleep…After I finished the massage, I changed into my bathing suit and spent some time relaxing in the sauna and then the Jacuzzi. The spa was not busy at all that day so I had the sauna and Jacuzzi all to myself. It was a busy week for me and I was really glad I could unwind here!

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After receiving a relaxing, pampering treatment, we headed off for lunch at La Cantina back in the village. The taco bar was very busy so we waited a bit to get a spot. Since it was casual dining, you have to order up at the front and they will bring the food to you.

My friend ordered the tofu burrito with added guacamole and a Cubano taco. I had the pork cochinita, pork carnitas and sweet pork tacos with a side of guacamole. I am not a huge fan of pork but the reason why I only ordered pork tacos was because they were the only ones that were not spicy!  Proportions were not very big for the tacos and it can become a costly lunch when you add it all up. Food was decent but we paid close to $20 per person!

After lunch, we started our journey back to Richmond! Our last stop before heading home was the Shannon Falls Provincial Park. The Park is closed after this long weekend so we decided to go see it before it was shut.

The Park is located right next to the Sea to Sky gondola in Squamish so it was about an hour drive from Whistler. The Falls was a little disappointing as there was so little water and you can only see it from a faraway distance. I suppose that the Falls would look much nicer in the summer when the water is flowing more abundantly! We spent about 30 minutes here and headed home.

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The drive along the Coquihalla Highway is very scenic so make sure you stop at the stopping points to get pictures of the beautiful mountains, lakes, and blue skies.

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Just a reminder that effective October 1, 2017, you must have winter tires installed on your vehicle to travel on designated highways such as the Coquihalla Highway, around the province. This requirement is mandatory until Spring!  Although the trip was a short one, it was just enough for a quick getaway for the long weekend and relax for a bit until the chaos pursue the week after!

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