Seattle to San Diego Road Trip: California (part 3/4)

Redwoods coast better

(photo courtesy of Redwood National Park)

The sun came out the second we drove across the boarder from Oregon into California. No wonder they call it “sunny California!” Washington and Oregon are gloriously green because it rains a lot but, I have to admit, California’s sunshine was a relief.

Gold Beach, OR to Eureka, CA (136 miles)

Redwood National Park starts at the Oregon/California boarder and is 50 miles long. RNP looks exactly like the travel photos you have seen in magazines: picture perfect, awe-inspiring and peaceful.

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RNP has it all: beach, mountains, woods & lakes. (photo courtesy of Redwoods National Park)

Drive the Avenue of the Giants in Humbolt Redwoods State Park, a 31-mile country road that parallels and intersects Highway 101 with 51,222 acres of mighty redwood groves!

Redwoods in fog and sun

Be sure to chat with your hiking partner as you walk these trails because bears like them, too, and they don’t like to be surprised! Needless to say, I chatted up a storm. (photo courtesy of Redwoods National Park)

Our first overnight stop in CA was in Eureka at the Carter House Inns. Eureka is a Greek word and a mining term meaning, “I found it!” (you needed to know that). The town is unattractive except for a few short blocks, where the Carter House Inns are located.

Eureka to Healdsburg (202 miles)

Departing Eureka, we continued our drive down the stunning California coast through Mendocino (Did you know that “Murder, She Wrote” was filmed here?). Mendocino is a beautiful, small (pop. 900) town,¬†perched on a rocky cliff. Visit the Mendocino Headlands State Park and the lovely Point Cabrillo Light, built in 1909.

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(photo by Alison de Grassi, courtesy of Mendocino County Tourism Commission)

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(photo by Alison de Grassi, courtesy of Mendocino County Tourism Commission)

We tore ourselves away from beauty queen Mendocino to drive inland two hours to Healdsburg in Sonoma County. As we drove, the scenery changed rapidly from craggy beaches to rolling hill-after-hill of vineyards, similar to Burgundy, France.

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near Healdsburg (photo courtesy of the Wine Road)

Three million TONS of wine grapes are grown in CA each year! Sonoma County is all vineyards and conveniently located just one hour north of San Francisco.

Stayed at the Hotel Healdsburg. It’s fun, nice and well-located.

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Hotel Healdsburg’s pool with main building in the background. Beam me up!

Ride bikes along the pretty, rolling hills of Dry Creek Valley near the hotel. Then, spend the day wandering around Healdsburg, tasting wines (including sparkling ūüôā and exploring the little boutiques. Healdsburg is the only town I have ever been to that has multiple blocks of small tasting room/stores, each representing a different vineyard.

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near Healdsburg (photo courtesy of the Wine Road)

Drive the Wine Road, which includes six of Sonoma County’s 14 wine growing regions: Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley (very attractive, well-tended vineyards and wineries, with fancy signs and gardens at their entrances), Green Valley, Chalk Hill and Rockpile. Taste the wines, eat oysters and loose yourself in the views of the vineyard-covered countryside.

Healdsburg to Pt. Reyes (67 miles)

Next stop south along Highway 101 to Highway 1: Point Reyes National Seashore, 71,000 acres of nature reserve on a peninsula sticking out into the Pacific Ocean.

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Chimney Rock Trail at Pt. Reyes National Seashore Park (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Point Reyes is made up of low, sand-colored mountains surrounded by water. Soft, pretty light at dusk. Very undeveloped with enough small towns to give it interest. PR is only an hour by car from San Francisco. We spent a day driving around the peninsula, with big views of scrub-covered low mountains dotted with cows and occasional ranches. Had a fun lunch on Tomales Bay, sitting outside by the water while imbibing just-plucked-from-the-water oysters at Marshall Store Oyster Bar & Smokehouse.  Delish clam chowder and simple, wonderful ambience!

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Pt. Reyes (NPS photo/Dan Wells)

Tiny Pt. Reyes Station is a boho town near the park and a bit of a foodie destination. We had a sophisticated and mmm, mmm, good dinner at The Olema’s ground floor restaurant called Sir and Star. Located in tiny Olema, two miles from Pt. Reyes Station, The Olema is also an inn and has been so since 1876. Read this NYT article for more. We stayed at Manka’s Inverness Lodge¬†whose rooms were each in converted campers. Stylish idea, charming furnishings¬†but our camper/room was stub-your-toe crowded. Would not recommend it because of management’s “we can do no wrong” attitude. If I went back to Pt. Reyes Peninsula again, I would stay in Nick’s Cove and Cottages, whose rooms are converted fishermen’s shacks on the water. Kitsch appeal!

Next stop: Santa Cruz, three hours south down Highway 1.

Pt. Reyes to Santa Cruz (140 miles)

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(photo courtesy of the Dream Inn)

What a glorious drive! On our left, we passed siren-scented Eucalyptus trees, pumpkin patches and lush fields of crops; and on our right, the mighty Pacific Ocean. The farther south we drove, the higher the hills climbed. We drove through few towns and then, suddenly, Santa Cruz (pop. 65,000). Where’s Gidget, I wondered, because SC is a well-polished throw back to the 1960’s.

By now, you may be tired of nature shots so here’s a photo tour of the cheery, ’60’s-chic interiors of our hotel, the Dream Inn

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(photo courtesy of the Dream Inn)

From your balcony, you will see the long 1904-built pier to your left and Cliff Walk to your right. Have a cocktail or two at the old-timey bar on the municipal pier looking onto Monterey Bay, watching the surfers catch waves.

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Does this not take you back to 1962?! Get a room overlooking the pool on the top floor. Saunter along Cliff Walk (in the background of this photo) to see its pretty houses. (photo courtesy of Dream Inn)

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(photo courtesy of Dream Inn)

Surfing was introduced to the US in 1885 at Santa Cruz when three Hawaiian princes who were attending military school nearby commissioned a woodworker to make three planks (surfboards) out of local Redwood. They spent their school vacation in Santa Cruz surfing. And that was how the craze began!

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Hallway at the Dream Inn—love it!!! (photo courtesy of the Dream Inn)

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The Dream Inn’s hotel lobby: They are really working the surfing theme. Love it!

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Dream Inn’s fire pit overlooking the pier (left), beach, and cliff walk (right): Nightcap, anyone???

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Even the Dream Inn’s coffee shop is cute! It’s name is Verve, as in the record label

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Santa Cruz’s amusement park was built in the early 1900’s & is in mint condition. Really fun to explore! (photo courtesy of the Dream Inn)

Whew! California is a big state. We are going to have to finish up our CA coastal drive in the next post. Stay tuned!

Seattle to San Diego Road Trip: Oregon (part 2/4)

Sure, you could drive the entire Oregon coast in 10-12 hours, but then you would miss gazing at…

Cannon Beach, Oregon

Ecola State Park, part of the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail (photo courtesy of Andrew Harper)

Quinault, WA to Manzanita, OR (157 miles)

Almost as soon as we crossed into Oregon from southern Washington, the towns were more attractive. Our first stop was Manzanita, a relaxed little town (population 600) developed 100 years ago with a charming main street, some nice shops…and a BIG gorgeous view of the Pacific Ocean at the end of its main street.

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Manzanita’s main street (photo courtesy of Sunset Vacation Rentals)

Suggest you stay at the Inn at Manzanita and request a room with a balcony looking toward the ocean.

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Manzanita’s WIDE beach: No wonder this pup is so happy! Few houses dot this beach, despite how it looks in this photo. (photo courtesy of Katie Bell, courtesy of Manzanita Visitors Center)

You can catch Chinook salmon, sturgeon and steelhead trout in this bay, as well as Dungeness crabs and, at low tide, clams. And you know what that means: good seafood available at local restaurants!

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Manzanita’s beach is seven miles long. Note the lovely river in upper left. This is a photo from the Manzanita Visitors Center, so I am not sure who these girls are! (photo by Melissa Perry)

And speaking of hiking, once you have explored Manzanita, go up, up, up to the trail along the ridge of Neahkahnie Mountain, which overlooks the town and beach. That’s what the girls in photo above are doing. You will walk through meadows and woods of tall pines that border the trail along the ridge of the mountain, all the while looking at the great arc of the ocean below. What a view!

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The trail was treacherously steep and on the edge of a sheer cliff, in some parts.

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The trail along Neahkahnie Mountain leads to this beach, where we had a windy picnic.

While staying in Manzanita, drive 15 miles north along the coast to the grand and glorious Cannon Beach. Here’s why…

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sea stacks on Cannon Beach

In his Oregon coast itinerary, Andrew Harper recommends staying at the Stephanie Inn at Cannon Beach, but we prefer Manzanita to Cannon Beach because the town is smaller with more charm. We also prefer the Inn at Manzanita. While probably not the most glamorous place you have ever stayed and not on the beach (though we could see the ocean from our balcony), the Inn at M is simple and nice, versus The Stephanie Inn, which felt a bit impersonal and slightly blue-hair.

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Haystack Rock on Cannon Beach

A Bit of History from the Ecola State Park timeline: “1806 – On hearing news of a beached whale, a party from the Lewis and Clark expedition that was encamped at Fort Clatsop
near present day Astoria, visited what is now Cannon Beach in hopes of acquiring blubber and oil. The expedition party, including Captain William Clark and Sacagawea, crossed over Tillamook Head and found the whale near the mouth of a creek Clark named Ecola, the native term for whale. Clark‚Äôs journals and interaction with the native inhabitants provide the earliest documentation of the Tillamook people that inhabited the region.”

Manzanita to Gold Beach, OR (272 miles)

Depart lovely Manzanita and drive south along Oregon’s SPECTACULAR coast. After six gorgeous hours, you will arrive at TuTu’Tun Lodge,¬†a very nice fishing lodge on the Rogue River, which is eight miles inland from the Pacific coast. “The Tututni (Tu Tu‚Äô Tunne) Native Americans of the Rogue were the first inhabitants to settle the area. The name of the lodge was inspired by ‘the people of the place by the river’ ‚Äď a rough translation of the Tututni encampment where the lodge now stands,” per TuTu’Tun’s website.

Across River Day 300

TuTu’Tun Lodge

The architectural style of the lodge is Frank Lloyd Wright meets Mission style with a touch of Asian. “The wonderful Northwest textures are everywhere in the cedar beams, fir wainscoting, slate hearths and river rock fireplaces. Even the grass cloth walls evoke a modern take on the plant weavings of the Tututni.” (per TTTL’s website)

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TuTuT’un Lodge’s pool overlooks the peaceful Rogue River.

At dusk, guests gather on the main lodge’s terrace overlooking the winding Rogue River. WONDERFUL hors d’oeuvres are passed as you sip your cocktail, before proceeding into the lodge for dinner. While dining with a table of strangers is not my fav, we had a good time and the meal was as outstanding. The hotel managed to create the feel of a convivial dinner party.

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inside the main lodge at TuTu’Tun, where the meals were DELICIOUS

TuTu’Tun is a fishing lodge. We don’t fish…and yet, we had a great time. Why? Because the lodge is upscale (these photos do not do it justice) with lovely flower arrangements sprinkled throughout and nice architecture, as well as beautiful grounds, a big, lush dahlia garden, set on a bucolic winding river. Plus, there are lots of fun things to do: fishing (steelhead salmon, Chinook salmon, silver salmon and Coho), spa-ing, jet boating (really fun!), kayaking, paddle boarding, pool lounging, and hiking. Being fabulously sporty at all times ūüėČ we of course partook in all of these activities, except the fishing, kayaking and paddle boarding.

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Rogue River as seen from TuTuT’un Lodge

After exploring the Rogue River via jet boat, hiking its surrounding trails, and lounging by its pool, continue down Oregon’s wild and lovely coast towards your next stop: California!

IMG_1506 (1)Be watching your inbox for the third and fourth installments of our road trip down the west coast of the US!!

Seattle to San Diego Road Trip: Washington (part 1/4)

We’ve all seen this photo of Seattle. But what if you got on this boat with your car, crossed the water, and drove the entire west coast of the US??? We did just that and it was a blast. Follow me to see what we saw…

Seattle to Forks, WA (138 miles)

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car ferry departing Seattle for Bainbridge Island and the open road! (photo courtesy of rebels-by-bus.net)

The car ferry to Bainbridge Island is a lovely, 30-minute ride.

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Public dock where the car ferry arrives from Seattle onto Bainbridge Island…exhale! (photo courtesy of Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce)

Drive from the Bainbridge Island ferry dock, along the north coast of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, through travel-poster scenes of dense forests shooting up tall mountains, surrounding big lakes.¬†Watch the sights change from big city Seattle, to kids on sailboats, to people-less mountain scenes, then beaches and dense rain forests.

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The Olympic Peninsula looks this good in real life! (photo courtesy of Olympic Peninsula Visitor Bureau)

After four hours driving through stunning scenes, you will arrive at Kalaloch Lodge, near Forks, Washington in Olympic National Park. While the lodge is not glamorous, it is clean AND its location is spectacular!

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Kalaloch Lodge (photo courtesy of Olympic Peninsula Visitor Bureau)

Our room at Kalaloch Lodge had big picture windows looking onto this beach…60 miles of undeveloped shoreline!

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Kalaloch Lodge sits on the bluff to the left (photo courtesy of Kalaloch Lodge)

What is all that mess on the beach, you wonder? And why don’t they clean it up? These “logs” are 100′ long tree trunks¬†that have been undercut by swollen rivers up in the mountains just behind this beach. The trees fall into the river, which delivers them onto the beach, where they protect the land from eroding. More “driftwood” here than anyplace in the world!

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The long-pine tree trunks littering the beach are called “bleached bones.”

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This river flows from the mountains behind this photo to the beach. You can see one of Kalaloch Lodge’s cabins on the left. (photo courtesy of Kalaloch Lodge)

Visit nearby Beach Number 4 (surely, the Park Service could have come up with a better name?!) to see the huge rocks on the beach into which Mother Nature has carved little tide pools (below), which support incredible diversity of life, especially starfish and anemones . Bonus: no other people on this beach, despite its dramatic beauty!

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When the tide goes out, these tide pools become exposed. Can you see the anemones in this one?

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These lime-green “sunflowers” are anemones: “Waiting patiently to capture food, sea anemones wave flower-like tentacles filled with stinging cells. Any organic matter delivered by the ocean will do, dead or alive. Their tentacles stuff captured food into a central mouth…Because anemones can reproduce by cloning, over time one anemone can produce an entire colony of itself.” (from Olympic National Park brochure) Thanks goodness people can’t clone themselves!

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“By pumping seawater through its vascular system to the tips of its tube feet, a sea star creates suction to grip mussel and barnacle shells. The sea star tries to pull the creature open; the shellfish struggles to remain closed. With enough time, the sea star usually wins. Ochre sea stars–in both orange and purple color phases–are the most abundant sea stars on this coast, ¬†but there are many other species, ranging from delicate brittle stars to two-foot wide sunflower stars.” (from Olympic National Park brochure) Magnifique!

Visit spectacular Ruby Beach (near Kalaloch Lodge) to learn about the sea stacks, “drowned reminders of a time when the coastline was likely 30 miles further west…Tall sea stacks, often inhabited by nesting seabirds and topped by wind-sheared trees, dot the Pacific coast of the north Olympic Peninsula.” (per Olympic Peninsula Park brochure)

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Ruby Beach’s sea stacks and “bleached bones” (photo courtesy of Olympic Peninsula Visitor Bureau)

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This is you, walking along Ruby Beach.

After your beach walking jaunt, go inland to hike the short Hoh Rain Forest Moss Trail: it is otherworldly. Phrases from “Evangeline” kept wafting through my mind: “This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks, bearded with moss, and in garments green …”

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Upper Hoh Road near the Hoh Rain Forest (photo courtesy of Olympic Peninsula Visitor Bureau)

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Hoh Rain Forest Moss Trail (photo courtesy of Olympic Peninsula Visitor Bureau)

The moss trail provides soft, squishy, quiet, peaceful walking. Twelve feet of rain falls here each year, hence the green greens and moss-covered trees.

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(photo courtesy of Kalaloch Lodge)

“Although only 0.8 miles long, the Hall of Moss Trail landscape epitomizes¬†the rainforest ecosystem…Here, old-growth Sitka¬†spruce reach heights of up 250 feet, and western hemlocks dominate the forest canopy. The forest floor is blanketed in soft mosses and countless ferns, and¬†bigleaf maples droop with the weight of soggy epiphytes (plants that grow on other plants). ” (per the Olympic National Park brochure)

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sunset from Kalaloch Lodge

Forks, WA to Lake Quinault, WA (67 miles)

We left the lovely Kalaloch beach and drove inland to the forest-surrounded Lake Quinault, also in Olympic National Park. The Quinault Valley’s six champion conifer trees are the largest living specimens of their species; only the Redwoods and Sequoias are taller.

The place to stay here is the Quinault Lodge, where the Nature Conservancy was meeting for a retreat when we were there, so you KNOW the location is beautiful.

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Classic! (photo courtesy of Quinault Lodge)

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Note the American Indian motif going up the chimney (photo courtesy of Quinault Lodge)

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Quinault Lodge has a big fireplace in its old-timey lobby with good views of the lake. (photo courtesy of Quinault Lodge)

Take a hike through the Quinault Rain Forest to see the ¬†world’s largest Sitka spruce tree: 55’7″ in circumference and 191′ tall!

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TIP: On our drive from Quinault towards Oregon, we took a detour to explore Washington’s Long Beach Peninsula. Don’t do this. LBP is 28 miles of depressed, unattractively developed land.

Next stop: Oregon! 

Stay tuned for post #2 of 4 covering the road trip from Seattle to San Diego.

NY: Niagara Falls & Corning Glass–a lovely couple

THE FALLS

The Niagara Falls are gorgeous and a national treasure. You have to see them!

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Bridal Falls (left) and Horseshoe Falls (right) are two of the three Niagara Falls.

We took the boat ($50 pp) up to the bottom of the falls, which towered above us to such heights (50′) that they were almost scary. The falls hit the water below with such force that they create a swirling vortex, into which I was afraid our ¬†boat would be sucked. Thankfully, these boats make this journey every 15 minutes, so¬†their captains know how to avoid being sucked down, down, down into the depths of the Niagara River. The boat (below) holds 500 people, which gives you a sense of the scale of this photo.

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Definitely¬†don the un-chic plastic poncho that comes with your ticket on “The Hornblower.” The mist from the falls bounces up 100′ and sprays gently down onto you. (photo courtesy of Hornblower Niagara Cruises)

Niagara Falls straddle the international border between the U.S. and Canada. The “Maid of the Mist” boats depart from the American side in NY. “The Hornblower” boats depart from the Canadian side. You want “The Hornblower” because it goes deeper into Horseshoe Falls, the largest of the three that are collectively referred to as Niagara Falls.

The Niagara Falls are a gorgeous…but don’t spend the night there…unless you like depressed towns (Niagara, NY) or to be surrounded by the Hard Rock Cafe and similar (Niagara, Canada), which of course you don’t! Instead, take your passport and drive a mere 20 minutes north into Canada.

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE

The 16-mile drive on the Niagara Parkway from Niagara Falls to Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada, will take you past the most ENTICING farm stands I have EVER seen and through vineyard after vineyard. Ontario is one of Canada’s three largest wine-producing regions.

Photo credit:  Elena Galey-Pride, winestains.ca

(photo courtesy of Reif Estate Winery)

Niagara-on-the-Lake is charming: lovely houses from the 18th and 19th century (settled in 1781 as a British military base, it became a haven for pro-British loyalists fleeing the U.S.); tons of gardens, public and private, bursting forth with flowers; and a theater festival, all located at the confluence of Lake Ontario and the Niagara River.

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The streets of Niagara-on-the-Lake are filled with flowers, just like in the photo above. (photo courtesy of Niagara Falls Tourism)

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one of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s many attractive old houses (photo courtesy of Niagara Falls Tourism)

SEE THE SIGHTS

  • Walk around town and gaze at¬†the beautiful old houses and established gardens
  • Watch the Wednesday night sailboat races¬†from the town’s small public golf course, which¬†has Niagara-on-the-Lake’s only restaurant on the water. The food is merely okay but the setting is lovely, with a view of Old Fort Niagara (which has been occupied since the 1700‚Äôs by the French, English and now Americans) across the water. Big view heaven!
  • Attend the George Bernard¬†Shaw Festival, whose season of plays runs from April to October. We did not go to this, so I can’t vouch for it.
  • Bike or walk along the¬†Niagara River Recreation Trail that follows the Niagara River through beautiful countryside, from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Queenston (1-2 hours at a leisurely pace by bike)
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(photo courtesy of Niagara Parks)

  • Vineyard hop between¬†the 50 vineyards in and around Niagara-on-the-Lake and the entire Niagara wine region along the shores of Lake Ontario. Follow¬†the Wine Route of Ontario through the countryside by car, bike or¬†guided tour. Many Niagara wineries have restaurants, where they pair their (natch) wines with regional cuisine
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(photo courtesy of the Wine Marketing Association of Ontario)

  • Run, don’t walk, to the¬†Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservancy¬†and enter its¬†a big greenhouse of tropical plants and many, many colorful butterflies flitting around. Best butterfly conservancy I have seen!
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(photo courtesy of Niagara Parks)

Several lit on me! Just beautiful!

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(photo courtesy of Niagara Parks)

Butterfly Conservatory Monarch

(photo courtesy of Niagara Parks)

STAY

I recommend a three-night stay at Niagara-on-the-Lake in one of the following:

  • Oban Inn: in town, by the golf course; has an upstairs balcony room
  • Harbour House: in town, nice though not luxurious. We stayed here. I have only seen the other three hotels from outside but they all looked very nice.
  • The Charles Inn: in town, stylish in a low-key way
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(photo courtesy of The Charles Inn)

  • Riverbend Inn: near Niagara-on-the-Lake and the bike path, pretty location
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Riverbend Inn

EAT, DRINK & BE MERRY

Wander the streets of town and you will find something appealing, though nothing outstanding.

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(photo courtesy of Reif Estate Winery)

Highly recommend you drive to several of the surrounding vineyards for what I imagine would be great meals. The settings certainly are! By scrolling around this link to Wine Country Ontario, you will find a varied selection of impressively beautiful vineyards, many of which have attractive restaurants. Given the amazing produce stands in the area, I just bet the food is amazing, too!

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(photo courtesy of Reif Estate Winery)

SHOP

Lots of shops, none enticing.

Corning Glass Museum in Corning, NY (2.5 hour drive from Niagara Falls)

We spent three hours there, waaay more that my usual one hour-and-depart policy. What made the Corning Glass Museum so great: the history of glass making described, plus 35 centuries of examples of the most ancient glass on up to gorgeous “art glass” of the present day…and not just Dale Chihuly. I plan to return because three hours was not enough.

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(photo courtesy of Corning Museum of Glass)

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Glass in America exhibit, including beautiful Tiffany window on right (photo courtesy of Corning Museum of Glass)

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Corning Museum of Glass

STAY

Rather than stay in Corning, which is nothing special, drive half an hour to the Watkins Glen Harbor¬†Hotel at the southern tip of Seneca Lake. While this is not the most fab hotel you have ever been to, it is quite comfortable (we had a nice, big room with a balcony overlooking the lake) AND, GREATEST OF GREAT, the “True Love” yacht from “High Society” (Grace Kelly) and “Philadelphia Story” (Katherine Hepburn) is docked at the hotel AND available¬†for a two-hour spin on the lake. It is an elegant movie star of a schooner built in 1926. “My, she was yar!”

 

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The True Love on Seneca Lake (photo courtesy of Schooner Excursions)

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The True Love (photo courtesy of Schooner Excursions)

Virginia’s Crooked Road Music Trail

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Road trip! Did you know that the¬†first-recorded bluegrass music came out of southwest Virginia?¬†And that June Carter Cash’s roots are there as well?¬†And that June comes from country¬†music royalty?! The¬†Crooked Road Music Trail is a 330-mile driving trail through the mountains of SW Virginia, along which¬†are¬†many live bluegrass venues, from the neighborhood Dairy Queen that hosts jam sessions,¬†to regular Friday night jamborees¬†at the 100-year old Floyd Country Store, to the 100+ seat Carter Family Fold in a beautiful hollow, where the man responsible for the first recording of bluegrass music used to host Saturday night performances of local musicians behind his general store.

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photo courtesy of the Floyd County Tourism Office

Southwestern Virginia is rich in culture. In addition to its wonderful music, you can find beautiful, high-quality woodwork (turned-wood bowls, furniture, etc.), well-executed, artistic pottery, and more. Plus, driving along the country roads in the Blue Ridge Mountains is sooooo relaxingly beautiful.

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FLOYD, VA–a nice, small town in the mountains

SEE THE SIGHTS

  • Floyd Country Store–Friday Night Jamboree, Americana Afternoons, Sunday Music Jam, and the Floyd Radio Show–take your pick! You are guaranteed an authentic experience of traditional Appalachian music and dancing (clogging, anyone?) in this 100-year old country store…a real country store. At the Friday Night Jamboree, to which I have been twice, everyone gets up to dance, from the young to the old to the toothless to the graduate student. It’s fun! No drinkin’ or cussin’ though, as Granny’s Rules apply.

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Here’s a little background from the FCS website: “The Floyd Country Store is renowned as a place to experience authentic Appalachian music, and is home to a group of musicians, flatfoot dancers, and cloggers who are carrying on the tradition of their families, who‚Äôd pass the time playing music and dancing together. Everywhere they could, these folks would gather with their friends and families from their front porch to the neighbor‚Äôs kitchen. In the 1980‚Äôs, folks in Floyd took to coming out to the General Store and began the Friday Night Jamboree tradition that continues today.”

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photo courtesy of the Floyd Country Store

  • After watching the bands at the FCS’ Friday night Jamboree, wander along Floyd’s main street and you will find impromptu jam sessions, small groups of people playing banjos, etc. and gently singing. I have never been to a more musical town, except Vienna, Austria (no exaggeration!).
  • ¬†Blue Ridge Wine Trail–While I haven’t done this so cannot personally vouch for it, click through to the web site to see what you think.
  • Blue Ridge Parkway–lovely drives along gently curling roads with pastoral views of mountains and countryside
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photo courtesy of Hotel Floyd

  • Crooked Road calendar–check it out because my guess is that Floyd and the other little towns along the Crooked Road would be at their most charming to visit when there are no music festivals going on; on the other hand, those music festivals might provide great people watching!

STAY

  • Hotel Floyd (Floyd, VA)–This hotel really hits the spot. Why? Because it is right in downtown Floyd and as such, a two-minute walk to the Floyd Country Store. ¬† It is nice to come “home” to Hotel Floyd’s¬†spacious, comfortable, clean rooms. I stayed here last year and highly recommend it. It is not fancy but neither is Floyd. Rocking chairs outside of many of the rooms, two of which are pet friendly. (40 rooms)
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The Mountain Rose Inn–lovely, isn’t it?!

  • Mountain Rose Inn (Woolwine, VA)–This 100-year-old country house B&B is my second choice only because it is 14 miles from Floyd. I stayed here three years ago and the ride back from Floyd after the Friday night Jamboree along the winding mountain roads seemed a lot longer than 14 miles. The Inn is charmingly decorated and has the softest sheets in the world (Comfy brand). It accurately describes itself as “country elegance in the shadows of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.” Its 100 acres offer hiking as well as hammocks strung along the banks of its creek…very country and relaxing. Lovely front porch! This is a nice place. No dogs allowed inside the Inn/no on-site kennel for overnight pets. (5 rooms)

EAT, DRINK & BE MERRY

  • ¬†Chateau Morrisette Winery–While I cannot personally attest to this,¬†the Mountain Rose Inn recommends it and the photo looks nice, doesn’t it?!

chateauM

  • Floyd Country Store–it’s cheap, it’s fun, and you’re right in the heart of the action before the bands start performing
  • Pine Tavern Restaurant–This may be a dump or it may be great. I haven’t been here but it looks loaded with potential! Check it out and let me know.

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SHOP

  • 16 Hands–Recommended by a close friend with very sophisticated taste in pottery, as well as by several travel articles, 16 Hands is an artisans’ collective, featuring potters and woodworkers from the Blue Ridge region.

farm truck

  • Farmers MarketSaturdays 9-1, May to November-lovely, low-key with good products

ABINGDON, VA–charming small town (pop. 8,000+), with some lovely old houses

SEE THE SIGHTS

  • Carter Family Fold–Now THIS is a memorable-in-the-very-best-way experience! The CFF is in tiny Hiltons, Virginia, a beautiful 45-minute drive through¬†rural “hollers” (i.e., valleys) dotted with farms and cows. You can hear live bluegrass¬†and “old-time” bands every Saturday night and watch the locals dance, uninhibited, clogging the night away, alone or with a partner. It is so much fun! We also ate here at the little carry-out: $11 for two.
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photo courtesy of the Carter Family Fold

Per Wikipedia: “The Carter Family Fold is dedicated to the preservation and performance of old time country and bluegrass music. It is named in honor of the original Carter Family¬†(A.P., Sara, and Maybelle), who were among the earliest recording artists in country music, with their first records on RCA Victor being released in 1927. The Fold was founded by Janette Carter, daughter of A.P. and Sara Carter, in 1979. Most of the participating performers at the Fold are not famous outside the communities of bluegrass and old-time country music. However, Johnny Cash performed at the Fold many times, and played his last concert there on July 5, 2003, a few months before his death. Cash’s wife, June Carter Cash, was a daughter of Maybelle Carter.

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Maybelle Carter and her daughters, including June Carter Cash doing a jig (photo courtesy of The Winding Stream)

The concert venue, the “Fold,” is the centerpiece of the Carter Family Memorial Music Center, Inc., a non-profit organization. This includes the 1880’s cabin where A. P. Carter was born.” Bonus: The CFF also has a wonderful museum of Carter family memorabilia.

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A.P.’s boyhood cabin

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close-up of A.P.’s front porch

  • ¬†Heartwood¬†–A 10-minute drive from Abingdon, Heartwood has good gift shop showing off the crafts of SW VA, including rocking chairs, turned-wood bowls, pottery, and lots of good CD’s and DVD’s on bluegrass music; we saw an excellent and fun band¬†here, despite the somewhat antiseptic environment
  • Abingdon–lovely, small town (incorp. in 1778), with charming old houses and the¬†mildly interesting¬†Barter Theater
  • beautiful biking trails

STAY

  • The Martha Washington Inn–Located in Abingdon, this hotel is red brick with white wood trim, long, deep porch with rocking chairs along the front of the building, like a cross between a low-key version of The Homestead and a really nice girls college of old–which “The Martha” actually was for over 50 years; no pets allowed though the MWI can recommend a local kennel & told me that the Holiday Inn Express (charmless) accepts pets for an additional fee; this is a very comfortable, nice place but the restaurant¬†is uninspiring, so ask the¬†front desk for restaurant recommendations in Abingdon¬†(63 rooms)
Martha

photo courtesy of The Martha Washington Inn

DVD Traveling Companion: “The Winding Stream” contains much info about the Carter family, including¬†the establishment of the Carter Family Fold. There are interviews with Rita (A.P. Carter’s granddaughter), who now runs the Fold and emcees performances. “The Winding Stream” shows how huge the Carter Family’s place in music has been ever since the 1930’s or so (country, folk, blues, rock ‘n’ roll).

Literary Traveling Companion: “Gray Mountain,” by John Grishom

field with cows

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photo courtesy of Hotel Floyd

posted June 2016