Tag Archives: travel

A New Orleans story

This story is apropos of nothing other than a stray, pleasant memory this morning. In the mid 90s, I went with three friends (hereby known as S, D, and R) to New Orleans. We went toward the end of October, and the weather was perfect. Gorgeous blue skies and mild temperatures the entire four days we were there. It was my first (and only) trip there.

I was delighted by the history and flavor of the French Quarter, and I couldn’t have been with better friends. S and D had been a couple for six or seven years at that point. R and I were just friends, but he was a good friend, and I was nursing a bit of a broken heart. Over part of the summer I had gone out a man I was absolutely crazy about, but he had broken off our relationship — which really hadn’t been anything more than casual anyway — when he went away to graduate school a month before. I liked the guy. (Heck, it has been almost 15 years, and I’m still terribly fond of him.) But it wasn’t to be, and the vacation to New Orleans was just the ticket to cheer me up.

I’m not a drinker, so the allure of New Orleans was in the food and the (mostly) window shopping. The first day S & D wanted to get a Tarot card reading from a place in the French Quarter. Hey, I knew it was a tourist trap, but I love the woo woo stuff, so me too, me too, me too! Typical reading, nothing memorable until the end. The reader said, “You’ve been dating a guy through the summer. He’s not good for you. End the relationship.”

Um, wow. That was specific. I told my friends, and we all laughed. They weren’t a fan of the guy I’d been dating, so I received a good-natured “I told you so.” We didn’t, of course, take it too seriously.

In addition to the food and shopping, we took several tours. We did a ghost tour through the French Quarter one night and a tour of the Garden District one day. And then one day we took a Voodoo tour. It ended at a Voodoo church, and I was really impressed with the priestess. She didn’t try to sell any of her wares, but I searched out her info and found out she did readings. I arranged one for the following afternoon. Rather than Tarot, she cast bones. Again, it was a pretty standard reading until the end. Then she said, “You’ve been dating a guy for six week. He’s evil. You need to get him out of your life.”

Okay, that was a little weird. She nailed the six weeks. I wouldn’t call him evil, but in retrospect I’d say we’re yin and yang (and not necessarily in a good way). My friends were also wowed, and R vowed to kick my ass if I ever saw the guy again.

Our last morning in New Orleans came. We payed for the hotel, and then popped to the French Quarter for coffee and beignets. There was an occult shop up the street I had visited earlier in the week, and I decided to pop back in for a last-minute purchase. The thing I wanted was behind the counter, and the guy working there chatted with me and S for a minute. Then he looked at me, cocked his head to the side, and motioned with his finger for me to come closer. “You’ve been dating someone. He’s bad news. Lose the guy.”

Then he stepped back. “Do you know what I’m talking about?” he asked. “I just deliver the message.”

I nodded. Dang. Three for three. I hadn’t even paid for that one!

S’s eyes were huge. “I TOLD YOU!” she sputtered.

He talked to us a few minutes more. I’d forgotten what he’d said, but S remembered, and we talked about it one night over dinner not too long ago. “He said I had broken hearts in my future and would have a hard time finding happiness.” She remembered, because it had pissed her off at the time, but it had also been true. S is gorgeous (inside and out) and brilliant and talented, but she has had a difficult time with relationships. Lots of ups and downs.

“What did he say about me?” I asked.

She smiled. “He said you didn’t have to worry. You’d be fine.”

And I have been.

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Vacation to Vancouver Island with Mom

I took a three-week vacation from work in October. I had considered using the whole time to travel and had planned a vacation to Pennsylvania, but as time drew close I realized that a trip across the country would be both expensive and exhausting. I really didn’t want to spend all three weeks of my vacation on the road. So instead my mom flew to Seattle, and we spent a week on Vancouver Island. We’d both done Victoria more than once, so we decided to see more of the island.

Day 1 — Sunday

Picked Mom up at the airport in Seattle, and then grabbed lunch at Bahama Breeze down in Southcenter. After lunch we drove a couple of hours up I-5 to Anacortes for our first night.

Neither of us had been to Anacortes before. We’d been close – We drove across Whidby Island and spent the night in LaConner a couple of years ago. Anacortes was pretty, but there wasn’t a whole lot to do, particularly in October. The hotel owner turned us on to a nice drive though. It was a park out past the ferries, and there was a wonderful trail – a couple of miles long – that could be both walked and driven. I took these photos from a spot on that trail.

After that, we drove to a spot on the other side of the island where I got these shots.

It was raining, so we went back to the motel and read for a while, and then we went to the Rock Creek Grill for dinner. They had awesome Baja fish tacos!

Day 2 – Monday

Had to be out EARLY to catch the ferry to Sidney, BC. What a terrific ride! The route goes up through the San Juan Islands and has stops at Friday Harbor and Orcas Island along the way. The weather was perfect – overcast some, sunny some – and we had great scenery. (I left my camera in the car, so no pictures.) My favorite islands were the ones with few or any houses on them.

We arrived in Sidney, disembarked, and drive to Victoria. We didn’t really have a plan, so we just drove to the wharf and parked. We had lunch at a little restaurant called Nautical Nellie’s where I had – Are you ready for this? – my first beer. Strawberry beer, actually, and it tasted like hard cider.

Here are the photos I snapped while we walked around:

After lunch, we walked down to the Empress Hotel and walked around a bit, then we walked to an ice cream shop for a treat. We stopped at a visitor’s information booth and decided to do a drive that included most of the Victoria coastline. Oh! Almost forgot. We also went to Craigdarroch Castle, which is absolutely gorgeous.

Here are some photos of the Emperess Hotel.

After all that we had an unexpectedly long trip to Sooke. First there was traffic I wasn’t expecting, and then there was a LONG detour due to an accident right outside Sooke. The detour was quite lovely, but it had lots of stops for construction and was, as I said, very long.

We spent the night at Sooke Harbour House, and there aren’t words to describe it. It’s beyond amazing. Every room is completely different. We stayed in the Artist’s Study. Here are pictures, beginning at our front door (which, oddly, was in the bathroom). There are one or two shots where I turn around, but I think you can follow.

We hadn’t planned to eat in the restaurant, but didn’t want to go out again, so we ventured down. Oh. My. It was a taste extravaganza. Beyond amazing. Mother and I agree that our single favorite food we had on the entire trip was the Chanterelle and Hazelnut soup we had during this meal. I also had scallops and lamb and a dessert.

Day 3 — Tuesday

Although I think we both could have spent the rest of the trip happily ensconced in the Artist’s Study, we checked out on Tuesday and made the long drive to Tofino. Okay, let me say right here that Google Maps wins no accolades from me. None. Worst maps EVER. Their directions don’t match the road signs. SO FRUSTRATING.

When we were leaving Sooke, they took us down this trail through this park that was basically one lane with limited sight. It was pretty, and it *was* the shortest route, but since the signs didn’t match the directions, we ended up having to stop at a gas station (had to do that twice, I might add) to get directions.

The trip from Sooke to Tofino is long, not so much in miles as in time in the car and in difficult driving. The eastern side of the island is well-developed, and so the roads are more like highways. Highway 4, which cuts across the island is good until Alberni, and then it’s just a curvy, narrow goat path. Okay, goat path is an exaggeration. It’s a road. But it’s a narrow road that you can’t drive more than 30 miles an hour on. No WAY I would drive it in the winter.

We had a couple of nice breaks while driving Highway 4 though. The first was a stop at Cathedral Grove, an old-growth rainforest.

The second break was at Alberni for lunch – good pizza there. After our good pizza, we made the rest of the interminable drive to the Wickaninnish Inn in Tofino, arriving shortly before dinner.

Oh! Almost forgot. There was one more short break. The second half of Highway 4 follows the Kennedy River which eventually empties into Kennedy Lake. We stopped to take some pictures of the cool rocks in the river.

We had 6PM reservations at the hotel’s restaurant, and, as expected, the food was amazing. (So was the view from our table. Wish I’d had my camera.) I don’t think the food was as good as the food at Sooke Harbour House, but it was certainly excellent. Can’t remember what I had though. I do remember I was too full for dessert!

Day 4 – Wednesday

Wednesday was our spa day. We slept in a bit, and then popped downstairs to the lounge for a casual breakfast. The view was, again, stellar.

Mom had two spa appointments scheduled back-to-back, so she spent the entire morning at the spa. My appointments were split – one in the morning and one in the evening – and my morning appointment started late, so after breakfast, I went for a stroll on the beach.

My first appointment at the spa was for a treatment called “Sacred Sea.” Without going into the froufrou detail, it included a foot bath, an all-over sea salt scrub, a soak in the hydrotherapy tub, a wrap, and a foot and scalp massage. Needless to say, I was in heaven!

We had a late lunch at the restaurant, and then after a couple of hours of just relaxing and reading, I had my second spa treatment – a hot stone massage. My regular masseuse gives a better one, actually, but he did work magic on the sore muscles in my neck and lower back.

When I got back to the room, I ordered the cheese plate for dinner. It was excellent. Cheese plates are a common dessert in Canada. I love that, because I would generally prefer to have cheese rather than something sweet.

Oh, oh, my favorite part – when I called room service, the guy who answered the phone said “Definitely” over and over. He probably only said eight words total and four of them were “Definitely.” The funny thing, though, was *how* he said it. Very sing-song, evil-cartoon-character-ish. Hysterical! I’m still saying it. 🙂

Day 5 – Thursday

We got up, had the full breakfast in the restaurant, and then got on the road back across the island to Campbell River, where we would spend the rest of our trip. This day was the first day it rained. It wasn’t constant – in fact, most of the drive was dry – but it was rainy through the first half (and hardest) part of the trip.

We got to Courtenay around lunch time and ventured into the city center. We found a nice area with shops, found a great parking space, and had lunch in a little tea room. It was raining again, so we didn’t explore the rest of the area, but we decided we’d come back the next day.

The motel in Campbell River was… a step down. <cough> But, honestly, it wasn’t bad, and the bed was very comfortable. We spent the afternoon relaxing, then drove around until we found a Japanese restaurant for dinner. It was okay. Not outstanding, but okay. It was raining again, so we didn’t drive far, and we didn’t get any pictures.

Day 6 – Friday

And on the sixth day, it rained. And rained. And rained some more.

At lunch we thought it was letting up, so we ventured out, planning to go to Courtenay to check out those shops. That was not to be, though, because first thing I did was fill the gas tank and by the time I was done, it was pouring! So we decided (without much hope) to see if there was more to Campbell River than what we’d seen.

Holy cow! It was much bigger than we thought, and we found lots of cool places. Because we hadn’t expected it, it felt like a nice serendipity. We found a nice little place to eat lunch right on the wharf. After lunch, the rain took a break, so I popped out and took a few pictures.

We went back to the wharf to a local seafood restaurant for dinner. The food was excellent. Mom and I both agreed that while there were individual foods that were better in other meals along the way, this meal as a whole was our favorite.

We probably won’t go back to Campbell River, but, honestly, I like the town itself a lot. Nice place.

Day 7 – Saturday

Travel day home. Nice sunrise from our motel balcony though.

We got out early and made the drive to Duke’s Point in Nanaimo. Nice drive, actually. We got there early, and I thought – “Oh my gosh, we might be able to catch the earlier ferry!” Alas, we missed it by 15 minutes. Sob. To add insult to injury, we couldn’t find a good place for lunch. And the ferry was slow and cold. And the traffic was bad. And the border wait was annoying.

Yes, Saturday was my cranky day.

But finally we were back in the States, and all was well again. We drove home in record time, and went straight to my neighbors’ house. We had a good dinner and good conversation, then headed back to my house where the dogs were crazy happy to see me.

It was an absolutely fabulous vacation! I’m glad to be home, but I’m so glad we took it.

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Day 21 — Home again, home again!

Home! I’m home!

I dragged Jay out of bed before six, and we were on the road by 6:30 this morning. It was foggy all through Oregon, but we didn’t hit rain until we got to our home state. Of course. We couldn’t go straight home, since we had a rental car, but even with the drive through the city and a swing by the airport to switch cars, we were home by 3:30. All of the animals seemed glad to see us, and I was most happy to see them.

The house was sparkling clean when I got home. Our house sitter, Monica, is welcome to move in fulltime! 😉 She said all went well with the dogs, though Aslan made his displeasure of the situation known by taking everything she owned outside and depositing it by the front gate. He missed his mom!

The trip was a resounding success. I enjoyed every single leg. Meeting Lynn and Adam was incredible — so glad to have them in my life — and I’m ever so grateful to have gotten to see Christie. Sincerely, I can rave about every leg of the trip. I saw so many people and had such great experiences. I simply couldn’t imagine a better trip.

Thanks to all of you for reading along and for dropping my notes and phone calls along the way. Your support means more to me than you possibly know!

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Day 20 — Beginning of the end

We started our two-day trip home this morning. I got us up about a quarter before six, and we were on the road by 6:30. It’s over 1300 miles between Vegas and home, so I wanted to get an early start!

I have done phenomenally well navigating on this trip. Until this morning, the only wrong turn I had taken was missing the driveway to McDonald’s during a lunch stop. This morning, though, I shot right past the first turn I was supposed to take — the one right outside of the hotel. We were never lost, but we did a fair amount of driving on Vegas surface streets before we finally got on 15 South.

The drive today, despite the inauspicious start, was phenomenal. California is long, straight, and boring — and that’s good for this kind of driving. Just point the car and go. And no snow! Beautiful sunny weather. Our goal was Redding, which is roughly the halfway point. We got there at 6:30 this evening, but I wasn’t remotely tired, so we continued on. I crossed the mountains — I repeat, NO SNOW! — and we’re settled for the night in Medford, OR. Less than 500 miles to drive tomorrow.

The only bad thing about continuing past Redding tonight is that we missed some of the most beautiful scenery on the trip. Dark on the way down, and now dark on the way home. Oh well, like I told Jay, if I’m choosing between pretty scenery and seeing my dogs sooner, my dogs win every time!!

Home tomorrow. Finally!

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Day 19 — Vegas, day two

Any pretense I had of eating reasonably well was completely shot today. Oy, what food! If there’s any saving grace it’s that Jay and I split everything.

Breakfast was at House of Blues. We had sweet corn and banana fritters, hashbrowns smothered in bacon, cheese, and onions, and “Cajun pigs in a blanket” — chicken andouille sausage wrapped in corn cakes served with maple butter.

Lunch was at Nathan’s Hot Dogs. I had a plain hot dog, and we split an order of bacon cheese fries.

Dinner was at Tao. It’s sort of a pick-and-choose, by the piece, kind of place. We had a sashimi tuna appetizer, four kinds of tempura (onion, sweet potato, asparagus, and avocado), and a wasabe-crusted filet. I had about a third of a cup of chai for dessert. Jay made an offhand remark about being married to me for ten years, and the waiter assumed it was our anniversary. He surprised us with a glass of plum wine. I drank mine to be polite. I very much appreciated the sentiment, even if I don’t like wine.

The rest of the day? Pretty much just as decadent as the food. We started with a massage. I added on a scalp massage, which is done with a peppermint oil, so it’s a bit of aromatherapy as well. We went to the north end of the strip and walked around the Bellagio and the Venetian, and we gambled a little, and then I went back to the hotel for a nap.

Speaking of naps, have I raved about the bed here? Best bed ever. Seriously. I sleep like a log and I haven’t woken up stiff or sore a single time. I’m madly in love with it, and desperately want to recreate it at home. I wonder if the hotel will tell us what they “made” it from.

This evening we went to see Phantom of the Opera at the Venetian. It was amazing!! Since it’s a permanent show, they can do incredibly technical and elaborate sets. It’s such a great play with such amazing music.

And now the day is done. We’ve packed, and we’ll be up early tomorrow to check out and begin the trek home. It has been a terrific vacation, but I’m ready to go home now.

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