Saturday, March 30, 2013

WAWeekend: Anacortes ~ More than a ferry stop

“You went where?!” asked a friend, obviously thinking she’d misunderstood me.

Anacortes. . .we spent the night in Anacortes. It’s an adorable little town. . .really!” 

Although this seafront town, with a population of just under 16,000, on Fidalgo Island got its start more than a century ago, until last month we’d been like the other two million visitors who pass through it each year en route to board a Washington State ferry headed to the San Juan islands or Victoria, B.C.

After making it our destination a couple weeks ago, we’ve put it high on our close-to-home WAWeekend  getaway recommended list because:

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There’s more than 12 miles of shoreline and some 60 miles of trails to be explored.

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Thanks to artist Bill Mitchell’s talents, the town sports some 100 murals. (Mural route maps can be purchased at the Chamber of Commerce Visitor’s Center). This is one of my favorites.

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Pedestrian-friendly streets are lined with picture perfect 20th Century – and earlier – homes.  The homes above framed our walking route to the Guemes Island ferry terminal and were within a few blocks of the Anacortes Museum, housed in a Carnegie Library building built between 1909 and 1911.

Speaking of museums, just across town the Maritime Heritage Center proudly displays the W.T. Preston Snagboat, a sternwheeler once used for clearing debris from Puget Sound. The Snagboat and Carnegie Library are both on the National Register of Historic Places.

Public art is everywhere from statues to ‘Sidewalk Salmon Cans’ (beautifully camouflaged  garbage cans throughout the historic district), a tribute to the once flourishing local salmon and fish canning industry. Canneries have been replaced with fish processing plants in this bustling town mid-way between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia.

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The first fish cannery in Anacortes was founded in 1893 and by 1915 there were 11 canneries stretched along Guemes Channel (pictured here).

In 1913 fishing boats delivered 39 million salmon that were canned into 800,000 cases of fish.

For those who require shopping therapy as a part of any trip and for those who also seek the finest in culinary offerings, we can assure you that Anacortes has plenty of both.

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You’ll find some great one-of-a-kind apparel, antiques, decorator and gift stores, but one of our favorites was the independent Watermark Book Co. A sign on its door reminded us of the fragility of such businesses: “Find it here, Buy it here, Keep us here.”

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JebirthdaySquirrely 017We cast aside diets for a brief moment at the Gere-a-Deli, a popular breakfast and lunch spot, also on Commercial Avenue.

It’s housed in another historic building, this one once was a bank.
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Another popular eatery is the A-Town Bistro, a half block away at 418 Commercial Avenue.  The place was packed on the Tuesday night we visited.

As I told you in an earlier report, we spent a night at  The Majestic Inn and Spa celebrating The Scout’s birthday during our impromptu end-of-February road trip, however there are many hotels and bed-and-breakfasts from which to choose here.

If you’ve not spent time in Anacortes, you should give it a try – we are certainly glad we did.

If You Go:

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For visitor information:
Anacortes Chamber of Commerce Visitor Information Center,819 Commercial Ave.,, 360-293-7911.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Sunday Morning In Ravenna, Italy

Our footsteps echoed across the cobbled streets as we strolled through the town on that early Sunday morning  ~

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~ just the two of us touring Ravenna, Italy  on our introductory visit.  You know the kind. Strolling with no real destination in mind just content to be together, surrounded by such history and beauty.

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As the late autumn sun rose higher in the sky, the streets began filling with people – travelers and locals alike – in this capital city of the Province of Ravenna in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region.

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Ravenna is an inland city connected to the Adriatic Sea by the Candiano Canal (pictured above). It was one of the last ‘ports of call for the Celebrity Silhouette; the ship we’d sailed from Rome through the Mediterranean and Adriatic seas last October.  A steady stream of buses transported cruisers  like us from the ship to the city on a route that followed the canal.

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From 402 – 476 Ravenna was  the seat of the Western Roman Empire. . .then the capital of the Ostrogothic kingdom. . . that gave way to the Byzantine Empire. . .and then the Kingdom of the Lombards. And the list continues. . .

SilhouettePt22012 327For those of us who love reading and writing as much as travel one of it is notable  attractions is the resting place of Italian poet and philosopher, Dante Alighieri, author of “The Inferno” (the city is mentioned in Canto V).  

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What we will likely remember the longest though about our visit to this city steeped in history was the stop at the Basilica of Saint Vitale, which is considered one of the most representative examples of Byzantine architecture in the world today.

(By this point in the trip we had seen a number of mighty impressive cathedrals but this one was simply jaw-dropping both for its size and its décor.)

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So many mosaics cover the walls, floors and ceilings that it would take weeks of repeated visits to absorb the story each tells; their various themes from the Hebrew Bible or what Christians call the Old Testament.  Some mosaics highlight Emperor Justinian I with his court and his Empress Theodora with her attendants.

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The mosaics were commissioned by Archbishop Maximian 546/556 A.D.

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The church had been closed earlier in the morning for services but when the doors opened, camera-snapping visitors filled its every nook . Yet there still remained a collective hush not unlike those moments before a church service starts as we absorbed the grand interior. If felt almost as if we, too, were attending a service.  Maybe we had been ~ each of us in his or her own way?

That’s it for this Travel Photo Thursday. Head over to Budget Travelers Sandbox for more photos. And we send our best wishes to all of you who are celebrating Easter this weekend!

And If You Go:

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Hours and entry fees for the Basilica can be found at:

Ravenna  annually hosts the  Ravenna Festival – one of Italy’s premier classical music gatherings. Opera performances are held at the city’s Teatro Alighieri and concerts take place at the Palazzo Mauro de André as well as other locations like the Basilica of San Vitale.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Europe: Packing and Pickpocket Prevention

The buzz this spring is all about what travel clothes are ‘Europe appropriate’.  And since The Scout was pick-pocketed a few years ago in Greece, I thought I'd start by telling you about our new travel clothing for our upcoming trip there.

We'll be wearing the shirts pictured below on ferries, trains and buses.  Made by Clever Travel Companion, a company that claims they are ‘100 % pickpocket proof’’, we will be trying each of their two styles: Joel in the gray tee shirt and I'll be sporting the black tank top. (I am of the age that 'tank tops' and body don't quite correlate, but with a blouse or jacket it will be okay.)

They weren’t inexpensive – $29.90 each – but we got a 20% discount when we purchased them a couple weeks ago on Amazon and an additional 3% back from Ebates because we used it as the portal to our Amazon account.

The zippers, when closed, really are camouflaged  – and on the women’s version, it's right below the breast . . .a no touchy, no feelie place. Go there ~ you lose your hand! The pockets hold our passports, credit cards and money and are far more comfortable and easily accessed than those girdle type money belts.

The tee-shirts limited color selection – black, white and gray – fit right in with Europe's neutral colors. While they aren't mandated wear, we've found that wearing muted, neutral colors helps us blend into crowds. . .not announcing by our outfits, "Here we are - vulnerable tourists!"

And lets put to rest that old wive's tale about blue jeans. Yes, they were only a few years ago considered taboo, but these days are seen throughout Europe even in Paris and Milan, the fashion-hubs across The Pond. We leave ours at home because they are heavy, take up too much suitcase space and require too much time to air dry.

Joel’s wardrobe consist of light-weight pants from Ex-Officio (they make the pants legs with the zipper so they can be converted to shorts.) Speaking of zippers, they also have zippered security pockets inside the front pockets.

And I wear Chico’s Zenergy: pants, crops, jackets. Lightweight, don’t wrinkle,  and by keeping the wardrobe black and white I can mix and match them with ease.

We take no more than three or four shirts –  thin fabric so they can be washed one day and be dry by the next. 

To dress them up I buy a scarf or two for a ridiculously low price from street vendors or at street markets after we arrive in Europe. They take up little suitcase space, weigh nothing and are great reminders of the trip after we get home.

A suitcase staple are silk 'long johns' (from Land’s End) tops and bottoms that take up little space, provide extra warmth – when needed – under those light weight pants. They also double for sleepwear!

washington wednesdays 005 I am a Baggallini lady. The handbags and totes were created by a couple of flight attendants who've designed a full line of bags (and suitcases) that fit under seats, in overhead bins and hold all the a traveler might need along the way. 

The tote pictured has traveled many a mile with me and when it is soiled, I just wash it and it is good to go again.

Also tucked into the 22'-suitcases we live out of for weeks at a time, are:
four plastic hangers, a few clothes pins, a flat sink stopper and several travel-sized laundry detergent are always in the suitcases.

(A wine bottle opener and purse-sided toilet paper also are handy to have as well.)

What kind of travel clothes, bags or gear do you recommend? Please leave a comment below or send an email.

Disclaimer: We’ve not been compensated for recommending any of the brands or items in this post nor were we provided any items to review. The tee-shirt photos were made available by the company for media use. The rest belong to

Sunday, March 24, 2013

WA Weekend: State Parks’ Birthday Party

Washington’s State Parks are 100 years old this month and that calls for a celebration!

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Mark your calendars for next Saturday, March 30th, 2013 when all state parks will welcome guests – for FREE – no Discover Pass needed!

In fact, mark your calendars for all these FREE days at Washington State parks in 2013:

March 30: Recognition of State Parks’ 100th birthday on March 19
April 27 - 28: Recognition of National Parks Week
June 1: National Trails Day
June 8 - 9: National Get Outdoors Day and WDFW Free Fishing weekend
Aug. 4: Peak summer season free day
Sept. 28: National Public Lands Day
Nov. 9 - 11: Veteran’s Day weekend

Celebrate the State Parks Centennial at Cama Beach and Camano Island state parks:

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These two parks are just over an hour’s drive north of Seattle and and overlook Puget Sound’s Saratoga Passage. 

Cama  Beach State Park is the state’s newest state park – a once-privately-owned fishing resort -- that has been lovingly restored by the state parks department staff and a group of dedicated volunteers.

The March 30th celebration begins at 10 a.m. when you can build and fly kites at Camano Island State Park with the Friends of Camano Islands Parks. Then hike to nearby Cama Center at Cama Beach State Park for the main event activities. A shuttle is available to transport visitors back to the Lowell Point Parking lot.

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 Main events at Cama Beach State Park: Activities include beach walks (2 to 3 p.m.);
* toy boat building (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.);
* marine tank display (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.);
* craft projects (noon to 4 p.m.);
* boat house tours (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.);

And what’s a birthday party without cake?  The cake cutting will take place at 1:30 p.m.

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For a schedule of events at all state parks, just click this link:
Washington State Parks’ Centennial Celebration and let the party begin!

Thanks for your visit today! Come back again on Travel Tip Tuesday and Travel Photo Thursday. . .and if you’ve not yet ‘liked’ our Facebook page, TravelnWrite – you are missing out on other travel tips and tidbits!

About these Photos: I took them last September during a visit to Cama Beach State Park. It is enchanting and offers overnight accommodations. There’s more information and photos about it at:

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Springtime in Washington's Wine Country

Spring officially arrived sometime around 4 a.m. PDT on Wednesday in the Pacific Northwest. It blew in on a cold, windy day, prompting us to take an armchair spring trip to Washington’s Wine Country:

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In fairness, the 'wine road' leads many directions throughout our Evergreen State with 'wine country' stretching from our southern neighbor Oregon  north to Canada. We headed to Chelan, Washington; a  town that wraps itself around the base of the 55-mile long glacier-fed Lake Chelan (that's just a small section in the photo above). Those snow-covered peaks in the background are the North Cascades Mountain Range.

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For decades Chelan’s hillsides were carpeted with orchards. Today the orchard is giving way to the vineyard.

In addition to being a popular part of wine country and a favorite destination for water- and outdoor-enthusiasts, this north central Washington town is also The Scout’s hometown.

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Designated as an official American Viticulture Area (AVA) in 2009, this Lake Chelan area is home to more than 20 wineries.

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A number of the wineries have views of the lake, but one of our favorites is the 28-acre Benson Estate Vineyards and Winery where the photos above were taken last April.

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Spring -- before the summer's warm temperatures draw hordes of tourists to the hotels, condos, and timeshares that dot the shoreline, –  is our favorite time to visit this small town of 3,945 residents.

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Although wine grape growing is the hot new agricultural pursuit here, there are still plenty of orchards intermixed with the vineyards – producing  apples, pears, and cherries.  Their blooms announce spring's arrival.


We are ending our armchair outing with a photo taken in the summer to show you how the vineyards will look only a few months from now. 

This photo was taken at Chelan’s Nefarious Winery. Its vineyard behind me replaced a long-time orchard; one that belonged to The Scout’s family.  For year's as we'd arrive in town, he'd point to it, noting, “I helped plant that orchard.”

We visit the 'old orchard' when we get back to Chelan, and as we've sipped wine on this patio, we've toasted The Scout's past. But, if we were there today, we'd offer a toast to spring and the promise it holds: “To Spring! May yours be filled with travel adventures!”

It is Travel Photo Thursday, so be sure to stop by Nancie’s  Budget Travelers Sandbox for more armchair travel via photos.

If You Go:
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Chelan is about three and a half hours drive from Seattle. The nearest airport is in Wenatchee, about 45 minutes away.
For information on wineries, accommodations and events:

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Tuesday Travel Classics: The Majestic Hotel

Our Travel Classics feature takes us back to the United States’ Pacific Northwest this weekend for a stay at The Majestic Inn and Spa in Anacortes, Washington. . .

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Telling friends that we celebrated The Scout’s birthday a few weeks ago at this charmer in the middle of the Historic District in Anacortes, a city about an hour and a half north of Seattle, their response is the same: 

VeniceSanJuanIsl 265“Anacortes? Isn’t that where you catch the ferry to the San Juans and Victoria, B.C.?”

One and the same! 

But if you’ve only driven to the ferry, you’ve missed some great Northwest history and a true Travel Classic hotel.

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One of our favorite places in this wood-framed charmer -- that houses a spa, bar, restaurant and meeting rooms -- is its teeny-tiny top where there’s a surprisingly spacious sitting room for the use of guests.  From its comfy chairs there’s a 360-degree view that takes in a bit of the San Juan islands, Guemes Channel, the town’s sprawling commercial district and its Cap Sante Marina.

The hotel building dates back to the late 1800’s; a time during which the town was booming with hopes of being the transcontinental railroad terminus.  Staff members told us that this enormous building was moved to its present location in the early 1900’s from one several blocks away. The move, done by horse teams pulling the building on log skids, spanned an entire summer.

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Guest rooms have been modernized and an elevator carries guests to all but the top, the fifth, floor these days. 

JEBdayWA2013 003We’d opted for one of the favored corner rooms on the top floor which required climbing a flight of stairs. . .but the room and its deck made that climb worth it.

(It was too cold to sit outside but we often stepped outside to enjoy the view from our perch high above town. That’s our deck just on the roof line.)

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Our room, one of 21 in the hotel, had a sitting area and wet bar with small refrigerator, television, and en suite bath.

A French press coffee maker was provides and the front desk provided as many packets of fresh ground coffee as we wanted.

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JEBdayWA2013 002We paid $147, plus tax, for a mid-week stay in February. Rates on this room can go as high as $309 in mid-summer (and these corner view rooms go fast).

The hotel’s popularity has prompted the construction of an annex, scheduled to be opened in late Spring 2013.  We suspect those rooms will also be luxurious, but we’ll be opting for the old building every chance we get.

What's there to do in Anacortes? Come back on the weekend when our travels will take us out and about in this charming waterfront town and nearby Guemes Island  in our WAWeekend series.

If You Go:

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The Majestic Inn and Spa, 419 Commercial Ave., Anacortes, 98221, toll-free 877-370-0100,

Have a Travel Classic to recommend? Use the comment section below or if you’ve received this in your inbox, send us a quick email. Happy Travels and thanks for stopping by today!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

WA Weekend: Lookin’ for Luxury? Try Langley

We weren’t exactly looking for luxury when we arrived on a late Wednesday afternoon without reservations at the Inn at Langley on Whidbey Island.  

But Luxury, with a capital “L” is what we got at this popular getaway, just an hour or so north of Seattle. “L” for Lucky as well, because February’s winter weather coupled with the mid-week arrival spelled: availability.

JEBdayWA2013 069Opened in 1989 -- and still operated -- by former Seattle Mayor Paul Schell and his wife, Pam, the Inn a Langley has garnered dozens of awards, among them being listed as one of the ‘Top 500 Hotels in the World’ by Travel and Leisure Magazine.

With inviting leather couches positioned to catch the warmth of the fireplace, the candle-scented lobby was a teaser of what was to be a top of the line experience at this Inn situated on a waterfront bank.

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A Room With A View

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If you love being near bodies of water as we do, then you can imagine our delight when not only did our room have a porch-sized deck but also offered 180-views of Saratoga Passage.

Had it been a wee bit warmer, we may never have left those chairs because this was our view north. . .and south was much the same.

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When chilled we simply moved in to those cushioned window seats and later, wrapped in robes they provided, sat in chairs by the fireplace where we sipped a final glass of wine  before retiring for the evening.
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When the time came to snuggle under that down-filled duvet. . .let me tell you, one night really wasn’t enough. 

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That opaque window on the bed’s right side, slides open to reveal the bathroom’s oversized-jetted tub  that also has a water view and opens to the guestroom as well.  Large enough for two. . .

Award-winning Dining

The only drawback to our mid-week stay was that we couldn’t try the Inn’s award-winning Chef Matt Costello’s culinary talents. He’s known for using the best of locally produced and sourced products and creating out-of-this-world, multi-course meals – on weekends.  At it was, we had an excellent meal at Primo Bistro, a French-inspired Northwest bistro, an easy walk from the Inn.

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Breakfast (included in the room rate) was delivered to our room by none-other than the owners, Paul and Pam Schell (another low-season perk, I suspect).  Let me take you around this tray clockwise:  orange juice, home-made granola, yogurt, fresh fruit bowl, Brie cheese and crackers, coffee, fresh pastries and hard-boiled eggs.

If You Go:

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JEBdayWA2013 076Whidbey Island can be accessed on its north end by crossing Washington’s Deception Pass.  Or from the south, the Mukilteo-Clinton ferry is a 30-minute crossing with Langley less than five miles north of Clinton.

Inn at Langley, with 28 guestrooms, cottages and master suites (and a spa at beach level) is at 400 First Street, 360-221-3033,   We paid $175 for the room (with breakfast pictured above). In July it would be $290. 

The Inn just announced the return of the Gray Whales to Saratoga Passage (what a sight that would be from one of those decks!) 

And here’s one of their off-season deals you might want to consider:

“Sneak Away Sunday”

You get a Sunday overnight stay at the Inn and six-course dinner for two featuring Chef Costello’s Whidbey Island’s freshest seasonal fare. $325 includes dinner for two and a waterfront guestroom for one night.Offer valid March 24 through June 1, 2013 for Sunday nights only. Based on availability, does not include wine, tax or gratuity.

Thanks for stopping by today. Come back next week when we will take you to another Travel Classic, and have more tips and tales for you.  You’ll find even more on our Facebook page.


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