Monkey Does Vancouver (Part Deux)

Nearly 2 years since our salmon fishing adventure, we finally returned to Vancouver for a taste of summer in beautiful British Columbia. We were blessed with some gorgeous weather (apparently it had been a bit gloomy before we arrived) and enjoyed a stroll around Stanley Park and Canada Place, where we experienced FlyOver Canada, this time with lil’ mum in tow. FlyOver was as exhilarating and magnificent as the first time and got me and hub hub all choked up.img_6299img_6305We also added Vancouver Lookout to our itinerary, which concluded all of the touristy stuff we could handle in one visit. One ticket gives you multiple entries to the tower so we were able to get both great day and night views (sadly we don’t have a proper camera at the moment so you’ll have to make do with my iPhone6 pics).

We visited various parks around North and West Vancouver–a little beach action at Ambleside Park and a tree-covered hike and scenic views at Lighthouse Park.

On another day we visited Whistler, BC, so Monkey can finally say he visited Olympic Village. On the drive up we saw rainbows and waterfalls and tried to imagine the area covered in snow (it was so hot and humid we nearly melted). We simply couldn’t get enough of all the natural beauty. Thank you Canada for being so lovely and welcoming as always!

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Lavender Dilly Dilly

Little mum has been banging on about Sequim’s Lavender Festival for a year and because we knew it would be completely out of the way of anywhere we’d fancy going, I secretly hoped she’d forget about it this summer. But she didn’t. And sometimes you have to put others first. So we booked the only room we could find and drove 4.5 hours to the middle of nowhere to a very sad and dodgy motel in the centre of town (it seems people take their lavender seriously around this part of the woods, so all the hotels were booked).

To be fair, the drive up was actually quite lovely — Pacific Northwest summers really are gorgeous — we loved being near the water, as well as all the lush emerald trees. The best part of the journey was when we stumbled upon a lovely little oyster shack, Hama Hama Oyster Saloon, and devoured a scrumptious meal of raw and bbq’ed oysters, crab cakes, and salmon soup (it was tasty, but the Finns do it better) — we essentially tried everything on the menu. It was heaven. I always thought Hama Hama oysters were small and sweet but apparently they’re of the larger variety and most suitable for throwing on the grill. img_6203img_6201Before we set off I knew this was going to be one of those trips where the journey would be more meaningful than the destination. We also incorrectly assumed that the lavender festival was a special time of year where the larger lavender farms would be free to the public, but the opposite was true. It’s the only time of year that there is a fee to visit the farms. We had also hoped the lavender farms would resemble the wild lavender fields we found in New Zealand, but even the largest farm seemed small in comparison.Having said all that, the farmed lavender was lovely in its own right. We appreciated the lavender tourist tat (hope G likes his lavender earl grey tea) and the entire town smelled of sweet lavender. I’m not sure I could recommend the festival itself but if you like small towns and lavender scented and flavoured things, then perhaps you should give it a go!

Seattle’s Central Library

One of Monkey’s favourite sights in Seattle was actually the city’s central library, a magnificent 11-story glass and steel building located in downtown Seattle. It was wonderful to see such a beautiful, clean, public space for all to enjoy. When I think of libraries, I usually think of old, dusty archives. But it was refreshing to see all the colour and light, void of the typical musty smell of old books, with plenty of places to sit and read, as well as to have a cuppa tea (or in Seattle’s case, coffee).

What do you think of when you hear the word library? Do you have a favourite?

Pike Place

If you know me, you know that I love markets–especially ones filled with heaps of tasty treats. London’s Borough Market and Rusty’s in Cairns are my all-time favourites. And now I’m happy to add Pike Place to the list. Monkey could not get enough of Pike Place so we actually visited the market twice in one weekend.I’m always in the mood for tea and crumpets so I was chuffed to find “The Crumpet Shop” near the main market. I wish I could rave about the crumpets, but they weren’t anything to write home about. The menu offered more of an American interpretation of crumpets and there were a lot of sandwich type toppings (ham, tomato, ricotta cheese, etc.). In the end I opted for one of the simpler crumpets on the menu: a toasted crumpet with butter and lemon curd.
Although it can get a bit touristy Pike Place is well worth a visit. We loved all the fresh produce and seafood and other small cafes and food stalls around Pike Place. We happily sampled fresh local and imported fruits, smoked meats, and had fresh scallop sashimi. There were also shops that sold tourist tat and some vintage shops on the lower level floors (which smelled a bit pongy), so it certainly is a market that has “something for everyone”.I’m drooling just looking at all the delicious fruit the market had to offer. The muscat grapes were delish and we also got some Washington grown cherries.I still miss my old fishmongers in Islington and was thus excited to see so many varieties of fresh fish and seafood on display. Have you visited Pike Place? Do you have a favourite market? 

Tulips Aren’t Just for the Dutch

One day Monkey will tiptoe through the tulip fields in Holland. But this spring, he shall take in the vast array of natural and farmed beauty that the PNW has to offer.

img_5098Tucked away in Woodburn, Oregon, you’ll find the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm, home to a vibrant field of colourful tulips and daffodils. While the farm isn’t massive by Dutch standards, Mt. Hood serves as a stunning backdrop to the bright bulbs on a clear sunny day (sadly my ickle iPhone camera doesn’t do it justice — it’s much better and bigger in the flesh). Apparently there are several other tulip farms up toward Washington State and Canada. If you know of any prime flower viewing spots, please let us know!

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Sakura Surprise

Ever since I was a wee girl I have been captivated by the fragile beauty of sakura (cherry blossoms), and I wished I could somehow preserve the soft pink petals forever. Living in Japan for many years, I learned to appreciate the small celebrations that took place with every change in the seasons. I always looked forward to spring as I could spend hours, day or night, under the cherry blossom trees.

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Outside of Japan, London has Kew Gardens, Washington DC has Tidal Basin, and New York has the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. It was nice to discover that you can also get your cherry blossom fix in Portland (Oregon) along Waterfront Park. The blossoms had pretty much reached their peak when I stumbled upon them and were gone after a few days, so I’m grateful that I got a chance to enjoy them on one special spring day.

Do you have a favourite cherry blossom viewing spot outside of Japan?  How about in Japan?

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Wimbledon Schmimbledon

When we weren’t out playing tourist, we were glued to the telly watching Federer and Murray go head to head with some of the world’s best tennis players (as well as each other). Such exciting times those were!

We decided to visit Wimbledon on a rest day to avoid the crowds (and transportation hell). You could still feel the excitement in the air and the grounds really are spectacular. It was amazing to see how long the queue would have been had we attended a match. There’s actually a queue for the queue! And if you know me and hubs, we don’t do queues. Especially not after we’d barely survived the hottest day of the year with temperatures hitting 36.7C (98F).

Wimbledon is arguably still the most snobbish sporting institution in the world. Have you seen the folks at the All England Club? We’d be mistaken for hobos if we ever tried setting foot in the mere vicinity of the club on a ‘normal day’. I associate Wimbledon with impeccably manicured lawns, tradition, blazers, officials, rules, more rules, and exorbitantly priced strawberries (oh and there’s tennis, too). That said, we were surprised by how welcoming the Wimbledon staff were and they even invited us in to visit the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum and take a few photos around the area.