Thursday, July 30, 2009

Time is just flying by.

This summer is just flying by. After returning from our trip in early July I've been running around looking at chicken coops (I really should write about that), going to rally's to stop a berm, trying to design a tile insert for a city street, book club get together at my house, artists' receptions, dinner invites, and visiting family members. Next week I'll be in Idaho and Spokane, and then I have a pottery sale to get ready for -- I'm just exhausted!

This morning was the kick-off breakfast for the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer. It was a great turnout, and very inspiring. If you'd like to participate by donating or joining our group of walkers click on this link .

Okay, got to go now. I have to make sure the puppies are happy, then go to my friend's house and check on her kitty and close some windows, and then I'm off to meet a friend for lunch.

Time just flies by!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Sightseeing in Walla Walla

We had planned to get into town yesterday afternoon in time to do a little sightseeing, but it was not meant to be. So we slightly modified our plans today to get as much in as we could starting with breakfast. The lovely lady at Vintage Cellars recommended we try Clarette's Restaurant, and we're glad listened. Nice home-style breakfasts, and I was happy to try their strawberry and apricot syrups on my pancakes.

After breakfast we drove around town a bit trying to get our bearings. We stopped at the Chamber of Commerce hoping to get some suggestions, but found we had all the info we needed so off we went to the airport to look at a few wineries. Tastings in wine country are a funny thing. This place is open only on Saturdays from 11:00 to 4:00 while another is open "most days" 10:00 to 5:00. Or they may be open only be appointment. Or from Friday thru Sunday, or...well you get my point. We discovered we should come back after 1:00 in order to find most of the tasting rooms open so we decided to head to L'Ecole.
L'Ecole has a lovely tasting room situated in an old schoolhouse. The grounds were manicured, the insides nice decorated, and they had a lot of souveniers available to purchase from hats, shirts to pencils and magnets. The wine was wonderful (as we knew it would be) and we purchased two bottles of their 2007 Estate Syrah, a bottle of chocolate syrup made with their Merlot that may or may not be a thank-you present for someone kind enough to water our plants, and a magnet.
Since it was now after 1:00 we headed back to the airport area but first we decided to take a look at Fort Walla Walla museum. We just did a drive by, and I'm sure it is an interesting and worthwhile stop for anyone (else) who would care to visit.

So as I said, we headed back to the airport and stopped at Dunham Winery (beautiful interiors and landscape, but we didn't buy any wine), Patit Creek Cellars where we purchased a 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, and then Tamarack Cellars where we bought a bottle of their 2007 Cabernet Franc.

Honestly, we were getting a little tired of tasting wine, but I did want to stop at Otis Kenyon whose tasting room was downtown, and our friend Rick Semple was adamant that we eat at that little french bistro he couldn't remember the name of. So we stopped at the motel room to drop off our purchases so they'd stay cool in the a/c and drove downtown. I'm not sure if I liked the tasting room at Otis Kenyon. It was a bit stark which is fine, but there was an unpleasant musty smell to their shop -- it was quite a surprise. Their wines were nice, and we bought a bottle of their 2006 Merlot. The lady who worked there was very helpful when I mentioned we had been recommended by our friend to eat somewhere downtown but did not know the name. As soon as I said french bistro she blurted out Brasserie Four, right across the street! And off we went.

We decided to sit outside, and our server (Zach) was kind enough to put down the awning so Paul's head wouldn't get burned. Zach was a recently transplant to Walla Walla from Olympia. He moved here for a slower paced life which is kind of how I picture Olympia, but I digress...

We had a wonderful meal! Assorted olives and bread to start, I had the salmon quiche with mixed greens, Paul ordered their spicy salami pizza, and we washed it down with a bottle of red from Tertulia Cellars. Afterwards Paul had an espresso (Stumptown) and I had a real honest to goodness creme brulee. Not that fake stuff where they sprinkle sugar on top and do a flame torch blow-by, but a lovely crunchy crust of caramelized sugar that snapped when I hit it with my spoon.

So now we're back in the room. We're red, we're tired, and we're probably a wee bit tipsy. Sounds to me like a successful trip!

Hello Hello Walla Walla!

I love old motels. It's probably because it reminds me of the vacations my family would take when I was a kid. My dad would insist on an early start, and I always imagined we were the only one in the world driving the roads at that time. Most of the time we camped but if we were very lucky my dad would pull into a Travel Lodge or better yet a Holiday Inn. We'd get to sleep in a real bed dreaming of the next morning when we got to eat our cereal out of individual boxes and go swimming in the courtyard pool.

This was my first time to Walla Walla. We could have stayed in a fancy B&B or hotel but I never feel comfortable there -- too fussy. I found the Capri Motel online, and it's perfect. Clean, quiet, and it's run by an old couple who live on site. The man who checked us in last night was full of helpful information of where to go for dinner. Their little dog sat quiet in the doorway while the TV blared the evening news in the background. Walking into our room I breathed in that air conditioned cold smell that was blessedly free of stale smoke and pine air freshener. We had a comfortable night sleep and were greeting this morning as we left for breakfast by the woman who cleans the rooms. She was surprised to hear that we were happy to reuse our towels, perfectly capable of making our own beds, and the only service we'd need was another packet of their delicious (never hurts to be polite) brown stuff they call coffee grounds. When we returned later today we were amused to find the packet of coffee sitting on the air conditioner unit OUTSIDE of our room. I suppose we should have asked that she leave it inside on the counter next to the coffee machine!

Hope you enjoy these pictures of our stately suite!

It was a long day!

Yesterday was a long day. We had meant to get an early start, but just couldn't get ourselves moving so instead of leaving McMinnville at 8:00-ish we left at 9:30-ish. So we're off and running, excited to get to Walla Walla. I was annoyed that I hadn't booked three nights there but figured we'd arrive early enough to tour some wineries in the afternoon, and then we'd have a full day to do some other tourist activities and winery tours. Cruising down I-84 we see a reader board: I-84 closed at Exit 17. Use alternate route. We had just enough time to look at each other and say "huh?" before applying the brakes and coming to a screeching halt. Fine, we're by Troutdale. We know Troutdale. Paul remembers reading about the Historic Highway, so away we go for a beautiful ride through the hills knowing it will connect with I-84 once we've past all the spectacular waterfalls. About halfway through we had a great surprise: Vista House. It's a beautiful building set atop an outcropping of rock, and the views are breathtaking. We pulled over to stretch our legs and enjoy the view, and then off again we went.

When we finally got to the entrance for I-84 we saw it was also closed. What's going on? We left the freeway at exit 17 and this entrance was around 35 so Paul got out to ask the state trooper. Evidently early that morning a tanker truck managed to flip over and spill his load of hot asphalt all over the freeway, shutting it down for most of the day. So we (like everyone else going east) back tracked to Portland, hopped over to Washington and traveled Highway 14. Luckily we were able to cross back at the Cascade Locks on a toll bridge called the Bridge of the Gods. So for the huge sum of $1 I was able to experience terror like I haven't in quite a while. The old metal bridge shook under the weight of the cars, and most of the deck was open grating. Of course we couldn't move more than one mile an hour, and it took about ten minutes to cross the Columbia. Not doing that anytime soon.

The rest of the trip was a breeze, and we finally limped into our motel around 6:00 p.m. We may have missed the wineries for today, but we were able to eat some dinner at T. Maccarone, and a sippy-sip at Vintage Cellars. The cheese plate at T. Maccarone was amazing -- almost as good as Vin Grotto's. And the lady at Vintage Cellars kindly pointed out breakfast spots, and some places to go after the town shuts down at 6:00.

Okay, enough already. Paul is waiting, and we've got a full day planned so I'll leave you with some shots we took at Vista House, and the Bridge of the Gods.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tooling around town

We had a lovely day yesterday. Rode our bikes all over, explored the city park, had a great cup of coffee and scone. I made Paul do a few cutsie-tourist type photos, and then we were off to the Evergreen Flight and Space Museums. We love that sort of activity, and spent about four hours looking over all the exhibits.

Afterwards we went to a winery in Carlton called Anne Amie. The location was lovely -- as picturesque as I had imagined a winery to be. The wines were nice, and we actually purchased some whites!! Then we were off to downtown Carlton to check out Tyrus Evans tasting room. The lady at Anne Amie suggested it when I told her we prefer big reds. Tyrus Evans tasting room was set up in the old train depot in Historic Downtown Carlton. Unfortunately we didn't snap any photos (our brains were getting a little fuzzy). In our defense it was 4:oo, and other than a scone we hadn't eaten all day . Back to McMinnville we went, parked the car and rode our bikes to Golden Valley Brewery for an early dinner. I read they brewed their own beer and thought Paul might enjoy it. They also make their house wine, and the red I had was pretty decent (especially at $5 a glass). They raise their own beef and veggies which is impressive. All in all a very nice place to go.

What a great day, but my puppies were barking something fierce so it's another early night for us. We'll need the rest for our next adventure: Lincoln City!!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Harry and Patty were sweethearts...

We're in McMinnville, Oregon population who the heck knows but it's small. To celebrate our anniversary Paul and I are spending a few days here, and then off to Walla Walla. We're staying at McMennamin's Hotel Oregon. It's a historic building decorated with McMennamin's characteristic charm. Our room is (very) small, but comfortable, and tells the story of Harry (a former FBI agent turned Circuit Court Judge) and Peggy (niece of Hotel Oregon's proprietor) who met here during WWII, courted, married and enjoyed a long and happy marriage. A good omen for us I'm sure.

Our first day here was a bit disappointing. We were impatient to get the vacation started and left home pretty early arriving here around 11:30 (what can I say? We're early risers) and was informed very cheerfully by the lady at check-in that we had to wait until 3:00. Hmm, now what to do? We decided to walk around the Historic Downtown area which took all of about 25 minutes since everything but the kitchen store and a coffee shop was closed! Okay, to be fair it was Sunday, and a holiday weekend. So we got a cup of coffee, looked at a few brochures, and made our way back to McMennamin's to get a bite to eat.

We snagged a table at the Rooftop Bar. Hotel Oregon is one of McMinnville's tallest buildings rising a staggering four stories above street level. The sun was shining, a slight breeze kept the temperature comfortable, and the view was lovely. Unfortunately the service was bad, and after waiting over an hour we were finally able to enjoy a cold hamburger, fries, and an appetizer plate of chips sans salsa.

We finished the day off with a few games of pool and some drinks. I know this sounds weird but it gets boring sitting around drinking if all you have to do is sit around drinking so we decided to turn in early. We did some light reading, finished off a crossword puzzle, and relaxed. It was a nice end to the day.