Last month, my husband and I explored the Pacific Northwest to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. We had never visited the area, and we are huge wine lovers so we started our journey in the Willamette Valley, Oregon. It is located in the northwest region of Oregon, approximately 30 miles southwest of Portland airport. We rented a car and headed south. The area is known for excellent grape-growing soil, and since the 1960’s has been producing world renowned Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay. But what we noticed first was a radical change in scenery as we moved south…rolling hills, a beautiful canvas of greens, yellows, rust and reds which declared the beginnings of Fall. It was harvest season in the valley, so there was an abundance of the most beautiful wine clusters; most dark purple, some almost black. We immediately felt like we were in another world; a world full of pine trees and mist and fog and vineyards and more pine trees.
We stayed at the Allison Inn & Spa (www.theallison.com), AMAZING resort and worth every penny. Beautiful setting, in the middle of vineyards, relaxing atmosphere and award winning spa (voted #1 in the US by Travel & Leisure in 2012). The view from our room’s balcony shown above was almost surreal. Once we got settled we ventured out to explore some of the hundreds of wineries in the area. We hired Fred, from A Nose for Wine (www.anoseforwine.com) to take us around to some of the area’s most unique wineries. We typically enjoy smaller production wineries, and we were not disappointed. Fred was knowledgeable, funny, very prepared and we had an incredible day. I would highly recommend him!
We also made a few appointments ourselves, and in the end, our favorites in the area were Domaine Serene, Domaine Drouhin, Witness Tree, Archery Summit, St Innocent and Bethel Heights. And when there’s good wine good food usually follows, and we found ourselves in foodie heaven; our favorite restaurants were The Jory (at the Allison Inn), the Dundee Bistro, Recipe and the Painted Lady. Weather was great; a few hours of drizzle but sunshine most of the day, and sadly, after 5 glorious day, it was time to head north.
Next we ventured to Seattle; the drive took us about 4-5 hours. We only really had one full day in Seattle but had a great time. Of course walked through Pike Place Market (www.pikeplacemarket.org), the Space Needle, and was most impressed by the Chihuly Museum (www.chihulygardenandglass.com). Located in the Seattle Center right next to the Space Needle, the museum is dedicated to showcasing the spectacular hand-blown glass art by Dale Chihuly (you might know him as the artist who built that gorgeous glass ceiling at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas). The garden and glass museum in Seattle is definitely worth seeing, just look at these pictures. You can buy tickets for the museum and the Space Needle combined and you can also come back and see it all at nightiime, with special lights and colors you can’t even imagine possible. Seattle is another great foodie town; we had the BEST clam chowder at the Steelhead Diner across from the market and a superb dinner at the Dahlia Lounge; local ingredients, great service, cool atmosphere, and the donuts are to die for!
After a short stop in Seattle, we were off to Vancouver! We took the train which was easy and convenient. I have always wanted to go to Vancouver, and I had heard from so many friends and family about it’s cosmopolitan feel, amazing food and beautiful scenery. Well, we were NOT disappointed! We stayed at the Hyatt on Burrard Street, perfect location! Although it was rainy on and off the 5 days we were there, we manage to walk a lot while it was dry and explored the town with a few surprise side tours for my hubby. As I mentioned, we love to eat (and drink wine), so I booked the “Guilty Pleasures Gourmet Tour”(sounds perfect for a foodie right?) at foodietours.ca. We walked to 5 different establishments and had a course at each one (had authentic chinese food, cheese, wine and chocolate at a gourmet market, italian delicacies and the BEST salmon sushi we’ve ever had at the Market at Georges. We completed our tour with the world renowned Bella Gelato (lavender was truly sublime!). Had a great day, and was sorry we didn’t have time to do their Best Food Truck Tour! We both love to cook, so we took a cooking class at the nearby Dirty Apron Cooking School (www.dirtyapron.com). We had so much fun making fresh pasta, lamb loin and pana cotta for dessert! I discovered things about my husband I hadn’t known in 20 years! It was so much fun to cook together, especially when someone else shops, preps and cleans up!
And on our last day we headed to the city of Victoria, in Vancouver Island. We took the ferry and that morning it was pouring rain in Vancouver, so I’m already thinking “what the heck do we do all day in the rain, we’re supposed to visit gardens!”. But someone was looking out for us, because 15 minutes into our hour and a half ferry ride, the clouds literally parted, the sun came out and we had a AMAZING day!!! The trip over was like a postcard, and the Butchart Gardens (www.butchartgardens.com) did not disappoint! I remember being a kid and my grandmother talking about them when they went to Alaska, so it was cool to see it for myself; grandma was right! We spent the afternoon in downtown Victoria, and since it had started to drizzle, we rushed to finish our necessary shopping for kids, grandparents who were babysitting and then headed to the pubs! We officially pub-crawled, 2 irish pubs and 2 scottish ones; had a blast!
Next day headed home, anxious to see kids but sad our fantasy time of sleeping in, no work, no cooking, cleaning and shuttling kids around was coming to an end…but we’ll always have the Pacific Northwest.