Over the next several days (months, more likely) I will be posting a day-by-day (mostly photographic) journal of my Camino experience--beginning with the rigors and confusion of packing for a 34 day walking trip. Today I'll leave you with one of my many favorite photos from the trip: A spectacular day walking into Hornillos del Camino. After a mis-start, I had the road to myself for several hours. No villages or cars or other hikers. It started off a bit disconcerting (especially with the scary non-hiker person on the beginning of the road, but that's another story), but then transformed into a day of great reflection, solitude and healing.
I first discovered the neighborhood of Alki (the Alki Peninsula is the westernmost point of West Seattle) when I was playing the 'where in the world do I want to live game.' (Which was generally played online using various real estate search engines.) Using real estate as a barometer, I could not for the life of me figure Alki out, but I knew that it wasn't the place for me. In spite of great downtown Seattle and Olympic Mountain views , it seemed sort of soulless and sad, in large part due to the over-development of highrise condos. (After living in this area for over a year, I'm pretty sure now that if Alki could speak for itself, it would raise a hand and beg me not to hold those unfortunate monstrosities against it.)
The more I research Alki, the more it strikes me as a sort of California beach town along the lines of a hybrid Venice Beach and Carpinteria. Surf shops and burger joints, along with more upscale dining, line the beach as does a 2.5 mile (5 mile round trip) bike path. While the beach itself may not be the kind of white sand and waves Californian's expect, bonfires are still permitted--which makes the idea of watching the sunset over Seattle pretty damn appealing.
Within walking distance from the ferry dock (roughly 2 miles) there is also the 53 acre Schmitz Preserve Park which has the largest old growth forest in Seattle.
So Alki now tops the list of places to check out. In part, because it can be accessed so easily via the King County water taxi from Pier 50. (Nothing I love more than a water taxi or a ferry.) The water taxi runs year round, and at this time of year, leaves every 30 minutes. And at $4.75 each way, the 12 minute crossing is a bargain.
From their website, (and in their words) the mission of From Hiroshima to Hope is: "To commemorate the victims of war and violence. We educate for peace, non-violent conflict resolution and nuclear disarmament through a public outdoor event featuring music, speakers, and a lantern-floating ceremony." I just love the imagery and meaning behind this ceremony. Moving. Spectacular. Beautiful.
I almost shudder to mention it...and wouldn't have, (because I don't want anyone else to discover it, although I do now feel vindicated) if Seattle Magazine, (August, 2015), didn't include it on its...wait for it...list of weekend destinations. And what is so remarkable about that, you might well ask? It's an airport hotel. Yes, let me repeat that--an A.I.R.P.O.R.T. H.O.T.E.L. But mind you, one whose praises I've been singing from the moment I first discovered it nearly a year ago. When you live on an island--as I soon found out when I moved here in 2014--you need to spend many an airport night to accommodate early morning flights since ferries don't run 24 hours a day.
When I started looking for "my hotel" and discovered Cedarbrook Lodge, while I was blown away by the reviews and the lovely website photos, I have to admit, I was also HIGHLY SUSPICIOUS. (How could an airport hotel possibly be this nice?) But from the instant I walked in the door, I knew that Cedarbrook Lodge deserved every positive comment it ever got. It's nothing short of amazing. Surrounded by trees and situated on 18 acres of restored natural wetlands, this property makes you feel as if you've been transported to the most wonderful mountain retreat. Honestly, when you look out your window onto the beautifully preserved natural surroundings, you could be anywhere. And of all the 'anywheres,' in the midst of an airport flight pattern does NOT figure in.
Fully self-contained and filled with original art, community living rooms (stocked with free water and snacks), an extraordinary restaurant, a world-class fitness facility, and a new natural products oriented spa, Cedarbrook Lodge is a place you truly could spend a delightful getaway weekend in. (Just PLEASE promise not to tell anyone else.) And lest you forget the true purpose of the Lodge, airport shuttles DO run 24 hours a day. For more information, click here.
Seattle is booming--and has been. Although dethroned from its "fastest growing" title, it's still up there...tied with Fort Worth behind Austin and Denver. According to Redfin, the number of San Francisco residents searching for Seattle homes has quadrupled over the past four years. This hotbed of growth is attracting innovators from all over, and there's a new media company in town committed to tell us all about it. Even more than that...committed to not only reporting on trends, but helping to predict and impact them. That company is Scout, co-founded by Crosscut's Berit Anderson. Having just exceeded their Kickstarter goal, Scout is still tucked behind the scenes getting ready to launch. Their mandate--"accelerating the creation of a better future through stories, conversations, and prototypes." Or, as their Kickstarter campaign described, "Near Term Science Fiction and Investigative Reporting." Go to joinscout.com to sign up for their newsletter.
When the Sorrento (Seattle's oldest, continuously running hotel) first entered the hospitality scene in 1909, few tourists had even heard of Seattle. But the Alaskan-Yukon-Pacific Exhibition of that year (Washington's first World's Fair) changed things, bringing nearly 4 million visitors to Seattle, and thereby putting the city (and the Pacific Northwest) more firmly on the map. (Side note: The fairgrounds became the U of W campus.) In addition to A-Y-P attendees, Klondike Gold Rush millionaires of 1897 also congregated in the Sorrento, making it a social gathering place for the city's entrepreneurial elite--not unlike the Arctic Club.
At the time the Sorrento was built, it's top of the hill location afforded unobstructed views of Puget Sound and Mount Rainier. (Boy, it must have been something.) And while I've not stayed there, I would imagine room views are still pretty spectacular the higher you get.
The Sorrento recently underwent a multi-million dollar overhaul, restoring the hotel to its former glory, but thankfully, without losing its old world charm. Of particular note are the three designer suites which put to test the talents of Seattle's April Pride, Nicole Murillo (Brian Paquette Interiors) and Sterling Voss (Codor Design) who brought their own trademark style to each of these special rooms.
I've been told that The Fireside Room, is a special place to enjoy afternoon tea (and by tea, we mean champagne). Particularly special as Seattle trends into the cooler days of Fall.
If you want to dig a bit deeper into the hotel's architectural and social significance, here's an excerpt from the Sorrento's website..
"The hotel was commissioned by clothing merchant Samuel Rosenberg and built by architect Harlan Thomas who later became the first dean at the School of Architecture at the University of Washington. The seven-story building features Italian Renaissance style architecture, inspired by the architect’s muse, The Vittoria in Sorrento, Italy. The famous circular porte-cochére was originally a square Italianate garden. The tiled pottery surrounding the large open fireplace in the Fireside Room is a beautiful example from the famed Rookwood Pottery Company, Cincinnati, Ohio, and was their first commercial installation. The hearth is irreplaceable and designed with sea green matte textured glazed tiles, a mosaic of an Italian landscape and traditional della Robia pattern that border the fireplace opening.
A Place to Meet At the time of its opening, the Fireside Room was the Seattle gathering place for locals to engage in conversation, listen to music and poetry readings or discuss new artists and their work. The original registry has an impressive line-up: President Taft was rumored to have signed the book, plus the Vanderbilts and Guggenheims stayed here.
From the 1930s to the 1950s diners flocked to the very popular “Top O’ the Town” restaurant on the 7th floor for prime rib and entertainment from Betty Hall Jones (who performed again at the hotel’s 75th anniversary in 1984)."
With a deep maritime heritage, Port Townsend is one of only three Victorian Seaports in the U.S. A robust working waterfront, Port Townsend has two marinas at either end of town, and a beautiful, newly constructed Maritime Center at the base of Water Street. An imminently walkable town, hiking and biking trails intersect the city making it an attractive recreational destination. A meander to Fort Worden State Park is a must: In addition to housing the remarkable Point Wilson Lighthouse, Fort Worden also hosts a variety of culturally based events, workshops and performances; as well as a Writer's Conference--part of the Port Townsend arts scene since 1974. To learn more about what Port Townsend has to offer, click here. There is one restaurant--the Fountain Cafe--that seems to get consistent reviews (I've eaten there and can attest to the fact that while not a culinary marvel, it is respectably good.) As to accommodations, the only downside to a town with such a rich Victorian history is that many of the hotels and B & Bs are a bit overly chintz-ed for my taste. In perusing the list of places to stay, the one that seemed the most spare and elegant was Ravenscroft Inn.
With acres of award-winning gardens, this Bainbridge Island gem also hosts an array of special events: music, workshops, day retreats. The labor of love creation of Prentice Bloedel, here's a summary history from the Reserve's website:
"Unique among public gardens in the United States, The Bloedel Reserve was created by Prentice Bloedel and his wife, Virginia, who resided on the property from 1951 until 1986. The son of a prominent lumber company owner, Prentice was educated at the Thatcher School in Ojai, California and at Yale University. While continuing his association with the Thatcher School as a teacher in the late 1920s, he was called upon by his father to take the helm of the family timber business. He took an early retirement from the MacMillan Bloedel Timber Company in 1950 to devote the balance of his life to the creation of the gardens of what is now The Bloedel Reserve. Although he was advised by and worked with noted landscape architects, including Thomas Church, Richard Haag, Fujitaro Kubota, and Iain Robertson, the overall vision for The Reserve’s gardens was his alone.
Prentice Bloedel was a pioneer in renewable resources and sustainability. He was the first to use sawdust as a fuel to power his company’s mills. He replanted clear cut areas, and started a company that marketed fireplace logs made from sawdust. He also was deeply interested in the relationship between people and the natural world, and the power of landscape to evoke emotions ranging from tranquility to exhilaration. Indeed, some believe that due to his early school experiences and his bout with polio as a young man, Prentice Bloedel may have been ahead of his time in his understanding of the therapeutic power of gardens and landscape.
To view a video about Bloedel Reserve and its founder, Prentice Bloedel, in the words of his family and associates, click here."
One of the most cost-efficient, least stressful ways to get to Vancouver from Seattle is via the Amtrak Cascades. (The train leaves from Seattle's King Station and takes roughly 4 hours.) Once in Vancouver, you can easily negotiate the city without a car. So why not sit back and enjoy spectacular scenery (and a cocktail) and leave the driving to someone else? The downside? Infrequency of departures. So plan and book early. Click here to go to the Amtrak Cascades website. For anyone who'd like to take a deeper dive into what this experience is like, I found this video on YouTube.
Recently, friends of mine traveling to Vancouver asked if I had a recommendation of where to stay. Having never been, I couldn't be of any real help other than to direct them to one of my favorite travel sites: Tablet Hotels. Tablet led me to the Shangri-La Hotel website (stunning gallery images) and now, nothing else will do. (Sadly, my wallet may not agree.)
I've stayed at Shangri-La properties in Hong Kong and am a fan of their unparalleled service. (And honestly, unparalleled is an understatement.) The location in Vancouver is stellar--downtown, with easy access to Stanley Park.
I'm sure there are fringe neighborhoods I've yet to learn about, but for my first trip, downtown is precisely where I want to be.
A side-trip from Lake Serene sits Bridal Veil Falls. 1 Hour Northeast of Seattle, off of Highway 2 near Index.
An hour's drive northeast of Seattle near Gold Bar, Wallace Falls is an exceedingly popular day-hike destination. (Read: Annoying Summer Crowds.) A "heart-pumping, 5 mile out-and-back jaunt will take you through stunning second-growth forest to a doozy of a waterfall dropping 367 feet in three vertiginous plunges." (Seattle Magazine, June 2015)
Melrose Market houses a group of innovative retailers and restaurants. Sitka and Spruce is a lovely place to lunch. Before you go, stop at Marigold and Mint and treat yourself to an organic bouquet, some fresh herbs, or edible flowers to liven up your dinner menu.
I have to confess--this is not usually the kind of thing that interests me. But (and though I hate to admit it) their tagline got me: Arrive Curious. Leave Inspired. (Not to mention, they do great things.) A little more digging on their website let me know what I could expect to see:
"Explore inventions like a life-saving mosquito net, an ingenious personal water filter, and a storage device that can keep vaccines cool for 30 days or more. Learn about the unprecedented effort to eradicate polio in our lifetime. Immerse yourself in debates about education, health and poverty – and decide your own priorities. Tell the world what your foundation would do."
Admission is free.
This dark and moody bar is the perfect place to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon. With an eclectic collection of art, complimented by one of the few art dispenser vending machines I've found outside of Vegas, The Hideout gets my resounding thumbs up. Spend some time on the website--take a spin through the artwork section, and learn more about the Earl 3.0 Robotic Art Dispenser.
Vito's has been entertaining on First Hill since 1953. Over the years, this Seattle institution lost some of it's original luster, but in 2010, when new owner's Jeff Scott and Greg Lundgren took the helm, restoration efforts began. One of the first changes they made was to transform the dance floor into a performance space, where jazz trios and the like are booked on a near-nightly basis. Italian food, made East-coast style, along with cocktails that pack a punch, put Vito's back on the 'they don't make 'em like this anymore' entertainment map!
The Arctic Club was a gentleman's social club for the newly minted wealthy who'd made their fortunes in the Klondike. In 1916, the members commissioned Seattle architect A. Warren Gould, to design the Beaux Arts building that would become the group's new 'clubhouse'. (Lady friends--aka, not the wives--gained access through a discreet back entrance.) Today the Arctic Club is part of HIlton Hotels, so now anyone can have a cocktail in the beautiful, old-world Polar Bar lounge. Sit back with a newspaper (non-digital, of course) and sip a Moscow Mule out of a vibe-appropriate copper mug.
I've recently become enamored of the whole rail-upscale hotel mode of travel. (Think: Orient Express luxury combined with Fairmont Hotel prime Canadian locations.) The route that is currently on my radar is Seattle To Banff via the Rocky Mountaineer. (For itinerary, click here.) By all counts, this is a fantastic trip that allows for some of the most spectacular scenery that Canada has to offer, viewed from the cocktail-sipping comfort of your cozy train car, or on the semi-exposed upper deck. Either way, your every culinary and beverage wish will be catered to. Gold service hotels include The Fairmont Olympic in Seattle, The Rimrock Resort in Banff, and the Fairmont Vancouver. For classic luxury, opt for the iconic Fairmont Banff Springs versus The Rimrock. In Kamploops, (a young, hip town) friends stayed at the Hotel 540--their admonition to me was not to be put off by the motor lodge feel of the place. (Getting home does require a flight from the Calgary airport, which is a little over an hour's drive from Banff.)
Additional Seattle-based routes include the trip to Jasper--also appealing as a the Glacier Skywalk in Jasper National Park is on the list of must-dos. (Photo at bottom of this post.)