Follow by Email

Monday, July 21, 2014

Planning....

I'm in the midst of a planning spree! Where to go?? Adventures to seek?? Food & beverages to sample?? Trip Advisor, Yelp, The Travel Channel, Triple D, and the like are my best friends these days.
We have just about finished our planning for next month's drive up the California coast towards San Simeon with Wyatt. Can't wait!

This year is all booked out (of course) and 2015 is really beginning to take some shape. There will be a short jaunt to the Caribbean via Celebrity Cruises next March, my nephew's wedding in May, a 12-day cruise to the Mediterranean via Princess Cruises in July, and my son's wedding in the fall. Lots of room for little side trips and adventures between all that. We've gotta use up our vacation days or we lose them. And one thing I won't lose are our vacations days!!

That said, we're talking about a few driving trips... maybe around this gorgeous state of Arizona or into New Mexico? Maybe over to the coast of California and some relaxing beach time? A quick trip to Memphis or New Orleans? And where shall we head for our annual wine-tasting weekend with Zach & Natalie? We've done Napa, Sonoma, and Portland so far. Oh, the burden of planning!

Into 2016, we're talking about the British Isles... a cruise to Iceland... a trip to Japan... or maybe a fall foliage cruise into New England. Can I convince Mr. Smith that more than one of these ideas are good?? We shall see, and I shall keep you all posted.

Wherever you're headed.... relax and enjoy!

:) Deb




Thursday, July 10, 2014

Portland... You're Doing So Much Right!

Our annual wine-trip weekend with Zach and his lovely lady, Natalie, took us to Portland last weekend. This City of Roses has so much to offer...




And we were blessed with some of their finest weather for our 4th of July visit.

I simply could not get enough of the beautiful hydrangeas everywhere we walked.





Taking off out of Sky Harbor Airport amidst a dust storm is intriguing. The airport shut down for about an hour pre-flight which was good (and safe.) Thankfully we were in the terminal and not sitting on the tarmac for this little delay. Though I keep reminding myself to book alternate air, we flew USAirways to Portland. Bah.

Portland International Airport (www.pdx.com) is extremely navigable and though we arrived past midnight, a very friendly National Car Rental agent was waiting for us with a smile. Go with National if you can (www.nationalcar.com.) They were extremely accommodating and our vehicle behaved superbly all weekend long.

It's about a 20 minute drive into downtown Portland where our B & B was located. We stayed at the Heron Haus and it was beyond lovely. Screened sun-room, cozy nooks for reading, lovely patio, gorgeous bedrooms, and dynamite breakfasts.






The Heron Haus (www.heronhaus.com) is located in the northwest area of downtown Portland in a grand old home near restaurants, coffee shops, shopping, and public transportation. She is gorgeous.



Friday, July 4th had us up and ready for our downtown walking tour of Portland. There is a lot of quirkiness here in Portland - a gentle, green, hippie vibe you might say. We encountered uber-friendly folks and some downright snobs. That may be the way of our world you know, but I lean towards the friendly. 

First stop to Cacao (www.cacaodrinkchocolate.com) on 13th Avenue in Portland. As most know, I love my hot cocoa. This was my all-time second-best favorite ever cup of hot cocoa. It ranks second only to the love I got in Amsterdam from a Starbucks of all places. Must be the chocolate! This place had a very fine selection of hand-crafted chocolate bars, some local to Portland. Groovy flavors like sourdough bread with olive oil, and foie gras dark chocolate and spiced cinnamon-pepper chocolate. We purchased a few bars to go with my drink and were on our way.

For our coffee lovers we stepped into World Cup Coffee (www.worldcupcoffee.com) located in the immensely popular Powell's City of Books (www.powells.com.) Zach ranked this coffee as one of the best espressos he has ever had. They ship my friends - order some!! Natalie had never been to Portland or seen Powell's and she was as amazed as we are every time we have visited. A little remodeling action is going on here, but that did not sway us from touring every floor and peeking into the ever widening city of books that never... seem... to... end. We came away with a few great deals and loads of ideas to order from their website when we got home. One can only carry so many books onto the airplane! 

Our next stop was just up the street to Deschutes Brewing Company. What a lovely piece of property on the corner with great people-watching views and some sassy service. Our waiter was a stitch, talking about her "mood" drinking and describing the integrity of the company itself. We enjoyed quite a few samples here and were feeling pretty darn good about ourselves after imbibing. Hey... we were out walking people! 




And so we continued on our way through the streets of Portland. There are interesting things to see everywhere you wander...






Our next stop was a top-rated (by the Brew Dogs from Travel Channel) neighborhood bar called the Belmont Station Bottle Shop (www.belmont-station.com.) On the other side of the river (an enchanting bus ride with some of Portland's finest characters) this cozy little spot is part liquor store, part taproom. Their claim is over 1200 bottles of beer to choose from and that may be a teeny-tiny exaggeration, but there was a whole lot of beer. We tried some local stuff  - a few bottles, and a few beers from the tap. Nothing quite as good as Deschutes, but some interesting samples. 




Though the pic shows a Deschutes sign, these were the tap handles at Belmont Station! Our next stop was to be another highly recommended location at the Horse Brass Pub, but alas... they were closing early and not serving food. Famished (and de-hydrated) we cabbed (www.radiocab.net) to Hair of the Dog Brewing Company (www.hairofthedog.com.) Great lunch here with fresh charcuterie, delicious sammies, ice-cold beer and a refreshing marionberry soda for me. 

Portland'ers (so I've heard) love their bridges. So... we headed out over the Morrison Street Bridge back into downtown Portland in search of a few more places on our list. Underwhelmed at both Rogue Ales & Spirits (surly service, and lackluster brews) and the Teardrop Cocktail Lounge (great service, fascinating menu, and disappointing cocktails) we headed to dinner at Andina (www.andinarestaurant.com.) OH my land.... we arrived about 30 minutes early, and they squeezed us in (thank you Andina!!) Terrific cocktails, impeccable service, and truly amazing Peruvian food. We shared incredibly plump fresh shrimp, tenderly prepared grilled beef hearts, lightly crisped cheese, and amazing home-style bread with dipping sauces for appies. Between the four of us we shared two entrees - one a superior lamb shank with garlic and olive oil steamed rice, and a delectable duo of duck... crispy and grilled with a side of cilantro and olive oil rice. I highlight the rice because I am not a huge fan of rice, but these rices were delicioso!! I would not hesitate to stop in here again and dine with them. The owner came by for a visit and explained a few things about Peruvian cooking and you should have seen her enthusiasm. Wonderful.

Last stop of the evening was the Pope House Bourbon Lounge (www.popehouselounge.com) within walking distance of our inn... thank God. The drinks here were... well... bourbon. A very nice selection, and some very stout mixed cocktails. The sun setting on a lovely patio with a casual vibe and fireworks popping all around us as we celebrated a perfect evening. 

Day two began with coffee sampling at Coffeehouse Northwest (www.sterlingcoffeeroasters.com) and hot cocoa to go - very nice little pit-stop as we continued our search for the best cuppa in Portland. Then out to the Willamette Valley for some extraordinary wine-tasting. This area of Oregon is known for its pinot noir and Zach and Natalie planned our day for us (quite well I might add.) First stop was Alloro Vineyards (www.allorovineyard.com) where we met Abbey and wandered the gorgeous grounds for about 30 minutes prior to opening.







Truth be told, I think we enjoyed the dog and lovely gardens more than the wines. They were drinkable to be sure, but not amazing.

On to an impromptu stop at Ponzi Wines (www.ponzi.com) where a thoroughly knowledgeable staff treated us to some terrific wines. Gorgeous view of the vineyards here and I could have relaxed for a few hours just looking out at the view and enjoying their wines. Since we brought a few home, I'll relax on my own patio and take in the view of my pool instead!!

Our third stop of the day was by far the best with a tasting at Soter Vineyards (www.sotervineyards.com.) We loved the rustic feel of the vineyards on a hillside outside the city of Carlton. 




We heard from our wine expert that this gorgeous piece of property had been a dairy farm in its previous life and when it sold there were many many offers of purchase. Soter Vineyards won, and we're glad they did. Really superb pinots here. Even the view from the restroom was lovely...




Lunch was a true delight at The Horse Radish Wine & Cheese Bar (www.horseradish.com.) We enjoyed a very nice selection of cheeses and salamis, with olives and marcona almonds. The BLT and tomato soup were highlights, as were the macaroon cookies. Yum. Right next door was a little wine bar serving up Honest Chocolates (www.honestchocolates.com) and we dropped in for a bite of their dark chocolate caramels with lavender... YUM. I've decided there should be a chocolate app for my phone. I mean, there's a beer app, a wine app, an everything-and-their-brother-app... Should I create one?? 

Last winery of the day was a disappointment, though so very highly recommended. Do you ever get that feeling that you're being looked down upon for your very presence. Maybe your dress or style or vocabulary? Whatever the case, Winderlea Vineyards was not a hit for us - rude and uninterested with less than palatable wines. Meh.




Another delicious dinner was found at Olympic Provisions (www.olympicprovisions.com.) A wonderful assortment of goodies such as tempura green beans, crunchy ciceronnes, charcuterie, olives, and cheese. Their bar list was quite nice and the best Pimm's Cup I've ever sampled. We had friendly service, with a very Portland'esque vibe - loved this place immensely. 

We woke up on Sunday morning and decided to make a few stops for coffee sampling and purchasing. We visited the minimalistic but very happening Courier Coffee Roasters (www.couriercoffeeroasters.com) where we found Michael Jackson's Thriller playing on the record player. Zach said it was the most "Portland-like" experience of the entire weekend. Second stop for coffee sampling was Barista (www.baristapdx.com) and wow! They had a terrific selection, and loads of personality... great coffee! Last up was Nossa Family Coffee and they had a delightful ambiance, friendly coffee baristas, classes in brewing (oh my!) and really good coffee. Might have been my favorite place aside from Cacao. 

Our next adventure was the Hoyt Arboretum/Vietnam War Memorial and the Oregon Zoo (www.oregonzoo.org.) The entire Forrest Park is a giant green space encompassing the Portland Rose Garden, the Portland Japanese Garden, and a very touching Vietnam War Memorial. Spend some time strolling through the park before or after visiting the zoo. I thought the price of admission for the zoo was very fair at $12 per adult and the grounds were absolutely lovely. Loads of shade trees, meandering pathways, and plenty of wildlife out and about. We saw elephants (and their baby), lions (and their cubs), giraffes, polar bears, lorikeets, and plenty more. This family-friendly space is a must-see if you love zoos like we do.



Our Portland adventure took off from the Portland International Airport where we had a very fine lunch at Gustav's (www.gustavs.net.) This little German eatery had hearty sausages and burgers, crisp fresh salads, and velvety bowls of tomato soup. Yum. Airport food has come a long long way and I appreciate the airports that cater to travelers who must spend precious hours waiting for their flights. 

Thanks so much to our dear Zach and Natalie for joining us again this year on another wonderful wine excursion. Can't wait to see what you choose next year. Love you both.




Until next time when I'm sidling up the California Coast on a vacation with Jeff & Wyatt ...
Cheers :)


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Celebrating our 30th Anniversary - Family Style

Thirty years of marriage... wow. Not everyone can say that they've spent the last thirty years of their life with the same partner. But we can and we celebrate our commitment and love each and every day.




Last week we renewed our vows and celebrated with our children and their significant others onboard the Holland America Oosterdam on a cruise from Seward, Alaska to Vancouver, BC. We had a blast from start to finish.Here's the fun we shared...

Our flights to Anchorage were via Alaskan Airlines and let me tell you how wonderful they were. From gate to gate the agents, flight attendants, and baggage crew were the friendliest and most helpful of any we've ever flown. We love Southwest Airlines and they are renowned for the luv they show their passengers too. But if I can't fly Southwest, I'm looking for a flight on Alaskan (www.alaskaair.com.) Great experience all around.

An overnight pit-stop was called for in Anchorage and we stayed comfortably at the Residence Inn Midtown (www.marriott.com) with pizza for dinner at Moose's Tooth Pub & Pizzeria. This spot was highly recommended on Yelp, but I thought it was just average. You can certainly check it out yourself, but I'd keep looking. The beer, however, was cold.

The highlight for me was an impromptu flight on a 1957 Cessna aircraft with an experienced pilot/friend of Jeff's. He took Erin and I up above the clouds and over the glaciers and fjords of southeast Alaska. Wish I had a picture to share with you that could sum up this fantastic experience, but I'll just have to tell you to take advantage of this type of opportunity if it ever presents itself to you.




That's our gang of funsters starting off in Anchorage, Alaska after a few morning beermosas downtown. You wouldn't believe the number of people stopping by to take our picture. Hilarious! Thanks to Erin and her BF for grabbing our headgear and designing our t-shirts... love them.






Train travel is a bit of a funny story in our family, so booking the train made sense to me. The scenery was spectacular, the dining experience was pretty good, and the beverage car was amazing.  We met some lovely people on their way to our cruise as well - a shout out to Joel and Michelle and our Paradise Valley bar-keep for perpetuating the fun.










I highly recommend the train, but... we heard that bad weather washed the tracks away in a few spots the day after we sailed. Necessary repairs!!








The boarding process in Seward, Alaska was quick and convenient once off the train.

Holland America's Oosterdam is a lovely ship filled with vibrant colors, and some highly interesting artwork. We immediately spied some fairly interesting pieces and continued to be amused throughout the entire voyage.






Welcome to the Oosterdam!!
































I absolutely LOVE the towel animals each night :)






Planning for this trip began about 18 months ago and we were able to secure four balcony cabins across the aft of the ship. They were glorious! We opened the doors between our verandas and were able to enjoy our relaxing time together as we sailed along the southeast coast of Alaska. If you're interested in finding out more about Holland America, check out www.hollandamerica.com to search an itinerary that suits your fancy.











The typical Alaskan cruise visits three ports with three sea days. Ours was no exception and though our first day was a bit rough with some stormy seas it was nothing we couldn't handle. And after that... smooth as satin.


Jeff and I renewed our vows at sea with Zachary's presiding love story of Orpheus and Eurydice and Erin's recital of ee cummings "i carry your heart, i carry it in." Love you both!! Hugs and love to Natalie, Mike, and Maria for saying such kind and gracious things about us. Even Jeff teared up.






Glacier Bay was the destination for our second day at sea. Seriously gorgeous vistas from our balconies!










Our ports of call were Haines, Juneau, and Ketchikan. Each port had so much to offer - lovely scenery, adventure if you care to take it on, and wildlife galore.

We hiked and kayaked in Haines...
Check out Rainbow Glacier Adventures at www.tourhaines.com.







And I even found a teeny-tiny cemetery that time has forgotten in a shady forested area outside town. There were about 25 headstones and nothing else. I love finding graveyards!!




We learned a lot about lichen from a certified lichenologist of course!







Saw the Mendenhall Galcier...





And went whale-watching in Juneau.
Make your way to Gastineau Guiding at  www.StepIntoAlaska.com for more information on tours. 





Some of us snorkeled in Ketchikan.
Brrr..... Erin and Jeffery Edward!!

In each port we also visited a few watering holes to sample the local flavors with the BEST bar by far going to the Arctic Bar in Ketchikan, Alaska. They have no website to speak of according to Paula, the owner. This lady is tearing it up on the port in Ketchikan - stop in and tell her the Smith's said, "hey."







We truly enjoy cruising and traveling all around this crazy world of ours. To my favorite people in the whole world - thanks for joining us on this vacation. We are so blessed to share this wonderful life with all of you.


Until Next Time... See ya :)




Cheers to the big guy who puts up with me and indulges me on a daily basis.
Thanks, Jeff... I love you!