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Mick & Jaclyn had travelled before with us on Route 66 and we helped them plan this trip in great detail, quite a way in advance, they counted off the days until they hit the road again! Here they told us about their latest adventures on the 'Pacific Highway' and sent some of Mick's amazing photos!
" Thank you for your organisational skills, your knowledge and every detail of what was a truly fabulous holiday experience. We gave you the outline of an idea and you took it and created a proposal. You tailored it to our needs and budget and made suggestions based on your knowledge of the areas. There are too many highlights to list – overall the holiday met and exceeded our expectations!
In Seattle, The Hotel Inn At Virginia Mason was at the top of a very steep hill. Its decor was quite dated but the staff completely made up for it in helpfulness. Booking taxis, advising how long to get to places, provided a quick meal at short notice. Value for money. Huge room. Marshmallow bed... lovely! We were told it would probably be wet and raining, but luckily it wasn't for our stay. The city itself is easily accessible by a very nice train link from the SeaTac to downtown. It is much hillier than we expected. Nothing can quite prepare you for the steepness of Spring Street which was where the hotel was. The Space Needle and the park surrounding it was a 30 minute walk. The Space Needle is a "must-do", really interesting and has some very cool 3D-effect links which you download an App to your phone and use on the observation deck. They produce 3D images which you can see on the App on your phone - a really fun thing to do. We bought the dual visit ticket so we could go back after dark as the city is alive with lights and colour. We also had a meal at the restaurant. Not the cheapest menu by a long way (min spend is $35 each) but well worth it for a sunset view of the city and across the bay. Pike Place Market area is another recommended outing. Lots of places to eat the speciality Chowder - we can recommend Pike Place Chowder on Post Passage. Their taster menu was amazing and good value. Also recommended was Bakeshop Espresso ice-creamery parlour where we sampled the Red Velvet Cake Icecream... yummy! The whole city was easy to navigate and we used the monorail link to the Space Needle which was neat and gave an added dimension to city views.
Ferry to Bainbridge Island - was easy to book and we only just had time for breakfast before docking! We then spent the day driving around the top of the Olympic park visiting, to name a few, Port Angeles, Snug Harbour, Beaver, and Forks before a short detour to Rialto Beach and then inland to the Hoh Rain Forest before arriving at Kalaloch Lodge. Kalaloch Lodge - The Hotel and Beach Area we had an upstairs apartment in the Bunk House. Parking was right outside. We had a large balcony with a sea view. The other accommodation was we presumed for those staying more than one night as they were log cabins with fires and individual patio/garden areas. The place was really hospitable. & fabulous beach. Viewing area for the sunset (we didn't actually get one the night we were there it was overcast!) The meal in the hotel itself was very nice and the next morning they opened the gift shop specially for us as we were leaving before its official opening.
Down the Oregon coast to Days Inn - Newport motel style apartment upstairs - breakfast was in the reception area and had to be taken back to your apartment to eat... bit weird - quite basic, adequate for a overnight. Inn at Face Rock in Bandon was motel style - ground floor but a world of difference from Newport! Fantastic room... his and hers bathroom and across the road a trail to the beach. Spent a fab time down there doing some sunset photography. Brilliant breakfast room with lovely staff who made recommendations for things to see during our journey south.
Days Inn - Eureka was the most BROWN hotel we have ever stayed in! EVERYTHING was brown... carpets... curtains... Shower Curtain and the lift! You did get 10% discount voucher to use at the local Denny's restaurant. And believe me there wasn't much in Eureka to savour! We ate at Denny's and left early in the morning. The only time on the trip we felt uneasy. There were a number of homeless people some openly using syringes!
Seabird Lodge at Fort Bragg there was a lovely man on reception - made you feel really welcome on arrival. Room was again motel style, upstairs. Breakfast was HOMEMADE muffins and orange juice. Quality Inn - Merced Not the best looking hotel from the outside and next to a railway! BUT had a lovely swimming pool and jacuzzi which was a welcome relief after a long and dusty drive across state. Hotel Abrego in Monterey was a lovely hotel - huge room - the entire top corner of the building! Very helpful staff. From there we took time to visit nearby Carmel as well as Monterey.
Days Inn - Lombard Street - San Francisco Ideal location - very basic. Luckily we didn't have the car anymore as parking was on a first-come basis and it was always full! The hop on hop off bus which was booked as part of the Alcatraz trip was brilliant value for money and highly recommended. The couriers were always entertaining and you found out things you would never have known about San Francisco. Including finding Yoda in the Pressidio - who knew!! San Francisco was busy traffic wise and probably because we had just enjoyed the past few days driving the 101 at our leisure and stopping and starting as we saw fit - it was just as well to see it by bus. The normal bus routes were good too and we obviously had to do the tram! SF is entirely walkable too or you could rent a bike. There is lots to do in SF most of which you already know and recommend. The trip to Alcatraz is a definite must do, the audio guide tour was amazing, telling you all about the prison as you walk around the different area, interspersed with monologues from actual guards & inmates.
HAWAII Big Island Retreat - Kona (Big Island) My first impression was that I had expected a resort type hotel - but what we got was just like something out of a movie set! An old colonial style house with outbuildings set into the hill overlooking the coast. You couldn't actually see the sea as there were palms in the way but you could hear it as you sat on the terrace in the evening. Huge four poster bed... great big fan in the vaulted ceiling. Small kitchen area and a tiny bathroom neither of which detracted from the sense of being somewhere special. It was as unique as the island. We loved Big Island. We loved Kona... enough of a town to walk around but not big enough to put you off. Even though the Iron Man championships were building up for their big event! We would definitely check the date of that before booking as if you had been staying in Kona itself it would have been a complete pain! People in Lycra, bikes and heat monitors! Most peculiar! There is so much we could sing the praises of on Big Island but our main praise would be for our tour driver Jim Carey from Kailani tours. What a brilliant day we had out with him. His local knowledge and story telling made what could have been a rather wet trip to a volcano into an enthralling experience for the whole party and we aged from 8 to 80! We visited waterfalls... trekked lava tubes.... collected gifts and offerings for the Goddess Pele, saw the volcano in the daylight and returned again later for the "glow" and ended the evening with a lovely meal with a bunch of people who had turned into friends. A totally brilliant full on day out. Got picked up at 10am got home at almost midnight!
The Manta Ray evening was just superb (even though one of us did lose their tea on the return trip!) I had been anxious about being in the water in the dark but need not have worried. The staff were brilliant and kept the group under good observation. I don't think anything can prepare you for the stunning show of the manta rays... so majestic it was like watching a ballet underwater. Just breathtaking and such a memorable event. The other day out to the waterfalls was again a full on day of trekking and photography. Highly recommended. Although I don't think we realised just how wet Hilo side of Big Island would be!
AquaBamboo - Waikiki Beach (Honolulu) Nice hotel - not too big - swimming pool and patio area with nice gardens in the heart of quite a built up area. Waikiki was not what had expected... it was "America by the Sea" nothing much about it was Hawaiian. Apart from the lovely beach! Which is sadly so close to all the high-rise towers of the likes of the Hilton. There is a lot of places to eat in the evening compared to Kona/Big Island. We obviously wanted to visit for the Pearl Harbour experience - which is highly recommended and most movingly presented. A whole day out. I personally learnt a lot about that aspect of the war that I had only known from the movies. It was very interesting. The Polynesian Cultural Centre is such a fun day out. Its run by such enthusiastic young people and there is so much to see and do all day long. Finished off with a Lu'au dinner experience. Not to be missed. The linking of the Hawaiian people and their culture with the other polynesian countries is most interesting and there is lots of hands on things to do. So of course this was our opportunity to do the " Hawaii Five-O"bit had to paddle a canoe! (Cue music!!)
We had issues using our mobile phones which was most annoying especially as we had been into the shop and were assured they would work! We were so lucky to have a host like Gigi at the Big Island Retreat.. who linked us to Whatsapp on arrival so we could keep in contact with her, and tell her when we were expected back at the residence etc. She also very kindly did calls to Oahu to confirm our bookings for the trips organised there. She certainly made us feel welcome and looked after. We can't really chose a "best bit" and we do think of the holiday in separate segments... the Pacific Highway drive, the Big Island Experience and Oahu … A dollar for each time we rounded a corner on the PCH Washington/Oregon section and said “Wow”… it became a habit we just couldn’t stop! Trees… if anyone ever tells you trees are green and have a trunk… tell them to drive the Avenue of Giants! There were Chandelier trees… there were trees to drive through.. There were so many breathtaking moments, so many moments when we just stood in awe of the beauty of the world. The City stays broke the holiday into sections and we always enjoy a city-exploration… then there was Hawaii… I could wax lyrical about Hawaii Big Island for a lifetime, so after originally telling ourselves this was a one-off experience... we are now both considering a return to Big Island before we are too old to enjoy it!..... I’ve just got to add my bit to this holiday (Mick), in so far as our visit to Castle Air Museum in Atwater, a fantastic aviation museum, which i was looking forward to visiting. There was 63 different Aircraft on show, many that you wouldn’t see in UK museums, but they did have a Vulcan !! I had taken with me a few items (Patches & Pin Badges) from our Vulcan club to give to them. I spoke with the Curator, Tony Rocha & gave him the items, He was well pleased & took us to the Vulcan & even opened her up for us. I happily spent the next fews hours wandering around taking pictures & chatting to some of the volunteers. Castle Air Base is named after Brigadier Frederick W. Castle, as well as a varied Air Force career he was one of the 8 officers to accompany Major General Ira Eaker to England to form the 8th Air Force. In the indoor museum amongst the many wartime & aviation memorabilia, there is mention of Lavenham & Bury St Edmunds (Suffolk UK!), so being so far from home we had links back. As Jaclyn has already mentioned the Pearl Harbour trip was a excellent experience & the visit to the USS Arizona memorial was very moving, the ship is still losing oil !! Also included is the USS Missouri, famous for the signing of the Japanese surrender. You also get to go inside the USS Bowfin submarine, (which you don’t want to if you suffer from claustrophobia), but a very interesting insight as to what it was like on board. Finally you have the Pacific Aviation Museum, 2 hangers, one having an array of aircraft on display, the other depicting dioramas of some of the actions that took place around the Pacific. I did have one more Air Museum that we came across by chance while travelling down the PCH, at a place called Tillamook this was a World War Two Naval Air Station which of course we diverted into. Not as big as Castle but still an interesting place, as this was a Airship base during the war & the hanger (only one left) was similar inside to our one at RAF Cardington. So I had my fill of Aviation & Wartime experiences on this holiday.
Overall the holiday was just amazing. It was everything we hoped it would be and some. When we book a holiday with you, the holiday is always the finale to having spent time planning and getting everything organised, which you do with such professionalism and care. Which we appreciate. Thank you for answering our questions about flights etc while we were away."
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