Category Archives: Hotels and Other Lodging

Description of hotels, bed & breakfasts or any other type of lodging

The Fairmont Waterfront in Vancouver, British Columbia

Last week I had the pleasure of spending a night (hosted) at this luxury hotel. From my window I had a beautiful view of the harbor where the cruise ships dock. In fact the hotel even has an underground walkway that connects to the Cruise Ship Terminal. The room spelled comfort and caring from top to bottom.

I later learned that a recent $12 million renovation resulted in the hotel’s fresh, contemporary look. Besides going the extra mile to create 368 guestrooms fit for royalty, their eatery and lounge also benefitted from those dollars. Their buffet breakfast offers every item you’ve ever thought of eating in the morning. Look for honey and herbs that come from right on the property.

Vancouver’s Mayor, Gregor Robertson, is on a quest to make his city the “greenest” by the year 2020. The Fairmont Waterfront already has a head start with their organic rooftop herb garden and apiaries. The honey makes its way into chocolate desserts and cocktails. A Bee Butler provides complimentary tours of the bee activity and the gardens everyday. The hotel’s chef, Dana Hauser, shares a passion for sustainable culinary practices and has developed close relationships with local farmers and purveyors who support her views.

One of my all time favorites, Dungeness crab plays a signature role at the ARC restaurant. Hormone-free meat, artisan cheeses and free range eggs also appear on the menu. Kids five and under eat free, while those six to 12 are half price.

For a great central location and a pampered experience I highly recommend the Fairmont Waterfront.

My Favorite Trips of 2013

My friend and fellow travel writer, Sue Frause, wrote a summary of where she went in 2013 and what she recommended for the Examiner.com. I thought it was such a good idea that I’m doing it, too. All these trips came about because of writing assignments so most of my lodging and meals were complimentary, but that has not influenced my opinion. Here are some of the places I visited this year:

Alderbrook Resort & Spa (www.alderbrookresort.com)
Union, Washington

As I sat in the lobby by the blazing fire, I couldn’t help but think “what a great place to set a murder mystery.” Probably because I have read ones that have similar scenes. The setting in Union, Washington, is rural, yet serene. The lodge snuggles up against Hood Canal and the experience was almost surreal, it was so pleasant.

An Oregon reporter called Alderbrook the best lodge on the west side of Puget Sound. It’s outfitted with a wonderful spa, a gourmet restaurant and even has its own boat. If you want to rent a cottage, you can. They also have pet-friendly rooms. Whatever you choose to do, I hope you’ll have as memorable a time as I did.

White Pass
Washington

White Pass is one of our smaller places to engage in snow sports, but still beautiful with that crisp, clear mountain air and lots of snow. I attended the White Pass Winter Carnival with two other travel writers and wrote about it here for Northwest Travel Magazine. This event has been going on for years and even though I’m a native Washingtonian, I’d never heard of it before. The centerpiece of the event is a life-sized snow castle you can tour. At night a torchlight parade and fireworks light up the sky.

I also got to snowshoe for the first time on this trip. That’s now my new favorite snow sport. I’m not a skier or a snowboarder, but I do love just being in the mountains.

Sun Valley
Idaho

I had no idea what I’d been missing until this first visit. Sun Valley encompasses all my favorites in a compact little bundle – Lots of boutiques, many of which fall into the thrift category like the Gold Mine; all kinds of restaurants, snow and a Film Festival. Most of it is walkable, but if you’re tired or your destination seems a little far, the bus service is all free. Benches line the streets so you can sit and rest whenever you like.

I got to stay in the beautiful boutique hotel, Knob Hill Inn, a great location just on the edge of town. I woke up each morning to a panoramic view of the mountains. It was also next door to a cemetery, but Ernest Hemingway was buried there making that parcel of land another highlight of the trip.
Vancouver Island
British Columbia

Oh my gosh, I had no idea how gorgeous this locale could be. I’d only set foot in Victoria, the capitol, previously. This time, an individual press trip for a couple of stories I’d been assigned for Northwest Travel, had me taking the B.C. Ferry from Tsawwassen to Nanaimo. Those vessels don’t have far to go to become cruise-ship size. They even have a gift shop onboard.

The first night I had the rare and unique pleasure of staying in one of the Free Spirit Spheres in Qualicum Beach. These spheres, suspended between trees, literally give you a taste of heaven because you’re right up there next to it. The next day I fell in love with the small seaside town of Cowichan Bay and returned there two more times on this trip.

On my last night I got to sleep in a very well furnished yurt at Merridale Ciderworks. It had a large clawfoot tub not that far from the bed. And the restaurant at Merridale had fantastic food and of course, very tasty cider. I’d return in a heartbeat.

More on my 2013 trips next time.

Farm Tour On Tap

Farm fresh produce and fall just seem to go together like
comfortable shoes. On October 5 and 6 thirteen Skagit Valley Farms invite you
to visit and discover where your food comes from. The Skagit Valley Festival of
Farms
runs from 10 a.m.-4p.m. each day with opportunities to  visit educational exhibits, take farm tours, view gardening demonstrations, taste mouth-watering samples, let your kids try farm activities and everyone can navigate corn mazes.
Best of all, the basic tour is FREE. Each stop may also have
prepared food or the produce, meat, dairy products, etc. that they are known
for available for purchase.

Here’s a brief preview of what you’ll discover on this tour.

At Taylor Shellfish on Chuckanut Drive in Bow, Wash.,
you’ll meet shellfish farmers, watch oyster shucking demonstrations, urge crabs
along in their own races, build a fairy house on the beach, see the world’s
only lighthouse made of oyster shells and taste steamed Manila clams or
barbequed Pacific oysters.

Stop by Samish Bay Cheese in Bow and taste the phenomenal Arugula Ladysmith cheese that Roger makes.

At Sakuma Bros. Farms in Burlington, take a tractor-pulled
wagon ride, find out what a raspberry machine is, take part in a pie eating
contest and sample fresh berries, chips and salsa made with locally grown
produce and honey from Belleville Honey Company.

Although the Tulip Festival has come and gone for this year, you can still find out all
about this beautiful flower at RoozenGaarde in Mount Vernon. Gather ideas from the experts on layouts and plantings that you can do in your own landscape. Let the
children try the scavenger hunt and before you leave, shop for bulbs and gardening tools.

Wineries, dairies, cattle ranches, produce farms and more complete the tour.

There’s so much to see you might want to spend the weekend.
I highly recommend Candlewood Suites in Burlington
as a comfortable option. Rooms have full kitchens so you can bring back your
bounty and eat it freshly cooked or store it in a full-size refrigerator.

 

Have a Blast at Run of the River in Leavenworth

 

This beautiful, luxurious bed and breakfast has to be one of the few places where once you land, you never want to leave. We spent two nights there not long ago and met a guest at breakfast who spent her days reading, sewing and just enjoying all that Run of the River had to offer. She seemed reluctant to leave in the evening to go into town for dinner and to meet family members.

For enjoying the scenery, you have your choice of sitting on your deck or relaxing on deck chairs placed in the grass on the property. Then if you’re patient you’ll spot wildlife. We spent a good part of one evening watching a doe and her two fawns drink from the creek below our balcony. What a pleasure and change from the busyness and traffic congestion most of us experience at home.

 

The next morning we discovered at breakfast that other guests had seen a cougar, a bear and a raccoon picking cherries high up in a cherry tree.

The endless chi cha cha and chirping of various birds, the lush greenery and the creek that reflected mirror stillness all make you feel like you’ve landed in nature’s wonderland. Of course, every once in awhile you need sustenance.

 

That’s what the morning breakfasts provide. Five course meals that nobody can ever finish, but they are filled with healthy, local, tasty ingredients. Everything is made fresh in the morning from the blended fruit juices to the quiches. Then if you need an afternoon snack or a dessert after your dinner, you’ll find something sweet and delicious (and different everyday) in the dining area to take to your room.

 

Run of the River seems perfect for everyone – from those wanting to get away and relax to honeymooners from all over the globe (we met two from London).

Disclaimer:  Run of the River hosted my stay.

A Nod to Knob Hill in Ketchum, Idaho

In March I attended the beginning of the Sun Valley Film Festival for a writing assignment. Green Rubino, a public relations firm in Seattle, was kind enough to find me lodging at Knob Hill. Before my flight I checked out Knob Hill Inn on Tripadvisor.com. Almost every reviewer gave the hotel five stars. Everyone, but one gentleman who complained that it was next door to a cemetery. Those people won’t be partying and keep you up at night so I didn’t really understand his objection. Besides it’s a very historic cemetery where Ernest Hemingway is buried.

View from my hotel window in Sun Valley.

 

What a beautiful home away from home. The location, just outside downtown proper, made for quiet nights.

This boutique property houses 29 lovely rooms – all renovated in a chateau-style architecture last November. From the TVs to the bedding and even the custom furniture, everything matched the Sun Valley theme. And do you know how they got rid of the heavy European pieces purchased by the previous owner? They held a yard sale and sold it to the community.

 

And the staff – well if you wore socks, Knob Hill employees would knock them off with their superior service. They call it European charm. I call it rare and wonderful. From housekeeping to the front desk to the shuttle drivers, everyone went out of their way to make all the guests feel special. One afternoon while exploring the downtown shops I heard my name called. It was one of the hotel shuttle drivers asking me if I wanted a ride anywhere. 

I think Rick Steves was on to something when he referred to Idahoans as “freakishly friendly.”

Disclaimer:  Knob Hill hosted my stay.

“Exploring Washington’s Backroads” Paints a Perfect Picture

John Deviny, author of “Exploring Washington’s Backroads,” was kind enough to give me a copy of this most intriguing book. It’s a short, concise volume packed with trips throughout our state that anyone, traveler or local, would enjoy. Photos on every page just make the enticement more alluring. Deviny has divided the state into what her calls “Backroad Trips,” 17 of them to be exact.

View from Skamania Lodge in the Columbia Gorge, which is also mentioned in the book.

Each of the trips describes the general location, “Sights and Scenes” not to miss and a route to follow that truly depicts the culture and personality of the area. For example, “Backroad Trip 2” loops you through the Black Hills of the Puget Sound region in Thurston and Grays Harbor counties. In our Capitol, Olympia, you begin the journey and then drive through forested hills above the Chehalis and Black River plains through old timber towns and quaint businesses. Be sure to investigate the magical Mima Mounds.

You visit towns like McCleary, which actually holds a Bear Festival (July 12-14, 2013), and where the door factory is still in business wafting off the smell of sawdust to remind you it’s a mill town.

Each trip holds surprises and new information (even to me) so when you’re ready to discover small-town Washington, I urge you to order this book, pile the family in your car and head on down the road. You’ll be glad you did.

Deviny advises you to explore on your own, beyond what he describes in his book, “A good road trip is an art form, and the open road is your canvas.”

Soap Lake, also mentioned in the book, has a new sundial.

Get Into Soap Lake

As you might imagine, Soap Lake is a body of water, but it is also a town of 1,500 in Eastern Washington. I’m pretty sure they all know each other, because while we enjoyed a tasty restaurant dinner there at Don’s everybody else in the eatery recognized each other and chatted with them.

Soap Lake and the newly installed sun dial sculpture.

 

Soap Lake was formed by a mammoth waterfall that eroded basalt rock into what is now Dry Falls. When the waters of the last big flood receded, it left the mineral-rich lake. More than 15 minerals fill the lake, some say giving it extraordinary healing powers. Soaking in the lake water and spreading the lake mud over hands, arms and faces to facilitate healing was done by indigenous people, settlers and is still done today.

A list of all the mineral Soap Lake contains.

The name, Soap Lake, seemed appropriate because of the foamy ridges that formed on the beach on windy days. Besides the lake itself, local spas offer a Soap Lake experience where you can soak in lake-filled tubs. (Although a broken pipe has stopped that temporarily, it will soon be fixed.)

From www.soaplakewa.com:  Some day, Soap Lake will be discovered by the rich and famous. They’ll build a fabulous resort and take advantage of this absolutely one-of-a-kind mineral lake. They’ll hear about Soap Lake and its remarkable history. They’ll swim in the water and lie in the sun and know they have found a place that nourishes their soul as well as their bodies. They’ll be drawn back year-after-year until they decide to stay for the rest of their lives.

If you aren’t rich or famous, visit soon, before the price goes up. If you are rich and famous, we’ve been waiting for you.

Notaras Lodge, a very fine place to stay.

Besides relaxing in the sun, Soap Lake has lots of activities throughout the year like Winterfest, the second weekend of December, with a juried art show, art sale, crafts and music. Lava Run to the Sun is a motorcycle rally in late July and the Soap Lake Box Derby takes place over Memorial Day Weekend.

Boise’s World Center for Birds of Prey: An Awe-Inspiring Experience

Lately I’ve been traveling quite a bit in the Northwest for travel writing assignments and my most recent journey took me to Boise, Idaho.

Who I slept with at Hotel 43 in Boise.

Boise is home to the World Center for Birds of Prey, a place like no other I’ve experienced and unique in the world. Birds of prey portray grace and confidence to the extent that it reminds us all that nature is in charge. Daily tours and live bird presentations here provide visitors an up close and unforgettable encounter with birds of prey. The facility showcases a California Condor exhibit, an interpretive trail with a stunning panoramic view of Boise, interactive exhibits (lots for children) and outdoor flight shows in the fall.

The Peregrine Fund, headquartered here, is a non-profit dedicated to saving birds of prey from extinction. Throughout the world these birds are threatened by shooting, poisoning and loss of habitat. A 30-year effort successfully removed the Peregrine Falcons from the endangered list. Now they are trying to help other birds of prey.

This is Wally, an Eurasian Eagle Owl in training. Notice his markings resember that of a tiger.

 

Endangered birds are raised here and released to their natural habitats.

The Falconry Archives, in a separate building, honors falcons through art. Of special note is the Arab Wing, paid for by the United Arab Emirates. Since the 1200’s Arabs have hunted with falcons. An exhibit highlights bird hoods so ornate you wonder how many hours of work it took to make them. My guide likened them to fishing flies.  

The Center is very accessible and all on one level. Plan to bring a lunch and use one of the courtyard picnic tables. You’ll not find a better view.

Kids can try on different birds of prey' wings like this one.

I highly recommend this as a must see on your bucket list. I didn’t know about it until I visited Boise, but I’m sure glad that I did.

Port Ludlow’s Fireside Restaurant Does the Kid’s Menu Right

What do you do when the kid’s menu at your restaurant just isn’t cutting it with the children you’re serving?

You could change the offerings to what you think kids would like, but how accurate will that be? Or you could create an event where children actually choose what they want on the menu. That’s precisely what happened at The Fireside at The Resort at Port Ludlow in Port Ludlow, Wash.

A plea was sent out to find children interested in taking part in a “Tasting Event” just for them. The judging panel was made up of five children representing ages 5-10. Each judge donned an authentic chef jacket, which they were allowed to keep, before embarking on their tastings.

Rose Peterson showing off the new kid's menu she helped create.

Rose Peterson, who was seven years old when she participated, and the other judges tasted and critiqued a variety of menu items and voted for their favorites. Each child then selected one menu item that would be named after him or her.

Liza’s house noodles with garlic bread, Taylor’s tenderloin steak, Journey’s banana split, Megan’s chocolate mousse and Rose’s sliders became permanent menu items. But the judge’s responsibilities didn’t end there. They also had a week to create art that illustrated their chosen menu item.

Now when a child receives their own menu at The Fireside, it is illustrated with authentic children’s art and the items listed have a real kid’s seal of approval.

Rose enjoyed her judging and never orders anything but her sliders when dining at The Fireside. She also helps out by watering the herbs whenever she’s in the neighborhood.

Bellevue Hilton Highly Recommended

Little things mean a lot — like when the hotel staff remembers your name and uses it or offers you a bottle of water while you’re waiting for someone. Excellent customer service will keep me coming back to any business.

That’s what I got at the Bellevue Hilton last week. A newspaper was at my door each morning, I was offered turn down service and everyday when I got back to my room it was clean and tidy.

This hotel offers the largest guest rooms in Bellevue and my suite was surely an example of that. The living room contained a sofa, chair, desk and widescreen TV and another TV was in the bedroom which was more than ample. A huge tub dominated the dressing room and the smaller bath revealed a shower and toilet.

 

Amenities included a fitness center with chilled towels and fresh fruit, an outdoor swimming pool and a complimentary shuttle that drove you anywhere within a mile of the hotel. A beauty salon, coin laundry for guests and 700 parking spaces also graced the property.

Tully’s Coffee Shop was located in the lobby as was a bar and Basil’s Restaurant, which serves a yummy breakfast buffet.

Although, I didn’t get to see him, I was told an otter lived in the pond outside. I’ll have to go back in warmer weather and see if he’s sunning himself.

To top it all off, the Bellevue Hilton is pet-friendly. What more could you ask for?