About twenty years ago, we had a vacation in southern France. It is a beautiful part of the world to visit and a combination of great food and wine and some outstanding scenery. We were staying along the Lot river but a short drive away was the town of Rocamadour. This town is famous for being built on the side of a cliff. It is really a stunning location. As you approach it by road, you get a great view of the whole town arrayed up the side of the hill.
When you get in to the town, you can climb up to the top following a trail that pilgrims have made over the centuries. They did it in slow and laborious ways but we just walked, albeit slowly. When you get to the top, you can walk out on some ramparts that are pretty high and exposed. Not my idea of a fun place to be but I am not going to wuss out. If you find yourself in this part of France, so make the effort to visit. I would love to go again and this time I would take way more photos!
Drop over the North Cascades Highway and you come into Winthrop. This is the first significant town you come to after going through the passes and it is definitely picturesque. I had no idea what the town was so coming in to the center and seeing all of these western style buildings was quite a surprise. Time to park and go for a walk.
The old style of the town jars with the cars parked everywhere. However, while the cars would be better if they weren’t there, the town still has an old school feel to it. I wonder what their planning consent rules are in order to stop the place being transformed. Even the gas station fit in. It was old and the pumps were pretty old too – not as old as the town of course but still dated.
We wandered around the town and checked out the different shops, restaurants and bars. There was a brewpub that was really tempting to me but, since we were aiming to be back home by the end of the day, that was not going to be a good idea!
I have put together some posts of things we saw during our Whistler trip but not much of the town itself. It is a nice place to hang out. Like a lot of these winter sports resort towns, the center is predominantly restaurants/bars or places to buy clothing/sport gear. However, it isn’t a bad place despite that. The streets are laid out so nothing is too straight which means you feel like you are wandering around an old place, even if it is all relatively recently built.
There are water features and bridges, open spaces, sculptures and other forms of art. No shortage of people, too, even in the shoulder season when we were there. We found so great places to eat and some less inspiring ones. We actually went to a chain place one evening and it proved to be better than some of the supposedly nicer spots. Our favorite by far, though, was a bakery that had every conceivable thing you could want. They even had a cheese sandwich for toasting that looked like it would feed a family of four. We tried many of their treats but that one was left untouched, despite me giving it some serious consideration.
The route across the Cascades via Stevens Pass takes you right past a small town called Index. It is tucked in amongst the mountains and alongside the river so it is no shock to find it is a popular space for outdoor activities. The mountains provide plenty of climbing options including Index Wall. The river is good for rafting and kayaking.
The mountains around the town are the thing you can’t help but notice. There is an old hotel in the center which, judging by the signage on the outside, is targeting the outdoor adventurers. It has been there since the late 1800s so I imagine it has changed its clientele over the years. The railroad also runs through the town so I suspect it once used to have more railroad business.
The river was flowing well but not too high when we were there. It has some pretty substantial rocks in the river bed so the water must flow with some force – I suspect during the spring when the melt is coming off the mountains in volume. The bridge into the town across the river is a modern construction and is worthy of its own post so don’t be surprised when that shows up.
Nancy and I decided to have a day trip to Whidbey Island to do some exploring. We focused our trip on the small town of Langley. Located on the southeast side of the island and not far from the ferry terminal at Clinton, it is an easy place to get to. The town has a very relaxed feel to it. We were there outside peak season which, no doubt, helped but there were still plenty of visitors. Even so, the town had a laid-back feel and did not seem too busy.
We wandered around the shops, had a spot of lunch overlooking the water and checked out some of the older buildings and their history. We also saw some local entertainment but I shall save details of that for another time. On a sunny fall day, you couldn’t have asked for a nicer place to hang out and watch the world go by. When we had looked around the streets, there was still the shore to explore so a little stroll along the water’s edge wrapped up a great little visit.
After our trip to Roslyn, we decided to cut north towards Leavenworth. I had heard about this town before although I hadn’t researched it at all. It is famous for being in the style of a Bavarian town. All of the buildings are styled like a Bavarian building and the town takes the theme everywhere. Starbucks and McDonalds have their signs in a similar style!
While we were there, on a sunny summer’s day, the streets were busy and entertainment was being provided. Some dancers had just finished up when we arrived but a band was playing on the bandstand with the sort of oompah music you might have expected. They were pretty good too.
What I had not thought through is what sort of town this would be. I grew up in tourist areas and have lived in others since. I should have realized what the town would include. Every building does look German but inside they are either an eatery or they are selling the amazing quantities of crap that you only find in tourist traps. It was shop after shop full of rubbish. We very quickly realized that there wasn’t too much to see but there were large crowds of people to get through to not see anything. Time for a swift exit. There was the museum of nutcrackers but, since I find them a creepy looking item at the best of times, that was not going to be the place for me!
Carmel is close enough to us to be a nice day trip. We have been there a few times in the past. Previous vacations have taken us there and it is an easy add-on when going to Monterey or enjoying 17 Mile Drive. This was the first time in a while we went just to enjoy Carmel itself. Most of the time we were wandering around the shops or finding something good to eat. It was not a photo trip per se but I did have the camera with me so here are some shots of buildings that caught my interest while we were there.
Prior to visiting Truckee, I knew virtually nothing about it. I knew some people who had visited and liked it but I knew not much at all other than that it was a station on the railroad over the Sierras. It turns out to be a great little town. The main street provides a lot to see and do on a day out. The variety of buildings is interesting and there is a nice map you can pick up at the visitors’ center that explains the history of various places and the background to the town itself. It has gone through a number of phases as the economy of the area has developed.
The Truckee Hotel looks very cool. A colleague of mine stayed there a couple of years ago and had a great time. A gas station has been restored and used as office space but it looks just like an operational gas station still. The train depot includes the visitors’ center along with the Amtrak station. There are plenty of places to eat and a good selection of shops with arts, crafts and other items. We walked the length of the town and checked out the various buildings. The street runs alongside the river and there is some more on the other side although not as much to attract your attention. The town is not all though. There is more in the vicinity for another post. This would not be our only visit to the town on this trip either.
We took a short trip to San Luis Obispo while staying in Paso Robles. I didn’t know what to expect of the town other than that it is rated the happiest town in America (or some similar “statistic”). We got a map of the town from the visitor center and the first stop off was the mission. California is not short of mission buildings and I was expecting something similar to most. I was pretty surprised to discover that it was a pretty large area. The grounds were nicely landscaped and the buildings were extensive. It was far bigger than I had expected. I guess this was an important mission in its day.
A short distance away was the town museum. Originally a library funded under the program Andrew Carnegie created for providing libraries across the country, the library moved many years ago to a larger facility. After some debate, the building was re-purposed as a museum. It was a pretty interesting little place. My mum works with a local heritage organization in her town and I couldn’t help but imagine this place experiencing the same things she goes through on a regular basis. We took a look around, made our donation and headed out.
The town center itself is pretty vibrant. We started out in an area that was mainly populated by individual businesses. The whole thing felt very interesting and different. I was impressed. As we walked on, we came to the area that had all of the familiar chains. You knew that they couldn’t be far away. It did seem that the town had managed to avoid the homogeneity of many other towns though. It also had a river running through the heart of the area. Much effort had gone into designing nice pathways along the river and encouraging people to use it. This is a big improvement on so many small rivers in towns which seem like glorified drainage ditches.
It seems like a nice place to visit and something that would have enough to encourage me to return.
Cartmel is a small town at the south end of the Lake District. There is a food shop there that specializes in something Nancy wanted to take home which was why we were there in the first place. Of course, we had to take a look around while we were there. Apart from the center of the town and the Priory (of which more in another post), the town is particularly well known for having a race course. We weren’t there during a meet but we did park in an area that involved driving over the end of the race course itself.
As you walk across the track, so can see up to the starting locations and the finishing straight with the grandstand. The grass was in excellent condition. It appeared to be a course that included flat racing and hurdles although I have never been there during a meet so don’t know which type of racing is most common. Looking up the straight, you could imagine a bunch of horse thundering towards you with the crowds cheering and hoping for a big win.