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    My Favorite Things in Washington State USA

    Location: Washington State USA

    How to talk about my favorite things in Washington State? There is NO WAY I can list all the wonderful things about my home state of Washington. No doubt someone reading this blog will think I have left something out. And so I encourage everyone to comment at the end of this blog with additional FAVORITE things about Washington State.

    Lake Chelan

    I was born in Washington 59 years ago and I know a lot of great places in the Pacific Northwest corner of the USA. As we travel the world I often reminisce about Washington, comparing other places around the world to her. We are about to embark on year number four of our world tour – but before we do I want to write about some of the things we enjoyed during our four-month visit back here in Washington, and during all the years we have lived in this state. My favorite things in Washington State.

    Tacoma

    If you have never visited the Pacific Northwest corner of the USA you are missing out on something pretty special. It is certainly one of the most beautiful places in the entire world. I feel quite qualified to say that, having visited 96 countries myself. Nicknamed the Evergreen State, it has both a very green side (west of the Cascade Mountains) and a gold side (east of the mountains) and I love them equally. Raised on the west side but going to college and spending a great deal of time on the east side, I have learned to appreciate and admire the beauty and diversity of this spectacular little piece of paradise – Washington State.

    Seattle’s Lake Union

    Cities

    Seattle – Washington’s largest city is cosmopolitan, delicious, cultural and ethnically diverse. It is the number one place to visit in Washington.

    Seattle’s Big Wheel

    Spokane – One of my favorite cities in Washington and the largest city on the east side of the state, Spokane has grown from a sleepy agricultural town to a wonderfully diverse and interesting city.

    Boundary Bay Brewery Bellingham

    Bellingham – Tucked in the Northwest corner of Washington State very near the Canadian border, Bellingham offers a waterfront location with wonderful history. Home to Western Washington University, the student life brings a mix of culture and dining to this medium size city.

    Tacoma – the second largest city in the state, Tacoma has long battled a poor reputation. But today’s Tacoma is a far cry from that of yesteryear. A cleaned up downtown and port area, multiple first class museums and a great selection of parks and restaurants makes T-town one of my favorites.

    Small Towns

    Gig Harbor – I lived in Gig Harbor for 25 years and watched it grow. And despite the traffic I still love this maritime village that has the single most beautiful view in the entire state.

    Gig Harbor

    Sequim – Much like Gig Harbor but without the traffic, Sequim’s location overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca and in the shadow of the Olympic mountains makes its temperate climate perfect. Throw in the amazing lavender farms and bike trails there is a lot to love about this town.

    Pullman

    Walla Walla – when I was growing up Walla Walla was just the town with the funny stuttering name. Today it is one of the premier wine regions in the world and has a wonderfully restored downtown.

    Pullman – home to my alma mater Washington State University, Pullman is an upcoming destination even if you don’t say GO COUGS. Today’s Pullman has parks and trails and a much larger selection of dining and hotels than it did forty years ago when I was in school. And I love the weather.

    Hikes

    Lena Lake – One of our favorite hikes in the Olympics, the hike to both Lower Lena and Upper Lena can be done by most hikers with minimal experience.

    Lena Lake

    Skokomish River Lower South Fork – This is always a great hike and mostly flat…easy to reach and makes a great day hike.

    Mount Rainier – If you can catch Mount Rainier on a sunny day any hike will be enjoyable. A wide variety of hike options can be found in the Mount Rainier National Park. This summer I did the Summerland Trail for the first time. I loved it.

    On top of Crystal Mountain
    Hiking the Lower Skokomish

    Crystal Mountain – hike up and ride the gondola down, or ride the gondola up and hike down…either way you will enjoy panoramic views of Rainier and on a good day, you can see four other volcanoes beyond.

    Cycling Trails

    Centennial Trail Spokane

    Olympic Discovery Trail – I love this cycling trail and rode on it twice this summer. The trail runs from Port Townsend all the way to the Pacific Ocean. However from Port Angeles west it is mostly on roads. Since we like to stay on trails, we usually start in Blyn and ride to Port Angeles and back, about 50 miles round trip.

    Centennial Trail – Spokane has several cycling trails and one of our favorites is the Centennial Trail that winds its way from Spokane into Idaho and Coeur d’Alene.

    Chehalis Western – I’ve spent hours and hours training for long rides on the Chehalis Western, located near Olympia. You can start and stop many places on this trail but if you ride the entire trail round trip it’s 90 miles.

    Chehalis Western Trail

    Interurban/Burke Gilman – So many options with this very popular cycling and walking trail. We rode the Burke Gilman this year from Gas Works Park in Seattle to Woodinville (forty miles round trip). If you really want a long and amazing ride start the Interurban in Pacific (near Auburn) and connect in Seattle with the Burke Gilman to Woodinville. This round trip is about 90 miles.

    Water

    Puget Sound – Western Washington’s beauty can be attributed to water, both that which falls from the sky and that which surrounds it as the Puget Sound. With several cities and towns perched on the Sound, access to it is plentiful, and it is certainly one of my favorite things in Washington State.

    Discovery Park Seattle

    Lake Chelan – Washington’s favorite lake is found right in the middle of the state, the 55 mile long, 1500 feet deep natural lake of Chelan. Both a summer and winter playground, Washingtonians from the westside flock to Chelan in the summer.

    Columbia River – Roll on Columbia still rings true, and visiting this amazing river that flows both south and west through the state offers a variety of recreational activities and history lessons along the way.

    Pacific Ocean – spending time enjoying the crashing waves of Washington’s Pacific Coast is a must when visiting the state. My favorite places to access the Pacific Ocean are Neah Bay or Ozette in the far northwest part of the state or Kalaloch or Long Beach further south.

    Green Lake – walking or cycling the 2.8 mile loop around Green Lake is one of my favorite things to do in Seattle. Greenlake is a wonderful little gem of a natural setting right in the heart of north Seattle…treasured by locals.

    San Juan Islands – To really see how glorious the Puget Sound is, taking a ferry to one or more of the San Juan Islands and enjoying a few days island hopping is sublime.

    Gig Harbor Gondola – if you visit tiny and scenic Gig Harbor on the Kitsap Peninsula don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy a gondola ride in the harbor in an authentic Italian gondola.

    San Juan Islands

    Snoqualmie Falls – Just about 40 min drive east of Seattle you will find the amazing Snoqualmie Falls….higher than Niagara. Depending on the time year Snoqualmie falls can be a slender and beautiful falls or a thunderous monster of a waterfall. Worth the drive and also if you are fit the hike to the bottom is breathtaking.

    Gig Harbor Gondola
    Kalaloch Beach

    Food Experiences

    Tillicum Village – Visitors and locals should experience Tillicum Village at least once in their lifetime. The getting there is half the fun, but the food and authentic Native American entertainment is incredible.

    My first Geoduck

    Pike Place Market – known for the throwing fish, there is a lot more to enjoy a Seattle’s Pike Place Market, even if you don’t buy a thing it is a not-to-be-missed Seattle institution.

    Harvesting oysters and clams
    Delectable Dungeness Crab

    Geoduck Hunting – I went Geoducking for the first time this year on the Key Peninsula just west of Gig Harbor. If you have an opportunity, I highly recommend it. So much fun.

    Oysters – take the Olympic Peninsula loop drive and stop for oyster at Hama Hama Oyster Company. Or if you can’t drive the loop, pick up fresh oyster or order oyster on the half shell…usually available in a month with an R. Some of the world’s finest oysters come from Washington State.

    Dungeness Crab – If you grew up thinking Maryland Crab was crab you are in for a real shock when you eat Washington’s own world famous Dungeness Crab. Rich, buttery and delicious, Dungeness crab is best without any accoutrements…just eat it like nature intended.

    Boehm’s Chocolates – still hand made daily in Issaquah Washington you can have a taste of old European Swiss Chocolate just like the old country. Boehm’s has locations in Issaquah, Poulsbo and Yakima.

    Cafe Campagne – my favorite Seattle restaurant I go back to again and again with French food as good as any bistro in Paris.

    Steak Tartar at Cafe Campagne
    Scallops at Luna

    Luna – just discovered this Spokane gem this summer and I will certainly be back. Possibly the best meal I had all summer.

    Brix 25 – in my hometown of Gig Harbor, this little gem is always spot on. Try the Beef Bourgignon. You won’t be disappointed.

    Tony’s Fillipis Pizza – growing up in Bremerton this was the place to get pizza, and still today Tony’s Fillipis Pizza is my favorite pizza anywhere in the world.

    The Valley Cafe – tucked into an old drug store in Ellensburg Washington, I stop to eat here anytime I am in this Central Washington Rodeo town. And you should too.

    The Pink Door – my second favorite Seattle restaurant (and just down the alley from my first) I try to visit in the summer and get a table on their deck. I have never had a bad meal at this iconic Seattle restaurant.

    Black Cypress – Pullman isn’t known for fine dining, and yet, the Black Cypress is an absolute find, and a must dine when in the tiny college town of Pullman.

    Wineries and Breweries

    Washington has become an award wining wine producing state over the past several decades as well as one of the launching places for many now famous microbrews. Washingtonians are well-known to be entrepreneurial and creative (think Bill Boeing, Bill Gates, Howard Schultz, Jeff Bezos) and this local trait shows in the wide variety of first rate wines and beers. Here is a list of my local favs;

    Jones of Washington from Quincy

    Jones of Washington

    Seven Seas

    Bale Breaker Yakima

    Maryhill

    Gig Harbor Brewing

    Efeste

    Georgetown Brewing

    Resorts

    Since I live in the state part of the year I don’t often stay in local resorts, but over the years I have had the opportunity to visit several. Most resorts here focus on the beauty of the natural surroundings as well as the farm and forage to table dining Washington offers. Here is list of my favorites;

    Campbells Resort at Lake Chelan

    Suncadia Cle Elum

    Campbells Chelan

    Rosario Resort Orcas Island

    Historic Davenport Spokane

    Willows Lodge Woodinville

    Alderbrook Inn Hood Canal

    Gardens

    Point Defiance Rose Garden Tacoma

    I love gardens, and even if you aren’t a gardener yourself, you can’t help but appreciate and admire the beauty of some of these stunning gardens throughout the state of Washington.

    Point Defiance Rose Garden – Tacoma

    Olympic Sculpture Garden – Seattle

    Volunteer Park Conservatory Seattle

    Seattle Arboretum

    Lakewold Gardens -Tacoma/Lakewood

    Ohme Gardens Wenatchee

    Bloedel Reserve- Bainbridge Island

    Nishinomiya Japanese Gardens – Spokane

    Rhododendron Species Garden Federal Way

    Also seasonally don’t miss the blooming Cherry Blossoms at the University of Washington Seattle (spring), the Sequim Lavender Festival (July), Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens in Woodland (April May) and the Bob’s Pumpkin Farm in Snohomish (October)

    Views

    The Gorge

    Since one of the reasons people LOVE Washington so much is the beauty, finding the best views in the state is something visitors always are looking for. For me personally the list below offers amazing views, history and recreation from ocean beaches to mountain tops and everything in between. These are all great options that fit most, budgets, fitness levels and schedules;

    Green Mountain Kitsap County

    Dry Falls State Park Vista, Coulee City

    Washington State Ferry

    Kerry Park Seattle (cover photo)

    Space Needle Seattle

    Discovery Park Seattle

    Vista House at Crown Point on the Columbia River Gorge (technically in Oregon but with a great view of Washington )

    Dungeness Spit Sequim

    Kamiak Butte Palouse

    North Head Light, Cape Disappointment, Long Beach

    What else?

    Oh my goodness I have so many favorite things in Washington State! I know I have missed some things – I didn’t even touch on museums or tours. I could write an entire blog about festivals, art and music. But the things I have listed here are the things I have experienced and personally enjoy going back to again and again. My Washington from my point of view. Please add your favorites to the list in the comments below. Get out and enjoy surprising, diverse, beautiful, delicious and friendly Washington State. I sure have these past four months. Washington my home.

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    At Home  --  North America Travel

    Review of McMenamins Elks Temple, Tacoma WA

    Summer in Washington State

    McMenains Tacoma

    Location: Tacoma Washington USA

    My Fab Fifties Life is enjoying a summer in Washington State, USA, where I was born and raised.  As much as I love my life of full-time travel, coming home to familiar ground where my family is brings a sense of stability to our nomad world.

    When we return to the USA most summers, my focus is always family, but we also get out at least once a week and play tourists in our own backyard.  And that is what we did this past weekend in celebration of both Father’s Day and my husband’s birthday.

    McMenamins Elks Lodge

    McMenamins Elks Lodge Tacoma

    Growing up in the Pacific Northwest the blue-collar town of Tacoma always had a bit of a “smelly” reputation because of the pulp and paper mill that cast an odor over the town for several generations.  Today however Tacoma has become a renaissance town, with gorgeous views, multiple incredible museums, beautiful parks, and delicious dining.

    And the newest little gem to open in Tacoma is the McMenamins franchise masterpiece in the historic and beautifully restored Elks Temple in downtown Tacoma.

    If you aren’t from around these parts you might not be familiar with the vision of Mike and Brian McMenamin, Oregon brothers who have built a legendary business of turning historic and dilapidated properties into spectacularly quirky and fun hotels, restaurants, breweries, distilleries,

    Many pubs at McMenamins

    Elks Lodge Pub & Restaurant

    and event venues. For the past 20 years my husband and I, (on many occasions with our kids in tow), have made one of the dozens of McMenamins properties a destination weekend.

    The latest addition to the McMenamins dynasty is the opening of the Tacoma Elks Temple after several years of extensive restoration. The building had sat abandoned for thirty-five years, and time, weather and graffiti all had taken a toll.

    And yet, this is what McMenamins does best – breathe life into old structures all while digging deep into the silent history of a building to awaken both the known and unknown stories of the people and events that were there.  The Elks Temple does just that.

    Reflecting Tacoma's history

    Art everywhere you look

    Built in 1916 for the Fraternal Order of Elks, the building was home to one of the nation’s largest Elks organizations until the 1960’s.  It was then used as an event venue and, unlike the all-white Elks organization, the building welcomed anyone of any race and held many of the local African-American Rose Cotillion Balls for several years.  But times changed and so did the building as it fell into disrepair for 33 years until the visionary McMenamins saw its potential.

    We arrived in the afternoon on a very crowded Father’s Day and proceeded to taste our way through all of the properties five bars.  Each bar named appropriately, decorated with fun and interesting relics including menu’s that reflect the individual personality of each bar.  For instance in

    Tacoma's Spanish Steps

    Hand crafted beer and tapas at the Spanish Steps Bar

    the Spanish Steps bar (named for Tacoma’s beautiful Spanish Steps that run along the south edge of the building) Tapas are featured on the menu, while in The Old Hangout, a throwback to Trader Vic’s style 1950’s Tiki Bar serves everything from Mai Tai to Singapore Sling, grilled Pineapple Sundae or Salt and Pepper Squid.u

    True to the McMenamins model, guests must try to find the “hidden” bar called The Vault. We found it, actually cheated a little because someone was coming out…and I don’t think we would have found it otherwise.  Cleverly disguised. That’s all I’m gonna say.

    We had both dinner and breakfast in the Elks Pub and Restaurant where we enjoyed pizza, salad and soup for dinner with more McMenamin

    McMenamins Bars

    The Old Hang Out Bar throwback to old style Tiki

    hand-crafted beer.  For breakfast I had an amazing Eggs Benedict that included artichoke hearts and spinach and included cheese jalapeño grits.  Wow.

    The Elks Lodge now has 45 rooms, each and every one named for a person or group of persons who had something to do with the building or the surrounding area.  Everyone from Robert Cray (musician) to Bill Baarsma (former mayor) to Hattie Lund (no relation to me but a long-time Tacoma philanthropist) to the Puyallup Native American Tribe.

    I have two small complaints about our visit.  Our room which opened to

    McMenamins Elks Lodge

    Our room

    an atrium and did not have an outside window, was a bit stuffy and I wished for a window.  If I return I’ll pay a little more for a room on the perimeter of the building.  My other complaint is that although the wifi worked great throughout the building in bars and public spaces, it was non-existent in our room.

    Rooms start around $140 per night.  Food and beverage is very reasonably priced.  If you come, allow plenty of time to just explore…it’s like a museum of both art and history as well as a wonderful place to people watch Tacoma’s eclectic and proud residents.  So much fun.  We will be back.

    Learn more at McMenamins Tacoma Elks Temple

     

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    North America Travel

    Charleston South Carolina – Southern Charm and Hospitality

    Location: Charleston South Carolina

    We were so lucky to spend a few lovely days visiting friends in Charleston South Carolina.  It’s a bonus when friends live in cities worth visiting and Charleston is definitely one of those.  Charleston South Carolina oozes southern charm and hospitality – you just want to eat it up.

    We had visited Charleston years ago, in fact about 27 years ago.  Boy time does fly.  And although the surrounding areas of Charleston proper including the town of Mount Pleasant where we were staying, have grown exponentially, historic Charleston has stayed much the same.

    The oldest town in the American south, Charleston dates to 1718 and is named for King Charles II of England.  Originally located north and founded in 1680 (location now known as Charles Town Landing), the town moved south to the strategic location where the confluence of the Wando and the Ashleigh Rivers meet Charleston Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean.

    The city today (population of the greater Charleston area about 775,000) is well-known for its beauty, colonial history, hospitality, exceptional restaurants, and surrounding recreational opportunities.

    We spent our short time in the area enjoying the company of our friends, and several sites around the region.  We did not go out to Fort Sumter, because we did that long ago.  Instead we walked more than eight miles all over historic Charleston.  Although the horse-drawn carriages are fun, Charleston is a pedestrian friendly town.  It’s perfect for walking; flat, safe and beautiful.  On our walk we enjoyed the magnificent historic churches (Charleston is nicknamed the Holy City because it has so many church spires) and cemeteries. The colonial historic homes are enchanting, each so perfectly coiffed and dressed as if going to a ball.  The week we were visiting was the peak of the jasmine bloom – literally millions of jasmine blossoms on nearly every beautiful home, perfumed the air for miles around.  We visited Battery Park where the herons were nesting in the giant oak trees overlooking Charleston Harbor.  Of course we stopped for photos at Rainbow Row, the original commercial district and now the longest cluster of Georgian row houses in the USA.  Our walk took us to The Pink House, the oldest stone building in Charleston dated 1674.

    I really enjoyed the Historic Charleston Market, stretching for four blocks it has been a market of one sort or another since 1790 and operates in the beautiful and historic market hall.  Today the market is almost all arts and crafts, showcasing the region’s blend of Southern US, English, French and West African cultures.  My favorite was the spectacular handmade reed baskets known as Sweetgrass Baskets.  Made still today in the traditional manner by the descendants of West Africans, the baskets are works of art and sell for hundreds of dollars.

    Shem Creek Park north of historic Charleston, has a lovely park and nature preserve made for walking and enjoying the birds and beauty of the area.  This is also where you can see all the shrimp boats and pick up some fresh shrimp for dinner, which we did! Another beautiful walk is out the former bridge to Sullivan’s Island.  When the new bridge opened the old bridge found new purpose as a wonderful pedestrian park across the estuary and perfect for kayak launching, bird watching, fishing and picnicking.

    Boone Hall Plantation is definitely worth a visit even with the $25 entrance fee.  Boone Hall has been a working plantation for more than 350 years.  Although the current main house is not original (dates to 1936), it is beautiful and keeps to the authentic time period.  The row of brick slave cabins were really interesting, with each one focusing on interpretive information about the slave life.  Local docents offer short talks about the plantation and slavery, and a half an hour storytelling and singing presentation by a local Gullah woman was first-rate.  I am so glad we visited beautiful Boone Hall.

    I could write another entire blog about the delicious food of this region…but I’ll just end the post today with a shout out to pimento cheese and  pork rinds, cheeseburger with fried green tomato, BBQ Brisket and coleslaw, scallops with pesto and mushrooms and fresh-off-the-boat shrimp. It’s a delicious city, one of its many, many charms.

    Charleston South Carolina, a perfect little package of southern charm tied pretty with a hospitality bow.  Visit soon.

     

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    At Home  --  North America Travel

    Hello USA – Back Once Again

    Visiting the United States for Four Months

    Location: United States of America

    Our round two of the Grand Adventure has come to an end and we are returning to our home country of the United States for four months.  We head back out for round three in September.

    Meanwhile, dropping back in to the hectic and crazy USA is causing us some anxiety.  Living in the USA is

    My hometown of Gig Harbor

    fast-paced and a bit maniacal, and last summer we found our visit after 18 months away, a bit of a blow.  After living in places with no cars, no grocery stores, no English and sometimes no sanitary systems…arriving in the USA is both deja vu and a culture shock.

    We have grown accustomed to our travel way of life, amongst people who are different, cultures that are

    Our new Condo

    different, food that is different and language that is different. So adjusting back takes some effort when the USA seems a bit weird.  But I’m sure we will adjust.  It will be a relief to have Safeway, Target and a few other things like good gas prices, my hair dresser and my manicurist, a washer and dryer -things that seem such a luxury to us now.

    All that said we are looking forward to seeing our family.  And we are very excited to finally see the condo we bought last fall sight unseen.  This condo will serve as our home when we are in the USA for the foreseeable future as we continue to travel.  We are

    Seeing friends

    hopeful that it was a wise investment and are really looking forward to unpacking our things that have been in storage, some of them for nearly four years.

    We hope to have a bit slower pace this summer than last summer, when we tried to do and see too much.  Our priorities this summer are family, and working on the new condo.  Of course we hope to see some friends too and finding time to work out and get in shape is a goal.  Two short trips are in the works; Scottsdale Arizona and Big Fork Montana.  But other than that, we will stay close to Gig Harbor, family and our new condo.

    While in the USA we will still have a travel blog every Friday and a book review every Wednesday and I hope to post some blogs about the remodel of the condo.  We hope you will continue to follow and enjoy My Fab Fifties Life. We are so grateful to our faithful followers of our blog and our journey.

    Hanging out with family

    We depart the USA again on September 11th and you are invited to follow our round three as we head out for ten months with destinations that include China, Malaysia, Myanmar, Oman, Kenya, Mauritius, Zambia, Uganda, Israel, Cypress, Malta, Albania, Macedonia, Serbia, Slovakia, Czek Republic, Belarus, Lativia, Lithuania, Estonia, Finland and Greenland.  Big plans.  We hope you follow along.

    Hey USA!  You look Fabulous!

     

     

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    North America Travel

    Miami Nice – Four Miami Neighborhoods to Visit

    Location: Miami Florida USA

    Miami is much bigger than I expected.  A shiny port city with lots of shiny expensive cars and beautiful people.

    I was pleasantly surprised – arriving without really any expectations.  It’s beautiful, but

    Four Miami Neighborhoods to visit

    Ceviche at Jaguar

    also expensive.  There is a lot of traffic too, but we enjoyed our six days and explored as much as we could.

    I’m pretty sure I couldn’t afford to live here – but apparently a lot of people can.  The city is growing, with construction of both sky scrapers and roads all around.

    Four Miami neighborhoods to visit

    Cigar rolling Little Havana

    We stayed in a cute little cottage Airbnb in Coconut Grove – one of my favorite neighborhoods we discovered during our visit.  Here’s our list;

    Coconut Grove

    The Grove has a nice neighborhood feel, although mega mansions are hidden behind high walls and in immaculately landscaped gated communities.  But still it felt like a

    Four Miami Neighborhoods to visit

    Cuban Sandwich Little Havana

    family place, although we never saw a public school – we did count six fancy private schools within the neighborhood we were staying.  Coconut Grove reminded me of Pasadena, with similar street shopping and restaurants and sidewalk cafe’s.  But it also has a beautiful harbor with hundreds of sailboats and yachts moored.   Coconut Grove also has a “low rent” district, but as a visitor you are likely to spend your time in the historic old town.                                                                             Favorite Spot – Jaguar Restaurant for delicious Peruvian ceviche and other specialities.

    Little Havana

    Historic and quit small Little Havana is easy to explore – pretty much all on one street,

    Four Miami Neighborhoods to visit

    Art Deco south Beach

    Calle Ocho (8th Street).  Here you must try the amazing Cuban Coffee (similar to Turkish Coffee – sweet and strong) as well as delicious Cuban Food.  We ate lunch at Old’s Havana Cuban Bar and Cocina where we had a giant Cuban Sandwich and a delicious mango mojito.  There are some small shops and some kitschy Cuban souvenirs.  Stop to watch the old men playing Dominoes at Dominoes Park.                                                                                                                                                       Favorite Spot – Cuba Tobacco Cigar Company, family owned and operated by the Bellos Family for 100 years.  Here you can watch the art of hand rolling cigars.  Of course you can also buy cigars (many kinds and prices) if you are in to that.

    South Beach

    South Beach is every thing you imagined.

    Four Miami Neighborhoods to visit

    South Beach

    White sand, blue water, tropical pink lifeguard station and lots of sunbathers glistening in oil.  We spent several hours enjoying the sun and the warm waters of the Atlantic.  Quit the contrast to the Atlantic we watched a few weeks ago in Spain.  South Beach is home to a lot of celebrities, as well as high-end shopping, hotels, bars and restaurants.  Choose a street cafe and sip on one of the fishbowl sized tropical drinks and watch the people go by.                                                                                                                                 Favorite spot – South Beach’s famous Art Deco Architecture is worth a visit.  You can take a guided tour ($25) or just walk around on your own to see the wonderful collection, most very well-preserved, from the 1920’s era of glitz and glam.

    Wynwood Art District

    This reincarnated neighborhood is really cool.  You don’t need a lot of time here, or you can

    Four Miami Neighborhoods to bisit

    Wynwood Walls

    make it a full day because there are lots of restaurants, shops, art galleries and a couple of breweries.  This old industrial neighborhood used to be no mans land.  Until a few artists started opening up art space. It grew.  Someone painted a mural.  Then another.  Today nearly every paintable space in the small neighborhood is covered with art – more than 70 murals as well as sidewalk art and more.  It’s definitely unique, fun and colorful!                                                                                                   Favorite spot – the Wynwood Walls, an enclosed area of spectacular murals you can view for free.

     

    There is certainly more to Miami than these four neighborhoods – in fact a lot more.  We will need to visit again, to enjoy the beautiful weather, history, water and restaurant scene.  Miami nice.  Yes it is. Fabulous!

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    North America Travel

    Favorite Hiking & Cycling Trails in Puget Sound

    My Summer in Washington State USA

    Location: Puget Sound, Washington State, USA

    I’ve spent ten weeks in the beautiful state of Washington in the north-western United States.  This is where I grew up and where my family is.  It was fun being back, if only for a little while.  There were so many things I wanted to do and see, and I didn’t get it all done.  But I did manage to spend time enjoying my favorite hiking and cycling trails in Puget Sound.

    Favorite Hiking and Cycling trails in Puget Sound

    On top of Buckhorn pass

    I absolutely love cycling, and even though I started this sport rather late in life (48), I have embraced it.  I ride a road bike (‘Specialized’ brand) but prefer to ride on paved trails rather than out in traffic.  And there are two of my favorite trails less than an hour from where I have been staying;

    1. The Chehalis Western Trail is a fantastic trail on an old railroad bed, well maintained and very beautiful.  It is located south of Tacoma Washington beginning in Lacey.  You can start or stop at several locations along this 50-plus mile trail.  You can make the ride even longer by continuing

      Favorite Hiking and Cycling trails in Puget Sound

      Lunch break on the Chehalis Western Trail

      on the Yelm-Tenino Trail.  If you do the entire length of both these trails it’s more than 80 miles of paved bike path (with the small exception of about 100 yards of gravel). The trail includes views of Mount Rainier, bucolic farmland, the city of Olympia, and the Deschutes River. I was able to ride the Chehalis Western Trail three times while I was in Washington.

    2. The Olympic Discovery Trail is a spectacular trail on the Olympic Peninsula.  You can ride more than fifty miles round trip on this trial, including a newly added section to Discovery Bay.  There are a few sections of the trail that take you out to

      Favorite Hiking and Cycling trails in Puget Sound

      The Olympic Discovery Trail

      ride short distances on the highway, but for the most part the trail runs along the old highway and well maintained paved trails and bridges.  Highlights of this trail include crossing Dungeness River at the historic Railroad Bridge Park, riding through beautiful lavender fields in Sequim, enjoying views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and more bucolic farmland.  Simply spectacular and my favorite by far.  Unfortunately I only made it up to ride this trail once, but it was a beautiful day and I loved it.

    Both of these trails are for non-motorized vehicles only, and walkers are also encouraged.

    Speaking of walking, that is another of my favorite pastimes.  Last year when we walked the 486 mile Camino de Santiago from France to Spain we trained for more than a year.  Three months from now we plan to walk the 250 mile Camino de Santiago from Portugal to Spain and we have barely started our training!  So during these ten weeks here in

    Favorite Hiking and Cycling trails in Puget Sound

    Hiking on the Big Quilcene Trail

    Washington we have tried to get out and do urban hikes as well as two beautiful hikes on two of my favorite trails in the Olympic Mountains;

    1. Upper Big Quilcene / Marmot Pass Trail has a lot of elevation gain, but if you take it slow most anyone can do it.  And what does elevation gain mean?  Well of course it means spectacular views when you get to the top.  It’s about five miles to Marmot Pass and another steep scramble if you want to reach Buckhorn Ridge.  On a clear day you can see Seattle, all the Cascade mountains and for miles of the Olympic range as well.  The trail is well maintained, although you will need to walk through a rocky section where a slide has taken place.  This hike round trip if you go all the way to Buckhorn Ridge is 14 miles.  Or to Marmot Pass about 11 miles.  Be sure to have a Northwest Forest Pass (purchase ahead of time at many area locations).
    2. Lower Skokomish River Trail is one of my favorites.  We usually do a ten-mile round trip on this trail, but you can go further.  This well maintained trail takes you through

      Favorite Hiking and Cycling trails in Puget Sound

      Our lunch spot on the Skokomish River

      beautiful old growth forests and then along the Skokomish River for miles upstream.  There are a couple of places where you can get down to the river bed for a picnic or to camp.  The start of this trail is pretty steep, but once you get through the first mile it flattens out into a beautiful meandering trail where you hike through forests and cross creeks.  There is another climb but its easy and then again a flat and Favorite hiking and cycling trails in Puget Soundenjoyable walk from there.  This trail is rarely busy and I feel safe enough to walk this trail alone.

    So there you go, some of my favorite active pastimes in the Pacific Northwest where I have been since May.  We are now just days away from parting the USA again.  We will return to Washington for another visit next June.  Hopefully I’ll have more free time then, to cycle and hike around this spectacular state.

    Departing in T minus 11 days.

    North America Travel

    I Made That!

    Do It Yourself Glass Art

    Location: Silverdale Washington USA

    Making your own glass art project is surprisingly simple, fabulously fun and a great activity for kids young and old. Do it yourself glass art might be my new favorite craft.

    I spent a couple of hours this week at Lisa Stirrett Glass Art Studio in Silverdale Washington USA.  This was one of my Wednesday With Mom outings that I have been doing with my mom all summer long.

    Do it yourself glass art

    My mom getting creative Click and hold for larger image

    I didn’t know what to expect exactly, but I had seen some of the large and incredibly stunning works of art that come out of the Lisa Stirrett Glass Art Studio so I was looking forward to it.

    The glass studio offers classes (they were having a summer camp class while we were there) for both adults and children.  They also offer a DIY

    do it yourself glass art

    Our teacher Tara demonstrating technique Click and hold for larger image

    class.  You just call and let them know the day and time you want to come in to make your own creation.  Then they will have the supplies and someone on hand to guide you.  This is what I did with my mom.

    do it yourself glass art

    Mermaid phase one adding the first color Click and hold for larger image

    The sitting fee for the DIY is $8 and

    do it yourself glass art

    A wide selection of colors Click and hold for larger image

    you can make up to three pieces for this one sitting fee.  You then choose what you want to make and the costs for each project (cost covers glass, preparation, guidance and firing) varies depending on what you choose to make.

    Mom and I are both beginners so we started with something simple – small glass cutouts that could be used in a window or in a garden or as a ornament or maybe as a gift.  My mom chose a frog and I chose a mermaid. These each were $38.

    We learned how the process works – first you clean the glass carefully.  Then you chose your glass color that you will apply on top.  The glass is very fine sand-like granules and you sift it on to the different areas of your

    do it yourself glass art

    Lisa Stirrett owner and glass artist Click and hold for larger image

    piece.  The mermaid had a bit more detail than the frog.  I chose a teal blue for the mermaids body.  I then used a stencil to apply a glittery gold pattern over the top (the glitter was an additional $10).  Finally I put a silver glitter on her hair (you know, because I am the Grey Goddess and

    do it yourself glass art

    Mermaid phase II – all the color has been applied Click and hold for larger image

    all).  There are several tools you can use to clean up your mistakes, or to pinpoint a small area or to define a certain part.

    On the frog my mom chose to do a pale yellow-green lightly all over the body of the frog.  She then used larger glass chunks in a

    do it yourself glass art

    The frog warts and all ready for the kiln Click and hold for larger image

    bright pistachio green to make the frog look like he had bumps and warts.  The staff at the studio helped apply black paint for the frogs eyes.

    All of this only took about an hour and half.  We left our masterpieces behind to go into the kiln for the firing. Before the glass goes in the kiln it is placed on a soft paper that looks similar to quilt batting.  In the kiln it absorbs into the glass and gives it a multi-dimensional look.  I picked our pieces up several days later and it was amazing how different it looks after its been in the kiln.

    DIY Glass Art

    Mermaid Final product Click and hold for larger image

    Someday when I am back in Silverdale I would love to tackle a larger piece and really create something memorable so I can say I Made That!  In the meantime, if you are in the area I recommend checking out Lisa Stirrett Glass Art Studio to make your own project or to pick out a gift or something for yourself from their beautiful gallery.

    Another successful Wednesday with Mom!  Fabulous!