Here’s another travelogue from the Halls. It covers the period between September 23rd, 2010 and October 4th, 2010, a total of only 11 days, during which we traveled from the Seattle area to the Portland area by mini-van with our good friends Don and Mary Ann Sadon with whom we’ve shared many an adventure.
Our usual trip with the Sadon’s is a wine tour. We’ve covered Napa and the Central Coast of California and have discovered many an interesting wine. This time we definitely wanted to hit some wineries, but we had other plans as well. The first part of the Travelogue will be devoted to our Wine discoveries.
Our itinerary began with a flight from our local airport, Burbank, to Seattle where we joined the Sadons. We spent 3 nights at the Seattle Waterfront Marriott; took the ferry to Victoria for two nights in the famous Empress Hotel (now part of the Fairmont chain); on return to the USA we spent two nights in Salish Lodge at Snoqualmie Falls near Seattle; picked up our van in nearby Issaquah (Boyhood home of my old buddy Jon Olson); drove to Olympia (where we had the best meal on our trip); drove to the coast; came down Highway 101 to Cannon Beach, Oregon (home of our Travel Buddies Gregg and Laura Freedman); and finally back inland to the Portland area where we spent two nights visiting with my Daughter Julie Whitmer , her husband Scott and my grandson Drew (age 5) before flying home to Burbank. Whew, that’s a lot of action in just 11 days.
THE WINE TOUR: We must confess that the best Washington wine grapes are grown on the Eastern slopes of the Cascades in the Yakima Valley and other less rainy climes. But, the population is near the coast, so it’s natural the wineries would be built near the people and the wine grapes trucked in for processing. We started with a tour from the Seattle Marriott which promised to take us to Woodinville in the “heart of the wine country,” to visit wineries and tasting rooms, show us Snoqualmie Falls and visit a chocolate factory in Issaquah - something for everybody.
Woodinville, located just 20 miles northwest of downtown Seattle, claims to be the home of more than 50 Wineries. There are indeed some wineries here, but, the majority of Washington wineries are represented here by Tasting Rooms. That’s OK with us, that’s what we wanted to do anyway – taste them. You’ll see a few grapes growing around the wineries, but, these are mostly for “show” to get you in the mood. We visited 3 wineries on the tour from Seattle: Januik Winery, Columbia Winery and Chateau Ste Michelle (perhaps the most famous winery in the northwest).
The Januik Winery has a very nice modern tasting room. Their wines weren’t to our taste, but, some people on the tour bought several bottles of their whites. The Syrah was quite popular, too. They were very generous about pouring additional wines after you selected the 3 allowed in your tasting fee.
If you are new to wine tasting it’s common to charge a flat fee, say $20, to let you taste 4 or 5 wines. You choose which wines you want from a slightly longer list. If you look like a really big spender, they’ll pour just about anything you want to taste because they’re hoping you’ll buy a case to ship back home.
Columbia Winery claims to be the oldest winery in the state of Washington. They have a lovely facility in Woodinville and you’ll be treated to a very interesting lecture on the Winery and the wines as part of the tasting. The atmosphere is closer to what you’d expect from a historic winery. Columbia Wines are sold around the country and fall into the low to middle price category. We particularly liked the 2004 Otis Vineyard Cabernet and the 2003 Red Willow Vineyard Syrah.
Don’t confuse the Columbia Winery with the Columbia Crest Winery located across the Cascades near Ellensburg.
Our final stop on the day’s wine tour was at Chateau Ste. Michelle, the largest winery in Washington in terms of total sales. It’s located in a Chateau (naturally) on beautiful park like grounds, where dozens of visitors picnic each day. You were supposed to announce in advance if you wanted a box lunch at Chateau Ste. Michelle. We didn’t announce, but were very hungry by the time we arrived.
Being the problem solver in our group, Don went into the gift shop, bought two excellent boxes of crackers along with two imported cheeses, plus a chilled bottle of Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling – perhaps its biggest seller and a wine I had enjoyed years ago in my youth. What a great picnic we had, I fell in love with the Riesling all over again. It’s excellent and inexpensive – you’ll probably be able to buy a bottle for under ten bucks.
At the conclusion of the wine tour we went to Snoqualmie Falls (more about which later) and finished at Boehms Chocolate Factory in nearby Issaquah. We had a tour of the facility, a lecture on making chocolate and viewed some beautiful sculptures made of pure milk chocolate. Most people took home a pound or two, but, we demurred blaming our diets.
A few days later, when we were at the Salish Lodge in Snoqualmie we hired a driver to take us on another wine tour. Guess where he took us: Yup - Woodinville. While we had visited 3 wineries there, more than 60 Wineries and Tasting Rooms had escaped us.
Our first stop was a Strip Mall behind the “Hollywood Station” where we visited two wineries that had only recently opened tasting rooms. The first was the Pepper Bridge Winery of Walla Walla. Of the wines they poured for us we liked the 2006 Cabernet the best.
Our second stop was at Amavi Cellars, also of Walla Walla known for excellent low to medium priced wines. We liked their Syrah.
Our second stop was at DeLille Cellars Tasting Room. The Winery itself is actually located in Woodinville as are Columbia and Chateau Ste. Michelle. You can visit and take a tour but we went to their centrally located tasting room a short distance away. Delille is a very small winery specializing in classic French style wines. We liked every one we tasted and were so impressed that we shipped some home.
I bought their 2008 Roussane, a white wine varietal from grapes native to the Rhone Wine Region of France. It’s not a wine with which I was previously familiar, but I loved it. I also bought two Reds. Their award winning Syrah and a blended wine they call Aix which contains mostly Syrah and Cabernet grapes. We thought both were terrific. You probably won’t find DeLille wines at Trader Joes or Costco, their production is too limited. But you can buy it on their website www.delillecellars.com. The price for all the DeLille wines will probably be around $30.
Our final stop was, I thought, the best. Brian Carter Cellars was founded by Brian Carter (who else) who began his career in Washington as the wine maker for Paul Thomas Wines, then co-found Apex Wines. About 10 years ago, he decided to start a label with his own name on it and specialize in blending. Blended wines have become more popular in the United States as wine production has started outside California. Most wines in California for years were “Varietals,” wines grown from a specific grape. But wines blended of several grape varieties made in Australia, Chile and Argentina became very popular, encouraging blending in other fine wine growing areas such as Washington and now, even California has “seen the light.”
Brian Carter specializes in great blends, and does a wonderful job of it. We enjoyed all we tasted, but, bought 3 we happily recommend: Oriana blended from Roussane, Voigner and Riesling grapes was our favorite white wine. Our favorite reds were Corrida which features a Spanish grape “Tempranillo” and his special varietal, “One Sangiovese.”
Oriana is about $20, Corrida costs about $35 and One Sangiovese will cost about $50. You’ll find them on many wine lists in fine Seattle Restaurants as well as on their website www.briancartercellars.com
You can check out all the Woodinville Wineries at www.woodinvillewinecountry.com.
EATING IN WOODINVILLE: We stopped for lunch in Woodinville at the Purple Café and Wine Bar within walking distance of the tasting rooms. The place was packed with young women in small groups all enjoying a glass of wine with their diet plates. Only a smattering of men were in evidence. Don and I were old enough to be the Grandparents of the young women in the place, so, we didn’t rate a second glance, but the food was very good. I had a Waldorf (Apple and Walnut) Salad, Don had the Meatloaf Sandwich and Patricia and Mary Ann shared a Pizza. We all agreed it would be a great place to recommend to our Grandsons.
SEATTLE: We arrived at the Seattle Waterfront Marriott early in the afternoon. By the time we checked in and had a bite of lunch, it was approaching 4 in the afternoon, so there weren’t many sightseeing options available to us. The Hotel is located on Alaskan Way at the base of a cliff which separates the city from the waterfront. Along Alaskan Way are the Cruise Line Terminals, Ferry Terminals and Deep Sea Fishing operations. A short walk from the Hotel Lobby is a Municipal Elevator to take you from the bottom of the cliff to the top. At the top is the world famous Pike’s Place Market.
You may have seen the “CBS Sunday Morning” program which featured the Pike’s Place fish merchants where fishmongers throw frozen fish around to attract the attention of potential buyers. They are all sturdy young men and they can be found in the middle of a gaggle of young ladies all paying serious attention. In fact if you check the word fishmonger in Wikipedia, the first photo that pops up is from Pike’s Place Market.
There are lots of other merchants in Pike Place. Vendors of Fruits, Vegetables, Flowers, Nuts, Meat, Spices, and trinkets all have a number of stalls exclusively devoted to their specialty. We browsed for a couple of hours; came back two days later and browsed again. The place is like a three ring circus – very entertaining. We bought some of the best Washington Apples you’ll ever eat and carried them with us for the rest of the trip.
Downtown Seattle is like San Francisco, very hilly. Seemingly, every place you want to go involves a steep uphill walk. We enjoyed shopping there in the home of Nordstrom and Starbucks.
EATING IN SEATTLE:
CUTTER’S BAYHOUSE: Our first evening in Seattle we ate at Cutter’s Bayhouse a block or so from Pike Place Market. It has a fabulous view of Puget Sound. Across the water sits the Stadium home of the Seahawks, dominating the skyline. As you might expect they specialize in Seafood and it’s excellent. I had the superb Crab Cakes. Get there early to get a good window table.
LA FONTANA: Located at 120 Blanchard Street, La Fontana was by far the best Italian food we ate on the trip. I had Veal Scaloppini and Patricia had roasted Eggplant. We topped off the meal with real Spumoni Ice Cream. It was very good and the atmosphere was very Italian and pleasant.
2100 BISTRO AT THE SEATTLE WATERFRONT MARRIOTT: Hotel restaurants don’t usually make my list, but the 2100 Bistro at the Marriott is exceptional. We were late coming back from our wine tour one night and decided to just “grab a bite” in the hotel. We were very pleasantly surprised. I had a Rib eye Steak you could cut with your fork and Patricia had the Beef Tenderloin. Both surprisingly good. We also enjoyed the Shrimp Cocktails. Don and Mary Ann loved it, too.
GETTING TO VICTORIA: Our advice to you, plan ahead!
Our “spur of the moment” plan called for us to spend 3 nights in Seattle, take a Ferry to Victoria where we’d spend two nights before we returned to Seattle, pick up a rental car (a van actually to hold all our luggage) and begin our auto tour. The problem was there were no ferries at convenient times.
If you want to take a car to Victoria you’ll have to drive to Anacortes 90 miles north of Seattle. The Ferry transports you and your car to a Terminal 17 miles west of Victoria. A lot of driving, we thought, just to see the City of Victoria, the Empress Hotel and Butchart Gardens. If you don’t take a vehicle, you can take a ferry from Seattle’s waterfront to the Victoria waterfront. We decided taking the car wouldn’t be worth the extra effort and expense. It also saved us two extra van rental days.
We checked the ferry schedules online, but, neglected to check to see if there’d be a change as fall approached. It turned out the schedule changed on September 21st and we arrived on the 23rd. After the 21st, there was only one Ferry per day each way and the one from Victoria to Seattle didn’t leave until 6 PM getting us to Seattle at 9 PM, too late to pick up our rented van.
We sought the help of the Concierge in the Marriott who solved our problem. She arranged for a car and driver to pick us up at the Seattle ferry terminal, take us to the Marriott where we had stored the majority of our luggage and then take us to the Salish Lodge in Snoqualmie. So, we didn’t pick up our Van until two days later than previously planned, saving us another two days rental, which was enough to pay for the driver and car, a neat solution which earned the Concierge a neat gratuity.
VICTORIA: The Ferry left Seattle at Noon and delivered us to the Victoria Waterfront at 3 PM. Surprisingly, there were no taxis, so we were doomed to roll our luggage 10 blocks uphill to the Empress. Patricia and I had each been to Victoria before, but, we had never stayed at the Empress, now run by the Fairmont Chain.
THE FAIRMONT EMPRESS HOTEL: If I had to use three words to describe the Empress, they would be Majestic, Elegant and Tired. The “Grande Dam” of west coast hotels, the Empress has always been the home away from home of the rich and famous who visited Vancouver Island.
It still proudly dominates the Victoria Harbor and is the place to go in North America for “High Tea,” but it’s getting a little shabby – and the service isn’t up to the standard set so long ago. I don’t know if this has happened only since Fairmont took it over, or if it’s been a long downhill slide, but, it’s nowhere near the luxury hotel it was in the 80’s.
I was in Victoria for a Fundraising Conference in 1982 and attended the Victoria Rotary Club’s meeting at the Empress. All members stood proudly as they sang “God Save the Queen” to start the meeting (Not the Canadian National Anthem) and they hooted loudly when a letter from the Buenos Aires Rotary Club was read seeking support for Argentina’s quest to annex, at the expense of the British, the Falkland Islands, that remote island chain. The Argentines didn’t know what hit them after they challenged “The Iron Maiden”, Maggie Thatcher. I was able to see firsthand why Victoria was called the most British city outside the British Isles.
On that trip we also had a chance to experience our first “High Tea” at the Empress. You were reminded when you made your reservations that “Proper attire” was required, meaning neckties for men and dresses for women (no miniskirts, please.) Today the High Tea is still very British, but, the staff is no longer in tuxedos and the patrons are mostly on a Cruise Ship excursion in their Bermuda shorts and Hawaiian shirts (but, sandals are still not allowed.)
We made our reservations several months before, but, discovered they’d put us is a small shabby room overlooking the noisy loading dock. We asked for something less noisy and they kept us waiting a couple of hours while they searched for another room. When we finally got a decent room, they acted as if they’d done us a gigantic favor.
To top it off the food in the dining room was distinctly mediocre.
We should have stayed at the Marriott a block away.
VICTORIA SHOPPING AND SIGHTSEEING. We bought tickets in advance to go to Butchart Gardens, but it was a drizzly day and Patricia and I had the sniffles, so we elected to stay back at the hotel. Don and Mary Ann took the tour and raved about the Gardens.
The Butchart Gardens were built by the Butchart family in the early 20th century. Mr. Butchart was in the cement business and had a limestone quarry on the site. He lived nearby and when the limestone was gone, Mrs. Butchart decided to put in a garden and hired a famous Japanese landscape architect, Isaburo Kishida, for the job. The rest is history. There are several gardens here and it could take days to see them all. The Sadons were very impressed and we were sorry we missed it. It’s the one thing you need to do in Victoria.
There’s good shopping along Government Street, so named because the Provincial Parliament is located a few steps from the Empress. One thing to remember, there’s no paper money smaller than a five dollar bill Canadian. If you pay with American Dollars, they will be readily accepted, but, your change will be in Canadian dollars. Even though they have a drawer full of American dollar bills, you’ll get Canadian coin in change. We were told the law forbade giving change in American dollars.
Canadian panhandlers have learned to ask for your change. They hang out around the 7-11 and other convenience stores, and look just as needy as their brothers (and sisters) in the States. Just remember when you reach in your pocket to “Help them out,” those coins you pull out probably have a lot more value than they would at home.
You really shouldn’t come to Victoria without having “High Tea” at the Empress. We’d all done it before, so, we passed this time.
EATING IN VICTORIA: As I mentioned earlier we weren’t impressed with the food at the Empress. Actually the only meal we ate there was breakfast, a poor choice. We ordered eggs “over easy” and bacon “Crisp.” We got the bacon “over easy” and the eggs “crisp.” We sent the whole plate back and while the bacon came back decently cooked; the yolks of the eggs were still as hard as rocks. We gave up and ate the toast and bacon. The Sadons ordered Eggs Benedict, and their yolks were hard, too.
It reminded me of the joke I’ve mentioned previously in my travelogues about the man who calls room service and says “I’d like two underdone fried eggs, burned toast and luke warm coffee with a cigarette butt floating on top.” The room service person said, “Sir, we just couldn’t serve a meal like that” and the caller said, “Why not? You did it yesterday.”
Our second day, we went searching for a decent breakfast and were referred by a shopkeeper to a little place, obviously favored by locals, called “Willies.” It looked promising, it was jammed with people, and we have to admit it was much improved, but, our egg yolks were hard. Maybe it’s a Canadian thing.
“EARLS KITCHEN AND BAR:” The one place we found worth recommending was a fairly modern sports-bar type place called “Earls.” We liked it so much we came back two more times. Our first night we had excellent Bar-B-Q Ribs. Patricia and Mary Ann loved the Hot Potato Salad while Don and I enjoyed the homemade Chili. Earls is a chain with dozens of locations in Western Canada from the Yukon to Calgary. They also have a few spots in Ontario and a few American locations, in Seattle, Denver and Scottsdale. We can see why the chain is growing so rapidly.
When they say that Victoria is the most British City outside of the British Isles, you can definitely include the food. I’m sure you’ve heard the old joke, “In Heaven the Managers are English and the Chefs are all French, while in Hell the Managers are all French and the Chefs are British,” except at Earls, of course.
GETTING BACK TO SEATTLE: Remember when you take the ferry it leaves Victoria at 6 PM and doesn’t get into Seattle until after 9 PM, so, be sure to eat before you go. One final tip on taking the ferry, make sure that all your luggage is on wheels. It’s a “bit of a walk” from your hotel to the ferry dock.
SNOQUALMIE FALLS: Snoqualmie Falls is both a geographic feature and a little town. One of the best hotels in Washington is located here, the Salish Lodge. Perched on the rocks overlooking the Snoqualmie River and its famous Falls, it is the perfect spot to take in all the area has to offer. We arrived about 11:30 PM, so it was too late to look around outside, but, inside, all the rooms overlook the Falls. Each has a balcony hanging out over the Falls so you have a spectacular view right out on your balcony. Every room has a fireplace with logs and tinder ready to go when lit by the guest. The entire experience was wonderful.
The only meals we ate at the lodge were Breakfasts and these were the best on our trip. Don said the Eggs Benedict were cooked to perfection, and the chef should give egg cooking lessons to his counterparts in Victoria.
After breakfast we were able to get a really good look at the Falls, which they proudly tell you is taller than Niagara. There is only one downside to staying at the Salish Lodge - because of the crashing water there is a fine mist in the air around the lodge at all times. Patricia said, “There is no such thing as a good hair day at the Salish Lodge.”
In the evening, after our day wine touring (reviewed earlier), we decided to try our luck at the local Indian Casino operated by (you guessed it) the Snoqualmie Tribe. We had dinner in the Casino buffet which was no better or worse than every other Indian Casino buffet you’ve ever experienced. They had a couple of specialty restaurants in the Casino, but, they were both closed as it was an out-of-season weeknight. There is no taxi service in Snoqualmie Falls, but, there are a couple of guys the Lodge calls on to drive folks back and forth to the Casino. The only problem with that is you have to specify when you want to leave.
Patricia and Mary Ann found the slot machines particularly unfriendly and while the dealers were nice enough, the cards didn’t seem to be falling in our favor at the Blackjack Table either. We decided to leave earlier than expected which caused a bit of a problem with our scheduled driver, but, the Lodge arranged for someone else to pick us up and take us back to the Lodge in time to have a nightcap by the roaring fire.
If you want to stay at the Salish Lodge, you’ll have to have paid reservations well in advance, but, we thought it was well worth the extra you’ll have to pay. The several Honeymoon couples who were staying there didn’t seem to mind that the little town offered no shopping to speak of.
OLYMPIA: Our Marriott Concierge had arranged for us to rent a van from Hertz to pick us up in nearby Issaquah and drop off in Portland at the end of the trip. We called Hertz and they picked us up at the Salish Lodge, luggage and all, and brought us to our waiting van on their lot. We can’t say enough about our Marriot Concierge, Margo Pine, and the folks at Hertz in Issaquah. They saved our trip.
Once we had our Van we drove back to Seattle and then south to the State Capitol, Olympia. We picked Olympia to stay the night because it was about half way to Cannon Beach, our next stop, and because it had a Phoenix Inn and Suites where we could get a nice suite at a reasonable price. As an added bonus they had a laundry room where we could refresh our wardrobes before the second half of the trip.
EATING IN OLYMPIA
The Phoenix Inn in Olympia is close to the State Capitol Building, so is a favorite of lobbyists attempting to influence the legislature. We also found it was about a block from the Marina.
THE BUDD BAY CAFÉ: We walked over to the waterfront and had a very nice lunch at the Budd Bay Café right on the water overlooking the Marina. Don had the Crab Casserole which he found excellent while I had the Fish and Chips made with fresh local Halibut. It was an excellent lunch in a very pleasant setting and we recommend it if you’re staying in Olympia, or just passing through.
GARDENERS SEAFOOD AND PASTA: Here’s a restaurant worth going out of your way.
When I prepare for a trip, I use the internet to try to locate a good restaurant wherever we plan to spend the night. There were the usual number of websites offering advice on Olympia food and, I thought, there were a lot of restaurants to choose from.
As with all these sites, you’re given the opportunity to read comments made by various patrons. They usually include a comment or two obviously planted by the owners raving about the food and one or two others, probably written by the competitors, saying it’s not worth the money. In Olympia, there are Vegan Restaurants, Organic Restaurants, All you Can Eat Restaurants. and Small Portion Restaurants, all of which we avoid. I was amused to find one that bragged “You will be welcome here even if you aren’t Gay, we’re very open minded.” After all of that I found Gardiners Seafood and Pasta, a local fixture for many years, happily across the street from our Hotel, at 111 Thurston Ave Northwest. I was struck by a comment on the site from a lady who said that she and her husband always came here for their anniversary - food with which to celebrate a happy occasion.
It’s a very small intimate place and reservations are strongly suggested. The food is really excellent, served in a very homey atmosphere which includes a roaring fireplace. Their specialties are in the name of the place, Pasta and Seafood. I had truly excellent Seafood Cannelloni and Patricia shared an order of Portabella Mushroom Ravioli with Mary Ann. We also had the best French Onion soup I’ve had in a long time.
ON THE ROAD TO THE OREGON COAST: You can get to Cannon Beach from Seattle by simply taking Interstate 5 to Portland, then turn to the right for about an hour and you’ll be pretty close to Cannon Beach. But, we wanted to drive along the coast, so we drove south on the 5 about 25 miles from Olympia and took Washington State Highway 6 West from Centralia. This route will take you through some wonderful little colorful towns and beautiful farm country.
One of the towns was named “Pe Ell.” According to Wikipedia the name came from the inability of the local Indians to pronounce the name of the founder, a Frenchman named Pierre. Now home to about 700 people, it had to contain more yard signs for a Senatorial candidate than any town twice its size. Everybody seemed to favor Dino Rossi who was running against long time Senator Patty Murray. Had the election been held in Pe Ell Rossi would have been the runaway winner. Actually, the only “Re-elect Murray” sign we saw on the whole trip was on a yacht anchored in the Olympia Harbor. Judging by Rossi’s popularity in the countryside, we assumed Murray was in trouble. It turned out in the election a month later, she wasn’t. I guess the Murray strongholds just weren’t on our itinerary.
Another little town name I liked was Lebam. A village really, with about 150 population, the name came from the reverse spelling of the name of the founders daughter, Mabel. I had hoped the name stemmed from the noise of a long ago 4th of July Firecracker set off by the aforementioned Pierre of Pe Ell – no such luck. But, you have to ask yourself why the founder didn’t call the town “Mabel” if he wanted to honor his daughter.
Hearing all these humorous town names, one wonders if there is a “George,” Washington, and indeed there is - on Interstate 90 about half way between Seattle and Spokane. I suppose they sell a lot more “George” t-shirts than either “Pe Ell” or “Lebam” t-shirts in Washington.
After an hour or more on Highway 6 we came to the junction with Highway 101, at Raymond. You have a choice here, you can either turn south and proceed in a straight line to the Oregon border, or you can proceed on 101 along the coast. We took the Coast Route. When you get to the town of South Bend, the Highway turns to the south and takes you along Willapa Bay and the Willapa National Wildlife refuge. The weather as you would expect along the Washington/Oregon Coast was overcast and drizzling rain. We thought we might see some wildlife of some sort, but, no such luck. Except for a few birds that looked like ordinary sea gulls to me nothing stirred as we passed. It’s beautiful and rustic, though, if that’s your thing.
After an hour or so you’ll come to the cliffs overlooking the joining of the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean. Now that’s a sight to see. Across the river, on the Oregon side, you’ll see the town of Astoria seemingly clinging to the cliff on the other side. The spectacular Astoria Megler Bridge takes you to the Oregon side.
This area was visited by Lewis and Clark during their expedition and the town was named for John Jacob Astor whose fur trading company opened up the area. Now home to about 10,000 folks, many of them artists, the town has had a bit of a rejuvenation thanks to the visitors brought by cruise ships which for the past few years have been stopping in Astoria’s deep water port.
EATING IN ASTORIA: We were hungry and decided to have lunch here before going south to Cannon Beach. We turned on to highway 30 that leads to town center and stumbled on Stephanie’s Cabin Restaurant. It’s famed for seafood, but, we just wanted a sandwich. It turned out to be a very good sandwich indeed and you also have a view of the River and the bridge from almost every table. I had a great Beef Dip Sandwich, Patricia and Mary Ann shared a BLT and Don had Meatloaf. We all agreed they were the best sandwiches we had on the whole trip. We thought the bread was fresh made, the portions generous and the check was reasonable. It’s worth a stop if you’re in Astoria, driving or cruising.
DRIVING THE NORTHERN OREGON COAST: From Washington to California along the Oregon Coast is just under 200 miles, from Astoria on the North to Florence on the South, the Oregon Coast communities send a siren song to Californians to vacation there. But, to the consternation of the natives, the Californians are not just coming to vacation, but to stay and escape California’s confiscatory taxes. In droves they bought property along the coast, driving up home prices and snarling traffic. The recession slowed the tide, but, didn’t stop it.
There’s no sales tax in Liberal Oregon (always looking out for the “little” guy) and there’s a very modest fee for auto registration. The really tax-savvy folks live in Vancouver, Washington across the river from Portland. Living in Washington they have no state income tax and they cross the state line to do their shopping in Oregon. There’s always someone who discovers how to beat the Politicians best laid plans.
Our Friends Gregg and Laura Freedman were two of those who found the Oregon Coast irresistible. A couple of years ago a man knocked on their door in Sierra Madre, California and offered them a lot of money for their house. Gregg, a real estate appraiser by trade, knew a good deal when he saw one. They had been discussing a move, as do almost all Californians; their daughter was in college and the “Nest would soon be empty.” They sold the house, went to Cannon Beach to look and found what they wanted right away. Just like that, a pair of USC fans were hanging out their “Go Trojans” flag in Oregon Duck territory.
Gregg is fortunate he can operate most of his business on the phone and internet, and the flight from Portland to Los Angeles is only a couple of hours when he needs to make a personal inspection or appear in court. We still have dinner occasionally when they come down for a U.S.C. home game and we promised to visit when we came north.
We made plans to visit them in Cannon Beach, but it turned out they were going to be in California on the days we were going to be Oregon. We decided to stay in Cannon Beach anyway, and I’m glad we did.
Leaving Astoria and continuing south on Highway 101 for 15 miles or so you arrive in Seaside a beautiful little town of about 10,000 people. They have super markets, a mall and a Rotary Club to support the needs of the 1,600 Cannon Beach residents another 6 miles to the south.
CANNON BEACH: Cannon Beach is rated by some magazine as the “7th Best Beach” in the world, according to the local Chamber of Commerce. It didn’t say what the criteria were, but it‘s a beautiful little place. The weather was cool, overcast and “drizzly” when we arrived and nothing changed much during the 24 hours we were there. There are lots of cute little places to shop on the “main drag,” Hemlock Street. We found a congenial pub, Bill’s Tavern and Brew House, where Don and I could have a beer while our wives surveyed the shops.
We were booked into a little Beach Hotel called the Courtyard. It was comfortable but our room was stuffy. Unfortunately, the room had only one window, so the only way we could gain any cross ventilation was to open the door. They provide a complimentary breakfast at a related hotel a block up the street. One final drawback, for me, was there was no elevator to take us up to our 2nd floor room. Dragging luggage up a narrow stairway was no problem for me 30 years ago, but, today, it’s not fun.
There are several excellent restaurants in Cannon Beach, but, they are almost all small and require reservations well in advance. We arrived on a Friday along with lots of other folks coming over from Portland for the weekend, and couldn’t get a reservation at any of the good restaurants recommended by the Freedmans. We finally selected a place for dinner based on nothing more than nearby parking. Bad decision!
Here is the new “Hall’s Law” for finding a place to eat:
“Don’t be too lazy to walk a block or two to a decent restaurant.”
The next morning we drove to the Freedman’s home – Trojan Flag flapping in the breeze out front. It’s a lovely place and the neighbors seemed very tolerant of the enemy in their midst.
The Drive to Portland from the coast is a straight shot on Highway 26, entered midway between Seaside and Cannon Beach it takes you 80 miles to Interstate 5 in the heart of Greater Portland.
GETTING AROUND IN GREATER PORTLAND
My Daughter and Son-in-law, Julie and Scott Whitmer and our Grandson Drew live in the little community of Tualatin south of Portland. We stayed in nearby Lake Oswego at the Phoenix Inn and Suites, same chain as our Olympia hotel.
I’ve been in Seattle and Portland numerous times and I always wondered that none of the streets went North or South. They always go diagonally, Southwest or Northeast –at least that’s what I thought.
I was born in Bakersfield where the “numbered” streets all went East and West and the “Letter” streets went North and South. So if you lived, as I did near the corner of 8th and H streets, you knew exactly how to get to my Dad’s business at 18th and Q. the numbered streets crossed across U.S. Highway 99 to East Bakersfield so any address on East 18th Street was on “the other side of town.”
Many towns I’ve visited have the same layout: Lubbock, Texas for example. Even New York City was laid out like this, with the “Letter Streets” replaced with Avenues. So if you are at 3rd Avenue and E. 50th Street you know exactly how to get to 6th avenue and W. 56th Street, and you know exactly how long it will take you to get there, too. You also know that number streets east of 5th Avenue are designated as “East” and west of it are designated “West”. So you also know which direction you are walking.
But as I discovered when I tried to find Julie’s house, all the streets in her neighborhood are designated as SW no matter which way they run. The SW shows which quadrant of the Portland area you’re in, in this case southwest of the City Center. So when you’re in Portland the only thing you know from the street labeling is that you’re within a 20 or 30 square mile area. Thanks for the help, Portland Planners.
There is indeed a lake in Lake Oswego, a very upscale place to live. There are quite a few hotels and Restaurants in Lake Oswego, too and plenty of shopping opportunities down by the Lake. We drove to an excellent Shopping Center, Washington Square, in nearby Tigard where we shopped “till we dropped.” Don and I “dropped” a lot sooner than Patricia and Mary Ann did, but we found a nice place to sit and wait. A few weeks after our visit, Daughter Julie accepted a position in the Human Resources Department at Macy’s in Washington Square, so next time we go we may get a discount.
On Sunday it had been suggested that we drive downtown to the Portland City Grill for lunch. Things always seem to be happening in downtown Portland and we stumbled into the start of the Portland Marathon. The last time we were here it was the “Walk for Aids” taking up all the space. The Portland City Grill is located on the top floor of a bank building and is reputed to be the best “view” in Portland. The Bank Building is known locally as “The Big Pink” because of its unmistakable paint job. We finally found a place to park and hoofed it to the Big Pink, up the elevators 43 stories to the Portland City Grill only to find it doesn’t open until dinner hour on Sundays. We can attest the view is indeed spectacular.
We also went to the Bridgeport Mall, an outdoor mall with a terrific playground. The “Guys” Don, Frank, Scott and Drew were drawn to the playground while the Gals found lots of stores to explore.
EATING IN LAKE OSWEGO: When not eating at our daughter and son-in-law’s house, (my favorite place to eat in the area), they take us to some dandy restaurants they’ve discovered. This time we had dinner at Manzana Rotisserie on the Lake. Although the Lake had been drained for its periodic cleaning, the restaurant was busy. We found the food to be excellent. I had terrific Prime Rib while Scott had the Fish Tacos which he shared with us all. They were excellent too.
We also ate at a couple of Chains, Chevy’s near our hotel where you can always count on good Mexican food and P. F. Changs in the Bridgeport Mall, the only Chinese Restaurants in the world that Patricia likes. For good reason, we always enjoy it.
GOING HOME: We finally turned in our Van at the Portland Airport and got direct flights home on Monday - ours to Burbank and the Sadons to Orange County.
We look forward to going back to the Washington Wine Country, exploring further south on the Oregon Coast and of course extensive visits with our grandson.