San Diego, Continued

In the last few weeks I have blogged about our two visits to San Diego this year, and there is still more to tell; including our amazing Airbnb experiences and a visit to the waterfront area.

On our most recent visit we stayed at a delightful Airbnb studio located in the North Park neighborhood. Our host, Rick, is warm, welcoming and attentive to every detail. He responds quickly to questions and makes sure that everything is just right. The studio is perfectly comfortable, sparkling clean and has one of the most comfortable beds I have ever slept on!

My husband, thetravelsketcher, painted the picture above of the front patio.

Restaurants and shops are within walking distance (figure two blocks to several miles). Rick left many snacks for us including some delicious fresh peaches, an inviting Sauvignon Blanc, and other tasty treats.

I highly recommend Rick’s bungalow, he is a delightful host and even gave us a ride to the airport!

In January we stayed at Waterhaven in the Hillcrest neighborhood which is also a private studio in a quiet neighborhood. Bruce and Grant are kind and generous hosts and welcomed us with wine, home-baked cookies and much more. Their backyard has a beautiful koi pond and many places to sit to enjoy the peaceful, serene setting.

We felt completely at home here and throughly enjoyed the gorgeous setting. This studio is also perfectly clean, quiet, comfortable and has many special touches. It was my birthday weekend when we visited and the hosts serenaded me at their grand piano with a lively rendition of Happy Birthday!

We keep in touch with Bruce and Grant and even had lunch with them on our last visit to San Diego. We will connect with Rick again on our next visit there. And that, right there, is what makes Airbnb so special. We have stayed at many Airbnb locations around the world and have had some amazing experiences. I can’t say that about any of the hotels we have stayed in! Check out my previous blog posts for more information about our many Airbnb experiences.

I should say that I am not connected with Airbnb in anyway whatsoever; I’m just a fan. We have had a few, hmm, not so great experiences with Airbnb. So to prevent that from happening to you, here ares a few tips to be sure you have also have a great experience:

1. Read the reviews; if there are none; think hard before booking.

2. Book in advance to get the best properties and locations.

3. Ask questions of your host, if they are slow in replying, think twice about booking.

Moving on; a walk along the waterfront will take you past the The Midway Museum. The USS Midway was active for 47 years, and has visited more ports than most of us will see in our lifetimes. This ship is HUGE and is a great place for kids and families to visit.

There are many other areas along the waterfront to visit including shops and restaurants.

The beautiful, cerulean skies of San Diego.

San Diego is a warm, welcoming, beautiful place to visit, with so much to offer. I have barely scratched the surface with my posts. Since my sister and family live there now, I may be spending more time there in the future. 🙂

As always, please leave a comment with your favorite activities in San Diego.

Ramble at Gold Creek Pond

I had intended to write more about San Diego this week, but life has a way of interrupting our plans and intentions, c’est la vie. Instead, I will post a short blog about a recent stroll we took around Gold Creek Pond, and next week I’ll continue writing about San Diego.

Gold Creek Pond is located in the Snoqualmie Pass region of Washington State. This gentle, paved, one mile loop is wheelchair friendly and offers some spectacular views of the area.

We went a few weeks ago just as the autumn colors were beginning to show. There are many places to sit and enjoy the scenery and the beautiful views.

The path is a bit narrow in a few areas, as shown in the photo below, which could be a bit tricky for some wheelchair users. But for the most part, it seems to be quite accessible.

Not far from the parking area is the trailhead for Gold Creek Trail 1314, another hike for another day.

I hope you enjoyed this short post. Check back next week when I will write more about San Diego.

Sunny San Diego

Every winter my husband and I get away from the grey and gloomy weather of the Pacific Northwest for a short vacation in the sun, this past winter, we chose San Diego for our destination. This was my first visit there and I quickly realized why so many of my family members and friends love the city. With warmth and sunshine (an average of 266 sunny days each year) what’s not to like? This beautiful city has much to offer in addition to the paradisiacal weather.

I had heard quite a lot about Balboa Park, so this was our first stop. This 1,200 acre park is packed with a multitude of activities. We started at the Spanish Village Art Center. This area is filled with small shops run by local artists. There are a wide variety of hand crafted items including pottery, jewelry, and many paintings in different mediums.

The Botanical Building and Lily Pond is a popular site in the park. It was built for the 1915 – 1916 Exposition and is one of the largest lath structures in the world.

Inside there are a wide variety of beautiful plants and flowers.

Not far from the Botanical Building is the Timken Museum of Fine Art. This free museum opened in 1965 and houses the private collections of the Timken family and the Putnam sisters. Is has a unique collection of European and American art.

Also in the park you will find the Japanese Friendship Gardens. This beautiful, 12 acre garden opened in 1991 with the purpose of educating people about Japanese culture.

The park is filled with many more interesting sites including cultural activities, the famous San Diego Zoo, museums, trails and so much more. I highly recommend a visit to the park.

Coronado Island is an interesting place to visit. The famous hotel is probably the most well known site in the area, but there are many other sites and activities including water sports and shopping.

We found a little French bistro there called Chez Loma which has fabulous food.

You will find many other great restaurants in San Diego including Encontro in North Park. They have great food and a wide selection of beers on tap. I love the sign right by the front door.

Et Voila Bistro also in North Park is another great restaurant. Nous avons mange beignet d’haricot verts, et beignet de champignons, c’est delicieux!

We had another delicious meal at Buon Appetito in Little Italy. The risotto was yummy.

We made another trip to San Diego a few weeks ago to attend our niece’s wedding. She moved to the city well over ten years ago to attend law school, and has made the city her home. My sister and other niece recently moved there as well. With other family members there for the wedding, we had fun filled and special time together. It was hard to say goodbye, but I can see many more trips to San Diego in the near future.

Check back next week when I will write more about this beautiful city and the surrounding area, including our amazing Airbnbs hosts and experiences.

As always, please leave a comment with your favorite activities in San Diego.

Wishing you happy and adventurous travels.

Rock Canyon Vineyards

A winery tour and tasting is always a great way to spend an afternoon. However, it’s hard to top a tour and tasting shared with loved ones in a beautiful, rustic setting. Add to that some remarkable wines, rescued animals and a skinny-dipping three year old, and you have a perfect afternoon! That is exactly how we spent last Monday afternoon in Alpine, CA to celebrate our dear sister’s birthday. The winery is Rock Canyon Vineyards and Tim, owner and winemaker, was our host.

When we arrived, we were greeted by an enthusiastic chorus of dogs who escorted us through our tour and tasting. Our first stop was the barrel room where we sampled the delicious wines. Winemaker Tim makes red wines, we learned that it is too hot in that area to grow white wine grapes. First we tasted the Dos En Uno, a delicious, full bodied red blend that goes down way too easy. We also tasted a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Merlot and an amazing Zinfandel that is jammy and full of fruit. The final flourish was a rich port that would pair perfectly with dark chocolate. Tim is generous with the pours and offers seconds and thirds if needed to be sure you get the full effect.

Our next stop was where the newly picked grapes were placed in large vats to begin their journey into wine. Tim had been up at 4 am that morning picking grapes, and he gave us a taste of the juice from the fresh harvest. It was a hit with everyone including the kids in our group.

Our next stop was to visit the rescued animals. Glasses in hand, we met donkeys, Brutus the pig, and three beautiful horses.

Tim also has an eclectic collection of interesting items including a London taxi cab, an old west style wagon, many signs and plaques, a horseshoe coat hanger and much more.

At this point he and the dogs escorted us to a covered area by the pool where we spent the rest of the afternoon with some more wine and a delicious picnic.

Tours at Rock Canyon are by appointment only, the link at the beginning of this blog has the information for scheduling a tour.

I think it’s safe for me to say that everyone in my family would recommend a visit to this winery, including the youngest member of our group, who immensely enjoyed skinny-dipping in the pool.

View From Above

Paine Field in Everett, WA, opened for commercial flights earlier this year, and oh my, it is quite a swanky place to hang out before a flight! The passenger terminal is gorgeous and feels like you’re in a private airline lounge.

With fire places at both ends, fresh flowers, over stuffed couches, comfortable chairs, a bar, restaurant, who needs the airline lounges?

We flew from Paine Field to San Diego with my sister and family (pictured above) to attend our niece’s wedding. It was a good day for flying and I got some great photos of Western Washington State once we were in the air.

The view above is of the south end of Whidbey Island and the Harbour Pointe neighborhood of Mukilteo.

Looking down at Seattle, Lake Washington, Lake Union and much more from Alaska flight 2676.

The view of Bellevue, Seattle, Lake Washington, Puget Sound, both floating bridges and much more.

Mount Saint Helens and Spirit Lake.

I hope you enjoyed this short blog. I am on vacation and am taking some much needed time away from the hectic pace of life to spend time with family. Check back next week when I will write about San Diego.

Happy travels!

Hikes, Rambles and Strolls

My husband and I have hiked a wide variety of trails in our 32 years of marriage. A few of our favorites are Golden Canyon in Death Valley, Fortynine Palms in Joshua Tree National Park, and Loch Brora in Northern Scotland. But our favorite place to hike is close to home, and includes almost any of the trails you’ll find in western Washington.

The Mountain Loop Highway is a 52 mile highway offering a variety of hikes along the way, as well as campgrounds. One of our absolute favorite hikes in this area is Heather Lake. This 4.2 mile round trip hike has an elevation gain of approximately 1,000 feet. The lake is located in a basin and offers stunning views of Mt. Pilchuck.

Another one of our favorites is Lake Dorothy, and is one of the first hikes we took together after we were married. This is a 9 mile round trip trail with 2,000 feet elevation gain. It is rated as a difficult hike, but the lake is beautiful and worth the effort.

When we first hiked this trail, we planned to stay for the afternoon. The area seemed to be deserted as we were setting up our picnic spot. However, when we opened a bottle of wine, and the pop of the cork echoed through the silence, several heads popped up and looked in our direction. One man said “you can’t open a bottle of wine up here without people noticing!”

Lake Evan and Boardman Lake is a nice hike for families. It is an easy, 0.8 mile hike with just 300 feet elevation gain. We hiked this trail years ago with some friends who were visiting from Florida. Immediately after arriving at Lake Boardman for a picnic, one of the kids fell into the lake. Luckily, it was a warm summer day.

Mount Catherine on Snoqualmie Pass is another beautiful hike. We hiked this trail a few years ago with my sister and her family. You’ll climb 1,330 feet in just 1.5 miles, so it’s not for everyone, but it offers stunning views of the area at the top.

Probably one of the most popular and heavily trafficked hikes is Lake Twenty Two. We drove past the trailhead early one morning recently and noticed that the parking lot was completely full, and people were looking for parking spots on the highway. We chatted with a ranger about this hike, and she said that they refer to it as “Lake Twenty Poo” since the outhouse is quite messy after a long weekend. I’ll pass on this one.

In recent years, we have had to tone down the difficulty of our hikes due to arthritic knees and hips, but we try to keep moving and enjoy easier hikes with less elevation gain. This past weekend we had planned to hike to Lake Boardman, but the road was too rough for our car. So we went back to the ranger station to look for other options. Lake Independence was suggested, so off we went. This trail was described as a gentle stroll though an old growth forest; well, it was probably the toughest hike I have ever been on! I felt like I was climbing the entire time. Climbing up and over rock, roots, and stumps, it was tough! I gave up after 45 minutes. My husband persevered and made it to the Lake.

Lake Coal is not far from the Lake Independence trailhead, and is a short, gentle stroll to get to the lake, so we went there for a picnic.

The drive up to the lakes on Forest Road 4060 offers stunning views of the surrounding area.

I hope you enjoyed this post and look forward to hearing about your favorite hikes in western Washington, or anywhere for that matter! As always, please leave a comment.

Happy hiking!

The Cotswolds

The Cotswolds, the beautiful English countryside. It conjures up thoughts of lush, green rolling hills, picnics, punting, big floppy hats, beautiful manor houses, sheep, quaint idyllic villages, pubs and so much more. The beauty of the countryside will take your breath away.

The Cotswolds is one of the largest areas in England covering 787 square miles and borders Warwickshire, Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire. Located in southwest and south central England, this area is known for it’s rolling hills, meadows, valleys and quaint villages. In 1966, it received an AONB award, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. And it is easy to see why, it truly is a gorgeous place.

Burton-on-the-Water, Stow-on-the-Wold, Woodstock and The Slaughters were on our itinerary when we visited the area. Walking through these towns is like taking a step back in time. The original buildings have been amazingly preserved and are very interesting to see.

Burton-on-the Water is known as the Venice of the Cotswolds with it’s canals and narrow bridges, and is often voted one of the prettiest villages in England. Stow-on-the-Wold is a market town, located at the top of Stow Hill, it is the highest of the villages in the Cotswolds. Woodstock is the birthplace of Winston Churchill. The Slaughters is another charming old village to wander through and enjoy the scenery. All of these villages have much to do and see including parks, gardens, manor houses, shopping, good pubs and museums.

It was eerily quiet when we visited this old church and graveyard.

Bath Spa is one of the largest towns in the Cotswolds and is another lovely place to visit. I have written about this town on several occasions. Check out my previous posts on Bath.

I suggest renting a car when visiting the Cotswolds since many of the small villages are not easily accessible by bus or train. You will also find a wide variety of accommodations in the area. The quintessential bed and breakfast is my preferred place to stay in the UK. The full English breakfast will keep you going all day.

Travel enriches our lives in so many ways. Your mind will be opened by exploring other countries and cultures, and you may gain an appreciation for different values and beliefs. Whatever your reason for traveling, always be a polite and considerate guest when visiting. As my grandmother used to say, you get more flies with honey than with vinegar!

Happy travels!