We began our trip to the Pacific Northwest in southern California. By Alaska Air the flight is two and one half hours over Yosemite and the volcanic mountains of northern California, Oregon and Washington. It is best to keep your eyes open as you might miss your only chance to see Mt. Rainier
Cricket and I have stayed at a number of hotels in Seattle, but our current favorite is the Edgewater (www.edgewaterhotel.com). At $280 to $300 per night, one has a water view and two bears and a fireplace. If you bring your fishing pole, you can drop a line out of your window like the Beatles did in 1974.The rooms and lobby are dressed up in the usual dose of plaid. Another interesting aspect is waking up in the morning to see a huge ocean liner docked next door.
This was to be a family trip. Our daughter-in-law was to receive an MBA at UDUB (University of Washington). In the interim, we were treated to some fine food and company. Both families ate at Matt's in the Market (www.Mattsinthemarket.com). Copper River salmon was in season and was, as always, exceptional. Matt's is so small that our party of eight almost filled the restaurant. During our visit we ate at one of our favorites, Etta's (www.tomdouglas.com), located just north of the Pike's Market.
The last day in Seattle we walked to the ferry and for Six Dollars bought round trip tickets to Bainbridge Island. The town of Winslow has changed a great deal over the last ten years. It has become a small resort town with fun shops, galleries and good restaurants. A number of new condo developments command high prices, partially due to the fact that Money Magazine has named Bainbridge Island number 2 on its annual list of the best places to live in America.
We had lunch at a great little sports bar right on the water. The restaurant, Doc's Marina, served us plates of artichoke hearts, sauteed in olive oil dusted with parmesan and garlic and fried oysters with a saltine cracker crust.
Another restaurant that was very crowded and unavailable without reservations was Nola's.
The next morning we began our journey to British Columbia.
Two hours north of Seattle on Highway 5, we made our border crossing then traveled to Vancouver. As with most cities with multiple bridges and one way streets, arriving at rush hour was a minor nightmare, but we finally arrived at the Four Seasons(www.fourseasons.com/vancouver/). This hotel was reasonably priced ($330 Canadian Dollars) and not grand, but comfortable.
Vancouver is a vertical city with a large Asian population and lots to see. We managed only a few places with one full day's stay. Granville Island (www.granvilleisland.com) is a must for first time visitors. We walked to the waterfront on Hornby Street and took a water taxi for $2.50 per, Canadian. There were numerous restaurants, a public market and several streets lined with artist studios where artists and craftsman displayed their wares.
We decided to have lunch at Bridges (www.bridgesrestaurant.com) which overlooks the water. The restaurant was rather plain and crowded, but the pub was cozy with no wait and a good view. The food ( we had soup and salad) was good.
We visited an art studio and shop called Studio 13 Fine Art and purchased some wonderful black and white photos of Vancouver architecture. One of the more interesting shops was that of a boat builder. The company was named the Alder Bay Boat Company and looked like the perfect place to purchase a small hand made wooden sailing skiff. I thought I was back in St Michael's.
Toward the end of our walk, at the far end of the island, was the Granville Island Hotel. This looked to be an interesting place to stay. We might try it next time. Two other places to visit in the city are the Ho Chi Min Garden and the Vancouver Botanical Garden.
That evening we had a glass of champagne at the Fairmont Hotel with its grand lobby and dined at the Blue Water Cafe (www.toptable.ca). The next evening we dined at West, a sister to the Blue Water Cafe. Both were excellent restaurants, but I have to give Blue Water the edge. The cuisine was more creative. Serving a mixed and creative Asian menu, it combined Japanese, Thai and other Southeast Asian flavors and preparations. We retired early to rest up for our road trip to Tofino.
Tofino is a small town located on the western shore of Vancouver Island due west of Vancouver. Our trip to Tofino (www.tofino-bc.com) began with a drive to Horseshoe Bay. There waiting for us was a ferry that would take us to Departure Bay, Vancouver Island. My son had made reservations over the B.C.Ferries (www.bcferries.com) internet site. The only trick was that you had to arrive between 30 and 60 minutes before the reserved time for departure. Its best to be early and find a good place nearby for coffee; otherwise you might not get to go. We next traveled for two hours west across Vancouver Island to the Pacific Coast. As you would expect, we saw beautiful scenery most of the way and particularly as we approached the western shore and Tofino.
Just to the south of Tofino we found our lodge, the Wickaninnish (www.wickinn.com).
The Wickaninnish is the perfect northwest lodge. It sits on the rocky coast amid ancient trees with most rooms looking out to the Pacific Ocean. The lodge is divided into two buildings. Our room was in the building which contained the restaurant and spa and is the preferable of the two. Each room has a gas fireplace, a rain slicker and a pair of binoculars, which came in handy for spotting whales, eagles and seals.
The restaurant is beautiful, but the service left much to be desired. There are some great walks nearby. You can do a beach walk or a forest walk with trees dating back to the first millennium.
The town of Tofino, just a few minutes by car up the road, is very picturesque with small shops, coffee houses and restaurants.
Our first evening we ate at the Schooner restaurant where we dined on fresh salmon. Fresh salmon in an area like this is a far different fish than fresh salmon elsewhere. Salmon once out of the water changes quickly.
The next day we traveled back to Tofino for the highlight of our trip, a kayak tour of Clayoquot Sound and a tour of Meares Island with its 1800 year old trees. We met our guide, Matt, at the Tofino Kayaking Company (www.tofino-kayaking.com) and Book Store on Main Street in Tofino. We spent the first 30 minutes learning how to get in and out of a kayak in an emergency situation. Thankfully, we were not tested on this during our tour. We soon became experts and sped across the sound, but not exactly in a straight line.
After our tour, we were ready for a good meal. Between Tofino and the Wick is a great stop-in-the-road restaurant called Sobo (www.Sobo.com). Sobo is actually a kitchen disguised as a purple bus with an adjacent indoor seating area. An indoor seating area is important because Tofino receives ten feet of rainfall every year. Don't leave Sobos without trying the cobbler.
You can however leave Tofino without trying the Point Restaurant, unless they have improved their service.
On our return journey, we traveled to the ferry port of Duke Point, Nanaimo. This ferry landed at Tsawwassen, closer to the Canadian border and a return to Seattle. By the way, if you want a refund on the taxes on your Canadian purchases, you need to turn at the Duty Free sign as you approach the border; otherwise you will lose your chance for a refund.
On our return trip to Seattle we were rewarded with views of both Mt Adams and Baker.