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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.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Lake Chelan
    Lake Chelan

    I was born in Washington 60 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. I’m looking forward to getting back there, and once again enjoying my favorite things in Washington State.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Tacoma
    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 110 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.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Seattle
    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.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Seattle
    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.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Microbrews
    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.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Gig Harbor
    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.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Pullman
    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.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Lena Lake
    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.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Hiking Mount Rainier
    On top of Crystal Mountain
    My Favorite Things in Washington State Hiking Skokomish River
    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

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Cycling Spokane
    Centennial Trail Spokane

    Olympic Discovery Trail – I love this cycling trail and rode on it twice this past 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.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Cycling the Chehalis Western Trail
    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.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Discovery Park
    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.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State San Juan Islands
    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.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Gig Harbor Gondola
    Gig Harbor Gondola
    My Favorite Things in Washington State Klaloch Beach
    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 Favorite Things in Washington State Geoduck
    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.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State clamming
    Harvesting oysters and clams

    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.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Cafe Campagne
    Steak Tartar at Cafe Campagne
    My Favorite Things in Washington State Luna
    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;

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Jones of Washington
    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;

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Campbells Resort
    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

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Point Defiance Rose Garden
    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

    My Favorite Things in Washington State The Gorge
    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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    North America Travel

    Nine Things to do in Tucson Arizona

    Location: Tucson Arizona

    We spent two fabulous weeks exploring and getting to know the high desert area of Tucson Arizona. It was unexpected. I loved pretty much everything about it and I will definitely come back next winter. In fact, I really think I could spend several months a year in this lovely town, surrounded by nature. Here are the things I loved the most, the nine things to do in Tucson Arizona.

    Organ Pipe Cactus

    Saguaro National Park

    Saguaro National Park
    Saguaro National Park

    You must spend time in this remarkable place. It is not the biggest national park, or the most diverse, but it is indeed a gem. Saguaro National Park offers hikes for people of all capacities from nature walks (wheelchair accessible) to multi-day excursions. We enjoyed all of the hikes we did, short and long, and especially the unique desert plants. Saguaro National Park.

    Sabino Canyon National Forest

    Sabino Canyon
    Sabino Canyon

    This is where we enjoyed my favorite hike during our visit, called Phone Line Trail. We hiked more than nine miles on this trail, that cuts across the side of a mountain with spectacular views. But you don’t need to be able to hike that distance to enjoy Sabino Canyon. A National Forest Service tram provides transportation into the canyon. You can walk a portion of the canyon, and then catch the tram at your leisure. Sabino Canyon.

    Arizona Sonora Desert Museum

    Arizona Sonora Desert Museum
    Arizona Sonora Desert Museum

    I always love learning about the local flora and fauna and the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum is one of the finest of this kind of museum I have ever seen. Acres of desert flora are marked with interpretive and interactive signage. Indoor exhibits of reptiles, birds, and a replica of an underground cave give visitors a up close look at desert life. The museum also is home to a mountain lion, bear, wolves and javelina. Don’t miss this wonderful place. Arizona Sonora Desert Museum

    Tucson Botanical Garden

    Tucson Botanical Gardens
    Tucson Botanical Gardens

    This historic site was once home to the Porter Family, a leading Tucson family in the landscaping business. The property has been home to the Tucson Botanical Garden since 1974. Beautiful gardens offer a wonderful look at desert plants from aloe to cactus including an herb garden, butterfly garden and pollinator garden. Definitely worth a visit. Tucson Botanical Garden

    The Barrio Viejo

    Barrio Viejo
    Barrio Viejo

    This historic neighborhood was once home to to Tucson’s working class, immigrants from Mexico, Central America, Africa, Asia and Europe. The adobe homes were built in the 1800’s as Tucson grew in agriculture and as a crossroads in the Southwest.

    Unfortunately many of the old buildings were bulldozed during Tucson’s “revitalization” period when the new convention center was built. Today, the remaining homes are becoming popular to purchase and restore and a walk through these neighborhoods offers a peek into Tucson’s history as well as a colorful opportunity for photographers. Barrio Viejo.

    The Tucson Museum of Art

    Tucson Museum of Art
    Tucson Museum of Art

    As we were walking around Tucson we noticed the Tucson Museum of Art was offering a special exhibit of the works of the Wyeth Family. My husband and I both love the work of Andrew Wyeth so we thought we should check it out. The beautiful museum is right in the center of Tucson in a newish building that is attached to one of the most historic homes of Tucson.

    The $12 entrance fees seemed very reasonable and we not only enjoyed the Wyeth Family exhibit, but wandered through all the permanent exhibits of the museum. Well worth a couple of hours when visiting Tucson. Tucson Museum of Art

    San Xavier del Bac Mission

    San Xavier del Bac Mission
    San Xavier del Bac Mission

    A truly unexpected beauty of a mission rises up out of the desert like a white beacon about ten miles outside of Tucson. This National Historic Landmark, San Xavier Mission was founded as a Catholic mission by Father Eusebio Kino in 1692. Construction of the current church began in 1783 and was completed in 1797.  Entrance is free and it is definitely worth checking it out. Very beautiful. San Xavier del Bac Mission.

    Walking Tour Historic Tucson – Presido Trail

    From the original Presidio in historic Tucson you can easily walk in any direction to multiple buildings and sites of historic significance. Throughout this walk you will also find numerous historic markers interpreting the unique and interesting history of Tucson. Tucson is home to several sites on the National Historic Register. It’s an easy walk (flat) for just about anyone and worth an hour or more depending on your interest. Presidio Walking Trail

    Historic Congress Hotel
    Historic Tain Depot

    Mount Lemmon

    Mount Lemmon
    Mount Lemmon

    On one of the colder days during our visit we drove up Mount Lemmon all the way to where the road ends. This drive offers spectacular views as well as some hiking options. Worth a half a day to see how the landscape changes from saguaro to pines. Beautiful. Mount Lemmon

    Thanks Tucson

    There you go, nine things to do in Tucson Arizona. Throughout the area there are several places designed to show visitors what the old west was like, but they aren’t authentic and I usually shy away from such things. But if you are interested to learn more about the wider variety of things to see and do in this remarkable region of Arizona at Visit Tucson. There are certainly more than nine things to do in Tucson Arizona…but this will give you a start.

    We will definitely be back. Thanks Tucson. We loved you.

    Want to take a day trip south? Read our post Tubac, Bisbee, Tombstone Day Trip from Tucson Arizona.

    Next week we will post about our favorite food in Tucson.

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    North America Travel

    Tubac, Bisbee, Tombstone Day Trip from Tucson Arizona

    Location: Arizona USA

    There is a wide variety of activities to enjoy while visiting Tucson Arizona, without ever leaving town. But if you have the time, make your way south for some colorful history and fun. Enjoy Tubac, Bisbee, Tombstone Day Trip from Tucson.

    Tubac

    Any of these three destinations could also be an overnight destination, but we left Tucson around 8 am and headed first to Tubac. About an hour and half drive to the tiny historic town, known for its historic presidio (fort in Spanish). The seven dollar entrance fee is well worth it to explore the presidio and learn about its history, which began in 1691 as a small Spanish Mission. The presidio served the Spanish, the Mexicans and even the Apache over the generations. Today it is an Arizona State Park.

    Southwest style pottery in Tubac

    Tubac is also a great destination for acquiring lovely Southwest pottery, glass and metal art. We spent about two hours total in Tubac (if shopping, you could easily spend more), including breakfast at the Stables Ranch and Grill, on the grounds of the Tubac Golf Resort. The resort is located on a 400 year old Spanish farm and ranch.

    Presidio in Tubac
    Historic Adobe School House, Tubac

    Learn more about Tubac here.

    Bisbee

    Our Tubac, Bisbee, Tombstone Day Trip from Tucson continued as we drove almost two hours to Bisbee. The two lane road, and eventually a highway wind south nearly to the Mexican border before heading east through endless grass lands with mountain ranges distant. A beautiful drive.

    There are three main areas to explore in Bisbee. First are the open pit mines, a giant scar on the earth from the copper and silver mining that ruled this region for decades. Today there is no mining but you can take a tour of the mines. If you don’t want to take a tour you can just stand on the edge of the pit and be amazed at the devastation.

    Pit mine, Bisbee

    Near by is the former town of Lowell, which has been incorporated into Bisbee. Most of the town of Lowell was swallowed up when the Lavender Pit Mine was expanded, leaving only Erie Street intact. Businesses on Erie Street struggled to survive with few residents left. Today, preservationists keep Erie colorful for tourists, even though only one business remains open. It lives up to it’s name as an eerie mining ghost town.

    Erie Street, Lowell Arizona

    Old Bisbee, also hit by hard times, still offers a colorful and historic story of small town mining life with several museums and a historic hotel in the middle of town. Built on the side of a mountain, surveying the town requires climbing stairs, but the views are worth it. Quaint and quirky Bisbee is worth two hours, and more if you take the mine tour. Stop for a beer at the Bisbee Brewing Company.

    Bisbee
    Bisbee Brewing
    Lowell

    Learn more about Bisbee here.

    Tombstone

    The most famous of these three towns was actually my least favorite, although I am glad we stopped. The historic old town of Tombstone, site of the infamous shootout at the OK Coral, is now a very touristy destination. But much of the old town remains, and local lore draws thousands of visitors to witness the “shootout” re-enactment several times a day at multiple locations.

    Tombstone

    The OK Corral is a Historical Landmark and the Tombstone Courthouse is a State Historical Park. Stagecoach rides through town are popular, and costumed characters wander about. Souvenir shops and restaurants occupy the remaining old west buildings. We recommend a meal at Big Nose Kate’s with excellent live music and the movie Tombstone on continuously on the big screen.

    An hour is enough in Tombstone, unless you plan to do the 45 minute “shootout” show (there is a shorter option too) or plan to do a lot of shopping.

    Tombstone
    Tombstone

    Learn more about Tombstone here.

    Your Tubac, Bisbee, Tombstone day trip from Tucson ends with a one hour drive back to Tucson; we were back a little after 5:00 PM. A very enjoyable day trip if you have the time when visiting Tucson – a city filled with history, scenery, recreation and more.

    Watch for next Friday’s blog all about Tucson.

    See last week’s blog about Senstional Sedona Arizona

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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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