An April European vacation to celebrate my 40th birthday was changed because of the Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallajokull. Not giving up on a memorable vacation, four days prior to departure, my friend Stephanie and I changed plans from flying into Amsterdam to flying into Seattle, Wash. This allowed us to explore the Pacific Northwest, specifically Washington, Oregon and British Columbia, and find international flair as colorful tulips, locally-brewed craft beer and indulgent chocolate.
Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival in Woodburn, Oregon
Perhaps my obsession with spending this year’s momentous occasion in an Amsterdam tulip field was because I was born on May 1, May Day. Original plans included a visit to the tulip display at Keukenhof Gardens in the Netherlands (about an hour from Amsterdam) but when plans changed to a Pacific Northwest vacation, the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival in Woodburn, Ore., was a fantastic substitute. Located about an hour’s drive south of Portland, the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm is the host of the month-long festival and I received my wish of standing in a field of vibrant tulips. The farm has a small windmill and large pair of wooden shoes to add to the Amsterdam ambiance. (Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm, 33814 South Meridian Road; Tel: 503-634-2243)
Craft Beer in Portland, Oregon
The original birthday trip included a visit to Belgium where beer has been described as the country’s national treasure. What better place to enjoy a brew than Portland where there are 38 breweries in the metropolitan area? (Source: Travel Portland, http://www.travelportland.com/media/mbmedkit/mb_beer.html). I enjoyed a Portland ale called Hopworks Urban Brewery DOA at Henry’s 12th Street Tavern, a deliciously popular restaurant pouring more than 100 craft brews, many from area breweries. (Henry’s 12th Street Tavern, 10 Northwest 12th Ave.; Tel: 503-227-5320)
Twilight Saga in Forks, Washington
A visit to Transylvania to chase vampires was not on the birthday travel itinerary but when plans changed to a Pacific Northwest vacation, a trip to Forks was planned. Twilight fans know this is the town author Stephenie Meyer based her vampire-based novels. Most of the community has embraced the vampire saga as evident by businesses reflecting a Twilight theme and selling loads of merchandise. The Forks Chamber of Commerce Visitor Information Center has Bella’s red pickup truck sitting outside, a small museum, and various materials about local Twilight sights. (Forks Chamber of Commerce, 1411 South Forks Ave.; Tel: 360-374-2531)
Craigdarroch Castle in Victoria, British Columbia
I had my eye on spending the night in a castle in Bruges, Belgium, so visiting Craigdarroch Castle in Victoria, B.C., was the next best thing. The Designated National Historic Site was completed in 1890 by coal baron Robert Dunsmuir and visitors can tour five floors of the castle on their own to admire the colorful stained glass and see if they can spot all 17 fireplaces. (Craigdarroh Castle, 1050 Joan Crescent, Victoria, B.C., Tel: 250-592-1225)
Chocolate Indulgence Tour with Savor Seattle Food Tours in Seattle, Washington
“You have to try Leonidas chocolate while in Belgium,” I was told. Thankfully, the change in plans meant we would be visiting one of the Pacific Northwest’s biggest foodie city and Savor Seattle’s Chocolate Indulgence Tour hit the right spot. I discovered there is such a thing as too much chocolate as the two-hour tour included more than 17 flavors of chocolate in the form of beverages, baked goods and candies, including a sampling of President Obama’s favorite candy, Fran’s Smoked Salt Caramels. (Savor Seattle Food Tours, Tel: 888-987-2867)
Finding European Flair in the Pacific Northwest
Airline tickets for the initial trip were refundable so it was easy to change the itinerary. Plus, at the time of our scheduled departure, airlines were looking for passengers to give up their seats so others could get home. Sure, I still curse the Icelandic volcano for changing my 40th birthday trip but by keeping an open mind for adventure, the trip to the Pacific Northwest was a terrific substitute for a European vacation.
Craigdarroch Castle in Victoria, British Columbia www.craigdarrochcastle.com
Forks Chamber of Commerce www.forkswa.com
Henry’s 12th Street Tavern www.henrystavern.com
Savor Seattle Food Tours www.savorseattletours.com
Seattle’s Convention & Visitors Bureau www.visitseattle.org
Tourism Victoria www.tourismvictoria.com
Travel Portland www.travelportland.com
Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm www.woodenshoe.com
Personal visit, April 23 – April 30, 2010.