Sunday, September 30, 2012

Monday Meanderings: Daydreams,Details, Discoveries

“You love travel don’t you?!” a friend observed over coffee last week. 

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Normally, that’s a pretty good observation, but on this particular day my life was segmented into “Must Do”, “Must Finish”, “Must not forget. . .”  and I wouldn't say I felt real smitten with travel.

Travelers know it well.  It’s that time prior to a trip when the mental list whirls around in your head and seems to grow longer, rather than shorter when put to paper.  It is the Details phase of travel. Not our favorite part.


We have spent a leisurely summer at home, devoting hours to planning and pondering, researching and reading about possible fall destinations.  This early phase is one we consider nearly as good as the trip itself: daydreaming about the next potential discoveries.

007We let our imaginations soar as we pondered the possibilities on our tiny “Mediterranean” upstairs deck (pictured above). If we can't live in the Mediterranean, we've surrounded ourselves with living reminders of travels in that area: my fledgling  fig tree (Spain), olive tree and geraniums (Greece) and basil (Italy). . . the lavender plants (France) are in our garden. It was difficult back in August when Lake Washington shimmered in the afternoon sun to imagine how quickly we’d be putting autumn details to those summer daydreams. 

With our fall compass pointing finally toward Italy, our reading – both fact and fiction – became focused.   We found some great reads, by the way, and you can see them on the Amazon Carousel on the right hand side of our home page.

washington wednesdays 005 As summer has turned to fall, our daydreams have given way to  details, like: 1. Do we have confirmations from every place we are heading? 2. Maps – the paper kind -  gathered?   3. Clothes  (do we still fit our travel clothes?) 4. Are house-sitters and security confirmed? 5.Prescriptions refilled? 6. Have we put on the list everything we need to do to prepare for the trip?

My friend knows me well. We do love travel.  As we move from the daydream to details to discovery phase – we often observe that travel is a stimulant that makes us feel more alive.

I suspect if you are reading this blog, you also love travel. Are you in the dreaming, detail or discovery phase of a trip right now? 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

WAWeekend: Cama Beach ~ A Retro Resort

Visiting Camano Island’s Cama Beach State Park, is time-travel at its best.  It’s so delightfully vintage that I call it a ‘Retro Resort’. It’s one of the last remaining of the popular early 20th Century ‘auto court resorts’ that once proliferated our state. 

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The rage of the 1920’s to 1940’s was the auto court resort ~ those places you could drive to in the then-state-of-the-art automobile; places like the privately owned and operated Cama Beach Resort on the southwest shore of Camano Island, overlooking Sarasota Passage.

The resort was among some 22 such places that could be found on Camano Island alone, even more were to be found on neighboring Whidbey Island.  Fast forward through a half century: the resort’s owners sold the property to the Washington State Parks Department.

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In 2008 following several years of updating and renovation, Cama Beach Resort opened as Washington State’s newest park. Featuring more than 30 original cedar-sided cabins and bungalows, the resort operates year-round.

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In the warm months, the screened windows slide open to allow sea breezes to cool the small cabins and electrical heat warms during  the cooler winter months.  While the original cedar paneled walls and pine floors remain, a modern-day a coffee pot, refrigerator and microwave make the cabins less ‘rustic’.

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Where have you stayed lately, where beds were covered with hand-made quilts? They are here, thanks to the efforts of a devoted group of volunteers who call themselves the Cama Quilters. You need to bring your linens – towels, sheets, pillows and/or sleeping bags, but the quilts are provided. (If you are curious, they are washed between guests just like any hotel would do).

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I toured the resort last Monday, thinking that it would take about an hour.  Instead, I spent the entire morning with a most enthusiastic tour guide, Jeff Wheeler, the Park Manager. I simply couldn't get enough of the place and he was more than willing to show me everything! 

The history, the setting, the renovations, and the community support of this park combine to make this one special place. I told Jeff he’d be seeing us again as overnight guests.

There is far too much history, not to mention all the activities (hiking, boating and kayaking for starters) to include in a single post so check back for Part II of this story on Travel Photo Thursday.

If You Go:

Cama Beach State Park is 90 minutes north of Seattle by auto, 19 miles off Interstate 5.

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This place is perfect for families, couples and all of those who may be in the transition years of going from ‘tent camping’ enthusiasts to those who prefer a bit more comfort of a cabin, bed and modern bathroom facilities. Some cabins offer en suite facilities and others share a huge, modern bathhouse.

The Cama Café operates in the recently opened Cama Center, on the ridge overlooking the cabins. It’s open daily for breakfast and lunch in the summer and on weekends in the winter.

For more information:  Cama Beach State Park, (360) 387-1557 or visit the website: Cama Beach State Park for seasonal rental rates. Less than six cabins: you can book 9 months in advance; more than that can be reserved 18 months in advance. (Don’t forget you’ll need a state Discover Pass when using this park. They can be purchased at the entry gate when you arrive.)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

TP Thursday: The “Other” Capitol Hill in D.C.

When you say Capitol Hill and Washington D.C. in the same sentence, one image probably comes to mind:

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But two weeks ago – prompted by a note I’d scribbled from an article in an in-flight magazine, and accompanied by my like-minded travel friend, Jill  -- we headed out to find the‘other’Capitol Hill; the one that is home to the Eastern Market, Washington D.C.’s oldest continuously operating fresh food market.

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The Eastern Market was established in 1805 by President Thomas Jefferson in the Navy Yard area.  In 1873 this market building was completed in the Capitol Hill area (several blocks east of the Capital Building) to serve as its home.  The market was part of a larger, city-wide market system that was created at the end of the Civil War, a time when city fathers were under pressure to get rid of the sleepy southern village image of the town.

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It was the first market built as part of a 1870’s public works program. The outside structures were added in 1937 to provide shelter for vendor stands that set up near the building's entry. (If you are thinking the building looks pretty modern for its age, that’s because it was badly damaged by fire in 2007, rebuilt and re-opened in 2009.)

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It was calm and relatively empty on the September Wednesday morning of our visit, a stark contrast to the weekends' hustle and bustle, we learned. The pace intensifies during the growing season when fresh food vendors offer their just-harvested produce for sale.

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Having been born and raised in Central Washington, (the “other Washington” on the West Coast in an agricultural area that proudly called itself ‘The Fruit Bowl of the Nation”) I found this stand to be a bit lacking in size and selection. On the flip side, it was fascinating because I’d never imagined produce being grown on ‘Maryland’s Eastern Shore’ before.

We spent a good deal of time admiring all the goodies that were on display – delectable and delightful:

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And then we set off to explore the neighborhood. These taverns and eateries are just across the street from the market’s main entrance.

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We strolled just a few blocks from the market and found . . .

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So many beautiful homes and gardens that we couldn’t take enough photos of them all.

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A stunning church, Christ Our Shepherd Church (801 N. Carolina Ave.) became the focus of our photo-fest. The building is a a stone Romanesque that was built in the 1890’s.

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There weren’t a lot of folks snapping photos because we seemed to have been the only tourists roaming the area that morning.  Our somewhat off-the-beaten-path outing put a heart and soul on Capitol Hill. I'll never again think of it only as the power hub of our nation’s government.

I’d recommend a visit to this charming neighborhood the next time you find yourself in ‘that Washington”.

If You Go:

The Washington D.C. Metro system is a  fabulous and inexpensive way to get to all of Washington’s popular sites.

To the Market:  Take either the orange or blue line and get off at the Eastern Market station.  As you emerge onto the street from the Metro tunnel,  follow directional signs to the Market, about two blocks away.

For more information on The Eastern Market, and the many activities that take place there, click this link to its website.

Thanks for stopping by! Today is Travel Photo Thursday so head on over to Budget Travelers Sandbox for more photos!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Weekend Wanderlust: A Taste of Paris

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Thanks to Matt Cabot, Ph.D., a professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at San Jose State University for today’s guest post. 

For the past two years, he has led a group of students to Paris to study international public relations and global leadership. He is planning to take another group of students to Europe next summer to visit France, Belgium and Italy.

This summer, I took 20 students from California’s San Jose State University to Paris, France, for a three-week study abroad program. For most of these students, this was their first trip outside the U.S., and for many of them it was life changing.

This is not surprising for those of us who travel. The experience of leaving one’s home and traveling to a distant land will change the way we see the world. It expands our interests, concerns, and tastes. And, today, that expanded perspective is becoming vital as we live and work in an increasingly globalized world.

For three weeks, my students and I lived on the border between the 11th and 12th arrondissements in Paris. This is a wonderful part of the city – especially if you like food (and who doesn’t!).

One of Paris’ best open markets was just around the corner from my apartment: Marché d'Aligre, located on Square d'Aligre. This market has everything you need to create a fabulous Parisian meal. Although you might want to hold off buying your dessert there because less than a couple of blocks away are two famous patisseries/boulangeries.

Eiffel TowerBoulangerie Jacques Bazin, (85 Bis Rue de Charenton) is famous for its “Bazinette,” Monsieur Bazin’s scrumptious interpretation of a traditional French baguette. The line is usually out the door. The bread and pastries look so amazing you’ll want to take a picture. But don’t. I was told it was “interdit” (forbidden) – oh la la, so French! But worth it.

The other is blé sucré on Trousseau Square, again just a couple of blocks from the open market. Travel writer/chef David Lebovitz calls the madeleines at blé sucré the best in Paris. And, once again, the pastries are exquisite.

A year ago, I would have also recommended having dinner just a few doors down from blé sucré at Square Trousseau, a bistro across from the local park. But while the previous year’s dinner wowed us, we were underwhelmed by this year’s meal. Our experience was not unique. Le mot on the street is that Trousseau has “slipped.”

But if you don’t mind trading the view for better food, the hot ticket apparently is a small Italian restaurant in an alley off Rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine called Caffé dei Cioppi. We never got there, but we heard it is excellent.

If You Go:
If you’re taking the metro, stop at Ledru-Rollins on line 8, to access all of these places.

Or, another option is to stop at Bastille (line 1), pay homage to the birthplace of the French Revolution, then walk down Rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine and look for the big green tree (pictured here in the background), and you know you’ve found our neighborhood.

Bienvenue and bon appetite!

Thanks for stopping by TravelnWrite today. Hope this will be a regular destination for you in the travel blogosphere or follow along on Facebook at TravelnWrite.  Was your first travel experience as part of a student group? How did it open up the world to you? Hope you'll tell us about it in the comment section below.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

TPThursday: Circling the Cyclades

Die-hard travelers like us aren’t content to be preparing for the next trip, we must be thinking about future journeys as well.  (From a practical standpoint, if you plan to use frequent flier miles, you need to be planning ahead!)

Our travel compass for our next year is pointing towards Greece.  And with so many favorite islands there, it is going to be difficult to narrow our focus to visiting just a few of them. 

As our planning discussions pick up momentum, Joel started talking frequent flier mile seats and I pulled out photos from our first journey there ~ when we circled Greece’s Cycladic Islands:


We are agreed that as much as we love cruises, we prefer Greek ferries to cruise ships when it comes to experiencing the islands. Modern ferries, such as this NEL Lines fast boat, in the harbor of Naxos Island can’t be beat for comfort and convenience.

Spending an evening at a Greek taverna, savoring good food and drink, isn't possible if you are racing back to a departing cruise ship. Why visit Greece if you can’t have some taverna evenings, right?

Traveling by ferry is as casual as life itself. We love waiting for a ferry departure. We sat at this small café in Mykonos watching the cruise ship in the distance to pass the time. No stuffy airport waiting rooms nor long security checks here.


Our days went far too quickly - no matter which island we were on.We were easily entertained just watching the daily rituals of the island fishermen as they off-loaded the day’s catch and began preparing the boats for the next morning’s departure.


By now you know we prefer the off-the-beaten-path back roads and villages.They just offer so many unexpected experiences. . .I mean, how often back home does a passing herd of goats block your route?


By taking those off-the-beaten path routes we found beaches like this one. . .


. . .and sunsets so stunning that they seemed surrealistic.

If You Go:

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Our first trip to Greece took us to four islands in the Cycladic group, Siros, Mykonos, Paros and Naxos. It’s so easy to succumb to the spell of any one of them that it is difficult to move on to the next. . .until you get there and you find yourself not wanting to leave that place either. We made advance reservations for hotels on our first two islands because we were there during the Easter Holidays (when everyone on the Mainland heads to an island). The other two we booked upon arrival.

If you’ve been reading the TravelnWrite Facebook page you know I’ve been including updates from fellow travelers who’ve been visiting Greece this year or who live there – all are reporting calm and serene environments and business as usual. (Novelist Bill Kitson has a guest post on TravelnWrite about his recent stay in Crete.)

Thanks for stopping by on this TPThursday. Hope you’ll head over to Budget Travelers Sandbox for more photos and travel tales. And then come back again!

Travel Tuesday: When Twitter Tweaks the Trip

This mini-tale began on Monday with a notice that we had a new follower on Twitter; a newcomer, it seemed, to the social media: Podere Assolatina in Tuscany.  I responded by becoming the eighth follower of their handful of tweets announcing their new web site. 

Since we are heading to Italy this fall, I checked their site (link above).  This agriturismo – between Florence and Rome -- looks charming. Their rates, surprisingly inexpensive. San Casciano Dei Bagni, the town they are near is postcard picture-perfect.

“Too bad we’ve already booked a place in Florence,” I thought as I found myself writing them and asking a few more questions about the place.

I showed the web site to Joel, along with the photos they’d sent in a return email within hours of my inquiry. 

“Too bad we’ve got a place in Florence already,” he said. “Wonder if we could cancel those reservations?"

Our plans had been firm: take a train to Florence, spend three nights there, then a train to Rome to board another to its port town Civitavecchia.

By Tuesday evening we’d cancelled our reservations in Florence and booked a rental car that we’ll pick up in Bologna and use for three days en route to Civitavecchia.

The agriturismo folks haven't responded to my rental inquiry yet, but that doesn’t really matter. . .

By tossing our original itinerary we have the freedom to head out and stay where ever we find ourselves. And in case you are wondering, we didn’t take the car’s GPS option.

If You Go:
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Podere Assolatina, Fraz. Celle Sul Rigo, 53040 San Casciano Dei Bagne, +39 331-447-4328

How about you? Have you ever changed travel plans based on some fluke like we did?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

WAWeekend: Central Washington Agritourism

You don’t need to travel to Europe for a taste of agritourism.  If you are hankering for a stay similar to those European countryside getaways, there’s one to be had only a few hours from Seattle.

Marcia and Kyle Green and their daughters Roslyn and Abigail, all who’ve worked to make the Cashmere Cider Mill a going concern have doubled their efforts and created an agritourism destination in the heart of Washington State. 

We first visited the Cashmere Cider Mill, tucked away in Woodring Canyon just outside the town of Cashmere, a year ago. Returning this summer as part of a hosted travel writers tour we had a real taste of how the place has expanded.

The Cider Mill Guest Suites, of which there are two (each with en suite bathroom) occupy the second-floor of a remodeled and updated 1910 farm house. The downstairs has a full living room and kitchen.

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The expansive views from the house look out over the Mill’s picnic grounds in one direction and have a territorial view out over the orchards looking the other direction.

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What’s Cooking at the Mill?

Marcia offers culinary classes out at the Mill year-round although most of them are between May and November,when locally-grown ingredients are at their peak. 

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She cooked up a sample of the types of meals prepared in the classes for our visiting group.  Sometimes photos tell the story better than words.

CashmereVictoriaBC 015I had to show you the simple, but delightful table decorations -- empty cider bottles, fresh flowers from the garden and grape vines and leaves.

But to get back to the food. . .

CashmereVictoriaBC 021Need I tell you this tasty little fresh blueberry morsel, cooked in a cast iron frying pan, won the hearts (and stomachs) of all?

If You Go:

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Cashmere is less than 2.5 hours drive from Seattle via I-90 and Highway 97A. The nearest airport is Pangborn Field in Wenatchee.

Cider Mill Accommodations: Cider Mill Guest Suites and another property, Canyon Hideaway,are open year-round.You can arrange for a number of activities from kayaking the smooth waters of the nature preserves in the summer to snowshoeing  through the orchards in the winter.

A welcome bottle of gourmet cider is included in the rental.  (If you want more adult beverages, bring it with you. Better yet, buy some of the local wines at the tasting rooms in Mission Square in Cashmere.)

(If you want more than just an overnight stay, more comprehensive packages are available, such as providing breakfast, lunch and dinner, excursions to the fields, farms and orchards and agricultural workshops.)

Culinary Classes: You don’t need to be an overnight guest to take a culinary class.  They are offered year round.

For directions, hours of operation, to reserve a stay or schedule a class: 
Mission Creek Cider Mill and Guest Suites, 5420 Woodring Canyon Road.,  866-459-9614,

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

TPThursday Capturing The Four Seasons

The seasons in photos. . .

I hadn’t given seasons  much thought  until Leigh from Hike Bike Travel invited our participation in another blogosphere event; this one sponsored by

At our house we have two seasons, ‘Travel and No Travel’.  It is from that perspective I offer views of the four calendar seasons as we fondly recall from our travels::



A January evening in Honolulu, O’ahu, Hawaii



An April day on the island of Naxos, Greece


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A July morning in Beacon Hill Park, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.



An October morning in Spain’s Andalucian hillsides.

When you capture the memories of the seasons, what do you picture? 

This is my contribution to Travel Photo Thursday created by Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox. If this is your first visit to TravelnWrite, stop by again Saturday for Washington Weekend.

Remembering 9/11 – at 38,000 feet on this 9/11

I began this post on Tuesday, September 11th at some 30,000+ feet over Chicago en route to Washington D.C.   Then I changed my mind. . .I am a white-knuckler when it comes to flying after all and I don't believe history repeats itself but I decided not to test fate, as only a white-knuckler would understand.

In total disclosure I need to tell you that it was an uneventful flight and aside from a few bumps from turbulence there had been nothing to excite even the white-knuckler in me. I’d even sailed through the new Pre-Check Security line at SeaTac with coat and shoes on and liquids and computer in my bag – three minutes max.

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I am glad I waited until this morning, September 12th to finish it though because I can show you a sample of how the Arlington, Virginia city scape appeared as we arrived on September 11th.  (I am attending a conference here this week, we are just blocks from the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery.

It was a landscape of patriotism.

And the one that really caught my eye is a block from our hotel on the Arlington Courthouse complex.  It marks the site of Fort Woodbury that had been on this location from 1861 - 1865.  It also reads:
“Historic Site
Defenses of Washington”

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Monday, September 10, 2012

Monday Meanderings: Looping Italy’s Boot

The lure and love of  Spain and Greece has become so strong, it was difficult this year directing ourselves towards one of our old favorites, Italy.

Make that ‘difficult’ until a cruise itinerary of the Celebrity Silhouette from Rome to Venice called out, “La Dolce Vita!”


We’ll be living that Italian ‘sweet life’ as well as having some interesting stops as we loop the boot-shaped country, in Malta, Greece, Montenegro, Croatia, and Slovenia.

The Silhouette, with an occupancy of 2,886, is a new-comer to Celebrity’s Solstice Class ships, having been launched in July, 2011.

(For those of you cruise enthusiasts out there, Solstice Class ships were  named the “Best Cruise Ships” 2011 by Frommer’s travel guides.)

We first sailed a Solstice Class ship in the Spring of 2011 and have been smitten with these vessels sprouting a live lawn on their top level since then.

The Silhouette is sporting some new features like an Arts Center, which replaces the hot glass art demonstration studios still operating on earlier Solstice ships.  This Arts Center offers classes as a cooperative project with the Art Center/South Florida.   Don’t think we’ll have time to take a class though as all but one of our 12-days on board will  be at some interesting port of call.

CelbcruiseMadrid 041We were pleased to see that Murano, the fine dining restaurant, has been retained on this new ship. But I doubt that we’ll be trying Qsine, the restaurant where you order food and wine from an iPad, that is provided.  (The thought makes these techno-dinos shudder!)

Our stops in each port of call will be full-day visits, arriving at 8 a.m. and not leaving until 5 or 6 p.m.  That kind of schedule also gives us plenty of time to explore the towns and sample some of their food specialties – think Naples, think pizza!

Culture, cuisine, cruising – sounds like La Dolce Vita to me!

Cruising tips:

Cruising is an easy way to see a lot of places in a short period of time.  Admittedly, you get but a taste of each  place, but you can also return for a larger slice of life in the future.

When booking a cruise, be sure to ask about:

* The cost of on-board gratuities and whether they are included in your rate or to be paid separately.
* Whether port charges and possible fuel charges are included in the rate or if they will be added.
* What on-board spending credits or perks (like priority boarding or special on-board events) are included.

Now that you know where we will be off to this fall, do you have any tips for us in any of the ports of call?  Be sure to check out Joel’s “Deal Finder” page to see how he shops to find our cruise deals. Follow us on Facebook or subscribe to have our free posts arrive in your inbox. See you soon!


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