Things To Do on Vancouver Island

I spent close to a third of my great Canadian adventure on this island. From Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver, it takes about 2 hours via ferry to reach Nanaimo. It was technically my first stop on the island but I did not get to see much on the first day. My group headed straight to the city of Parksville, northwest of Nanaimo, where we stayed for about a month.

Things to do in Vancouver Island

Port in Departure Bay, Nanaimo

The first thing we did the next day was to load up some really cool bikes into the back of the minivan and drove to Rathtrevor Park. Like any other curious traveller, I had already looked up the place online before getting on a plane to fly to another continent. Checking out Rathtrevor was in my things to do on Vancouver Island. I just wasn’t sure how I’d be doing it. The photos on the internet were alright. I knew there was going to be a beach, lots of trees and a nice looking campground.

rathtrevor

I was not prepared for such a breathtaking bicycle ride through a very green yet very old forest. That alone was worth adding it to my things to see and things to do on Vancouver Island. I simply could not resist stopping every minute or so to whip out my phone and take a photograph of what my eyes were seeing. I was far behind my friends but I had a really good taking a slower pace and eventually catching up. I met a lot of people jogging and walking along the way. I would not mind doing that everyday either if I had Rathtrevor close to home.

It was close to Thanksgiving and I had never seen pumpkins that many and that large in my entire life. They were in farms, they were in groceries, they were in their liquor and they even put them in coffee. My first taste of a pumpkin spiced latte was excellent! Now that I think about it, I do not recall ever getting bad food on the island. I had a sandwich from a local Subway franchise, Chinese food from a mall in Nanaimo, and soup in a Vietnamese restaurant. The latter was probably the first time I had to wait to be seated. Everything is just so fresh that I cannot imagine any cook mucking it up.

There was this one place called Coombs that was a 30 minute drive from where I was staying. I can honestly say that I have never seen goats grazing on the roof of a restaurant before. We bought some corn and potatoes. I was told that the ice cream was a must try and so I did. I cannot remember a moment in my life being as happy with a wafer cone, ice cream and fudge.

Things to do in Vancouver Island

One of the many things to see in the Coombs Country Market.

Another unforgettable stop was the Morningstar Farm. I love cheese. A visit here should definitely be on any fan’s things to do on Vancouver Island. I got to taste plenty of them along with one of their fruit wines. It is so great for children as well. I saw the effort they put into making the experience more interactive for people of all ages. In the end, I brought home the cheese with a kick since I like heat on my taste buds as well.

Things to do in Vancouver Island

There are plenty of cheese options.

On a good day and with the tide low, we headed out to Nanoose Bay to pick up clams and oysters. I did not have a license so I only got to watch others work on filling up their tiny buckets. Getting that license will likely appear on my things to do on Vancouver Island list the next time I visit. The water was ice cold compared to anywhere in Southeast Asia. I ended up hopping or running across streams as fast as I could. It was an awesome experience that I hope to do again soon. There’s so much more to write about but I think I’ll save the rest for another story.

How to leave your heart (and much of your liver) in San Francisco!

Is there anywhere else on earth you can witness the grandeur of the sun, the surf, and the mountains like you can in California? Did I say witness? I meant becoming a card-carrying member of Club California, an organization devoted to amazing food, unbelievable wine culture, and a something-for-LITERALLY-everyone lifestyle. It’s no wonder the state is a bucket list destination for so many of us. And if you have a particular affection for the fruits of the vine, there’s no place to worship like Napa, Sonoma, and San Francisco. (Note, the locals definitely do NOT call it Frisco! If you must abbreviate, go with San Fran.)

California wine country is so much more than just wine. Sure the area produces some of the world’s most expensive and sought-after appellations, but visitors can also hike, cycle, horseback ride, and hot air balloon. And there’s no shortage of shopping, dining, music, zip lines, and spa treatments (it *is* California after all!). Oh, and a head’s up. Napa is bigger and gets most of the press, so you can be forgiven for thinking it’s “all that.” But the truth is, Sonoma County produces more grapes.

The dilemma for most of us is how to visit Sonoma (or Napa for that matter) and not also make the pilgrimage to the City by the Bay? Because, let’s face it, you cannot possibly do one and not the other. To me, the answer is clear. Do both! If you’re planning a wine touring adventure this year, make San Francisco your home base This will give you the very best of both worlds: A one-of-a-kind city escape and an over-the-top wine tasting extravaganza. Or, park yourself in Wine Country and make day trips into the city. Either way, you’re in for a win-win experience!

If you’re thinking of making the City your home base, and you’re travelling with a posse of friends, consider staying in this architectural masterpiece situated high in the Berkeley Hills. With room for 12, this home sits on a hidden oasis of private terraced gardens and all three levels offer stunning views of San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. Contemporary design, unique artwork, and redwood decks will truly make you feel pampered. And, it’s less than an hour’s drive to Wine Country. So pack a picnic and head out to St. Helena, Sonoma, and Calistoga.

If you’re not travelling with such a large group but you still want over-the-top luxury, treat yourself to the extravagance of this beautiful home in the highly-desirable Telegraph Hill neighbourhood. A private elevator will whisk you from the parking garage into your penthouse suite where you will be greeted with panoramic views that stretch from the iconic Golden Gate Bridge to the Ferry Building. You can stroll to most of the City’s tourist hubs including Fisherman’s Wharf, North Beach, Chinatown, Coit Tower, and Lombard Street. And given the views and proximity to so many local attractions, you can be forgiven if your wine tastings are limited to whatever you purchase at Trader Joe’s to enjoy on your jaw-dropping terrace.

Just outside of the Bay Area (and by “just outside,” I mean just outside the fog belt that can blanket the city), you’ll discover this magnificent Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired home. Floor-to-ceiling glass doors in the kitchen/living/dining room open out onto a 50 ft wide natural atrium that leads to the pool and outdoor kitchen. If your occasion demands some serious WOW factor, this is it! And, because it’s just outside the city, you are ideally situated between the best of both worlds: 20 minutes from everything the city has to offer and just 45 minutes from wine country.

If your heart (and your liver!) are set on staying in wine country proper, we’ve got you covered. How about a 5 bedroom villa in Sonoma, the very heart of wine country? Imagine you and 8 of your closest friends luxuriating on a private estate with your own pool, spa, vineyards, and wildlife. Yet, you’re literally minutes from downtown Sonoma and its shopping, dining, wineries, and nightlife. And if you happen to visit in the fall, you just might be treated to the spectacle (shown in the photo) of the vines trooping their colours in an unforgettable rainbow display.

Perhaps you find Sonoma a little sleepy and Napa is more your thing…consider this historic “Painted Lady” situated in the heart of downtown Napa. Built in the 1880s, this home looks as if it was magically transported from “Postcard Row” along Alamo Square Park in San Francisco. But it’s not in the City, and that means there’s room to stretch out. In fact, the home is nestled in its own enchanted forest featuring a Japanese garden and gazebo. Did I mention that guests of the Purple Victorian enjoy free and discounted wine tastings? Could there be a more perfect place to sip and savour the fruits of the Valley?! If you find one, PLEASE let us know!

America’s covered bridges

One of my favourite tourism excursions is visiting covered bridges. Although covered bridges are usually associated with romance – blame it on the role they play in the movie “The Bridges of Madison County” – these bridges were built out of practicality. The bridges allow people to cross lakes, streams or rivers. They were covered to protect not only the people using the bridges but also the bridge itself from any weather disturbances that might cause the wooden parts to deteriorate. This way and with a good dose of proper maintenance of the roofing, a longer life span for bridges was ensured. Covered bridges have been built in America for more than 200 years now, and the oldest covered bridge was built in 1825, making it a hundred and 88 years old.

Covered bridges are commonly located in the countryside and rural settings. They are usually parts of idyllic scenery and rustic beauty of non-urban places.  They act as extensions of main roads and provide access to areas that are typically not covered by main routes, making traveling easier for traders and travelers.  And most of the time, they are the very reason people travel that way.

In America, covered bridges are historical treasures. Every state has at least one that is still in use. Pennsylvania, having more than 200 covered bridges, holds the title for the most number of these bridges within the state. This state record represents about one-fourth of authentic bridges built and still standing in the United States.

The very first covered bridge in America was located in Pennsylvania. The Permanent Bridge was built as early as 1805, but was devoured by fire in 1875. It was never restored. Pennsylvania is also home to the world’s longest covered bridge, the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge. Built in 1813, this 5690 foot bridge crossed the Susquehanna River for 19 years until it was ravaged by ice in 1832. The bridge was never reconstructed. The rich history of Pennsylvania bridges gave birth to more bridges that withstood the roughness of time and nature.

Visit Doylestown - Property ID  204917

Visit Doylestown – Property ID 204917

One of the oldest covered bridges found in Pennsylvania is the Sachs Bridge in Gettysburg. Also known as the Saucks and Waterworks Covered Bridge, it was built in 1854 and was used in the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War in America. It is one of the most historical bridges in Pennsylvania. A flash flood damaged the bridge badly but it was repaired in 1997. Another bridge in Pennsylvania is the Weaver’s Mill Bridge located in Lancaster County. It crosses the Conestoga River and is red-and-white painted, traditional to all covered bridges in Lancaster.

One of the most beautiful, and probably the most famous, covered bridges found in America is the Roseman Covered Bridge located in Winterset, Iowa. Made famous by Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep, this particular covered bridge is one of the most visited of all. It was built in 1883 and some renovations were completed in 1992. Another famous covered bridge is the Wawona Covered Bridge in Yosemite National Park in California.

West Cornwall covered bridge is an attraction in Housatonic Meadows, a park in the state of Connecticut. Built in 1864, it underwent major renovations after the flooring in 1940 and was strengthened by steel bars in 1973.

One of the recently restored covered bridges is the Arthur A. Smith Covered Bridge. Named after a Civil War captain, this specific bridge is a survivor. It is the last surviving masterpiece of Theodore Burr, a well-known bridge builder from the 19th century, famous for his Burr arch. It also survived relocation from North River to Lyonsville Road in Massachusetts way back in 1886.  For a long time it was left unused in its deteriorating state and was only reconstructed in 2005. Today it is open to pedestrians once more.

One of the oldest covered bridges is found in Covington, Virginia. Built in 1857, Humpback covered bridge is designed with an arc shape. The middle being four feet higher than both ends, it is designed to protect the center from floods, the usual reason for a bridge’s falling apart, therefore increasing its life span. This covered bridge became a favorite for tourists and photographers for its unusual design. Another covered bridge found in Virginia is the Meem’s Bottom Bridge in Mount Jackson. Built in 1893, it was functioning for eighty years allowing cars to drive across the North Fork River until 1976. It was destroyed not by flood or any natural disasters but by vandals who thought setting the bridge on fire was a good idea. The original woods were recovered and the bridge was rebuilt adding some reinforcements such as steel beams.

Chincoteaugue Island, Virginia - Property ID 11590

Chincoteaugue Island, Virginia – Property ID 11590

Another favorite covered bridge for photographers and painters is the Artist’s Bridge in Newry, Maine. Being true to its name, Artist’s Bridge is no longer open to traffic since 1958 but remains an inspiration for making beautiful pictures and paintings. It is one of the remaining nine bridges presently standing in Maine that survived the floods and disasters for a long period of time.

Do you have a favourite covered bridge you’ve visited?

Castles of the world

Whether you are a history buff, a lover of architecture or perhaps a royal family descendant, exploring the World’s great castles has never been easier with affordable accommodations that are unique and provide the comforts of a home away from home.

Ever since your Great Uncle Paddy shared that you are a descendant of an Earl from the infamous Kilkenny Castle in Kilkenny, Ireland, you have been itching to explore your family roots. When travelling in Europe, consider purchasing the popular Eurail Pass, or board a bus, and for the adventurous souls, rent a car and drive on the left side of the road! It is only a short trek from your Youghal, Ireland, accommodations to the grounds of Kilkenny Castle.

Waterfront Property - Unit  ID 202629

Waterfront Property – Unit ID 202629

Next head off with your Eurail Pass and make your way to Krakow, Poland. Krakow is the second largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland. It is a quick one hour trip to the ruins of the gothic Ogrodzieniec Castle, built in the 14th–15th centuries. This small town of approximately 4,400 people dates its origins back to the 11th century. The Ogrodzieniec Castle makes this quaint town not only a popular tourist destination but also a sought after spot for filming movies. It has been featured in the heavy metal band Iron Maiden’s video in 1984.

Two-Bedroom Flat Right at the Entrance to the Famous Kazimierz!

Two-Bedroom Flat Right at the Entrance to the Famous Kazimierz!- Unit ID 205560

While most of us generally think of Europe when castles are mentioned, what about Asia? The Himeji Castle, high a top a hill, is one of the finest examples of Japanese architecture. The Himeji Castle became Japan’s first registered UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. With Japan’s world-renowned public transit system, the largest metropolis in the world is at your finger tips: make Tokyo your base for adventures.

trendy and up-town mid-Tokyo neighborhood

Trendy and up-town mid- Tokyo neighborhood Unit ID 204922

Rounding off your great castles of the World tour wouldn’t be the same without a visit to the mystery shrouded Hogwart’s Castle in Orlando, Florida. There is something for everyone; old, young and for those of us who just want to act our own shoe size for a day or two. Shop, play and explore secret chambers before you board your ride. After a fun filled day come back to relax in your spacious self-catered Orlando, Florida home to unwind in the pool.

close to golf

Games room, pool, spa, can sleep 16! Unit ID 13715

While these examples of magnificent castles are merely a drop in the bucket, Owner Direct Vacation Rentals has accommodations in all corners of the World to cure you of your castle fix. Do you have a favourite castle and experience to share?

How to do Coachella in style (and comfort)!

California Music Festivals

#73996 Palm Springs #86024 Palm Springs #135749 Palm Springs #39411

It’s spring! The time when a young man’s fancy (and young women’s, for that matter) turns to thoughts of music. In the desert. In California. Of course, I’m talking about Coachella. Or as it’s more formally known, the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and its only slightly less edgy cousin, the Stagecoach Country Music Festival. Both events take place on successive weekends in April. If you like new music from any of the more rowdy genres, you might be making plans to attend Coachella. If your taste runs more toward the roots, blues, folk, and gospel side of things, perhaps you’re headed to Stagecoach. Either way, it doesn’t matter whether you’re going to see Lorde, Arcade Fire, Crystal Gayle, or the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, know this: You do NOT have to rough it! Gone are the days when festival goers had no choice but to camp in primitive, sludge-laden bogs. Wouldn’t you rather stay in a luxurious condo or town home in the nearby communities of Palm Springs, La Quinta, and Rancho Mirage? Of course you would! Shuttle buses are available to transport you from your accommodations directly to the gates of both festivals. And the beauty of the system is, even if you don’t yet know exactly which resort you’re staying at, your shuttle pass is flexible enough to get you to and from the festival with maximum convenience and minimum hassle. You can learn more about the Valley Music Travel Shuttle by clicking here: valleymusictravel.com.

#208878 - La Quinta, Palm Springs

Watch the sun set over the mountains and then take an evening dip in the pool

One way to get the most from your concert-going experience is to practice the buddy system. That is, to make sure you’re travelling with a posse of friends. They’ll help you wring every memory possible from the festival and the aprés-festival! And they all fit into this property (pictured above)! With four spacious bedrooms and a private saltwater pool, this property will definitely facilitate maximum relaxation and rejuvenation so you’re all set for the next day’s events!

#205817 - La Quinta, Palm Springs

Enjoy the backyard mountain view at the PGA West Golf Resort in Palm Springs, CA

With two master suites and 3,500 sq. ft. of luxurious living space, this vacation home would enable you to bring the whole family. Yes, it sounds crazy, but is it, really?! The kids could hit Coachella and you could stay on for Stagecoach (or the other way around!). And for those less musically inclined, it doesn’t hurt that the home is located on the 13th fairway of the Nicklaus Private Golf Course. You don’t even have to play golf to be entertained by the duffers making their way along your private patio.

#73996 - Palm Springs, California

Very private and serene master bedroom

If the only crowds you’re prepared to endure are at the festival grounds, you might want to look at staying in a smaller, more intimate vacation home. In other words, leave your kids (or parents) and your friends to fend for themselves! Meanwhile you can unwind and decompress from the day’s full-on sensory abundance in a quiet, oasis-like condo like this one. At least until the next day’s lineup beckons!

#77235 - Palm Springs, California

Relax in this fun, private pool house with mountain views and near downtown.

So what happens if you find yourself travelling with folks who are attending Coachella or Stagecoach, but you’re not? Well, naturally, you’ll want to ensure you’re vacationing somewhere that will let you get your groove on, too! This vacation home is located right in Palm Springs, minutes from downtown, casinos, outlet shopping, restaurants, and nightlife (in case you’re not totally exhausted by 7:00 or 8:00 PM!).

The world’s greatest dream trips

Dream Vacations

#135749 Palm Springs, California #203573 Canmore, Alberta #206028 Zrenj, Croatia #205800 St. Tropez, South Coast of France

Every place has its own beauty and mystery that needs to be unraveled. And for this reason alone, our list of the world’s greatest dream trips is going to be long. If you have the opportunity to travel, try to visit some of these places.

The Caribbean is a perfect destination, whether you are a beach lover or not. Get lost in its many idyllic island destinations and marvel at the beautiful and romantic island sunsets. If you love anything outdoors and natural, this is also a perfect place to visit. Explore their numerous coral reefs, as well as its beautiful and diverse marine life.

Japan is another great destination to explore. It is amazing how this country continues to advance in technology while preserving their oldest traditions and practices. Learning about their arts and culture is an experience you will absolutely enjoy. You might also want to admire those cherry blossoms in bloom.

The neighborhood - Unit ID 205591

The Tokyo neighborhood – Unit ID 205591

Cherry blossoms behind - Unit ID 205591

Tokyo cherry blossoms behind Unit ID 205591

 

 

 

 

One of the most adventurous destinations to discover is Australia. The Land Down-Under is blessed with pristine aquatic environments, popular with surfers. Koalas and kangaroos add to this land of diverse wildlife. And don’t forget the Sydney Opera House! Australia also offers many adventure activities such as hiking, skiing and cycling.

What a view from Unit ID 208267

View of  Surfers Paradise – AUS Unit ID 208267

100 Private Acres - Unit ID 207861

100 Private Acres in Australia – Unit ID 207861

 

 

 

Another dream place to be is Antarctica - if you want a unique and rare, albeit cold, adventure. Despite the chilling cold that will envelop you in this endeavour, it is a once in a life time experience. A trip to this majestic continent will allow you to meet some black and white animals that are endemic in this part of the world such as penguins and those mischievous but beautiful orcas.

Another two-toned species that you might want to get acquainted with are the cute and cuddly panda bears that are native in China. Conservation areas and sanctuaries are provided for this endangered species in this country. You might also want to walk the famous Great Wall of China. This is one of the Seven Wonders of the World for good reason.

Room to entertain - Unit ID 127487

Room to entertain in Hong Kong – Unit ID 127487

India is another stop you don’t want to miss. The home of the great Mahatma Gandhi, India is a religiously diverse country that people choose as a destination when travelling a deep and enlightening journey. Another reason to take this route is the magnificent Taj Majal. It is one of the finest architectural masterpieces in the world. You can also take a peek at the peaks of the Himalayan range which borders India from the neighboring countries.

Take in the sunset while dining in your seaside home - Unit ID 204062

Take in the India sunset while dining in your seaside home – Unit ID 204062

If you are interested in history, you might want to add Peru to your list. The fascinating Machu Picchu is a must-see. One of the new Seven Wonders of the World, this structure was built in 1450 by the Incas. There are other ruins to be examined and explored in this part of the world.

Another archeologists’ and historians’ paradise is located in England: Stonehenge is a pre-historic structure which is believed to be raised around 3000 BC. Despite the mystery that surrounds the monument, it has been a religious destination for pilgrims.

If you’re looking for some romantic locations, France is the place to be. Paris, being the most popular city in France, is considered one of the most beautiful and romantic cities in the world. The City of Light is a haven for people who love arts, history, and fashion. Home to the well-known Eiffel Tower, Paris is also known for the most visited museum in the world, The Louvre.

The infamous Moulin Rouge near Unit ID 83492

The infamous Moulin Rouge in Paris near Unit ID 83492

After touring France, you might want to jump to another famous European country, Italy. Known for its arts and architectural contribution to the world, Italy attracts artists and students who want to learn more about their craft. Going to Rome, you might also want to visit The Vatican City. It is located inside the city but it is an independent country on its own.

People watch from your terrace - Unit ID 205485

People watch in Rome from your terrace - Unit ID 205485

Family Estate with swimming pool - Unit ID 115968

Family Estate in Rome with swimming pool – Unit ID 115968

 

 

 

The list could go on. There are so many destinations to choose from. Wherever you decide to go, just enjoy the trip and make the most out of it.

 

Spring Break Last Minute Deals

Spring Break Last Minute Deals

Disney World, FL #203030 Oporto, Portugal #207280 Victoria, BC #203153 Maui, HI #55616 Golden, BC #201867 Tofino, BC #205093

Save big with these last minute deals for spring break and transform the kids’ vacation week into a memorable and fun getaway for the whole family.

USA: Utah: Park City Ski Area: Park City: PowderWood Resort: Vacation Rental Condo ID 54064
Green, eco-friendly 2br/2ba remodeled condo with free wi-fi and self check-in 20% off

It’s no wonder that the annual count of visitors exceeds the number of Park City’s registered residents. Home to three world class ski resorts, it is definitely a great place to escape for spring skiing or just relaxing. Park City has several luxury retailers, clubs, bars, and restaurants, and has nearby reservoirs, hot springs, forests, and hiking and biking trails.

Stay in a green condo right at the PowderWood Resort, just steps away from Tanger Outlet mall, several restaurants and the Utah Olympic Park. Located at the ground level, this particular condo unit is easy to find, easy to enter and exit. It has been remodeled with new recycled carpet and eco-friendly pad, laminate and tile, and new locally-made mattresses. Organic linens, bedding, mattress pads, towels, and soaps are ready for use. Only eco-friendly cleaning products are used, and garbage is recycled at the end of every visitor’s stay.

Europe: Italy: Tuscany: Arezzo Region: Castiglion Fiorentino: Vacation Rental Cottage ID 202867
Great value for up to 4, with shared pool 20% off

Visit Tuscany, Italy – where the Italian Renaissance began – and stay in one of these charming stone cottages. Carefully renovated by local artisans, these cottages retained the country setting whilst providing warmth and comfort. Enjoy the stunning view of the historic town of Castiglion Fiorentino framed through the cottage windows. Read a book or sip the best wines of Tuscany at a pergola by the pool side.

Surrounded by gardens, olive groves and natural countryside, this is certainly the perfect place to begin exploring Tuscany. Go sightseeing in the beautiful and historical towns. Visit famous museums like the Uffizi and the Pitti Palace. Tour some of the finest wineries in the world. Go truffle hunting. Join cooking classes. Learn a little of the lingua Toscana (Tuscan language). There are various sights and activities to choose from to make your vacation truly enjoyable.

Canada: Ontario: Greater Toronto Area: Toronto: Vacation Rental Condo ID 204944
Elegant & modern 1 bedroom – in the heart of Toronto 20%off

Looking for a better accommodation alternative when you visit Toronto, Canada?

This elegant and modern condo is located right in the heart of Toronto. It has one bedroom and one bathroom, and contains a washer and dryer in-suite. There is a full kitchen so you can cook your meals and save extra money, a balcony for when you need some air, a 37″ LCD TV, DVD player, and a leather couch to relax on. The building is equipped with 24hr security and concierge, a 10,000 square ft fitness center, a full fitness track for jogging, and a swimming pool. Definitely better than a hotel accommodation at a much cheaper price! Spend more on having a fun vacation. Get sprayed at Niagara Falls. Conquer your fear of heights at the CN Tower. Explore museums and art spaces. Go shopping!

British Columbia: Okanagan: Big White: Big White Village: Moguls: Vacation Rental Condo ID 205912
Fantastic family getaway with breathtaking views and cozy creature comforts. 20% off (March 8-15)

This rustic ski-in ski-out condo at the upper village in Big White is complete with all the comforts of home. It is tastefully decorated with full bathroom and kitchenette that is complete with a two burner stove, bar fridge and toaster oven. Recently added is a 32″ SMART TV and wireless internet. The games room has foosball and air hockey tables. The building also includes a sauna and shared jacuzzi. You can request catering for your convenience. Located on the 8th floor, enjoy the breathtaking views of the Monashee Mountains.

Just a quick walk down the hall and out the back door, and you are on the Moguls Track. What a great place for family skiing!

Where are you headed for Spring Break this year?

Good news! There’s a storm brewing

Storm watching on the West Coast

Tofino, BC #205093 Nanaimo, BC #49725 Arch Cape, Oregon #206405 Ucluelet, BC #89115

Since when is “bad” weather good news? When it’s a winter storm lashing the rocky coast of the Pacific Northwest.

Don’t get me wrong. The ocean-side highways of British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon are spectacular during the summer months. But there’s nothing like making this trip (really more of a pilgrimage) from November to mid-March, better known to the locals as “Storm Watching Season.”

Truly hardy types might venture directly out into the elements, to feel the wind, the salt spray, and the “mighty ocean tossed.” But I prefer my storm watching from the comfort of a luxurious suite, preferably with a like-minded companion, maybe a fire or a hot tub, and definitely a glass (or two) of local wine.

From just north of the California border all the way up Highway 101 to Washington and across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Vancouver Island, there’s hardly a cove along the Pacific Northwest coastline that doesn’t offer stunning access to some of the most powerful forces in nature. And the trifecta of rugged coastline, turbulent winter weather patterns, and gracious vacation homes combine to create a perfect storm of weather watching get-aways.

The west coast of Vancouver Island is arguably the most dramatic “must-visit” destination. And it’s no wonder. The landscape is a raw, wind-sculpted testament to the power and the beauty of the elements. Waves that have travelled, virtually unobstructed, across the Pacific can reach in excess of 12 metres. (For perspective, the tallest dinosaur who ever lived, Brachiosaurus, was about that height.) As a bonus, the area is rich with the legends of the First Nations people. If you can tear yourself away from the vistas, visit the Kwisitis Visitor Centre in Pacific Rim National Park to learn more about the Nuu-chah-nulth people, their traditions, and stories.

Tofino, BC #205093

Tofino, BC #205093

The closest vacation home to the Visitor Centre is this one: Located directly on famed Chesterman Beach right in Pacific Rim National Park. If it were any closer to the ocean, you’d need a life jacket!

Ucluelet, BC #63916

Ucluelet, BC #63916

South of Tofino, Ucluelet is just as stunning, but further off the beaten path. Ideal for travellers who want to feel like they’re off the grid even though they’re swathed in luxury.

If you’re not quite ready for the rugged isolation of Vancouver Island, Washington might be just the ticket. Consider a holiday rental that’s on the water, but also close to the bright lights and big city of Seattle.

Puget Sound, WA #207327

Puget Sound, WA #207327

It’s hard to believe this magnificent, cliff-top rental, with its unobstructed views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains, is a scant 30 minutes from SEATAC International Airport!

If your storm-chasing adventures take you down the fabled Oregon Coast, you’re in for a real treat. Vacation accommodations include cabins, like this one, literally carved out of the rainforest on the edge of the sea.

Arch Cape, OR #206405

Arch Cape, OR #206405

And if your storm watching is intended as the backdrop for a proposal or milestone birthday or anniversary, why not go all out and treat yourself to a magical, once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Port Orford, OR #114129

Port Orford, OR #114129

This incredible vacation home, in Port Orford, Oregon, is perched high on a secluded bluff and offers every possible luxury you can imagine. So you can do it all or do nothing at all. Either way, it’s time to check the weather forecast, pack a bag, and head for the West coast.

Romantic getaways in BC

Romantic Getaways in BC

Kissimmee, Disney World Area, Florida #54906 Silver Star, BC #201340 Myrtle Beach, SC #203745 Disney World, FL #200944

Is winter getting to you and you need to recharge your batteries? Or perhaps you would like to enjoy a romantic weekend away, just the 2 of you? Picture yourself enjoying views of snow-capped mountains or the smell of the ocean from the comfort of your vacation rental. With all of the comforts and privacy of home, a vacation rental allows you to really relax and enjoy your vacation. Consider spending a weekend or longer at one of the following romantic getaways in British Columbia.

Ucluelet

Ucluelet - #143468Located on the west coast of Vancouver Island is Ucluelet, a small village popular for its variety of recreational activities.  Catch some waves surfing, kayak along the ocean shoreline or enjoy a day hike in the Pacific Rim National Park. Care to kick back and relax? Take a leisurely walk along Long Beach. Get cozy with a glass of wine by the fireplace of your vacation rental and watch the winter storms roll in. Enjoy a romantic dinner overlooking the ocean or pick up some fresh seafood and a bottle of BC wine, and enjoy a fun, laid-back evening cooking and laughing together. Whatever you choose to do, the stunning natural beauty of the area will be certain to renew your spirit even after a few days.

Victoria

A short ferry ride from Vancouver  or Seattle, Victoria is a city with its own distinct charm and character. Victoria is well known for its mild temperatures, in fact so mild that flowers bloom all year long. But don’t forget your umbrella as it does get its share of rain. Experience its British heritHorse-drawn carrige ride in Victoria, BC #206745age with a romantic horse-drawn carriage ride and high tea in a formal tearoom, or explore the city at your leisure by renting bicycles or kayaks. If shopping is your thing be sure to check out Antique Row, a street purely devoted to antiques and other collectible items. Experience Canada’s oldest China Town and walk North America’s narrowest street, Fan Tan Alley.  The city also has a lively night life and a culturally diverse community. Plan ahead and make sure to check out Victoria’s calendar of events to take advantage of all that is going on.

Kootenays

To really get away from your everyday life, consider taking a trip to the Kootenays. During the winter, the Kootenays offer amazing outdoor adventures including powder skiing and boarding, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. Choose a romantic and cozy one bedroom vacation rental in communities such as Kimberley, Fernie, Panorama or  Golden.

After a day on the slopes, relax those tired muscles in the privacy of your own hot tub or Jacuzzi.  If convenience is important, consider staying at Panorama offering a self-contained ski in/ski out resort. For backcountry adventures, consider Kicking Horse Mountain in Golden, the champagne powder capital of Canada. If you are looking for volume: it’s at Fernie Alpine Resort where they receive an average of 29ft of snow annually. No matter where you choose to stay, you will be sure to feel rejuvenated after spending so much time with Mother Nature.

The Okanagan

For couples with an adventurous spirit, the Okanagan, or the Okanagan Valley, is a perfect travel destination. Nothing is more romantic than exploring the ski village Apex Mountain #203654of Apex Mountain and enjoying the snow and exhilarating outdoor activities together. And how about spending some time in the wilderness by enjoying a hike in the spring or summer? It sure makes for a romantic day to be out in the open air and marveling at the wildlife with a romantic picnic for two. After your hike, you might want to try one of the many wine and dine activities hosted here or visit the many beautiful wineries and orchards, as well as sample the wines that these lovely places offer.

Do you have a favourite romantic destination in BC you would like to share?

Escape the cold this winter

Ready to escape the cold?

Maui #1538 Kauai #12293 Cape Coral, FL #201367 Calpe Coral, FL #201360 Mahahual, Mexico #204634

Have you had too much of the cold and snow? Perhaps you’ve been snowed in longer than you actually enjoyed. Yes, the pristine white all around is just too hard to ignore! And although sunny snow days can have their fun moments like making those cute snowmen and having entertaining snow fights, it can also get to be too much. If the weather has been uncomfortably cold for more than a month, the snow will begin to get you down until it finally gets on your nerves and affects your mood, too.

So after a few weeks of enjoying the snow capped grounds, you will soon crave more sun and a little bit warmth just to cheer you up! There is something to be said for a little extra Vitamin D that the warm sunshine can provide as a mood lifter. That’s why you have to fly somewhere warm and sunny. Plan you trip now!

Here are a few destinations and accommodations you might want to consider when you plan that brief yet unforgettable break to flee from the cold and snowy weather.

Castaways Cove in Grand Cayman

Beachside relaxation at this 2 bedroom condo at Castaways Cove in Grand Cayman – #203029

 1.      Grand Cayman’s Castaways Cove. It’s hard to think of sunny days and sandy beaches without giving this Caribbean island a thought. In fact, it is one of the most popular island beach destinations because of its many magnificent beaches that would appeal to the most selective of tourists and vacationers. Anyone can simply choose from one of their many  attractions and find the perfect place that suits their tastes as well as their budget. Grand Cayman’s Castaways Cove, located on the less populated portion of the island in the East End, has all the elements of one perfect holiday including a breathtaking view of the Caribbean. Enjoy one of those top floor condos and be ready to vacation like a VIP. Select one of the rooms with a king sized bed and bathtub and get ready to have your best vacation ever. It’s easy to spend the lazy hours of the night lounging in one of those cool patio chairs as you take in the soothing and relaxing island breeze. There are also provisions for a kitchen, as well as a grill area where you and your family can enjoy your very own homemade barbecue recipe.

Bangtao Beach - #207336

So much to do on Bangtao Beach – #207336

2.      The Residence Resort and Spa at Phuket’s Bang Tao Beach. Phuket has become one of the most popular beach destinations in recent years and it is no surprise that this Thai island has become a top choice for both local and foreign tourists. The unspoiled beauty of Bang Tao Beach is considered by many the best Phuket has to offer, not to mention, it is also the longest beach in the country. If you ever find yourself heading to this side of Thailand, one of the best places to get accommodations from is The Residence Resort and Spa. Not only do they meet the flawless European standards with their luxurious villas, it is also a top choice for its proximity to the beach and the airport. This world class, 5 star resort is set in a very reclusive tropical garden which is the most featured appeal to those who value their privacy even while on vacation. Notable amenities also include provisions for a barbecue, Wi-Fi, a gym, a large private swimming pool and a spa – which all aim to give any visitor a vacation of a lifetime.

#202808 in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico

Sunset from the 3rd floor patio in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico – #202808

3.      The Penthouse Delfin in Mexico’s Nuevo Vallarta. Some parts of Mexico are known for their hot, dry climate which makes it another top pick for a warm getaway during the wintertime. Idyllic sandy beaches are one of its most popular attractions. You can’t go wrong choosing any of Mexico’s sunny destinations if you aim to escape the snow and the cold in your country. A notable choice will have to be the Penthouse Delfin situated in Nuevo Vallarta on Mexico’s Pacific Coast. This one bedroom penthouse allows any tourist to vacation like a king with its very own private jacuzzi and a stunning view of the dolphins taking a swim below. A panoramic view of Puerto Vallarta, as well as the enthralling sunset view are but some of its added charms.

Maalea vacation rental #204782

Come to Maui, enjoy life and know why we say “Maui No Ka Oi” (Maui is the best!!!) – #204782

 4.      Maalaea Yacht Marina in Maui. Hawaii still is and always will be a leading destination if you are yearning for the sun, the sand and the surf. Known for its many stunning beaches, it is summer all year round in this state. And the locals do not just say Maui No Ka Oi for nothing. At this accommodation, be blown away by the seemingly endless stretch of beaches just outside your windows. In addition, this island paradise destination is just a walk away from some of the islands famous attractions, including Haycraft Park, Kealia Nationa Wildlife Refuge, as well as your chance to enjoy a number of outdoor and water adventures. Here in Maalaea Yacht Club, their Posturpedic pillowed beds are just the tip of the iceberg.

Where are you heading to escape the cold this year?