Clipper Ride from Downtown Seattle to Victoria - $100 USD
I debated driving to Victoria. But after extensive research, I found that it's more affordable and faster to go on a Clipper vessel. Driving would've took 5 hours each way and the ferry would've costed $216.60 USD roundtrip. Since Victoria is a very walkable city, we decided to ditch the car. The Clipper ride was only 2.5 hours each way and was equipped with restrooms and a little cafe.
With my travel agent card, I was able to get a deal for roundtrip Clipper ride for only $100 USD for two adults. Typically, purchasing tickets at industry rates require stand-by, but I was able to guarantee the seats by combining with a hotel stay. I decided to go with the Parkside Hotel & Spa, which is a modern hotel with only suites and located 2 blocks behind the Empress. I chose the Parkside because of its amenities: swimming pool, hot tub, spa, theatre, restaurant, suites. Altogether, the hotel and roundtrip transportation costed $406 USD. Still, this was a good deal considering that purchasing a hotel separately would've costed that much alone.
Walking around Downtown Victoria - Priceless
After we dropped off our luggage at the hotel, we walked around downtown Victoria. My first impression is that the city is very royal. I've never been to Europe before, but it reminded me of parts of Europe that I've seen in pictures. There were lots of brick builds, lamp-shaped tall street lights, red/green Christmas decorations, horse carriages, and chilly weather.
We were mostly trying to kill time while we waited to go to the Buchart Gardens. We walked by a beautiful flower shop and many cute shops. The photo on top is of Brian in front of the flower shop.
On our walk, we came across this restaurant called Pagliaccis. I immediately thought about the Pagliaccis back home, which is a pizza place. So I thought, "hmm, ok, Italian sounds good." We were immediately seated. The restaurant was loud and filled with guests. It felt like a local favorite because of the artwork that was hung up and how busy it was.
Brian and I decided to order our own meals. I can't remember what my dish was called but it had scallops and prosciutto. It was meh. Brian's pasta was also meh. The caeser salad tasted better than the actual pasta in my opinion.
Holiday Lights at the Buchart Gardens - $123 CAD
We purchased a coach ride + admission tickets to the Buchart Gardens through Clipper Vacations. Since we didn't have a car, going with a tour company made most sense. The other option was to take a cab, which would've costed ~$80 one way. Buchart Gardens is located about 35 minutes away from Downtown Victoria. Besides the blasted AC on the Clipper coach bus, the ride was smooth. I was able to take a nap and woke up right when we arrived around 2:45 pm. At this time, it wasn't dark enough to enjoy all of the magical holiday lights, but we still liked walking around with our cups of latte.
There was also a small ice skating rink, but we didn't go in since neither of us could skate very well. We really didn't want to fall on our asses in front of a bunch of Canadians who are born to ice skate. I had just as much fun watching them skate because it looked so effortless and beautiful. Since the bus ride back to downtown wasn't until 5 pm, Brian and I decided to do a half loop around the park to enjoy the lights one last time now that it was dark enough. I have to admit...we were kind of noobs to go so early because around 5 pm was when the crowd started go enter. This was when the lights were most magical.
Afternoon Tea at the Pendray Tea House - $56 CAD
The next morning, we went to experience our very first afternoon tea at the Pendray Tea House, which is also the site of a Gatsby hotel named the Huntingdon Manor. It's conveniently located across the road from the Clipper Vacations, which made it very easy to spot since I had noticed it after departing the vessel yesterday.
I made reservations for 11 am, although reservations aren't necessary since we were the only guests present at check-in. It wasn't until noon that other guests started to trickle in. My boyfriend and I decided to share one order of the Winter Tea which costed $56 CAD. I was quite surprised at this price since I was told that Pendray's afternoon tea was more affordable than the world famous Fairmont Empress'. Pendray was only slightly cheaper by a few bucks. We decided to share since our server informed us that one order of a 3-tier tea should be enough.
Imagine cold sandwiches and cute little desserts. This is essentially afternoon tea anywhere you go. Our order came with Red Christmas Tea which was a very soothing choice. It wasn't too herbal nor cinnamon-y. It was just right for the holiday theme. The whole experience felt very regal. From the antiques of the tableware and fine china to the crowning around the perimeter of the ceiling. Since we were the only guests in the restaurant, I felt like royalty. We were left alone to eat - the server didn't stop by too frequently which I actually appreciated because it gave us more intimacy.
Overall, the price you pay is not for the food, but more for the royal experience and great service. We took it up an extra notch by dressing up, but I noticed guests who were dressed very casual. It really depends on how you want to embrace the environment. Since it was our anniversary weekend, we made it more of a formal event.
45-min Horse-Drawn Carriage Ride around Beacon Hill Park - $85.68 USD
Craigdarroch Castle - $20.68 USD
For a taste of what privileged life was like in the early 1890s, we went on a self-guided tour at the Craigdarroch Castle. It first belonged to Robert Dunsmuir, who was at one point, the richest and most important man in Western Canada. There are artifacts around the house that detail his family's fortune and history. For someone who's not into history, this tour was quite interesting. I think it's because of all of the drama that occurred in the family and the many functions of the mansion thereafter. Before it was restored into a Victorian castle and the Dunsmuir's home, it was once a hospital and school.
Summary Itinerary of our Trip
SATURDAY, DAY 1
SUNDAY, DAY 2
MONDAY, DAY 3
When flights dropped to $200 per person, Ellen and I hopped on the opportunity to go to the world's largest hot air balloon festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The trip was 6 days long, but we really only had 4 full days to spend in the state. What started as an adventure to witness hundreds of hot air balloons turned into a 6-day adventure to embrace slot canyons, New Mexican pueblos, white sands, hot springs, adobada, and more.
We also went to Santa Fe on our trip, but didn't document any of our activities. In total, I spent less than $750 USD for the entire trip. I would describe myself as a budget traveler. It helped that I have a national park pass, so many of the outdoor attractions that we visited were included in the pass, which costs $80 USD.
Below are mostly pictures describing the sites we visited. I've also created a short video, which details some of the local experiences that we went on.
Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument - Included in America the Beautiful Pass
Our Airbnb host, Casey, provided a ton of recommendations for us to check out. We told him that we are both outdoor enthusiasts who aren't super athletic, but appreciate the good nature. On the top of his list was the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks, which was only 1 hour away from the Airbnb in Albuquerque. When we arrived, there was a line of cars waiting to get through the first gates, which is also where you pay for admission. The ranger here told us that the park closes at 4pm, so we were quite nervous since we got there pretty late. All we wanted to see were the slot canyons, so we took our chances by waiting. A miracle must've happened, because not only did we get inside of the park, but also made it pretty far before a ranger turned us around.
If you visit, bring at least a bottle of water because it was so dry and hot when we visited in early October. We spent about 1 hour here.
Old Town Albuquerque - Free
Old Town is a touristy spot with shops, restaurants, and souvenir stores. We visited a rattlesnake museum here. Parking was quite difficult during the fiesta season, but we parked across the street at a Walgreens. In total, we spent about 1.5 hours here.
Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta - $16.50 per person
Ellen and I decided to ditch the car and buy the admission that came with shuttle transfers. After extensive research, we found that people have gotten stuck in traffic while on their way to the fiesta and unfortunately missing the whole show. We didn't want that to happen to us. There were many locations to board a shuttle, which was actually a yellow school bus. We went to one of the stops at the mall, which must've had at least 50 or so yellow school buses. It seemed endless.
We went to the fiesta on the very first day that it opened, and the shuffling of people onto the buses were a bit unorganized as I think the staff members were trying to figure out an efficient structure. We arrived about 15 minutes before the buses were supposed to depart. There were plenty of parking available at the mall.
When we arrived, we managed to go straight into the fiesta without ticket validations. I'm not sure if it was because we arrived on a shuttle or if it was because the staff were still trying to arrange a validation system.
The first time we went to the fiesta, the balloons didn't lift off nor inflate due to weather conditions. Ellen and I stayed as long as we could until it became too cold. On the first day, we just laid on the grass, ate lots of yummy food, and walked around the site. Once we felt like we had enough, we just hopped back onto the shuttle.
Our second attempt at the fiesta also resulted in no lift off, but at least they inflated! We got to walk around hundreds of balloons to take pictures. Since there was no lift off yesterday, we were able to reuse our same tickets to get on the shuttle and enter the park.
Can you tell that the balloons inflated AND lifted by Ellen's excited expression? It only took 3 attempts to finally witness what originally motivated this trip. To be honest, we were very tired and beginning to lose hope in the balloons lifting off, but we felt that it was necessary to give it at least one more try before completely giving up. We managed to squeeze in another attempt right before we headed to the White Sands. This time, we drove to the site and somehow managed to get free parking and admission. The ticket booth staff scanned our original tickets and let us in. I think it was still "free" because the balloons didn't lift off on the previous day.
Lessons from my experience:
- Keep your ticket because you can keep reusing it if the balloons don't lift off
- Give yourself 2-3 days to spend at the fiesta because the show is weather permitting
Petroglyph National Monument - Included in America the Beautiful Pass
The Petroglyph National Monument wasn't as fascinating as I thought it'd be. It's pretty small. Some of the petroglyphs were questionable since they were images of Hello Kitty and other modern characters. When we arrived, there was a shuttle driver volunteering to bring people to the bottom of one of the sites so that we didn't have to walk there. It's a nice gesture, especially for disabled visitors. I remember it being extremely windy here. We spent about 30 minutes here.
Riverbend Hot Springs - $12 per person
If you find yourself going to the White Sands National Monument, make sure you add a stop in Truth or Consequences to your itinerary. You won't regret it. Our Airbnb hosts told us about Riverbend Hotsprings in T or C and we made sure to stop by. After many days of adventure, a relaxing break was very much needed. It only costed $12 for the property pass which included 1 hour admission to any the common grounds, sauna, and hot springs. The facility even had a changing room which came with 3 showers and plenty of clean towels.
The springs were incredibly relaxing. The area we hung out at overlooked the river and mountains. We wish we could've spent more time here, but we spent about 1.5 hours including showers.
White Sands National Monument - Included in America the Beautiful Pass
We unfortunately visited the White Sands on a fairly cold day. It was also cloudy. The pictures didn't turn out so nice, so we didn't try too hard to take pictures because we wanted to embrace feel the whole experience. It was cold and chilly, but that didn't stop others from changing outfits and taking photos. Ellen and I went to Target the day before to buy some objects for us to sled down the sand on. We ended up with cardboard Halloween trays that we later converted into a flat surface. It didn't work. Thankfully, a kind lady who was leaving the park gave us her bright orange sled that she purchased at the souvenir shop. That also didn't work. Nonetheless, the place was beautiful and we spent a lot of time appreciating the surroundings. We spent about 1 hour here.
It was really hard to slide down any of the sands at the park. I'm not sure how people manage to... The sand was really soft on the foot but hard at the same time. It was also kind of hardened by the cold weather. It's not as lush as it looks in pictures.
Check out the video! It's less than 5 minutes long.
Summary of Trip Itinerary
Day 1 - October 4
Day 2 - October 5
Day 3 - October 6
Day 4 - October 7
Day 5 - October 8
Day 6 - October 9
I went on this long weekend trip with my good friend, Ellen. Together, we flew into LAX where we spent a few days visiting a few sites including Santa Monica Pier, The Griffith Observatory, Little Tokyo, Koreatown, and more. During the last two days of our trip, we drove our rental car to Joshua Tree and Palm Springs.
It probably wasn't smart of us to visit the desert during this time of year as the temperature was well above 105 degrees F. At one point, I remember us not wanting to step foot outside because of the burning heat. Thank goodness we had a functioning AC in our little Airbnb RV. Below are all the free sites we visited while in the desert.
Cabazon Dinosaurs - Free
On our way to Joshua Tree, we stopped at the Cabazon Dinosaurs, which is a roadside attraction with giant dinosaurs and a museum. We didn't go into the museum since it looked pretty small and we really came just to check out the roadside dinosaurs. There are two of them as pictured in this blog. The sun was scorching that day! Ellen and I had to go in and out of the car to protect ourselves from the heat and strong sun rays. We spent about 20 minutes here.
San Gorgonio Pass - Free
I'm not sure what the address is for this place, but it wasn't too far from the Cabazon Dinosaurs. It's really hard to miss. The windmills created so much wind that we could feel the pressure from inside the car. We were the only ones at the site, which made it really fun to take photos. The whole trip eventually became a photo session. I don't think this is a site for visitors, but we went anyways, and had a blast. Plus, the photos came out really nice. We spent about 30 minutes here.
Noah Purifoy Outdoor Museum - Donations Encouraged
The Noah Purifoy Foundation has an outdoor museum which is free, with donations encouraged. There was only one other group at the attraction when we arrived. The place is huge. There wasn't anyone monitoring the donations box. We were able to enter freely and spend as long as we wanted there. My first impression was, "whoa." There was just so many things on site. It kind of looked like a junk yard, but you could tell that somebody put a lot of thought into creating some of the pieces such as the toilet bowl heart pictured below. We spent about 45 minutes here.
Joshua Tree National Park - Included in America the Beautiful Pass
We were originally going to camp at Joshua Tree, but I'm so glad we didn't because of the heat and the insects that I later learned inhabit the park. We drove our car around the whole park. The road was extremely well maintained and barely had any cars. It was just about sunset when we arrived. Because of this, we even spotted a huge hare come out for food. It was so cute! We spent about 1.5 hours here.
Airbnb in Twentynine Palms - $113.08 USD
Of all my Airbnb experiences, this was the most creative, intimate, and cool experience. We stayed at a little RV in the middle of the desert under the starry night. It came equipped with BBQ gear, a hammock, and outdoor shower. Everything we needed was provided including towels and kitchen utensils. We spent a lot of time in the RV because of the heat. So thankful that there was AC. We spent 1 night here.
My sisters bought me a birthday cake last week and I genuinely had the hardest time coming up with a birthday wish because life is so good to me right now. Since quitting IBM and moving home to Seattle, I have slowly evolved back to my cheery, giddy self. I was never meant to be in SF or IBM, but I’m so glad I went out there to realize it for myself. Now that I’m back, my heart is so full and I feel so whole again. Thank you to all of my family, friends, and boyfriend for making me who I am :,)
To celebrate 23 years of life, I thought I'd share 23 fun facts about myself.
Consulting is something I'd always been curious to try but wary about because of the lifestyle and inconsistency. I'd always been told that it's physically demanding because consultants are expected to travel up to 100%, which in business, implies Monday-Thursday on the client site and Friday at the home office. On the other hand, mentors and panelists have shared that consulting is great for entry-level professionals because of the opportunity to learn a lot very quickly - varying roles in varying industries.
However, like anything new, there's a lot to discover once you're on the actual job. During the time I was a design consultant at IBM iX, I observed many elements that make consulting truly different from any other line of business. Below, I present 5 things I wish I knew about consulting.