Saturday, August 20, 2011

If you write it, they will come

By it, I mean this:

This is a guest post that I wrote for Pam over at Nerd's Eye View. She posted it in April 2010. This is actually my first time linking it here, but the story may already be familiar to long-time readers, because I posted a lengthier version of this narrative back in 2007. And those who know me have heard me give a rather hilarious (so I've been told) narration of this story.

Yeah, I'm getting a bit of mileage out of my horrible Oktoberfest experience.

Anyway, the "they" that I refer to in my title is Matador Nights, which is part of the vast Matador Network - one of the largest travel sites on the Web.

I received an email from an editor there yesterday who had read my guest blog post and decided that I was the perfect person to write a piece on why Oktoberfest sucks/is overrated or something similar. Naturally, I jumped at the chance to do it.

So there we are, folks. Sometimes, great writing assignments do actually fall in your lap. (The Seattle Times did too, by the way, but I haven't mentioned that here before since it's not related to travel. But I'm currently working on my second piece for their NWjobs section.)

I'll post the link here when the article goes up. But seeing as how it's about a month until Oktoberfest time, it won't take long.

But first I have to write it, so...

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Langley - Whidbey Island

An island getaway seemed like an obvious choice when we were planning Aunt Sue's visit, seeing as how this area has several to choose from. I hadn't been to Whidbey Island yet (other than a brief visit to Deception Pass last year), and Sue wanted to visit wineries. So I chose Langley. Last Sunday, we headed out there with the dogs.

To get to Langley, you catch the Mukilteo-Clinton ferry. The ferry terminal is next to Mukilteo Lighthouse.

Mukilteo Lighthouse

It's a short ride - about 15 minutes. From Clinton, it's a short drive to Langley - about 6 miles.

Honestly, it was so easy to get there, I don't know why I never got around to doing it before now.

We arrived in Langley's beautiful city center. We got there a bit before the visitor center opened, so we went into the Langley Village Bakery (one at a time, so one of us could be outside with the pooches) for hot beverages and biscotti.

What can I say about Langley? It's charming and beautifully landscaped. A place to wander. To poke into shops and talk to the locals.

Langley garden

Langley is also dog friendly. Reece and Blitz were even invited into one of the shops! The owner of that shop talked very enthusiastically about the outdoor performance of "Romeo & Juliet" that was taking place that afternoon. I would've loved to have gone, but dogs weren't allowed there.

We had no particular agenda in mind. We just walked around the town center before heading out a few miles to Taste for Wines - a tasting room featuring wines from Blooms Winery and Spoiled Dog Winery. Reece and Blitz were allowed here, too, and they were treated every bit as well as the humans. Treats for them. Wine tastings for us. They got lots of attention from everyone there.

It was lunchtime when we finished up there, and we had heard rumors that The Star Store (the town grocery) was a good place to get sandwiches. They had outdoor tables, so I grabbed one while Sue ran in to get our lunch. As I waited, people stopped to say hi to Reece and Blitz and make conversation. Sue finally came out with 2 delicious turkey sandwiches from the deli, some pesto & parmesan kettle chips, and sparkling lemonade.

We wanted to take the dogs somewhere special where they could run around a bit, but before we did that, we stopped at Whidbey Island Winery, which we passed on the way into Langley.

Whidbey Island Winery

After a tasting there, we headed out to Double Bluff Beach. They have an off-leash area there. It's one of the few sandy beaches I've seen in Washington. Needless to say, the dogs loved it.

We spent maybe an hour there before heading back. The line to the ferry was long, so we had to wait awhile, but the weather was nice, and we were in no hurry.

It was a great visit! I hope to get back and explore more of Whidbey Island soon. Maybe Coupeville, if I can make it back.

As always, I have some pictures up on Flickr.


- Taste For Wines

- Whidbey Island Winery

Friday, August 12, 2011

Tacoma and Seattle with BONUS! BLUE! ANGELS!

A week ago today, I took my aunt to Tacoma to see the Museum of Glass (MOG). We had other destinations planned too (Port Orchard, Poulsbo, and Port Gamble), so Tacoma was pretty much a brief stop on a rather ambitious itinerary. We got there a little early (by the way, Sue was amazed that the parking garage and Link Light Rail are both free, so score one for Tacoma!), so we stopped at the old Union Station, which is now a federal courthouse. We wanted to get some pictures of the Chihuly works inside.

Chihuly - Union Station

After spending several minutes there, we made our way across the Bridge of Glass to the museum, stopping for pictures along the way. I think Sue enjoyed the hot shop the most. As a photographer, she enjoyed getting action shots of the glass artists at work.

We spent a couple of hours at the MOG, but around noon-ish, it was time to move on. I had a $40 gift certificate that I won from Amy’s on the Bay in Port Orchard – via their Facebook page – so this seemed like as good a time as any to spend it. So across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge we went, and further on to Kitsap County.

Mmmmm. Total decadence! This is my smoked salmon linguine alfredo. Sue had crab cakes (most delicious I have ever tasted, by the way) and salmon with roasted potatoes. We were stuffed, but it was totally worth it. I noticed at one point that there was a small plaque screwed to the table stating that it was the mayor’s table. HAHA. I love Amy’s on the Bay!

That was about all the time we had in Port Orchard – on to Poulsbo! We spent a little time browsing in shops (primarily antiques), did a wine tasting at Eleven Winery, and stopped at Sluy’s Bakery (ALWAYS! ALWAYS!) for some cookies.

We ran out of steam at that point. Didn’t make it to Port Gamble. Instead, we headed home for a light dinner and to do some chores around the house that needed doing. (Sue is an awesome houseguest…she offered to mow my lawn while I vacuumed the carpet.)


On Sue’s 4th full day, we finally made it to downtown Seattle. There was a method to my madness for waiting this long:

1> It’s easier to find parking at the light rail station on the weekend (as long as the Mariners or Sounders aren’t playing – which they weren’t).

2> Seafair weekend – which means we’d see the Blue Angels.

We started out at Pike Place Market, where Sue got some pictures of the fish-throwing guys (though they weren't throwing any at the time). Then we grabbed some breakfast at The Crumpet Shop. Being the Anglophile that I am, I’m ashamed to say that this was my first visit. After our crumpets, we walked a short distance to the Seattle Art Museum (SAM). That was also a first for me. I got in free with my military ID, and because the guy at the ticket counter was nice, he let Sue in for free as well.

So we spent a couple hours exploring the SAM. Europe kind of spoiled me for art museums, but I still enjoyed this. I especially liked their temporary exhibition, “Beauty & Bounty: American Art in an Age of Exploration,” which runs through September 11. Go check it out.

Sue also wanted to see Seattle Central Library. Again, I am ashamed to say that I hadn’t been there yet, despite being a bibliophile. I LOVED this place. The architecture. The light. Just the massiveness of it.

Seattle Central Library
(Are you kidding me? Can I live here?)

We visited the 1st and 3rd floors, snapped a lot of pictures, and made our way out and back to Pike Place Market.

We needed sustenance. Nothing too heavy, though, because it was finally starting to warm up and it was past our usual lunchtime (we didn’t want to have dinner super late, so we didn’t want to be too full). We found ourselves at Copacabana Bolivian Restaurant, enticed by the rainbow-colored umbrellas on their balcony overlooking the market. Simple lunch: black bean soup with pork, warm crusty bread with butter. It suited us fine. From there, we had an unbelievable view of Pike Place Market and of the Blue Angels, when they occasionally swooped past us on their way back to the Seafair crowd.

Blue Angels!

I could’ve sat there all day. That was truly my favorite part of it. But we had other places to see. We walked through the market, then made our way down to the waterfront and the Olympic Sculpture Park. From there, we headed to the Space Needle. But Sue was far more interested in the Experience Music Project (EMP), since she’s a fan of Frank Gehry’s architecture. Coming from Cleveland (home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame), she wanted to see how the EMP compared. We went in briefly, and she was sufficiently impressed with both the inside and outside.

(That reminds me. I visited the EMP in June and took pictures, but never posted them. Perhaps I should do that.)

After that, we called it a day. Tired of walking, we hopped the monorail back to Westlake Center and took the light rail back.

Check out my Flickr page for more photos.


- Seriously, go to Amy's on the Bay if you find yourself in Kitsap County. Soooooo good, especially if you like seafood. Try the crab cakes. Thank me later.

- Eleven Winery, whether you're in Poulsbo or on Bainbridge Island. Great tasting! I even liked the reds, which is saying a lot!

- You've got a month left to see the Beauty & Bounty exhibit at SAM. (If you're military or a military dependent, you get in free until Labor Day with your military ID.)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier

As I mentioned in my previous post, my aunt came to visit last week. On Wednesday, I took her to Mount St. Helens. On Thursday, we followed that up with a trip out to Rainier. It was important for me to do these day trips on consecutive days, because I think the contrast between the two areas is very striking. Mount St. Helens and the surrounding area still wear very deep scars caused by the 1980 eruption.

Look at this landscape:

This was taken from the Johnston Ridge Observatory. (You can't tell from this picture, but there is steam rising from the lava dome.)

Now this (somewhat cloudy) picture of Rainier, taken from the visitor center at Paradise:


Huge difference. St. Helens seems desolate. Rainier looks lush (if a bit snowy) and full of life.

Signs of life exist at St. Helens, of course. Wildflowers bloom, even amidst all the tree stumps left from the blast. A coyote passed in front of us on the road. As I was getting ready to leave, I spotted a butterfly, which is a known symbol of resurrection.

St. Helens butterfly

But Rainier, too, shows its signs of renewal. It was a harsh winter, and the deep snow is finally giving away to avalanche lilies.


The snow drifts are melting into rivulets in some places, waterfalls in others, creating a different landscape from what I've seen in previous visits.

After we left Mount Rainier National Park - since this is likely my last visit, at least to the Paradise side - we did something I've been wanting to do for awhile. We stopped at Copper Creek (a former client of mine) for a slice of their blackberry pie a la mode. It was so delicious. The perfect ending to our visit. We also stopped to browse at a couple of galleries in Ashford that sit along the road going in and out of the Nisqually entrance to the park. I recommend doing this. There are so many interesting things to see along that road.

As always, my entire photo album is on Flickr. Of all the things I'll miss about living in this area, these majestic mountains are what I'll miss the most.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

POST #200!! A Hike to Rattlesnake Ledge

A week ago, my Aunt Sue came to visit. She arrived early enough in the day that we still had time to do something, but she wanted to be active so she wouldn't succumb to jet lag too early (3 hour time difference, as she came from Ohio).

In the interest of doing something I've never done before, getting some exercise, and bringing the dogs, I proposed a leisurely hike to Rattlesnake Ledge near North Bend.

If you're snickering at that statement, you're likely a local who knows better. There is nothing leisurely about this hike. Unless, of course, you hike or climb mountains on a regular basis, then it might be an easy hike. Rattlesnake Ledge has an elevation of 1,175 feet and it's about a 2 mile hike to get there. For novice hikers, it's pretty reasonable. I tend to prefer flatter land due to bad knees, but I felt no pain here.

(My eyes are almost closed, so this isn't the best picture of me, but the dogs are sure cute and happy!)

No problem for Blitz, he charged up the mountain as if he owned it. Since I had hold of his leash, he propelled me up that trail right with him. Sue and Reece weren't too far behind.

After an hour or so, we made it to the top. Aside from the exercise and all that fresh air, you get an additional reward.

Good grief. That view!

But you know what they say...what goes up, must come down.

Our reward at the end was a delicious picnic dinner at peaceful Rattlesnake Lake. We followed this with a quick visit to Snoqualmie so she could view the Falls and look at the old rail cars.

I was really sore the next day. Totally worth it.