Island Fever, Puerto Rican style

In July 2017, my daughter and I saw the musical Hamilton in San Francisco. I am confident in saying we both know 90% of the soundtrack by heart (she’s probably at 100%, but with my less than stellar rap skills we average about 90%.) When they announced in early 2018 the show would be produced in Puerto Rico, we didn’t hesitate to start making plans – whether we got tickets to the show or not.

We (well, mostly daughter) found a hotel and AirBnB in San Juan, and we finalized our dates. On November 10th we (mostly me) got 2 tickets to #HamPR. Vacation was officially a dream come true trip.

We left Atlanta, GA in a balmy 24 degrees fahrenheit. Because of the US government shut down, we were at the airport a good 3 hours before our flight. A huge shout out to the TSA agents who were friendly and polite despite not receiving a paycheck. We breezed through security and managed to kill the 2 hours we had left. Once onboard, we learned the flight was nowhere near full. I jumped back a row to give us each a full row (3 seats) to stretch out and snooze.

A rainbow when landing seems like a good omen to me!

We landed in San Juan early, and caught the shuttle to pick up our rental car. (The major US rental companies are onsite the airport. We rented through a European company which was a short 5 minute ride away.)

Suitcases loaded into the trunk, GPS set to the hotel, and we were on our way. We soon learned the “rules of the road” in Puerto Rico seem to be “there are no rules.” Fortunately (depending on how you look at it), daughter opted not to be a driver, so it is all up to me. I live and drive in Atlanta – I am good with ‘no rules’ rules!

Our first two nights are at Acacia Boutique Hotel in the Condado area of San Juan. There is on street parking only, which was difficult when we arrived. We opted to drop daughter and bags off to check in while I searched for a nearby parking space. When that failed, we headed to the DoubleTree Hotel parking garage, maybe a half mile walk or so from our hotel. We opted to find a spot for dinner directly from there as we’d had very little in the way of food for the day. We started at Cocino Abierta where we shared tuna tataki, ceviche and emanadillas. This took the edge off the impending ‘hangry’ and was quite delicious.

My internal GPS led us back to the car where we gathered our remaining items, verified the car was good for overnight parking, and walked back to the hotel. It was still too early to call it a night, so we opted to check out another area near the hotel. We had no location in mind, and were happy to stumble on Tresbe, a fun, hip location. A few mojitos, empanadillas and fried plantains, and we were full, relaxed, and ready for bed…but not before a quick dip in the heated pool literally outside our room.

Tuesday morning dawned early as we had reservations on East Island Excursions for a catamaran tour to Culebra. We stopped at the sister boutique hotel for coffee, grabbed the car and headed out for our roughly hour drive to Fajardo. We were among the first to arrive, and enjoyed people watching for the next hour or so. The ride out to Culebra took about 50 minutes, and was rather choppy. We stopped first near a large reef and snorkeled for about 30 minutes before heading back on board to stake a claim on the roof area. Lots of yellow tail snapper, coral and several other species of tropical fish. It felt like we were swimming in am extra large fish tank. Unfortunately I forgot the underwater camera cover, so we only have our memories.

Once lunch and adult beverages were complete, we took a short 20 minute ride or so to Flamenco Beach where we had about an hour to enjoy one of the top 10 beaches in the world. Daughter swam the wetbag overhead from the boat to the shore (and back!) I did offer to carry it as long as my feet could touch the bottom!

The heart shaped cloud on the return to Fajardo seemed appropriate as I believe a piece of mine remained on Culebra.

A parking spot directly in front of the hotel was open when we returned, a good omen after a wonderful day! We took a quick stroll to the beach and watched the wind surfers and beach volleyball game before heading back to the hotel for a quick dip in the pool.

Dinner was at Jose Enrique’s restaurant. He was the chef with Jose Andreas who fed Puerto Ricans in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. To say the food was incredible would be an understatement. Words really cant describe the flavors.

The menu is on white boards as it changes daily, and is updated as items run out during dinner. There were so many things we wanted to try!

We wandered the square a bit after dinner. Lots of music streaming from restaurants and bars, and locals out enjoying the cool breeze, some rum, cigars and conversation. We had a fun conversation with an older gentleman on the square. He probably had had a few, but he was sweet, enjoyed telling us about Peru (where he was born) and his international travels, and he complimented the young one on her Spanish.

We opted for an Uber back, another dip in the pool, and it was lights out!


Weekend in New England

About a month ago one of my cousin’s texted me “Come North.” I must have been in the mood for a trip, because I texted my brother to see if he was interested in a road trip with me. Less than 12 hours later I had my tickets to Philadelphia, and hotel reservations.

An easy flight from Atlanta to Philly, and we hit the road. Bro was in charge of the route and stops along the way. I should mention he’s also an amazing homebrewer, and I have learned to like beer more than I thought I would. An easy drive up the NJ Turnpike, over the George Washington Bridge, and onto I-95. We spent 13 years growing up in southeastern CT, so it was a familiar route. As much as things have changed, I was still able to tap the memory bank for people, places and events.

Our first official stop was at Trillium Brewing Co. We were at their second location, not the one in Boston. This was a quick run in, purchase, go stop. It looks like a really fun place, and I definitely want to go back and really experience the tasting room, and the beers. Next stop was Bissell Brothers in Portland, ME. We had spent the day listening to a particular US Senate confirmation hearing, so I insisted we taste something. The tasting room staff were friendly and very helpful. She gave us some suggestions for other breweries to consider, and some good ideas for food along our way.

We set out in search of food as it was nearing 8:00PM. By the time we reached our first choice, their kitchen had closed for the evening. They pointed us toward another tap room/pub whose kitchen was open later. While it was open later, it was only open until 9:30, and it was already later than that. Google searches ensued as we looked for options at our final destination for the night. We found one restaurant with a kitchen open until 10:30. I called at just after 10PM to confirm, and placed our order by phone. Our food was delivered to our table when we arrived, and it was just what we needed. They had a good selection of beer on tap, which we enjoyed with our salads and pizza. Next stop, our hotel for the night and some sleep. We had an ocean view room, which was a nice treat to see when we woke up Friday morning. I knew I was near the water Thursday night because I could smell it, but it was too dark to see just how close we were. We learned later the QM2 had been moored in the harbor earlier in the week. I am glad we avoided the throng of cruise ship tourists.

A very short drive, and we enjoyed a visit with family I haven’t seen in several years. We took a walk down to the waterfront on the north end of town and explored a bit before heading back to the house and enjoying an afternoon nap. We went out for dinner, where I thoroughly enjoyed a Maine lobster. I couldn’t visit Maine and leave without having one. Prices are a bit higher than they were 36 years ago, but the lobster is still as good!

After dinner we indulged in the traditional family card game, and I went to bed happy as I did not lose. I didn’t win, but I didn’t lose, either. A restful night’s sleep, a yummy bowl of oatmeal and cup of coffee in the morning, and we were off.

Our first stop Saturday was in Freeport, Maine. Home of L.L. Bean main store and the Maine Beer Company. Bro asked me on Thursday to check when the release of ‘Dinner’ was. He thought it was coming up, but likely in another week or two. He was very happy to find out it was Saturday Sept 29, and even happier when I was able to purchase a ticket so we could get a case. So we backtracked just a little bit, expected a huge line, and were very pleasantly surprised to find very few people there. We shared a bottle later Saturday night, and it was absolutely worth the trip. One of the best beers I have had.

We began heading west toward Vermont. The fall foliage was a bit more colorful through western Maine and New Hampshire. In another week it will be stunning. We made a little detour to Franconia Notch, NH and drove through/around the Presidential Mountain Range. I reminisced about the times we drove to the top of Mt. Washington, and how much fun it was to get the sign on the bumper that said “This car climbed Mt. Washington.” We also stopped for a photo at the former location of Old Man in the Mountain. There was an outcropping of rock at the top of mountain that looked like a man’s profile. Despite efforts to save it, it feel several years ago. New Hampshire still has some of the prettiest scenery in the US, in my opinion. Especially in the fall.

We stopped at Hills Farmstead Brewing and The Alchemist in Stowe. Both were purchase only stops, sample later. We passed a few others that Bro recommended, but time was of the essence as we were meeting family for dinner. The Alchemist is a fun, funky place, and definitely somewhere to return to.

A quick stop for some maple syrup, then on to Burlington. We had time to check in to our hotel before heading to dinner, and the sun was just starting to set. The farms in Vermont are so pretty.

A fabulous dinner, a great visit with family, and a round of CAH with the cousin who sent the text that started the trip. After breakfast and final ‘see you soon’ to our aunt and uncle, we headed south on VT Route 7. Of course, it wouldn’t be proper to not stop at a brewery. A stop at Foley Bros Brewing, a few more beers added to the trunk of the car, and we were off to our last family visit of the trip. We traveled Route 7 many times as kids – traveling to/from VT for family visits, and during summer vacation when we would spend a few weeks without the parents bouncing between relatives and being carefree.

We hit the road back to Philly around 3PM. Weekend traffic was a bit heavier than we’d hoped, but we pulled into the driveway at Bro’s about 9:30PM. I got to enjoy some of his incredible homebrew before calling it a night.

…and here it is a month later and I realized I hadn’t published this post. I guess that’s what happens when life is crazy busy! But here it is. It was a much needed trip on so many levels – a reminder that making time, even if brief, to spend with family is always wonderful, and that travel is good for the soul. Almost time to start the count down for the next trip. I have some fun ones planned, especially in January!


The last 48 hours – or back to reality.

Sunday started with a quick trip to the grocery store for water and a few other items. We opted for the All Canadian grocery store across the street from the hotel. It was enormous, good prices, and a huge selection. It reminded us of a classier Wal-Mart. We got in the checkout line, and the total was $23 Canadian and change. Mom hands the cashier $25 US. She had to punch a few more keys to have the machine convert to US$ total, which was about $17. The cashier is still holding Mom’s $25. When she keyed in the amount of money tendered, she keyed in $40, not $25. I quickly let her know we’d given her $25, not $40. It then took 2 store managers to try to figure out how to correct the mistake without voiding the transaction. Long story short – the transaction was voided and redone, and we were on our way south.

The sky looked a bit overcast and gray as we started, but soon cleared. Could we be so lucky as to avoid rain yet another day? We crossed back into the US a little after 11AM. A quick stop for gas as I’d forgotten to check the fuel level before we left Thunder Bay, changed the settings from metric to US, and we drove the short distance to our first stop, the Grand Portage National Monument. An incredible historic fur trading site that has live demonstrations and docents to answer any and all questions.

We had no cell phone signal for the GPS, so we reverted to good old fashioned map reading for about an hour. Beautiful views of Lake Superior all along the drive.

It felt like there was more traffic, but we were on a 2 lane state highway, and the North Shore area of Lake Superior is a vacation destination. It thinned out a bit the further south we went. The scenery changed from lake views to vast rolling hills of farmland as we entered Wisconsin. We checked into the hotel in Eau Clair about 6:30PM, and took a short drive to an area restaurant that sounded good. Unfortunately, they weren’t open, so back to the restaurant near the hotel, Shoeless Joe’s Sports Grill. It worked for two ladies who were probably a little more road weary than they thought or would admit!

Monday dawned sunny and bright. Our last day on the road. We were both glad we’d opted to bring in the bare minimum the night before as the elevator was being serviced. Two trips down the stairs and we were loaded and ready to go. First stop was The Paul Bunyan Logging Camp and Museum. Another fun, educational and interactive museum. We learned a lot about the early days of logging, and I learned my paternal great-grandfather was a logger in New Hampshire. The museum is supported and run by the local Kiwanis Club. They do an excellent job, and really bring the story of Paul Bunyan to life. I read the book many times growing up, and now need to reread it with the background information I now have.

It was time to hit the road for the final leg of Road Trip 2018. A quick stop at a local liquor store to purchase some New Glarus Brewing Spotted Cow. This beer and brewing company have a cult-like following, and you can only buy it in Wisconsin. No, I didn’t plan the trip through WI just so I could bring some home, but it was a happy coincidence. You also can’t be in Wisconsin and not stop for cheese! (Although my travel partner this trip would disagree.) We saw the sign for Humbird along the freeway, and we needed to fill the gas tank anyway. A great little place with a really nice gift shop.

The terrain continued to flatten out, and we were soon in very familiar surroundings. We realized that other than the last 5 or so miles of the drive, we had avoided duplicating roads and freeways. One BIG loop around the US and Canada!

Had to add the miles I accidentally cleared when we stopped in the Rockies!

I still have a little over 600 miles to go tomorrow to get home. If I include the miles that I drove to get to the starting point, I will log in excess of 6,600 miles in a three week period. I think I will stay close to home for a few months! At least until October, anyway, when the next big adventure begins…


Au revoir, Canada.

Tonight is our last night in Canada…ça a été un merveilleux voyage. It has been a wonderful trip! I can now add driving almost completely across Canada to my completed travel list. It will take some time for the past week to settle in my mind and memories. We have had wonderful conversations with Canadians across the provinces, and we truly appreciated their hospitality and kindness.

The other thing I completed this trip was driving across all 4 time zones and back. We crossed into Eastern Daylight Time today a little after 7PM. It’s nice to be back in my “home” time zone, but tomorrow we’ll be back in CDT once we get back to the US.

Today we opted to pass on breakfast at the hotel and get a jump on the drive. We stopped for lunch in Kenora, ON. Lake Kenora is one of the largest lakes in the area, and a big vacation destination. Beautiful area, and when you’re essentially landlocked, this is a great spot to spend a hot, summer weekend! (The cooler temperatures we anticipated have eluded us. It has been in the upper 80’s – low 90’s every day.)

Scenic tours by seaplane

I took a break from driving for a bit and was able to get a few photos as we passed Lake Peggy.

The traffic was about typical for one of our roadtrips. Getting back to Atlanta traffic will be a shock!

We landed in Thunder Bay, Ontario a little after 8PM. We unwound, attempted to find a place other than the restaurant next door that was open, but ended up back at the hotel restaurant. Oh well! When it’s 9:30PM and you’ve been traveling for 8+ hours, just about anything will satisfy hunger.

Au revoir, Canada. Merci beaucoup. ‘Til we meet again…in Quebec, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island if I plan things right!


Momma and her babies – wildlife, part 2

The wonderful thing about vacations is you can sleep until you feel like getting up…and if there are no big plans for the day, you may just sleep in a bit longer than you usually might. Welcome to my world for the last 2 weeks. I am beginning to dread having to wake up to an alarm clock again in 10 days. Needless to say, today was yet another leisurely start. We ate a “real” breakfast of eggs and all the fixings in the hotel restaurant, loaded the car and hit the road. Today was the start of a few long drive days as we make the final stretch across Saskatchewan, Manitoba and bit of Ontario. We started the day off visiting the Elizabeth II Gardens across from the Regina Legislature building. A lovely park with so much to see and do. There were walking/biking paths around the lake, beautiful gardens and lawns, and water sports (kayaking, sailing and crewing).

Nice too see Canadian geese in Canada, too!

It was in the upper 80’s today (about 29 C) so we didn’t meander for too long. As we ventured eastbound on Trans-Canadian Highway 1, I saw a few signs for “Scenic Route.” I passed a few of them, then looked over and asked “Are you game?” Off we went the next exit to explore the road less taken. If it wasn’t meant to be explored they wouldn’t have signs on the highway, right?

A two lane road that wove through field after field of canola. The color of these flowers is almost unnatural, yet it is clearly part of nature.

Lake Katepwa was the next highlight. A great vista point for photos, and a chance to throw away the week old cherries we’d been carrying with us.

GPS told us to make a right turn onto County Road 612, so we did. Seems we are destined for “off-roading” this trip! While the speed limit was 80 KPH, I kept it around 40 – we were not familiar with the area, I really didn’t want to change a flat tire, nor deal with a cracked windshield. My apologies to the few cars who passed us and clearly knew where they were going. It was worth every minute it added to today’s drive.

As we made our way back to the highway, we were treated to a moose crossing. Momma and two babies crossed the road in front of us. Unfortunately we were far enough away, and they were fast enough, that we couldn’t get a good photo. We did appreciate the fact that both times we’ve “off-roaded” this trip we got to see wildlife up close and personal. Sheep in Colorado, moose in Saskatchewan.

We crossed into Manitoba a little after 3PM. I was in need of a pit stop and stretch, so we stopped in a few little towns and drove right on through as they were really little, and we were playing tag with a Canadian Pacific train. In Virden we did stop and tried to find the visitor center. While we didn’t find it, we did find the old train station and Alexandra Hotel across the street. If you closed your eyes you could picture people of old disembarking from the train and heading across the street to the hotel.

We hit the western edge of Winnipeg about 7:30PM, and were checked into the hotel about 25 minutes later. We are right in the heart of the University of Winnipeg. Across the street is a Hudson Bay Traders store. We were going to check it out in the morning, but based on recent reviews, we’ll hit the road instead and settle for a photo.

It was a pleasant surprise to look out our window and see our second Canadian legistature building for the day.

Tomorrow is our longest drive day at about 7 1/2 hours. It is time to wrap up today’s adventure and rest so we make it safely to Ontario.


It’s not the yellow brick road or the yellow mustard road, Toto. It’s the canola road.

For two days we have felt like we were following the yellow brick road, but it was a beautiful crop of yellow something that stretched for acres. It looked remarkably like mustard, so that’s what we thought it was. We found out tonight from our wonderful waitress that it is canola. Yellow and blue canola is one of Alberta and Saskatchewan’s main crops. File that away in the memory bank for future reference! It was still a beautiful sight today on our way to Regina.

We started the day with a short walk through Medicine Hat. A quaint town with great shops, restaurants and public art work. It was a bit warmer than usual, so our walk was rather limited. We stumbled upon the Inspire Cafe for what we hoped would be a late breakfast, but it turned out to be an early lunch. Mom had tomato garlic soup and a curried egg salad sandwich on raisin bread. I had curried lentil soup and fried egg and cheese sandwich. We got there just before the lunch crowd arrived, and they were doing a very steady business when we left. Great art work on display and for sale around the cafe, and artists’ studios/work areas beyond the cafe.

We finally stopped at the stop light near this hotel so I could get a picture. We passed it at least 3 times on our back and forth to various places yesterday, and it made me smile. I can just picture the 1940’s – 1950’s, maybe even 1960’s, when this would have been one of the top spots in the area.

We crossed into Saskatchewan a little while later, and decided a stretch break was needed as we approached Swift Current. We parked the car and began walking down Center Avenue when I spotted a gift store. We meandered the store for a while, and I found perfect mementos for several on my list. It was early afternoon, and a rather warm day for these parts, so we opted to hit the car and continue our drive.

A bit west of Swift Current we spotted what initially loooked like a herd of goats on the side of the road. As we got closer, we both did double takes, and it took us a moment to realize it was a herd of alpacas. Given it was still 80+ degrees fahrenheit, we opted not to stop and check out the alpaca goods for sale. A short bit later as we approached Lake Chaplin, we saw what appeared to be mounds of snow. I knew in this heat it definitely was not snow, but neither of us had a clue what the piles of “white stuff” were. I surmised salt or lime as a small tractor to my left was making its way up a pile. Mark that down as something to research when we get to the room tonight…

We stopped at the Tourist Information location outside Moose Jaw for a rest stop and information on Regina. Canadian tourist/information stops are such fun. Each one we have stopped at has information about the surrounding area (think school project, state fair type displays), and a variety of local goods for sale. A great place to get a feel for the area, decide if you’ll stop and for how long, or just sample the local fare and keep going. We learned the piles of “white stuff” by Lake Chaplin were potash. Canda is the world’s largest potash producer and exporter, and the bulk of the industry is in Saskatchewan. Potash is one of the main ingredients of fertilizer.

We each picked up a few gift items, and decided it was time for a bit of local gelato. We both opted for Saskatoon berry. I still need to taste an actual Saskatoon berry before we leave – it looks a bit like a blueberry, but the gelato was definitely sweeter than that. Not sure if that was due to added sugar, or if it really is that sweet. I did buy a rather pricey jar of mustard believing that the yellow fields we were passing were, in fact, mustard. Oh well. I can make a lot of mustard sauces over the coming months if needed! A stop here is not complete without a photo of Mac the Moose.

We arrived in Regina early evening. The hotel had glasses and bottles of wine 50% off, so we opted for an elevator ride to dinner tonight. We shared a bottle of montepuliciano and a charcuterie plate, reminisced about the past 2 weeks and many decades, and had fabulous conversations with our waitress. Definitely a day and night for the memory books.

Before we head out of town tomorrow we plan to tour the Legislative Building and Queen Elizabeth II’s Gardens. We will cross into our 4th Canadian province sometime tomorrow.


The Canadian Badlands

I heard the rain fall a bit overnight, and was afraid today would be another overcast day. Turned out to be bright and sunny, a perfect day for driving across Alberta. Rush hour was essentially over by the time we hit the road. The Calgary Stampede is this week, so there was still a fair number of cars (and semi-trucks) on the road with us until we got outside of the city. Calgary definitely has a frontier, wild-west feel to it. Of course, it was probably somewhat intensified given the Stampede. An easy city to navigate, but I’m still partial to Toronto. We have more places to see before we get home, so I may find a few new places to love.

My brain is feeling clearer, and my mood has definitely lightened now that we are out of wall to wall mountains. They are beautiful to look at, and I have great respect for those who can live on or near them. I need to see a horizon, and preferably the ocean. I did comment today that a wheat or grain field would be the next best thing to being at the ocean for me as I could at least watch the undulations of the vegetation and pretend it was ocean waves.

As we left the city behind, we watched field after field of mustard open before our eyes. Deep, rich green fields of hay and unflowering mustard followed by fields of flowering mustard so bright you almost had to shield your eyes.

We were definitely out of the mountains and back to rolling hills and prairie. Sprinkled among the croplands were livestock farms and more than the occasional oil drill.

I was glad GPS showed the road turning just before the silos. Looked like we were going right through them.

Even the hay along the side of the road is harvested.

One of the great things about the Trans-Canadian Highway is the pullouts on the side of the road. There are trash and recycling cans to dispose of waste, and a very large shoulder for resting if needed. There are also rest areas, but they are generally two unisex bathrooms which are more like port-a-potties than actual restrooms. Mom had a bad experience in one yesterday, so we pass those by. The pullouts are a good spot to stop for a photo, though!

The Badlands of Canada look nothing like the Badlands of South Dakota!

Our first stop today was the Saamis Tepee. We learned from the Visitor/Tourist Center nearby it was originally built for the 1988 Olympics in Calgary, and moved to Medicine Hat in 1991. At 215 feet tall, it is the equivalent of a 20 story building. It didn’t feel that way standing under it. Inside are 10 handpainted storyboards that tell the history and influences on the area’s First Nations heritage. You can easily see the tepee from the highway, and it would be easy to pass it by as just another tourist destination. We were both incredibly moved and learned a great deal. Definitely worth the stop.

The Medicine Hat Tourist Center has free bikes for anyone to borrow for rides along the bike/walking trails or to ride the coulees. Looking at the size of the ravines, definitely not a leisurely stroll or something that I want to attempt. If you are an avid outdoorsman, this area has a lot to offer.

It was still a little early for check-in at the hotel, so we opted for a late lunch/early dinner at Medicine Hat Brewing. They opened for business in December 2016, and have an extensive, and very good, selection of beer. We each had a burger (note to self, remember to ask for it to be cooked medium or it will come out well done.) We each did a beer flight, enjoyed our burger, and enjoyed wonderful conversation with our waitress.

We were going to take the self-guided tour through town, but the wind was mighty strong. Once we got into our hotel room we opted for driving through, and maybe a stroll, as we head out of town and continue east tomorrow.


Geez Louise! Lake Louise

A peaceful night’s sleep with the fan blowing and the window open. The early morning bird calls were a delight as we generally don’t get to hear them when on the road. We packed up, loaded some of the car, and hit breakfast. Breakfast was described as a “light affair” when we checked in. That definitely described it. Three kinds of dry cereal, various bread and bagels for toast, hard boiled eggs, thin sliced Canadian bacon (may have been ham), and two kinds of thin sliced cheese. Coffee was watery, but did the trick. We loaded the rest of the car and struck out for Banff National Park and Lake Louise.

It was a cloudy day that turned into a gray and overcast day, but the mountains were still glorious. Fortunately there were more opportunities for photos today. We crossed through Robert’s Pass between Revelstoke and Vernon. It’s interesting that the highest peaks in the Canadian Rockies are shorter than the US Rocky Mountains. They seem so much larger, but I think the vastness of the space between them makes them appear taller. The hairpin turns through Canada are much easier to drive than those in Colorado.

Mom got to see a few trains along the way today as they paralleled the road, as did several rivers. We fortunately stopped to purchase our day pass for the park before we arrived which made entry much easier. The area is well marked for the most part. Lake Louise Village is the first thing you see, and it looked more like shopping and dining than an actual parking area for the lake. As we continued up the mountain, gut instinct said I should have continued straight rather than going right. A quick U-turn, and we were face-to-face with a wooly marmot. I thought it was kind of him to stand up and pose for me to get a few pictures!

We parked the car, found the rest rooms, then followed the crowd along the pathway. It truly is more glorious in person than in photos. (Aren’t most places, though?) Despite the crowds jockeying for position for photos and selfies, there was a palpable serenity to the place. The vast expanse of mountains and glacier, and the calm green of the lake . Even the canoes on the lake seemed to float as they paddled along.

We walked the pathway around to the Fairmont Lake Louise Chateau, and checked out the shops inside. We admired the flower gardens in front of the hotel and took a last look at the lake.

Just as we began our walk back to the car, it began to sprinkle. By the time we reached the car, it was a pretty steady rain. We couldn’t have timed it any better!

We drove through the town of Banff, but didn’t get a chance for photos. The sky was threatening more rain, there was no parking anywhere nearby, and it was very crowded. A cute little town, though.

The terrain flattened quickly, and we were back in rolling hills and farms. About an 75 minutes later or so we were checking into tonight’s lodging in Calgary. On our way in to town we passed the Calgary Flames stadium and the Olympic ski jumps. Reminded me of watching the ski jumpers practice in Trondheim, Norway just over 2 years ago.

We lost an hour today as we crossed into mountain time zone. Waiting for dinner to be delivered, then calling it a night. Tomorrow we are off to Medicine Hat. I think we will both be a bit glad to be out of the mountains for a while!


Welcome to Canada!

Sunday dawned earlier than I might have liked, given the fun of the night before. Packed up, and breakfast in the hotel restaurant. (My review would be “meh.” There’s a reason it only has 2.5 – 3 stars. But it fit the bill for all of us.) Car brought down, loaded, goodbyes said, and momma and I hit the road.

Our first stop was Chateau Ste. Michele Winery. It was about 25 minutes from the hotel, and on our route. As we’d enjoyed many good beers over the past 2 days, a wine tasting seemed appropriate to start our return trip. The grounds are beautiful and picturesque. Manicured lawns, gorgeous architecture, families enjoying picnics…clearly a place to be on a Sunday afternoon in the summer. I wish my impression of the tasting room were as good as the outside. While the staff were helpful, they did not have time to, or did not want to, give us more than the basic description of the wines and move on to the next. At $15 a tasting (we did opt to share one), and only having 5 wines on the tasting list, we could have bought 2 bottles at the grocery store and enjoyed it as much, possibly better. But we can say we have been.

Perhaps if we’d done one of the bigger tours and tasting the experience would have been different. But the Canadian border was calling us, and we had about a 4 hour drive to our destination.

We had about a 30 minute wait at the border crossing in Sumas, WA and drove into Canada about 4:08PM. A bit of traffic along Trans-Canadian Route 1 as we started, but it soon opened up. Fortunately I remembered to set the speedometer to KPH before we crossed the border. The mountains soon loomed ahead of us, and I tried to keep at least one eye on the road as I turned my head from side to side and watched the beauty unfold before us. Unfortunately, not a lot of places to stop and take photos. I managed to get a few at a rest stop near Coquihalla. The Coquihalla Summit was 1244 M (4081 feet). It seemed much higher, but will be nothing once we hit the Canadian Rockies!

We checked into our hotel about 7:15PM in West Kelowna, BC. They had a restaurant attached, so we grabbed a sandwich and called it a night.

Today (Monday) was a short drive day, roughly 2 1/2 hours from last night’s lodging to today’s. I didn’t realize when setting the return route I was taking us right through the heart of British Columbia wine region. (Those of you who know me personally may find that hard to believe! But seriously, I didn’t until I picked up the brochure last night.) Anyway, when you have a short drive day, why not stop and see how the wine is, right? We stopped first at Sandhill Winery in Kelowna. The staff were friendly, knowledgeable, warm and made us feel right at home. The wine was far better than I had expected. One of the labels at Sandhill is Wayne Gretzky’s. We passed his winery near Toronto last October but didn’t stop. I couldn’t pass this by without at least a photo or two!

If we were staying one more night in the area, we would have bought a bottle and sat on the couch for a few hours! Such an inviting tasting room and staff.

Our next stop was Blind Tiger Winery. They are situated on a ridge overlooking one of the many mountain lakes in the area. Absolutely beautiful views, and some pretty good wine there, too.

Such fun to pass apple and cherry orchards on our way down to the highway!

We left this area and began our trek north and east. There were a few scenic overlooks today where I was able to stop and snap a few photos of the majesty around us. When we have criss-crossed the US, we can usually say “this reminds me of…” and fill in the blank. The past two days have left us at an absolute loss. Mountain lakes that are fed by waterfalls of varying size, pastures that seem to be among the clouds, and the vast expanse of space. Rivers, creeks and streams that flow alongside the road, what seem to be rolling hills but are just smaller mountains. The photos will not do its beauty and majesty justice, but it’s better than nothing.

Tonight we are staying in Revelstoke, BC. Rather quiet in the summer months compared to the winter. In winter this is home to snowmobiling and heli-skiing. Not sure that being dropped off at the top of a mountain by helicopter and skiing my way down would be my idea of fun, but it seems very popular in the area. Summer is mostly mountain biking, canoeing and hiking. Certainly a picturesque area to do any or all of it!

We are staying at the Glacier House Resort, set off from town in the quiet of the forest. We have brought all food in from the car as there were bear sightings earlier. All rooms are on the 2nd floor, so we are safe. The view from the room and the peacefulness of the surroundings should make for a restful night’s sleep.

View from the hotel restaurant patio

View from our room.

Tomorrow, Banff.


Saturday in Seattle

I think we squeezed in just about everything we could in under 48 hours. Saturday dawned partly sunny, and in the upper 70’s. The girls got underway about 10:30AM for the Space Needle. We stopped at The Yellow Leaf Cupcake shop in Belltown for coffee and breakfast on our way. 2 cups of pour over coffee, a bagel sandwich, and an incredibly light and delicious bacon cheddar biscuit, and we were on our way. I was impressed with the number of restaurants everywhere we walked. Some larger than others, most what I would call “intimate dining.” Every type of food imaginable, and all seemed to have no lack of business.

We reached the Space Needle in time for our noon tickets, and got in line. The walk up to the elevator took about 30 minutes, but the history of the 1962 World’s Fair and the construction of the Space Needle was very interesting. Beautiful views, but we were bummed the restaurant was closed for renovations. They did have a snack bar at the top observation deck, but with all the construction going on even at that level, the ambiance was a bit lacking. We did walk around and get some great photos.

Not sure if they’re mosquitos or spiders, but it was a funny sight to see!

We found Mom and started off to the Chihuly Gardens. (She passed on the elevator ride to the top. Heights aren’t her favorite.) My husband joined us after his visit with friends we don’t see nearly often enough. There are never words to describe Chihuly’s work, and there doesn’t need to be.

A bite of lunch at Bambino’s on our way back to the hotel. The 2 salads would have individually fed 4 of us, the meatball appetizer was entree sized, and half the 10″ pizza left the restaurant with us. Another small place, but they had a steady stream of customers. We were back to the hotel in plenty of time to get ready for the wedding, and the reason this entire road trip became reality!

A 20 minute or so Uber ride to the Seattle Tennis Club on Lake Washington. Across the lake were very large homes where apparently the Gates and Bezos residences are. The Virginia Steamship came through just as the cocktail reception ended, and Mt. Ranier came out from behind the clouds during dinner.

We were back in our room about 12:30AM, and did think about going out with some of the wedding party. Sanity kicked in, fortunately for me, as we had to begin our return trip the next day.