Before I start on this post — let me make a big apology to Walla Walla lovers. I too love this place but I have gotten too casual about it (I go quite often) and so when I first wrote up this blog post, I really didn’t check my spelling, facts, etc. the way I would for most places. So, the result, predictably, was lots of errors. Fortunately, this site has keen observers and they have made corrections. I humbly put them in, grateful — and embarrassed.
My sentiments still stand…the names of inns and restaurants have been changed to their rightful spelling.
Very high on my list of romantic getaways is a wine country retreat. Most people have at least name recognition with the wine country of Napa Valley, Sonoma, Santa Rosa, and the contiguous valleys that go all the way up Humboldt county — but little Walla Walla is a jewel that is less known — but no less worthy.
This town is in the wine region of Washington state and is home to more than over 100 wineries, about 80 of which are open to the public either on weekends or by appointment. The quality of the wine is superb, the scenery is stunning, and there are fine restaurants and places to stay. Continue reading »
But this month I was invited to a birthday party up at the Summit restaurant on top of the Crystal slopes and I realized there were new possibilities for love on resting ski slopes.
First there was the ride up. With the snow gone and the mountain temporarily ungroomed by the careful padding of ski machines, the actual contours of the mountain are easier to see and quite beautiful. It is also an adrenaline rush as you feel yourself go up the mountain and have a better idea of how high up you are. It took us two different lifts to get to the top, and then we were greeted by one of the most beautiful views on earth: Mt. Rainier undraped, no clouds whatsoever. Moreover there was a 360 view — we could see Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood and Mt. Baker, all of them topped by glaciers. We were agog.
The Summit restaurant has a $79 gourmet meal but it couldn’t compete with the view. I am told they also have a very good brunch, but the view is what makes you hold hands, glad to be seeing this together. You might have gorgeous mountains you can visit during the summer too. I’m not sure they are as spectacular as this one, but if I were you, I’d go find out.
Washington’s San Juan Islands are about as romantic as you can get. They lie in Puget Sound and mark the boundary between the United States and Canada (just beyond them in Canada is an equally gorgeous group of islands called the Gulf Islands), and I was lucky enough to be there recently.
The islands get all the tourism they can handle, but if you take the ferry with your car and go on a weekday you can miss the weekend congestion. If you must go on a weekend and take the ferry from Anacortes (about an hour and a half from Seattle) or from British Columbia, prepare to wait in line a few hours. Locals know to get their car in line for the ferry early, spend time doing something else, and then have a friend drop them at their car before the ferry arrives. Continue reading »
Encouraged by the travel lecturer on board, we got up at 5:50 a.m. to look at the skyline of Istanbul as the ship made her way up the Bosporus to the Golden Horn. It was hazy out, but strengthened by reasonably good coffee and pastry we stared over the railing until the sun came up and the buildings became more visible.
It became quite beautiful — although while dawn on the Bosporus sounded like it would be high on my romantic index, there is something about standing among some two or three hundred red-eyed tourists that doesn’t exactly create an intimate moment. I did see a few couples holding hands — and one couple where a young woman watched the scenery go by in her partner’s arms — so there were romantic possibilities for people who were able to shut out the rest of the world and only see each other. Continue reading »
The next stop was Kusadasi, one of the most popular seaside resorts in Turkey and gateway to Ephesus, a world treasure, and a place I visited many years ago. I don’t remember seeing Kusadasi then but it is retail central, with an attractive harbor walk full of restaurants, jewelry and carpet shops. I gather, however, locals find it noisy and miss the far more humble fishing village it used to be.
We didn’t stay long. With a quite lovely and articulate guide to help us understand Ephesus we drove for about a half an hour to join the hordes at the ruins. Note to self: remember last time you were here? It was unbearably hot. New note to self: it was unbearably hot this time too. Pick new season next time.
Well, you might reasonably ask, if it was so ridiculously hot, and you’ve been there twice, why would you go again? The answer, oddly enough, is that even though we are talking about a city created by the ancient Romans, the place keeps changing. Continue reading »
We sailed to Turkey and I found the port at Bodrum to be a nice surprise. I hadn’t been to this city before and didn’t know what to expect. What I got was a luxury development, a town that increases tenfold in the good weather months (which is just about everything except January and February) and, because it is on the Turkish mainland, has become a destination resort for urban Turks and world travelers.
The port is about a seven euro (or 16 lira) ride from the center of the city. The road into town goes by what looks like a lovely hotel with a smashing view (Diamond of Bodrum), good looking apartments and condos, and settles down into a bustling, clean commercial center that is a short walk from the historic castle in the harbor.
Pulling into Rhodes is at first glance disappointing. The island has a big population, it’s the fourth largest Greek island, and the first thing one sees are big collections of condos and other modern buildings. This is kind of startling after Mykonos and Santorini have become your models for Greek islands.
However, as the boat turns to dock in the harbor abutting the medieval part of the city Rhodes Town comes into view, and it satisfies. The medieval fortress walls are impressive and the castle behind it is visible from the water. It’s “younger” than the ruins we have been seeing—and vaults us into visions of knights rather than Greek Gods. It’s actually refreshing to see a whole new kind of city. Continue reading »
There may be no equal to Santorini as a romantic destination. I looked forward to seeing this island most of all because of how breathtaking I thought it was when I sailed into the caldera fifteen years ago.
Sometimes my memory exaggerates places — but in this case, not a bit. Santorini, seen by sea, is totally compelling. By day, it looks at first like snow is dusting the mountain — by night, it is a mass of twinkling lights, and you half expect everyone to break into dance and song a la Mama Mia. Continue reading »
I had been having worse and worse sore throats and then finally it got intolerable. My voice was two octaves lower than normal, and while the Lauren Bacall effect had its charms, pain in swallowing and being unable to sleep did not. So early in the morning I went to the ship’s doctor, with, I have to admit, a little bit of attitude.
I don’t know why I expected the ship’s doctor to be primarily a “say ah, and take an aspirin“ kind of person—but I did. I am happy to say, I was very wrong. He gave me a thorough physical and did a blood test which he analyzed while I was still in the office. I left loaded with effective medicines—and a new respect for the Azamara’s medical program.
Then I was off to Mykonos—an island I had not visited before. The small island has become popular for its beaches and its liberal attitudes. I was surprised, for example, when the first postcard place we went into after getting off the tender had erotic gay and heterosexual postcards. Shows you how out of touch I can be. Everyone else knew that Mykonos is gay and sex friendly, and we found adequate proof of that when we went on a bus ride, and then a boat ride to Paradise Beach and several beaches past that. Continue reading »
This is a new stop for me — I had never heard about this part of the mainland, but it is an important area of the Peloponnesian Peninsula. The postcard entry for boats is seeing the Bouts island fortress — young by Greek standards, old by mine. The little island was built in the fifteenth century and has seen a lot of conflict in its day. Now it looks charming — a description I am sure would insult it’s builders. I gather that it was converted into a hotel for a while and then abandoned. It would make a fabulous place to stay.
We had coffee on our balcony and as far as romance goes — I would say do anything you can to get a balcony — and use it. Just sitting out there in the morning — taking in the view and taking time to get rid of the morning fuzzies — is centering. It helps that the coffee on the Quest is dark and delicious. Continue reading »