Saturday, June 9, 2018

Two days in Astoria: what I did and how I did it

I caught the morning ferry from Victoria, Vancouver Island and landed 2 hours or so later in the US at Port Angeles. I took the route down highway 101 (mainly so I could stop at Hamma Hamma for oysters and chowder) and the drive to Astoria was just long enough for one driver.

Astoria itself is a great town to stay in. Filled with craft brewery places, cute boutiques and antiques it maintains its authentic working town vibe - so much so, I preferred it to Portland. For beer, your choices are many. For food...not really a gourmet kinda place. I'd recommend Astoria Coffee House and Bistro. Great breakfast, scratch cocktails, good food and fabulous vibe (kicks playlist also).

If you ever find yourself in this part of the world, enjoy a laid back few days in this delightful town: long walks, vintage browsing, chats with locals and beers. 

Next stop...Portland

Thursday, June 7, 2018

36 hours in Vancouver Island: what I did and how I did it

Here's my first tip. If you haven't driven a car for two years, maybe don't pick the middle of the CBD mid morning to pick up your hire car. Just saying. 

The other thing to consider. GPS. First time I've hired one and won't be the last. Amazing lady accompanied me the entire way. Never got lost, but did get sick of her telling me to U-Turn.

Other other thing.... ferry travel with car takes a while as you have to build in the additional wait time at the terminal. If I'd thought of that a little more I would have headed off earlier.

I took the ferry from the terminal nearest Vancouver airport...the name is really long and I'm sorry I can't be bothered to look it up, but the trip was deadset easy in terms of getting on and off the ship and the view as you make your way across to the island is breathtaking. 

I decided to stay outside of Victoria, the main city in a place called Sooke. My airbnb was a perfect rustic little cabin right on the shore. I could have stayed there a lifetime, honestly one of the most beautiful places I've ever stayed.

Before I drove to my cabin though I stopped by the Public Market in Victoria to pick up some produce for my stay. Next hot tip. Don't bother. It's a half kind of opened market with not much to offer, but has potential and if you want to eat in - but for fresh produce, it ain't the place to shop.

In seeking an alternative supermarket I spied bottle shop for some local beers. Like Vancouver, the Island has many craft breweries so it was great to pick up some local beers and head to the cabin to hunt for pine cones, drink beer, eat olives and daydream.

Aside from that, Vancouver Island has some great hikes, fabulous vistas and lots of terrifying signs warning you off bears and stop Astoria.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

36 hours in Vancouver - what I did and how I did it

Turns out 36 hours wasn't very long...but is long enough if you jam that 36 hours with as much good food, coffee and craft beer that this city has to offer. And that's lots as it turns out.

First thing. Hotels are hideously expensive. I stayed at the Opus in Yaletown which was okay value all things considered - easy access from the airport meant a quick train trip and a walk across the road from the subway station.

For a late night snack close to the hotel I'd recommend Homer St Cafe and Bar (898 Homer Street). Great cocktails and bloody good pate. The end.

For perfect Sunday vibes, head out to Granville Island via Vancouver's cute little ferry system. Great perspective of the city and harbour all in one. Granville Island is a paradise of fresh produce, coffee and the BEST BAGELS*. Also really lovely shops and laneways to walk around.

Vancouver is a great walking city, so from Granville Island it's a nice walk downtown to the Vancouver Art Gallery. I was lucky to catch the end of an exhibition by that Japanese artist whose name starts with 'T' *checks Instagram... Takashi Murakami* who I always forget (coincidently the second time I've seen a massive exhibition of his work by accident, the first being in Tokyo). Anyway his work is definitely worth seeing even if you can't remember who he is. Otherwise, just follow him on Instagram.

From the gallery it is a short walk to Gastown, home of hipsters and lots of brunch venues. For a smaller city, Vancouver has an edgy vibe and in with all the cafes and craft breweries are parks filled with homeless people and streets which you might think twice to walk down late at night...or as it turns out in the middle of the day time. China has desensitised me of many things, but one thing I'm not used to so much these days is seeing drug deals out in the open, individuals struggling with mental health issues and a large volume of people out on the streets. 

So at the edge of Gastown, near a big open park is a bunch of semi industrual streets and it is here you'll find a sweet brewery at the back of Vancouver Urban Winery called Postmark Brewing. It's a great starting point for the Vancouver Hop Circuit, where you can guide yourself through a whole bunch of craft brews. Start there and pick up the Hop Circuit map.

A walk back to Gastown brings you to a street of great little restaurants, but what to get at that awkward time of day where you have missed lunch and it's too early for dinner? Tacos! Tacofino at East Hastings Street has a great deck, good margaritas and solid (excellent) fish tacos.

And what about dinner? There are so many options in Vancouver, it's a foodies paradise. I ended up choosing Campagnolo due to its proximity (about a 20 minute walk from my which I wouldn't / didn't necessarily repeat on the dark walk home). It's a great restaurant but I think past its heyday. It was empty, it was late on a Sunday night so maybe just the timing... but the pizza was great, the negroni excellent and the wine list interesting.

So that was Vancouver. Those who have been to this fine city are possibly horrified at all the amazing bits I missed, but what's a gal to do? If your holiday is a road trip, you can't dilly dally in the big stop Vancouver Island!

*From the perspective of someone currently living in China.