This Time Last Year – Part 31: Into Canada

Part of a series of posts that cover my travel to Greece and the USA in April/May 2016.

May 15 2016 – Vancouver, Canada

My motel in Bellingham has a free shuttle to the airport. Today I am the only taker and my shuttle is a taxi. I’m taking the Seattle to Vancouver ‘Quick Shuttle’ bus that stops at the airport. The guy in front of me plays pokies on his cell phone, holding it up at his eye level and right in my line of sight. So banal. Perhaps he will get bored and put it away. Or maybe customs will take it off him. We cross the border at Peach Arch. Continue reading

This Time Last Year – Part 30: Catching up with family in Bellingham

Part of a series of posts that cover my travel to Greece and the USA in April/May 2016.

May 14 2016 – Bellingham, Washington, USA

I say my farewells to Bob and Jenise at Bellingham Airport where they are catching a flight and where my nephew David (Neil’s sister’s son) is picking me up. The last time I saw David, his wife Beth, and their adorable twins, was in April 2015 when they came to visit Neil just before they left New Zealand to live here in Bellingham where Beth grew up. The twins now have a beautiful wee sister. Continue reading

This Time Last Year – Part 29: My last night in Birch Bay

Part of a series of posts that cover my travel to Greece and the USA in April/May 2016.

May 13 2016 – Birch Bay, Washington, USA

It’s my last night with  Bob and Jenise in Birch Bay. I have given them wine. Now they are giving me wine – Washington wine – to swaddle like a baby in my clothes in my travel bag to take back home.

There’s a bottle of Savage Grace Wines Celilo Vineyard Columbia Gorge Chardonnay 2014 and a bottle of the Bevan Cellars Dry Stack Vineyard Bennnet Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2013 – the same producer of the complex ‘alternative style’ sauvignon blanc we had at The Willows Inn the previous night and was a match made in heaven with the wild herbs and mustard greens. When it was opened Jenise had said, “Wait til you try this. It’s so different and exciting.” But to me it was so familiar. It could have been from New Zealand. “I’m glad I not tasting this blind as I’d never guess Washington,” I said. Continue reading

This Time Last Year – Part 28: A trip to Mt Baker

Part of a series of posts that cover my travel to Greece and the USA in April/May 2016.

May 13 2016 – Birch Bay, Washington, USA

Today we are going to Mt Baker, the northern-most American volcano in the Cascades Volcanic Arc which extends into Canada. Mt Baker dominates the landscape looking east from Bob & Jenise’s home in Birch Bay. When Neil and I were there in August 2013 the full moon set the mountain aglow.

Full Moon over Mt Baker, August 20 2013

Continue reading

This Time Last Year – Part 27: Dinner at Willows Inn on Lummi Island

Part of a series of posts that cover my travel to Greece and the USA in April/May 2016.

May 12 2016 – Birch Bay, Washington, USA

I received an email from Jenise while I was in Greece: “…we’re taking you for dinner … to Willows Inn on Lummi Island. It’s one of the hardest reservations to get in North America.” She had rung on the off-chance and it must have been fate as there had just been a cancellation.

We travel by ferry to the island for our umpteen course degustation meal. Chef Blaine Wetzell sources all the ingredients from the island or the sea surrounding it. Hence the protein is entirely maritime sourced. The menu is not revealed until the end of the evening but every beautifully presented course is described in detail by whoever serves it, Blaine, or one of his sous-chefs or perhaps one of the sommeliers. It’s very well done. Continue reading

This Time Last Year – Part 26: Food & Wine in Bellingham

Part of a series of posts that cover my travel to Greece and the USA in April/May 2016.

May 12 2016 – Birch Bay, Washington, USA

Jenise has to go into Bellingham. It’s approximately 25-mile drive each way but quick once we’re on the Freeway. She has a couple of chores to do then we’re going to visit the new Whole Foods Market store that opened in the Lakeway Centre yesterday.

I’ve never seen anything like it. I’m like a kid in a candy store and salivate at the amazing produce that you can buy here. Fiddlehead Ferns from BC – what we call ‘pikopiko’ in NZ; Ramps (wild baby leeks) from Wisconsin; almost every variety of mushroom you can think of; fruit packaged and ready to go; seafood of every description; a ginormous selection of freshly ground coffee beans that you can sniff and see if the bouquet takes your fancy; and even a section for ready cooked take home meals. It’s so exciting.

Fiddlehead Fern Heads, aka ‘Pikopiko’ in NZ.

Continue reading

This Time Last Year – Part 25: Birds at Birch Bay

Part of a series of posts that cover my travel to Greece and the USA in April/May 2016.

May 12 2016 – Birch Bay, Washington, USA

It’s an incredibly still calm morning at Birch Bay. Yesterday gulls were roosting on a gravel bank exposed by the tide. There’s no gravel bank this morning but there’s something else out there.

Still calm morning at Birch Bay

Birds. Lots and lots of birds. They look like an abandoned raft. I have a kind of haiku moment. Continue reading

This Time Last Year – Part 24: A Lazy Day in Birch Bay

Part of a series of posts that cover my travel to Greece and the USA in April/May 2016.

May 11 2016 – Birch Bay, Washington, USA

A quiet lazy grazing day eventuates. I’ve got washing to do, we’ve all got emails to catch up on. There’s a bit of a lie-in zizz.

Lunch is on the patio. Did I mention Jenise is a home cook extraordinaire? Taste and presentation every time.

Prawns and Asparagus for lunch

Continue reading

This Time Last Year – Part 23: A wine tasting in Bellingham

Part of a series of posts that cover my travel to Greece and the USA in April/May 2016.

May 10 2016 – LA to Birch Bay

I am flying Alaska Air on a 737 to Seattle and a prop plane to Bellingham in Washington State in America’s north west. I am not charged for my luggage as I’ve come off an international flight – even though that was yesterday. I am expressed through security. My port side window seat has leg room and I can fold down my tray and read a magazine without reclining. But I’m not reading because the view out the window is commanding my attention. The flight is following the arc of the Cascade Volcanoes and I am on the lookout for Mt St Helens but there are so many volcanic cones with even some Ngauruhoe and Taranaki lookalikes from the air. The easiest volcano to pick out, however, is Oregon’s Crater Lake. Continue reading

This Time Last Year – Part 22: Across the Ocean once again

Part of a series of posts that cover my travel to Greece and the USA in April/May 2016.

May 9 2016 – Athens to LA 

I’m up early, eat breakfast in my room and am ready for a 7:15am departure from the B&B. I’m leaving behind blue skies, my heart, and the remainder of the Dogmatikos wine.

Bougainvillea forms an arch over the gate to St Thomas B & B.

I’m feeling so very sad to be leaving Greece. I have so enjoyed my trip even though for much of it I have been travelling alone. Meeting Tom and Rowena in Athens, the historians in Kalamata, and the welcome and hospitality of Theodora in Corinth, Marian and Sissy in Athens and Alexandra in Thessaloniki made this trip so very extra special. I loved staying at St Thomas B&B and the geology tour with Vasilis was right up my alley. Late April / early May is a perfect time in Greece, weather-wise, for me. In 2013 we had gone in July and I wilted in the 40 degree plus heat. I pledge to myself that next time I visit it will be in Autumn when the grapes are ready for harvest and the figs are ripe for eating. Continue reading