Incredible day whale watching on a boat out of Edmonds, Washington

Humpback whale tail

One of the many great opportunities afforded us while cat and housesitting in Edmonds, Washington, is the chance to observe the local marine life. Taking it a step further, Edmonds also hosts the only whale watching boat service in the Seattle area that runs through December, Puget Sound Express. Being whale enthusiasts, we made an outing with Puget Sound Express a top priority when we arrived for our 5-week housesit in Edmonds. With the luxury of being able to walk to the marina where PSE’s two whale watching boats moor, we watched the weather forecast and booked the first sunny, calm day. We chose a weekday hoping for a smaller crowd and had no problem booking a couple of days before, probably because mid-October is off-season. read more

Edmonds, Washington: A Pacific Northwest Charmer

Downtown Edmonds in the Bowl: corner of 5th Avenue and Main Street

As I mentioned in my last post, we’re spending five weeks cat and housesitting in Edmonds, Washington, a beautiful little town on Puget Sound just north of Seattle. Since our arrival in Seattle in late September, we’ve been blessed with one of the most spectacular autumns imaginable. The trees are on fire in shades ranging from bright yellow to deep burgundy and the skies have been unseasonably clear. We’ve been told Edmonds can get crowded in the summer–and no wonder, it’s got lots to offer in the way of charm, but it’s been delightfully crowd-free during our stay save for a blow-out, family-friendly Halloween street party. read more

Continuing Adventures in Pet and Housesitting

This sweet old girl patiently let me interrupt our walk to pose her with flowers. The autumn colors were just so gorgeous!

It’s been a while since I posted about pet and housesitting, but we’ve done quite a few since then (many repeats to much-loved Antwerp, Belgium) and we’re back at it, in Washington State this time. After spending two weeks in the Leschi/Mt. Baker area of Seattle proper caring for a sweet old Australian shepherd mix, we’re now weeks into a five-week cat-sitting stay in Edmonds, a charming waterfront community about 30 minutes north of downtown Seattle. We’re still trying to decide on where to settle long-term and Seattle and environs is an area we wanted to check out. It’s been a great stay and, as always, housesitting provides so much more insight into what day-to-day life in a place is like than some short vacation in a hotel or AirBnB. read more

“Graffiti Park” at Castle Hill: Keeping Austin Weird…at least through June

Castle Hill, topped with the old Texas Military Institute (TMI) “castle” has been around since 1870. “Grafitti Park” below it, though, is a 2011 South By Southwest (SXSW) art exhibit that has obviously been wildly popular. Visitors are invited to bring their own spray paint and paint away. Even though David and I both went to law school in Austin, we were surprised and intrigued to stumble across the graffiti-covered park while looking for a parking spot the past Friday near favorite restaurant Wink. With the sun sinking low, lots of people clambered over the brightly painted walls. read more

Mt. Rushmore, the Badlands & Devil’s Tower: Wait for Autumn Bargains

Mt. Rushmore. The flags of all 50 states line the main approach (see below), but I couldn’t resist this Texas flag view.

Mt. Rushmore should be on every American’s bucket list, and judging by the crowds and prices every summer, it probably is. If you can wait till fall, though, you’ll find the crowds gone and hotel prices much more reasonable. My husband and I did just that, waiting until the third week in October. Yes, the Flintstone Village was closed as was the faux Independence Hall and some mining-themed amusement parks, but we didn’t miss them at all. The Mt. Rushmore National Memorial was open, as was the Badlands National Park, Custer State Park (including Needles Highway), and Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. We stayed at K Bar S Lodge an terrific, rustic-but-lovely hotel just outside of Keystone, South Dakota, 30 minutes from the Rapid City Airport, where we could see Mt. Rushmore in the distance and hike a nearby abandoned mine. Yes, it was chilly at night and, yes, we risked things like Needles Highway being closed for the winter. But, the flight from DFW to Rapid City, SD, is an easy two hour and fifteen minute non-stop flight on American so we could monitor the weather forecast. [Although pricey in dollars, the flight was a cheap award using our British Airways Avios. We use BA Avios for those short hauls since BA is distance-based and charges us less miles for those flights that AA does.] read more

Norvegian Rat Saloon [Dutch Harbor, Alaska]

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Yes, the Norvegian Rat Saloon spells its name with a “v” rather than a “w.” Sometimes. The sign on the low-slung waterfront building uses a “v,” but their menu has both spellings on the cover and we saw an ad with the “w” spelling, so who knows? Sitting just across the road from the Safeway, a local landmark, the Norvegian Rat Saloon offers a casual setting: a walk-up bar, wooden tables for diners, 2 pool tables and shuffle board table, a scruffy outdoor seating area on the water, complete with a WWII bunker, crab pots fire pit and an uninviting little “smoking area” shack. read more

Dutch Harbor (Aleutian Islands), Alaska

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The first stop on our trans-Pacific Vancouver-to-Tokyo cruise was Dutch Harbor, Alaska, in the Aleutian Islands. Dutch Harbor was a substitute stop, replacing the originally-scheduled Petropavlosk, Russia, on the Kamchatka Peninsula. I’d been really looking forward to the remote Russian stop and, while I was disappointed to miss the Kamchatka, Dutch Harbor was a happy surprise for me, personally. My grandfather (my father’s father) had been stationed there in WWII as a Navy dentist. My dad still has a scrapbook of his father’s from that time and I’d taken a photo of every page, eager to see if I could find anything recognizable in this remote port. read more