Fishing boats

R is for Richmond, British Columbia

The “R” trip will likely go down as the quickest to plan and one of the shortest. We moved across country in April and part of the move meant I am temporarily unemployed. That means when I get a new job, I probably won’t have any available vacation. So … when Greg found out he had to go to Seattle for a week of training, we looked into extending his trip a couple days and popping up to Canada’s Pacific Northwest … specifically, the Vancouver suburb of Richmond, which has been called the most Asian city in North America.

Gulf of Georgia Cannery sign

The welcome sign starts telling the story of the Cannery

There’s a lot to see in the Vancouver metro area and Richmond is the home to several cool sites. We started the day under gray skies with the forecast calling for a partly sunny and slightly warmer afternoon. We grabbed sweaters and headed to the historic village of Steveston. It’s quaint 6 block historic district includes a few cute shops and eateries opening up on the harbor.

Fishing boats

Fishing boats in Steveston Harbor.

Dozens of working fishing boats were tied to the piers; a few hearty souls walked along the boardwalk; and the chilly breeze had us pulling our sweaters tight as we walked along a path dotted with information signs touting Steveston’s fishing past. It dates back to indigenous peoples who have fished the waters for centuries. Steveston became the center of the canning industry in the 1800s. In 1894, a “monster cannery” opened its doors and became the leading producer of canned salmon in British Columbia. Throughout the next decade, the industry changed so much that the cannery eventually closed, but the building is now home to the Gulf of Georgia Cannery, a Canadian National Historic site and museum.

Can label display

Display traces the history of salmon canning labels.

You can follow the canning lines to see how salmon was canned and herring was processed. When we visited, the museum’s special exhibit traced the history of Salmon canning labels. What a fun and VERY kid-friendly, interactive museum. It was well worth the visit.

From Steveston, we drove to the International Buddhist Temple in Richmond. The website explains the “temple is not only constructed according to the traditional Chinese imperial style, but every structural detail and every object of art it showcases are also authentic expressions of impeccable Chinese craftsmanship.” The Temple’s stunning Chinese architecture and gardens are open to the public and incredibly peaceful. While there is a place to buy incense and souvenirs, requests for donations are conspicuously absent.

The Temple is relatively young (built in the 1980s), but is well-known as one of the most beautiful outside China. It’s one of the most authentic examples of the Chinese imperial style in North America and based on China’s Forbidden City. Take the time to stop and see it. You won’t be disappointed!

Lulu Island Wines

The wines of Lulu Island Winery lined up on the tasting counter.

We had a relatively short “things to see” list for our full day in Richmond, so we headed out to the final stop – the Lulu Island Winery. Tiffany explained the wine all comes from grapes grown in the Okanagan Valley.

Lulu Island Winery Totem

A carved totem with bottles of Lulu Island Winery wines.

Lulu is known for ice wines, but we sampled a couple of whites, a couple of reds and two featured fruit wines before sampling the four ice wines available to taste. The fruit wines – a raspberry and a blueberry wine – are made entirely from the fruit with no grape juice added. We were amazed at how delicious they were and laughed and chatted with Tiffany about how perfect they are for pouring over ice cream or making into sauces!

We learned ice wines are produced entirely from frozen grapes – picked and squeezed frozen – which means some grapes only yield a single drop of juice. Those single drops make some scrumptious wines!

LuLu Island Winery sign

The winery sign shows off the barrels guarded by a heron.

We left with five bottles of wine. One of them didn’t make it through the night as we grabbed a few items from a local grocery store and enjoyed an impromptu picnic in our hotel room that evening for dinner.

Richmond was a whirlwind to plan and experience, but it was fun and interesting, too. Planning and taking a trip in less than a month can be a challenge, but well-worth it! After all … there’s a whole world out there just waiting to be explored … go see it on the spur of the moment.

The Road is Calling

I grew up a Californian. The ocean, mountains, valleys and deserts all have a certain lure; the automobile was my ticket to ride, the vehicle that took me to all these majestic places. From my earliest days, the road was calling, begging me to explore.

I was on wheels at an early age…first a tricycle, then I learned to ride a bike when I was only five…motorcycles when I was 10. Sailing was introduced to to me when I was 8, and I became a water rat. An early dream to fly became reality in the early 90s. But my first love, the road, was always calling.

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Even though I grew up in the muscle car era, hot rods had no appeal…sports cars like those I read about in Road and Track and Car & Driver were my dreams as a teenager. My dentist had an old Porsche 356…he saw my passion and gave me a ride one day. I was hooked!

The road was calling.

In 1976, my family took a month-long road trip from Southern California through Arizona and Nevada into Utah and Colorado; up the eastern spine of the Rocky Mountains into Canada and the glaciers of Banff and Jasper. Heading west, we drove south along the Pacific Coast Highway. We had delayed the trip one week so I could complete Driver’s Training. Learner’s permit in hand, mom let me drive a good chunk of the time. I must have logged 2,000 miles that summer, an experience every new driver should have.IMG_0218

The road was calling.

On my 16th birthday, I was at the DMV when they opened. I passed the test and for the first time I was behind the wheel on a public road alone…well, at least legally. An old Toyota Corona bought from my sister for $300 and a new clutch installed by me with her boyfriend’s guidance became my chariot. Every chance I had, I explored the mountain and coastal roads of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. I discovered that a great way for me to shake off teenage angst and trials was to go for a drive through “a dark desert highway.”

The road was calling.

Forty years later, the road is still calling. This time, it’s Route 66…the Mother Road…the road that Bruce Springsteen sang about…”the highway is alive tonight.” As Judy and I prepare to set off on our epic Route 66 adventure, I can hardly contain my excitement…looking forward to driving through the deserts of my youth, into the high plains of Arizona and New Mexico; tornado alley (in Spring, which might make things interesting) and into the Heartland ending in Chi Town.

The road is calling.

I’ve driven cross country once before, when I moved to the East Coast in 2003. I did it in two and a half days…challenging myself to log as many miles each day as I could. The final push was from the eastern border of Oklahoma to D.C. in 16 hours, with stops only for gas and food. It was a monumental feat, but I missed the exploration…the joy that is called the road.

This trip will be different. We’re taking our time…we’re going to stop at every kitschy photo stop, stay in classic Route 66 motels, and eat all-American style.

There’s a whole world out there, waiting to be explored. Go see it, because the road is calling.IMG_0222

M is for Montreal

2014 was a monumental year for many reasons. First, I got married. Greg and I tied the knot at the end of the year in Key West, Florida. Second, it marked the halfway point of my 26 year plan to see the world. M, of course, is the 13th letter of the alphabet. That meant we not only had to do something special, but we had to do it in a way that didn’t cost too much money since we had a wedding to pay for.

As anyone who travels (or even aspires to travel) knows, one of the biggest expenses for any trip is getting to your destination. Since my one hard-and-fast rule is each A-B-C trip must be outside the 48 states, transportation costs are typically more than half the cost of the whole trip. I also love the feeling of exploring a new culture, something you really only get in a foreign land. After trying to find something close enough to save on transportation costs, but far enough to feel foreign, we settled on Montreal.

If you’ve never been to Montreal, you may not know it’s more like a French city than many places in Canada. In fact, it’s a little like going to Europe without leaving North America. It’s laid out like a European city and the primary language is French, although English is spoken everywhere. So we booked a round trip on Amtrak’s Adirondack Express during the peak of fall colors and headed north.IMG_3039

I’d done my research and knew to sit on the side of the train facing west for the northbound trip and the side facing east for the southbound. That’s because the views of the Hudson Valley are prettiest in the morning and headed south, you want to be able to see the lakes and water to the east during the brightest part of the day. We got lucky and the colors were brilliant and lush for much of the trip.

On arrival we grabbed a taxi and headed to our small inn, Auberge de la Place Royale, right on the river with views of the water and the port. IMG_3170Our queen suite on the third floor was a HUGE room with a large sitting area and charming décor complete with a brick accent wall. IMG_3113We couldn’t have picked a better place. Fresh French pastries and coffee are set in the room under glass for you to enjoy the next morning with a mini fridge stocked with juices.

Montreal was cool with perfect fall sunshine and breezes. We knew to pack for the weather and spent our days wandering the old town and took a water taxi to Parc Jean-Drapeau. Greg had been to Montreal as a young boy with his dad and wanted to see the one thing he remembered, Habitat 67.IMG_3129 The walk was full of photo opportunities and bright blue skies.IMG_3148

We also found the charming and architecturally fascinating Plateau Mont-Royal with its ironwork staircases and colorful rows of townhomes. Trendy shops and fun foodie spots abound in Montreal. Our favorite, by far, was Chez Delmo. It was crowded, but there were two seats at the bar so we grabbed them and chatted with Chris, the bartender. He was AMAZING and offered an interesting drink suggestion and an appetizer that was not on the menu. The entire experience was perfect!

We’ve discovered the best way to find a good place to eat is twofold. First, if it’s crowded, that’s a good sign. Big crowds mean good food. Second, if there are at least two or three things on the menu that look really appealing, you’ll be much happier. That’s not to say you shouldn’t try things you’ve never heard of; we do that ALL the time. But get two entrees, one you want to try and one you’re pretty sure you’ll like. That way you’ll never be hungry. We share our entrees for variety. We’re lucky that we have similar tastes, so that helps.

We had two FULL days in Montreal to explore and enjoy before hopping on the train for the day-long ride back home. IMG_3206A couple of quick tips: Don’t forget that you’ll need a passport or passport card to cross the border; Canadians take US dollars, but you’re better off exchanging your money since they offer a 1-to-1 exchange rate and you save a little by using Canadian dollars. Plus, you’ll need a few coins for getting around town on the metro.

In short, Montreal goes into the book as another successful adventure as we continue our quest to see the world one letter a year.