My PNW Explorations: Looking promising, Port Angeles!

 

Driving over the crest of a hill, I caught my first glimpse of downtown Port Angeles, the shimmering water and port in the distance. My first impressions? Wow! Clean, wide roads, nice sidewalks, historic buildings, art installations everywhere you look and great views. From what I’d heard from the Port Townsend and Sequim “ambassadors”, I expected to see a smaller version of skid row—homeless people and druggies panhandling on every corner, litter in the streets and on the sidewalks, dilapidated buildings and overt grime, crime and grit. Not so—quite the opposite. In many ways, Port Angeles has more character, art and scenic appeal than either Port Townsend or Sequim. And my taste tests attest to the fact that Port A has much better restaurants too.

 

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Over the course of my PNW adventure, I spent a total of 3 nights in Port Angeles and thoroughly explored the town and its neighborhoods. Yes, eventually, I saw some homeless people. I have no doubt there are “issues”, but every community has issues and more and more have issues of this type. (For the record, Sequim is not immune – recall the panhandler at the Village Marketplace. No doubt they would say he was just on his way to Port Angeles.)

My first stop, and an easy one as its right on the main drag as you come into town, was Sound Bikes & Kayaks, 120 E. Front Street. My last chance for mountain bike rentals before I headed up the coast. I was so relieved when I opened the door and saw plenty of quality mountain bikes to rent. (And they even have an in-store rock climbing wall there too.) The friendly team at Sound Bikes & kayaks gave me the local scoop on the top mountain bike rides and hikes in the area. I shared my encounters with the Port Angeles and Sequim gloom and doomers and they just shrugged their shoulders. (Tourist dollars are hard to come by, especially in the off-season, perhaps that was what it was all about.)

Lodging was easy to find, I just walked across the street and rented a room in the historic Downtown Hotel. Now it was time to grab a bite with a view at Downriggers at the Landing and plan my active adventures.

Its close proximity to Lake Crescent and Hurricane Ridge / Olympic National Park and its gateway position to adventures farther afield made Port Angeles a great basecamp for my PNW explorations coming and going.  Here’s my sampler for ya:

Port Angeles Lodging

Downtown Hotel – great rates, views and old-school charm

Built in 1916 and renovated in 2003 after a fire, the Downtown Hotel has lots of character. This place made me nostalgic for the old hotel from my childhood. (My family was in the hotel and restaurant business in New Hampshire.) The Downtown Hotel is historic, quaint and clean—and full of old-school charm. You can choose from kitchenette suites, apartment suites, private baths or “European style with a shared hallway bathroom. I picked a suite with a view of the harbor. The bed was a bit small for a queen and the wifi was a bit spotty in the room so I had to take my work conference call in the lobby. Other than that, I loved it. The reading material in the lobby was great. They subscribe to the New Yorker, one of my favorite magazines – another feather to put in the artsy / cultural hat of Port Angeles. It’s a cool, centrally located spot within the heart of Port Angeles. I would stay here again and consider it for a long-term stay. The general manager, Tim, is a bit of a vintage bike nut. If you are too, you might ask him to show you his extensive collection. Notes: no pets allowed and no wheelchair access. The entrance staircase leads from street level to the lobby and rooms are on the second and third floors.

The Red Lion Hotel  221 N. Lincoln St.

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The waterfront Red Lion with its Olympic Mountain backdrop

Treat yourself to a great night’s sleep and a spectacular sunrise with a water view room. Extremely comfy bed with a room large enough for a happy dance. (I think it was an ADA room, not sure if they are all like that or If I just got lucky.)

Super 8 by Wyndham, 2104 E 1st St

Clean, comfy, convenient and budget friendly. This place has been renovated recently and is downright decent. Wifi and free breakfast are included. Be sure to pay your respects to the resident feline, Douglas. Drop into the locals’ bar, Joshua’s Restaurant and Lounge, next door for a quick bite or nightcap if you’re so inclined. This is where I got the insider tip from locals Kristin and Chef Matt Colony to visit them at First Street Haven for breakfast (see review below).

The Landing & Downriggers

The Landing mall and the restaurant Downriggers is right on the coast of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  It features spectacular water, city and Olympic Mountain views and and is home to galleries, restaurants, offices, a co-working space, a rowing club and more.  I ate a salmon salad at Downriggers my first night. Perhaps not as good as the view, but  as good or better than Sirens in Port Townsend. Not that it’s a contest or anything, but if you read my previous post, you’ll understand why I’m making all the comparisons.

 

Great Restaurants

Next Door Gastropub—Not to be missed!

The line out the door is a good indication that this is the “go to” spot in Port Angeles for great grub. In general, I avoid meat. Once I caught sight of the burgers here, I caved. Delicious! For those with stronger willpower than mine, there are delectable vegetarian options as well. Whether you’re a carnivore, herbivore, or omnivore, you can’t go wrong here. The outdoor seating is limited, but always my happy preference so I’m glad they have some.

 

First Street Haven, Heaven for foodies 107 E 1st St

Had some drinks and great conversation with the chef and a waitress from First Street Haven at Joshua’s Restaurant and Lounge the night before. The chef was from Oceanside, CA – small world. (My home base is next door to Oside, Carlsbad.) They said their establishment had the best breakfast in town. After sampling it, I’m inclined to believe them. Crazy delish cinnamon rolls, banging eggs Benedict, and so on…We even scored some local mushrooms. (No, not that kind, come on now!) Excellent cuisine (Chef Matt Colony) and service (Kristin).  They are at the top of my list for a return trip.

Coffee

BADA NW is gooda 118 W 1st St, Port Angeles, WA 98362

This is one of the coolest coffee shops with a great PNW vibe. It’s up there with Woody’s in Hakone, Japan for great atmosphere and quality coffee. They serve food and beer and wine too. (As did Woody’s, coincidentally.) Bold, Ambitious, Dedicated and Authentic (BADA) is gooda.

 

So Port Angeles, you won me over, 3 days – not only did you not disappoint, you exceeded all expectations. All the locals here I talked to were super friendly and helpful.

Stay tuned for my active adventures in the epic PNW, including Hurricane Ridge, and points beyond.

Top Pick: Farm Provisions, Prescott AZ – this foodie’s delight.

Over the 4 days I was in Prescott, I went to this restaurant not 1ce, not 2ce, but 3 times. Once you find perfection, it’s difficult to stray. (Also, it’s one of the few spots with outside seating and I like eating and being al fresco – in case you haven’t figured that out by now.)

I ordered a simple Caesar salad topped with salmon. Just realized that this farm to table restaurant’s tagline is “Simple Food Elevated”. Well yes, I’d say so. I’ve eaten a fishload of salmon in my life, and this was by far the most perfectly cooked salmon I’ve ever had. (You see, I’m using that word perfect again, and it’s not for lack of imagination.)  I took my friend from Phoenix to lunch here, and starting salivating over his scallop beet salad. He was nice enough to give me a bite, which of course, only made me salivate more.

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Farmer Provisions is one of the best restaurants in the area and, as such, they are also one of the busiest so reservations are advised.

It appears that I have a discriminating palate; it turns out that Chef & Co-owner Ryan Peters graduated from the Scottsdale Culinary Institute/ Le Cordon Bleu rand his impressive resume includes working and managing restaurants in three different 5 star, 5 diamond resorts.

I had the pleasure of meeting co-owner, Brittany Peters, on 2 of my 3 visits. She made me feel welcome  as a “party of 1”, went out of her way to accommodate me despite a full house, and gave me some tips about things to do in the area. If it weren’t for her, I might not have had that lovely afternoon in Jerome.

And guess what? If I ever make it Prescott again, one of my first stops will be Farmer Provisions , and I highly recommend that you make it one of yours too.

Hours          11:00 AM – 9:00 PM Wednesday – Sunday   Closed Monday & Tuesday

Location     148 N. Montezuma St.  Prescott, AZ 86301

Reservations            Lunch reservations for groups of 6 or more. Dinner reservations                                              begin at 4:00  for groups of any size.

Phone                          (928) 776-3001

Top pick for dog-friendly dining and imbibing:Barley Hound Gastropub, Prescott, AZ

To say this place is dog friendly is an understatement. You could say the aptly named, Barley Hound, caters to canines.

Harley Hound dog menue

In fact, the dog menu looked quite enticing—steak & rice, chicken & rice served on a Frisbee. How cool is that?

I stopped in for some afternoon refreshments after a full day on the trails (Goldwater Lake MTB and Granite Basin hike). It seems they take care of their human patrons too—the salmon lavash and margie did not disappoint. I’ll have to return with a canine companion for a full meal sometime soon.

Harley Hound refreshments3

The Barley Hound Gastropub is near courthouse square at 234 S. Cortez Street, Prescott, AZ. Check it out when you’re out and about in Prescott.

Stay tuned for my top picks of places to stay and eat and for more of my active escapades in and around Prescott.

Hiking : Thumb Butte

Granite Basin

Mountain Biking: Prescott Valley to Prescott via the Iron King & Peavine Trails

Goldwater Lake

 

1 Day. 2 Epic Bike Rides: Monterey Bay’s Coastal Recreational Trail & Pebble Beach’s 17-Miler

I’m crushing big on Monterey right now. Got back last night from a magnificent adventure, which included cycling two of Monterey’s top 10 rides – the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreational Trail and Pebble Beach’s famous 17 Mile Drive. (In 1 day.) I did both routes in one day because I was running out of days. Wouldn’t necessarily recommend it, because these views are made for savoring, stopping, having lunch and general leisure enjoyment. But if you’re into distance and running out of vaca time, just do it. If you only have time for one, take the 17 Mile Drive / Ride.

The Monterey Bay Coastal Recreational Trail (paved bike path) runs from Pacific Grove to Castroville, the artichoke capital of the world, following the route of the old Southern Pacific Railway. Except for a few minor exceptions in Marina –it’s nearly 100% car free, which means absolutely carefree cycling with spectacular dunes and coastline views along the way. And, when you head north to Castroville, you practically have it all to yourself.  Biker’s bliss for sure. (Except for the couple mile section between Marina & Castrovile where you share a frontage road with some 18-wheelers…) Easy to cut out this section, but then you’ll miss out on the “Choke Coach” – see below.

Length: 18 miles, 1 way  (36 miles total) – or any distance you like (many just do the a short ride 2.8 miles from Fisherman’s Wharf, Monterey to Lovers Point, Pacific Grove).

Difficulty: This is a beginner to intermediate ride – mostly due to length. It’s flat for the most part, rolling for the other part with really only 1 “hill” of note.

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Looking up the Coast Near Sand City

 

 

 

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Never let them see you sweat? No, lol, windy day, holding my hair out of my face.
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Old Fort Ord, Firing Range
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Views of Monterey From the Highest Point on the Bike Path

 

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Rolling Farmland, Near Marina
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River View in Marina

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Artichoke Food Truck in Castroville  – good spot for a bite at the 18 mile turn around. I passed it up in the interest of getting both rides done.

 

 

 

 

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Start or end point in Pacific Grove, unless you’re doing 17 Mile Drive too

 

Pebble Beach’s 17 Mile Drive

It’s just a couple miles to get to the start of the 17 Mile Drive  from Lover’s Cove in Pacific Grove. You’ll cruise through beautiful Asilomar State Beach and follow the signs to stunning 17-Mile Drive – view spectacular seascapes and mansions, along one of the most beautiful golf courses in the world. By Cypress point, the bike lane ends so you have to share the road for a bit. The driver’s here are very respectful of bikers. How refreshing!

Difficulty: Beginner to intermediate ride – mostly due to length. It’s mostly flat with a couple climbs.

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Pebble Beach’s Iconic Lone Cypress
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Still smiling despite going up a hill I didn’t need to at mile 50ish.

(I didn’t have my Garmin with me so I’m guessing my day’s total was between 60-70 miles, counting taking the local “bike route” up to Spyglass Hill and back down instead of staying on the 17 mile drive bike lane. I was getting a little giddy at that point. The bad news is, I ran out of battery on my phone so my pictures are limited. The good news is you get to discover it for yourself.

I worked up quite an appetite and thirst on my back-to-back bike adventure, which I sated at Domenicos on the Wharf. I was a little skeptical of heading into the tourist zone here, but it proved to be the right call and the perfect finale to my day. Great happy hour, service and food. I slurped down a refreshing margie and devoured a splendid house salad (best I’ve seen) and grilled artichoke – all of which were wonderful. Cheers to a beautiful day in Monterey. (No pics because my phone was charging.)

Bike Rental: Adventures by the Sea

Hybrid bikes are $25 half day, $35 whole day. Road bikes, $35 half day, $65 whole day.  (If you’re going further than 20 miles, I’d recommend going with the road bike.) They also have kayak rentals and SUP for more fun in the sun.

 

 

Exploring Kyoto’s Nishiki Market, a feast for foodies and shoppers alike.

Most would agree that a trip to Kyoto isn’t complete unless you visit the Nishiki Market. Known to locals as “Kyoto’s Pantry”, the traditional, four-centuries-old Nishiki Food Market is a feast for the senses. The narrow, five block long shopping street is jam-packed with exotic (to the Westerner) items and approximately 130 food stands and restaurants. Bring your appetite to try something new for an unforgettable foodie experience. There are plenty of opportunities to taste samples or to buy snacks as you explore. Expect to be elbow to elbow with a big crowd of locals and tourists alike.

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History

The origins of the market date back to around 1310 when it was established as a wholesale fish district. Over time, it evolved into the bustling kaleidoscope of colorful stalls, shops and restaurants that it is today.

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Getting There

Less than a five minute walk from Shijo Station on the Karasuma Subway Line (4 minutes, ~$2 from Kyoto Station) or via Karasuma or Kawaramachi Stations on the Hankyu Line. The market is parallel to Shijo Avenue, one block north of Shijo Avenue in downtown Kyoto

Other Top Things to Do in Kyoto

Explore the historic Arashiyama District

Visit the magnificent Kiyomizudera temple and Old Kyoto’s Higashiyama District

Go back to the ancient time of shoguns Nijo Castle

Go take a hike up Mt. Inari under 10 thousand Torii gates at Fushimi Inari Shinto Shrine

Get away from it all in the nearby hamlets of Kibune and Kurama

Inside the Gates: Chiang Mai Sunday Night Market – a feast, a fest, a fun time!

 

The Feast

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The Fest

The Sights

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The Sounds

The Scoop

The Chiang Mai Sunday Night Market is located in the center of the old walled city area of Chiang Mai and is open from 4pm until midnight. It’s a fest and a feast down Ratchadamnoen Road, which is closed to traffic for the Market – hence the i other name Walking Street”. In the vicinity, there are many temples and historical sights to see along the way as well, including Wat Phan Tao, Wat Chedi Luang and the statues of the 3 kings.

Tip: If you’re not big on crowds go early and have a full run of it before they arrive.

The place really comes alive and has a great vibe later into the night…And there are some lovely restaurants, bars and coffee shops around every corner if you’d prefer people watching (tourists & Thai locals) from a distance or just need a break from the crowds.

There are musicians, handicrafts, souvenirs, massage chairs, and perhaps best of all, world renown street food enjoyed by Anthony Bourdain and myself. (My trekking tour guide from Green Trails gave Anthony his street food tour when he was filming in Chiang Mai. ) There’s so much to see, do, buy & eat, you can easily spend hours here.

Tip: If you see something you like as a gift or a souvenir get it and consider getting more than one. The crafts are Northern Thailand specific and you may not see them again. I bought a couple beautiful bowls and wish I’d grabbed more because in my 30 days in Thailand I never saw anything like them again.

If you’re thinking about going to the Chaing Mai Sunday Night Market, don’t think twice – go. As you can see and hear, it’s a memorable experience.

 

3 Day Mt. Bike Adventure. Part 4: Thaton to Chang Rai.

It was late afternoon by the time we rolled into Ban Thaton, a charming Thai village near the Burmese border on the bank of the Maekok river. After a quick cleanup transition, I headed out to do a little exploring on foot.

 

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Despite weary legs from my full day of mt. biking, I took a quick hike up a road to the White Buddha that I’d seen in the distance as we were coming into town. It was worth it.

 

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On the way back, I stopped in for a sorely needed hour Thai massage before dinner. (Awesome and only $6!) Had a feast at a lovely riverside restaurant that evening and enjoyed a refreshing ‘cold” one. (Not a beer drinker, but it sure hit the spot.)

 

Next day we hit the road early, biking through parts of a national park on our way to Chiang Rai. What an incredible 3 day Mt. Bike adventure.

Our last lunch stop was superb!

 

Sad that it had to end. Many thanks to my guide Pan & support driver Som at Active Thailand!

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Tour company: ActiveThailand    Guide: Pan   My rating: Excellent, highly recommend