Archives for December 2007


Seattle Favorites

Mary Jo at The Seattle Traveler listed her Seattle favorites for us, and it got me yearning for my former home. So, here are my Seattle area favorites.

Favorite special occasion restaurant: Yarrow Bay Grill. Simply the best food, service and view combination we found in Seattle.

Favorite casual restaurant: Serious Pie for Pizza.

Favorite fast food restaurant: Joe’s Gourmet Grilled Dogs. Sorry Mary Jo, a dog outside Safeco Field before a game beats Dick’s every time.

Favorite steakhouse: El Gaucho, Belltown. I’ll go with Mary Jo on this one.

Favorite seafood restaurant: Yarrow Bay Grill

Favorite ethnic restaurant: Blue Nile Restaurant for great (and cheap) Ethiopian food.

Blue Nile Combo #18

Favorite view restaurant: I agree with Mary Jo, Salty’s Alki has an unbeatable view.

Favorite out of town restaurant: Sip, Issaquah. Go on Wednesday for half price wine from their extensive cellars.

Favorite Hotel: We only ever stayed at the Marriott Residence Inn on Lake Union.

Favorite Museum: Museum of Flight, where I spent many lunch hours indulging my passion.

Favorite thing to do in Seattle on a sunny day: Take me out to the ball game, a $8 bleacher seat and then find a standing position behind home plate, priceless.

Favorite thing to do in Seattle on a rainy day: There are no rain delays for Mariners baseball, just close the roof and play ball.

Favorite drink after work bar: Cascadia Restaurant serves great drinks and fun bar food.

Favorite music venue: The Showbox lets you get up and personal with your favorite band.

Favorite touristy thing to do: A visit to Pike’s Place Market.

Favorite day trip from Seattle: The Summit at Snoqualmie to snowboard.

Favorite weekend trip from Seattle: Portland, Oregon


Around the World in an Amphibious Jeep – A Half Safe Adventure

All travellers have a round the world trip plan in their back pocket but the journey Australian Ben Carlin completed in 1958.

Ben modified an Amphibious Jeep by enclosing the cabin to provide rudimentary accommodation and adding a streamlined nose to smooth out the sea handling. Ben and his wife Elinore set out from Montreal, Canada in 1950 driving to the Atlantic coast then plunging into the ocean bound for North Africa and eventually reaching England. Find a copy of Ben’s book, Half-Safe: Across the Atlantic by Jeep, to read about this first leg.

Elinore left the venture in England but Ben pressed on with several different travel partners working with him over several years. He rolled into Montreal on 12 May 1958 to complete his unique circumnavigation of the planet. His vehicle, Half Safe, is proudly displayed at Ben’s High School, Guildford Grammar School in Victoria.

What is your plan for a round the world trip?

Would you consider repeating this epic journey?


Five Great Gifts for Travellers

What are you buying the travellers in your family this Holiday Season?

The choices can overwhelm the unwary shopper, so to help you I’ve created this short list of five great gift ideas to make any traveller happy this year.

  1. Rick Steves Travel BagRick Steves Convertible Carry-on Bag. A sturdy soft suitcase that converts into a great backpack to easily hump your bag from the train station to your hotel. It fits neatly into the overhead storage of most airliners, and its lightweight lets you cram in a few more luxury items for the trip. There are a number of compartments to separate your dainties, security pouch to store documents and with their holiday special you receive a set of packing cubes for free. There are back-to-basics and wheeled models to satisfy everyone’s one bag dreams.
  2. Archos WiFi 605 Portable Video. Pack light, it is my travel creed but I always needed a laptop to hold the hundreds of photos I take on a trip. It pulled double duty to check email or watch a video but mostly it is 4lbs extra to carry everywhere. The Archos 605WiFi handles all those tasks and light enough to fit in your day bag. (I reviewed the 604Wifi earlier this year.)
  3. Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Zoom Lens. For Canon dSLR owners, there is probably no better travel lens than the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Zoom. It meets all my criteria for a good travel lens but is at the high end of the price spectrum but well worth the expense if you can afford it.
  4. A Cook’s Tour, Anthony Bourdain. Anthony Bourdain’s first travel book (and Food Network TV series) ignited a strong desire in myself to go beyond the normal travel experience and try find the heart of each destination. Tony’s hyperbolic prose brings his experiences to life and he also provides some behind the scenes commentary on television work.
  5. Vacation Planning #9An Airline Ticket to Somewhere. What better gift for a traveller than travel, check out the current specials and pick a destination that they may not pick for themselves and buy a ticket (or two). Unexpected trips are often the best, so surprise someone this year.

Five Unbeatable Dining Experiences

Every destination offers varied and new dining experiences, some haute cuisine others bizarre local delicacies but all become priceless memories. These five restaurants captured my heart and shaped my palate, and I thoroughly recommend them all to you.

Zur Forelle – Ulm, Germany

The old centre of Ulm offers some of the finest food in Southern Germany, and Zur Forelle is our favorite sitting beside the Blau (Blue) River this cramped little restaurant serves traditional Schwäbische fare including the local egg noodles (Spätzle) and trout from the Blau. After completing our meal with strudel (cliché, perhaps but homemade and extraordinary) and coffee, we headed out into the night to stroll along the banks of the Danube. A magical night for my wife and me.


Dragon Temple Lane – Butterworth, Malaysia

A nondescript side street off Butterworth Road is home to a diverse array of Malaysian cuisine served by colorful locals. Taking an outside table, we order satays from the husband and wife team grilling chicken and beef strips on their small scrap iron hibachi. Sending someone to buy watermelon juice across the road, we order our fill of curries, rice and the local specialty chili crab from the restaurant providing our table. It is scene played out in makan areas throughout Malaysia, small specialty providers working together to give you a fantastic meal.

Robert et Louise – Paris, France

A small traditional French restaurant serving simple comfort food cooked over an open fire, Robert et Louise featured in an episode of No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain. Try the boudin noir (blood sausage) or côtes de boeuf (rib steaks) cooked over the open fire in the back of the restaurant for a great French bistro experience.

Bouchon – Las Vegas, USA

Bouchon at The Venetian, a reprise of Thomas Keller‘s Napa Valley bistro serves traditional French cuisine with a finesse that is unmatched anywhere. We worked our way through a magnificent array of French favorites, rich in everything that makes food worth eating. Keller takes the ordinary and makes it extraordinary without destroying the simple elegance of the food served to you. We arrived with high expectations that Keller’s staff exceeded to make the most memorable anniversary dinner of our marriage.

Cascadia Restaurant – Seattle, USA

The five o’clock queue surprised us but we found a nice corner of the bar to enjoy our burgers and Cascadia’s signature drink, the Alpine Martini. A small Douglas fir snowball bobbing in Absolut Citron vodka, slowly releasing its sweet goodness into the liquid for an evolving cocktail that tastes like Christmas trees.

Do Cascadia’s miniburgers live up to their Seattle> cult following hype?

We sampled four toppings; barbeque lobster, black truffle butter, blue cheese and green pepper salsa, and each gave the lean beef patties a unique flavor experience. You can also choose wild King salmon or veggie patties if beef is not on your forte. We loved them; the barbeque lobster is a decadent delight and the green chilis a burning sensation but I would pass on the black truffle butter in favor of Oregon blue cheese.