There are a lot of things you realize the first year after you graduate college. Most of these realizations stem from the fact that you not only can, but must, make decisions for yourself now. There is no set framework to follow. So after working for a few months at my first real job, I slowly came to a particular realization: there was no Spring Break to look forward to.
As with Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. there are certain national holidays you can rely on for a quick break, but Spring Break is a phenomenon unique to organized education. This means you have to actually make the effort to plan your own Spring Break. Never mind the fact that traveling is proven to help the economy, improve work/life balance, and make you all around happier, you should take time off for Spring Break because you can. So I did.
One of the most difficult parts of planning my vacation to Canada was that I currently do not have a car. The obvious answer to this is to just fly to Vancouver, but I was trying to have a more low-key, local (and less expensive) adventure. Enter Clipper Vacations. They were able to get me a great group booking for not only the Clipper to Victoria, but also the ferry to Vancouver, and the Amtrak back to Seattle. This means my friends and I were able to have a Two-Nation Vacation without ever needing a car.
A view of the Olympic Mountains from the Victoria Clipper Kaelyn Cole
On the way to Victoria that first morning, we were fortunate to see snow-covered Olympic Mountains across the water. When we were not distracted by our beautiful surroundings, we took the time to plan out what we wanted to do in Victoria. The Butchart Gardens was listed as the one of the most beautiful gardens in the world, so we knew we had to get tickets. Luckily, Clipper Vacations enabled us to purchase tickets (including a coach to the gardens) while on the boat, helping us avoid exchange fees. The grounds displayed meticulously manicured gardens in both Italian and Japanese styles, as well as the unique and whimsical Sunken Garden. The photos speak for themselves – we were not disappointed!
Sunken Garden at The Butchart Gardens Kaelyn Cole
Ross Fountain in The Butchart Gardens Kaelyn Cole
After a lovely day touring the gorgeous gardens, visiting the British Columbia Parliament Building, and wandering around the city at night, we returned in to our hotel to rest up before the next leg of our journey. The next morning we made the short walk to meet our motor coach and began to make our way to Vancouver, BC.
The motor coach drove us straight on to the ferry, helping us avoid the long car lines of a sunny spring day. We were allowed to move about the ferry, get comfortable, have a snack, and take some more boat photos. Then back to the coach we went to drive straight to downtown Vancouver.
Brockton Point Lighthouse at Stanley Park Kaelyn Cole
A fully functioning steam clock in Gastown. Kaelyn Cole
From our waterfront hotel, my friends and I decided to walk to Stanley Park. A word to the wise: Stanley Park is huge! We were only about a fourth of the way around its circumference when my friends began to complain of sore feet. So wear comfortable shoes if you can, because it is a charming park with amazing views of Vancouver’s harbor. We went on to explore some other parts of the city, including Chinatown and Gastown. We capped the night by venturing out for drinks on Davie Street and mingling with the locals. It’s true what they say about Canadians being nice. Everyone was super friendly.
A merchant prepares homemade fudge at Granville Island. Kaelyn Cole
The cutest little succulent display at Granville Island. Kaelyn Cole
Our last day in Vancouver was dedicated to Granville Island. On the suggestion of our concierge, we took a water taxi to the island and avoided much of the walk from downtown. Granville Market reminded me of Seattle’s beloved Pike Place Market with fragrant produce, lively entertainment, and kitschy artistry. It was easily my favorite part of visiting Vancouver. The only part that might surpass it in beauty is the Amtrak we took back to Seattle later that afternoon.
I have not traveled by train too often in my life, but the views from our train make me want to become a regular. The southbound tracks from Vancouver allowed us to ride the coast of the Puget Sound, watching the tide come in as the sun sets. Every turn around the next bend offered a new, postcard-worthy picture framed by the train’s window. I cannot recommend this train ride more vehemently.
Our view from the train as we traveled back toward Seattle. Kaelyn Cole
Arriving home in Seattle after this ride was a welcomed relief. The buildings passing the train car became more familiar and eventually led us to King Street Station. The pristine white inside of King Street Station was a pleasant, surprising sight as we exited the train.
Walking up the steps of the station, I saw the Smith Tower and Columbia Tower shooting out of the skyline, welcoming me back to the city I love. Sometimes seeing the beauty of other places reminds you of the beauty of your own home.