whirlwind weekends


The downside of working at Microsoft during my sabbatical is that I lost my summer vacation. I've gotten spoiled by the long summer break that comes with an academic job, and the opportunity it gives me to travel and relax with my family.

This summer we're trying to take advantage of the beautiful Pacific Northwest, but we're mostlly limited to weekend trips. Last weekend we went to Mount Rainier National Park, where we spent Saturday exploring the Sunrise area of the park, Saturday night at a lovely resort on Crystal Mountain, and Sunday driving to and hiking in the Paradise area of the park. It was a great way to spent a couple of days, but it would have been nice to have stayed longer. (Photos available on Flickr.)

This past weekend we did a package trip to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, through the Victoria Clipper company. (Photos on Flickr.) The package included round trip for the four of us between Seattle's waterfront and Friday Harbor, a 2.5 hour whale and sea-life watching trip, and a 1-bedroom suite at the Best Western. We booked it on Thursday of last week (when there were no hotel rooms to be found), and they were able to fit us in. The cost was a good bit higher than it would have been for us to have taken the Washington State ferry from Anacortes to Friday Harbor, and done the whale watching and hotel separately--but in this case, it was worth it because we were able to book at short notice.

The down side was having to get to the ship by 6:45am for check-in and boarding. The kids were tired and crabby, the lines were long, and the check-in process was incredibly inefficient. The boat was packed, and we couldn't find seats near a window, so our views were limited. (I tried going up onto the top deck, but at 25 knots on a cool morning, that's a pretty cold place to be. And it was packed, too.) All in all, it was far from a luxury cruise. There was limited food service--sandwich baskets, hot dogs, etc. We brought coolers with food and drink.

The whale watching wasn't as great as I'd hoped, either. We saw several whales from the 3 pods of orcas that inhabit the area, but they stayed pretty far away from the boat, and didn't surface much. The boys were tired and crabby from too many hours on the boat (7:45-11:30 for the trip there; 11:30 to 2:00 for the whale watching). That's where the issue of having only a weekend really rears its ugly head--we tried to cram too much into one day, and ended up with understandably unhappy kids.

Inside Serendipity Books Sunday was lovely, however. We slept in, then headed into town at around 11am. We ate at charming local restaurants where the service and food were both great, and did some shopping. Friday Harbor reminds me a lot of little coastal towns in New England, like Wellfleet on Cape Cod, and I loved being there. The kids found a toy store (Osito's) that had a great selection of items, and ended up buying some adorable stuffed animals and tiny "lucky pigs" as their souvenirs. I foundthe best used bookstore I've been to in ages--Serendipity. It's run by a retired school librarian, and both the selection and the ambience were wonderful. She's living my dream!

We got in line early for the boat ride back, so we got better seats, a booth near the window with a plug nearby for the kids' gameboys. And it was warmer, so going up top was more enjoyable.

All in all, two lovely weekends, with totally different views of the area. We enjoyed them both a lot--and I'm just sorry not to be able to take more leisurely vacations so we can explore these places more thoroughly.


Have enjoyed your blog for some time now ... from it I know you use a Canon A95. As I am in the market for a new camera, I wonder if you would recommend the A95. Have read many comments at camara sites where owners report it is very fragil. However, have noted no negative reporting by you.


Hi, Michael. I've had no problems with the A95. I love it! I'm not particular gentle with equipment, and have not encountered any problems with "fragility" in the A95.

I love the Seattle/Redmond area and that you can just drive in any direction for, say, two hours and there's something beautiful to see. I've a few friends who work at MS Research, though in the theory group, and I have to confess one of my favorite things about going to visit them is lunching in the cafeteria right next door to the Research building... The grilled salmon's been very good every time I've had it. Well - it's just generally a friendly place, I find.

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This page contains a single entry by Liz Lawley published on August 15, 2005 6:36 PM.

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