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A WEEKEND IN VICTORIA

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Have I told you guys lately how much I love Canada? The people, the nature, the food; everything in Canada has been top notch for me. My newest city to add to the list of Canadian cities I love is Victoria, B.C. Ever since moving to Seattle back in January, I have heard over and over about how wonderful and charming Victoria is. Ben and I finally decided to spend the weekend in Victoria and it lived up to and surpassed every expectation we had. We kept saying that we felt like we were in a Hallmark Christmas movie, and we were the stars! It was that magical!

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HOW TO GET THERE: If you live in Seattle, the best way to arrive is by The Victoria Clipper. I cannot describe to you the ease and convenience The Clipper provided. We arrived at the ferry terminal, checked our bags, and walked on to the boat within 10 minutes. After a quick under 3 hour journey on one of the Clipper's high speed vessels ( we enjoyed coffee and breakfast on the boat), we arrived in the Victoria harbor. Canadian customs only took about 15 mins (if you know anything about crossing the border, this is INCREDIBLE) and we set off for our home away from home for the weekend.

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WHERE TO STAY: We spent two incredible nights at the lovely Magnolia Hotel & Spa. We stayed in one of the Diamond rooms with a harbor view and were tempted to never leave. We spent lots of time lounging cozied up by the fireplace enjoying the gorgeous views of the water. We loved how spacious the room and bathroom were and the traditional decor was gorgeous and luxurious. It was in the perfect location and was within walking distance of everything. I love a hotel that puts you right in the midst of things with easy access to restaurants and shopping, and  The Magnolia Hotel was just that. The service was incredible and we felt like family from the moment we stepped through the doors!

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As a part of their holiday turn down service, The Magnolia Hotel leaves hot chocolate and Bailey's kits in your room. It was such a fun treat to come back to room and sip on before bed! Who doesn't love a little nightcap?

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One of my favorite parts of staying in boutique hotels is the incredible attention to detail. The Magnolia Hotel has put together a series of maps for their guests that guide you around the city based upon your desired interest. They have everything you could think of from holiday maps to craft breweries, but Ben and I decided to to do the Tea-riffic trail. It was so fun to be explore the city by foot in search of the best tea rooms and tea shops!

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Our first stop of the day was the lovely Venus Sophia Tea Room. It is located right in the heart of Chinatown and is only about a 10-15 minute walk from the Magnolia Hotel. It's what girly tea dreams are made of and a place I would love to take my mom and grandma some day (even Ben loved it). The tea was absolutely delicious (we suggest the Monk's Blend and the Victoria Rose) and the accompanying treats were equally as yummy (the quiche was to die for). We left pleasantly full and ready to walk off our stuffed bellies!

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If you're looking to indulge in a little history and tradition, look no further than afternoon tea at the Fairmont Empress! The Empress first opened her doors in 1908 and has been standing tall over the harbor ever since. It truly is a magical and historic hotel that you cannot miss when traveling to Victoria. I loved popping in for afternoon tea + champs with my hubby. We lounged fireside and indulged on delicious scones and clotted cream and jam while sipping hot tea and bubbly. It was seriously divine!

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The best part about traveling to Victoria over the holidays was all of the fabulous decor around town! Everywhere you looked was decked out in gorgeous lights and garland. It was pure Christmas magic and made me giddy! My favorite was the historic parliament building that was covered in tons of colorful lights. I drug Ben to see it lit up both nights because I loved it so much! Just walk towards the harbor and you won't miss it!

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You can't wander the streets of Victoria without popping into one of the many shops! My favorite shop we stopped in was the gorgeous Silk Road Teas. After enjoying several lovely afternoon teas, it was apparent we had tea on the brain! It was SO fun to wander into Silk Road Teas and get to taste and smell a huge selection of rare artisan teas from China. We walked away with several different teas to brew at home!

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WHERE TO EAT:

10 Acres Kitchen: A DELICIOUS farm-to-table dinner with a huge selection of wines. We had one of the best dining experiences we've ever had and everything from the food to the service was exceptional. I HIGHLY recommend making a reservation here (conveniently located right around the corner from The Magnolia). We also stopped in to the bistro part of the restaurant for happy hour each night!

Catalano Restaurant: A delicious restaurant attached to the hotel. We enjoyed breakfast here both mornings and were told they have the best happy hour in town!

Jam Cafe: We never got to eat here, but it was recommended to us several times for brunch! Definitely adding it to the list for next time!

Il Terazzo: We popped in after a recommendation from our bartender at happy hour and were lucky to snag the last two seats at the bar. They were completely booked with reservations, so I would highly recommend booking one in advance. The food was DELICIOUS, and I can't wait to go back!

 

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After an incredible 48 hours exploring the charming and beautiful Victoria, we hopped back on The Clipper and set sail for Seattle. It's a must visit for anyone living in Washington and a place I would put at the top of the list if you ever get a chance to come to the Pacific North West.

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MAUI TRAVEL GUIDE

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We just got back from Maui yesterday, but I wanted to go ahead and get a blog post up with a few of my recommendations for those of you who are planning holiday travel and are thinking about Maui. This was our first time to Maui, and let's just say it definitely will not be our last. Unlike Oahu, which felt a bit more fast-paced, modern and touristy, Maui felt slower, more relaxed and more spread apart.

We met up with our friends that you might recognize from a lot of our travels, Ryan and Caroline ( @thebelleabroad) for a few days of sand and sunshine!

 

WHERE TO STAY: 

We stayed in a two-bedroom suite at the beautiful Honua Kai Resort & Spa. I honestly cannot say enough wonderful things about this lovely hotel on Kaanapali Beach. It's only 50 minutes from the airport and conveniently located to the town of Lahaina (for shopping and dining) and some of Maui's best beaches. We loved the incredible pools and hot tubs and the lush and beautifully manicured grounds. Our two bedroom suite was the perfect spot for our group of four and included a gourmet kitchen, huge living room and a great lanai for outdoor dining.

WHAT TO DO: 

-Napili Beach- Turtles

-Black Rock Beach- we spent an afternoon here and enjoyed MASSIVE waves. My husband swears it's the most fun he has ever had in the ocean, but the current was definitely strong. A great place to cliff jump and snorkel.

-Road To Hana

  • Paia Town :  last town before you make your journey clockwise to Hana Town. Here, you can have a great breakfast, grab some coffee, and pick up a Hana picnic lunch for the road (We stopped and ate at Cafe Des Amis and it was DELiCIOUS)
  • Twin Falls Waterfalls : MM2 ; close to road + smoothie stand!
  • Ho'okipa Lookout : MM 9 ;best surfing to watch
  • Kaumahina State Wayside Park : MM12 ; good lookout + BATHROOMS
  • Halfway to Hana Stand : MM 17 BEST BANANA BREAD
  • Pua’a Kaa State Wayside Park: MM22 ; good stop, bathrooms, freashwater pool
  • Nahiku Marketplace : MM29 best kalua pork tacos
  • Hana Town : MM34
  • Wailua Falls (45 mile marker, a short walk to the falls)
  • Hamoa Beach (MM50) to swim OR Koki Beach (MM51) for views

-Sunrise or sunset at Haleakala (we ran out of time to do this, but heard it was worth it)

  • you need a reservation for sunrise
  • $25 per car
  • 1.5 to 2 hour drive from Wailea
  • make sure and check the weather conditions (can be cold)

WHAT TO EAT:

  • Halfway to Hana stand banana bread (absolutely delicious)
  • Mama's Fish House- we ran out of time to here but it was recommended to us over and over again
  • Star Noodle- supposedly a lot of the locals eat here
  • Duke's- Restaurant at our hotel that had great food and very reasonably priced drinks (order the Dig Me Daiquiri, so yummy)
  • Wow Wow Lemonade
  • Belle Surf Cafe
  • The Gazebo (famous for macadamia nut pancakes)
  • Cafe Des Amis
  • Ululani's Hawaiian Shave Ice

One of my favorite parts about living in Seattle has been the proximity to Hawaii! I am so thrilled we have been taking advantage of this tropical paradise that offers so much to see and do. Maui, you did not disappoint!

 

 
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THE ISLAND GOLD COAST

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In the middle of our drive from Fraser Island To Sydney (more on that later), we made a quick stop in Surfer's Paradise and immediately realized it should have been longer.

We checked into our hotel, The Island Boutique Hotel Gold Coast, and the boys sped off to the beach for some surfing (or an attempt at surfing), and Caroline and I headed straight for the pool. As you can tell from the pictures, The Island was a literal dream. We both were OBSESSED with the ambiance and decor of the entire hotel and spent hours wandering from corner to corner.

The Island is located right in the heart of Surfer's Paradise and is central to all shopping and restaurants as well as a quick stroll to the beach. In our opinion, theres no reason to ever leave because everything you need is on site. Dine at the delicious Island Bistro or grab a cocktail from the The Island Rooftop that has views for days. If you are into finding a place for the perfect Instagram photo, it's an amazing photo op! There's even a Vegas-style game room that we practically had to drag the boys out of. The Island literally has it all!

My suggestion would be to spend your day by the adorable pool. Lined by striped umbrellas and comfy lounge chairs, it's definitely the perfect relaxation spot. Caroline and I could not get enough!

The Island Gold Coast is the perfect spot to stay if you are ever in Surfer's Paradise. We had the best time and can't wait to be back!

 
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SNORKELING THE GREAT BARRIER REEF

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MATCHING SWIMSUITS: EVERYTHING BUT WATER

I hope you guys are ready for ALLLLLL the Australia content because it's coming you way for the next couple of weeks. First up was our snorkeling experience at the Great Barrier Reef. It feels weird to even be typing that, but it was definitely a cross off the bucket list for all of us.

I'm not sure if I have mentioned this on here before, but we actually traveled to Australia with our best friends Ryan and Caroline. Caroline, otherwise known as The Belle Abroad, is a travel blogger who also happens to be one of my besties! Her and her husband Ryan moved to London two years ago and have been traveling the world (literally) before they move home to NC. We decided to meet them in Australia for a whirlwind two week road trip.

Ben probably likes snorkeling more than any other human I have ever met, so not snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef was never an option. We woke up before the sunrise (Ben was just a TAD excited) and had our breakfast and coffee to fuel us for our fun day. We headed down to the dock to meet our boat and set off on our adventure with Cruise Whitsundays. Cruise Whitsundays travels to the Great Barrier Reef and offers a full day of snorkeling fun. The boat ride to the reef is about two hours but goes by so quick with beautiful scenery passing by. They offer morning and afternoon tea to sip on while you cruise, and be sure to look for whales! We got to the stationary pontoon platform and suited up for an afternoon of snorkeling (Cruise Whitsundays provides all of the gear you need including a wetsuit and snorkel equipment). We spent a few hours in the water taking in the GORGEOUS coral and sea life. It was seriously beautiful and something everyone should see. I am putting together a re-cap video with some awesome footage thansk to Scuba Steve (Ben) and will share that on my Instagram account, so make sure you are following along. After all of that snorkeling, Caroline and I decided it was time to relax in the sun and enjoy lunch from the delicious buffet. The boys took a five minutes to chow down and were back in the water.

If getting in the water isn't your thing, no worries, because the pontoon has an underwater observatory and you can see all the fish! Ben was in the water and ended up swimming to the window to take some cool pics with us! 

Cruise Whitsundays even offers helicopter tours and massages throughout the day. You can see the iconic heart reef from the air! We didn't do this, but I have major FOMO and probably would have loved it!

We had the BEST day and got to experience one of the coolest places on earth! Thank you Cruise Whitsundays for such an epic adventure that we will NEVER forget.

 
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This post was in partnership with Cruise Whitsundays, but as always, all opinions are my own!

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