Our Vacation…A trancendent journey into the past.

my restaurant career began here

The last time I took this route to Canada (of course that was from California) was 1974. That trip was in a 1964 Chevy Impala with two friends.

Our last journey consisted of trying to spend the least amount of money (because we had no money). In ’74 we went to Seattle and visited the space needle before continuing up to Canada. That was an 18 hour trip straight up to Vancouver, British Columbia.

Did I mention that we were a bit high at the time? I remember at the Canadian border the Canadian Mountie asking if we had any marijuana in our vehicle. We said, ” No sir.” Which was the truth… we had just smoked the last of it. Our eyes were as red as Rudoolph’s nose.

We went to “gas town” which was basically China town. There we discovered why they called it gas town. Needless to say we traveled with the windows down and doubled up on the pine scented christmas tree hanging from the rear view miirror.

After that we parked our car and traveled on the ferry. Unfortunately we got on the wrong ferry and had to sneak onto the correct ferry before somehow navigating to the harbor in Victoria. The highlight of the harbor was going to the wax museum where we discovered Vlad the Impaler.

Anyway some other nefarious activities took place before finally returning to the US. That was then… this is now.

Nancy and I started our trip with a less than memorable stay in Ellensburg Washington. Nothing really to mention about that other than it was a place to stay with unusually expensive rooms for what the town offered, which was not much.

Then we drove another 2 hours to Seattle. I was interesed in going to the world famous “Pikes Market Place” located near the wharf in downtown Seattle. Nancy and I navigated there and proceeded to look for “Pikes Fish Market”. You know the fish market where they throw the fish back and forth yelling out different cities that people call out to them.

We found the market and were a bit surprised how crowded the Market place and especially the fish market was on this rainy day in Seattle. Of course it was raining… the locals don’t even seem to notice. What fun that was seeing the flower booth displaying in full bloom, the many different booths from fresh mushrooms, exotic teas, apparel, coffee shops (what a surprise), and wonderful restaurants.

We ate at the Athenian restaurant noted for their seafood. With a beautiful view of the harbor we had a crab louie and clam chowder to share. Very good as I stepped off the vegan/vegetarian platform into the pescatarian water.

Next we were off to our hotel at the Edgewater. This was a wonderful room right on the water with a fireplace, jucuzzi tub, and a sitting room to enjoy the view. We had dinner that night in the hotel.

The manager was very gracious and accomodating. He provided excellent assistance to the server as we enjoyed our wine and food. The table was another view of the water and added to the dining experience. Breakfast was part of the package and so we were back at the restaurant with another fine meal literally under our belts.

Now we were off to Canada. I decided to drive so that we could experience the border crossing. As it turned out the crossing was efficient and easy. I had purchased tickets to the acquarium in Vancouver, BC as that was our first place to visit in Canada.

I’d suggest skipping this venue as it was the least enjoyable acquarium I’d ever visited. However, near the acquarium was a very special park we wouldn’t have seen if we hadn’t purchased tickets to the acquarium. Stanley Park is a mix of water features, hiking trails, and some of the most charming and lovely gardens I’ve visited.

Next it was off to the hotel, The L’Hermitage in downtown Vancouver. Nothing really special about this hotel other than the parking was the most complicated aspect of our travel. The best part of the hotel was its location. We walked (usually in the rain) to two very special restaurants. Hydra and Nightingale were two culinary highpoints on the entire trip. Both offered exceptional service with well appointed and creative interiors aesthetically adding to the plate presentations.

The next day we were driven on a wine tour in what was supposed to be a limo, which turned out to be an SUV. The wineries and lunch were included in this package deal. I would recommend not engaging in this “Pacific Harmony Logistics, Inc.” wine package. The wine was something you’d normally find in a spit bucket and the lunch was a charcuterie board with tired meat (which I didn’t eat) and walmart cheeses. Other than that, “How was the play Mrs. Lincoln?”

After that debacle we prepared for our next day adventure which  included a scenic ferry ride to Victoria. Little did I know that our destination at “The Butchart Gardens” would be a memory I will never forget. Now I know where I want to be buried. Attempting to be a wordsmith I can’t find any words to describe the incredible and magical time spent at the must see, bucket list, destination. For me, this was the highlight of our trip. Other worth mentioning places we visited were the Victoria Butterfly Gardens and the winery Church and State.

Next we stayed at the Abagail Hotel in Victoria. This was a rather strange room incorporating a confused designer pairing his lack of skills with a plumber/contractor that somehow couldn’t spend enough money on a tub no one could access. However, it did include breakfast which offered the same lack of skill.

The last major “bucket list” item was having high tea at the world famous Empress Hotel. It was blowing so hard outside as we walked towards the Empress for our high tea reservation that I had to tether Nancy to my arm to keep her from floating over the harbor.

The high tea was in a cathedral like setting and we were ushered to a very nice table near the fireplace. And that was the highlight of the high tea. This is another venue I would suggest you miss unless you want to spend a lot of money for a very average dining and tea experience.

Overall it was a very good trip with certain things, Pikes Fish Market, and The Butchart Gardens worth their weight in gold.



A Symphony of Nature

magic in nature bidwell park chico pazaz bakeware
Magic in Nature – Bidwell Park

I meander through the meadow listening to the symphony of nature from the waterfalls in the distance to the animals nearby. Each group of animals has its own tenor and velocity of projecting sound. All of these sounds change based upon the season and intent.

The wild turkeys are in abundance during the spring, scouring the ground for grass and insects to feed their ever expanding bellies. The hens in the spring are targeted by the Tom turkeys as they perform a ritual dance. We’ve seen the males fight for their right to party. Usually two on two males jumping in the air fighting each other like Kamikaze pilots diving in for the kill or at least the recognized supremacy of the flock. Clawing and biting are the methods of choice to secure dominance.

Their sounds vary from the classic “Gobble-Gobble” to the siren mating call designed to attract the female and ward off the other males. The males strut as the female crouches to select the gobbler for matting. The beauty of these turkeys cannot be overstated as the Tom turkey fans its colorful tail as part of the matting ritual.

The deer are another group that has their own primal/guttural sound. If you are too close to the deer they grunt as a warning to back off. They will also stomp their hooves attempting to add another layer of deterrent to the space they occupy.

The most handsome group of all are the Elk. Enormous grand creatures that display two shades of brown. There is the dark brown around their neck and the lighter brown on their head and lower body. They are slow and cautious animals when grazing in the meadow during the spring. However, in the months to come, August through the end of  October its game on. That is their  matting season when they buggle to attrack the female.

The “Rut” relating to the Elk is very intricate. It’s a complicated dance with five different sequences that involves beauty and savagery all in one long vigorous dominate display. The bugle and the rubbing of trees is meant to attrack the females (the cows) as memorable and haunting as the howls of wolves and the calls of loons.

For the base of this cacophony of sound are the frogs. They sound off at night and sometimes during the day registering a beautiful base line to the baritone and tenor sections provided by the other inhabitants of the forest. As you approach their domicile an eerie silence prevails looking but not voicing their displeasure of any trespassers they may deem as a threat.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the birds of the Panhandle of Northern Idaho. From the Finch, Sparrow, Swallow, Canadian Goose, Mourning dove, Wood Pecker, Hawk, and Eagle the birds fill up the sky with sounds that add a wonderful beauty to the pastoral scene.

Ground level to the rich blue sky… the sound of nature envelopes everything in sight and beyond. It’s like a frame from a movie that begins with the visual, the smells, and then morphs into a symphony of light and song that floats like the breeze.

From the fog in the morning (maybe even snow) changing quickly to the richest azul sky dotted with clouds as thick as marshmellows and as light as cotton balls the sequence never remains the same. Each animal, bird, cloud, and weather pattern is constantly evolving into a picture we will never forget.

Vacation from the Vacation

Traveling to that which you have not seen from a place you have yet to fully discover is an exercise in artistic time management. Attempting to get the most out of a vacation without turning it into a race is being mindful of the art of balance and living in the moment.

Any vacation revolves around that which you can do within the time allotted. Part of this process is to determine what the most important aspect of the recreational respite is and what true relaxation feels like. Of course when you’re retired it’s a whole new ballgame.

To vacation when you’re retired is simply going from one vacation to another. It feels like a beautiful bubble that is floating above the earth to land in any place you desire. When you land you realize that this might be the last time you see that venue, park, hotel, restuarant, winery, garden, etc.

This realization gives the trip a sense of urgency underneath the current of relaxation and personal growth. The plan becomes an operation of specific time lines in between reflection of that which you are experiencing. As you get older the breath of appreciation grows to add another dimension.

The dimension I speak of is the immersion into the picture you’ve planned for which evolves into a memory you will never forget. Domestic or international the planning is key to the success of the trip.

Each time line has to take into account the reflection of the place you’ve targeted, the distance of travel to that place, and the time to enjoy it. These are all very important considerations. Not trying to do too many things but choosing those particulars that enhance lifes journey into the unknown.

Anytime we see something for the first time we have to realize it will never be like that again. That’s why you have to make it count. Research into the top ten things to do, the top restaurants for that which you desire, and the all important reviews that solidify your choices. This time well spent will  give you a greater opportunity for success.

Planning the vacation is an art unto itself. Like any event that you orchestrate it has to feel natural and not contrived. The beauty of the exhaustive practice which involves many hours of outlining, calling, and other communications through text and email adds value to the discoveries that will be revealed.

Basically, as you get older (in the back of your mind) you have an internal dialogue that says, “I’ve got one shot at this, so let’s make it count.”

The prophetic panoramic vision I see through the practicality of “having lived a little” becomes a mantra for viewing each aspect of the journey. I have never felt that basing your vacation soley on price will be prudent for the memory you wish to store in places only meant for you.

Having said that I do look at the price point of all things related to the trip to determine value. If I believe something that costs $500.00 is a good value then I will pull the trigger on that room, tour, meal, transportation, concert, or whatever it is.

However, if the price doesn’t reflect that which enhances the moment then I will forgo the “tourist trap” and look for other encounters with the environment that will be epic.

When you live in a park like setting there is time to think about the places you’ve always wanted to see. Other countries, people, art, and monuments that provide a unique look at history only available close-up and in-person. Each time I live in the experience I see an added value of understanding that unveils a compassionate undercurrent of connection to the humanity we all seek.