November 2010

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A $50 gift card to shop at Pacific Place!

From November 29, 2010 – December 10, 2010 you can get a 20% gift card bonus plus other giveaways (restrictions apply).

Here’s the scoop, each day during the 12 Days of Holiday Bonuses you can qualify for an additional 20% in gift cards that you can either giveaway or take for yourself. Better yet, we have added some giveaways to sweeten the deal. Check our our giveaways here.

To coincide with the 12 Days of Holiday Bonuses we are also giving away prizes on Twitter. Each day is a new contest and a new prize! Follow us @ClipperVacation to enter for daily giveaways!

To really get into the mood of the holidays I love to visit the ‘shops’ in downtown Victoria. I love to wander in and out of the shops, talking to the small store owners, getting inspirations for holiday decorating and giving. There are so many events downtown and I love the old brick buildings, the leaded glass windows and the decorations! I somehow feel closer to the holiday spirit when winding my way through our lovely ‘Victorian’ town.

To really experience a true ‘Victorian Holiday’, you must make a visit to “Point Ellice House” and the “Craigdarroch Castle”, Victoria’s two heritage treasures that are a must visit any time of the year, but during the holidays they are truly magical.

Craigdarroch Castle

I suggest taking BC Transit bus #14 to both destinations. A one way fare is $2.50 or you can purchase an unlimited day pass for $7.75. You can board the #14 from Douglas St at Johnson (Westbound) for Point Ellice house 2619 Pleasant Street (last right off Bay Street before the Bay St. Bridge).

Your trip will take you through an industrial part of Victoria, don’t fret you are just steps away from a hidden gem, the Point Ellice House. The Point Ellice house was built in 1857, it now sits on a little slip of green space overlooking the Gorge waterway, the land and the home has been preserved and is now a National Heritage site. In 1859 it was home to Mr. Peter O’Reilly and his family. Mr. O’Reilly served as a Justice of Peace, Stipendiary Magistrate, he held the posts of Gold Commissioner, Collector of Revenue, Assistant Commissioner of Lands, Indian Agent, and Coroner.  Finally in 1881, Peter O’Reilly retired as a judge. His family was known to be great hosts to both Government and Business alike. The home and all its records were preserved by three generations of O’Reilly’s then finally sold in 1975 to the Province of British Columbia in 1975. The home is a treasure of written records and furnishings from 1859 and onwards. It is one of North America’s largest collections of Victoriana in its original, privileged Victorian home.

Craigdarroch CastleThe O’Reilly tradition of opening their home to guests continues to this day, and during the holidays you can even take high tea at the home! To launch the holiday festivities there will be a ‘Victorian Bizarr’ November 19th & 20th you will be able purchase Victorian inspired gifts to help support the Point Ellice house society. Mark your calendar, be sure to reserve your House tour and Tea as it will only be available the following dates: Fridays and Saturdays: November 26 – 27, December 3 – 4, December 10 – 11, and December 17 – 18, from 11:00am to 3:00 pm.

Also note a special reading and tour with historian John Adams’ – November 26th and December 10th 10:00am – 11:00am.

Full luncheon tea is $23 per person plus HST (which includes the house audio tour). Please reserve by phone (250) 380-6506 or email:

Now that you seen a Victorian home, how about a Victorian castle? From the Point Ellice house you can re-board bus #14 heading Eastbound for the Craigdarroch Castle 1050 Joan Crescent (Off Fort Street)

I have grown up with the Castle in my neighbourhood; well actually my Grandparents lived around the bend on Joan Crescent. I love to visit the castle. A word of caution there are many stairs to climb, but it is worth the effort. The Castle was the dream project of Coal baron Robert Dunsmuir. A very wealthy man started the project in 1887, but died before its completion in 1890. The Castle has been many institutions; it has taken over 30 years to restore the Castle to its current condition of a true Victorian mansion. It takes over one month to decorate the Castle for the holidays. It is transformed into a breath taking Victorian holiday display. If there is a scrooge amongst your group, the splendour will impress and maybe even warm their cold coal heart. The Castle has several Christmas trees, featuring Victorian decorations and toys. During the holiday hours there are singers, musicians and selected dates Father Christmas. On selected evenings there is a special family tour of the Castle where you can learn about Victorian Christmas traditions and enjoy cider and cookies in the pantry at the end of the tour. Check the calendar for the festivities! OPEN 10:00 AM TO 4:30 PM FOR SELF-GUIDED TOURS (To allow our staff and volunteers to enjoy the holidays, we will be closed on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.) All entertainment is included with regular admission ~ Adult: $12.00, Senior: $11.00, Student (19+): $8.00, Child (6 – 18): $4.00, Child (5 and under): no charge

Family Night tours will only be held: December 19th & 20th Doors open 15 minutes prior – Tours start at 6:30 or 7 pm both nights. Family Night tour prices; Adult: $14.50 Senior: $13.50 Student (19+ with ID): $10.50 Child (6-18): $6.50 Child (5 & under) Free

A slideshow of some of the photo contest submissions. We are currently working on picking a winner!

Trip To Victoria, BC Aboard The Clipper Slideshow: Clipper’s trip from Seattle, Washington, United States to Victoria, British Columbia, Canada was created by TripAdvisor. See another Victoria slideshow. Create a free slideshow with music from your travel photos.

Opening day at Whistler, Blackcomb is today, November 19th!

I recently took a trip to Whistler for a quick weekend getaway.  Just a 4 ½ hour drive from Seattle and you can be in a place I refer to as “magical”.  There is something special about this world class resort north of Vancouver.  Perhaps it is the journey there along the gorgeous Sea-to-Sky highway.  I have been on that drive many times, but there is always a new discovery.  This time, I saw part of a mountain that must have been hidden by a cloud during my other trips.  My first thought was, “is that new?”  Of course it isn’t, but I do not remember ever seeing that tall, majestic peak before.

Another new discovery on this trip was a hidden gem called the Grilled Fromage in Squamish.  To find it, you will have to bypass the typical rest stops and turn off the highway to Cleveland Avenue which looks like a quaint main street in a small town.  This grilled cheese diner is located on 38134 Cleveland Avenue and is self proclaimed as the “Cheesiest Place on Earth”.  What a find this was!!  Not only is the concept amazing, but the diner itself has so much character with all of the 80’s memorabilia on the walls.  One wall is dedicated to the menu which was a bit overwhelming.  Trying to decide which sandwich to choose from was tough considering there are approximately 50 choices.   I almost caved and got the “Missionary” (basic grilled cheese), but decided to be a bit more adventurous and went with the Guinness flavored cheddar with bacon.  No chips or fries as a side at this joint….every sandwich comes with cheetos!!!  It is definitely worth the short detour on your way up to Whistler, on the way back….or both.  The owner said that they are looking to possibly open another one in Vancouver.  Look out burgers…..the grilled cheese is taking over!

Since it was in between seasons when I was there, the village was quiet, but won’t be for long.  Pretty soon, the resort will be bustling with skiers and snowboarders anxious to get on the slopes and enjoy this extraordinary place. It is fun any time of the year, but there is something special about winter time with the sight of countless twinkling lights on the trees, the smell of snow and of course the taste of nachos after a full day of skiing that make me want to head north again and again!

What would you rather wear?

A few years ago the Christmas ‘spirit’ had eluded me until my husband, Joe, took me to Victoria for a pre-Christmas break and shopping trip. When we left the Victoria Clipper dock there was a line-up of decorated vintage horse carriages – the shimmering street lights of green, red and gold were festooned with swags of evergreen. The vanilla lights of the Parliament building were lit and the little steamer ferries were having a Santa parade in the harbor – complete with Christmas trees, decorated boats, reindeer, and Christmas music. Come to find out it’s an every year event put on by the popular Harbour Ferries of Victoria.

As if strolling through the crisp harbor, seeing the lights, the horse carriages, listening to carolers, and having Santa wave from his boat wasn’t enough, when we arrived at our hotel the lobby bustled with Christmas preparations. Green-striped, pink-polka dotted and red-leotard-clad elves with furry red and white velvet stocking caps were everywhere…a caravan of five, three-foot-tall elves scurried past us vigilantly delivering a long garland to a bigger elf who waited patiently on a ladder next to a half decorated tree. The smell of cinnamon, and the merry sound of Christmas jingles filled the halls. The music of children laughing lifted my spirits like nothing else could.

Every year, during the Festival of Trees event at the Fairmont Empress Hotel, the Victorian corridors, entryways and parlors are transformed into a lush forest of magnificently garlanded trees to raise funds for BC Children’s Hospital. This annual happening was formed nearly twenty-years ago to raise funds in support of excellence and innovation in treatment, care and research at BC Children’s Hospital.

Sponsors of this affair are neighboring businesses, organizations and dedicated individuals – who I assume were the larger elves – who decorate the trees in a sometimes zany, often cheeky, but always stunning style. We were lucky to have arrived on a day when the children were there. It was a special treat – besides, what’s Christmas without the sound of busy elves and happy children. Now I know where to go in search of holiday spirit.

The trees are on display all through The Fairmont Empress (721 Government St) over the holiday season which begins Thursday November 25, 2010, with the kick-off decorating gala. The trees can be viewed through to January 4, 2011.

For a list of festive holiday events at the Fairmont Empress Fairmont Empress: (250) 389-2727

Click here to book your getaway package from Seattle to the Fairmont Empress on the Victoria Clipper.

For more from this guest writer, see Literary Liasons, by Mindy Halleck.

Whether you are looking for a little Holiday getaway for yourself or just the perfect gift for someone special, Clipper Vacations has you covered this Holiday season with two SUPER offers:

Seattle and Victoria 2 for 1 Sale2 for 1 Victoria or Seattle Super Sale (click for details) – Book a Victoria or Seattle overnight Victoria Clipper package November 10-20, 2010 for travel by December 31, 2010 and you will receive a certificate good for 2 for 1 travel on the Victoria Clipper in 2011 or give it as a gift. This is a fabulous value!

  • Experience Victoria’s Holiday spirit with gorgeous displays like Butchart Gardens Holiday Lights, parades, festivals, traditional tea ceremonies, unique holiday shopping and more. And return again next year for a whole other season of Victoria’s festivities.
  • Travel to Seattle now for a different Holiday flavor including Seattle Center’s Winterfest, PNB’s critically acclaimed rendition of The Nutcracker, great Holiday shopping, caroling and many other lively events. There is so much to see and do in Seattle, you will be ready to plan next year’s trip before you even get home.

Clipper Vacations Gift Gift Certificate Holiday Bonus (click for details) – From November 10-December 31, 2010, receive a 10% bonus certificate on all gift certificate purchases that total a minimum of $250.* Purchase a gift certificate from November 29-December 10, 2010 during the 12 Days of Holiday Bonuses special promotion for more deals daily. You can choose to give your Holiday bonus away, or you can keep it for yourself!

Gift certificates can be used with any Clipper Product including overnight getaways like Victoria, Seattle and Portland, whale watching, tours and accommodations and our popular Festival and Events including the Tulip Festival and Langley Murder Mystery.

$250 gift card can typically include a package similar to this:

  • 2 round trip tickets on the Victoria Clipper with an overnight stay at Chateau Victoria
  • A San Juan Island whale watching excursion for a family of 4
  • A day trip for 2 to Victoria plus a combo city/Butchart Gardens tour

A $500 gift card can typically include a package similar to this:

  • 2 round trip tickets on the Victoria Clipper with a one or two night stay (depending on season) at The Fairmont Empress Hotel
  • 2 round trip tickets to Victoria plus an overnight hotel stay & a combo city/Butchart Gardens tour
  • 2 round trip tickets to Seattle plus two night stay at a luxury downtown Seattle hotel

As the holidays approach I find myself looking for fun things to do when family comes to town. Often it is impossible to please everyone, but the Savor Seattle Chocolate Indulgence tour just might make the impossible, possible this holiday season.

I surprised my husband with this tour just last weekend as a fun way to celebrate his birthday.  I told him to eat protein for breakfast, wear walking shoes and pack a water bottle. He asked me, sounding a bit concerned, if I was going to make him do a 5K or something. I wouldn’t do that to him on his birthday!

We met our tour group at the Mayflower Park Hotel. There were other locals, plus a couple from Sacramento and some friends from New York City. Our tour guide, Amy, greeted us excitedly and outlined what our tour would be like. She hooked us up with headsets and we were off.

Dahlia Bakery

Our first stop was Oliver’s Lounge, where a well versed bartender told us about interesting local history and made us each a most delicious cocktail made with Choco liquer, Bailey’s, coffee, and Bacardi, shaken, not stirred.  From there we left the Mayflower, feeling warm from our first treat even as we stepped onto the cool busy street.

Dahlia Bakery, Coconut Cream Pie

Dahlia Bakery, Coconut Cream Pie (to die for!)

Amy led us to Dahlia Bakery where I tasted something so delicious, that I can almost refer to life as “before coconut cream pie” and “after coconut cream pie”. Granted, you probably need to like coconut in order to feel the way I did about this treat!

Amy never left us hanging. She was full of fascinating information about the history of chocolate, for example, did you know that the reason a saucer was created was to catch the chocolate cocoa dribbles? And who knew that lemon sorbet and chocolate gelato are  a match made in heaven?! The Chocolate Box knew.

After the Chocolate Box we merged with other tourist traffic through Pike Place Market. Savor Seattle Tour, Pike Place MarketAmy made sure not to lose any of us by boldly carrying her pink Savor Seattle umbrella.  What happened next can barely be described in words. In short, I have made my husband promise me that he will buy me a cheesecake from The Confectional for every single one of my birthday’s, for the rest of my life. Sound dramatic? It won’t after you try a bite.

We nibbled on some tasty KuKuRaZu popcorn on our way to Fran’s.  Might I add that KuKuRaZu popcorn makes a great holiday gift.

KuKuRaZu Popcorn

KuKuRaZu Popcorn, Great Holiday Gift Idea

Fran’s is a popular Seattle destination, located within the Four Season’s hotel. They always have a beautiful seasonal chocolate display in the window. Fran has been credited for sparking the artisan chocolate renaissance in the United States*. Fran’s caramel salt chocolates are acclaimed all around and are currently being served to guests at the White House.

I believe that is a pretty good sneak peek of what the Chocolate Indulgence tour has to offer (I don’t want to over-indulge you!).  The tour made me consider how little indulgence I bring into my everyday life, which is something that I believe I can now easily remedy thanks to some wonderful local Seattle businesses.

P.S. If you are planning on visiting Seattle you can now book your Chocolate Indulgence tour along with the rest of your vacation package at Clipper Vacations.

In Vancouver’s main downtown is one of the most famous shopping Mecca’s in the northwest. Recently, my granddaughter, Dominique and I journeyed from Seattle to check out the highly acclaimed Robson Street. Shopping with her can be a challenge; she’s eighteen, and I’m, well…let’s just say I’m not, so finding just the right place was critical.

Robson Street runs parallel to Georgia Street, and is conveniently situated in the heart of downtown. We easily walked from the lively harbor on a blissfully blue and cloudless fall day. Within moments we arrived at Robson Street where we found world class boutiques, restaurants, and bustling corner cafes. Of course we found coffee first, at one of the two ubiquitous Starbucks that face each other on the corner of Thurlow and Robson.

I was concerned that it may be a tug-of-war day since we have such diverse fashion interest; she often rolls her blue eyes back in her pretty head at my choices, and I hers. But, Robson delivered.

As a younger shopper, Aritzia was Dominique’s favorite store. She also liked Buffalo, Level and Below the Belt. All of these stores were like fashion magnets to the swarms of teen girls from Italy, China, Japan and America who cruised Robson.

Clothing for we fashion conscious over eighteen girls can also be found throughout Vancouver; Jacob at 1142 Robson was one of my favorites; voted Vancouver’s best women’s clothing store. Robson also exhibits other big-name brands: Armani, Ferragamo, Club Monaco, BeBe, Zara, Laura Ashley, Guess, Banana Republic, Swatch, Nike, Levi’s, Body Shop, and Gap. And popular Canadian stores, like M.A.C., Roots, Boys Co., Aritzia and Lush. (Robson Street Store Directory)

Stanley Park

Robson Street was the perfect choice for our excursion, and as far as I could tell there was absolutely none of that immature eye rolling – hers or mine.
One thing my granddaughter and I always agree on is Chinese food. So, to refuel for the afternoon we had a quick lunch at Hon’s Wun Tun House for their famous wun-tun noodles. If I lived in Vancouver the hectic, but friendly and affordable Hon’s would be a regular stop for me. Yum!

To walk off our noodles we headed toward 1000-acre Stanley Park. It was amazing! My granddaughter loved watching the paddle surfing, teenage boys, and eating greasy fries at the beach café. There are gorgeous trees, a seawall path, a swimming pool and the Vancouver Aquarium. We agreed to plan another trip just to enjoy the park. What a treat tucked alongside this cosmopolitan city.

Gastown Trolley, Vancouver, BC

Gastown Trolley

Then, we walked back to the vibrant Gastown – named after ‘Gassy Jack’ Deighton who established the first saloon, giving birth to Gastown – the oldest section of Vancouver. We photographed Gastown’s famed, Steam Clock and trolley cars along its cobbled streets.

There is so much to do in Vancouver. One day was not enough. We’re planning a more major shopping and site-seeing trip next time.

Robson Street is walking distance of the lively Chinatown, Stanley Park, the Vancouver Aquarium, Gastown, and the Vancouver Library.

At Clipper Vacations you can book an all inclusive trip, Amtrak train ride plus you can stay at the Listel Hotel on Robson street, to take full advantage of shopping and dining. The Listel Hotel is a boutique style hotel featuring original works of art displayed throughout the hotel and even in the guestrooms.

“Vancouver City” video is an artistic collaboration between InnerLife Project with TimeLapseHd

Leavenworth WA Town Lighting

Photo: Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce

True winter wonderlands are a scarcity these days, but an abundance of holiday magic is to be found at the ultimate Christmas Festival: Leavenworth’s Town and Tree Lighting. The holiday season is always brimming with hustle and bustle, but if old fashion traditions like roasting chestnuts and cheery carolers are more your cup of tea, you will certainly enjoy a step back in time to Leavenworth in December. Whether it will be your first visit, or it is an annual tradition for you and your family, join Clipper Vacations on a Town Lighting excursion and save an extra 10% off when you book online using promo code: TREE. The Leavenworth Town and Tree Lighting excursion is a convenient and comfortable way to get to the snowy mountain village and includes deluxe motor coach transportation, pick-up/drop-off locations in Seattle, Bellevue, North Seattle, Auburn, Tacoma and Lynwood, as well as a tour guide and continental breakfast. Book at least 7 days in advance and save even more.

The Leavenworth Christmas Festival is one of Washington State’s favorite traditions that is been making cherished memories for many years. What are some of yours?

Leavenworth Town & Tree Lighting 2010 details:

  • Use promo code: TREE and save an extra 10% when you book online
  • December 4, 5, 11, 12 and 18, 2010
  • Includes: Round trip motorcoach between Seattle and Leavenworth, Continental breakfast basket served onboard, Pick up at various locations, Tour escort
  • Book online or call 800-888-2535

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