The Great Northwest Journey

August 20, 2016

Summary

Our big trip this year was Seattle, then Victoria with Sara and Mike, then Seattle, then Birch Bay, Vancouver, White Rock B.C., and Leavenworth with Kevin and Trish, and then back to Seattle before flying home.

The weather was perfect, the people were above average, and the experiences were most excellent.

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The flight with the kids

We babysat Paxson and Austin (3 1/2 and 19 months) for a few days while their parents flew on to Seattle for a short respite without the kids. Then we flew to Seattle with the boys. They were little angels in DFW and during the flight. The downside to flying with the boys is the amount of gear we had to bring with us including car seats and strollers.

Seattle

We spent a few days with Mike’s parents, Don and Karen, both before and after our trip to Victoria and then before our flight back to Dallas.

Staying with our gracious hosts in their beautiful home on Lake Sammamish. While there we did dine at a couple of good restaurants:

We had started exercising at Orange Theory this Summer and were pleasantly surprised to find a location in Redmond just a 12 minute scenic drive from our host’ss residence.

Victoria

We spent two days in Victoria with Sara and Mike traveling via the Victoria Clipper Ferry service from Seattle.

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Victoria Harbour

We had reserved a couple of rooms at Abigail’s, a small independent botique hotel 4 short blocks from the Harbour. Gwen found Abigail’s for our first trip to Victoria and the experience was so great we’ve never considered staying anywhere else in Voctoria. This trip was no expception.

Our first night there we had managed to procure 4 tickets to Taste, a wine and food event at one of the local hotels. Around 35 Vancouver Island Vineyards were present as well as 15 local restaurants. This is a one night a year event. We were fortunate enough to attend last year and loved it. This year was just as good except for no ice cream. If you go don’t drive because there is a lot of wine. We walked!

Our highlight was probably the hour long carriage ride with a British Columbia History Major as our driver. Also spotted some humpback whales while riding along the Coast next to Beacon Hill Park. The night was surprisingingly chilly.

We did not rent a car. Therefore we walked everywhere which is not a big problem if you plan to hang out at the Inner Harbour area. We most likely walked 10 miles each day around the Harbour, Government Street, and Beacon Hill Park.

Besides Taste other memorable dining experiences were at:

  • Il Terrazzo – a little Italian restaurant in a downtown alley. Our favorite restaurant in Victoria
  • The Local – best fish and chips I’ve had anywhere with a magnificent view of the Harbour
  • Breakfast at Abigail’s
  • The Commons – Serves only local cusine, much of it from their own farm or from local fishermen

As a parting note on the last morning I snuck out of the hotel early in the morning and enjoyed a Flat White at a local coffee shop. Best Flat White I’ve had outside of New Zealand. For some reason U.S. coffee shop’s, including Starbucks, just don’t serve Flat Whites that taste anywhere near as good.

Birch Bay

We picked Kevin and Trish up at the Seattle Airport and then drove to Birch Bay, Washngton where we had reserved our Condo for three days. Birch Bay is a small seacoast community on the Washington/Canadian border.

Our Condo was old but very comfortable with an excellent vew of the sea from the balcony. Although our base was in Washington we spent one day in Vancouver and the 2nd in White Rock, B.C.

Although Vancouver is but 40 miles distance the journey by auto took 1.5 hours. We spent most of the day strolling around Stanley Park and ended by day by dining at Joe Fortes. A very enjoyable day indeed. I highly recommend both.

The next day we drove just across the boarder to White Rock, B.C. White Rock is a picturesque little community on the coast. The main attractions are the pier, the promenade, and the restaurants. We had lunch at Uli’s. The exterior and the interior decor is not impressive. However the food is delicious. I had the fish and chips again. Where else in the World is Halibut considered a “common” fish?

The main attraction at both Birch Bay and White Rock is the sea. At both locations the tides go out to reveal over 100 yard wide mud flats. The locals and I suppose the tourist tramp out onto the mud flats, setup blankets, umbrellas, beach chairs, and stay for the day.

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Birch Bay at Low Tide

Restaurants in the area we liked:

  • Vonna’s Purple Fin Restaurant in Birch Bay: We dined here our first night in Birch Bay and liked it so much we went back for breakfast every day
  • Joe Fortes in Vancouver
  • Uli’s in White Rock

Leavenworth

The drive from Birch Bay to Leavenworth through the Cascades was both beautiful and sometimes breathtaking. Leavenworth is a charming little German community in the Cascades. Kevin and Trish were married there and for them this was a trip back in time.

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Leavenworth Wa.

Experiences

If you just have a day stroll around the village, vist the shops, watch the people, and listen to the musicians on the square.

In the Summer they host musicals outdoors under the stars. We attended a performance of The Sound of Music at night in the middle of a forest on a mountainside in 49 degree weather in July. We were all amazed by the quality of the performance.

Hike the Leavenworth River Trail.

Drive a few miles down the highway to Cashmere and visit the 9/11 memorial.

Visit some of the many local vineyards. We planned and developed a list of vineyards to visit. However the first vineyard (Wedge Mountain Vineyard) was so interesting we ran out of time and did not get to any of the other vineyards on our list. If you go there be sure to sign up for the vineyard tour via a mid-60s Fordson tractor with the owner (Charlie McKee).

And last but not least, don’t lock yourself our of your hotel room on the outskirts of town at 11PM in you pajamas and realize they have no night clerk.

Restaurants

  • Sulla Vita – Ecletic menu. We liked it so much we dined there twice
  • Los Camperos – A Mexican restaurant in the heart of a German community in Washington state a few miles from the Canadian Border. How strange is that? The food was quite good after my companions realized Los Camperos did not serve TexMex. It’s more like New Mexico cusine but a little different.
  • Gustav’s – If your in a German community eating sausages and potatoes is a must. Gustav’s is the place to do it.
  • The Alley Cafe – This is where Kevin and Trish dined on their wedding night. However they always thought they dined at Los Camperos because they had a photo looking out a window at The Alley Cafe hung a sign for Low Camperos. Turns out Los Camperos is directly abobe The Alley Cafe.
  • J. J. Hill in the Icicle Lodge – more German food. This time I ordered the schnitzel. very tasty.

Click here for more photos

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Victoria Harbour

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Seattle/Victoria B.C. vacation

October 21, 2011

Parliament House at Dark

September 1: We 1st class to Seattle. For a flight that long 1st class is the only way to go.  Sara and Mike flew with us.  Mike’s dad, Don, picked us up at the airport and drove us to their house where we would be spending the 1st  few days of the trip.  The Nuestat’s live on Lake Shammamish. The view from their deck is beautiful.

View from Don and Karen’s deck on Lake Sammamish

I never tired of sitting on that deck and just watching the scenery and thinking.

Friday morning we rose early and  went for a long walk in the woods. You could run all day here. The temperature was 52 degrees and the trail in the woods was almost like a sponge. If I lived here I would not have foot problems.

Later on we jumped in the car with Mike’s nieces and drove to Pike’s market in downtown Seattle. We arrived about 9AM which is the time of day to be there. The crowds were small and you could buy your produce, fish, and flowers and get out before the crowds. We came back around 11AM after the Duck ride and the crowd was huge. We could hardly walk at all. You just let the crowd push you along. We did do the duck tour. It was okay once but I don’t think I will go again.

Downtown Seattle from the Duck

Mike selecting some tiny donuts at the Pike’s Market donuts shop.

We ate lunch at the Pike Place Chowder House which was quite cheap. It was one of those typical walk up and order, get your food, and then go find a place to eat places that are in markets like this.

If I ever go to Seattle again Pike’s Market is a must place visit.

Unwilling participants at the Pike’s Market Fish Market

The World famous gum wall

In the afternoon we took a boat ride around the lake with a round of drinks. A great way to spend the afternoon.

Sara cooked a feat meal for dinner and we played a friendly few games of pool before retiring for the evening.

Saturday: Another great day, we had brunch at a place called Purple after the normal early morning jogs and  walks. Then we visited a couple of vineyards and the Red Hook Brewery.  I now know ESB stands for Extra Special Bitter and I believe it.  Saturday night we ate Sushi at a joint in downtown Bellevue.

Sunday: morning trip to Shoquamie falls which is higher than Niagra Falls. We ate brunch at the Inn there which was very good. I had the muesli which was delicious but it should be for $15.00. Sunday afternoon we just hung out at the lake house and had a another great meal cooked by Sara – hamburgers, corn on the Cobb and some strange corn/pepper/bean salad. I am having a problem with my sinus here, but probably has more to do with not working and finally relaxing than the conditions here.

Started Monday with and early morning run with Sara through the woods. With the scenery, the cool weather, and the soft forest floor I feel like I could jog all day.

Mike made breakfast which was a baking sheet covered with dough, eggs, sausage, cheese, and spices. It was very good.

Their friends from New Zealand spent the day with us. We took a long boat ride. The kids went tubing which looked like a lot of fun for young people such as them. After we finished I jumped in. The water was cold but okay after the initial shock.

We had an early dinner at the Crab Shack  in Bellveue and then had desert at a place called Hector’s in Richmond near the University.

Tuesday: We bid Don and Karen a fond farewell. The rest of the troop were still sleeping  at 6AM.  Don drove us down to the Seattle waterfront where we caught the Victoria Clipper to Victoria B.C. The trip takes around 2.5 hours and is very comfortable.  It is more like riding on a train than a boat or an airplane.  The seating is spacious and the rise is like riding on glass.

The Victoria Clipper ready to roll

After going through customs which was painless we walked to the hotel (Abigail’s) and checked in. The room is great! Next, we were hungry so we walked to a local joint called the Blue Fox but they had a 45 minute wait so we decided to

Abigal’s Hotel

walk down to the harbor. We found a very good Irish pub (The Irish Times Pub) on Government street. It was tastey. We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the harbor area and downtown with a well deserved break at Starbucks

Victoria Harbor

For dinner we ate at Il Terazzo. It is tucked in an alley near the Johnson Street bridge. I had a seafood marinna dish which one of the best I have ever had. The sauce and pasta were fairly standard but the seafood was fantastic. For example, the mussels were the largest I have ever eaten.

We started Wednesday morning off with a great breakfast at Abigal’s which is included in the price of the room.

Mammoth at the Museum

Then we visited the Royal BC museum which was a history of BC – the land, the native peoples as they call them, and the whites. The focus was narrow enough to make a story that kept me interested and turned out to be one of the most enjoyable museum experiences I have had. After the museum we ate lunch at a little deli at the foot of Government Street (Sam’s Deli). I had the Montreal Smoked Meat sandwich and a real Greek salad wihtout any lettuce and plenty of cucumbers. Next we went on the Butchard Gardens tour. It was okay and better than the Arboretum for sure but not worth a special trip to Victoria.

Wednesday night we dined at Aura, a restaurant with an Asian flare.  It was also scrumptious and I would recommend it also.

Leaving Victoria Harbor on the Victoria Clipper

We had another great breakfast Thursday morning at Abigal’s and then rode the Victoria Clipper back to Seattle. This time we sat up top and I spent a great part of the trip outside watching the sea. Very relaxing. Once in Seattle we walked 1.5 miles to the Arctic Club Hotel and checked in. We have a very special room on the 10th floor (top floor). One downer is it used to be a smoking room or someone has smoked in it. After relaxing for awhile we took a long walk down to Pike’s Market and Pioneer Square. We had dinner at a tiny Italian place at Pioneer Square called Cafe Bengodi. It was very tasty and I would recommend it to anyone.

Cafe Bengodi ain’t much to look at

Cafe Bengodi spacious seating arrangements

Thursday set a all time high temperature for September 8 in Seattle – 86 degrees.  Why do I live in Texas?

Friday: We had a great breakfast at the Arctic Club Restaurant and then found out our plane was delayed 2 hours so we took our time going to the airport.  We rode the light rail.  The entrance was 1/2 block from the hotel and we paid $3.75 per person to ride so the transportation was dirt cheap.  The Seattle airport has free WiFi.  Why don’t all airports?  It really makes the wait much more pleasant.

The flight home was uneventful.  First class sure is nice even with the stewardesses we had on this trip. There seem to be two types.  The type we had on this trip did as little as possible but were pleasant enough.  The type we had going to Seattle bent over backwards to make the trip enjoyable.

Back home again on September 9 – a long long vacation for us but it seemed very short.

Victoria Harbor — A parting shot