Yerevan is Always a Good Idea

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View of the Opera House looking down from the steps of Cascade

Yerevan, is the capital of Armenia and where a majority of tourist who visit Armenia base themselves out of. I’ve been to Armenia somewhere between half a dozen to a dozen times and yet every time I visit I find new and interesting things to discover in Yerevan. The best way to explore Yerevan is by foot.

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Mulberries

During this last trip I wanted to take full advantage of the pleasant weather by walking around town as much as possible. Not only was I determined to get close to 10k steps a day, but getting lost in cities I’m visiting is one of my favorite things to do because I see and learn so much. During this particular walk around Yerevan, I couldn’t help but notice all the different water fountains and I found myself wishing I had been taking pictures of every single one I came across all along to have created a creation of a sort of cell phone images of all the water falls. I could have probably created photo calendars for the upcoming 2-4 years!

I’ve always wanted to visit the zoo in Yerevan and on this trip we had the opportunity to do so. Admission is $1.65 in American dollars and well worth it because not only is it a good workout but we got to see deer, birds, monkeys, a hippopotamus. a zebra, bears, lions, a tiger, and my personal favorite the patagonian mara. I had never seen a Mara before. It was like a cross between a squirrel, deer and rabbit!

Across the street from the zoo I spotted these cool images painted on a wall of Armenian authors Barouyr Sevag, Yeghishe Charents, and Avedik Isahagian.

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Day trip to Dilijan

During this last trip to Armenia we had planned a day trip to Dilijan. I wanted to show off this little remote mountain town to my husband who despite having been to Armenia a few times already still hadn’t been to Dilijan. Personally, I like Dilijan because in the spring and summer the weather here is milder than it is in the City and in other regions.

Dilijan is in the Tavush Province of Armenia and historically has always been a resort town where people go to relax and clear their heads. Our plan was to leave my father’s house in the Kotayk Province after breakfast and have lunch somewhere in Dilijan before heading over to the United World College (UWC) for our scheduled tour. I had bookmarked a few different restaurant options including “Haykanush”, which ended up being the one I was favoring because it was located in the Old Dilijan Complex on Sharambeyan Street which I really wanted to see.

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Haykanush Restaurant

This portion of Dilijan was restored and preserved by the Tufenkian Cultural Foundation and demonstrates the architectural details which have earned Dilijan the “little Switzerland” nickname.

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After a very delicious lunch and short walk up and down Sharambeyan street we made our way to the UWC campus on the other side of town. I had spotted this campus driving by it a couple years ago. The modern design caught my attention but what really impressed me was the rooftop gardens I could see all the way from the road. Doing some research online I learned that it’s a LEED certified building and during our tour we learned that the architect had intentionally designed living walls along the side of the building along with the rooftop garden to reincorporate the soil and plants that had been displaced from the land to make way for the buildings. I really liked this concept.

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During the tour we also learned that this “college” is actually a two year high school where students spend their Junior and Senior year of high school before going off to college. It’s a very competitive program and students indicate their top 3 choices from the 14 UWC campuses but can be placed at any of the locations. The student body is international in make up as is the faculty and staff. Our tour guide showed us all around and told about what the students study and how they spend their 2 years at the school. We also learned that although the Dilijan campus has only been around for 4 years Prince Charles has already paid the campus a visit and George and Amal Clooney are big supporters of the school.

If you’re planning a trip to Armenia I highly recommend emailing the UWC-Dilijan campus staff and scheduling a tour. It was a wonderful way to spend an afternoon touring a beautiful facility.

Four Years Later

Four years ago, my husband and I had plans to be on the East Coast right before the holidays and our trip happened to coincide with the eleventh annual Children of Armenia Fund (COAF) Holiday Gala so we decided to attend since this is one of the charities we both like to support. The star studded event took place at Cipriani and honorary guests included Andrea Martin, Michael Aram, Alexis Ohanian, Victor Garber, Eric Bogosian, Isabel Bayrakdarian, Patricia Field, and Stephanie Seymour among others. About $2.5 million dollars was raised to build the first of many state-of-the art SMART centers in Armenia. It was a memorable night for us and we were so happy to have been able to be there.

Four years later, during a planned trip to Armenia we heard that the first SMART center had just been completed and an official opening ceremony was going to take place. I couldn’t ignore the coincidence so I contacted a friend who works for COAF to ask if we could attend and we decided to make the 3 hour drive out to the remote and rural village of Debed in the beautiful Lori Province to see the center.

I’m so glad we made the trek because had I not seen this place with my own two eyes I wouldn’t have believed it existed. The site that was selected for this project left us all in awe of the beauty of northern Armenia. Even my father’s wife and her son who were both born and raised in Armenia kept saying they’d never know such a breathtaking place existed mere hours away from where they’ve lived their entire lives. As if the setting wasn’t inspiring enough then there’s the 20,000 square foot modern building! Since none of the photos I took can do it justice so I’ll just have you check it out for yourselves in this video

Over the next ten years more SMART centers like this one will continue to be built in different regions of Armenia to provide opportunities for youth in isolated areas to develop their language skills, have access to technology and develop their skills in the areas of IT, robotics, arts, music, entrepreneurship, organic agriculture, and economics. The goal is to empower the youth to tackle the issues in their villages and for them to feel connected to the world without having to leave their villages.

I’m so grateful to COAF, its founders, employees, supporters and donors for all the programs they have in Armenia that help make Armenia a better place for our youth.

The New Armenia (Nor Haiastan)

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May 28th 2018 marked the 100th anniversary of the first independent Republic of Armenia. Tens of thousands of Armenians from around the world had planned to travel to Armenia to be there for the centennial. I was one of those Armenians.

In the weeks leading up to my trip, a Velvet Revolution had taken place in the country. After two weeks of anti-government protests the former President’s plan to become Prime Minister (a la Putin when Medvedev became President)  had not succeeded and the people’s revolt led to their candidate being elected Prime Minister. This unprecedented non-violent successful movement left Armenia with a new President and new Prime Minister that the people (for the first time in decades) were happy with. The new Prime Minister made promises to hold oligarchs accountable and make them pay their fair share of taxes which they had been evading for years on end. Immediately it felt like a new dawn had arrived in Armenia.

I couldn’t wait to get to Armenia and see for myself what people were saying about how much the country had changed in just a matter of a few weeks! I arrived in Armenia 18 days after the revolution and the rumors were true! The citizens of Armenia were happy! They were positive! They weren’t complaining! They had hope! It was as if a dark grey cloud that had been shrouding the country had disappeared. All I got during this trip was good vibes! It’s difficult to put into words how much love the people seem to have for their new President and Prime Minister. It should have always been this way. It’s such a shame that for so many years this wasn’t the case.

This is an image of the government building in Yerevan just a block away from Republic Square. It was from this balcony that Aram Manoukian announced the establishment of the Republic. It’s very ironic that although the building is still standing there is now an eyesore of an addition built on top of it and a pizza parlor on the ground floor owned by an Oligarch.

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Stay tuned for posts about the opening of the Children of Armenia Fund (COAF) Smart Center in Debed, our tour of the United World College (UWC) campus in Tilijan and our visit to the Tumo Center!

 

 

I have in my mind…

I have in my mind an image.

An image of a place in Artsakh.

A peaceful place where the grass blows in the breeze and the backdrop consists of lush green mountains.

The small property is surrounded by a pony wall made of stone.

There’s a modest black wrought iron fence that marks the entrance into the property.

There is a single shady tree in the center that provides some shade on warm days.

There’s a sign somewhere on the property and it bears the following quote from a poem by Hovhannes Shiraz

«Մեզ չի կարող մահն էլ զատել, մի ոգի ենք ու մի մարմին»

Translated this means… Even death can’t separate us, we are one soul and one body.

This poem has also been turned into a song beloved by many… it begins with the words «Դու էլ դառած կռուածաղիկ»

They say don’t tell people your dreams…. show them.

Well I envision it to look something like this!

Holiday Gift Giving Survival Guide

The anxiety begins to build right around Thanksgiving. I begin thinking about my least favorite part of the Holidays. The gift giving! My personal philosophy about this custom is that it’s bullshit. The 3 Kings brought the little baby Jesus gifts of Gold, Myrrh and Frankincense because he was born of a divine immaculate conception in a manger! None of us were born through divine immaculate conception in a manger, so why are we giving each other gifts?

Unfortunately, in this instance Capitalism seems to consistently win and I lose. Luckily, I’m the best kind of loser there is. I don’t get sore or sour, I just buck up and deal. I had a few goals this year. I wanted to be one of those annoying people whose ahead of the game and done with all my shopping early. I wanted to avoid going into any chain stores, and I wanted to support local and small businesses. I devised a 3 step process to make this all happen.

STEP #1 – MAKE A LIST

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Photograph by Gratisography

I created my list by jotting down the names of all the people I thought I was going to have to buy gifts for in a Note in my phone. As the weeks went by any time I had an idea of what I could get each person, I’d update the list. Making a Christmas shopping list is something I watched my mom do every year when I was a child. She carried that list through the mall and Toys R Us until every single name had been crossed off.

STEP #2 – SHOP ONLINE (Supporting local or small businesses when possible)

I can’t stress what an outstanding resource Etsy was for me. I ordered a couple beautiful maps from the Kuulys shop for friends who are travelers so they can scratch off all the places they’ve been (like with a lottery ticket.)  All the children on the list got personalized gifts like growth charts with child’s name from Jolie Prints, Eco-friendly crayons spelling out child’s name from Home Grown Crayon Shop or a book with the child’s name worked into the storybook from  My Magic Name Book.

For our family white elephant exchange we ordered this DNA Testing Kit and for my office white elephant gift exchange I ordered a funny Chia Pet from Amazon, but my backup plan was either this llama cookie decorating kit  from Cost Plus World Market or this Ugly Christmas sweater cookie decorating kit from Trader Joe’s. Although these items aren’t from a local or small business I was ok with that.

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For any last minute gifts I’ve got a store called Local Fare on speed dial now. It’s on my way home from work so I can pop in anytime. Plus, the shop owner is so helpful she has a post up on her Instagram encouraging you to contact her if you’re in a bind. She’ll text you a few ideas and have it ready for you when you arrive. There are so many great items in her shop, her Instagram shows off a bit more of her awesome stuff than her website does. Just across the way from this shop is another great spot called Bearfruit Jewelry. Here are a few things I spotted there that I’m sure I’ll be buying for myself or as presents for others the next time I visit.

STEP #3 – WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS, GIFT LIQUOR!

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Photograph by Gratisography

If despite all your best efforts you can’t think of the “perfect” gift for someone… go for the liquor. No adult doesn’t like receiving alcohol. If you know an adult that doesn’t like getting libations for Christmas… get rid of this person! You don’t need shitty people like that in your life! Here are my recommendations.

  • Bacon Bourbon or Bacon Bloody Mary Mix (OL’ Major Brand available at BevMo)
  • Beer or a gift certificate from a local brewery. (Ex: Barley Forge in Costa Mesa, CA)
  • Southern Comfort Gingerbread Spice
  • Game of Thrones Wines (Almost everyone I know watches GOT)

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Now that I’m 90% done with all my Holiday Shopping (I’ll polish off the rest this weekend) I’ve been wrapping 2-3 gifts a day to not be overwhelmed by that task either. At this rate, I should be all done with everything by Sunday… December 10th! Do you hate me yet?

My Grandmother’s Mug & Victoria B.C.

Last month, my husband and I embarked on one of the most pointless trips of our lives. We had travel points to burn so we booked a 3 day trip to Victoria, B.C.

Whenever possible we try to avoid flying out of LAX and opt to fly out of John Wayne Airport in Orange County or the Long Beach airport. Trying to find somewhere we could go out of one of these airports I was thinking about the Pacific Northwest. After an outstanding trip to the San Juan Islands with my girlfriends a couple months ago, I can’t seem to get enough of the “Upper Left”. I want to explore it all and we’ve already done Seattle and Vancouver so I suggested Victoria, B.C. because of my grandmother’s mug! Yes! My grandmother’s mug…

My maternal grandmother  had a profound impact on my life (I wrote about her in a past blog as well) and she had a mug she always used that’s been etched in my memory. It was a mug from Butchart Gardens with a painting of colorful trees, leaves and flowers.

As a child, I was more interested in the word Butchart and how my grandmother pronounced it, because any kid would be tickled by But-Chart but my grandmother was fancy and pronounced it all fancy. She was born and raised in Lebanon where she was taught Arabic, Armenian, French and English. She always taught us funny French and Arabic words. I wondered why she was so attached to that mug and I would ask her about it all the time and she would tell me about this fabulous place that seemed so far away and unreachable. Maybe it was the Hawthorne Effect that caused me to glorify this place in  my mind’s eye but anytime I heard anyone talking about Victoria I would silently recall that my grandmother’s mug was from there.

We decided to fly into Seattle and drive across the border because why not? We booked a rental car with our free points and the drive up to Canada was absolutely beautiful. The trees had changed colors and Fall was in full effect. The border crossing into Canada at the Blaine – Peace Arch Border Crossing was a breeze. We arrived at the Tsawwassen ferry terminal, parked the car in extended parking and had about a 30-40 minute wait until the next ferry’s departure. It was my husband’s first time on this type of ferry.

Upon arriving in Victoria, we took a taxi from the ferry terminal to our hotel downtown which we also booked using our free points. We had selected the Delta Hotels by Marriott Victoria Ocean Pointe Resort. Things got a bit twisted at check in. We had requested a room with a King size bed, but my husband asked the receptionist if we could switch to a room with two queen beds. She made the change and upgraded us to a room with a view. As we walked towards the elevator I told my husband that she probably upgraded us because she felt bad for me. For sure she thought we had an argued or he wasn’t that into me HA HA! The truth is, he had a bad cold and didn’t want to pass it to me.

The view from our room was breathtaking. I enjoyed the sunrises and sunsets overlooking the Parliament building which lights up like a wedding cake at night!

(Images via Panoramio and Marriott)

After settling in we didn’t want to venture too far because it was getting late and we were exhausted so we had dinner at LURE.  The hostess informed us that there was a DJ in the bar area and we asked if we could be seated in a quieter part of the restaurant. Based on our choice to vacation in Victoria and sit in quiet areas one would assume we’re in our 80’s but let me just mention that I’m in my late 30’s. Our request worked to our advantage because we ended up with a table right in front of the window so we got to enjoy the beautiful views of Victoria Harbor.

The next morning we had breakfast just over the bridge from our hotel at Fuego where they were serve Marley Coffee which I had been meaning to try. Right after breakfast, the first item on our “to do” list was getting a fall themed coffee beverage from Tim Horton’s. I don’t understand the hype about Starbucks, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf or Dunkin Donuts really. I would trade all of them for  Tim Horton’s. Every holiday season I indulge in one pumpkin spice latte and one peppermint mocha and I allow myself one other festive specialty latte. I got to check off my pumpkin latte at Tim Hortons in Victoria. After crossing that task off the list we began our journey to Butchart Gardens via public transportation.

We hadn’t done a good job of researching this so it took much longer for us to figure it out than it should have, but after a while we found the correct route.  I was so eager to get there, that even though the bus driver had told me he pulls right into the parking lot of the Gardens the minute we saw the sign for Butchart Gardens I pulled the stop request string and we got off. Basically this earned us a much needed bathroom stop and a 3 kilometer walk to our destination.

After our 20 minute walk we arrived! It seems my husband and I have inadvertently made a tradition of visiting botanical gardens in the off season. This was our second time at a botanical garden and both times it wasn’t good timing. Our first visit was a couple years ago, during the month of December to Descanso Gardens. December is an awful time to visit because all we saw were stark trees and nothing was in bloom. I think we’re showing improvement because this time it was October. Since I love Autumn and we don’t get that in Southern California I didn’t mind that only a handful of Dahlias were in bloom. I think it was my first time seeing Dahlias so that in and of itself was something to write home about! Not to mention the beautiful red, orange, and yellow maple leaves that I couldn’t get enough of. I reckon we may be improving and the next time we visit a botanical garden it may actually be spring!

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Upon completing our walk through of the gardens we grabbed warm beverages from the cafe. This time I opted for a London Fog. It was only fair since I first learned about this delicious drink in Canada! After grabbing our drinks, we wandered over to the gift shop. I didn’t intend to buy anything, I just wanted to see if I could find it… and I did! My grandmother’s mug! I guess it’s a classic, because my grandmother had that mug over 25 years ago!

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That evening, my husband found an Italian restaurant he wanted to try. Usually, I would have veto-ed this suggestion because who goes to Canada to have Italian food? but we had walked so much that day I wanted to indulge in some carbohydrates and he was fighting a cold and being a trooper so I knew I would have agreed to whatever he wanted to have for dinner that night. We walked from our hotel, over the bridge and spotted the place he’d chosen. It was right there so we were both thankful that we wouldn’t be doing too much more walking! Il Terrazo knocked our socks off! Although the restaurant was packed & we didn’t have a reservation we only waited about 10-15 minutes to be seated. Their drink menu is extensive and the dinner menu has so many great options we found it challenging to make our selections. The complimentary bread and olive tapenade we were served were so good I could have made a meal of them! We started with the roasted garlic bulb and cambozola cheese. What a pairing! We also had the caprese. The balsamic on this caprese was outstanding. My husband ordered the Cannelloni that was filled with pulled pork and mozzarella cheese. It had a smoked bacon cream, and a balsamic granny smith apple compote. I had a bite and wished I had ordered it! I had ordered the bisteca con fungi. It was cooked to perfection as was the carbonara my steak was served on. Did I mention that the service was exceptional? Our waiter was so warm I felt like I was a guest in his home. My only regret was being too full to enjoy some dessert. This was the perfect way to end our evening.

I wish we had an extra day in Victoria so we could have taken a tour of the Parliament Building, visited the Royal British Columbia Museum, and had tea at the Fairmont Empress Hotel or Abkhazi Garden, but alas we had to get ourselves back to Seattle. I had planned for us to visit the Starbucks Roastery and have a short visit with my cousin, but luck was not on our side this day. We missed our ferry by all of FOUR minutes and had to wait an hour until the next one. The Swartz Bay ferry terminal is not a fun place to wait for an hour. Luckily we were traveling light so we walked over to the cafe in the parking lot and grabbed small snacks to hold us over until we could have a proper breakfast on the ferry. Well, my husband had a proper breakfast on the ferry. I was pouting about our lost time so I had poutine. It was a pouting appropriate poutine! HA HA!

Crossing the border back into the United States was a completely different experience than what it had been like crossing into Canada. Crossing into Canada took us all but 5 minutes with the friendly customs agent asking us where we were going and how we knew each other (my passport still has my maiden last name). He welcomed us into Canada and wished us a good weekend. The American customs agents weren’t nearly as friendly or welcoming. I was asked to turn off the car and remove my sunglasses neither or which had to be done on the way into Canada. While one agent walked around the car, tapped on the back bumper with a baton and inspected the trunk and back seat, another played 20 questions with us stopping short of asking us our blood type. Crossing back into the U.S. took about 25-30 minutes.

Between the missed ferry and unnecessarily long border crossing I didn’t want to risk missing our flight home so we didn’t go into Seattle as planned. I was already upset that due to getting lost on our way to Butchart Gardens we hadn’t had enough time to do an afternoon tea somewhere AND now having to skip the Starbucks Roastery had added on to my disappointment. I was left feeling like we didn’t accomplish enough on this trip. What changed my perspective (as always) was hearing my usually quiet and reserved husband speak up. Despite fighting a cold the whole time he found the trip pleasant and loved it. He kept talking about how nice the people in Canada are. So I changed my attitude and instead of harping on the things we didn’t get to do I began thinking of all the things we did get to do. Considering what had sparked the idea for this trip was a picture on a mug and we got to visit that place and we found the mug’s twin the trip should be considered a success!

I can’t wait to see where we’ll be off to next… I’m leaning towards Portlandia!

NOvember is Mevember

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Although both Shonda Rhimes and Bethenny Frankel have written books about saying “YES”, I’ve decided that sometimes it’s better to say “NO” and what better month to practice the art of saying “NO” than NO-vember?

The Holiday season is upon us! Every year, around this time, there’s no hiding from the invitations to the gatherings and parties. I reminds of this scene from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone when the letters from Hogwarts keep coming and coming!

Looking at my October calendar all the commitments I had lined up began stressing me out. Don’t get me wrong, I had voluntarily said “yes” to most of these things and was genuinely excited about going to the Corona Del Mar Sandcastle contest, seeing Depeche Mode at the Hollywood Bowl, Volunteering with my girlfriend at a local charity, lunching with my cousin who I hadn’t seen in a while, attending a baby shower and christening, visiting a new pumpkin patch with some of my favorite little people, and a traveling to Victoria, B.C.

What I found unfortunate was that I was so busy that I had forgotten to factor in any “ME” time. To avoid making the same mistake this month I preregistered for all my yoga and cardio classes.  A former yoga instructor had pointed out that doing this did 3 important things. It increased the likelihood of me actually making it to class because I had committed myself financially. It prioritized my health and well being by scheduling it in and finally, it gave me a legitimate excuse to use when turning down other invitations by allowing me to say that I couldn’t make it due to an appointment I made weeks ago. It’s actually brilliant. Full disclosure: It’s gotten my lazy ass to class a few times but I haven’t gotten to use the “I have an appointment” thing yet.

Pre-planning for this month and setting my intention of saying “NO” has already had such a magical impact! It’s only the 5th of the month and  I’ve already said “NO” to three events, caught up with all the blogs I read, picked out the books I’ll be reading this month, (one is already on my nightstand and I already submitted the hold request for my December bookclub selection from my local public library) I also downloaded a few podcasts I’ve been meaning to listen to so they’re ready for me to tune into any time I’m in my car. I’ve also already have my nephew’s birthday gift and card ready to go! I love this feeling of having my shit together!

I invite you to join me in making this month NOvember and being selective and saying “NO” to whatever doesn’t serve your purpose! Make this month MEvember and fill it with the things you value and the people that grow you and recharge your batteries!

In Search of Orcas… and Dave

After almost three years of talking about taking a trip to the San Juan Islands to see Orcas we finally made this trip happen! This wasn’t an easy trip to plan by any means, but I highly recommend it!

We began by booking our flights into Seattle Tacoma International Airport. Next, we had to figure out how to get ourselves from the airport to San Juan Island which was the island we had decided to stay on. We knew we didn’t want to rent a car because making a reservation to get your car on the ferry seemed tedious. We researched different ways we could get from Seattle to the Anacortes ferry terminal which is a couple hours away from Seattle. After exhausting all other options we decided to just take a Lyft or Uber and walk on to the ferry. The cost of the ride from the airport to the ferry terminal wasn’t too bad split 3 ways.

Although Anacortes is an adorable little town, the actual ferry terminal is a few miles away in the middle of nowhere. Luckily we arrived just in time to catch the ferry. The ferry ride to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island was about an hour and the scenery was beautiful!

Once we had arrived on the island we decided to start things off with a drink, so we climbed up to the rooftop bar of the Friday Harbor Crab House and toasted to us!

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One of the first things we decided to do was hop on the Jolly Trolley for a tour around the island to get our bearings. It was such a great way to sit back and hear all about the history of the island and the lifestyle of the people who live there. Being driven around the island in an open trolley allowed us to see so much! We got to see the High School, the International School, the different Inns and businesses, the San Juan Vineyards, the Alpaca Farm, The Lavender Farm, Roche Harbor, The Lakedale Resort, The American Camp, The English Camp, the airports, the Cattle Point Light House and my Favorite Lime Kiln State Park (aka Whale Watch Park).

The trolley’s comprehensive route really allowed us to get a feel for the size of the island and its topography. I was surprised to see the hills, valleys, lakes, cliffs, and beaches. When we got to the other side of the island near Lime Kiln State Park we found ourselves under a rain forest like canopy. Temperature wise, it was cooler on this side of the island. We hopped off the trolley at this stop where our phones welcomed us to Canada. In this part of the island, you’re closer to Canada than you are to the United States. We followed some walking paths and trails over to Whale Watch Park from where we could see Victoria B.C. and the stunning Olympic mountain range and the Cattle Point Light House. Looking out towards the horizon all I could think about was how beautiful it was. It was sunny and clear and the peace and quiet were delicious.  It was a huge bummer that while we were at Whale Watch park, we didn’t see any whales.

After reconnecting with nature a bit we hopped back on the trolley and headed back into town. We had rented a perfect little studio apartment that could comfortably sleep 5. It had everything we needed and the location was perfect. We were about 50 feet from a bakery, a cheese shop, 2 restaurants, a farmers market and a craft fair. We were only 2 blocks away from the grocery store, shops, restaurants, trolley and shuttle stops and the ferry terminal. The apartment had a deck with two distinct patio areas. One for our studio unit and one for the 1 bedroom unit next door. We got to meet the two women who were staying in the other unit and they were a real hoot!

Our second day on the island we went whale watching! It was my first time going out on a boat to go whale watching and this was the main reason we planned this trip… but we didn’t see any whales. It’s actually quite hilarious since the whale watching boats down in Orange County where I live have been posting non stop photos on Instagram all summer of all the amazing whales they’ve been spotting and I traveled all the way to Washington State to see none! We did see an adorable seal and got to witness seals feasting on a “bait ball” which is basically a school of fish. To fill our need for all things whale, we went to the whale museum where we at least got to see whale bones.

Our last day on the island we decided to go somewhere we hadn’t been yet to picnic. We had really been enjoying the cheese from the shop across from our apartment so we went to King market, purchased some supplies, packed ourselves up and took the shuttle out to the British camp. There we discovered a vista point where we got a 180 degree view of the snow capped mountains, the water and the hillsides. After our trail walk we located a table and settled down for a picnic under the trees.

Coming from a concrete jungle where life moves at a very fast pace, I appreciated the pace of “island life”. I kept longing to live in a place like San Juan Island where you have no choice but to live a simpler life at a slower pace. Everything is not accessible to you at any given time  here. There is no Costco or Target. I don’t think Amazon offers same or next day delivery and if you want to leave the island, you have to plan around the ferry’s departure schedule unless you have your own boat or airplane.

Another island-ism we came across was the fickleness of business hours. For example, the business hours of the adorable coffee shop called The Salty Fox where we got our daily coffee and tea, were only from 7am-2pm so if we wanted a latte at 6am or a chai tea at 3pm, we were out of luck! We also learned that there was nowhere on the island to rent a DVD and the only place that sells DVDs closes at 9pm. Let me also mention that when we did go to purchase a DVD the next day there were only about 2 dozen options to pick from. We also discovered one night, that the restaurant across from our apartment called Cynthia’s where we had a lovely breakfast on the back patio was closing early one evening because they hadn’t gotten a single customer for dinner and although they had posted business hours, the bakery beneath our apartment never opened even though we saw a baker inside.

There isn’t much to do on the island after 9pm. Things begin winding down around 10pm and it’s pretty quiet by 11pm as we witnessed the night we decided to walk over to the new brewery that also happened to be just one block away from our apartment. I did notice however that when we were dilly dallying over a piece of pie at the Cheesecake Café & Bakery despite their business hours ending at 9pm and it being 9pm, they weren’t trying to get us to leave, but when we noticed the time we did shake a leg to let them get out of there.

On the final day of our trip we decided to catch the first ferry out. This meant rising before the sun. It was dark, quiet and very still. I’m so glad we did this because we got to watch the sunrise as we said good bye to the San Juan Islands and journeyed back to Anacortes.

Once we got to Anacortes, we grabbed coffees from a cute place called Calico’s Cupboard then rented a car and set off for Seattle where we casually stalked Dave Matthews. I had pretty credible intel on where we could find him. We started by driving by what my intel told us was his house several times. There was a van out front with hoses leading into the home and the door was wide open. Assuming he was in town and may have gone out for coffee to allow the crews to do whatever they were doing, we went by the two coffee shops my source reported he frequents. We even parked near the supermarket she shops in but didn’t go in. We didn’t find him. Luckily it was around 10am by this time and we didn’t see it fit to drive by his daughter’s school. Had it been closer to 8am I worry that we may have crossed the line by jumping into bushes in a schoolyard to catch a glimpse of him during drop off. After a quick stop by the Public market, we were back on the road to the airport to head home.