Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tuesday Travel: North to Nanaimo

We set out on one of our famous spur-of-the-moment road  trips last week, heading north to explore parts of Canada’s Vancouver Island.  We’d spent far too much time at home – it was time to sneak in a brief summer road trip and what better way to do it than on the water!

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We set our direction late Saturday and by Sunday  afternoon we were on the road heading some 130 miles north of  our Kirkland home, crossing the border into British Columbia and hopping the ferry from the mainland’s Tsawwassen to Nanaimo on the island’s east coast.

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Leaving Tsawwassen ferry terminal

We could have taken the passenger only Victoria Clipper from Seattle to Victoria but would have then needed to rent a car to see as much of the island as we planned to visit.

Or we could have taken the Washington State car/passenger ferry from Anacortes which would have deposited us in Sydney, B.C., also on the island's east coast. 

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But we were headed to Nanaimo – a bit further north; our gateway to the Pacific Rim Highway – the route we would take to the island’s reputedly wet, sometimes wild, west coast. The ferry was not inexpensive – the fare for the car and two passengers was $82.55. We'd also paid an additional non-refundable $18.50 to make a reservation, assuring ourselves of a spot on the gigantic boat. Not only did we not need to worry about getting on the ferry, we found ourselves the first car in line!  Now, how often does that happen?

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On the just more than two hour ferry ride, we paVancouverIs2013 012ssed a gathering of fishing boats, saw a stunning sunset and then watched that always amazing way ferries glide into their terminals; this one some eight kilometers outside Nanaimo.

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If you are in the United States or Canada, you are probably thinking that name, Nanaimo (na-NYE-moe, by the way) sounds familiar.  You recognize it as dessert bars – yes, Nanaimo Bars are named for this town. But there is so much more here than a famous confectionery creation! Come back next Tuesday when we’ll show you  “Nanaimo: Beyond the Bar”.

If You Go:

Map picture

B.C. Ferries:   www.bcferries.com

British Columbia tourism information:  www.hellobc.com

Saturday, September 14, 2013

WAWeekend: Where were you in ‘62?

That was the year -- 1962 -- when the focus in Washington State was Seattle, host city to the Century 21 Exposition (better known to this day as the Seattle’s World’s Fair).

The Fair, showcasing a new century -- then, still 38 years in the future -- ran from April 21st to October 21st and is said to have ‘put Seattle on the world map”.

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If you were willing to wait in the long lines, you probably even rode that space-age marvel, the Monorail, to the World’s Fair site. Fair creators realized that some form of transportation system would be needed to move the fair-goers (nearly 10 million people visited during the Fair’s run). The elevated Monorail was built to ease congestion on surface streets.

I remember the terror of that wait for a ride on that sleek rapid-transit contraption that my parents insisted would be fun. It seemed pretty space-age to me at the time!

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Now, just over a half century later, the Monorail’s popularity continues.  On a mid-week afternoon this summer I joined the lines of folks at Westlake Center who waited far longer than the ride itself for their turn on a nostalgic journey.

The Monorail travels about a mile, from the heart of downtown Seattle to the former Fairgrounds, now the Seattle Center, home to the iconic Space Needle, also built for the Fair, and the site's newcomer, the Dale Chihuly Garden and Glass. 

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The children in line couldn’t stand still; their excitement too great. For those of my age it was a chance to share stories and memories of those early day trips.

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The cars were as I remembered them and because I was the only one simply taking a round-trip ride, for a brief minute or two after the others had left the train, I had it all to myself!

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The view of the Space Needle from the Monorail is one of the best to be had – not to mention being up-close and personal with the EMP Museum (formerly called the Experience Music Project) created by Microsoft co-founder, Paul Allen. A portion of its exterior is pictured in the photo below.

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If you are visiting Seattle, don’t miss the Monorail. It’s a great (quick) trip into the city’s more recent history and it is still a slick way to get between the two places without the cost of seeking lots and then paying sky-high parking rates.

If You Go:

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One way tickets are $2.25 for adults, less than that for seniors (65 and older) and children. For additional admission information and hours, visit, www.SeattleMonorail.com

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Travel, in other words, is . . .

“Travel, in other words, is . . .

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. . .an act of imagination, as well as the body.

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Certainly it requires a reporters memory and eye for detail, research,

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an ability to sponge up the stories one encounters.

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But the travel narrative remains an imaginative act

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an uncovering and forging of connections that
might not occur to another person
to be worth writing down.”

The quote comes from writer/poet David Mason. His book, “News from the Village”  takes the reader to Kardamyli, a small village in the The Mani area of Greece’s Peloponnese.  The photos are among those we took while traveling through that area last spring.

How would you complete the sentence, “Travel, in other words, is. . .”?

That’s it for this Travel Photo Thursday – head over to Nanci’s Budget Travelers Sandbox for more armchair travels! And if you miss us there, stop by The Tablescraper's "Oh, the Places I have been!"

Monday, September 9, 2013

Travel Tip Tuesday: Armchair Travel ~ Conducting Novel Research

Because our days were so uncharacteristically lovely in the Pacific Northwest this summer, we’ve been uncharacteristically content to travel by ‘armchair’. 

books 001This mode of travel has taken us to far-away places and provided some novel (pun, intended) research for our upcoming fall trip which will take us to a part of the world we’ve never been before. 

Regulars here know that our travel compass had to fight the strong magnetic pull of Europe in order to get us headed off to Oceania, or, as it is also known, the South Pacific.

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The Solstice's path across the Atlantic Ocean
We’ll be aboard the Celebrity Solstice for 19 nights as we travel from Honolulu, Hawaii to Sydney, Australia. It will be our second voyage on this Solstice-class ship that carries some 2,850 passengers and 1,253 crew members. 

Our first took us across the Atlantic Ocean so it is only fitting that the Solstice introduce us to the Pacific as well.

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Waikiki - Honolulu, Hawaii
So we’ve been busy researching with some fun ‘reads’ including:

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“The Bat” a murder mystery by Oslo-based writer Jo Nesbo, whose character Inspector Harry Hole (no joke) has traveled to Sydney to investigate a murder. This book, purchased from Costco, tipped us off to an area of town – a restaurant, in particular that we want to visit while there.

“The Moon and the Sixpence,” a novel by W. Somerset Maugham, sparked by the life of Paul Gauguin.

“Best South Sea Stories,” a collection of South Seas fare from the likes of James Mitchener,  Jack London, and Herman Melville.

“The Descendants” by Kaui Hart Hemmings, set in Hawaii (a movie of the same name based on this book starred George Clooney.)

books 002And a few true stories always add to the research:

“Six Months in the Sandwich Islands,” by Isabella L. Bird, written in 1875!

“The Cruise of the Snark,  A Pacific Voyage” by Jack London, about his own journey across the Pacific, first published in 1911.

“Blue Latitudes – Boldly going where Captain Cook has gone before,”  by writer Tony Horwitz, published 2002.

We can’t get enough ‘novel research’. How about you?  What destinations have novels led you to – or what have novels taught you about destination? What was your favorite armchair trip this summer?

See you back here later this week; we do appreciate the time you spend with TravelnWrite!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

WA Weekend: Autumn at Husky Harbor

Travel traditions run strong in the Pacific Northwest. One of the longest is travel prompted by -- and for -- college football games. With two major universities and several four-year college's, there's a bit of football fever to be found in every corner of Washington State.

But one of the most beautiful locales is our WA Weekend destination:

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But what does a football game have to do with travel, you are probably asking yourself.  Well, quite a bit in Seattle, home of the University of Washington Huskies. It's impact on roadways before and after games, hotel availability on game day, boat traffic, and restaurant  is major.

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Looking east over Lake Washington (boaters anchor for the game) and Mt. Rainier

The football stadium at the eastside of the campus, sits on the Seattle shore of Lake Washington.  It provides fans postcard perfect views of the adjacent lake, Kirkland and Bellevue to the east and Mount Rainier, to the southeast.

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Boaters bring a new definition to 'tailgating' pre- and post-game celebrations

Fans, alumni, students and those supporting the visiting teams -- some 70,000 of them --  flock by bus, car, boat and RV to Husky Stadium. Hotels fill quickly on home game weekends and accommodation prices can soar. Last weekend’s season opener commanded hotel rates of more than $260 a night in some places.

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Tour boats pictured center and to the right at 'Husky Harbor'
For those, like us, who are ‘Boatless in Seattle’ there are tour boats originating in Kirkland and south Lake Union (the lake connected to Lake Washington by the waterway called the Montlake Cut)  that bring hundreds of fans to the game. Two such boats are pictured above.

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While many fans opt to arrive at the stadium by boat, some tying up at the dock or anchoring in “Husky Harbor” as we showed you above, others bring their recreational vehicles and set up ‘tailgating’ pre-game parties that start hours before kick-off. The RV above has been 'a regular' for decades. Most are like this one: decor - purple and gold from top to bottom!

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RetakeMontlake 008The “Fan Van” featured in the collage above served party-goers buffet-style food and drinks were obtained nearby from a serving window on the side of the van. (Note the satellite dish and television - those are found throughout the parking/party lot).

Still others set up grills, chairs and tents throughout the parking and lawn areas near the lake, like those pictured to the left.

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University of Washington's Husky Stadium Re-opening 2013

The stadium re-opened last weekend following a $280 million remodel and refurbishing . RetakeMontlake 039The resulting stadium is so impressive that representatives of the construction crew (pictured on the new whiz-bang scoreboard/video screen) formed the on-field tunnel through which the team emerged from the locker room.

The crowd went  nuts for the construction crew and the crescendo built for the team's appearance. One of the best traditions of the games here is the unfurling of the American flag and singing of the National Anthem.

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The atmosphere before, during and after the game was electric – think Mardi Gras in New Orleans or New Year’s Eve in Times Square. 

And the best part was, our un-ranked Huskies blew out the ranked Boise (Idaho) Broncos. (As of this writing, the Huskies are now #20!)

 "Go Dawgs!" as they say at Husky Harbor!

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If You Go:

Map picture

Husky tickets:  Schedules and ticket information can be found at www.GoHuskies.com

Seattle lodging:  www.visitseattle.org

Getting to the Game: Your hotel will be able to tell you the options available for getting to the game from their location. Ask the concierge  about tour boat. One of the easiest ways to get to the game is aboard one of the several special shuttle buses operated by Metro.  A $5 round-trip ticket will get you to the game and back to your starting point. For information:  http://www.huskystadium.com/2013-game-day/transportation

Thanks for spending time with us today. Have a great weekend! See you back here next week~

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

When the Sun Shines on Amsterdam. . .

Flight connections between Europe and Seattle prompted a couple of brief overnight stays in Amsterdam in recent years. Based on those brief introductory stops we deemed it a rainy, but an interesting -- if somewhat pricey – place, well worth a longer visit.

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So, we scheduled ourselves a long weekend in this city laced with some 165 canals and linked by 1,281 bridges, on our return from Greece last spring.

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What we found was that when the sun shines (as it did periodically during our stay) Amsterdam sheds its dark gray rain coat, and  comes to life with a a colorful vibrancy! Let us take you on a tour:


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Amsterdam2013 025Rain or shine, we could spend hours watching the canal boats ply the waters that make up this city’s transportation system.

The boat, pictured above, painted in the color of its famous Heineken beer cans and bottles, caused many heads to turn as it glided past.


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Although the canals get all the tourist photos, I must say that the city’s electric-powered blue and white trams should be getting equal billing.  They are sleek, modern and so quiet that you must stay on guard for them as they can slide up behind you without much notice. . .well, other than a ding of their bells.

While we did our explorations on foot, we were tempted to hop aboard and take a ‘tram tour’ of the town.  There are 16 lines in and around the city center and they always travel on the right hand track.  Most pass near Dam Square (in the heart of the old town) before terminating at the Central Train Station. 

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Amsterdam2013 061There are more than 8,000 buildings that date from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. . .enough to keep sightseers and shutterbugs entertained for hours.  Their shapes and sizes are simply remarkable.


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If the architectural design isn’t enough  on the buildings, then the signage should catch  your eye.  I’ll be showing you more of the art we discovered as we wound our way past the more than 6,000 shops that operate in the city in a future post.


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Amsterdam2013 027Okay, you knew I couldn’t do it.  How could anyone be in Amsterdam in the spring time and not take a photo of tulips?
We’d lucked out because the tulips were late bloomers this year so we actually caught them still in bloom . Of course with more than 600,000 bulbs in parks and public gardens here, it would have been difficult to miss them.

That is it for Travel Photo Thursday.  Head over to Budget Travelers Sandbox for some more armchair travels today. Or to The Tablescraper on Friday for "Oh, the Places I have been"But before you do, I must thank Francesca at Postcard Pictures for tapping us to participate in this year’s Capture the Colour Contest sponsored by Travel Supermarket.  This post is our entry.

And now it is my turn to tap five other bloggers, inviting them to participate as well. So here I go:

Poppy at PoppyView, who’s created a wonderful blog set in Crete.

Krista at Rambling Tart who illuminates Australia (and other wonderful places) in her blog.

Helen at Helen Tilston Painter who’s introduced us to the wonders of  art and travel.

Inka at GlamourGrannyTravels who has brought Turkey and Spain to life in recent years.

Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox who writes from South Korea – the hostess of  
Travel Photo Thursday


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