It’s been five years since I went on my last vacation. I know, I know. I go to California three times a year most years, and they are terrific trips. But they also involve a couple of weeks each time as caregiver, housekeeper, cook, and gardener for my mom, giving the caregiver and my sister and brother a break from their responsibilities. It’s not a get-away-from-all–responsibilities-for-a-couple-of-weeks trip while visiting some special place. That’s how I envision a gen-u-ine vacation. Two years ago, my sister, Edna, and I planned just such a trip to Italy, but my plans were waylaid by the big C. Edna got to go, and this past June 15–30, my sister and I had a chance to make up for that missed trip
During my years working for Northwest Travel, I got to do a lot of traveling. So this trip involved revisiting places I wanted to see again. For Edna, many stops were new.
We planned four nights in Port Townsend, four nights in Seattle, three nights in Victoria, one in Anacortes, two in Friday Harbor, and one in Oregon City. In that part of the Northwest, ferries are a major part of travel between locations and have to be part of the planning. That’s why the one night in Anacortes. By staying there, we could take a morning ferry to Friday Harbor. And in Seattle, notorious for its traffic, that has to be planned for too. Our timing was bad. Additional traffic problems were caused because of rebuilding the sea wall along Alaskan Way, and a multi-year tunnel project not far from the Space Needle, where our hotel was located. Streets were closed off, and many were one-way. It took us 40 minutes circling in the area to find our hotel when we first arrived. That did it for me. I knew I didn’t want to drive any more than I had to in Seattle. We parked at our lodging, and walked everywhere. Besides, parking lots were insanely expensive.
We made it to Port Townsend in one day from Florence. I was enchanted with this seaport town with a colorful history during my first visit 20 years ago. And I got to sleep in the very hotel I dreamed of staying in someday––the restored, historic Palace Hotel. There are antiques in the rooms, in the lobby, and in the sitting areas. The ceilings were 14-feet high, and each room was different and totally charming. After our four nights, we felt we belonged and didn’t want to leave.
Day 1: We had no have-to-dos scheduled and only a couple of places to check out if we felt like it. So we explored the waterfront shops and climbed the stairs to Uppertown and visited an historic home and a farmers market. Back at the waterfront, we discovered more shops, where I found the perfect gift for a friend and some outrageous socks I couldn’t resist. In both parts of town, we found wonderful meals in tucked away places.
Day 2: We drove out to Finnriver Cidery and tasted some hard ciders that Edna couldn’t resist. I will deliver them next October when I head to California. On both Day 2 and 3, we went to the local movie theater and saw first-run movies.
Day 3: We drove to nearby Fort Worden, which is now used as retreat facilities, and Point Wilson Lighthouse, which looked abandoned.
We drove to Bainbridge Island by way of a bridge and then took the ferry to Seattle. It was a short, but scenic ride. Seattle has quite a skyline made extra special with views of Mt. Rainier. I planned to enter Seattle this way in the area we wanted to stay to avoid driving through the city. I hadn’t planned, however, on the two construction projects mentioned earlier. Once we got settled into the TravelLodge, we headed for Seattle Center––home of the 605-foot tall Space Needle, Experience Music Project, and the Chihuly glass museum. The very tall Space Needle dominated the whole area.
We enjoyed seeing the Frank Gehry designed building that houses EMP and were impressed with the inside exhibits. They did seem a little limited in scope—mainly pop music groups with Seattle connections. Then we went to the Chihuly museum. Wow! It was mesmerizing! The colors of the blown glass were vivid in the darkened room displays, and the displays went on and on room after room. Separately, a huge greenhouse with orange and red blown glass creations was also impressive.
Before we headed back to our hotel, we stopped by the Space Needle to make reservations for dinner for one of our nights in town. We asked a gal in a uniform, how to do that and she led us through crowds outside and inside and to a reservation desk. The gal there listened to our request, looked at her computer, and asked if we would be willing to have dinner right then. It was 5:45 p.m. and we said, “Sure!” So on our first day in town, we got to eat in the revolving restaurant at the top of the Space Needle without advance reservations or waiting in line. It was a clear evening and the city was beautiful as well as Mt. Rainier. The food was great and very expensive. Since this was something we would probably never do again, we enjoyed every moment and every bite!
Day 2: We were picked up at our hotel by a small bus for the Seattle in a Day tour. We went up to the top of the Space Needle and went all around it outside and walked around Seattle Center where we felt like old hands. Then we spent two hours at Pike Place Market where we saw fish fly, ate French crepes, and bought some gifts as well as fresh cherries. We saw many parts of the city, including the historic Chittenden Locks (aka Ballard Locks). The locks along with the Lake Washington Ship Canal make a navigable connection between Lake Washington east of Seattle and Puget Sound when they first opened in 1917. Between the surrounding botanical gardens and the fish ladder with viewing windows, the locks are one of Seattle’s top attractions.
That evening we started walking towards the Flying Fish restaurant that was highly recommended. When we didn’t find it, we stopped at a gas station. We had been going in the wrong direction. Finally, we found it and had a good meal. I have never felt so turned around in a city before. From then on, a decent map in the hands of Edna kept me from heading the wrong way, over and over again
Days 3 and 4: We checked out the outdoor Olympic Sculpture Garden and the Seattle Aquarium. Both wonderful! Then we took a boat ride out to Tillicum Village on Blake Island to have the traditional Native-American salmon dinner and see the show complete with awesome carved wooden masks. Definitely worth visiting!
One of the coolest things we did in Seattle was to check out where our mother lived as a little girl. She had told us 4th and Battery. Since it was on a route we could take to the waterfront, we checked it out. We photographed each corner including the 4th and Battery Building, a gleaming high rise that stood on one corner and filled most of a block. The fire station that she said was across from where she lived was still there as were some old apartments that could’ve been where she lived. Mom lived in this area just about 100 years ago. As I write this on July 13, she turns 104. We were so pleased to find this intersection close enough to walk to and that we got photos.
We parked the car in a parking garage on Alaskan Way near Victoria Clipper (passenger ferry) terminal and took only what we needed for the next three days in Victoria. We pulled our suitcases along and headed through the misty rain to the terminal. It was a lovely three-hour cruise despite the dreary weather. By the time we reached Victoria, the rain had stopped and sun was peeking through. It was several blocks and slightly uphill to pull our suitcases. It nearly did me in. The Quality Inn was lovely and had an attached funky café––the Argyle Attic––for meals.
Our hotel was only a few blocks from The Empress. The Clipper staff had made arrangements for us to have High Tea at the Empress at noon. Since we got into the Inner Harbour at 11 a.m., we had to hustle to get to our hotel, check in, and back to The Empress. We made it and had a lovely window location. There were about five tiny sandwiches each, scones with clotted cream and strawberry preserves, and five desserts apiece. Every bite was to die for. And the tea was equally good. Simply fabulous!
Then we saw the Royal BC Museum. I hadn’t been there in 20 years and nearly all of it was new. Also, a fabulous experience covering the history of British Columbia.
For dinner, we went to the funky café and had a bowl of soup and a glass of wine. That was it. The high tea earlier in the day had really been filling.
Day 2: We caught a tour bus to Butchart Gardens and could catch any bus on the hour coming back. It, too, was fabulous. It was my second time to be there, and it was still just as wonderful. To a gardener, it is the ultimate. Everything perfection. It took a couple of hours to go through the different gardens. We then ate lunch in the dining room terrace overlooking the Italian Garden. Heaven! Again the food, the ambiance, wonderful!
That evening we went to a highly recommended restaurant where Edna had raw tuna salad and I had octopus (new for me). Our night for experimentation! Not too bad! That night we got to see the Parliament Buildings lit up. Beautiful!
Day 3: For this day, I had arranged for a private tour of several gardens in Victoria, Our guide picked us up at our hotel and drove us all over the city showing us gardens that we walked through as well as neighborhoods and special trees. He also showed us how to get tickets to tour the Parliament Buildings—which we did after the gardens tour. Another terrific day!
We had such a good time in Victoria that it was hard to leave. We made our way back to the Clipper terminal with our suitcases. Easier down hill. We rode the ferry to Seattle, and eventually made it though customs. Got back to our car and drove through Seattle to I-5. Not too difficult since no construction projects in this part of the city.
We made it to Anacortes about dinnertime. We checked in and walked to nearby pizza place. Strangest veggie pizza ever. The pizza was cooked with minimal cheese and sauce and then all veggies were placed on fresh and served. Yuck! Not what either of us considered pizza!
The Anaco Bay Inn in Anacortes was wonderful. Edna had a full-size pull-down bed, which didn’t close up on her during the night. But we couldn’t stay longer. We packed up next morning and headed for Friday Harbor.
We left our car in outside parking at the ferry terminal and took only what we needed for the next couple of days. It was a short ferry ride to Friday Harbor. Arrived mid-day. Took taxi to the Orca Inn because it was too far to walk uphill pulling suitcases. It was a strange location situated in back of a shopping center. We had a single room with two beds that had been two rooms. It still had two bathrooms, two heating/air-conditioning units, two closets, etc. Very strange!
That first day, we walked into town and had a deli lunch and checked out shops and galleries and the Whale Museum where we learned all about orcas. It’s a terrific museum and a delightful town. Then we stopped for a root beer float and were surprised to find that they used Umpqua ice cream (from Roseburg, Oregon). Small world! We stopped at a market on our way back to the motel and got goodies to fix a simple dinner in our room. The trip into the downtown harbor area and back is quite a hike.
Day 2: We ended up having breakfast that day and the next at the Rocky Bay Café closer to the harbor where the locals ate. We wanted to see more of San Juan Island, so we took a transit bus to Roche Harbor and spent a couple of hours there. This village is small, historic, and totally charming.
Then we headed out to Lime Kiln Lighthouse where we also hiked a short, scenic trail. While at the lighthouse, we got to see a video of orcas that had been in the area that morning. And we learned that orcas had been sighted in the Siuslaw River in Oregon the day before. Small world, indeed! Then back to Friday Harbor where we had a late lunch/early dinner of seafood at Friday Crab House.
Before leaving Friday Harbor, we walked down into town for another great breakfast. Then we leisurely headed back to the motel, where we packed up and waited for the time to meet the ferry. The same taxi guy met us at the motel and got us to the ferry on time. It was a lovely trip back to Anacortes with views of Mt. Baker. We found our car and made it down I-5 and over to I-205 to Oregon City. Heavy stop-and-go traffic from Everett to past Tacoma added a couple of hours to the trip back. I was sure glad, I hadn’t planned to go all the way home. We were more than ready to stop. We checked into the Rivershore Hotel and had dinner in the attached restaurant. Lovely room with a balcony and view of the Willamette.
The next day, we checked out some of the historic buildings in Oregon City as well as the Arch Bridge (a McCullough bridge) that we walked through. Then we headed home.
It had been a wonderful trip that we’ll long remember.