Sunday, August 05, 2007

Beautiful Pacific Northwest - USA and CANADA

Victoria is a very beautiful city and offers a diversity of outdoor activities and scenery. This is the view from the lookout point at Mt. Douglas which is a favorite place to hike the trails among the large area of natural wilderness. We cheated and drove directly to the top to see 360 degree views of the city below us, and surrounded by the snow capped Olympic Mts. of Washington State in the distance.

The BC Ferries is the only car transportation available from Vancouver Island and they offer many different routes to the Mainland, Gulf Islands and Queen Charlotte Islands. The 1.5 hour sailing from Victoria to Vancouver is one of the most reasonably priced cruises that I have been on after the 10 cent Star Ferry Crossing in Hong Kong. The area is approximately 5,200 square kilometers in size and includes 13 major islands and over 450 smaller islands. This area is renowned and cherished for its stunning physical beauty, significant biodiversity, gentle climate, and unique scenic, rural, and marine character.

The cost of a car with 2 passengers is approximately $65 one way and very enjoyable if you do not have to rely on it regularly as a mode of transportation. There are two Super Ferries that measure 560 feet long (picture two football fields back-to-back). These vessels can accommodate up to 2,100 people and 470 vehicles. As you approach Vancouver the shipping dock for coal is a major landmark and often you see international freighters loading in a very “Mad Max meets high tech" type of environment.

The weather is a wonderfully cool 70+ degrees and the fresh air from the ocean and trees is refreshing after the last year in Loreto. From the ferry terminal to the US Border Crossing is an easy 30 minutes, and we held our breath hoping that there was no long lineup. This Canadian flag could be seen a mile away and was made up of flowers.

People were having picnics and throwing balls at Peace Arch Park that is situated at the border and symbolic of the open gates between our two countries. Peace Arch State Park is a 20-acre day-use park commemorating treaties and agreements that arose from the war of 1812. The park celebrates the unguarded United States/Canadian border that stretches from the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia.

Seattle is a beautiful city and I once had a home in the nearby district of Redmond six years ago. I had forgotten how beautiful the city is when it is not raining. The lush green trees and boulevards are everywhere as one navigates the freeways and many bridges to get around the city. My daughter Carlie and I stayed with friends in The Eastside’s “Gold Coast”. The area is made up of Clyde Hill, Yarrow Point, Hunts Point and Medina. Located on Lake Washington’s shoreline west of Bellevue, the “gold coast” communities have long contained some of the region’s most powerful movers and shakers.

We had dinner with Bruce Milne, Chairman and CEO of Corum Mergers and Acquisitions. Bruce and his wife Rebecka are Loreto Bay neighbors and we chatted about life in Loreto and all the developing projects underway. They invited Carlie and I to a wonderful little Italian restaurant where we enjoyed steak with gorgonzola sauce and salads, with a nice selection of wines. I love Seattle!!

The number of yachts, speedboats, and sailboats situated in the Seattle Harbors is astounding. There are many estates with their own private dock capable of mooring a 120 ft yacht in front of their home. My favorite was visiting Bruce’s newest business – Luxury Expedition Yachting. I received a tour of both the 100’ Katania and 120’ Kayana yachts both have recently gone through major retrofit. There were so grand that it was impossible to get both ships and the Seattle skyline all in one photo. Check out their website at www.ceoexpeditions.com to get more information.

Carlie and I headed back to Vancouver for a few days to stay at one of my favorite hotels in the world. The Four Seasons in downtown Vancouver is not necessarily the newest or offers the best views, but it has the best central location to walk and enjoy the eclectic lifestyle, restaurants and shopping that this cosmopolitan city offers. Everyone in the hotel always seems to remember my name and their friendliness and assistance is truly impressive.

Vancouver has changed so much in the last 5 years. The old seedy areas downtown have been revitalized and the streets are very clean. I noticed the absence of homeless people and can only assume that they are being directed to Victoria and the Okanogan in anticipation of the upcoming Olympic Games in 2010.

Vancouver is a highly dense and international city. Every type of ethnic food you can imagine is available within a few blocks of every stop light. From the very chic and trendy to the “hole in the wall” offering great food at reasonable prices. The city is surrounded by mountains and water, and one of the very few places in the world that you can golf, ski and sail all in one day.

I had dinner with Leroy Earl Fuller, who is the Chairman of Earls, Joey’s and Cactus Club Restaurants. Earl loves two things - food and people. So it is no surprise that in 1954 he opened his very first restaurant to feed local farmers of Sunburst, Montana. Leroy is a very interesting man and moved to Edmonton to start A&W Restaurants and now has a formidable chain of brand name restaurants across Western Canada and the USA. These 3 restaurant chains combined serve about a million customers each month. That’s 12 million a year!! I am working on Leroy to consider Loreto as his next destination for expansion.

Hope you have a great week!

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