Fly to - Seattle
Travel date - August 2010
David Mortimer and I will be travelling from Seattle to San Francisco on a 10 day trip to plan out our newest driving program. The program will ultimately be a 14 night holiday but will follow the same geenral route from Seattle, up around Olympic National Park and down the Pacific Coast into Oregon before we head inland to see Crater Lake and the Mt. Shasta region of Northern California.
Not a region of North America many of us are familiar with, so we are looking forward to discovering the scenery, what there is to do, the best hotels to stay at and the best scenic routes to drive. Follow our progress as we look to post a day to day diary (Internet connection permitting) starting today (August 03rd 2010).
Our itinerary is as follows -
- 03Aug - Heathrow - Seattle - non-stop
- Snoqualmie Falls (Near Seattle) - Salish Lodge - 1 night
- Seattle - Hotel Andra - 1 night
- Port Angeles, WA - Olympic Lodge - 1 night
- Lake Quinault, WA - Lake Quinault Lodge - 1 night
- Lincoln City, OR - Surtides - 1 night
- Ashland, OR - Lithia Hot Springs Inn - 1 night
- Mt. Shasta, CA - Mt. Shasta Resort - 1 night
- Sacremento, CA - Citzen Hotel - 1 night
- 12Aug - San Francisco - Heathrow - non-stop
Any comments or questions as we go are welcome.
Aug 3rd - Arrival at Seattle Airport - Snoqualmie - 45 minute drive
We had an excellent flight on the only non-stop flight to Seattle from the UK with British Airways, comfortable, well looked after and on time - You cant ask for anymore from your flight really.
Once we had cleared immigration (Much easier and quicker now the green card has gone and your ESTA pre-registration is done in the UK) we claimed our bags and boarded the undergroud transit to the main terminal where we followed the signs to the car rental garage. No queues so we were soon on our way in my favoured vehicle the 4 x 4 SUV... Love the higher driving/viewing position of these vehicles.
We headed for the Salish Lodge about 45 minutes from the airport and about 30 mins directly east of downtown Seattle.
You are greeted by a very relaxed unimposing property with the smell of buring open fires... quite lovely. After a very easy and pleasant check-in we discovered some really lovely guestrooms with fireplaces, lots of space, really really comfy beds a jacuzzi bath and loads and loads of space, a welcoming site after a long day of travels.
Salish Lodge is located right on the edge of a spectacular waterfall so we headed to 'The Attic' lounge for a view of the falls and a bite to eat.. The Kobe Beef Burger comes well reccomended if that is your thing. Worth noting that other than the suites no rooms have a view of the falls, you can pay an extra $30 for a view of the river but I personally wouldn't bother.
Aug 4th - Snoqualmie - Seattle - 30 minute drive
This morning we had a good look round the property, the spa looks a great place to chill out even if you are not paying for treatments and the restaurant serves great food and has some very private tables with a view of the falls you can pay a premium for - take note romantics.. We took the 2 minute walk down to the falls viewing area to take some pictures, it really is a spectacular site.
The 30 minute drive into Seattle is dead easy. We headed for the Hotel Andra, only valet parking here at $39 a night so if you are staying in Seattle on arrival we would suggest you consider collecting the car downtown when you leave rather than on arrival at the airport. The Hilton Hotel downtown is where you will find the Alamo location, best to walk over, collect the car then pull by the Hotel Andra to load your bags up on your day of departure. Our team can advise you further on which option suits you.
The Hotel Andra is fab - a real hit with me. An old historic building and small and friendly with just over 100 rooms. All the rooms and public areas have been beautifully done out - quite modern but not daft modern if you know what I mean. Yep ... verrrry nice this one, you'll love it I'm sure.
We crammed as much as we could into our short time, the Garyline hop on/off bus tour is a must at $23 for 2 day use and one of their stops is just outside the Warwick Hotel located next door to the Hotel Andra. My tip - get on the 9am pick up, take it down to Pikes Market, have breakfast then continue on the loop for a really good orientation of where everthing is. You should also get off at Pioneer Square and do the Underground tour, a must must must.. so interesting to learn about and see the part of the early city that is below ground due to the city raising the streets to avoid high tide flooding.. really is fascinatingand at $15 for a 90 minute tour you can't afford to miss it. The grayline bus will also drop you off right at the famous space needle if you want to go up for panoramic views of the city and surrounding hills/mountains.
We called in on our way back to the hotel to see the Fairmont Hotel (Very luxurious and very traditional) and the Monaco Hotel, little bit more modern but still very nice option, like the Andra they are located on 1st Ave and all offer top draw locations for exploring the city. For super luxury consider the Four Seasons, looks awesome with waterviews available, something the Edgewater will also offer you as it's right on the front near all the piers and shops and restaurants that go with that waterfront location, personally I'd go with the 1st Ave for prime location.
Had a great meal tonight at the Dahlia Reestaurant across the street from the hotel, owned by Tom Douglas, a bit of a local celebrity chef, the food and wine were excellent and we enjoyed a really constructive meeting with Brad and BJ from the port and tourism departments on how we can tell everyone about the Pacific Northwest being probably the most surprising of regions in the U.S. ... it really is, so much to offer and I'll write more about this when we offer our new itineraries.
Ok, well we have to be on a 7.55am ferry tomorrow morning so early start, for that reason please forgive the typos, I'm sure there are plenty above but I really cannot resist the call of the very comfy looking bed behind me... we go to a lot of trouble to route out these trips for you, it'd hard work believe me!!!
Early start this morning, alarm at 6.15 and depart hotel at 6.45. We were catching the 7.55am ferry to Bainbridge Island for a breakfast meeting and site inspection at the Clearwater Resort & Casino. We had asked the night before how early we should show up for the ferry which you do not need to pre-book and the hotel said to get there for 7am. As it happened we just managed to get on the ferry leaving at 7.10am.
The ferry journey lasts about 30 minutes and gives you a great opportunity to take some photos of the Seattle skyline.
Another 10 minutes and we arrived at the Clearwater Resort. The great thing here is the casino is a totally separate building to the hotel and the hotel sits right on the waters edge, which in a beautiful morning like today gave us the perfect outdoor setting for breakfast.
This property is really nice and offers good value on large suites. If you were the kind of person that wanted a waterfront setting with nice big suites then travelling back to Seattle for a day trip on the ferry is a real option. The hotel offers a shuttle down to the ferry terminal and ferries operator about every 45 minutes until midnight I believe so you could very easily go over to Seattle as a foot passenger and as the terminal on the Seattle side is right there next to Pikes Place Market it could not be more convenient.
We left the Clearwater Resort at about 10am and after a short detour to drive through the small but very quaint Norwegian community of Poulsbo we drove 1 hour north to Port Townsend. Scenery on this route was pleasant rolling hills without being anything spectacular so best just to get the pedal down.. (As David did...)
Port Townsend sits on a small peninsula and is a historic town with many historic buildings on the main street. The town came about through the shipping industry that created Seattle, only Port Townsend came first.. Really just a tourist attraction now it's worth an hour here to take a stroll down the main street and look at all the historic buildings – It's interesting to see all the painted adverts on the sides of many of the buildings. You can also get some good photographs of the bay from the small pier or pop into some of the small knick knack shops.
Port Townsend has a small underground area where the drunken sailors would be despatched from the bars and brothels once they had drunk too much or had been robbed... Would recommend you visit the underground just off the Main Street and find the 'Underground' coffee shop – awesome latte!
We then drove up to Fort Worden where the old fort building has been very well preserved. Now a state park it's worth driving through and a stop down at the waterfront 'Kinzie Battery' defence is also worth it. Built in 1909 it housed 2 huge cannons to defend the port area against invasion.
We then set off on a 45 minute drive to Sequim to see the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe Totem Pole Carving Shed. A very interesting chat with a member of the tribe followed about the Totem Poles and their meaning before we headed to The Oak Table Cafe for lunch and to meet the charismatic owner Billy.. He puts on some serious breakfast and lunch food so this is a great place to stop for lunch. The restaurant is located in Sequim.
We then called at the Olympic Cellars for some wine tasting. This small wine making business is housed in a beautifully restored Norwegian style farm barn and is well worth a stop. The owners Molly or Kathy are happy to talk to you about their wines and take you behind the scenes to see where they do the grape crushing, pressing and you can also see the barrels and bottled stages. Kathy was really helpful and explained a lot to us about the process... really interesting 30 minute stop, the wine tasty really good too! So glad David was driving today.
We then moved on to Olympic National Park itself taking the 17 mile drive up to the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center which offers fabulous views across the glaciers and mountain vistas. As the road is quite slow you should allow at least 90 minutes to do this roundtrip drive so you have time for pull outs and photos. There are many short hiking trails you could also take advantage of. Entrance to the park is $15 per car. Unfortunately for us it was very hazy today so we didn't get the spectacular pictures we would have on a clear day.
We visited the Red Lion Hotel in Port Angeles located back at the park entrance. This motel style property has some great water view rooms which are only $30 more than the standard non-view rooms. All rooms looked clean and pleasantly decorated. The Red Lion is located right and the ferry pier for Vancouver Island from where you could do a day trip to Victoria as a foot passenger for $20 return at the moment. It is also located right on the Olympic walking trail which actually stretches for 20 miles along the coast line.
After that it was off to our hotel for the night the Olympic Lodge and dinner at 'Michael's' in town. The Olympic Lodge offers a more upscale option to the Red Lion, things have a newer and slightly more luxurious feel, so really it's a trade off between the 2, the Olympic Lodge has the more luxurious feel all round the Red Lion is a little more 'Motel' like but does offer a downtown location and selected rooms with water views.
We had a nice dinner at Michael's, we would definitely recommend this to you but it's important you make a reservation, we can do this or your hotel will do it for you ahead of time.
Port Angeles is nothing to write home about but it does offer a convenient 1 night stopping point enroute around the Olympic Peninsula and allows you to spend 90 minutes or longer driving into the National Park to Hurricane Ridge which I have already spoken about.
First off we learnt today that the haze that somewhat spoilt our view yesterday from Hurricane Ridge was from forest fires up in British Columbia. This morning we met Diane who works for the Olympic Peninsula Tourism Dept. Diane was our guide for the day. Our route today took us anti-clockwise around the Olympic Peninsula and our stop for the night would be Lake Quinault on the south west side of Olympic National Park.
Our first stop was 20 minutes along our route, a short pull off to see Madison Falls, well worth seeing as it's just located along a 2 minute path from the car park and is really pretty.
We then headed for Lake Crescent Lodge, a National Park accommodation for a breakfast meeting and hotel inspection. This is about 30 minutes further west. The Lodge has a quite beautiful setting on the shores of Lake Crescent with all accommodation units having some sort of lake view. It consists of the historic lodge and numerous cabin/units set amongst the forest but all located close to the water's edge.
What you find with National Park Lodges are that they are a piece of history in themselves so they lack a lot of the modern aspects of hotels that we take for granted now but in most cases you will find them to be clean and comfortable. Lake Crescent Lodge is no exception, the units are small and the decor is a bit 70's in many cases but they are well serviced and clean and this place is all about the setting and the lake view...quite serene...
Both David and I felt this would be a preferred instead of Port Angeles IF... they have availability, there are only 50 something rooms so you have to book early.
We had a very pleasant breakfast at the lodge looking at the lake and its surrounding mountains before heading off again, this time to La Push on the coast which is an Indian Reservation. This really is very interesting, it's just a small village with a fishing harbour, in fact we got out and spoke to some of the Indians who were just offloading their catch from a 3 day fishing trip. They were friendly and we got to see some of the biggest Halibut you are every likely to witness!
Worth noting as you leave Lake Crescent and head towards the coast that there is a good chance you will encounter, fog or the marine layer as they call it which is all part of the climate around here and how the cool air of the Pacific feeds down the river valleys creating the unique rainforest climate of the Olympic National Park. As we moved down the coast we only had to move inland 5/6 miles to come out from under the marine layer and into bright sunshine.
You can take some great pictures from this coastline/beach, the small high sided islands just of the beach really add to the scenic setting. In Feb/March they have blue whales that come in to the bay just a few hundred feet from the beach – must be quite a site. We had a quick look round the Oceanside Resort there before moving back into the town of Forks.
Now I've had my eyes opened on this trip to an International phenomena currently going on and all you people who read the books will know what I am talking about when I mentioned the town of Forks, Washington... Forks is the setting for the Twilight series of books and movies. This sleepy town has gone Twilight crazy and visitors from all over the world are flocking to Forks like some kind of pilgrimage.. amazing. I think I offended the shop owner of 'Dazzled by Twilight' by flatly refusing to have my picture taken with a cardboard cut out of Bella one of the main characters, David was less bashful so enjoy the picture below!
Anyway we grabbed a quick bite to eat then it was off for some real fun, a river rafting trip on the How River. This trip takes up about 3 hours in total allowing for the signing in and kitting yourself with life jackets wetsuits if you want them and of course your oars.. my first time on a rafting trip and I hope not the last, great fun. This one is only a grade 1 or 2 so suitable for anyone really but you will get wet. They stop at a very pretty waterfall en-route where the brave can jump into the rock pool at the base of the waterfall.. Needless to say David and I were not feeling that brave today, particularly after we saw the pale shade of blue that those jumping in were turning... Great trip though, well worth anyone having a go and can all be arranged for you before you leave the UK.
We left Diane at this point and headed south for a inspection of the Kalaloch Lodge, another National Park Lodge located on a cliff top overlooking the driftwood littered beach and inlet. Very pretty location but to coin a phrase the lodge and cabins are 'Rustic'. But this again comes back to the National Park thing, these cabins were built when the road opened so it is a historic site and they are clean and the views are stunning. En-route to Kalaloch Lodge we stopped at Ruby Beach. This is a must just for a photo stop if nothing else but a walk along the beach for a half hour stop would be well worth it. Very impressive, coastal scenery.
Our National Park Lodge stop for the night was further south and inland a little, after 40 minutes we arrived at the spectacular location of Lake Quinault Lodge. A beautiful historic building set on the banks of the lake. Sitting on the lounge chairs on the lawn gazing at the sunset across the lake with a glass of a Sauvignon Blanc from Snoqualmie can be highly recommended. The rooms at Lake Quinault are about as good as it gets with National Park Lodges, they were absolutely in actually.
Strongly recommend calling ahead or have us arrange dinner for you and ask for a table next to the window overlooking the lake – Even if you have to wait it's worth it, just sit outside on the lawn a little longer with perhaps another glass of wine... To give you a handle on costs we spent about $100 on dinner which included a bottle of wine and two of the top entrees and breakfast was $40, both costs included 15-20% tip that I added on (The norm)
After dinner you might like to wonder down to the lake shore and sit round the fire the lodge lights each night on the small shingle beach and do some star gazing – memories like that will last you a lifetime...
The lodge also arranges various guided tours along very easy trails through the surrounding rainforests and boat trips so you really need to build in a minimum of half a day here to enjoy this special location, ideally a 2 night stop would make for a really nice day here.
After a heart breakfast we headed off for a 130 mile drive south into Oregon and a lunchtime meeting in the coastal town of Cannon Beach. The drive took us through some 'Interesting' towns.. Aberdeen being a prime case.. I don't think the wet weather we had to day made it look any prettier, but I'll leave it at that, still interesting to see. The rest of the drive was fairly mundane so you don't need to plan in any stops just head for the coast in Oregon. You will know you are entering Oregon when you cross the impressive Astoria Bridge. At over 4 miles in length the bridge, opened in 1966 formed the last part of the US101 road from Olympia in Washington State and Los Angeles in California and is the longest continuous truss bridge in North America
I've been calling home each so far and the last couple of days I've used my mobile phone. I always buy a phone card which you can get from gas stations or Walgreens etc, they will save you a fortune on calls... when I dialled home a $20 card gives me 6 hours... $20 from a hotel phone would get you about 5 minutes... Anyway I discovered today that I could call the freephone access number on the card from my mobile without having to enter the international prefix which surprised me. Your money won't go as far of course but the $20 card would still offer me 2 hours worth of calls from my mobile back to the UK – great value.
We arrived in Cannon Beach around lunchtime for our meeting with Jeff Jewel from the Chamber of Commerce. I was clear from our arrival that Cannon Beach was the place to be on the coast but as we found with our trip you have to book early and comply with a 2 night minimum stay at most properties. Cannon Beach was sold out this whole weekend so our final stop for the day would have to be another 2 hours drive further south in a place called Lincoln City.
Jeff was good enough to spend a couple of hours with us for an informative discussion over lunch about Cannon Beach, it's obvious scenery but also the vibrant quaint little town with it's many art galleries and restaurants. We took a drive around town with him and got to see a couple of lodgings we in the Ocean Lodge and the Stephanie Inn, both were oceanfront and real top draw stuff, would make a great treat! I should also add that the Spa package at the Stephanie in for 2 people looks fabulous; you could spend the whole day in that beautiful treatment rooms... Cannon Beach has a really cute little theatre in town which would make for a cool night out and a visit to Ecola State Park is an absolute must, make sure you have your camera at the ready as you emerge from the towering spruce trees at a rocky headland for some quite breathtaking pacific ocean views. Unfortunately today for us was a particularly grey and wet day, so the view was not great. It was interesting to learn from Jeff that the marine layer fog is quite common in July and August as the inland heats up, rain is unusual but the best months for sunshine are September and October. There is a good chance of rain at other times.
We headed on south to Lincoln City and checked into our hotel which was the Inn at Spanish Point. Was an OK hotel nothing spectacular, what was spectacular was the Lemmon and Vanilla cheesecake I had for desert after dinner... Oh my god... Cheesecake is my favourite desert and this was special, turned out the sweet lady who worked on the restaurant front desk actually made it for the hotel. Rooms here had awesome ocean views so falling asleep to the sound of the surf gazing down the coast watching people on the beach with fires lit was pretty cool.
This morning we had a meeting with Petra Nahr from the Travel Oregon Association. This was a really productive meeting over a delightful Sunday Brunch at the hotel. After 2 hours we had a really good feel for the state, some tips on great lodgings and activities we can insert into our new drive programs we are working on, in fact we came away having devised a whole new 14 night drive program starting and finishing in San Francisco and covering Northern California and Oregon. Not what many people would think of doing but this program with the variety of activities we will do along the way will be a really cracking trip and a great surprise to many.
This morning we say sea lions in the ocean which Petra informed us is very common, just keep your eyes peeled and if you don't seem them here you can stop at the Sea Lions Caves further down the coast on your drive for the day.
After a whirlwind 45 minutes at the Outlet Mall in Lincoln City we headed south on the coastal road. Worth noting Oregon is a tax free state so there are some real bargains to be had here. The mall in Lincoln is small by American standards but probably the size we are used to, our new Oregon drive program that we devised this morning will give you the option to visit the biggest mall just outside Portland, Oregon.
While I remember petrol is running at about $3.14 a gallon these days.
The marine layer fog cleared this morning and oh my weren't we glad, the next stretch of the coastal drive south was breathtaking. Lots of pull outs along the road for you to take pictures so make sure the memory card is not full... David... Really words cannot describe the beauty of this drive that you discover around every corner and to think if you are lucky you can see the whales or sea lions that are here year round it really is quite a magical stretch of coastline. North to south is definitely the way to go so you are on the right side of the road for the views.
We passed through the town of Newport and if this is not where you are staying overnight you should definitely pull off the highway to see the Historic Nye Beach Bay Front.
After a couple of hours we turned another corner and suddenly the land flattened out and you have sand dunes below for virtually as far as you could see – quite dramatic. It's from the town of Florence here where you can take one of the dune ride trips. We did not have time to take one but they are supposed to be a lot of fun and highly recommended for all ages.
It was at this point that we headed inland through the Willamette Valley. A really scenic drive following the river where the temperature climbs rapidly as you drive the 1.5 hours to Eugene. This is wine country, a really strong area for the Pinot, so we'd be glad to recommend a wine tasting stop along the way if you fancy it, in fact the King Estate is one of the few that has a restaurant so this would make a really special lunch stop.
We arrived into Eugene and our stop for the night the Campbell House, a classic old historic B&B Inn with only 20 rooms. Very pleasant and a refreshing change in lodging style. Here you can help yourself to a glass of wine in the lounge before walking to the vibrant 5th street market area for dinner. I really recommend 'Marche', which is where we had the best all round meal of our trip (Allowing for the cheesecake at Lincoln City). We met Meg Trendler from the Travel Lane County Visitor Assoc. And once again were treated to a really informative 2 hours about this region and the city of Eugene. If you do go try the Quail dish for a starter, quite exquisite...
We were staying 1 night in Eugene, which was in affect our staging post before heading out into the high desert tomorrow to Crater Lake, something I have been looking forward to from the start of the trip.
Following a lovely cooked breakfast at the Campbell House B*B we hit the road at 8.30am as we knew we had a full day of sightseeing to do as we headed for Crater Lake.
We used the Interstate 5 for a couple of hours south before taking US138 East. This drive follows the Umpqua River and oh what a drive it is. Numerous stops for pictures should be allowed on this one as you drive through the river valley.
We stop along this route at Toketee Falls. Anyone doing this drive has to stop here. After a really nice walk along a well marked and maintained trail along the river line through the forest you come to a scene that would fit neatly into most people's idea of paradise.. A double drop waterfall surrounded by the mountains and forest with a big rock pool at the bottom. The viewing platform opposite the falls gives you the opportunity to take some great pictures. I would advise that you allow 45 minutes for this stop and take a bottle of water, there are a few inclines and steps to take on but nothing too strenuous and you will be well rewarded.
We got back on the road and after stopping at the Diamond Lake lookout for a few more pictures we entered Crater Lake National Park (Fee $10). Crater Lake was formed when the volcano, Mt Mazama exploded 7700 years ago. Later rain fall and snow melt filled the crater with water to a depth of 1943. feet creating the deepest lake in North America and the 9th deepest in the world – Few though can be quite as beautiful as this.
It takes you about 30 minutes to drive to the rim of the crater as you climb to a height of over 7000 feet – drive carefully, some of the drop offs at the side of the road might give you sweaty palms as your driving!
Nothing prepared us for this site when we got to the rim and whilst I have not even looked at the pictures on my camera I know they will not do it justice – Put into context David said this made a bigger impact on him than seeing the Grand Canyon.. you just have to come and see it for yourself.
At the rim village you can get a bite to eat from the cafe as we did and this is where you could check-in at the Crater Lake Lodge, a national park property that overlooks the lake and books up a long way in advance as you might imagine. We were not able to see a room but I did get to see some photos. Let's just say the room look basic... That National Park Lodge thing again I talked about earlier...
The drive including stops from Eugene took us 4 hours, but it did not feel taxing or tiring as it was such a rewarding drive with many stops.
We headed out, off to Ashland, Oregon, our stop for the night which was 2 hours southwest of the crater.
Ashland is a neat little town and provides an ideal 1 night stop off before you continue south into Northern California as we are doing tomorrow. There are plenty of unique restaurants and shops and the town has a long affiliation with Shakespeare shows so this is something or you can do.
We stayed at the Lithia Hot Springs resort about 2 miles out of town. A small very personal lodging, here you will get to stay in one of the cottage units spread across their grounds. The English cottages we had were fabulous with a Jacuzzi bath and tons of room. We both agreed that as the property does not have a restaurant for dinner the ideal night here would be to order in a takeaway (The front desk can supply menus) and enjoy your cottage. They also have a little patio with sun loungers and a nice fireplace. All the water is from their very own hot spring so if you can get over the sulphur smell of the water (Rotten eggs) then you can enjoy the healings powers of the spring water in the really cool Jacuzzi watching TV, reading, sipping wine enjoy food whatever you want to do to pamper yourself will work!
If you wanted to stay in Ashland town itself so you can walk to the restaurants then the Ashland Inn Hotel is right on the main street and the rooms were fine as we went for a look – We do feel our takeaway option and making the most of the lovely cottage makes for a lovely change on this night of the itinerary.
Today we travelled just 1 hour 30 minutes south to the Mt. Shasta Resort. This is a very pleasant set up where the chalets are set in some considerable grounds amongst the forest. Ours were next to the lake and quite impressive in size and decor including a full kitchen and gas powered open flame fire. Set at the foot of Mt Shasta which at over 14000 feet has snow covoered sides it is quite a setting to play golf, as David and I felt obliged to do. Golfers amongst us can rent a set of clubs so jus pack your shoes and glove! The views around the course were something else so this can be fully reccomended.
We headed into the nearby town for something to eat in the evening but in truth I'd have thought picking something up on the way down and eating in at the chalet would have been the best bet.
Gold Rush country and the state capital of Sacramento tomorrow...
After a 3 hour dash south on Interstate 5 we arrived at Sacramento, the California state capital where Arnie presides..
The drive was quite scenic at first as you weave through the mountains of the Shasta region but you then come out of the mountains into the fertile valley that is home to some of the most monumental farms in the world that grow pretty much everything you can imagine.
Waiting for us at the Citizen Hotel was Nick Leonti from the Sacramento Visitor Bureau. No time to waste we were straight across the road to catch up with the 'Follow the Chef' group. Every Wednesday the much revered chef Michael Tuohy leads a group through the farmers market located in the square across from the hotel. Chef Michael will visit each stall and select vegetables, fruits and whatever else looks good for his restaurant, and our lunch! He shares his knowledge with you and you and you come equipped with a bag to buy if you so wish. There are many fruits/vegetables we do not see in the UK so this was great fun. It's then back to the restaurant for a 4 course set dinner where you get to watch Chef Michael do his magic with what you just bought to make lunch. The cost is $35 and it must be booked in advance as it's very popular. This is a really great and unique addition to any visit.
After lunch we visited Old Sacramento where it all began during the gold rush down on the banks of the American River. Sacramento sits on the confluence of the Sacramento and American River. The depth of these rivers allowed the shipping industry to flourish as they moved in from the Bay of San Francisco to supply the every growing Gold Rush era.
Old Sacramento is now a State Historic site and you will appreciate walking street after street of historic old buildings along the planked sidewalks. The area now hosts many shops and restaurants for you to visit and the much acclaimed California State Railroad Museum, just one of at least a dozen museums in the area including those relating to the history of the Gold Rush. The Railroad museum is definitely worth a visit, allow a couple of hours to appreciate the fantastic exhibits and learn about this key part of American history.
After freshening up we headed out to sample the Sacramento nightlife and get something to eat. I'm not going to say too much more on this subject other than it was our last night and Sacramento has plenty to offer you as a visitor... I still have the headache to prove it...
Our last day with a 5pm flight home from San Francisco began with a bike ride. We have access to a bike rental company in Sacramento who can deliver and collect the bikes from your hotel. Sure enough when we got down into the lobby there were our bikes and Nick waiting to take us on a ride around town.
The weather was great and Sacramento is a great place to cycle with cycle lanes on many streets and signs for the cycle route. You can get supplied with a map to to follow around town and see all the sites and some of the beautiful neighbourhoods. Sacramento is famous for its tree lined streets, a smart move by the city planners at the turn of the century to provide shade form the midday sun.
Nick took us for a traditional American breakfast at what we might call a spit and sawdust cafe, but the breakfast was great and just what I needed after making the most of Sacramento Cocktail Week last night...
We continued on our bike ride which was really great and non took taxing. Our stop at the impressive Capitol Building was probably the highlight. Here you can go in and wander through the corridors of power in the state capitol and sit in on the Senate and Assembly going about their daily business – A bit like sitting in on the House of Parliament.. Very interesting and whilst we did not find Arnie this is a visit we highly recommend and you should allow about an hour.
After this we bid our farewell to Nick and set off on the 1 hour 30 minute drive to San Francisco Airport. The drive was straight forward and the highlight was crossing the Oakland Bay Bridge with view of San Francisco, Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge off to our right.
Car rental return was a synch and here I sit waiting for our flight home. It's been a great trip and both David and I are more than happy to take calls or emails from anyone wishing to visit the region we have covered. Certainly it is an area of surprising beauty and variety and we would wholeheartedly recommend a visit to pretty much anyone, there are things to satisfy all tastes and interests. We've certainly picked up some great tips and ideas and some really cool activities to spice up any fly-drive so this has been a very worthwhile visit – Look out for or new itineraries coming soon!
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