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Cascades Loop plus

Discussion in 'Non-Vegas Trip Reports' started by westie, Aug 5, 2016.

  1. westie

    westie VIP Whale

    Joined:
    Jun 24, 2002
    Messages:
    4,024
    Location:
    Kensington, CT
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    60

    My Trip Report

    July 12 – Getting There Was Half The Fun

    The starter gun for this trip was fired immediately after we deposited Brody at Beaver Brook Animal Hospital and Conference Center for his 2 week vacation. We had an unusually tight schedule due to the kennel's 9AM opening hour and our flight departing at 11AM, so we, actually Ann, preregistered him the day prior.


    We were flying from Bradley to Seattle via Chicago on American Airlines courtesy of frequent flier mileage Ann earned by signing up for a MasterCard. We stowed our car at Executive Valet Parking in Windsor where I handed the desk jockey a coupon for LAZ Fly that the office manager had previously agreed to accept. The cost for 15 days will be an all inclusive $50 versus its best online rate of $112 plus taxes & fees.


    One of the side benefits of our Premium Select MasterCard is the first checked bag for each of us flies free, but the airline rep said there was nothing about it online so we would have to pay $25 per bag, suggesting we contact the credit card issuer. I advised her that American Airlines' quarterly earnings would not be including any baggage fees from the Westies because our bags will be joining us to the cabin.

    This marked our first flight since being approved for TSA Precheck so we got in the appropriate line which was at least 3 times longer than the regular lines, but at least we would not have to remove our shoes and belts. My bag was pulled off the conveyor belt after being scanned and a TSA employee rummaged through my belongings, finally locating the offending tube of Colgate toothpaste. I was told the tube was too large so it would not be joining us in Seattle.

    We arrived at our gate and waited, then waited some more. Several minutes after our scheduled take off time, an announcement was made that the plane had been delayed, but was on its way.


    In spite of our arriving 30 minutes late in Chicago and our arrival and departing gates located in different terminals, we had time for a quick lunch at Burrito Beach, each choosing a grilled chicken with black beans, guacamole, rice and corn burrito. ($21.14, 2.5 Forks)

    Once again our plane arrived late and it took an exceptionally long time to seat one paraplegic passenger. There was an additional delay due to a minor mechanical problem. After everyone was finally settled in, some 30 minutes after scheduled takeoff, a little girl a few rows back decided it was time to toss her cookies or whatever she had for breakfast. Another delay while maintenance personnel cleaned up the mess and installed new seat belts and cushion.

    Just when I thought we would be finally pulling out of the gate, an announcement was made that a door had been scratched when the luggage was loaded so the captain needed approval to take off.

    Finally, the necessary approval was received and we were on our way. 15 minutes later the little monster decided it was time to barf again and I had the sinking feeling we would be turning around and heading back to Chicago, but we continued on to Seattle without further incident, arriving about an hour behind schedule.

    We had a reservation for an intermediate car from Fox at an all in cost of $534.15. The process went smoothly though our Toyota Corolla had 50,000 on the odometer and a number of minor dings, dents and scratches.

    Lodging on our first night was at a nearby Sleep Inn. The room was on the small side, but recently remodeled, clean and functional. Dinner this evening was at Mango Thai Cuisine, just a few miles away. http://www.mangoseattle.com/ We shared orders of ruam mit (stir fried chicken, broccoli, carrots, snow peas and cabbage in a light oyster sauce) and pad sei ew (stir fried rice noodles with chicken, broccoli and egg in a tasty soy based sauce).

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    The sauce on the ruam rit was pretty much flavorless and the dish included way too much cabbage. ($36.45, 2.5 Forks)


    Prior to calling it a night, we stopped in a Safeway for bottled water, Kleenex, Listerine, hair spray and toothpaste.


    July 13 – Cascades Loop – day 1

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    I was up at 4:45AM PST with nowhere to go so I ambled down to the lobby where I read before returning to the room to wake Ann at 7:15AM. Breakfast was included so we cooked our own waffles supplemented by OJ and yogurt.

    We traveled north on Route 5 through a major traffic jam as we approached Seattle (note for next trip – use 405 bypass) on to Everett where we took the exit for Wenatchee. This was the Stevens Pass section of the Cascades Loop and it was initially boring until we started gaining altitude. http://cascadeloop.com/



    We stopped at Deception Falls and took the short nature trail to view them from both above and below.

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    another scenic area was the drive through Tum Water Canyon though we did not stop; deciding to push on to the faux Bavarian village of Leavenworth.

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    Seeking a light lunch to carry us over, we walked around town finally settling on the Soup Cellar where we each ordered a cup of white chicken chili that had been recommended by another diner. http://www.thesoupcellar.com/ It proved to be very satisfying as was the accompanying warm flour tortilla and salsa. ($10.82, 3 Forks)

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    Continuing on we saw large groves of apples as we approached Wenatchee as one would expect from the self proclaimed Apple Capital of the World. It was late afternoon when we arrived at the Best Western Chieftain in Wenatchee. Our room was spacious in comparison to the prior night's lodging.

    Just after 6PM, timed to coincide with the hotel personnel putting out freshly baked cookies, we exited our temporary abode and made our way to Pybus Public Market where we gravitated to the Jones of Washington Tasting Room for happy hour.

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    Ann selected a Chardonnay while I sipped on a glass of Viognier. Neither would receive a very high rating from Robert Parker, but what can one expect for $5 per glass in Wenatchee? http://www.jonesofwashington.com/history.htm ($10.84, 2.5 Sips)



    On exiting we walked through the small weekly farmers market with me stopping to purchase some local plums. ($2, 4 Forks) I relocated Ann at a table where a local was selling slices of homemade apple pie. She, the baker, had just under a half pie left and decided to give it to us. ($0, 3 Forks)

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    We made the short ride to McGlinn's Public House where we shared a wood fired prosciutto, peach, goat cheese and rosemary pizza which was very good though the crust lacked char. http://www.mcglinns.com/index2.html ($18.72, 3.5 Forks)

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    Riverfront Park that runs along the Columbia river was our next destination. The park incorporates a number of test gardens, a 10-mile bicycle/walking path, and the Art on the Avenues Sculpture Garden. Many of the 88 sculptures are for sale though a few have been purchased by the Art on the Avenues organization. http://artontheavenues.org/

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    July 14 – Cascades Loop – day 2

    I was up at 4:45AM so I spent time on the computer before returning to Riverfront Park for a long and scenic walk along the river.

    Breakfast was included so I made an egg burrito with beans, salsa and sour cream.

    Seven miles north of Wenatchee is the not to be missed Rocky Reach Dam Visitor Center. The property is beautifully landscaped with a large area devoted to gardens, a picnic area and playground. https://www.chelanpud.org/hydropower/rocky-reach-dam

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    We toured the various exhibits in the visitors center, took in panoramic views of the Columbia River from balconies, and watched numerous Coho and sockeye salmon pass by the fishways 5 windows.

    We continued our trek westward and just as we arrived at Lake Chelan took a sharp left on Lakeshore Drive that delivered us to Nefarious Cellars winery only to discover wine tastings had been discontinued in favor of charging $10 a glass. We decided to bypass this opportunity in favor of taking a 7 mile scenic loop through Manson that began on SR 150. On our way we saw a few wineries including Benson Vineyard where we took a long and winding gravel road up a hill to the breathtakingly beautiful winery overlooking Lake Chelan.

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    Our host was Jeff Benson, son of the owner, who offered us a free tasting of 4 different wines with us choosing to sample a Chardonnay, Syrah, Cabriovese and Cabernet Sauvignon with the latter being the best. Since it was a gorgeous day, we ordered glasses of the winery's 2013 merlot that were enjoyed on the balcony overlooking both the vineyard, Lake Chelan and distant hills. ($21, 3 Sips)

    After completing the loop, we continued on eventually following the Methow River into Winthrop. The rustic River Run Inn nestles along the banks of the river. Our spacious room, #15, included 2 queen sized beds, a refrigerator, mini kitchen etc. http://www.riverrun-inn.com/

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    In the early evening we made the short ride back to the faux old western town of Winthrop. Marshall Matt Dillon and Chester Goode were out of town so we settled for drinks at Three Finger Jacks Saloon which was packed with bikers. A woman on the adjacent stool advised us that the beer was running warm so we ordered glasses of merlot. ($12, 2.5 Sips)

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    Dinner was at the Old Schoolhouse Brewery which was jam packed so again we moseyed on up to the bar and ordered pints of their Double D Blonde ale and fish and chips. 40 minutes after ordering, we inquired if there was a problem and 5 minutes later our meals arrived with nary an apology. Each plate included 3 good sized pieces of oil free Alaskan cod that had been coated in a beer batter and panko along with crispy skin on fries and tartar sauce. ($44.13, 2.5 Forks)

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    A short walk up and down Riverside Avenue was completed before we called it a night.

    July 15th – Cascades Loop – day 3

    I drove around the outskirts of town where I saw 3 does and countless cows. I also passed an area with 100's of RV's and tents which I later learned was the site of the 29th annual Winthrop Rhythm and Blues Festival that would begin that evening. No wonder all the bars and restaurants were packed last night.

    Today we would be traveling via Route 20 from Winthrop through the majestic North Cascades onto Whidbey Island, but first it was time for breakfast at the Rocking Horse Bakery. http://www.rockinghorsebakery.com/ Ann chose a lemon scone while I got my sugar high from a cinnamon pull-a-part. ($7.50, 3 Forks)

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    We paused several times as we approached Washington Pass, highest elevation on the Cascades Loop. At the Washington Pass overlook, we parked and walked along a ¼ pathway that offered sweeping views of the Methow Valley, Liberty Bell Peak and Early Winters Spires. Breathtaking!

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    At Rainy Pass, mileage post 158, we parked and hiked a one mile trail to Rainy Lake. It was a chilly 47 degrees in comparison to temperatures in CT which were in the mid-90's.

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    Continuing onward we were treated to many views of towering mountains and the glacier fed Diablo and Ross lakes.

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    There were not a lot of options for lunch along our route so we, and about 100 bikers, stopped in Marblemount. They congregated at Que Car BBQ while we opted for Mondo Restaurant that serves everything from Korean to American. We were looking for something fast and light ending up with bowls of chicken soup that were a small step up from Campbells. ($15.64, 2 Spoons)

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    After a rather boring and congested drive through the Skagit Valley, we arrived at Deception Pass bridge which connects Fidalgo Island to Whidbey Island where we would be spending the weekend.

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    Check-in at the Best Western Plus Harbor Plaza in Oak Harbor went smoothly and we were soon resting on our king-size bed. In the late afternoon we headed to the harbor with the intention of enjoying a few ½ priced martinis during happy hour at Frasers Gourmet Hideaway. On entering we explained to the hostess our purpose, but were seated at a white table cloth table. I asked about sitting at the bar, but was told it had been reserved though there wasn't a customer in sight.

    I felt uncomfortable so we departed and looked for a drinking establishment along the waterfront, settling on Oak Harbor Tavern whose clientele would be best described as interesting. http://oakharbortavern.com/ We each enjoyed a couple of merlots before heading off to Historic Coupeville, approximately 10 miles south, for dinner.

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    We decided to start off with an appetizer of mussels at Toby's Tavern, but the restaurant was packed. A waitress came by and told us a table would be available in 10 minutes, but that we could not wait inside and should take a walk. We returned 10 minutes later and the same bitch, oops waitress, told us to take another walk. We did, but did not return.

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    Dinner was at Front Street Grill where shortly after sitting down I managed to knock over an entire water glass into my lap. We started off with a very large Caesar salad that the kitchen separated for us. http://www.fsgcoupeville.com/ Coupeville is famous for its Penn Cove mussels so Ann chose mussels Rockefeller (spinach, bacon, Pernod, shallots, garlic, and cream) for her entree. I went with Angry mussels (chorizo sausage, red wine, shallots, garlic, lemon, cilantro, and chili oil). The mussels were on the small size and the chorizo and red wine overwhelmed their delicate flavor. ($40.78, 2.5 Forks).



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    It was a beautiful night so we walked around the small town before returning to room.

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    July 16 – Cascade Loop – day 4

    I spent the predawn hour on the hotel's computer before returning to the waterfront where I walked for an additional hour. On my way back I was stopped for driving 41mph in a 30mile zone by a local constable, but received only a warning.

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    Once again we availed ourselves of the hotel's breakfast with my nourishment in the form of OJ, scrambled eggs and breakfast potatoes.

    We immersed ourselves in Whidbey Island life this morning by washing our clothes, only the dirty ones, at the Dutch Maid Laundromat. 30 minutes later Ann departed for a wash and blow dry with Laura at Posh Salon. Laura was aghast to learn we had drinks at the Oak Harbor Tavern responding “Don't tell me you went to that bar – please, don't tell me!”. I guess Laura was not impressed by our choice of drinking companions. Prior to Ann's return I showcased my domestic skills by drying and folding most of our clothes.

    After depositing our clothes in the room, we headed to Coupeville for the Whidbey Allied Artists' annual Art & Gift Show in the recreational hall. I showed restraint by not making a purchase. We also visited the WIC and senior farmers market.

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    On our return we stopped at the Oak Harbor Pig Fest tent at the corner of Rt. 20 and Pioneer Way for pulled pork sandwiches that proved to be a steal at $5 each. All proceeds from both the tent sales and annual block party and pig roast benefit local charities. ($10, 3.5 Forks)

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    Following a brief rest, we drove to Ebey's Landing Road, parking our car in a small lot affording us immediate access to the Bluff Trail. The trail offered a unobstructed view of Puget Sound that reminded me of Ireland. http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/ebeys-landing

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    After our walk, we started looking for a place for senior beverages and happened upon Flyers Restaurant & Brewery. The place was packed for happy hour. Ann ordered a pint of Heat Seeker Hefe while I showed my wings by choosing an After Burner IPA. Mine had a bitter aftertaste so on the second round I became a heat seeker. ($22.11, 3 Sips)

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    Dinner was at Christopher's on Whidbey in Coupeville. Ann ordered halibut Rockefeller with risotto, spinach and manilla clams while I chose the Penn Cove seafood stew that included a nice assortment of fresh seafood in a light tomato broth and fresh green beans. Entrees include a choice of house or Caesar salads with us ordering one of each.

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    This proved to the best meal of the trip and a comparative bargain. ($61.26, 4.Forks)

    We walked around historic Coupeville ending up at the wharf where we watched a harbor seal and great blue heron as the sun set over the harbor.

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    July 17 – Goodbye Whidbey Island, Hello British Columbia

    I spent time on the computer before taking a drive that began on the aptly named Scenic Heights Road then continued on to Swan Lake and Libby Beach.

    The hotel-provided breakfast included OJ, a mini omelet, bacon and yogurt – burp!

    After checking out of the hotel, we drove north to Fidalgo Island, lingering once again for photos of Deception Pass Bridge.

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    We made our way to Mount Erie, the highest point on the island by following a curvy 2 mile drive up the mountain. Our view of Anacortes and Fidalgo Bay was obstructed by cloud cover and tall pines plus I made the mistake of not consulting my notes that included directions to a better viewing point. Duh!

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    Shortly after completing the drive back down the mountain, I spotted a farm with a mama and papa llama.

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    We continued on through the town of La Conner before stopping at Mambo Italiano in Bellingham where we shared a panini club on soft, baked bread that included thick sliced roasted chicken breast, prosciutto ham, lettuce, tomato, aioli, provolone and a house dressing. Rosemary Clooney would have been happy with this sandwich. ($16.20, 4 Forks) http://www.mamboitalianocafe.com/

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    We crossed the border at Blaine, managing to find the slowest moving line. Lodging tonight was provided by Coast Tsawwassen Inn, a decidedly older hotel. We were told at check-in that we had been upgraded to which I responded “It is obvious my reputation precedes me”. I am not sure how much of an upgrade we got since I booked superior suite king. We did have a jacuzzi though our bathroom was tiny with a teensy-weensy vanity.

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    Dinner this evening was at Taverna Gorgona where we opted for a table on the garden-like patio. http://www.tavernagorgona.com/index.html We both ordered roasted lamb, a house specialty, that came with rice, a delicious roasted potato, Greek salad, tzatzki and pita. The lamb would have been benefited from seasonings and the pita was too thick. ($73.60, 2.5 Forks)

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    July 18 – Tofino or bust

    The breakfast offered by the hotel was terrible with premade breakfast sandwiches, premade pastries, etc. I tried the granola which was tasteless and yogurt with canned peaches. We have dined elsewhere, but our prepaid reservation on the 10:15AM ferry to Nanaimo required us to arrive 30-60 minutes prior to departure.

    The 2 hour crossing was smooth, if not a little boring, so we mostly read. I held the hope of seeing a pod of orcas or at least a few pelagic birds, but the only thing seen outside our window was water.

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    We stopped just on the outskirts of Nanaimo for lunch at Ricky's All Day Grill, not realizing it was a Canadian based chain, where we shared a turkey club on wheat toast that was about what one would expect. http://gotorickys.com/ ($17.16, 2.5 Forks)

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    The obligatory detour to Coombs for the goats on the roof was made, but none were sighted so I barely slowed down. We also bypassed Qualicum Provincial park and MacMillian Park (Cathedral Grove) with the expectation of visiting each on our return.


    The drive to Tofino passes through some beautiful country including pristine lakes and majestic mountains, but the highlight was the 19 Roosevelt elk we saw grazing in a field set aside for them.

    After a 3 plus hour drive preceded by a 2 hour ferry ride, one can understand why it is said that “no one arrives in Tofino by mistake”. Tofino is a tiny community that attracts admirers of nature, surfers, fishermen and those accustomed to a Bohemian life style.

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    I fortunately made reservations for 3 nights at Middle Beach Lodge back in January because a few months later I discovered the entire property was sold out for our dates. Room options include 2 lodges plus triplex and duplex cabins with us choosing room 28, a second floor queen in the Headlands Lodge. In 2004 and 2006 we stayed at the adult only Lodge on Beach, but found the rooms too small.

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    Our room had a micro patio offering a pretty good view of Mackenzie Beach if one leaned out over the railing. LOL http://www.middlebeach.com/

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    After unpacking and touring the lodge, we headed out seeking adult beverages and came upon Jacks Waterfront Pub. http://www.marinawest.com/dining.html The pub is indeed waterfront, offering an excellent view of a working dock from which several fishing charters operate. We ordered a ½ liter of merlot and seated ourselves at a small table by a window that offered an unobstructed view of the harbor traffic and fishermen bringing in their Chinook salmon catch. As a bonus, an immature raccoon came out from under the pilings and fell asleep directly under our window. ($22.25, 2.5 Sips)

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    Dinner was at the Ice house Oyster Bar, a re-purposed building that sits on west dock. http://www.icehousetofino.ca/ Eliot, the bartender/manager/oyster shucker, told us on entering that without reservations we could only be accommodated on the patio or bar, we chose the latter. Though the website indicated a seafood platter for 2 is offered for $51, he told us we would likely have to order an additional entree because portion size of the special was small. We settled on pan seared, skin on, salmon served atop steamed Napa cabbage and kimchi with daikon cubes and pickled shitake mushrooms surrounded by a dashi broth that was finished with seasonal mushrooms and pea shoots. ($69.40, 4 Forks)

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    We concluded the evening by gnawing on freshly baked cookies while reading in the Great Room at our lodge.


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    July 19 – Oops!

    I spent time on the lodge's computer before setting off for an early morning drive around the immediate area, stopping at the Tofino visitors center for a couple area maps. There was a mix of sun and clouds that eventually gave way to all clouds later in the morning, but sunny skies prevailed by mid afternoon.

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    A continental breakfast was again included so I tried both an in-house baked cinnamon roll and a croissant with local blueberry preserves. The croissant was on steroids, but lacked the typical buttery goodness of the real deal and the preserves were too syrupy.

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    After breakfast we drove to the nearby Pacific Rim National Park Reserve paying the $6.80 daily for seniors that was good until the next day at 4PM. http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/bc/pacificrim/visit.aspx Our first stop was the shorepine bog trail that meanders via a boardwalk for 0.8 km through an area that receives 118 inches of rain per year. The bonsai-like shore pines in the bog grow only meters tall over 100 years. http://www.tofinohiking.com/hikes/bog-trail/

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    We also stopped at the Kwisitis Visitor Centre, starting off by strolling along Wickaninnish beach at low tide where there were separate classes in progress on surf boarding and karate. Exhibits in the centre focus on the natural and cultural heritage of the area and there is gift shop where we purchased a pair of postcards.

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    Continuing on we hiked the Schooner Cove trail just north of Long Beach. http://www.tofinohiking.com/hikes/schooner-cove-trail/ The 2km trail traverses through a lush rainforest on boardwalks and over a number of streams via a series of wooden stair cases. When we arrived at the end of the trail, we discovered reaching the beach would involve clambering over a number of driftwood logs so we turned around and headed back.

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    We were not more than a third of the way back when Ann slipped on one of the moss covered stairs, rolled her ankle and twisted her back. Fortunately her fall was into the soft, moss covered earth, but she ended up face to face to a 6 inch banana slug.

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    On our way into town we stopped at the famous TacoFino food truck, but the line was too long so we continued on, finally dining at Tuff Beans Coffee House where we enjoyed a grilled cheese club house (sliced chicken and ham, lettuce, tomato and cheese) was shared. http://tuffbeans.com/ ($12.02, 2.5 Forks)

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    I dropped Ann off at Tofino Pharmacy, parked the car down the road and joined her. Based on the recommendation of the pharmacist, a tape to support her ankle was purchased. On our return to the lodge, she rested the ankle in bed while applying an ice pack. Although it was difficult, I succeeded in ignoring her whimpering and caught a much needed nap.

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    Needless to say, though I have to say it, today marked the end of our hiking adventures for this trip.

    At 5PM sharp, Ann gamely joined me for happy hour at Long Beach Lodge's beautiful Great Room where $4 ginger beer, lime and syrup cocktails are featured. http://www.longbeachlodgeresort.com/ We started off with Moscow mules that were served in tall cocktail glasses rather than the traditional copper cups. For the second round she chose a grey ghost (macadamia nut liquor, drambuie) while I tried a twin fin (Sailor Jack spiced rum, peach brandy). The problem with these drinks was that they all tasted like ginger beer. ($21.40, 2 Sips)

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    We dined this evening at Calypso Roti Shop, a casual, counter service Jamaican restaurant with a patio overlooking the harbor and Ice House Oyster Bar. http://calypsorotishop.com/ We each ordered jerk chicken dinners that came with red kidney beans, rice, roti and a warm mango chutney. The quarter chicken was exceptionally large and moist. ($31.50, 3 Forks)

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    On our return to the lodge we settled in on a couch in the Great Room and patiently waited for our cookies to be served. I finally inquired and was told that cookies were only baked on evenings when dinner is not served, but leftover desserts were available. I shared both my peach tart and brownie with my dear wife. The tart was just okay, but the brownie, best described as a thin layer of chocolate cake topped with a thick layer of dark chocolate ganache, was outrageously good.

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    July 20 – Lights out in Tofino.

    An email from the Robson Suites in Vancouver advised us that the credit card furnished 6 months earlier was no longer valid and I had 24 hours to provide a new one or our reservation would be canceled. Since making the reservation our credit number had been stolen so we called later in the day to provide current information.

    I subsequently spent time walking the length and breadth of downtown Tofino before returning to our lodge.

    A mini lemon poppy seed muffin, toast and grapefruit juice kick started my day. We spent a few hours in the Great Room reading while we did our wash the lodge's washer/dryer.

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    Our second priority today was converting $10 US into $12.40 CDN at a local bank. The process seemingly took forever with me required to furnish a drivers license and then the teller entering the entire the data into a computer. You would think I was taking out a loan. We then crossed the road to the post office where we exchanged a pair of toonies for 3 postcard stamps and a small bit of change.

    On our way back to the car, Ann let out a shriek, grabbed her upper leg and discovered a testy bee had inoculated her. She now knows how this fire hydrant feels.

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    Next stop was at a B. C. Liquors outlet where I purchased a bottle of modestly priced Jackson-Triggs merlot.

    It was now lunch time so I drove Mrs. Accident Prone to the Fish Store & Oyster Bar where we ordered cups of fish chowder that included mussels, clams, fish, veggies and tasso ham. Just as we were finishing, the electricity went out throughout Tofino so we ended up paying the bill in loonies and toonies while covering the gratuity in USA dollars. Less fortunate was a family of 3 with a $60 plus bill who had no cash on them, final resolution unknown since the banks had all closed. ($21.90, 3.5 Spoons)

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    On our return to the lodge we were happy to discover a generator was operating so we were able to read in our room. Later in the day, I followed the beach trail to MacKenzie Beach and walked the length and breadth of the beach while enjoying the unrestrained antics of a retriever who kept running in wide circles around the beach and into the water.

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    We decided to have dinner in-house on a beautiful evening so we brought our bottle of frugal merlot to the Great Room and borrowed a pair of wine glasses, no corkscrew required. The wine went well with the lemon guacamole crustini that were served as part of our meal.

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    At 7PM everyone joined in a conga line for a dinner that featured an entree of poached chinook salmon with a spicy tomato chutney and lemon linguine. Three excellent salads were served buffet style – spicy quinoa, green beans and a mix salad with orange segments and roasted squash. Desserts included a choice of chocolate lava or mille-feuille. The chocolate lava cake was unexpectedly dry, the only misstep of the evening. ($82.32, 3.5 Forks)

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    After dinner we returned to the Great Room where we read, enjoyed a cup of hot chocolate and watched as the fog rolled in.


    July 21 – Goodbye Tofino, Hello Vancouver

    After spending time on the computer, I again walked around the downtown area on a beautiful morning.

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    There was nothing new for breakfast so I settled on gluten free granola with sliced banana plus juice and a mini muffin. We brought our luggage downstairs and began the check out process where I discovered, and brought to the clerk's attention, that we had not been charged for last night's meal.

    The first order of business after departing was the bank for more Canadian dollars. The process once again took forever, in part, because the prior teller failed to save my data. I also stopped at B.C. Liquors for 2 more bottles of merlot.

    We then commenced the long return drive across Vancouver Island, making a short detour at Coombs where we saw a solitary goat on the roof. Running ahead of schedule for the 3:10PM ferry, we decided to stop outside downtown Nanaimo at the Cactus Club Cafe for lunch. http://www.cactusclubcafe.com/

    Given its modest location in a shopping center, I was surprised how upscale this chain restaurant was with an open floor plan, raised bar, stone fireplace and large patio. We decided to share a grilled tuna club – local seared rare tuna, tarragon tartar, bacon, cilantro, pickled ginger on a ciabatta roll that was served with skin on fries. ($19.54, 4 Forks)

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    It turned out that the ferry was sold out so our $15 reservation fee proved to be a good hedge. Once again the crossing was devoid of any wildlife sightings so we settled in and read. My Google map directions indicated the drive from the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal to our hotel was approximately 18 minutes without traffic, a notable caveat because it actually took us close 1.5 hours thanks to a back up entering the Lions Gate Bridge.

    On arriving at Robson Suites where we stayed for the next 4 nights, I was reminded how problematic parking is in Vancouver. http://www.robsonsuitesvancouver.com/ I drove around the block finally securing a spot behind the building reserved for McDonald’s customers. After check-in, I was provided detailed instructions on where and how to park in the hotel's subterranean parking garage. I managed to miss the unmarked entrance, circled around the block again and finally located the gate.

    We gathered up our luggage, but took the wrong entrance for the elevator ending up in a stairwell, unable to retrace our steps due to a locked door. The only egress required me to carry our luggage up 2 flights of stairs so I left Ann and climbed the stairs to the lobby where I took an elevator back down. A great start to our stay.

    Our room included a full kitchen, washer/dryer, living room, small room with a desk and a separate bedroom. The suite was poorly laid out with barely enough space in the bedroom to fit a queen bed, a single end table and a closet with no space for a dresser. The room ended up being functional with the big pluses being its west end location and free covered parking so I would probably stay there again.

    We could not make our 6:30PM dinner reservation at Carderos so I solicited a recommendation from the desk clerk who suggested Marutama Ra-Men located directly across the street. We were fortunate to find only short line so we were soon seated. Ann chose the house signature tamago ramen with a soft boiled egg while I settled on the spicy AKA ramen with ground nuts and chillis. I believe her ramen was likely tonkotsu while mine may have been a spin on tsukemen. In any case, these were the best bowls of ramen we have experienced. ($29.89, 4.5 Forks)

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    Prior to returning to the room, we took a long walk around the immediate area.

    July 22 – A missed step or 2

    A mist was falling when I exited the room though it was short lived. I walked over to Coal Harbor, followed the seawall to the convention center, crossed over to Robson Street and continued on Denman to English Bay. I finally returned 1.5 hours later via Bidwell. Distances between blocks are relative short, but the hills kept it interesting.

    We made the 30 second walk to Cobs Bakery on Robson where we each ordered a very moist blueberry scone that we enjoyed at on outside table at a nearby Starbucks. http://www.cobsbread.com/local-bakery/robson-street ($4.10, 3 Forks)

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    Next we took a bus to Vancouver Art Gallery which was featuring an exhibit titled “Picasso: The Artist and His Muses”. http://www.vanartgallery.bc.ca/ We spent quite a long time enjoying the exhibit, but Ann's ankle began throb so she found a bench to rest while I made my way up to the second floor where I quickly toured the Bharti Kher “Matter” and Harry Calahan “The Street” exhibits. ($36, 3.5 Claps)

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    As I made my way back down the stairs, I began contemplating a photo of Ann on the stairway and missed the last two steps. Being a finely tuned athlete, I managed to execute a near perfect tuck and roll, landing squarely on my gimpy knees (see Schooner Cove hike) than rolled on my back. Several people rushed to my assistance which, like a turtle, I sorely needed to return to my feet.

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    On our return, we stopped in Cobs for a cheese, herb and garlic mini foccacia that was shared on McDonald’s patio along with a diet coke. ($5.60, 2.5 Forks)

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    Mr. Merlot joined us for happy hour in our room. For dinner we walked to Banana Leaf Malaysian Cafe on Robson where we opted for the 9-course tasting menu. https://www.google.com/#q=banana+leaf+robson Our first course was mango kerabu, an interesting salad that included shredded carrots, green mangos, chili's and shallots in lime juice/fish sauce dressing. Next were roti canai, satay chicken and cumin mussels. We had several dishes on this trip that included mussels, but this one was voted #1.

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    Shortly after the appetizers, our four entrees arrived: rendang beef curry, sambal green beans, caramelized ginger sablefish and gulai tiger prawns and scallops. Our shared dessert was pisang goreng (deep fried banana) with ice cream. Every dish was very good with the only exceptions being the rendang beef curry and rice. Pacing throughout the meal was very good as was the service. ($74.35, 4 Forks)

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    We took a long walk, stopping at a Starbucks for a coffee for Ann, prior to returning to the room. Out on our small, inaccessible patio, we discovered a pigeon sitting on a nest – update to follow.

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    July 23 – Celebration of Light

    I followed Bidwell Street to English Harbor this morning and located Morton Park in order to view the A-Maze-ing laughter statutes. I then followed the seawall promenade that runs from English Harbor to Stanley Park before retreating via Lagoon Drive to Chilco Street where I walked through a beautiful neighborhood that featured many gardens, ultimately making my way back to the hotel via Denman in just shy of 2 hours.

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    We had a $40 groupon for Ritual, a nearby casual restaurant that serves comfort food with a daily brunch menu offered. http://www.ritualvancouver.com/ There were only 3 people outside the restaurant waiting for it to open upon our arrival. Menu prices are high, but expected because employees receive a living wage and no gratuities or so I thought.

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    Ann ordered huevos rancheros (scrambled organic eggs, avocado, cotija cheese, salsa fresco, cilantro and baked bean stew with honey corn bread) plus a $5.50 cup of Americano coffee. When questioned about the price of the coffee, the waitress explained the beans were imported. Duh! My tummy went from empty to full on an order of pulled pork benny (poached eggs, hollandaise sauce, English muffin plus tater tots and sliced oranges).

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    I also ordered a $6 frothy OJ for the sole purpose of realizing the full value of our Groupon. As it turned out, not only were the OJ and coffee grossly overpriced, neither was very good. On settling our bill, I realized only food was covered by the Groupon so we only realized $31 of the $40 value. Lastly, there was a note at the cash register advising that effective July 8th, management had ended its no gratuity policy though I noticed menu prices have not been reduced. ($20.16, 2.5 Forks)

    We drove to Stanley Park in the afternoon, stopping several times to see the highlights including scenic views of Vancouver, totem poles, statute of the girl in the wet suit and running man. On our last stop to view the Lions Gate Bridge, we were approached by a woman and her granddaughter seeking directions. They were growing tired having begun at English Bay and wanted to know the quickest way back. I gave them my map and offered a ride back that they gratefully accepted. On the ride the woman, Debbie, told Ann about a great shoe sale near her hotel, but we took a pass.

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    Happy hour was held in our room immediately prior to our walking to Adesso Bistro for dinner. http://www.adessobistro.net/ The evening was beautiful so I requested a table on the courtyard patio, but these were all reserved so we dined inside starting off by sharing a mundane and overpriced caprese salad. The accompanying focaccia with EVOO and balsamic vinegar was better.

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    Ann's entree was spaghetti con fruit di mare – prawns, fish, clams and mussels over pasta in a light tomato sauce. I selected burrida – a Ligurian seafood stew featuring mussels, clams, prawns, squid, scallops saffron and potato. All the bivalves were on the small side causing them to be overcooked. ($74.05, 2.5 Forks)

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    We returned to the room to rest before walking to English Bay where we joined an estimated 300,000 residents and tourists for the annual Celebration of Light fireworks show that began at 10PM. http://hondacelebrationoflight.com/ Three countries were competing (Netherlands, Australia and USA) this year with this evening's show put on by Team Netherlands. The weather was almost perfect and the 30 minute fireworks display proved to be excellent. I subsequently learned the USA show sponsored by Disney on July 30th, drawing an estimated crowd of 500,000, won this year's competition. ($0, 4.5 Claps)

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    July 24 – Granville Island

    This morning's 1.5 hour walk started off in the direction of Coal Harbor where I followed the seawall to Harbour Park and the Convention Center before returning via Georgia Avenue.

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    We enjoyed breakfast at Nero Belgian Waffle Bar, an intimate restaurant located mere steps from our hotel. http://www.nerobelgianwafflebar.com/ Two types of waffles are offered, traditional Belgian and liege, with us choosing the former. Ann chose Heaven – waffle covered with strawberries and real whipped cream. Mine was orange mousse – fresh cut orange segments and Belgian dark chocolate mousse. Hers was pretty good, mine was life altering. ($21.37, 4 Forks)

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    We returned to the room to wash our clothes while reading the Sunday Seattle Times. In mid-afternoon, we took the bus to Granville Island which turned out to be a mistake because everyone from last night's Celebration of Light had the same idea. http://granvilleisland.com/

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    We walked around the tourist zone, stopping at a few upscale art galleries and the public market. There were long lines at every restaurant/food stand of interest so we retraced our bus route back. This was our third and most likely last visit to Granville Island – been there, done that. ($0, 2 Claps)


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    Ann went directly to the hotel on our return while I stopped at Cobs Bakery for a tomato, olive, mushroom mini foccacia that we consumed in the room. ($4.85, 2.5 Forks)

    We checked our pigeon discovering she had laid an egg in our absence and left a note designating us the godparents.

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    Happy hour was again in our suite before we took a bus to Thurlow Street and made the short walk to Chewie's Steam & Oyster Bar where we opted to sit on the patio. Service was incredibly slow considering there were only 3 other tables occupied.

    Menus were finally provided with Ann choosing jambalaya that turned out to have too much pork and too little seafood. My bouillabaisse, served without a spoon which I had to fetch, was only a little better. ($55.30, 2.5 Forks)

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    The night was gorgeous so we decided to walk along the seawall from the Convention Center through Coal Harbor to our hotel before calling it a night.

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    July 25 – Goodbye B.C.

    My walk this morning included Stanley Park where I followed a path half way around Lost Lagoon to the Ted and Mary Greig Rhododendron Garden before continuing on to Second Beach before connecting to Beach Ave, ultimately arriving back to the room in over 1.5 hours. http://vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/gardens-in-stanley-park.aspx


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    Our last meal in Vancouver was breakfast at Joe's Grill on Denman.

    http://joes-grill.com/Welcome_to_Joes_Grill.html Joe has spent a lot on décor or cleaning, but reviews are generally positive so we decided to live on the edge. Ann chose the avocado and tomato benny while my benny was florentine. Both dishes came with home fries. The eggs were overcooked and neither dish offered much in the way of flavor. ($25.05, 2.5 Forks)

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    There was a booth of 3 adults with a 4 year old adjacent to our table so before exiting I asked the grandmother if the little girl had a piggy bank and handed her our remaining loonies and other change.

    After checking out, we followed Google directions out of town and started heading south toward Seattle, crossing the border at the Peace Arch. There was a long line cars so it took a full 30-40 minutes to make the crossing.

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    Continuing southward on I-5 we took the exit for scenic Chukanut Drive, making several stops to enjoy the scenery. After descending we realized we were missing page 2 of our 3 page directions to Seatac.

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    I ended up following a couple of cars to Route 5 where we headed south encountering heavy traffic as we approached Seattle. Once again we stayed at the Sleep Inn Seatac.

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    I did not want to stray far from our hotel for dinner so we settled on Sharp's RoastHouse. I was surprised how busy it was until Ann noticed several hotel courtesy vans were depositing guests in the parking lot. We both decided to have entree salads with Ann choosing a Mexican cobb while her dining companion chose traditional Brown Derby cobb. Both were satisfying if not more than a little on the pricey side. ($46.46, 3 Forks).

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    July 26 – Going Home

    I spent the early morning hours on the computer and reading. We returned the car to Fox and took a shuttle to the airport where we cleared security. Once again there were no lines. Our flight to Chicago went smoothly and as we exited the plane we asked an American Airlines representative for directions to our Hartford gate and he said “you're there”.

    This allowed us sufficient time for a bite to eat so I hustled over to Wolfgang Puck Express where I ordered a wood-fired margherita pizza to go. The pizza seemingly took only a few minutes to prepare so when I saw the cook holding a pizza box I took it. It was only afterward that I realized I had someone else's Italian combo: sopressata, pepperoni, salami, goat cheese, red onions and basil pizza. ($16.25, 3.5 Forks)

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    The final leg of our flight went smoothly with only minor turbulence and on landing our bags were among the first off the conveyor belt and the parking shuttle arrived within minutes of our calling.

    This concludes our latest trip report. As usual, feel free to comment or ask for clarification,.

    Addendum: Brody was wagging his tail when we arrived at the vet to pick him up early the following morning.



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    “I told the doctor I broke my leg in two places. He told me to quit going to those places”.

    – Henny Youngman
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2016
  2. Sonya

    Sonya Queen of VMB

    Joined:
    Nov 28, 1999
    Messages:
    21,861
    Location:
    Western Washington
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    18
    Since this is my "backyard" I have to say good choices on the places you visited. I'd have added Ohme Gardens in Wenatchee, and the little bakery in Cashmere. We love Rainy Lake and have a little secret spot we like to bushwhack to to avoid the "crowds" at the end of the boardwalk where you took your photo.

    Sorry to hear about the spills you both took. Hope you are well on your way to recovery.

    This and the hairdresser's reaction made me LOL. I think "interesting" is being generous. :haha:

    Thanks for sharing your trip. I noted a couple places I need to visit on my next visit to those areas. We haven't done a stay in Tofino yet. We keep talking about it, but always end up going somewhere else for some goofy reason. Need to fix that soon.
     
  3. westie

    westie VIP Whale

    Joined:
    Jun 24, 2002
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    4,024
    Location:
    Kensington, CT
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    Thanks Sonya. I did have Ohme Gardens on my list at one time, but eliminated because of time constraints. Our spills were relatively minor,
    but they did cause us to skip the beautiful lighthouse loop section of the Wild Pacific trail that we have taken twice in the past.
     
  4. Richard Alpert

    Richard Alpert LOST

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2015
    Messages:
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    Location:
    Wisconsin
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    9
    westie, Thanks for another excellent report, as usual rich in detail and full of beautiful photography. Bravo! Good to hear you and Ann recovered from your spills. Thanks again for sharing your trip with the Board!

    RICHARD
     
  5. UncleFester

    UncleFester Tourist

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2013
    Messages:
    10
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    53
    Marvelous sharing of your trip through the PNW. Accurate. Insightful. We learned a number of things to follow up on. We live in Seattle, and owe you Frank (and Ann) for your exceptional capture of interesting things to do and see and eat! How can we repay you for your effort?
     
    • Like Like x 1
  6. ken2v

    ken2v This Space For Rent

    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2003
    Messages:
    15,207
    Location:
    Central California Coast
    Ummmm ... how about just WOW, and I mean WOW!!
     
  7. westie

    westie VIP Whale

    Joined:
    Jun 24, 2002
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    Kensington, CT
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    60
    High praise coming from you. Thanks for reading.