Portland, Oregon; San Francisco, California; Victoria, BC and Seattle,Washington. Wine tastings and a Seahawks Superbowl Victory. Ghosts and the Underground tours in Seattle. It’s been a fun start to 2014.

Well it’s been a fun start to the new year. Emma’s preparing for University and looking for where she wants to go, so trips to Portland and Seattle have been our first places to look at as possibilities.  So far we’ve been to Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon, Portland State in downtown Portland, Oregon and The University of Portland in North Portland.  In Washington we’ve been to Seattle University (Emma liked it here quite a bit) and Seattle Pacific University.

Between trips there I’ve been to San Francisco to visit with Steve and Laura (and Catherine who is celebrating a birthday with Laura) and to Victoria, BC to visit with my good friend Lewis, who is wrapping up a big environmental dredging project in one of Victorias harbours.  We’ve been on Ghost Tours and visited the Underbelly of Seattle and have just had fun in general.

We are so lucky to live on the left coast.  Perfectly situated for access to some of the best travel locations anywhere.  And, San Francisco happens to be one of my favorite cities.  I flew in to SFO, took the Air Train to the Bart and the Bart to the Powell Station in downtown San Francisco.

The Bart connection at SFO

In just a short easy to navigate 30 minutes, I was in the heart of San Francisco.  Why Seattle can’t get it together to have a light-rail system that operates as efficiently as the Bart is a mystery. But for anyone planning a visit to San Francisco and you don’t want to spend $50 for a cab, or $30 for a van that stops everywhere and could take up to a couple of hours, The Bart for $8 is the way to go.  Simple, easy, fast and convenient.  After arriving in San Francisco I walked to the Hotel Monaco http://www.monaco-sf.com/ where I met with Steve, Laura and Catherine.  This hotel, right next to Union Square, is awesome.  Great staff, nice and well appointed rooms, wine bar everyday and convenient to everything.  Catherine and Laura were celebrating a birthday and Steve and I were playing with new cameras and exploring the city.

Something we discovered that made our trip even more fun was a business called https://www.getaround.com/  With the app for this you can rent cars directly from their owners for more than reasonable rates.  We rented a 2004 Porsche for $8.50 an hour one day and a 2011 BMW 3 Series for $10.00 an hour on an other day.  We even saw older Honda Civics for as little as $4.50 an hour.  And it could not be easier to do.  

Steve with the BMW rental

Here’s Steve with the BMW.  It’s parked in an underground garage with in and out privileges so your free to come and go all day long.

Of course once we had a nice ride under us we had access to anywhere we wanted to go.  One of the first places we went was across the Golden Gate Bridge to photograph the bridge from the Marin County Headlands on the north and west side of the bridge.  Good luck was with us because a beautiful fog bank was rolling in along with some bright sun at our backs.  The views from this side of the bridge looking back at the city and Alcatraz are just stunning.  From there we drove in to Mill Valley for coffee and a late morning snack before driving back to the city.

The camera I brought with me was the Fuji X100s.  It was a rental from Lens Rentals http://www.lensrentals.com/ and I just can’t give this company higher praise.  Fast, awesome customer service, large selection and fair prices.  I’ve rented from them 4 times and have never been disappointed.    The Fuji X100s is one of the best cameras I have ever used and the image quality is magnificent.  This camera feels and operates like a photographers camera.  I’m hoping to have one of my own soon.

The Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin Headlands

On a disappointing note Steve and I learned that the famous Sam Wo’s restaurant in China Town is no longer open.  I’m glad to have had the opportunity on several occasions to squeeze through the kitchen and up the flight of steps to eat there.  It was a landmark.

In all the trip to San Francisco was way too short but a better time could not have been had even if it was longer.

The following weekend I found my way to Victoria, BC on the Coho’s ferry Black Ball out of Port Angeles, Washington.   Sometimes we get lucky here in the Pacific Northwest and have truly beautiful winter days.  This was one of them.

The Black Ball Ferry in Port Angeles, Washington

Another wonderful city to visit that’s easy to get to, has really great restaurants and lots of them, nice hotels a very lively night-life and good shopping is Victoria, BC. You’ll need a passport or enhanced drivers license and a trip through customs.  The Black Ball is $17.00us one way and the trip is about 90 minutes.  There’s food and a duty free shop on board and comfortable seating.

More photos of trips taken to Victoria, BC can be seen here; http://www.tomcollinsphotography.com/Travel/Victoria-BC/

Some more localized fun was happening right here in Gig Harbor, Wa and Seattle.  Some friends of friends have recently opened a Winery in Belfair, Wa called The Mosquito Fleet Winery. We were invited to a tasting and we were not disappointed.  Great wine, good food and wonderful friends.

L to R; Jaycee the Winery owner; Stacey and Joe Marten

And to bring it all current, last weekend we went to Seattle for a tour we have heard about often but have never done and now are glad we did.  The Seattle Underground tour was fascinating and highly recommended.  Really interesting history about how that city was built.  The other tour was Spooked in Seattle.  Ehhh, not so much fun but if you’re in to ghost stories it might be.

Finally, in the midst of it all the fabulous Seattle Seahawks won the Superbowl.  Perfect way to round it all out.

Thanks for reading.

Tom