A Taste of Luxury in Victoria BC

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Views of the back of the Oak Bay Beach Hotel at dusk

We chose to stay at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel for our three days in Victoria because we like this lovely area of Victoria, and I was fascinated by this sumptuous hotel that has been constructed on the site of an old Tudor-styled hotel that previously stood here. This is an elegant hotel with beautifully furnished rooms and wonderful bathrooms with separate tubs and showers plus heated floors. There are three restaurants: a pub, a formal dining room, and a café that we found perfect for a simple breakfast. We ate at the pub two nights, and the third night we ate dinner in our room which was furnished with a very small galley kitchen, re-heating leftovers from our pub dinners. The spa-like swimming pool pictured above is warm and good for easing a cyclist’s aches and pains. In addition, there is a free garage with easy access where we were able to leave our bikes locked in the car. And since we could catch an elevator from the garage to our room, we did not have to bother with valets. So although this hotel is upscale, it is comfortable and not at all stuffy. However, it is not inexpensive to stay here.

One day we rode along the  waterfront to Cadboro Bay Village where we had coffee and then turned up Sinclair Road to visit the University of Victoria. This was a big mistake; I could see that it was steep, but I kept expecting to turn left off of it on the road indicated on my phone. However, that road was at the top of the hill, one that was impossible to ride and almost impossible to walk. When we reached the campus, we found a pretty, leafy university with the bustle of students changing classes. We made our way to Henderson Rd. which turns into Foul Bay Rd. , an interesting street with a good bike lane giving us a nice long coast down to Oak Bay Avenue and Oak Bay Village, a charming old-fashioned area with restaurants, boutiques, art galleries, and practical shops. It is like some of the shopping areas that I remember from my childhood before strip malls started to mar the landscape. As we have several times before, we ate lunch at the atmospheric Penny Farthing Pub. After lunch we browsed at a bookstore and bought a couple of items at a most attractive food store. Then it  was a short ride up the end of Oak Bay Avenue down Newport back to Beach Drive and the hotel.

Another day, we parked at the shopping center at Cordova Bay and rode the Lochside Trail from there to Sidney, a pretty route traversing interesting neighborhoods and some farmlands, and  at points next to the Saanich Inlet. Sidney is a pleasant small town with lots of eating places and bookstores. It is also the place where one catches the  ferry to Anacortes. This is an easy ride of about 18 miles all together. When we returned to the shopping center, we had a pleasant lunch outside at Bill Mattick’s Restaurant and Lounge, which is located right next to a golf course and surrounded by attractive landscaping.

This area was the highlight of our vacation. Although we have been to Victoria and Vancouver Island many times, a visit there never fails to delight us.  The pace is slower than that in our own SF Bay Area, and the people are warm and friendly. Although it is not the same, a visit here is a bit like a visit to England.

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Bazan Bay Sidney

 

 

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Riding the Trails in Bend, Oregon

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Known for its cycling environment, the Sunriver resort in Oregon is only a short distance from Bend. We drove out there early in the morning and obtained a map and directions from a woman at the tourist information office. She advised a circular  trail past the golf course, around the airport, with a detour to the marina (pictured above), and then a ride along the Deschutes River, and back through an area of houses and condos. This was a pretty ride of  about eight miles on a lovely clear morning, We had lunch at the Sunriver Brewing Company, where the food wasn’t very exciting. After lunch we decided to ride some more of the trails, but as we started out, we found the paths clogged with people riding carelessly in big groups. Putting the bikes back in the car, we headed back to Bend, glad that we had done the most interesting trail early in the morning.

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We were staying at the Hilton Garden Inn in The Old Mill District of Bend, a spectacular  use of the old sawmill property that formerly existed in this area. This is now a shopping center and a riverfront park with upscale dining spots, stores, and hotels. That afternoon we parked on the same level as the stores, pulled out our bikes and rode on the paved paths on both sides of the river. Crossing a bridge, we met a man who had grown up in Bend and worked for the sawmill. A chatty fellow, he gave us a lot of information on the history of the area and the changes made there. Cruising this pleasant area on our bikes, we added about four more miles to our mileage total for the day. The excellent hotel and this location made for a memorable stay. I would recommend this particular Hilton Hotel to anyone.

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Roaming the Napa Valley

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A couple of weeks ago, we spent four days in the Napa Valley to celebrate our 59th wedding anniversary. Although Calistoga is not the most centrally located town, we chose to stay there at the Stevenson Manor Best Western because this hotel is a bargain for this pricey area. It is not luxurious, but it is certainly attractive, clean, and comfortable with constant work going on to upgrade it. The breakfast is a bit above average for an accommodation of this level, and we were pleased to find the other guests to be a friendly bunch.

We did four bicycle rides during this stay which we were fortunate occurred within a break in the rainy weather that we have had this year. These rides were ones that we have done before and that I have written about on this site. Our longest ride was from Yountville to downtown Napa, and I just want to mention this ride because we found the bike path that runs from just south of Trancas Street diagonally across Napa to be one that we would recommend against using. It crosses several busy streets without four-way stops, and it runs through neighborhoods that are not particularly appealing. It does, however, end in downtown Napa, where we cycled to the new CIA restaurant at Copia, a pleasant place with memorable food. Coming back we used a bike boulevard that started at the end of this path and followed that across a good part of Napa through some interesting old neighborhoods along quiet attractive streets. When this bike boulevard ended, we just sort of used our instincts to return to  the wonderful Vine Trail that runs back to Yountville. Most streets in Napa are bicycle friendly.

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Patio at Ottimo

As always in the Napa Valley, we ate very well. In Yountville, there is a new restaurant called Ottimo across from Bottega, where the salads are served in jars and the panini are small and extraordinary. It is wonderful to sit out under the olive trees after a bicycle ride and enjoy the beauty of this area; I find it easy to pretend that I am in Italy. We ate two lunches at this spot.

Another restaurant that we truly enjoyed was the St. Helena Bistro, a small place on St. Helena’s main street that has an eclectic menu. We especially enjoyed the crispy calamari and the salmon tacos. And on our last night, we ate at Veraison,  a fairly new place on the main street  in Calistoga. We were seated in the window where we could watch the passing scene and savor our moules frites.

All in all, I would say that if you do not have the wherewithal for a trip to Europe, a trip to the Napa Valley is a good substitute. Despite lots of traffic, it is a pretty, relaxing place to roam and to linger over excellent food.

Getting to Know Lopez Island

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Spit at Otis Perkins Park

Last summer we visited Lopez Island and felt very much at home there. This summer our older son rented a house there for two weeks.It was in a remote part of the island and was not too comfortable. My husband and I rented Condo 5 in Lopez Village, which turned out to be most satisfactory. It was well equipped,  light, and airy. We were only able to rent this condo for three nights, so we spent the fourth night at  the Edenwild, the charming bed and breakfast owned by the amiable Anthony and his wife Crystal. Since we had stayed there last year, we were treated like old friends this year.

In fact, Lopez is not the best place in the world for our favorite hobby of bicycle riding because the roads are narrow, some have little shoulder, and there are more than a few hills. However, even people of our skill level can successfully ride there. The traffic is light and the people are friendly; waving to greet those one encounters is part of the island culture.

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Spencer Spit State Park

This year, we did two bicycle trips in the four days we were there, one to Otis Perkins and another to Spencer Spit State Park, in the Strait of San Juan de Fuca, where we ate a picnic lunch while absorbing the glorious views and trying to avoid the persistent bees. On the way to the park, we stopped at the historic sight of Port Stanley School. The ride to this destination was peaceful and bucolic with attractive farms along the way.

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Port Stanley School

Our last full day on the island, we spent driving around to see some of the interesting spots that we missed last year. My husband’s great grandparents lived on the island, and some of his ancestors are buried in the churchyard by Center Church, a beautiful old church with a graveyard in the most peaceful spot I have ever seen. Our family of seven spent a long time looking for relatives and absorbing the serenity of the spot; even our teen-aged grandchildren were fascinated by this place. We followed this stop with a satisfying lunch at the Southend General Store and Restaurant and then a visit to the library and the local museum. Lopez Island is like a bit of England transferred to Washington State. It is a wonderful place, marred only by the necessity of depending on the ferry for arriving and departing.20160804_110106

 

Riding in the Town of Ashland

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Staying at the Ashland Hills Hotel, we found it  a bit of an uphill ride to get over the freeway and up to the main street of Ashland, Siskiyou Blvd., but once there we enjoyed a long coast through this attractive little town. Then turning on Third St., we rode down to the Central Bike Path, which we accessed behind Noble Coffee Roasting. This path is well used by locals, and while it does not have outstanding scenery, it does run along some parks and an old cemetery, which at my age I like to ride past. When we returned to Ashland St., we stayed on the path and circled around to access the street further along, making our return ride a bit easier. We did this ride on the morning of the second day of our recent trip to Lopez Island in Washington, and coming back, we repeated it to go to the Ashland Food Coop  between A St. and B St. to buy lunch supplies for our trip home. While this is not a long ride, it does get the blood circulating in the early morning.

Also during this stay in Ashland, we ate dinner at the Peerless Hotel Restaurant both going up and coming back. This is in an interesting old hotel with a wonderful restaurant, serving novel delicious food such as lobster potato skins and carrot cake with pea ice cream.  Despite many trips to Ashland, we had never stayed at the Ashland Hills Hotel before, nor had we eaten at the Peerless; we consider both real finds. The hotel is not within walking distance to town, but it is beautifully renovated with large, airy rooms and the prices are more reasonable than most of the closer-in accommodations. We will visit both of this places on our next trip to Ashland, whether we are just passing  through or stopping to see some plays.

The Spectacular Row River Trail

20150919_150106Looking for a place to stay and cycle on our way back from the Portland area, I came upon the Row River Trail in Cottage Grove, Oregon. Cottage Grove is an old-fashioned place that looks as though it could stand a bit of sprucing up, but it has an atmosphere that the Germans would call gemütlichkeitThe Village Green Resort, where we stayed also had this mix of being a bit frayed around the edges but of being homey and comfortable. Many  aspects of this resort had been fixed up, but it is very much a work in progress. However, the people who run it are efficient and obliging, and the restaurant is very good. We had both dinner and breakfast there.

Lake Dorena

Lake Dorena

There are several places to park along the Row River Trail, but the best access is from the Mosby Creek Trailhead, reached by taking exit 174 from I-5 and turning east on Row River Road. After a right turn on Currin Conn Road, turn left on Mosby Creek Road and then left again on Layng Road, where the trailhead is immediately on the left. The trail is well paved and an easy ride with a fair uphill a couple of miles from the trailhead, followed by an easy uphill grade. Once the lake is reached, the trail levels off and the ride becomes easy with wonderful views of the lake. The trail wends through the forest but opens out at spots for lake views. We saw lots of families out on the trail, almost all cyclists. There were few hikers and no dogs, strollers, or tots on training wheels. There are rest areas with facilities along the route, but there is no food. We started out late morning and then had to go back into town for lunch. In the future, we would bring a picnic with us. The trail is good, the views are sparkling, and the people are friendly, making this ride a memorable experience.

Another View of Lake Dorena

Another View of Lake Dorena

Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway

I was really looking forward to this ride, but when we found our way to  Rood Bridge Park, west of Portland, Oregon, where the bikeway was supposed to start, we looked for a path in vain. Finally, I convinced my husband that it was on the road, but when we started on the road, the shoulder soon disappeared. Returning to the parking lot, we spoke with an older lady who told us that the only separate pathway was between Banks and Vernonia. We followed some of the scenic bikeway in the car, and it was indeed beautiful, but it did not have any shoulder in most places, and the shoulder was exceedingly narrow in the rest. Also we did not see many cyclists, maybe two, a sign that it is not used the way the roads and paths are in our own San Ramon Valley. In addition, although the roads are quiet in some places, they are heavily traveled in others, a perilous situation.

Banks Vernonia Trail

Banks Vernonia Trail

We decided to drive to Banks to do that part of the bikeway, a decision that turned out to be a good one and helped redeem the day for us. We ate a satisfying lunch at the quaint but busy little Banks Cafe and then set out on the trail. The trail head was easy to find and had good parking. The path is good with forested views and views that open up to fields and farms at times. We rode up the trail about six miles until it really began to climb and then retraced our way to the beginning.This was a pleasant ride but one that I would not go out of my way to do.

Countryside Viewed from Trail

Countryside Viewed from Trail