Ilwaco, Washington

February 5, 2014

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Getting there. Across the Columbia River from Oregon on the Astoria-Megler bridge to the Long Beach Peninsula.

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The Port of Ilwaco marina. One fun summer for the parents: my brother with appendicitis in the Ilwaco hospital followed by a stay for me, age five, with whooping cough. Walk the waterfront, Time Enough Book Store, art, head out fishing over the Columbia bar to the blue Pacific Ocean. Shrimp. Sturgeon. Tuna. Salmon. Dungeness crab.

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Buy a fresh Dungeness from OleBob’s (that’s Ole & Bob, not good ol’ Bob) or more local seafood from Jessie’s Fish Market.

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Then through the woods on Hwy. 101 loop road  to North Head Lighthouse & Cape Disappointment State Park.

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EAT? Jeff McMahon’s Pelicano. Excellent fresh, local seafood with views of the harbor. Wonderful wines + cocktails.

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Or Serious Pizza. Seriously!  At Cape Disappointment. Chi (and husband Jim not shown) Kreitzberg. Long lines in summer – worth it.

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STAY? China Beach Retreat + Audubon House eclectic luxury on a secluded estuary of the Columbia.Image

Or The Lighthouse Keeper’s Residences (or yurts) at Cape Disappointment.

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Or the Inn at Harbor Village – lovely B&B in a historic chapel (Innkeeper’s photo).

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Portland, Oregon

January 11, 2014

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I still can’t get over the feeling of being in a real “city” even though I lived in Seattle and then Los Angeles for years. It’s a feeling left over from childhood where visiting my grandparents in their apartment on Belmont Avenue in Portland was an exciting and exotic thing being a girl from the boonies, the woods, on the banks of the Clackamas River.

An autumn ritual, there were excursions to  shop for school clothes. How delicious to be in the city – Lipman’s, I. Magnin & Co. long gone, a break for teatime with grandmother Nauneral at Meier & Frank now The Nines hotel and Macy’s. (The Nines + MAX top; Departures lounge atop The Nines below.)

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There’s fashion.

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And tons of parks. The wee Directors Park as seen from the Paramount Hotel.

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And Architecture. Michael Graves’ Portland building with Portlandia + Fox Tower.

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And food, glorious food.

Little Bird + Pok Pok + Higgins + Block & Tackle + Kenny & Zukes  + Cacao + Castagna + Le Pigeon + Paley’s Place – too many to mention + amazing food carts.

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A cozy, walkable city with a European flavor.

The river, streetcars,  birds, bridges, bikes and books. Powell’s not to miss.

Olympia, Washington

November 1, 2012

After three days in Olympia, I wonder if this might be the friendliest place in the Pacific Northwest—from the desk clerks at the Governor Hotel, restaurant and store staffs to children in strollers and even the guy fixing a milkshake with ice cream & milk spinning out all over his shirt and face. Smiles. And laughs. What the?

Maybe there’s something to Olympia Beer’s former famous slogan “It’s the water.” (“Oly” was brewed with local artesian water from 1896 until 1983 when it was acquired by what would become Pabst Brewing Company.) There is an artesian well downtown pumping a steady stream of crystal clear water for use by anyone so inclined. But even if you’re not drinking that artesian water, maybe it’s the water of the Deschutes River tumbling into town over Tumwater Falls and into Capital Lake before joining Budd Inlet on south Puget Sound. And lest we forget, rain. All that ionization breeds well-being?

I can’t say. All I know is for three days this fall in Washington State’s capital city I met, passed by, or was waited on by extraordinarily friendly people.

eat  Food glorious food…

   

   

The Bread Peddler Artisan Bakery & Cafe – a terrific local hangout, fabulous food and baked goods. (above: Spinach frittata, pastries, Nicoise sandwich, peanut curry soup.) See blog Cafe Diaries.

  

Find locals too at 5th Avenue cafes. above: Darby’s Cafe (great breakfasts I’m told, not enough time to try); 5th Avenue Sandwich Shop or McMenamin’s historic Spar Cafe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

acqua via simple, rustic inspired food in a tasty chic atmosphere. above: Artichoke  soup w/Parmesan & white truffle; Porchetta di Parma  roasted pork loin w/caramelized onion, white cheddar & apple butter 1/2 sandwich on grilled foccacia; hand-made chips.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

La Petite Maison fine French cuisine in a 1908 restored Craftsman-style home tucked away in a West Olympia busy outskirts neighborhood. Inside, it’s another world – intimate dining in the attentive care of chef Justin Wells and his cheerful/knowledgeable/head waitron/sommelier wife Zoe. Excellent wines & carefully prepared cuisine. above: olives marines & baguette; salade de samoun fume (house smoked salmon – more like gravlox, waaay salty) smothered in herbs and arugula w/fresh radish; baked pear in caramel, house-made vanilla ice cream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swing Wine Bar & Cafe a cozy house on a hill, warm, inviting, casual. Extensive wine list, creative cocktails, great food. above: a flight of red wine suspended in artful presentation with friendly bartender Sean in background. Well-lit open bar comfortable for women alone. The “Lush Rush” happy hour 4-6 pm daily.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Traditions Cafe & World Folk Art  for wholesome paninis, soups, salads,  coffee & herbal teas – a community hangout with views of  Capital Lake & the capital building. Casual comfort food + import fair trade store with everything from quirky gifts, toys & books to fab silk scarves & colorful hand knit wool caps. above: Chai tea + ginger molasses cookie.

 

 

Buck’s Fifth Avenue for everything spice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Farmer’s Market for seafood, meats, seasonal produce, arts & crafts.Shopping on

 

 

 

 

4th & 5th Avenues to shop.  Crazy about Shoes? Bonaventure Shoes & Yolli. Flow & Function, eclectic collections of really neat stuff.

 

 

stay The newly renovated (top floors) Governor Hotel. A great location downtown, easy walking everywhere or catch the free Dash shuttle to the Capital grounds or Percival Landing waterfront park & Farmer’s Market.

The Governor Hotel renovations are stylish & quirky. Check out the hand-tinted vintage photos of Olympia governors in odd situations (holding trout, getting a haircut) or notable landscapes (a 1960s Ford Fairlane convertible parked in front of Capital Lake with the capital building in the background – you’d swear it’s Don Draper & blonde on a date)

Room(s) with a view west Capital Lake (beyond city street); east Sylvester Park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Out of town worth the drive: The Inn at Mallard Cove a Tudor manse tucked in tall firs on the edge of Puget Sound.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shoes off (socks provided) for the expanses of beautiful Oregon white oak flooring. Three well-appointed (luxurious linens, antiques) guest rooms upstairs, each with its own subtle theme and color palate, gas fireplace, balcony, and ensuite bathroom. Owners Linda and Don Malatestato have taken great care  to provide a warm and welcoming English home. (Yet, oddly, with all the exquisite detail & English Tudor authenticity in this handsome home, pre-fab window grids pretending to be panes are achingly out-of-place.) Both Don & Linda are accommodating and gracious so don’t be put off by the over-regulation, including having to sign a “no-smoking” agreement. Ask Linda over her lovely breakfast about the serendipitous journey to finding their dream inn. Don will even guide you by kayak to the nearby Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.) Below: baked pear, chicken sausage, Quiche, fresh-baked banana bread and tea for breakfast (or coffee, vegetarian options available); ensuite bathroom to die for; room with a view.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, yes! the view. Even in the dark morning rain.

 

 

play  Not only great places to eat and unique shops downtown, but this is recreation heaven. You can hike or bike trails, kayak and motor or sail from city marinas directly into Puget Sound. Don’t miss nearby Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge for fabulous bird and critter watching. Miles of gravel trails & boardwalks take you through woods and out into the tidal marshes.

 

Getting there  I’d love to say take Amtrak – so easy from Portland or Seattle – but alas, unless you have a friend pick you up, take a bike and are diligent enough to pre-plan (Thurston County Bicycle Map)the easy, but tricky sometimes unmarked bike paths, willing to take an hour transit ride for the less than 20 minute hop into downtown, or call a cab (approx. $30) you’re out of luck. Drive then. Easy access from I-5.

 

Thanks to wonderful lodging hosts, Carole Zahorsky from Zahorsky PR, and George Sharp from Olympia/Lacey/Tumwater Visitor’s Bureau for helping me meander and enjoy this lively city on the Sound.

Astoria

July 31, 2012

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We’ve got this great cottage at the Gearhart Ocean Inn – a small living room with gas fireplace, tiny kitchen, bathroom, and the cutest upstairs loft with two beds. The décor is beach fresh in colors of pale sky and sand, every detail near perfection. It’s pouring rain outside, but Jessie and I have our books and can curl up in front of that fireplace. Next morning, sunlight streams through the windows, so we get up, dress, and stroll down the block for breakfast at the Pacific Way Bakery & Cafe. Uh, oh, rain bursts in big blobs and we sprint those last few yards to the bakery door. We sit on high stools at our round marble table with coffee for her, tea for me, plus our almond croissants and veggie tarts. A steady flow of customers come and go, arrive and greet, sit at small tables, or leave with their breakfast treasures. A woman, just arrived, and joining friends, says, “I haven’t even brushed my hair this morning!” I think, gosh, me too, and say it. We all laugh. Strangers in our cozy café.

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The sun reappears and we hasten back to Ocean Inn to procure bikes – simple, one-gear town bikes, available for guests. It’s cool, but sunny, and we whiz happily through the neighborhoods pointing out a favorite house or yard, wending our way past Gearhart Golf Links (established 1891, first golf course in the west) to the beach. Nearing the sandy approach it starts to rain and we swerve, changing direction, heading, jackets zipped and hoods up, home. By the time we reach the inn driveway – ten blocks laughing, unprotected knees soaked – the sun is out. We ride by our inn and continue our sightseeing, more beautiful beach homes, the kind you might see on Cape Cod or Nantucket Island. When it starts raining again, we’re done. Swoosh, back to the inn as fast as we can, bikes put away, and into our cozy cottage suite and that welcome fireplace.

Gearhart by the Sea is a small, inviting beach town – retiree, yuppie, kid & dog friendly, upscale charming.

You’ll find:

Fitzgerald’s Cottages (same owners & breezy style as Ocean Inn, larger family suites w/ bunkbeds) hidden adjacent to Back Alley Gardens & Natural Nook Florist & Gifts (formerly Fitzgerald’s Home & Garden Store). The garden center is terrific and one can still find home décor and knick-knacks at the Nook, but I could breeze through, circumventing the florists – fun to see them at work – and admire some items, but not gasp nor drool over exquisite items as before. Pacific Crest Cottage next door – a browser’s paradise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gearhart Golf Links  / McMenamin’s Gearhart Hotel & Sand Trap pub-style restaurant (Terminator stout/chocolate milkshake!) mcmenamins.com / Trail’s End Art Association art classes & monthly exhibits in the little red house. And the Gearhart Grocery, fresh food, deli, etc. 

Of course, don’t miss: Pacific Way Bakery & CaféGearhart Ocean Inn & the wonderful beach!!! (Look for all sorts of flotsam coming in from the Japanese tsunami. Don’t know what you’ve found? Dial 211 for questions & reporting)

catch up

February 29, 2012

It’s been a long time keeping up with travel writing. Busy immersed in editing the new edition of Wild in the City: Exploring The Intertwine with Mike Houck. Over 100 contributors, great sites, rambles, natural history essays… Great book!

If you want to know Portland-Vancouver area natural spaces, this is it.

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So, back to travel adventures this extra day 2012. Upcoming: On the Coast – Astoria, Long Beach Peninsula; Updates on downtown Portland.

Road trip with my sisters and niece. First night in downtown Seattle at the  renovated New Renaissance Hotel – posh and tasty, top floor salt water swimming pool, had to stay swimming (some hot tubbing it) until closing at 11 p.m. Cookies and milk delivered to our elegant chic Presidential Suite where we were staying thanks to a front desk mix-up. Lucky us!

The next day takes us to Anacortes overnight near the dock for the morning ferry. From our P. Suite aerie we could see traffic backed up all morning heading north, so took ground routes through the University District – later found out from friends that accidents had held up traffic all day Tacoma to Everett. Kudos to the New Renaissance for terrific views of Puget Sound and freeways heading north saved us sitting in traffic all day…

Pike Place Market in Seattle for lunch, ferry to San Juan Island, fresh-picked Friday Harbor blackberries for sister Sue’s home-made pie at friends’ farm, orcas! lighthouse, southbeach, happiness… more later.

In the meantime, Happy Trails, MJ

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