As we rounded the corner into our last few days of the trip, Grace and I started feeling a little sad that our long awaited journey was nearing its end. But, we were also really excited for the last four stops of our trip: Vancouver, British Columbia; Portland, Oregon; rural far northern California (near Yreka); and Berkeley. Looking back, I'm glad we saved the Pacific Northwest for last, because it was a bit more familiar to us than the beginning of our trip, when we were going to all new places every day. We treated ourselves to a gorgeous suite in Vancouver, we stayed with my best friend in Portland, and I used to live in Northern California for three years, so it was a nice comfortable victory lap for our trip. I mentioned in my last post that Grace and I found ourselves getting more tired on the second half of the trip, so staying in comfortable and/or familiar places was perfect.
After checking out of our hotel in Williams Lake, we hit the road to Vancouver. It was a big change from the rural logging roads and wide open spaces of the days prior. Pretty much the entire way showed at least some signs of civilization, and once we were about an hour out from Vancouver, it was urban sprawl. We arrived around 4pm in Vancouver and made our way over to the very trendy neighborhood of Yaletown, where we had a hotel reservation. Driving through the city felt pretty weird, because we hadn't been in city traffic in almost a month. The closest "big city" we'd stayed in was Anchorage, and it was pretty tiny by comparison. But we were excited to experience Western Canada's biggest city, and we were enchanted by it right away.
Deciding where to stay in Vancouver was one of my most difficult planning decisions, simply because there were SO many great options. For a lot of our trip, I just picked the prettiest or nicest option in the area that was dog friendly. And I was usually deciding between three options max. In Vancouver, there were so many different neighborhoods and hotels to choose from. I knew we wanted to splurge on a really nice place in Vancouver and experience the city right, and from doing some research (and just going with my gut), I decided we should stay at a more "boutique"-type hotel. I also considered the Fairmont, which looks lovely, but it's bigger and more resort-like. I wanted a beautiful but smaller hotel that was situated somewhere we could easily walk from and experience the city.
I ended up choosing the Opus Hotel, and I'm SO glad I did. I had read that Yaletown is one of the coolest neighborhoods in Vancouver, and Opus is the only boutique hotel in the area. That helped narrow things down. It's also on the Conde Nast Gold List and has won some awards from Travel + Leisure, I think. It seemed to fit the bill for a "splurge" night to treat ourselves, and it was so wonderful.
From the minute we checked in, we were treated like royalty. Glasses of champagne appeared seemingly out of thin air at the check in desk, and the people working there could not have been friendlier, especially to Willie (side note: at a hotel like this, they usually either don't allow dogs or charge an upwards of $150 fee for them. At Opus, it was only $30 extra to have Willie with us!).
I decided to book us a Balcony Studio, which is on the top floor with a great view, a HUGE bathroom with heated tile floors, the comfiest bed ever, and as the name would suggest, our own balcony. We also had a separate sitting area with a couple of sofas around the TV, which Grace appreciated as she likes her creature comforts to unwind after a long drive :)
Vancouver is a cool city. I wish we'd had a week there to really explore it, but we made the most of enjoying Yaletown. Right across the street from our hotel is a row of businesses called Mainland Street, which is a converted warehouse district. At one end is Yaletown Brewing Company, the oldest brewery in the area which includes a pub and restaurant. All along that row of shops are really interesting restaurants, shops, ice cream, coffee, etc. We decided to go out for the evening to try a few places in that row, and it was SUCH a fun date night. First, we went to Yaletown Brewing and tried some of their freshly made beer.
We also got some fried pickles there, which is one of my favorite foods. It was a great people watching spot, and we felt like locals sipping our beer and reflecting on our trip so far.
Next up, we wanted to get a light dinner, so we strolled along Mainland Street reading menus. I was craving sushi and we ended up seeing a cute little place called Bistro Sakana Yaletown. We loved it! We got some pan-friend vegetable dumplings to start along with some local British Columbia wine. Then we decided to try some of the sashimi that the chef recommended and it was awesome. It ended up being one of my favorite meals of the trip.
Last but not least, we wanted to get ice cream and stopped in a place called Mister. Grace got creme brulee ice cream, which they actually bruleed in front of us with a flame torch! It had a sugar crust just like real creme brulee, but then it was ice cream underneath. So cool. I chose the Thai Iced Tea flavor of ice cream and it was UNREAL. It also came in a charcoal ice cream cone which I was unsure about, but it was very tasty.
I already cannot wait to go back to Vancouver. To me it exuded Pacific Northwest charm, coziness, and friendly (and BEAUTIFUL) people. But I was also excited to get on the road the next day, because we were en route to PORTLAND where one of my best friends lives!
The drive was easy, and we completed our fourth and final border crossing uneventfully. Once we got to Portland, it was such a happy reunion because my best friend Anna lives there! We met in my first week of college and were pretty much instantly best friends. We have so much in common and I just adore her. After graduation, she moved to Portland, and I've gotten to visit her a few times and fallen in love with the city. Grace had never been, so I was very excited for her to see it! I hadn't visited in about a year and a half so I hadn't yet seen Anna's new house or dog or met her boyfriend. It was so nice to hang out at home with them and catch up.
And our dogs got along great! Too great, almost, because they were a little overly obsessed with each other. Anna has a sweet rescue named Cinder, and I'm pretty sure she and Willie are pining for each other now that they're apart . . . too cute.
Portland has some of the best food EVER, and Anna took us to a new place I hadn't tried yet. It's called Nostrana, and they have the most amazing happy hour starting at 9pm. The happy hour menu is basically just smaller versions of all of their regular food, and they have super inexpensive house wines too. We got three pizzas, two huge salads, a pasta, and breads and it was all DIVINE. I am hungry now even thinking about it. It's some of the best pizza I have ever had . . . seriously. If you are in Portland, go there!!
The next morning we also got great bagels from Bernstein's Bagels, which is walking distance from Anna's house. I love a good salt bagel more than almost anything, so I was so happy to find them there. We were sad we didn't have more time in Portland, but later that morning it was time to hit the road to our home state! Yes, we crossed the border into California later that day--so wild to be back! (Though we still had a long distance all the way down to LA).
That night we stayed on a ranch in a little town called Fort Jones, which is near Yreka. We were able to rent a tent camping spot on the ranch through Hipcamp, which we've used before and loved. Here is the listing for the ranch where we stayed.
Even though we were back in California, it was pretty chilly that night, and unfortunately right about that time I started showing signs of coming down with a cold. Ugh! The last time Grace and I took a big road trip, I also caught a cold. Taking care of yourself on the road is hard and it's definitely something I neglect, which I think is why I end up getting sick after being on the road for long. That's something I want to focus on in the future. Luckily, it didn't end up being too bad of a cold and only took me about a week to get over.
Back to the Hipcamp--it was lovely. We slept in our own tent, but the property includes indoor bathrooms that you can use, and we were very comfortable. They also had some ranch dogs that were very friendly and cute. I had never been that far north in California before, and I'd love to go back. It's really wild and beautiful.
When we woke up on the ranch it was the last full day of our road trip. Tomorrow, we'd be home. It was so hard to believe and I think we both felt a mixture of being really sad that our grand adventure was over, but also excited to get home and settle into a routine with life and enjoy the Fall together. I was so happy that we were staying in Berkeley that night, because it's such a special place for both of us. I lived in Berkeley for three years while in law school, and it's where Grace and I went on our first date, one of the places we first brought Casper after adopting him, and so many other memories. We were able to find an Airbnb within a few blocks of my old apartment, so it was a really sweet night in my old neighborhood. We ordered takeout from Saturn, a vegetarian diner that we LOVED during my time in Berkeley. Willie had never been to the area, so it was very cool walking him around my old jogging routes and showing him a little bit of the town that is such a big part of who I am.
All in all (and being sick included), I couldn't have asked for a sweeter or more restful end to our Alaska trip. I am still processing everything that happened and everything it all means to me, but I'm excited to write a separate post with my big takeaways from the trip SOON! I hope you enjoyed this last installment of our trip recaps. I love writing them!