One of the things we love the most about this time of year is that it brings about the arrival of some the most fascinating and beautiful marine life in the Northwest, such as gray whales and orcas. However, what is even more exciting is the calves they often have in tow! This year in particular there seems to be a boom in orca calves that have been born in the past few months and spotted in the Salish Sea. This is exciting news, as they are the first babies the Southern Resident killer whales have had in two years, bringing the total number of Southern Residents to 80. While the number of these endangered animals is still painfully low, it is encouraging to see that the community is gradually increasing.

J Pod Babies

J pod (which is often spotted year-round in the waters of the San Juan Islands, Southern Gulf Islands, lower Puget Sound and the Georgia Strait) has been luckily enough to have two babies recently join its ranks, increasing the pod to 26 members.

The first newborn orca in J pod was spotted on December 30 in the Salish Sea, when it was only a day or two old. The baby, now known J50, has been determined to be female by the Center for Whale Research, based on the pigment pattern on the underside of the whale. However, researchers have still been attempting to verify whether the mother of J50 is the 43-year-old J16 (also known as Slick) or Slick’s 16-year-old daughter J36 or Alki.

Baby J50. Credit Dave Ellifrit and the Center for Whale Research.

Baby J50. Credit Dave Ellifrit and the Center for Whale Research.

On February 12, a second baby orca was seen in the Haro Strait with J pod. The new baby was about one week old and has been designated as J51. The presumed mother of J51 is the 36-year-old J19, who is also known as Shachi.

Baby J51. Credit Dave Ellifrit and the Center for Whale Research.

Baby J51. Credit Dave Ellifrit and the Center for Whale Research.

L Pod Babies

In just the past few days, L pod (the largest of the three Southern Resident pods) increased its size to 35. The new baby orca, L121, was spotted by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on February 16, about 15 miles west of Westport. The calf’s mother is the 20-year-old L94, or Calypso, and while the baby does not have an official name yet, researchers hope to name it “Shimada” after the research vessel the calf was spotted from. Watch this video from Komo News to see L121 in action.

Hope for Southern Resident Killer Whales

According to an article by Jeff Burnside for Komo News, the recent orca “baby boom” could be because “the number of female Southern Resident killer whales at calf-bearing is age is at its highest known levels.” As such, researchers hope this is the beginning of a positive trend for the orcas, and hope to see more calves in the future.

Other wildlife has been thriving in the Salish Sea as well. At the Pacific Whale Watch Association conference earlier the week, Photo ID expert Mark Malleson from Prince of Whales announced that 90 different humpbacks were identified last year, which is three times as many than there were three years ago. Not to mention the gray whales are expected to arrive in the Salish Sea next week as they make their way to Alaska for the summer. Make sure to keep an eye out for all of these amazing animals and more the next time you are on the water.

VBW Glass Hero. Credit Victoria Beer Week.

VBW Glass Hero. Credit Victoria Beer Week.

The Northwest has some of the best craft beer around, and we love to celebrate this fact by hosting festivals. One of the most popular beer celebrations in British Columbia is Victoria Beer Week, which begins this Saturday on March 7 and runs until March 15. To learn more about all of events happening throughout the week, check out this guest post by Joe Wiebe from Victoria Beer Week.

Victoria Beer Week is a nine-day festival highlighting a broad selection of BC craft breweries and educating Victorians about craft beer. After a very successful launch that saw over 3,000 people attend 14 events in March, 2014, Victoria Beer Week is returning in 2015 with 23 events celebrating craft beer in BC’s “craft beer capital.”

Some of the most popular events from 2014 are returning, along with some exciting new options. The festival will once again kick off with the “Opening Cask Night” at the Victoria Public Market on Saturday, March 7. Last year’s Cask Night was one of the most popular beer events ever held in the city, and this year the event will feature every Vancouver Island craft brewery, including several new ones that have opened in the past year. In addition, three cideries and even a mead producer will be included. This event has gluten-free food and drink options (cider and mead only, not beer).

Snacks and Beer. Credit Victoria Beer Week.

Snacks and Beer. Credit Victoria Beer Week.

The first full day of the festival is Sunday, March 8, which also happens to be International Women’s Day. Victoria Beer Week is celebrating with “Pedalin’ for Pints,” a women-only bicycle tour visiting breweries where women play a prominent role. Another option that afternoon is “Beer School,” featuring two separate classes where sipping beer is part of the curriculum! In the evening you can look forward to the “Rookies & Legends Tap Takeover” at Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub, featuring an assortment of great beers from BC breweries.

Brewmasters Gary Lohin, Matt Phillips and Paul Hadfield. Credit Victoria Beer Week.

Brewmasters Gary Lohin, Matt Phillips and Paul Hadfield. Credit Victoria Beer Week.

On Monday, March 9, the Slow Beer Club features sour and barrel-aged “slow beers” at the Churchill Pub, while “Beer, Pizza, More Beer” is on at Pizzeria Prima Strada. Night options on Tuesday, March 10, include “Drink in the Story” at the Drake Eatery, where three brewmasters will tell the story behind one of their favorite beers and why they brew it. Or you can learn how to perfectly pair beer and cheese by attending “Beer, Cheese, More Beer” at the Garrick’s Head Pub.

New in 2015 is a major mid-week event called “Craft Beer Thunderdome,” which will feature 10 brand new, never-before-brewed beers launched by 10 of BC’s best craft breweries. This event will take place on Wednesday, March 11 at 7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. outdoors under a thunderdome (OK, it is a heated tent) at Wheelie’s Motorcycle Café in Rock Bay.

Thursday, March 12, is the most artsy night of Victoria Beer Week, with a film screening and fantasy art show. On Friday, March 13, things get more cerebral with the “Craft Beer Revolution Town Hall,” where two separate panels will look at the new Vancouver Neighborhood Brewery scene and what the future of craft beer will look like in Victoria. Friday also features the return of the very popular “Definitive Victoria Brewery Crawl,” which visits several different breweries in an upscale limo bus. A Saturday tour option is also available.

Enjoying Craft Beer. Credit Victoria Beer Week.

Enjoying Craft Beer. Credit Victoria Beer Week.

This year, the festival has expanded to include the “Closing Cask Night” on Saturday, March 14. This finale will showcase more than 20 mainland breweries, including several of the hottest new breweries that have opened in Greater Vancouver in the past two years. Other options for that Saturday include the “Cooking with Beer” classes and the “New Brew Cruise” tour, which will visit three new breweries on the outskirts of Victoria.

Once again, Victoria Beer Week will finish with the Brewmaster’s Brunch at the Atrium on Sunday, March 15. The brunch is a delectable affair that includes six beer-paired brunch courses prepared by premier chefs from the “Island Chefs Collaborative.” Beyond these marquee offerings, numerous other events are scheduled at various Victoria venues throughout the week, including Tap Takeovers at local pubs, a Beer and Books event, and more. Check out, VictoriaBeerWeek.com for the full schedule, travel options including discounted hotel rates, and more information. Tickets are available online through EventBrite.

Even though it seems like the winter holidays were only a few days ago, March is already here, and with it come an abundance of events and March things to do in Seattle. Join in St. Patrick’s Day festivities around the city or catch a conference to have fun learning about the hobbies you enjoy the most, whether they are fashion, food, wine, comics or pop culture. Likewise, make sure to see the gray whales while they are in town this spring. Reaching up to 50 feet in length and weighing up to 35 tons, they are really are an amazing sight that should not be missed.

Catch Sight of Majestic Gray Whales

Gray whale tail. Credit: Jason Mihok

Gray whale tail. Credit: Jason Mihok

One of the best things about March in the Northwest is that it is time of year when gray whales pay us a visit. These magnificent marine mammals migrate north from Baja Mexico to Alaska each year, and March and April are the perfect time to catch a glimpse of these animals as they pass by Washington with their calves into tow. To get the best view of these majestic animals, hop on the Victoria Clipper III for a Gray Whale Watching Tour.

The tour departs from Pier 69 on Seattle’s waterfront and cruises through the waters of Puget Sound in search of whales and other sealife. As such, keep an eye out for Dall’s porpoises, harbor seals, otters, sea lions, bald eagles and other birds. However, there will be a trained naturalist onboard to help spot these animals, as well as educate passengers about them and answer any questions. Before returning to Seattle, the vessel will make a two hour stop at either Coupeville or Langley on Whidbey Island, providing passengers a chance to get off the boat to grab a bite to eat, shop or a walk on the beach.

Celebrate the Luck of the Irish in Seattle

Shamrock. Creative Commons Licensed by Charles de Mille-Isles.

Shamrock. Creative Commons Licensed by Charles de Mille-Isles.

Seattle may not dye any of its lakes or rivers green, but the city celebrates St. Patrick’s Day with the best of them with a weeklong festival. Seattle has been known to light up the arches at Pacific Science Center with green lights and lays a green stripe down the center of 4th Ave downtown (which is like a mini-parade itself) to mark the route of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The actual St. Patrick’s Day Parade takes place a few days before St. Patrick’s Day on March 14. The parade turns Seattle in to a sea of green and has been recognized by CNN as one of the “Five places to get your green on.” In addition to the parade, there is also the St. Patrick’s Day Dash, which is a 5k run followed by post-race party and beer garden. Last, but not least, is the Irish Heritage Week Festival, which features Irish music, dancing, genealogy workshops, the opportunity to learn Gaelic and to view movies and cultural exhibits.

Explore a Variety of Festivals in March

Emerald City Comicon

Emerald City Comicon

Those who want to do some more celebrating or learn something new after St. Patrick’s Day, there a plenty conventions and shows coming to town at the end of March. Women can enjoy a girls day out at the Northwest Women’s Show for a day full of new fashion for 2015, celebrity impersonations, hypnotism and firemen! Not long after the Women’s Show is the Taste Washington, where you can taste the food from many award winning Seattle cafes and restaurants and enjoy Washington’s fine wines. Besides sampling tasty bites, attendees can go to seminars taught by top national wine personalities and sommeliers to learn more about Washington wines and food pairings.

Finally, comic book and pop culture fans can get their geek on at the 13th Annual Emerald City Comicon. Visitors can look forward to opportunities to game with other enthusiasts and try out game demos, attend a variety of seminars, meet celebrities (with the chance for photo ops) and comic book authors and artists, and learn about the latest releases. Of course, there is also the opportunity to enter in to a costume contest, so make sure you dress up in your most creative outfit imaginable.

Clipper Spirit Awardee Barbie Zipp

Clipper Spirit Awardee Barbie Zipp

As we mentioned previously, we have a lot of amazing people on the Clipper team, which includes employees at both our Seattle and Victoria terminals. Thus, in this employee spotlight we thought we would focus on our Clipper Spirit Award honoree from Victoria – Barbie Zipp. A Senior Reservation Agent at the Victoria terminal, Barbie has been part of the Victoria Clipper team for over 25 years and is described by her manager, Tom Oram, as “a valued member of the team [who] consistently garners accolades from our customers for the exceptional level of customer service she provides. Barbie makes every effort to connect with each and every guest she serves, ensuring their experience not only feels personalized, but is filled with memories to last a lifetime.”

Tom also mentioned that Barbie was recently “recognized by Tourism Victoria in 2014, receiving the “Victoria Hospitality Award” for assisting one of our guests who was hospitalized with a medical emergency. Barbie not only assisted during the emergency until first responders arrived, she, on her own time, visited the guest in the hospital and bought them clothing and personal items out of her own pocket. After the guest was safe to travel, Barbie assisted her in making arrangements to comfortably return home. We at Clipper Navigation are proud and honored to have Barbie Zipp as an employee and also to have her assist our guests, with their travel needs.”

To learn more about what makes Barbie so awesome, I got in touch with Barbie to talk to her about her experiences at Clipper over the past several years and a few of the activities she participates in during her spare time.

What’s the best part about your job? :

The people! Our passengers are the best, it is such an honor to help someone create memories, whether they are booking a day trip or a multi-city package. I have had the pleasure of getting to know our frequent travelers, some started as unaccompanied minors and then grew up to work with us. I love the holidays, seeing families and friends reuniting at arrivals and the teary goodbyes at departures always make me cry too.

How long have you been working at Clipper?:

I started at the Victoria Clipper at the age of 16, on August 16, 1989. I have spent more than half my life at the Victoria Clipper, I grew up here.

What is the best experience you have had while at Clipper? :

I have had the pleasure of meeting celebrities; Rickie Lee Jones, Graham Kerr, William Sanford “Bill” Nye and Stephen Hawking (just to name a few). Each day brings another adventure here at the Victoria Clipper , from checking in a Robot to getting snowed in at work during the “Storm of the Century in 1996,” for Victoria that really was a big deal as it is normally so mild here.

One the coolest things was when the Clipper saved my wedding. My parents took a sailing trip aboard the family boat to the San Juan Islands. My mother still curses my father for insisting on traveling days before my wedding, and sure enough the motor on the boat conked out. My mother was panicked, how would they make it home in time to prepare for the wedding? Did I mention she was doing all the cooking and baking for the affair? Thankfully my father was able to get them to Friday Harbor in time to board the Victoria Clipper III and back to Victoria. So Clipper Vacations saved my parents’ marriage and my wedding day.

What is your favorite trip, package or activity out of the products we offer?:

There are so many fun things to choose from! [My] family spent a lot of time sailing in the San Juan Islands, the wildlife and the lifestyle of the San Juans are magic. I like that Clipper offers trips to everything from little villages to grand cities. Being able to design a travel itinerary that includes a train trip, Victoria Clipper voyage and sea plane is my ideal adventure.

Where are your favorite places to eat in Seattle or Victoria? :

In Seattle, [my favorite place to eat is the Dahlia Bakery] – bite sized coconut cream pies! In Victoria, I cannot resist a delicate macaron from Bon Macaron Patisserie.

Where do you want to travel to most/next (can be anywhere, not limited to cities we go to)?:

After all these years at the Clipper I have yet to take the Gray Whale Watching Tour or the Leavenworth Christmas Lighting Day Trip out of Seattle.

What are you passionate about? :

I like to keep up with current events, politics and I am passionate about human rights.

What other hobbies do you have?:

I am currently the Vice President of the Zonta Club of Victoria. The Zonta Club of Victoria is part of Zonta International, which is a global organization of executives and professionals working together to empower women worldwide through service and advocacy. “Zonta” derives from the Lakota Sioux word meaning “honest and trustworthy.” Zonta Victoria follows the mission of Zonta International seeking to improve the legal, political, economic, educational, health and professional status of women; work for the advancement of understanding, goodwill, and peace through a world fellowship; promote justice and universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms; and be united internationally to foster high ethical standards, implement service programs, and provide mutual support and fellowship for members who serve their communities, their nations, and the world.

I am proud that Clipper Vacations has extended our local club affiliate status to Zonta International. When someone uses a link from our club website to book travel on the Victoria Clipper, Clipper Vacations sends a commission to the club. This type of fundraising is essential for our club to financially support Non-Governmental Groups in Victoria who are delivering services that are aligned with the Zonta Mission.

What do you do on your days off? :

I work with my Service club on projects, I make sure to take time to visit family and read.

Do you have a favorite web site or blog you follow?:

My go to website for Victoria is the Downtown Victoria Business Association (DVBA). I like to know what is happening around downtown, as I work and live in downtown Victoria.

Spring is in the air, and there are several March things to do in Victoria that allow you to enjoy the warmer weather. Take some time out explore nature this month, whether at The Butchart Gardens, at other local parks like Beacon Hill or even while kayaking and paddle boarding. In addition to the new wildlife that spring often brings, there are also opportunities throughout the month to attend a workshop or two. These seminars cover everything from beer, to the arts and technology, so there is something to learn for all interests. There is no better time than this spring to get out and explore what is new in Victoria!

Winter Showers Bring Early Flowers

The Butchart Gardens in the spring. Courtesy of The Butchart Gardens

The Butchart Gardens in the spring. Courtesy of The Butchart Gardens

Although the official first day of spring is not until near the end of the month, on March 20, Victoria’s mild weather has caused many of the beautiful flowers in town to already begin blooming. To celebrate this unofficial start to spring, each year The Butchart Gardens and Tourism Victoria organize a Flower Count to tally how many blooms there are total, and each municipality is encouraged to have the “Bloomingest Community.” In 2014, the residents of Victoria counted 1,392,393,203 flowers total, with most blooms attributed to the City of Colwood. This year’s count will be from March 5 to March 11, so make sure to visit during this week to view the flowers Victoria is famous for; it is not called the “City of Gardens” for nothing.

Delight Your Senses with Culinary Festivals

Beer and charcutes at Victoria Beer Week. Courtesy of Victoria Beer Week.

Beer and charcutes at Victoria Beer Week. Courtesy of Victoria Beer Week.

Enjoy the best of the beverage and culinary world this month with nearly back to back festivals. Start the month off by wetting your whistle during Victoria Beer Week. During the course of the nine day series there are events that highlight the craft beers in Victoria (along with three cideries and even a mead producer), educating visitors and beer enthusiasts alike. You can look forward to seminars, movies, plenty of tastings and more! Just a few days after Beer Week is Culinaire, “Victoria’s Premier Food Tasting Experience,” which provides guests with the opportunity to sample food from the most unique restaurants and purveyors of fine foods and beverages in the area.

Use Your Spring Break to Learn Something New

Although March is spring break for many people, that does not mean you have to stop learning or can’t learn something new while having fun at the same time. Students, lifelong learners, thinkers, innovators and artists who are looking for fresh ideas should consider going to the week-long IdeaFest 2015 to discuss dozens of world changing ideas. There will be attendees from around Canada and over 50 free panels, workshops, exhibits, lectures and tours covering everything from the arts, technology, social behaviors and conservation.

Similarly, aspiring photographers can develop their skills by participating in the Royal BC Museum’s Focus on Nature Spring Break Camp. Attendees will learn how to capture fantastic nature shots while learning about photo composition and storytelling. Highlights include a special visit from a Wildlife Photographer of the Year, field trips to Beacon Hill Park and being featured in a mini-Wildlife Photographer of the Year inspired display. With some many opportunities to learn, if there is an area you would like to improve or learn more about, this is the perfect time to start!

More March Things to Do in Victoria

Victoria French Festival (Mar 5-8)

Although these past few days in the Northwest have been gloriously sunny and the flowers are already starting to bloom, there’s a chance there may be a few more winter-y days before it is officially springtime. Even if it does happen to be cold, gray and drizzly out (or all of the above) there are a variety of fun and interesting locations to explore around the Northwest. In fact, one of the best ways to beat those rainy day blues by heading to a nearby museum and learning something new!

Victoria

Robert Bateman Centre

Robert Bateman Centre

Robert Bateman Centre

If you love animals and nature, make sure to check out the Robert Bateman Centre, which features over 100 works of art created by this famous wildlife artist. In case this wasn’t enough of a reason to visit, the museum is offering free admission on Wednesday evenings from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. in March as part of their Winter Wednesday program.

Royal British Museum

Discover the history of Victoria and British Columbia at the Royal British Museum by exploring the First People’s, Modern History and Natural History galleries. The most recent traveling exhibit, the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2014, runs until April and showcases award-winning images of nature taken by some of the world’s most respected photographers.

Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre

View the marine life of the Salish Sea at the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre. The Centre houses over 3,500 animals, such as fish, eels, octopuses, jelly fish, anemones, crabs and more! Besides getting to see these creatures up close and personal, you will also learn what you can do at home to protect local waters so these wonderful animals are here for generations to come.

Parliament Tours

Pay a visit to Victoria’s Parliament Buildings to learn about British Columbia’s Legislative Assembly and view the beautiful architecture and stained glass windows of the buildings. There are daily guided tour or you can explore on our own. With Parliament in session for much of March, April and May you may even have the chance to sit in on a meeting.

Seattle

Experience Music Project

Experience Music Project

Experience Music Project (EMP)

Indulge in everything music, the history, the culture and play around with the instruments themselves in this eye-catching museum. In addition to music, the Experience Music Project often features special pop culture showcases such as the We are 12 featuring Seahawks memorabilia or the Fantasy: Worlds of Myth and Magic that includes costumes and props from movies and shows like The Princess Bride, Game of Thrones and Harry Potter.

Boeing Future of Flight Tour and Museum of Flight

Explore where many of the planes you travel on are assembled, manufactured and flight tested on the Boeing Future of Flight Tour in Everett. You can then travel down to the Museum of Flight in South Seattle to see the finished product, as the Museum has more than 150 air and spacecraft related artifacts.

Chihuly Garden of Glass and Museum of Glass

Visit what seems like a different world entirely at to the Chihuly Garden of Glass, which is filled with local artist Dale Chihuly’s beautiful glass sculptures. You can also head down to Tacoma to see more of Chihuly’s work, exhibitions and collections by other artists and watch live glassmaking in the Hot Shop.

Seattle Pinball Museum

Pinball wizards rejoice! The Seattle Pinball Museum features over 30 different pinball machines that were created as early as 1930 and as recently as 2010. Of course, the best part is that for a flat fee you can play on all of them for as long as you want!

Seattle Aquarium

One of the city’s much loved attractions for visitors of all ages, the Seattle Aquarium has a variety of Puget Sound animals on display, such as tide pool life, octopuses, sharks, fish and marine mammals and shore birds. You will also get a chance to experience sea life you might not normally see from the tropical Pacific.

Vancouver

Vancouver Aquarium

Vancouver Aquarium

Vancouver Aquarium

A trip to Vancouver is not complete without a visit to the Vancouver Aquarium, which is the largest in Canada and one of the five largest in North America. In addition to viewing impressive displays of jelly fish, local and exotic fish, and even reptiles and amphibians, you can check out live shows featuring beluga whales, dolphins and sea lions.

Vancouver Maritime Museum

Designed to educate people about the maritime history of the Pacific Northwest and the Arctic, the main exhibit in the Vancouver Maritime Museum is the St. Roch a historic arctic exploration vessel. However, the Museum also houses extensive galleries of model ships and maritime art. Outdoors, visitors can look on as craftsman build model boats.

Science World

Find out everything you ever wanted to know related technology and science at Science World. The Museum’s many galleries offer hands on exhibits to educate you about the power of the human body, allow you to create experiments of your own, explore the wonders of nature, discover how to help establish a more sustainable future for all of us and more.

Vancouver Police Museum

Ever wonder what it is like to be a part of the police department? If so, make sure to pay a visit to the Vancouver Police Museum to see the city’s old police office, coroner’s courtroom, morgue and autopsy facilities, discover the history of Vancouver Police Department and learn about the science of policing.

HR Macmillan Space Centre

Explore space without even leaving the ground at the H.R. Macmillan Space Centre. Educate yourself all about the universe, our planets and space exploration and enjoy shows in the planetarium star theatre.

Portland

Pittock Mansion. Creative Commons Licensed by Chrismiceli

Pittock Mansion. Creative Commons Licensed by Chrismiceli

Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI)

Ranked as one of the top science centers in the United States, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry has five exhibit halls, eight hands-on science labs, the USS Blueback submarine, Kendall Planetarium and the Empirical Theater, providing people of all ages plenty of opportunities to learn.

Powell’s Books

Founded in 1971, Powell’s City of Books is one of the largest independent new and used bookstores in the world. The store covers about 68,000 square feet and has an inventory of over four million new, used, rare and out of print books. Rated by CNN as “one of the ten coolest bookstores in the world,” Powell’s is a must for anyone who reads.

Hat Museum

Immerse yourself in the world of hats at the Portland Hat Museum, which has over 1,000 hats that have been carefully chosen in styles of past eras. As such, visitors will get a lesson in history as well as in fashion. Make sure to contact the museum before you visit to arrange a private tour or you will not be able to get in.

Portland Art Museum

The oldest art museum in the Pacific Northwest, the Portland Art Museum is well known for allocating most of its space to permanent exhibitions. As much, the Museum has an extensive collection of European and American art as well as galleries of English silver and graphic arts.

Pittock Mansion

Peek into the past at Pittock Mansion. Home to Portland pioneers Henry and Georgiana Pittock from 1914 to 1919, this mansion overlooking the city has an eclectic design and a rich history, making a must see for Northwest history buffs.

Love is in the air in Portland! With Valentine’s Day coming up this weekend, there are a number of options for fun and romantic dates. However, Valentine’s Day shouldn’t be the only event on your radar this month, there is also Chinese New Year, which falls on February 19 and is the biggest Chinese holiday of the year. In addition, this month there several chances to whet your taste buds on the craft beer and cuisine Portland has become famous for with the variety of culinary festivals taking place from the middle to the end of the month. Whether you enjoy, food, the arts, the outdoors or all of the above, there are plenty February things to do in Portland.

Verbena. Creative Commons Licensed by Patty Myrick

Verbena. Creative Commons Licensed by Patty Myrick

Spend This Valentine’s Day Enjoying Everything Portland Has to Offer

There is nothing sweeter than spending Valentine’s Day weekend sampling Oregon’s world-class wines at Valentine’s Wine & Chocolate Weekend or beers at Zwickelmania. Or if you are up for something a bit more adventurous, take your friends or significant other on the at My Muddy Valentine 5k Mud Run that features tons of dirt and mud, obstacles, beer, food, hot showers, mimosas and music. Top the day or night off with a tasty dinner at one of Portland’s restaurants followed by theater, dancing or music. Whichever option you choose will certainly be a nice change of pace from the typical dinner and a movie.

Lan Su Garden. Creative Commons Licensed by M.O. Stevens

Lan Su Garden. Creative Commons Licensed by M.O. Stevens

The Fun and Festivities Continue All February Long

As mentioned previously, the fun does not end with Valentine’s Day on the 14th. Stop by Lan Su Garden, which was created by Chinese artisan’s from Portland’s sister city of Suzhou, for Chinese New Year. You will get experience cultural activities like “Rolling in the Wealth,” a traditional activity of rolling oranges and gold coins through Lan Su’s front door, which is thought to bring good fortune and prosperity. There will also be lion dances, performances and activities for kids, and calligraphy and martial arts demonstrations.

If you don’t get to sample enough tasty cuisine during Valentine’s Day or Chinese New Year, there are still opportunities to sample other fare before the month ends. There is the ever popular Newport Seafood & Wine Festival , a bright spot that many Northwesterner’s look forward to during the otherwise drizzly winter as well the Chowder Challenge, a fun blind-tasting competition that allows you to sample chowders from at least 12 restaurants. If you would rather listen to something sweet, you can enjoy over 80 different performances at the Portland Jazz Festival. After this concert, you definitely won’t be singing the Blues.

More February Things to Do in Portland

Tennis Pro

Tennis Pro

Last week we had the pleasure of meeting Seattle indie band Tennis Pro before they hopped on the Victoria Clipper to travel up to Victoria for a show at the Copper Owl. Before Tennis Pro left on their journey they explored our boat and I spoke with band members Sean Lowry (drums), Phillip Peterson (bass) and David Drury (guitar) about their music, their film Big in Japan as well as their future plans. Speaking of the future, if you want to see Tennis Pro yourself, you can fairly soon as Big in Japan will be playing at the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) from February 20-26, with performances by the band on February 20 and 21.

Where are you from? How did you get into music? Had you recorded with other groups before forming Tennis Pro?

Sean: I’m a Western Washington native and I have been in Tennis Pro for 12 years. Phil and I played in some bands before Tennis Pro and I’ve always played music, I played music in elementary school, so I just kept doing it.

Phil: I’m a Northgate native, and I still live in Northgate in the same house. I have been doing music my whole life, I have played the cello since I was three and I’ve recorded with many, many other people locally and internationally. Nada Surf, Maroon 5, Pink, Owl City, as well as many local arts over a series of a couple of decades. Now Tennis Pro has been together for quite a while and we are continuing to make music.

David: I did grow up in Snohomish, but my family moved to California when I was a kid. I was a fan of one of the bands that these guys [Sean and Phil] were in and they had a guitarist that was leaving the band, so I made sure to get chance to jam with these guys, and instantly was the new thing after that. That was 12 years ago.

What are your musical inspirations for the sound of Tennis Pro

Phil: We get a lot of water here in Seattle, so I like to pretend that it is nice water that could be swam in or surfed in, so I think the environment, nature and definitely a coastal vibe [influence our music]. I like to influence other people’s music, I don’t usually like them to influence mine.

David: I think bands that we have liked to listen to and bands that people have liked to talk about when they talk about Tennis Pro are Weezer, the Pixies, Nirvana, They Might Be Giants and Fountains of Wayne.

Sean: Violent Femmes.

Phil: The Sonics are a local Seattle-Tacoma band. The Ventures and the Sonics I would say are a big influence.

David: So we like to have fun, and we like to play rock ‘n’ roll. Sometimes it is kind of surfy.

What song of yours are you most proud of?

David: I like “We Put the Punc in Punctuation.” I feel like that became sort of little of who we are and what we are about, so I’m proud of that.

Sean: I like a lot of our songs off of our last album “Shimokita is Dead?” because a lot of them were written and inspired by our touring of Japan. To me like the newest and coolest and kind of represents some of the funner times for us.

Phil: We have a song called “Dance Hit Number One,” which is about how much you want to dance to the song, so it is kind of like a funny, like dog chasing its own tail kind of concept.

Tennis Pro in the wheelhouse

Tennis Pro in the wheelhouse

Can you tell us a little bit about your movie, Big in Japan and what inspired you to make it?

Sean: I think we all felt like we wanted to go to Japan, I think we felt like maybe our music would resonate with the people in Japan better than here in Seattle. I think we had experienced a little bit of success locally and nationally our music always charted in the college charts but we had never really kind of broke out. I think we sort of hatched this desperate plan that if we could buy some plane tickets and get over there, maybe we could get them to notice us and have a camera on us. At probably 2009, Phil and I had done some very peripheral work with MTV for their web series, $5 Cover. On a drive to Portland to play a show, I was like “oh my god, we could get MTV to film us over there, unscripted trying to make it and everything.” Phil knew a producer and we told her the idea and really liked it, so she put me on the phone with MTV.

Phil: MTV gave us their blessing, saying to go forward with the project, and then we were able to procure John Jeffcoat, who did Outsourced, as our director. Then the MTV thing fell away as it was kind of seasonal a thing for MTV at the time anyway.

Sean: We pitched it to MTV as an unscripted reality series. So, when they walked away we were left with John Jeffcoat as a director and John was like “let’s make a movie” and we were like “okay” and that’s now it started. So it is a [scripted] narrative feature film. We advertise it as semi-fictitious, but it fairly closely follows reality. [However,] it is scripted so we are playing a caricature of ourselves.

Phil: With the exception of all of the music, which is real and not scripted per say.

Sean: All the musical performances in the movie are actual performance. In that way, it has a bit of a documentary element to it a little bit.

What part of creating the movie did you enjoy the most?

Sean: I think touring Japan, playing shows in Japan. I think, for me anyway, coming out of it with all our friends that we made over there and locally too. We made some friends for life, and I think all of us really miss being over there and miss all the people we got to know through this experience.

Phil: The culture of playing music in Japan is extremely attractive. All the bands, after the shows they all hang out. Here, everyone has their own gear and their own stuff so after the show you have to go find your vehicle, load out and sort of take care of your own thing. In Japan, everyone shares gear and most of it is owned by the club. So, after you have played your show, and shows tend to be a little an earlier too, then all the bands just go out and party out together. I think that was my favorite part, there is a lot of comradery that happened after the shows. You sort have all put your music out there and the crowd enjoyed it and just every night there is this sort of after party environment. There is something a little bit deeper having performed with these other bands than just an after party. There’s a connection there.

David: I think we fell in love with Japan and Tokyo more than maybe we thought we would and we felt like that was reciprocated, and our shows were really great and people really responded to the music. That was my favorite part was connecting on a bigger scale than we even thought that we were going to.

Phil tried his hand at captaining the vessel.

Phil tried his hand at captaining the vessel.

Do you have plans to go back to Japan or do more touring this year?

Sean: We don’t have immediate plans, but we are trying to procure distribution for the film right now in Japan. We have been in talks with some record labels in Japan as well, so if we were to get that record deal we have been talking about, then they would bring us over and hopefully that would be this year.

Phil: Short story, yes, we are working on it, but there is nothing definite yet.

Are you going to tour in the U.S.??

Sean: We have some potential management companies that might work with us, so if that happens, we would love to tour the U.S., or any country where we are well received. I think for us to just to plan our own tour in the U.S., you know geographically it is such a big space and so much of the time in the U.S. is spent driving between cities, it would have to be well planned and funded by people other than Tennis Pro.

Phil: It would have to be more of a professional type of tour, where the supply and the demand match each other. Not just going out, beating the streets and playing wherever, just hoping that something [would work out]. It would have to be something that was booked and seats sold.

David: We’ve all done our fair share of touring in vans and I think we decided we were going to do it a different way, which is spend a lot of time on the writing and the recording. That might be why we’re still together.

Phil: Not beating each other up in a van somewhere in Minnesota.

You guys have a show tonight up in Victoria, that’s why you’re here. Have you ever been up there before?

David: I lived in Canada for two years but I never went to Victoria, I was always in Vancouver.

Phil: I have been several times and I absolutely love it.

You guys have a show at the SIFF too right?

Sean: Starting February 20th for one week, Northwest Film Forum will be doing a theatrical run of Big in Japan. On Friday the 20th and Saturday the 21st, the film screens at 8:00PM and we will perform afterwards. The film can be seen from Friday to Thursday of that week. Hopefully the will extend the run, so it might play up to two weeks, but right now it is just guaranteed for a week.

Clipper Spirit Awardee Natalie

Clipper Spirit Awardee Natalie

At Clipper, our mission is to create amazing memories for our customers at every opportunity. We are proud to have a team that makes this day possible day in and day out, and recently created the Clipper Spirit Award to honor employees who consistently do everything in their power to provide the best experience possible. As such, our Clipper Spirit awardees are living embodiments of our Clipper core values in all that they do: sharing a positive attitude, going above and beyond for customers and colleagues, and connecting with people at every opportunity.

Two weeks ago, we presented our inaugural honorees with this award. Since they are pretty incredible, we thought it would be fun to share what makes them special and unique, so stayed tuned to hear more of their stories. The first up is our Customer Service Coordinator, Natalie Brandon. According to her manager Joan Rasmussen, “Natalie communicates her positive and understanding attitude with our customers around the world on a daily basis and takes pride in listening to customer needs with thoughtfulness and care. Natalie’s spirit of above and beyond customer service also extends to her office teammates. She volunteers to step in whenever she sees help is needed and her warm smile and friendly greeting are always welcome throughout the office.” I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Natalie and chatting with her about travel, her passions and, of course, the Seahawks.

Tell us a little about yourself

I am originally from Texas, but have lived in a lot of places over the years, including Washington D.C. and Fairbanks, AK. I have been living Seattle for the past eight years and absolutely love it. I moved to Seattle because of its beauty, it is in the midst of a beautiful landscape and the city also has a lot of history. It is nice being in the city and being able to see two different mountain ranges, the Olympics and the Cascades. However, not only do we have mountains, but we also have water. Puget Sound is a beautiful place for a city.

What do you do at Clipper?

I started as a Reservation Agent in 2013, and then moved from that role to my current position as Customer Service Coordinator. My role is all about helping people, such as processing special requests, helping travelers plan their trips and telling people what is like to visit places like Seattle, Victoria and Vancouver.

What’s the best part about your job?

My favorite part about my job is getting to meet a lot of people every day and getting to be a part of their travel experience.

What is the best experience you have had at Clipper?

The best experience I have had working at Clipper is being part of such an iconic company in Seattle and being able to share the pride everyone in the city shares for the Seahawks. I like how the company has embraced the excitement of the team in the past few years. Doing things like taking pictures of our team here at Clipper dressed in their Seahawks gear and then posting them on social media make me feel good because the Seahawks are making history and we are doing our part to celebrate that as a company.

What is your favorite trip we offer?

My favorite trip we offer is The Butchart Gardens & City Highlights Tour, which is fun to do and I recommend it to travelers all the time. The city highlights portion of the tour is a great way to get your bearings when you get to Victoria and gives you a good sense of where you are at in town. Then, you get to go out The Butchart Gardens and are able to enjoy a beautiful drive along the way. Once you arrive at The Gardens, you get just enough time to explore them, see what they are about and enjoy the displays and exhibits. I suggest that visitors to Victoria go on the tour as soon as they arrive in town so you can discover what places you want to come back to and spend more time at.

Where do you want to travel to next?

I really want to travel to the Canadian Rockies. A lot of people don’t know we offer services there. I haven’t been, but really want to visit since there are a lot of fun things to do in the area.

Where are your favorite places to eat in Seattle or Victoria?

In Victoria, I really like eating at the Blue Crab Seafood House at Coast Victoria Harbourside Hotel & Marina. They have great seafood and a beautiful view of the Inner Harbour. My favorite restaurant in Seattle is Anthony’s. The location at Pier 66 is very close to our terminal so I always tell passengers to visit before or after traveling.

What are you passionate about?

I am most passionate about helping other people, which goes along with my career choice in the hospitality industry. Hopefully you get to a point in your life when you know what you are about. That’s how I feel about helping people. I care a lot about the trips people take and like hearing about the memories they create, they are really special.

What do you do on your days off?

On my days off, my boyfriend and I like to take road trips. Our favorite place to go is the Pacific Coast, hang out on the beaches, go clamming and watch birds.

Do you have a favorite website, blog or person you follow?

I like the Northwest Traveler section of the Seattle Times Sunday paper and its accompanying website. It is a really well-done section of the paper and is great because there are so many fascinating places to visit in the Pacific Northwest. I actually get a lot of my ideas for road trips from it. I think “that sounds cool, let’s do it!”

Happy February! With Valentine’s Day, Family Day and Chinese New Year happening this month there are plenty of events to attend. Enjoy the great outdoors, or if it happens to be too rainy, a museum with your family. Treat your sweetheart to a special day or night on the town and then continue the fun until the end of the month with Chinese New Year’s celebrations. All of these February things to do in Vancouver are sure to help keep your calendar full during these last days of winter.

Spend Time with the People You Love

Tourism Vancouver Aerial. Credit Albert-Normandin

Tourism Vancouver Aerial. Credit Albert-Normandin

February is all about doing things for people you care about the most. The month kicks off with Family Day on February 9th. In honor of this statutory holiday, get out and do something fun with your whole family, after all, that is what the day is about. View the city from above with the Vancouver Aerial Flightseeing Tour or take a BC Ferry cruise on a scenic day trip from Vancouver to Victoria and explore The Butchart Gardens.

Likewise, many organizations like the Vancouver Aquarium, Vancouver Art Gallery and Grouse Mountain have discounted rates and special events throughout the day. Even the Vancouver Giants hockey team gets in on the action, with Telus Family special festivities as they take on the Seattle Thunderbirds (we are going to have a hard time choosing a side!). You can expect fun activities like face painting, clowns and more during the game, and a chance to play a street hockey game or get autographs from the players afterwards. Top the day off by stopping by the Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival and get a creamy, rich, chocolaty beverage in unique flavor like coconut, Bailey’s or Oreo cookie to sip on.

Family Day is closely followed by Valentine’s Day, so it is a good time to start thinking about what you would like to do with your sweetie. Take them to Valentine’s Day at L’abattoir for a fancy three course dinner in the restaurant’s private dining room or romantic lunch with the Vandusen Botanical Garden: Valentine’s Picnic. Besides splendid views, there will even be classic music playing.

Celebrate Spring Festival in Vancouver’s Chinatown

Lunarfest. Courtesy of Tourism Victoria

Lunarfest. Courtesy of Tourism Victoria

One of the things that draws many people to Vancouver is the vibrant Chinese community. As such, the celebration of Chinese New Year is a significant event and the city of Vancouver will be going all out for the Year of the Sheep. Many of the festivities take place in or around Chinatown, which is one of the largest in North America with plenty of options for shopping, dining and entertainment. Make sure to visit Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, with its manicured grounds and ornate buildings, the garden is beautiful to explore and it is also hosting a special shadow puppet show and temple fair for the new year. You can also view an elaborate display of traditional scenes from China at the Chinese New Year Heritage Village or for check out the modern side of Chinese arts culture and cuisine at LunarFest.

In addition, the River Rock Theatre is featuring World Champion Lion Dance Show with an acrobatic team from Malaysia, Kung Fu demonstrations and of course the Lion Dance itself. There will also ne over $5,000 in prize giveaways, so if you are lucky you may even win a special gift to take home with you. Finish off your celebrations with the Chinese New Year Parade at Millennium Gate in Chinatown with thousands of performers.

More February Things to Do in Vancouver

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