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…
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.
October 2, 2010
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
June 27, 2010
Don’t know why, but I seem especially attractive to dogs this week. It all started interviewing Harriet Bullitt, the extraordinary 80-something CEO of Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort (so named after the mountain profile in the property background).
Harriet Bullitt of Seattle Bullitt fame–TV & radio stations, magazines, philanthropy–retired to the retreat east of the Cascades in early 2000 and took up residency across the Icicle River. Retired, uh, not. This energetic, enigmatic woman still oversees her environmentally sound resort, 67 acres including rustic cabins and meeting spaces connected by meandering paths through stands of pine and aspen, KOHO radio station, The Grotto lounge and O’Grady’s Pantry deli café on campus as well as music venues, art everywhere and an organic garden that supplies Chef MacDonald’s excellent fresh, organic cuisine. Sleeping Lady feels like the best of childhood camp, but with good beds and private bathrooms.
Harriet arrives with her Icelandic shepherd, Loki, via cable stretched across the river that a logger, familiar with such, rigged up using an old lift chair from Stevens Pass ski resort. (Sister Sue Cody captures this pic. – Harriet crossing the river with one of the art salmon in foreground…)
I meet Harriet at O’Grady’s Pantry and sit down in an armchair nearby in front of the stone fireplace. Roki suddenly stretches on hind legs and paws at my shoulder, nose in my face, tail wagging. Harriet’s blue eyes widen, her mouth agape, “Roki never does that…doesn’t take to strangers.” After a minute of nose to nose interaction, Roki lies at my feet while Harriet shakes her head and laughs.
Rob’s blind chocolate lab, Roux, drops at my feet a slobbery half-chewed stick, nudging my shins to pick it up. Rob says no and Roux lumbers away. Later, touring the winery admiring the beautiful French oak vats, Roux reappears with a pine cone and lays it at my feet. Sue tries to get Roux to pay attention to her by moving the pine cone, but Roux slides it back to me.
“What’s with the dog charmer?” Sue asks after I tell her about Roki too.
Next, it’s downtown Leavenworth walking along the sidewalk when a young collie leaps to great me nearly pulling his owner off the bench on which he’s relaxing. He apologizes for his dog’s behavior, but Sue says “Don’t worry, dogs love her today.”
In the evening, a fifty-ish couple with a tiny black miniature poodle pup on leash approach walking the path back to our room from the dining hall at Sleeping Lady. Sue whispers, “OK let’s see,” and tries to get the dog’s attention. But no, the fluffy pup leaps for joy straining the leash trying to get to me. The owners apologize and Sue explains that dogs just can’t help themselves today. We laugh ourselves to our cabin.
Next day, Sue bets that the dog magic is gone.
Visiting Run of the River Resort their massive St. Bernard (pup!) comes right to me and Sue tries ruffling the neck, good boy, good boy, and he accepts this, but is sitting (all 140 lbs) on my foot leaning against my legs as she tries to dissuade his attachment.
Finally home, I’m watering plants out on the front porch and it sounds as though someone is talking near my back door which is open to let some air – that’s the lane access, so not unusual for neighbors to gather and visit a bit there, voices carrying. I decide to go see, as I know neighbors on both sides of my cabin are gone. What ho! A strange black collie-ish mutt is sitting on my doorstep smiling. He’s come up the two steps and is sitting on the sill, not coming in like a good dog, but there in the entrance. Well! Of course one has to pet and say good boy a few times and who are you? He does not answer although seems happy indeed. (And makes me wonder about who was talking - I don’t see anyone or anything, except the carpenter’s van next door and the carpenter way on the other side of the neighbor’s house…the dog walks back up the lane where the carpenter is, looking back at me like aren’t you coming too? I’m not and shut the door.
Until later, MJ
Links to Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort, Boudreaux Cellars Winery, Run of the River Inn, Leavenworth information:
May 21, 2010
Something is happening at the Sylvia Beach Hotel, that proud doyenne on the bluff overlooking the ocean at historic Nye Beach in Newport. Fresh air in the guise of a new hotel manager is slowly but surely helping revive this wonderful literary hotel (all about books, no phones, no TVs) that has slumped a bit from its glory days of shabby chic. Little by little, the sanitarium drab beige is being replaced with color. The Alice Walker room is now rich amber yellow. Shakespeare, J.R.R. Tolkien and Virginia Woolf (my favorite, that Bloomsbury flourish) rooms are new. Twain is spiffed up, new club chairs in the library and Dr. Seuss is happy, happy, happy in bright primary colors with a whimsical can’t-wait-to-jump-in-it Cat in the Hat bed.
There’s no place that I know that holds magic like the Sylvia Beach Hotel, thanks to playful, mischievous owner Goody Cable and partner Sally Ford, so that’s where I’ve arranged to meet my long-time friend Ann, who has driven from Lake Tahoe with five friends in tow. Some complain about walking up the three flights of stairs with their luggage, but Ann reminds them: we met at the gym! All that is forgotten next door over margaritas and canapés thanks to SBH neighbor and friend, the divine Miss Magoo, who thinks her name today is Lauren. Later, at the hotel’s Table of Contents dining room, wine and family style dinner, your choice: duck or salmon or chicken with green salads, cheesy orzo and a done-just-right green bean-red pepper-onion vegetable medley. Delicious and way plentiful.
A sunny day, the next. After walking on the beach, where we find a twenty-dollar bill, Miss Magoo & I take a quick trip to what is apparently known locally as the “Dog Thrift Store,” – a big old building on the edge of the county fairgrounds, proceeds of which support Lincoln County Animal Shelters. There’s tons of stuff, but we’re mostly looking at designer clothes and shoes. Miss Magoo finds a pair of black Chinese Laundry open-toed mules with kitten heels. Très chic.
At Mai’s Asian Market there’s everything from foot-tall ceramic waving kittens, kimonos and paper mache hanging dragons to royal bee jelly. I load up on teas and ginger.
A man and his teenage daughter arrive needing flu relief for mom at home and Mai selects an herbal tincture, writing down directions. After they leave, Mai suggests I test the Ginseng Royal Jelly for “energy.” She hands me a small amber vial of liquid and a teensy straw. I sip. Honey sweet. She smiles and says, ”very good for you.” What the heck, I buy a box of the vials.
But then, having done what Mai deems “good for me,” I go to the Newport Café.
- Tuna melt yes!!! “Home fries” with skins on, yes!!! Lightly battered tuna, salmon or halibut fish ‘n’chips, yes!!! Omelettes, shrimp salads – everything coming out of the kitchen looks amazing, heaping wonderful. It’s the real deal. This is where you’ll find locals stopping by to show off the new baby, where grandpa brings his 10-year old grandson for pancakes, where farmers, fishermen & tourists mix – all there for the same thing: good ol’ fashioned home cookin’. Yum!
Sit yourself down on cool counter stools.
NEXT UP: heading south on the Oregon Coast, Yachats.
Until then, MJ
October 28, 2009
Over the Mountains Washington State
Leavenworth – that ever-so-cute Bavarian themed town with all the festivals – is a draw to many and an “I’d rather be hit in the head with a bat” destination to others. Guess what? There’s a lot more going on. Younger folk seriously into recreation have discovered white-water rafting, hiking, biking, skiing, bird watching and rock climbing – a panacea just a couple of hours east of Seattle.
To prove the point, we left the town behind (only a mile or so) and hiked way up Icicle Ridge on a hot afternoon crunching dry leaves and kicking up dust until I gave up not needing more spectacular views of the valley below from elevations making me increasingly weak-kneed woozy. Beer & bratwurst heaped with onions and sauerkraut for lunch and then a drive up the Icicle River canyon to watch John Race and Olivia Cussen rock climb up a granite cliff. They also demonstrated “bouldering,” a new take on rock climbing without gear in groups who spot while friends take turns acrobatically scrambling up and down giant boulders. The married duo’s Northwest Mountain School teaches rock climbing, skiing and mountaineering all over the world, but their ideal location called home is Leavenworth. Training includes beginners to military survival techniques in Afghanistan.
Back to town and a tour with a cheery guide in Lederhosen telling the stories behind all those painted murals. Lots of shops, many selling souvenirs and a few more discriminating. Not to miss: Schocolat hidden at the back of the filled-with-gorgeous-antiques Ganz Klasse. Dinner at Pavz where crepes rule, not your French delicacy, but American style huge with heaps o’ filling plus pies and chocolate cake slices big enough for a family of five.
To bed at Sleeping Lady Retreat, under a mountain backdrop profile of a sleeping lady whose nose, boobs, etc. have the ridge & retreat so named. Away from the crowds and away from anything Bavarian themed, no TVs or distractions, tucked in a cabin amid aspen woods.
Next up: Apples & Float Planes.