Bourbon at The Brown

We’re all settled in at the first stop on our road trip, and I think Louisville has treated us well so far.  We’re staying at the Brown Hotel, a 1920s beauty and the birthplace of the Hot Brown, a legend among sandwiches (no, really, it is).  We’ve not tried one yet, but we did spend some time at the Lobby Bar yesterday enjoying that old Kentucky favorite – bourbon.  When in Rome, right?

I went for an Old Fashioned, which is actually my favorite cocktail.  Unfortunately, no Old Fashioned will ever compare to the one I enjoyed here in Kentucky.

20160722_185723

Graham had a bourbon flight, because contrary to what the politics of the day would indicate, we can have nice things.

20160722_185608

If you’re ever in Louisville, I would definitely recommend spending at least one night at the Brown, and I would also heavily encourage you to spend some time in their Lobby Bar getting to know their bourbon selection.

We’re off to a wedding tonight, and then it’s full speed ahead to Asheville tomorrow.   As the song says, the road goes on forever and the party never ends…

Road Trip!

No rest for this weary traveler.  And that’s just the way I like it!

Tomorrow, Graham and I will head to Louisville, Kentucky for a wedding.  From there, we’ll stop in Asheville, North Carolina for a night, and then head to Figure Eight Island for a week with the family.

Road trips make me happy.  I’m all for big overseas adventures that require airplanes and very particular packing, but I think a road trip is one of the best ways to explore.  At the end of the day, even the familiar can be an adventure.

“Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.” –J.R.R. Tolkien

14640623659_636fd502b9_k

Wine is the Best Medicine

Said no doctor, ever.  But tonight, it’s exactly what Graham and I needed.

We’ve been searching for some time for a historic home somewhere in Loudoun County, and this week, we found the perfect place.  Unfortunately, another buyer did too, and, though we put our best foot forward, their offer was accepted.  We’re both disappointed, because this was pretty much our dream house – perfect location, perfect front porch, casual with character, and ready for our personal touch to make it a really beautiful, comfortable Virginia farmhouse.  But we’re getting through it.  There will be another house for us one day, and in the meantime, there’s Virginia wine.

Tonight, we opened a bottle of 50 West 2015 Rosé of Sangiovese.

28442816875_1c66e01a0c_z

I know, I know…I featured 50 West just a few weeks ago (here’s the post: 50 West Post), but this past weekend, we stopped by again to check out their newly renovated clubhouse.  It was definitely worth the stop, because it’s awesome.  The care and time they’ve put into making this mid-century modern house into everything it should be is, at the very least, admirable.  But, really, it’s more than that, because they’ve put the same effort and attention to detail into this house as they put into making their wines (which is to say, impeccable and impressive), and it shows.  While we were there, Diane, one of the owners, was kind enough to show us around the house and around some of their new grapevines.  They’ve just planted Albariño and Suavignon Blanc.  I expect great things in the future.

The rosé we opened tonight was light, crisp, and perfect for a hot summer day – a refreshing nose of strawberries and citrus with leafy notes, citrus and fruitiness on the palate that give way to a pleasant sweetness and fresh strawberries on the finish, and just a hint of minerality.  This one is a staff favorite at the tasting room, and I can see why.

Sometimes, life hands you lemons.  If you’re Graham and me, you take those lemons and…drink wine instead.  It’s not been a good day, but that’s okay.  We might not have our dream house, but we do have each other.  And wine.

Cheers!

Hot Day = Cold Wine

It’s hot tonight.  It was hot today.  And a hot day calls for a refreshing drink.  And in our house, that means cold white wine.

Summers in Northern Virginia tend to be somewhere between oh-so-unpleasantly-sweltering and Death Valley but humid.  A friend of the family describes this kind of weather as “close,” which, as I understand it, means “it’s so hot I feel like I’m crammed into a sauna with 1,000 other sweaty people who like hugs.”  I’m happy to be home after all of our travels so far this summer, but man, I hate the heat.

I’d actually picked out a red wine for tonight (welcome to our house…red wine everywhere), but when Graham got home, I felt the heat coming through the door and changed my mind.  I was also baking a pie and the kitchen was hot, so white wine it was.  We opened a bottle of Greenhill 2014 Seyval Blanc.

28191299842_d290517e44_z

I’ve featured Greenhill before (here’s the post: Greenhill Wine Post) so I won’t go on about the winery.  I will say, though, that it’s a nice place with good wine and a pretty view that’s worth a visit or several.

If you’re unfamiliar with Seyval Blanc, it’s a hybrid grape used to make white wines, and it grows particularly well in cooler climates.  It’s widely grown in Virginia, though I’ve heard upstate New York grows it, as well.  This particular Seyval Blanc was pretty on character for the grape – a delicate nose of citrus, with honeysuckle, sweet citrus, and black currant on the palate, and a sour citrus finish.  It was light, yes, but with a minerality that added some complexity and depth.  I can think of few better wines for a hot summer evening, and we certainly enjoyed it.

I checked the forecast earlier today, and it looks like we’re in for a heat wave for the foreseeable future.  Knowing us like I do, I predict there will be more cold white wine in our future.  So, damn the heat, and bless the wine, and thank God for air conditioning.  Cheers!

The Blank Page

When I decided to pursue writing as a career, I anticipated a lot of different reactions.  I expected people to tell me that I was crazy and irresponsible, or that I was spoiled, or that I was naïve.  What I didn’t expect to hear, and what most people told me, was that I was brave.  Brave.  People still tell me that I’m brave.  They tell me I made a bold choice, and that it takes courage to pursue this dream of mine.  The truth, I think, is more relatable, more grounded in real life, and so very human.

I’m scared.

The day I decided to leave my full-time job, I didn’t do it because I was brave.  I did it because I was afraid that I’d be stuck doing something I didn’t love until I either retired or died.  Then, when I handed in my resignation and started saying my goodbyes, I was afraid that I’d made a terrible mistake.  The first Monday I ever spent just writing, I was afraid that I’d never make any money again, and Graham and I would end up destitute and it would be all my fault.

And I’m still scared, because the thing that frightens me most in this world, the one thing that gives me nightmares, the one fear I can’t conquer, is just this:

Capture

The blank page.  The beginning.  The start of the marathon.  The mountain to climb, and my own personal Everest.  I’m scared of a lot of things – heights, elevators, airplanes, snakes, ladybugs – but nothing scares me as much as the blank page.  It’s a world of possibilities, and the responsibility to explore it and fill it up with words that sing is exhilarating and paralyzing all at the same time.

I’m scared of the blank page because words are powerful, and stories are important, and storytellers are the guardians of our history and our humanity, and I’m just a girl from a small town in Virginia sitting at my desk in my pajamas trying to write words that matter.

I’m not brave, but I don’t have to be.  I just have to write.  I have to get the words out of me and into the world, whether anyone reads them or not.  I have to, because if I don’t, they’ll just build up in my head and the weight of them, the pressure of all of them floating around in there, jammed together in a Times New Roman mosh pit, will drive me crazy.  I have to, because I love stringing words together to make something that didn’t exist before.  It’s the closest to magic that I’ll ever get.

Bravery is overrated, and sometimes you just have to embrace the fear and let it motivate you to take the actions you need to take.  I’m not brave, but I am writing, and that’s enough.

The Last Frontier: A Virginia Writer Goes West, Part II

I can’t remember that I thought much about Alaska before I met Graham.  Maybe that it was cold in the winter and light in the summer and I’d heard there were mosquitoes?  I’m almost ashamed to say it, but I’d never had any strong desire to travel to Alaska.  I think it was in the first month of our relationship that Graham, who hiked through the wilderness there for a couple of weeks when he was eighteen, noted for me all the myriad reasons we should make a trip to Alaska, and, being too in love with him to see straight (I still am, by the way), I listened.  We resolved to plan a trip, whenever the opportunity came along.  Which it did, about a year ago.  One of our friends invited us along on an Alaska cruise her family was planning, and we said yes immediately.  In unison, if I’m recalling correctly.  It was a beautiful moment.

I wasn’t sure what to expect – I’d never cruised before, and I’d never been to Alaska, so it was like a double whammy of the anxious uncertainty and nervous excitement that I always feel before a big trip.  I don’t know how a trip can live up to your every expectation when you don’t know what your expectations are, but this one did.  So, for those who, like me, have never cruised and have never been to Alaska, here are some of the things I learned.

Cross Country Flights Are Pretty Much the Worst

Five and a half hours.  That’s nearly a flight from Dulles International to England.  That is a flight from Dulles International to Iceland.  Five and a half hours.  No meal, no free booze, no complementary pretzels or cookies, no free movies or television (seriously, we even had to pay to see the flight path and progress).  I don’t know if every airline does it that way, but the flights to and from the West Coast were just awful.

Cruises Are Fun!

Yep, they sure are!  Food and alcohol readily available and easily accessible at all hours, a casino, several different bars, a karaoke lounge, a dance club, a spa, pools and hot tubs, decks for relaxing and taking in the passing scenery…a cruise ship is really like an all-inclusive resort that just happens to float.  Add a few good friends, some beautiful Alaskan mountains, and a couple of family costume parties, and I had a great time!

But, They’re Not Really My Thing

Don’t get me wrong here.  If we got another opportunity to take a cruise, especially to somewhere tropical, I certainly wouldn’t say no!  And, just like we did this time, I would spring for the balcony room.  But, as a traveler, I like to plan my own schedule, see what I want to see when I want to see it, and try my best to blend in with the locals.  I don’t really like being labeled a tourist, and I would like to think I don’t behave like one.  In short, gift shops?  No, thanks.

The truth is, when you step off of that cruise ship, you are immediately identifiable as a tourist, and almost every shop and attraction within site of the ship is operated specifically for the ship.  My recommendation, if you find yourself in this situation, is to get farther away from port, and explore the “real” place you’re visiting.  Sometimes, though, you just gotta go with it.  So, we tried out the tourist thing in Ketchikan.

We visited Dolly’s House Museum, an interesting piece of America’s more sordid history that belonged to the town’s most acclaimed and industrious prostitute, and walked the Married Man’s Trail behind it (so named because a married man could walk back to town on that trail with little chance of being seen).  Here’s a little more information on Dolly’s House Museum, if you’re interested: Dolly’s House Museum on Alaska.org.

27873893555_79b6269483_z

27773110432_23b8922d9c_z

We also stumbled upon an easy trail that ran along the shoreline and had fantastic views.  We were able to walk a little more than a mile out, and make it back with plenty of time to get back on the boat.

27873879965_5aeb75c730_z

Towel Animals Make Me Laugh

Who knew?

27797954601_f625cf89c4_z

Harley Davidson Shops Are Everywhere

My dad rides a Harley, and I really wanted to get him some Alaska souvenirs.  I thought it would be hard to do, but there was a Harley shop in every port.

Starbucks, Not So Much

Our friend Anthony had a little more trouble with his souvenir hunt.  He collects Starbucks mugs, and the only Starbucks in Juneau was twenty miles away from the docks.  Unexpected, but true.

Water Taxis Are a Thing

Did you know this?  I didn’t.  One of our stops was Victoria, British Columbia, and taking a water taxi was such a fun way to get from place to place!

27959494355_6ff6d3c0d0_z

Unexpected, Out of Place Surprises Are Little Gifts from the Universe

Allow me to present to you, a photo of a fiddle group.  Playing Scottish reels.  In one of North America’s oldest Chinatowns.  In Canada.

27857770082_f49d88b562_z

27857771842_50e6b4002d_z

It’s like the universe said, “Hey, Katie, this weirdness is exactly what you need! Enjoy!”

My Body Is Strong

I’m a little self-conscious about the weight I’ve gained since college, and coming to the end of my twenties, I don’t really take care of myself the way that I should.  But in spite of all that, I was still able to paddle a canoe out to the Mendenhall Glacier, and I loved it.

27773083152_df0fab454e_z

I was still able to hike the rocky, four-mile trail up to the Laughton Glacier, and I loved that, too.

27680102470_b3db29ee6a_z

I might be a little chubby, but my body is strong, and I’ll never doubt my physical capabilities again.

27680112040_54c0e9ef5c_z

But, It Is Wise and Necessary to Invest In the Right Equipment

I hiked a lot in college, and somehow never bought good hiking boots.  For this trip, Graham pretty much insisted that we fork over the loot for a good pair, and I’m glad I listened.  I don’t think I would have made it up the trail to see the Laughton Glacier without my Merrills.  I should also commend Packer Expeditions and our guides Wyatt, Megan, and Ruth, for making sure we had trekking poles, creepers, snacks, sunscreen, bug spray, and really anything else we needed for our glacier hike.  If you’re ever in Skagway looking for something to do, I would definitely recommend checking out their list of activities: Packer Expeditions.

Glaciers Are Awesome Forces of Nature, and We Should Take Care of the Environment So That Future Generations Can Enjoy Them

Seriously, look at them.

27680115860_f5b3c52617_z

27797986561_148586fdcd_z

Really, really look.

27773058302_f438cfb8d7_z

These ice giants are ancient.  They’ve carved out mountains.  They’ve created rivers.  And they’re still here.  I feel very lucky that I was able to see so many of these beauties in Alaska, and I hope that my children and their children and their children’s children’s children will have the same opportunity.

But Even If You Don’t Get a Chance to See Glaciers, Alaska Is Still Heartbreakingly Beautiful, and You Should Go There

I felt like I’d stepped into a painting pretty much the whole trip.  I didn’t know the earth could look like this in real life.

27873865075_2ba1a55479_z

27262361343_96475d028e_z

27839811576_630483aa44_z

Plan a trip to Alaska.  Unless you’re just an unhappy person who hates life, you absolutely won’t regret it.

And, If Your Friends Go With You, So Much the Better!

I’d never traveled with friends before, and man was I ever missing out.  I’m lucky to have such amazing rock stars in my life.  Here’s to the next one, guys!

27234173884_187f93c3f6_z

Bob Dylan Wrote Every Song and Wine Is Good

One of these statements is true.

If you’re like me, the last thing you want to do when you get home from a trip, especially if the getting home has been hectic and tiring, is get ready, rush to make it to something on time, and sit for several hours (airplane flashbacks, right here).  But that’s exactly what Graham and I did last night, and it was the best decision we could have made.

We spent a lovely weekend in Alabama with family, and getting home on Tuesday turned out to be an epic journey.  A three hour delay in Mobile, a mad dash through Atlanta to catch our connecting flight home, unpacking at midnight.  Then, Graham picked up the Annie-dog at 6:00 a.m. yesterday and worked all day.  When he got home at 5:00, we packed a bag in a hurry, for what felt like the millionth time.  But this time, we packed it with bread, cheese, salami, and wine.  And this time, we drove just thirty minutes away from home to see Mavis Staples and Bob Dylan at Wolf Trap in Vienna, VA.

A couple of obligatory wine photos, since I missed my Wine Wednesday post this week and attended a concert instead (worth it, obviously).

20160706_201251

For me, we opened a bottle of Butter Chardonnay.

20160706_203039

For Graham, a bottle of Sunset Hills Sunset Red.

Both are good for a picnic, and both will please a crowd. (Though…we didn’t share.  Don’t judge!  Our friends brought their own wine!)

I don’t know what better “welcome home” there is than a picnic with good wine, good food, good friends, and good music.  Travel is one of my greatest pleasures, but I’m grateful and lucky that coming home is wonderful, as well.  Cheers!

IMG_7972

The Emerald City: A Virginia Writer Goes West, Part I

Picture this – You’re cramped in an airplane window seat with your feet curled up in the corner so that your husband, who’s spent the whole trip curled into the middle seat with T. Rex arms, can be a little more comfortable.  You’ve been in stuck in one spot for five hours.  You’re exhausted.  You woke up at 4:30 in the morning to catch this flight, and you ate what can only be described as the worst breakfast in the history of food at the airport.  Your stomach kind of hurts.  You’re thirsty.  The button at the top of your jeans has been digging into your stomach for the last hour.  And then, the plane makes a turn, and from the tiny, dirty window, you see Mount Rainier, its peak gleaming in the sunshine, and the Space Needle, and some crystal blue water, and the Seattle skyline.  You forget everything else, because you know you’ve made it.  You’re finally here, and it’s time to explore.

I’ve always wanted to go to Seattle.  As a little girl living in the sometimes isolating (but always comforting) Virginia Appalachians, the thought of going west was like the great exciting unknown.  As an adult, the thought of a laid-back city on the water where people love art and walking and value time for hobbies almost sounded like a fantasy world.  For the last seven years, I’ve lived in the chaotic, busy, you-are-your-job-title jungle that is Northern Virginia.  I did move west to get away from all that – to Loudoun County – but I still wanted to go farther.  That exciting unknown still beckoned.  There’s a little pioneer spirit in all of us, I think.

After waiting years to see Seattle, it lived up to every expectation I ever had.  I can’t say enough about the friendly people, the well-maintained, litter-free, tree-lined sidewalks, the culture of walking and being outside, the food, the attractions, the history and the quirks and the coffee, and really just everything.  I’ve struggled with this post, because there’s so much I want to say.  So, true to my type-A self, I decided to make a list.  Here are my ten favorite Seattle experiences.*

*Long post ahead…you’ve been warned!  But keep reading, and then plan your own trip to Seattle!

10.) Zeeks Pizza – We liked this place so much, we ate here twice.  We’ve got some pretty solid pizza choices in NOVA, but Zeeks had some of the most interesting, creative pizzas I’ve ever seen.  They’ve got a wide selection of meat and vegetarian pizzas, they’re flexible with toppings, and they’ve got plenty of beer and cider on tap.  Also, the breadsticks are basically the best breadsticks I’ve ever had.  We tried the Dragon on our first visit (Italian sausage, fresh jalapeños, pepperoni, fresh garlic, and fresh oregano), and had the Cherry Bomb for lunch on our last day in the city (Italian sausage, sweet-hot roasted red peppers, parmesan cheese, and fresh basil).  We like spicy food, obviously.  At any rate, Zeeks was awesome, and no other pizza will compare for at least the next year.  We ate at the Zeeks on Denny Way, near the Space Needle and the EMP Museum, but I did a quick map check, and they have a few locations around the city.  Here’s the link to their website, for anyone interested in checking it out:  Zeeks Pizza

9.) The Gum Wall – I didn’t know this was a thing.  Seriously, it’s kind of gross.  But also kind of fascinating.  People just show up in this alley and stick their gum to the walls, and it’s like a big, smelly public work of art.  You can’t look away.  It’s located on Post Alley, not far from Pike Place Market.  Some of the interesting things people have created with their chewed gum (seriously, yuck!!):  an American flag, an Israeli flag, several hearts with initials inside, names and nicknames, short religious and political statements, and some really interesting stretched-chewed-gum sculptures.  Seattle scraped the wall clean in 2015.  Clearly, that didn’t last.

27959561575_d8c789b72a_z

27959566145_f3abb0ffba_z

8.) Olympic Sculpture Park – We kind of stumbled across this place walking back from the Space Needle on our first day in the city, and didn’t realize what we’d found until I happened across a plaque with information on the site.  It’s right on the water, and a perfect place to relax and enjoy art and a view.  And, the best part is, it’s free and open to the public 365 days a year.  The site was previously an industrial park and had become a brownfield until the Seattle Art Museum proposed turning it into a green space, and it’s been a sculpture park since 2007.  I love stumbling across cool stuff when I travel, and this was like a little gift from the universe when I needed a place to sit and unwind for a little while.  Here’s the website, for anyone who’d like more information on the park, the sculptures, or the Seattle Art Museum:  Seattle Art Museum – Olympic Sculpture Park

27857222435_e3c1973381_z

27245074424_e2e17970f5_z

7.) Capitol Hill – We have one of these in DC, too, but it’s not nearly as fun (though I guess that depends on who you ask).  A few months before our trip, an old friend from high school got in touch with me, and let me know he was planning to move to Seattle – no job, no friends there…he just felt like it was time to throw off the bowlines and do something exciting.  Pretty cool, right?  Anyway, of course I wanted to see him.  So what if it took twelve years and a trip across the country for us to reconnect after high school, even though we worked in the same town for a solid year?  Life happens.  We got together around lunchtime and decided to amble around Capitol Hill.  Lots of neat stuff to see here.  There’s a Jimi Hendrix statue, dance step diagrams on the sidewalks, the best coffee I’ve ever had (Espresso Vivace, and even Emeril Lagasse thinks so, and here’s their website: Espresso Vivace).  There’s even a haunted soda machine!  Though, it didn’t really work for us.  My favorite thing to do when I travel is walk around the streets, try to blend in, and see how the locals actually live, and wandering around Capitol Hill, with an old friend at that, was the perfect way to spend an afternoon.

27822847976_17819995d2_z

27822845276_df0ff7864c_z

27579391280_93c3bb233f_z

6.) The Space Needle – I posted previously about the Space Needle, because there was wine!  Here’s the link: This wine post brought to you by….  I won’t rehash the details about the wine, but I will say this: I am petrified of heights.  I have trouble with second story balconies.  I also hate elevators.  It’s just unnatural for human beings to ascend to great heights in little metal boxes pulled by cables.  I still got to the top of the Space Needle, and it was worth it. For the amazing views of the city, for the chance to experience one of the country’s best-known landmarks, for the feeling of accomplishment when I got to the top and didn’t have a panic attack.  It probably helped that on the way to the elevators, there are panels with history and information about the Space Needle to read, because distraction is a good way to combat sheer terror.  It probably also helped that the Space Needle sits in a very nice park, and there was a busker playing some beautiful, soothing music on a kokoryū as we were walking in.  Bonus – You can buy a combo ticket for both the Space Needle and Chihuly Garden and Glass.  It’s a good deal.  Here’s the website, if you want to plan your visit:  The Space Needle.

27579432330_f8ff79f0c0_z

27579429570_6f3eff7756_z

27779440031_96fbf21479_z

5.) Chihuly Garden and Glass – My first introduction to Dale Chihuly was actually in Virginia Beach, at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art where they have a stunning Chihuly chandelier.  I was excited to see this museum because of that chandelier.  Chihuly is a genius, a  pioneer and innovator in glassmaking.  He finds inspiration from everything, from the specific (his mother’s garden, Native American baskets and weaving) to the everyday (nature, color, light).  This museum showcases an eclectic array of his work, and if you don’t feel something walking through it, I don’t know that you’re actually human.  If you’re not certain whether or not you are, in fact, human, and you want to find out for sure, or if you love art and want to know more, here’s the website so you can plan your visit: Chihuly Garden and Glass.   Here are some of the exhibits and features that caught Graham’s eye:

27925313246_f4c71a4f24_z

27925308876_71841575e0_z

27857859922_0df61f4c89_z

4.) The EMP Museum – Nerd alert!  Yes, I admit it.  I am a nerd.  And this museum (Music + Sci-fi + Pop Culture) is awesome.  It celebrates the risk-takers, the innovators, and the ideas that shape contemporary pop art and culture.  On the day we visited, they had exhibits on Star Trek (so cool, lots to see, plan an hour or more just for this), Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, Horror, Science Fiction, Fantasy, and the history of the guitar, and that really wasn’t all.  I have so much respect for the people who run this museum and the people who put the exhibits together, and if I ever visit Seattle again, I’m allotting a full day to exploring this place.  Here’s to the inventors, the thinkers, the dreamers, and the weirdos that make this world interesting!  To learn more about the EMP Museum, check out their website: EMP Museum.

27882279741_f56da3a428_z

3.) Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour – I also didn’t know this was a thing, until my old friend told me about it as we were chatting about what Graham and I should do with our evening.  This tour bills itself as “Seattle’s most unusual attraction, a humorous stroll through intriguing subterranean storefronts and sidewalks entombed when the city rebuilt on top of itself after the Great Fire of 1889.”  (Quoting from their website.  Here’s the link: Underground Tour.)  It’s a 75-minute tour, and our guide was fantastic.  Very basically, current downtown Seattle (Pioneer Square and such) is built on top of the burned out ruins of old downtown Seattle.  We got an interesting history lesson while we wound our way through the (supposedly haunted!) old city underneath the current sidewalks.

27781094971_8e2e6e2fb6_z

2.) The San Juan Clipper – My mom gave us a book for Christmas this year called 1,000 Places to See Before You Die by Patricia Schultz.  Noted in that book are the San Juan Islands, so of course we made time for this day-long boat tour on the San Juan Clipper up through Deception Pass to Friday Harbor.  We left from Seattle, steps from our hotel, and made our way up the Puget Sound to San Juan Island.  The islands, by the way, are just as breathtaking as the book says.  The San Juan Clipper also has a snack bar and coffee, which was helpful, because we got up early in the morning to catch it.  Optional with the tour is some extra time on the boat for whale and marine wildlife watching, and Clipper Vacations is the only company leaving from downtown Seattle for whale watching tours.  I love the water, and it was relaxing to spend some time on a regular-sized boat enjoying the waves and the wildlife before boarding a cruise ship bound for Alaska.  Information and pricing available on their website: Clipper Vacations.

27857215255_d6a62b3543_z (1)

27579421540_6b4f21b45b_z

27579413990_e7a74b9ddf_z

1.) Pike Place Market – If you’ve stuck with me this long, I’m sure you knew this was coming.  My favorite place in Seattle, of course, was Pike Place Market.  It’s also in 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, but I’ve wanted to see it for years.  Amazing.  Just amazing.  There’s something for everyone – food, crafts, buskers, beverages, condiments, there’s a shop for everything you could think of.  We stopped at Beecher’s Handmade Cheese and verified that theirs is, indeed, the best mac and cheese in the world (we did this at 10:30 a.m., right after breakfast, and I’m not ashamed).  From the seating in the store, you can see them make the cheese, which is interesting.  We also tried lots of samples from Pappardelle’s Pasta, and purchased some, as well.   They were so friendly and helpful, and made it super easy to have our pasta shipped back home, so it wouldn’t get crushed in our luggage.  And of course, we stopped by the flagship Starbucks store, though we didn’t go in because the place looked like Arkham Asylum on a good day.  There is so much to see at the market, and luckily their website has a complete list of shops and a map: http://pikeplacemarket.org/.

27494474602_29ffb84a27_z

27245059694_001a3420ca_z

27579377950_568aed71c2_z

A few of Honorable Mentions:

Etta’s – We had a great meal here, right in Pike Place Market, and there was pie!  If you’d like to learn more: Etta’s Restaurant.

Anthony’s Bell Street Diner – We had a great meal here, too, and it’s right on the water.  Their website, if you’re inclined to check it out: Anthony’s Bell Street Diner.

The Pike Brewing Company – This place is on Post Alley.  We stumbled across it on our way to the Gum Wall and decided to stop in.  Great beer and a fun atmosphere!  Here’s the website, if you’re a beer-drinker: The Pike.

So, there you have it.  My favorite Seattle experiences.  This list was not easy to put together, because there’s a lot to see and a lot to do and I actually feel like a return trip would be completely justified.  But, there’s lots of world to see, and honestly, that’s kind of a great exciting unknown, too!

Maybe we’ll meet again, Seattle.  Until that day, you’ll be in my heart.

27245018604_eea1254ea7_z

**Stay tuned for The Last Frontier: A Virginia Writer Goes West, Part II.  Coming next week!**

Homecoming (to Wine!)

It’s been a whirlwind few weeks for Graham and me.  After a week and a half in Seattle and Alaska (the post is coming, I swear), we were home for less than a week before heading to New Jersey for a beautiful wedding (congratulations, Andy and Dan!), and we’ll head out again this Saturday for a trip to Mobile, Alabama to see family and celebrate a 50th wedding anniversary.

I like to travel.  Wanderlust is real, and I’ve got it.  But I also like coming home again.  I feel secure in the world with my feet on Virginia ground.  It’s always nice to sleep in my own bed after spending time away, and I miss cuddling with my giganti-cat, Gatsby, when I’m gone.

20120729_114855

He requires a lot of attention.  And purrs like a monster truck motor.  And makes coming home worth it.  And I’m definitely not a crazy cat lady.

Moving on, this is the first week in several that we’ll be home for five whole days(!).  So, we grilled some steaks, and we’re celebrating with wine.  (Of course.)

50 West Vineyards opened back in the fall, and it’s owned by the same people as Sunset Hills, where Graham and I have been members for years.  I’ve featured Sunset Hills before (here’s the link: Sunset Hills Wine Post), and I’ve been waiting for the right opportunity to write about 50 West.  It’s located, no joke, less than ten miles from our house, so it was the perfect choice for our brief homecoming.

A lot of effort went into opening this vineyard.  After purchasing the property, the owners renovated the facilities, pulled up dead vines (it had been a vineyard before), and planted new ones.  They’ve paid attention to every detail, and you’ll feel welcomed by the team once you step up to the tasting bar.  Even the name, simple as it is, was carefully chosen – Route 50 West is an old thoroughfare with lots of history, dating way, way back before it became a paved, named highway.

The best thing about 50 West Vineyards, aside from the wine, is the view.  From a table on the patio, you can look out at rolling mountains and pastoral countryside while you enjoy a glass of something cold in the summer sunshine.  It’s a little piece of heaven.  The staff are friendly, the wine is good, and the location is unbeatable for Graham and me, given its convenience and amazing views.  That’s like the holy trinity for Loudoun County wineries.

Tonight, we opened a bottle of 2013 Aldie Heights Cuvee, a red blend which won a gold medal in the 2016 Governor’s Cup, Virginia’s foremost wine competition.

27263758630_96e7fe3dbc_k

This is a good wine, and it should be.  A blend of Petit Verdot, Tannat, and Cabernet Franc, it’s got a robust, aromatic floral nose with hints of black pepper and blackberry.  It hits the palate with notes of black currant, black pepper and green bell pepper, and cloves.  The finish is rich and round, and almost a little chocolate-y.  Truly delicious!

It’s nice, after so many busy days and so much travel, to spend a quiet evening at home sipping a glass of wine and chatting about our next adventure.  See you soon, Mobile!  Cheers!

*Brief but useful Post Script: I read an interesting article about 50 West around the time that it opened, and if you’d like to read it, too, here’s the link: Loudoun Times 50 West Article.  One thing to note as you read the article, 50 West has since released their label, and the wines are fantastic!

A Virginia Writer Goes to Alaska

27494478292_330843e460_z

Markets, ferries, orcas, haunted soda machines, freestyle poets, lots of seafood, beautiful scenery, and good people!  What’s not to love?

26984777063_8e39107def_z

Thank you for everything, Seattle!  Stay amazing!

26942837244_8f0a76f235_z

Now off to Alaska on my very first cruise with some wonderful friends.  Sadly, Wi-Fi on the boat costs about a dollar a minute, so posts will resume once I’m back on Virginia soil, because I’m a writer who makes stories not money.  But, you know, what’s a little Wi-Fi when there’s adventure to be had?  Onward to the Last Frontier!

27494471232_476ed2399f_z

“Where forlorn sunsets flare and fade
On desolate sea and lonely sand,
Out of the silence and the shade
What is the voice of strange command
Calling you still, as friend calls friend
With love that cannot brook delay,
To rise and follow the ways that wend
Over the hills and far away?” –William Ernest Henley, “Over the Hills and Far Away”