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Photo courtesy of Tom Dempsey.

Saturday, December 21

Alderbrook Resort: Profiled Destination

Alderbrook Resort - A Quick Getaway from Seattle

It's no wonder that while vacationing at Alderbrook, you'll find that among the area's neighbors are Bill Gates and other Microsofties. With its top notch accommodations in a pristine natural setting, an outdoor enthusiast playground, along with city amenities of a beautiful indoor atrium swimming pool and full spa, this two hour getaway gets you in the rest and recreation mood very quickly.

What I like best about Alderbrook is its natural setting. Equipped with the gorgeous views of the Olympic mountains and glacier waters, it's hard not to fall in love with this place. We came here during Spring break in April and was blessed with sporadic sun, typical of the Pacific Northwest. We were able to enjoy the views from the beach, as well as when we swam without crowds in the warm large indoor pool. With a full dock and water recreation at your finger tips, this resort is best enjoyed during the summer months. One can rent kayaks and board the Lady Alderbrook for a tour of the Hood Canal.

From Seattle, you board a ferry to take you to Alderbrook. The short 30 minute ferry ride is no-frills, so come with your own coffee, drinks and snacks. Nevertheless, it's an adventure whenever you take a ferry. Like some magical pixie dust, boarding a ferry seems to calm one's senses and takes you onto a journey mind set.

Alderbrook offers an on-site restaurant, and the lodge rooms do not come with a kitchen, so one just needs to pack the basic casual weekend wear, and some food and beverage to snack on. The drawback of one restaurant is simply one menu. As a family vacationing, a small kitchenette would have come in handy, for quick bites in between main meals in the dining room, and to save extensively, as their food outside the kids menu is a bit pricey.

The highlight of our Spring break was the fresh oysters caught within minutes, and barbequed on the lawns by the cottages. During the week, the staff has a complimentary oyster tasting in the early evening, under the canopied patio. My kids who see me savor oysters whenever I get a chance, was tempted to try them for the very first time. They loved this delicacy, especially as the chef just caught them on board her boat, and immediately placed them on the grill. The butter garlic dip was their favorite.

Wednesday, February 13

Dreaming of Infinity pools

The weather in Seattle has me dreaming of infinity pools, and getting away from the cold and gray. For starters, Seattle has the Four Seasons Hotel with its rooftop pool. But, if you're looking into exotic locales, some of the stunning venues include big cities of Hong Kong and Tokyo; the natural beauty of Utah; and the beaches of Maui and Cote d'Azur.

Aloha! A tranquil place to relax and swim is at the Four Season Resort Wailea in Maui, which is listed on the Best Hotel list on US News. Situated 53 feet above Wailea Bay, you'll be singing Pearly Shells in no time.
Photo courtesy of US News
Can you say Cote d'Azur? In English, it's the French Riviera. It seems anything French sound even more enticing and beautiful. This infinity pool has been dynamited off a cliff face, and overlooks the Mediterranean. 
Mix a bit of sushi and the latest Japanese trends, and slip into the city scape of the infinity pool of the Park Hyatt Tokyo. You'll also glimpse Mt. Fuji from the 47th floor of this pool. The movie 'Lost in Translation' was filmed at this hotel.
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Imagine you're on Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong, with piped in underwater music. You're at the 3rd floor pool of the InterContinental Hotel, viewing the grand skyline of Asia, alongside junks and ships.
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Take a pit stop from hiking, and dip in the Amangiri pool of south Utah. Overlooking the Giant Staircase Escelanti National Park, this infinity pool is open 24 hours a day. Amangiri translates to Peaceful Mountain, and being surrounded in this natural beauty will keep you at peace among your surroundings.
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Now that my visual vacation is at its end, I think this Seattlelite will check in at the Four Seasons Hotel, just steps away from the famous Pike Place Market. Dipped in the infinity pool, one can view Puget Sound, the frequent ferries, and the snow capped Olympic mountains.
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Wednesday, February 6

Victoria, BC: Profiled destination

Victoria, BC, is an easy Seattle getaway to see all things English. Since the Summer Olympics in London, our family has been enticed by all things English. We long for high tea, beautiful gardens, and hearing the charming English accent.
Waterfront view of Victoria. Courtesy of

For our New Year’s Eve family getaway, we headed to Victoria, located on Vancouver Island, the capital of Canada’s British Columbia province. From Seattle, our journey took 5 ½ hours by car and ferry. With the climate of Victoria similar to Seattle, our packing consisted of the same clothing we'd wear at home (translation: layers), with the addition of a swimsuit for the hotel swimming pool.

You’ll avoid the airport and all the security hassles, by taking the ferry from Seattle to cross Puget Sound, and driving to Port Angeles to catch another ferry to Victoria. A quicker option is flying on a seaplane. Both options give you a wonderful vantage point to see snow capped mountains over a serene water view.

You can choose to take your car on the ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria, or be a walk-on passenger, and lessen your carbon footprint. Victoria is a pedestrian friendly city, with many shops and restaurants near hotels and B&B's, that a car is not necessary.

Upon arriving in Victoria, we headed to the iconic Fairmont Empress Hotel for our high tea. We left our bags with the porter, as our room was not yet ready, as we arrived at 10am. We decided to walk around and discover the treasures of this historical hotel. We saw British royalty, along with Hollywood celebrities, in black and white portraits displayed throughout the hotel. During the holidays, many themed Christmas trees were on display as part of a fundraiser, along with a majestic two-story Christmas tree at the Empress lobby.

The high tea had a kid-friendly option of a “Princess” assortment of tea sandwiches and treats. The girls received a certificate verifying their princess status at the end of our tea session. The adult version was delectable. I especially liked the egg salad croissant sandwich and my all time favorite Earl Grey tea.

To get more "English" in our trip, we visited the tourist attraction of Butchart Gardens. Although many of the foliage were not in bloom, it was nevertheless a beautiful place to visit. When the sun went down, the elaborate display of lights throughout the massive gardens was impressive. In Seattle, we have the Bellevue Botanical Gardens, which is a quarter of the size, but, with comparable light displays. What made Butchart Gardens memorable were the themed Italian gardens and the indoor old-fashioned carousel, which I have not seen elsewhere.

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Although we didn’t hear the delightful English accent, we did hear the lovely Canadian accent. And, we sampled the wonderful cuisine that Victoria had to offer. At Il Terrazzo, we had an Italian prix-fixe meal. We were able to get the last seating available for a New Year's Eve dinner, thanks to the great service offered of the President's Club membership at the Fairmont. Not only did the restaurant have a very nice ambience, it scored #3 on Trip Advisor for Victoria's restaurants. We had a choice from 15+ entrees, and a very accommodating staff, who catered to our kids by offering a discounted menu, resulting in big savings for us, as the adult fee was $100 a plate. Our family enjoyed seeing other families dining with us.

We had a nice and carefree vacation before school resumed for the new year, feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, and fulfilled of our English attractions. It’s a good thing we have PBS’s Downton Abbey to sustain us until our next trip to Victoria.

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