Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day in Tacoma

There was a lot of confusion about what we were doing today.

The original plan was Gig Harbor. Then it changed to Whidbey Island. Then it changed back to Gig Harbor again.

And then we woke up this morning after a night of almost constant pouring rain. We were both tired. And a combination of those two things pretty much made our decision for us. We were going to have a mostly restful day at home and perhaps venture out to the Museum of Glass later.

So I went back to bed around 10 and woke up at noon to...bright sunlight?

That settled it. Something outdoors then.

I decided on Wright Park, which is part of Tacoma's Metro Parks system. They had a conservatory there, art scattered throughout the park, plus it is located in the middle of the historic and architecturally interesting Stadium District, which we'd never been to before.

Just to give a pop culture point of reference - the main landmark in the district is Stadium High School, which was featured prominently in the movie 10 Things I Hate About You. We saw that today as well, but we couldn't find parking close enough for me to get out and photograph it. It's a very impressive building.

Anyway, the park is lovely and seems quite popular. It was busy today. The W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory, which changes its displays every month, had a beautiful predominantly red and pink themed display with tulips, hyacinths and other early spring flowers. They had musicians performing romantic music inside the conservatory as we walked around (I recognized "Romeo & Juliet" but everything we heard them play was lovely).

We were only in the area for about an hour, but I could've stayed longer. It's a charming district and I think I would like to go back and meander about a bit more and explore more of what it has to offer.

Now for some pictures and links about the area:

My Wright Park photos (slideshow)

Wright Park Information - Tacoma Metro Parks website

Stadium High School

Karpeles Manuscript Library (across the street from Wright Park - closed today)

Saturday, February 13, 2010


My friend and fellow travel writer Lisa went with me up to Edmonds today, a charming town about 30 minutes north of Seattle on the Puget Sound. We signed up for a free digital travel photography class at the Rick Steves' Travel Center, so we figured we might as well putter around for a bit while we were at it.

It was a chilly and rainy day, and we were both fighting fatigue, but I think we managed to have a pretty good day. I enjoyed Edmonds quite a bit.

We arrived with about an hour to spare before we had to check in for our class, so we decided to have an early lunch (or brunch...however you want to look at it). We parked next to a restaurant called Chanterelle, which I made note of when I was doing my research. So we decided to eat there because it looked really cute from the outside. It's a popular local spot, and we could see why. It has a quaint vintage feel, complete with vintage French posters, wooden beams and exposed ductwork along the ceiling. They were still serving breakfast when we got there (around 11 am). I ordered smoked salmon scrambled eggs (complete with cream cheese and green onions), grilled potatoes and toasted sourdough bread with jam. Delicious. Lisa also enjoyed her eggs, sausage, potatoes and English muffin.

We left the restaurant around 11:30 or so and walked around the corner to Europe Through the Back Door, Rick Steves' headquarters. After perusing the travel shop for a bit, we found the classroom where our class was being held and waited, chatting to some other folks who were also joining in.

The class was taught by John Greengo, a travel photographer for Travels to the Edge with Art Wolfe. It was more of a lecture than a class, really. Wonderful Powerpoint presentation and very informative. I definitely took away some information that will help me improve my photography.

As much as I liked the class and found it useful, I do have one small complaint. They crammed as many people as they possibly could into a tiny classroom, so it was claustrophobic and stuffy. Keep that in mind if you ever decide to attend a class at the Rick Steves' Travel Center (they do sometimes have classes in other locations around town). I was really uncomfortable for much of the time.

Anyway, after the class was over, we wandered around. Here's the part where I make my list of recommendations in Edmonds:

As I mentioned before, Chanterelle is the place to eat:

Arista Wine Cellars have free wine tastings every Saturday. Today was Valentine's Day themed, with some sparkling wines and red wines from Washington, California, Italy, South Africa and I'm not sure where else. A wonderful shop with a nice variety of wines and wine-related gifts.

The Resident Cheesemonger is where you want to go for all your cheese needs. Yes, you have to be able to withstand the smells of pungent cheeses, because those are sold in abundance. But you'll find a great variety, along with chutneys, spreads, olives, crackers, sausage, dried fruit, and any other possible food that complements cheeses. You'll also find cheese boards, cheese knives and other accessories.

Want to stop for coffee and something sweet? Well do it, but for the love of all that is holy, do not go to Starbucks. Yes, Edmonds has one (there's also a Tully's), but we really liked Red Twig Bakery & Cafe. We shared a Nanaimo bar and we each ordered a latte and it was the perfect afternoon pick-me-up. The prices for coffee and pastries, I might add, are comparable to Starbucks. So support a great local place - they also serve breakfast and lunch.

And of course, the reason why we were there - The Rick Steves' Travel Center:

I want to plug John Greengo a bit too. He's an amazing travel photographer and he does a webcast that's growing in popularity. You can get more information on that here:

I didn't take many pictures. It was raining pretty hard and I had an umbrella, which makes it a bit difficult to take photos one-handed. I just wish I could've gotten some more interesting photos. But here are some randoms.

The coffee bean roaster at Red Twig

An old-time strip mall called Old Milltown. There was a Quizno's, a pizza place and a salon, among other things. Yes, notice the trees are blossoming. Early spring comes to the Pacific Northwest.

This photo and the following 2 photos all depict public art/memorials near the Kingston Ferry terminal.