We’ve definitely been MIA on the blog front. What can I say, adventures and that funny old thing called work have all overshadowed the blogging and photo processing operation. I’ve procrastinated over how I should approach this blog and it only seems right to fill you in on places visited and adventures had after departing Mexico back in late April this year. Funny thing is that we are currently back in Mexico having almost been around the world since we were last here.
Planning a second USA road trip from the shores of Mexico, a definite botanical garden theme seemed to be emerging for the first section so that’s what we ended up with and like most of our experiences in The States we weren’t disappointed.
First on the agenda was Seattle with the intention of driving up to Skagit Valley for the Tulip Festival. However, the early spring they had this year meant we were too late for the tulips so we opted to stay in the Emerald City a little longer and explore.
I have forever been a huge fan of the TV show ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ which is based in Seattle and though they don’t film the show in the city, what I did get a thrill to see in person was the famed Seattle skyline which features in the show’s opening credits.
I couldn’t tell you that we’d been to Seattle without mentioning the coffee culture. Nationally known for its coffee, the world centre of coffee roasting and the home of Starbucks are all traits that contribute to it being the hub of caffeine consumption. So what better place or excuse could we have had to go searching for the ultimate cup of coffee?
I can’t give you a conclusive result on where the ultimate cup of coffee can be had, however I can advise that if you find yourself in Seattle do go visit the Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room up on Capitol Hill. It is far from what one thinks of when the name Starbucks is mentioned – no traditional green to be seen anywhere. Instead it is an aesthetically very cool place to hang out feeling a bit like a Willy Wonka’s coffee world. Only high-end coffee beans are on offer here. The coffee is brewed using a wide variety of methods, all of which the highly caffeinated, ‘superstar’ baristas will tell you ALL about. Their enthusiasm was contagious and before we knew it, our faces had gone numb – perhaps one needs to work up to that amount of caffeine consumption in such a short space of time.
We aren’t fans of Starbucks – no seriously – BUT we did also walk in and out of the original store simply because it’s located at the fun, fish throwing, flower-filled and famed Pike Place Market. Quite a few hours were spent perusing the market which is another part of Seattle’s identity and has a bit of a Covent Garden vibe to it, having been around for decades.
Next on the itinerary was a ferry ride across to Vancouver Island, specifically the town of Victoria (hey, I had to visit a place named after me). It was the first time either of us had stepped foot on Canadian soil so that was special in itself.
Here we stayed with some very dear friends we’ve met on our travels which was one highlight, the other was the spectacular Butchart Gardens. These colourful, perfectly manicured and breathtaking gardens are a real treat for the eyes AND finally we got to see tulips, tulips and more tulips.
A little hiking was also done on Vancouver Island. We were so curious about the name, so spent a day on the Juan de Fuca (yep, you’ve said it correctly) Trail, which offers very rugged and beautiful panoramic views that reminded us a bit of New Zealand.
The next port of call, once back on USA soil, was the unique, funky and very hipster city of Portland. Talk about a town with lots to offer. Everyone here seems to do things in their own way with incredible thought and detail put into whatever it may be; from doughnuts to card making, bookstores to fashion, coffee to tattoo parlours….and the list goes on. Just don’t get too freaked out by the equally impressive large presence of homeless people that’s part of the scene too.
The Willamette River slices through the city so in true Portland style they have beautiful, one-of-a-kind bridges to link the two sides together.
Portland is definitely the land of food carts – choices abound. Rows and rows of food trucks line the squares of downtown Portland. Once we discovered our favourite cart – ‘Cultured Caveman’- was a five minute walk from our hotel we could happily have set up residence in Portland.
Never tried nitrate coffee? Go to Stumptown Coffee in Portland and get served up a cold coffee that looks like a glass of Guinness and will blow your mind if you’re a fan of coffee.
Now, getting back to that garden theme…
Smack bang in the middle of Portland is a little area of tranquility – the impressive Lan Su Chinese Garden. They say it’s the most authentic Chinese Garden outside of China and we were certainly impressed. Walking through the doors we felt transported to a world of Chinese culture, history, art and tradition. Their traditional Chinese teahouse is also rather special. A huge selection of Chinese teas are served in classical styles with each tea being served in a vessel that matches its category and unique character.
Keeping to the Asian theme, Portland also boasts a superb Japanese Garden. I really wasn’t kidding about Portlandians and their attention to detail; this garden is said to be the most authentic in the world (yes that does include Japan). Comprising of five different garden styles and influenced by Shinto, Buddhist and Taoist philosophies the desired impact of the gardens is to get a sense of peace, harmony and tranquility through the various compositions of stone, water and plants. The aesthetics and individual energies of each of the gardens is quite something to experience and left us with a strong desire to go adventuring in Japan.
Setting the tone for the second half of our road trip, which was far less caffeine focused and more National Parks orientated, on our way out of Portland we visited the roaringly magnificent Multnomah Falls. The magnitude and power of this 611-foot-tall, two tiered cascade of icy water is phenomenal.
I shall conclude the first chapter there and with it wish everyone a very Merry Christmas from the shores of Mexico but very soon to be, snowy mountains of Sun Valley and Jackson Hole.