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Thread: West coast travel

  1. #1
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    West coast travel

    I'm about to embark on an 8 day driving tour of the west coast starting in Tijuana, Mexico and ending up in Vancouver/Victoria BC; planning to travel mostly along the Pacific Coast Highway.

    Anyone have any cool favorite scenic sites/bars/hotels they would recommend along this route? Not much for "touristy"/guided tour stuff so if it doesn't involve lines, tickets or a frumpy person in a bus talking on a speaker, all the better.
    A Bachelor fan til it dies a slow death and oddly enough, A Rock of Love fan...finest hair extensions from Europe and all. ;-)

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    giz
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    Well, as it happens I do. In Vancouver we stay at the Sylvia in English Bay. It is old, and not magazine pretty, but it has a great atmosphere, the views are incredible (!!), the location is great, and the rooms have kitchens so you can make your own food if so inclined. (Make sure you book a room with a view if you like the sound of the place, you don't want to be facing toward Denman!) A kid's book was written about The Sylvia, "Mister Got to Go". In Victoria I've only stayed at the Craigmyle Bed and Breakfast Inn. It's an old house (huge) in the Rocklands, very pretty. I would recommend staying in the Rocklands, versus say James Bay, as James Bay is quite busy. But maybe you like that sort of thing. Both districts are close to town, but the Rocklands is very quiet. There are a ton of "b and b's" (called that, but really Inns) in old heritage houses. The rates are good at this time of year.

    Victoria's pretty bad for the tourist traps but there are great things to see for free or almost free. A walk along the cliffs at Beacon Hill - on a good day you can right across the water to the Olympic Mountains. Chinatown is cool (lunchspot there: Bean Around the World, great grilled cheese and soup), as is upper Fort St. You can wander around the Empress for free, it's lovely. The provincial museum is not free, but it's good, especially the Aboriginal section and the Old Town.

    Eating: Stay away from the Blethering Place, my god it's awful. Total tourist trap, awful tea, awful scones. Oak Bay Village, where it's situated is nice though, albeit crowded. Real though, neighbourhood place. For an expensive meal (if there's two of you) The Marina in Oak Bay is great, amazing view. For a good meal, really reasonable, tons of atmosphere, I can't recommend Pagliacchi's highly enough. I've been going there for over 20 and it has never disappointed. There are queues every night for a reason! It's on Broad St., right in the heart of downtown. There's a lot of great sushi, and some good Vietnamese. For a quick lunch I go to The Noodle Box (Fisgard, Chinatown), Bean Around the World (Fisgard, Chinatown) or Rebar (Bastion Square). Rebar is very slow, so go before your appetite develops. Great veggie food, but the service drives me nuts. Munro's on Fort is a great bookstore, but many of the other shops on Government you have to be careful with as they are tourist priced!

    Vancouver eating is also amazing. Jewish, Thai, Native Indian, it's got everything. For something different I'd try the Quillicum on Davie, it's traditional (Westcoast) Indian food, only one west of Toronto! (Haven't been for a few years, sadly, but last time I checked it was there).

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    I'm afraid I can't offer much in the way of places to go since it's been awhile for me, but I just wanted to share my experience. My family took a driving trip in an RV from San Diego to Canada when I was in 2nd grade (about 25 years ago). We took 2 weeks, drove up through California, Oregon, and Washington to Vancouver/Victoria, then went over to Banff, and back down through Idaho and Nevada. It was the most memorable vacation of my life. I remember visiting Lake Louise and the glacier. I know the glacier is a touristy thing to do, but it is so immense, especially to a 7-year old that hadn't seen a lot of snow. I also remember parking on a street in Chinatown, where we did some laundry and got a bite to eat. In California, we visited Mt. Shasta and the hot springs. In Idaho, we visited the state capitol building, where my sister slid down the marble stairs in a wrap dress!

    Anyway, hope your vacation is as memorable as mine!

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    know you don't want to hear of any tourist traps, but I absolutely loved Hearst Castle, though I was 15 when I was there, an age not renowned for its good taste. If I recall correctly (this was thirty years ago, after all), the setting was amazing - on top of a large hill overlooking the Pacific with wildlife roaming all about. The history and tales of the place are really interesting and the decor is really conversation-worthy. I would have taken Mr. Rattus there while we were on our honeymoon, but he was in a hurry to get to Haight-Ashbury.
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    Off the 101 in Buellton are two fantastic restaurants: The Hitching Post (it was featured in the movie "Sideways") and A.J. Spurs. Just a few miles east off the 101 from there is a Danish tourist town called Solvang. It's kitschy, but good for Christmas ornaments this time of year.

    I wouldn't bother taking the 1 through Lompoc or Santa Maria, but after San Luis Obispo it's worth taking for Morro Bay and Big Sur. In San Luis Obispo, the Madonna Inn is a funky place to stay, but I don't recommend eating there. There's this incredible Thai place just off the freeway on the east side called Thai-rrific - just incredible food. Before you get to Big Sur you pass through Cambria where Hearst Castle is - an amazing place to visit (but no kids, they have an age minimum, so check it out first). Another place to consider staying for the night is the lodge in the Big Sur state park. It's rustic, comfortable, and you're in the state park with the lovely trees and the Big Sur river.

    Monterey has the Aquarium, Cannery Row (touristy shops), some incredible beaches to walk along (too cold to swim this time of year). If you can avoid it, don't eat in Cannery Row. They do things like advertise "fish & chips" and you pay $10 for one tiny piece of fish and five fries. There's some nice restaurants in Pacific Grove, right next to Monterey but more on the peninsula. The views of the ocean from PG can't be beat.
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    If you stop in Portland, you should definitely check out the Heathman hotel. The area along the river is pretty cool too. If you are up for a little side trip, drive the old Scenic Highway in the Columbia Gorge. It was a Depression era WPA project and the scenery is beautiful. In fact, the whole Gorge is great. Ummm, and you know you have to stop in Seattle.

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    Thanks everyone! Great tips! It's nice to get experienced feedback so you avoid the temptation of doing something that ends up as a waste of time.

    A lot of what you all have described sounds right up our alley.

    Sidenote:

    Hep-funny you mention the Madonna Inn...we were actually planning to stay there if they had space available on whatever day we end up around there. A friend of mine said the same thing you did. That's my kind of place!
    A Bachelor fan til it dies a slow death and oddly enough, A Rock of Love fan...finest hair extensions from Europe and all. ;-)

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    giz
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    If you like books, Portland's your place. I get most of my books (online) through Powell's and they have stores all over Portland. I remember as a kid going to the Haystacks on the Oregon coast, they were really cool. We always went to Bellingham in Washington, and I loved it, but that might be nostalgia. It smells of pulp mills, and I love that.

    I'm a real foodie, so I love Granville Island in Vancouver. It's a recovered industrial area, with fruit and veg, bakeries, fresh juice, bookstores, and a food court that has all independants and amazing food. Also street performers, and high end restaurants. Parking's hell, but worth it. I was suprised at how much I loved the Vancouver Aquarium. We went for the kids, but I loved it too, especially the otters in love. You can take a water taxi from Granville Island around the harbour, which is fun. I wouldn't bother with Science World, it looks very cool from the outside, but is expensive and so-whatish inside.

  9. #9
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    hepcat, every place you recommended are places I would also recommend. I love Solvang! It's shades of "Funny Farm", don't you think? A.J. Spurs, although alittle too pricey in my opinion, is a great place to eat. The Madonna Inn is a must see.

    Igotalife, that's alot to cover in eight days. When you get to San Francisco, just across the Golden Gate bridge heading North, take the exit to Saucelito, the little town before Mill Valley. It's worth checking out, though it can be crowded. Best wishes for a safe and wonderful trip. I look forward to hearing all about it.

    p.s. I can't remember what State it's in, but there is a coastal town named "Cedar City"...that is a beautiful place. I'm thinking Oregon, but it might be Washington. Have fun!
    "...Mr. Bluebird on my shoulder..."

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    There's nothing quite like the original Powell's. It's either the largest or the second largest bookstore in the country. I spent many a weekend afternoon there in my youth.

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