Monday, July 4, 2011

Seattle & Vancouver Island

Elizabeth’s sister, Rebecca, graduated from the University of Washington in June. So we packed our bags and planned a weeklong trip centered around her graduation. We parked our car at Easy Park LAX while we were gone – which is probably the worst parking place I’ve ever used. Please do not use Easy Park.

In Seattle, we stayed at the Watertown Hotel near the university. On Day 1, we visited the Burke Museum on campus and viewed their natural history exhibits. Then we took a short drive to the Hiram M. Chittenden Lock where we watched boats process through the locks. The lock also has a fish ladder to allow salmon to enter and depart Lake Washington. Later that day, Rebecca graduated with her master’s degree in Marine Affairs. Afterwards, we enjoyed a group dinner at Smash Wine Bar. The ravioli in brown butter sauce paired nicely with a flight of red wines from Washington state.

We took two day-trips from Seattle. The first was to Bainbridge Island. It was a 35-minute ferry ride from downtown. Once on the island, we visited the Bloedel Reserve, where we spent two hours walking leisurely through the gardens. Lunch was at Bella Luna Pizzeria – a local joint with excellent pizza pie, locally brewed beer and a great view of the Puget Sound. In the afternoon, we visited the Bainbridge Organic Distillery. The owner showed us around his operation and treated us to a tasting.

The second day-trip was to the Woodinville wine region. Woodinville is less than an hour east of Seattle and is filled with small craft wineries plus a handful of big names. Our first stop was to Chateau Ste Michelle, which had a pretty good tour and overview. We didn’t linger too long because the crowds started to roll in for the Garrison Keiler (Prairie Home Companion) show later that afternoon. Our second stop was to another large producer, Columbia. Having seen the big places, we then visited a handful of smaller producers. Woodinville has several commercial complexes with small tasting rooms scattered about, making it easy to walk from place to place. We had a fantastic dinner at the Barking Frog restaurant before returning to Seattle.

Elizabeth and I said goodbye to her family and rode the Victoria Clipper to Victoria (2.5 hrs). We spent three nights at the Fisher House Bed & Breakfast (10% military discount, 5% discount if paying cash). Hot spots in Victoria included a small boat tour of the harbor, high tea at the Fairmont Empress, a tour of the British Columbia parliament building, a stop at the Royal B.C. Museum, St. Ann’s Academy and Craigdarroch Castle.

Our whale watching tour to see Orcas was cancelled because there weren’t enough reservations – which is a good reason to call ahead on the day of your scheduled trip.

We took two trips outside Victoria. The first was a drive north to MacMillan Provincial Park (big trees & old growth). We also took part in an hour-long tour of the Duncan totem poles. En route back to Victoria, we stopped at a farm to see cows being milked and tasted their cheese.

Our second trip was to Butchart Gardens (the top attraction near Victoria). We also stopped at Sea Cider to taste a variety of hard ciders. Just west of Victoria, we stopped at Fort Rodd Hill (lighthouse, ramparts, deer, sea otters). All were excellent.

Our visit to Victoria was fantastic! But back in Seattle, we had a half-day prior to flying home to LAX. We visited Pike Place Market to view the fish and produce, then we gawked at the architecture at the Seattle Public Library. Lastly, we took the Seattle Underground Tour. Seattle (near Pioneer Square) is built on top of an old city core, so the tour walks you down the sidewalks and through the buildings underneath the modern day city.

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