There was a time in my late 20s when, after a particularly painful breakup, I was faced with that youthfully imperative decision as to a must-move-to city; for me it was either NYC or Seattle. And so it is that all these years later, I’m still curious about the city I didn’t choose, Seattle. I’ve been mapping out this 10-day trip for months now, which will include five days in Seattle then two each in Victoria and Vancouver, traveling with my husband, Rob, our 13-year-old son, Ben, and, after his very last minute appeal, my 32-year-old stepson, Matt.


Seattle, Victoria, and Vancouver: A fast-paced trip in 10 days

BY LORI SENDER

THE MAYBE CHRONICLES

There was a time in my late 20s when, after a particularly painful breakup, I was faced with that youthfully imperative decision as to a must-move-to city; for me it was either NYC or Seattle. And so it is that all these years later, I’m still curious about the city I didn’t choose, Seattle. I’ve been mapping out this 10-day trip for months now, which will include five days in Seattle then two each in Victoria and Vancouver, traveling with my husband, Rob, our 13-year-old son, Ben, and, after his very last minute appeal, my 32-year-old stepson, Matt.

“Pack light,” I text Matt, as we’ll be staying at five different hotels over the next ten days. I’m aware I may have overplanned things just a touch, not only with this peripatetic schedule, but armed with a folder full of restaurant jottings and Seattle district notes. It’s a bit of a mess.

Our first two nights are at the beautiful Cedarbrook Lodge, located less than a mile from the Sea-Tac Airport and situated on 18 acres of preserved wetlands. This former corporate training center for Washington Mutual Bank (its receivership and subprime-related loss is our gain) boasts a full tapestry of stone flooring, exposed steel, wood-beam structure, and floor-to- ceiling glass.

Since it is late August, sunny, and in the mid-70s, we decide to eat lunch outside at the lodge’s Copperleaf Restaurant, with its farm-to-table locavore menu. Sitting alongside a never-needed propane heat lamp (ubiquitous in the Pacific Northwest for cooler evening outdoor eating), we order a carafe of iced black currant tea with a small beaker of lemon-thyme sweetened syrup. I order the grilled chicken sandwich with basil pesto and thick sweet tomatoes slices, rather basic-- yet, hands down the best lunch I’ve eaten in years. Everything tastes so fresh, not surprising with raised vegetable garden beds right on the premises.

In the morning we head for the fitness center, as we do in each and every hotel, but it’s only this gym that has the notable space and scenic view to rival the Hotel at Terminal City Club which we’ll head to at the end of our trip.

In the early afternoon we hop into a Mercedes van awaiting us at the hotel and join two other families to tour Mt. Rainier with the company EverGreen Escapes. It’s a full two-hour drive to the volcanic mountain, passing a constant blur of massive, pointy evergreens and acres of purplish-blue lupin -- reminders we are far from our East Coast home.

I’m sitting in the front seat with Jeff, our whiteriver092412_optdriver and naturalist guide, chatting it up, looking out at the ever-approaching white-topped mountain, a thrill with each and every glimpse. Once on the crowded trails it’s hard not to feel the touristy aspect of the trip, but Jeff takes us off the beaten path to the narrow winding White River, a rapidly churning glacial river. I hold on for dear life to the makeshift wooden railing and manage to cross the bridge; then it’s up the gondola on nearby Crystal Mountain for another view and dining at the Summit Restaurant. I find the meal less than exciting especially for my fellow passengers who paid $250 for the full nine-hour tour (including travel and food). Let’s face it, it’s eating at a ski lodge, though the microbrewed beer and sunset views may have eased the pain a smidge.

Our next few days are spent in the heart of Seattle, walking distance to Pike Place Market and shopping, as we first settle into our spacious suite at the chic Alexis Hotel, then the boutique Hotel 1000 directly across the street. We visit the Space Needle, then walk just steps to the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit, where the audio guide is downloaded to one’s smartphone. The boys may have actually learned something, or more likely had their own soundtrack to view the massive, brightly colored blown-glass artwork; even I switched over to my music in the greenhouse and outdoor exhibits: very surreal, kind of hippie.

Before leaving the area, we quickly admire Frank Gehry’s EMP (Experience Music Project), a lofty bubble of a museum dedicated to popular music. At the last minute we decide to venture inside and are further amazed by this architect’s tremendous talent.

Steps from our hotel, I spot Baby&Co, an adult clothing boutique only Madonna might afford, but still, I can’t help walking in. Just admiring the clothes is an experience, as the boys graciously wait it out on the couch. The sales staff is friendly and quirky, on our leave recommending the Italian-American restaurant The Pink Door, with an actual trapeze artist performing. It doesn’t fail: an eclectic, dimly lit space with antiques galore, wonderful pasta, a large selection of microbrewed beer, and, sure enough, a trapeze artist just feet overhead.

A hard act to follow, but we manage, the next morning for brunch at the Dahlia Lounge. I find my scraps of paper and dutifully order: dungeness crab cakes with horseradish sour cream, farm fresh eggs with a perfect buttermilk biscuit, warm fried donuts with vanilla mascarpone and jam, coconut cream pie loaded with coconut bits, and in an ode to my father, a whiskey sour with frothy egg whites. I waddle out to Hotel 1000 and nap off the calories, while the guys try out the hotel’s virtual golf on a huge screen as microbrewed beers are delivered directly to the adults.

The next day, passports in hand, we hie over to the Victoria Clipper and board the ferry for Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia. (Victoria is located on Vancouver Island, not to be confused with the city of Vancouver, 64 miles and another ferry ride away.) After a nearly three-hour scenic ride from Puget Sound into the open waters, we walk just yards to the Hotel Grand Pacific. Our suite is large; Rob and I actually have our own room with a terrace facing the famed Fairmont Empress Hotel as well as the inner harbor. We take a leisurely stroll down Government Street, marveling at the charming 19th-century architecture housing boutiques and restaurant/pubs as laughing seagulls circle and dip overhead. The next morning we rent bikes and cycle through Beacon Hill Park, past the petting zoo and then around the southern part of the island, the Olympic Mountains and Pacific Ocean a constant majestic backdrop.

Afternoon tea at the Fairmont Empress Hotel, I’d been told, is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, notwithstanding the sobering cost ($264.00 plus tip for the four of us, for one hour of tea, small sandwiches and desserts). The ivy-covered hpool092412_optotel, built in 1908, is magnificent and huge; just walking through it is worth it. And now I can attest to the best, though costliest, scone ever, along with the richest, dippiest butter.

The boys have opted for a late afternoon swim in the Hotel Grand Pacific’s indoor pool, so Rob and I board a bus to the Butchart Gardens. Our bus driver explains a bit of the history of the area and tells us how the much less rainy city of Victoria, along with the high number of colleges, makes the area perfect for the young and retired alike. “The newlyweds and nearly dead,” he quips. We spend a couple of hours strolling through the many different sections of flowers and reading about Jennie Butchart, whose foresight and persistence turned her husband’s exhaustedly mined limestone quarry into the exquisite sunken gardens of today.

On the ferry ride to Vancouver, Rob and I sit outside on the deck taking in the warm sun and mountainous views. Once we enter the city I’m struck by the sheer number and density of glass high-rises as we wheel our luggage to our last destination, the Hotel at Terminal City Club. I’d seen pictures of its magnificent indoor pool overlooking the Pacific and mountains, but doing a backstroke while looking out at that view, then relaxing on the deck with seagulls and cruise boats passing, made it hard to actually leave and venture onto the pavement below.

We manage at night to stroll the historic Gaslight district, with pubs spilling out onto the streets, and we note that the average age here seems to be well below thirty. For our last day we rent bikes and cycle around Stanley Park, passing bathers on the beach who mostly stay clear of the frigid waters; then we head over the bike-laned bridge to Granville Island for its farmers’ market.

We savor our last few amber microbrews, then stroll around the boathouses observing neighbors visiting each other bearing wine and flowers. They appear to be of retirement age, choosing nicely, it seems, on the waters of British Columbia.

Lodgings:

Cedarbrook Lodge

18525 36th Avenue South

Seattle, WA 98188-4967

Tel: 206-901-9268

(A spa-like quality with gorgeous landscaping and walks, wonderful breakfasts, amazing lunch outdoors.)

The Alexis Hotel

1007 1st Avenue

Seattle, WA 98104

Tel: 206-624-4844

(Centrally located in Seattle, with two bikes available in the lobby, there’s a hip feel to this hotel.)

Hotel 1000

1000 1st Avenue

Seattle, WA 98104

Tel: 206-957-1000

(Amazing bathtub with water shooting from the ceiling and a full glass wall to the room with electronic shade, virtual golf very cool.)

Hotel Grand Pacific

463 Belleville Street

Victoria, BC

Tel: 800-663-7550

(Nice close-up views of the harbor, terrific breakfasts, large indoor pool.)

The Hotel at Terminal City Club

837 West Hastings Street

Vancouver, BC

Tel: 604-681-4121

(Incredible indoor pool with deck; heat lamps and blankets for night sitting and drinking, spectacular views of water and mountains, very modern, spacious rooms.)

*All rooms are around $300/night (except Hotel 1000, which is around $400/night) in August; prices drop significantly in the fall. Try to link up price of room with the cost of a ferry, either through hotel or Victoria Clipper.

 

Source: http://www.newjerseynewsroom.com/style/seattle-victoria-and-vancouver-fast-paced-in-10-days