Posts Tagged ‘dog friendly’

Lummi Island in 21 Bites: Chef Blaine Wetzel’s Pacific Northwest Tasting Menu at the Willows Inn

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Smoked sockeye salmon

Chef Blaine Wetzel has put The Willows Inn on Lummi Island on the Pacific Northwest’s culinary map. Wetzel, a native of Washington state, has an impressive number of awards to his name considering he’s barely 30. He was named Food & Wine’s Best New Chef in 2012, and won the James Beard award for Best Rising Chef in 2014 and Best Chef Northwest in 2015.

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The lobby at the Willows Inn

Chef Wetzel’s tasting menu, Lummi Island in 21 Bites, is known for being almost entirely local. It’s also one of the toughest reservations to get in the Pacific Northwest. The Willows Inn seats only 26 and does one sitting per at 6:30 pm. The hotel is closed for a few months in the winter, so getting a reservation during the prime summer season can be challenging. I couldn’t make it happen last summer but got a reservation for June 2016.

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The  cottage at the Willows Inn

Known for it’s super locavore focus, almost everything on the menu is farmed, foraged or raised on or near tiny Lummi Island’s nine square miles.

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Charming details at the 100 year old Willows Inn

The Willows Inn even offers guests tours of the local farm where most of their produce is grown, making it an intriguing foodie destination in the San Juan Islands.

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Craftsman charm at the Willows Inn

Lummi Island is reached by a 10 minute ferry ride from Bremerton. With a population of less than 1,000 residents, little Lummi Island is punching way above it’s weight class in fine dining.

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Pacific Northwest charm at the bar

The evening started with cocktails around 5:30. I had the Pineapple Weed Fizz ($14), made with with pineapple weed gin, egg white and chamomile bitters, which was refreshing in the hot weather and inspired. I liked the lack of formality in the service. It was top notch, but relaxed.

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Mason jars on display in the bar

The meal started with small bites in the bar. First up was a crispy crepe with golden char roe. It was beautiful.

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Left: Flowers and candlelight right: cocktails with fresh garnishes

In honor of National Donut Day, intriguing smoked cod doughnuts were served next. The third course was a standout for me– Kale leaves with black truffles. Next were small bites of roasted sunflower root and green rhubarb.

Willows Inn smokehouse action video

At this point we left the bar and sat at our table, where we were served native oysters in a juice of watercress followed by lightly cured rockfish in a broth of bones.

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roasted sunflower root

The vivid hues of the turnip stems with caramelized razor clams were followed by a Lummi Island “tostada” made with wild herbs served on crispy mustard greens. It was colorful crunchy goodness.

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Kale leaves with black truffles

Stewed porcini mushrooms were served next and, for me, they were the standout course of the evening with their delicate texture and savory umami goodness.

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Scenes from a tasting menu

Dungeness crab served in a puree of pine nuts came next. This delicate yet satisfying dish was followed by a rare seasonal treat of local salmonberries served with petals of Nootka roses. Not overly sweet, the berries were very flavorful and bursting with color. It is a memorable dish.

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Stewed porcini mushroooms

Pacific Northwest staples of smoked sockeye salmon and a seared skirt of razor clam came next. I was starting to lose steam by the time the halibut and lovage arrived.

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Left: Turnip stems with caramelized razor clams Right: Native oysters in a juice of watercress

I found some more room for the wheat bread with pan drippings, but couldn’t muster the strength for the aged leg of venison, which was the last of the savory courses. Epic meals can be too much for me.

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2010 Golden Grape Semillon was part of the wine pairing

The toasted birch branches (served as a tea) were much appreciated with it’s earthy heat acting as a bit of digestive before the dessert courses.

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Seared skirt of razor clam

While I tend to favor savory over sweet, the desserts at the Willows Inn were exceptional and light. Grilled strawberries were served with fresh chamomile in a pleasing combination.

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Green rhubarb

Candied green pine came next, followed by pumpkin seed fudge which was shockingly light and flavorful. I almost asked for seconds.

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Crispy crepe and golden char roe

Wine pairings can be ordered with dinner for $90, or a juice pairing for $40.

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Native oysters in a juice of watercress

The wine pairing focused on the Pacific Northwest and skewed towards the whites, which was appropriate for the seafood-centric menu. I must confess I am not a white wine lover. While I normally adore wines from Oregon and Washington, I thought the wine pairing was the meal’s one misstep. It was also a bit surprising since the cocktails were so good.

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Left: smoked cod donuts Right: Dungeness crab in a puree of pine nuts

If you can’t get a reservation at the Willows Inn you can try checking out Blaine Wetzel’s cookbook, Sea and Smoke: Flavors from the Untamed Pacific Northwest.

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Lummi island “tostada” (wild herbs and crispy mustard 

The Willows Inn also serves breakfast and lunch.

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Left: salmonberries with nooka roses right: grilled strawberries and fresh chamomile

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toasted birch branches tea

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Pumpkin seed fudge

The Willows Inn

Menu $175
Wine pairing $90
Juice menu $ 40

Address: 2579 W Shore Drive
Lummi Island, WA 98262

Phone: (360) 758-2620
Toll Free: (888) 294-2620


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Exploring the Pacific Northwest: Visiting Oregon’s Multnomah Falls

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Multnomah Falls is Oregon’s 620 feet year round waterfall

Last week I went to Portland and got a chance to explore the Columbia Gorge. Among Portland’s many charms is how close it is to some spectacular nature, including Multnomah Falls. Multnomah Falls is Oregon’s tallest waterfall, and ranks as the second highest waterfall in the United states. Only Yosemite Falls is higher.

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Vista House in Corbett, Oregon

Located less than half hour’s drive outside of Portland along the historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon’s tallest year round waterfall is not only gorgeous, it’s extremely user friendly. Multnomah Falls is visible from the freeway and it’s an easy walk if you want to get up close and personal with the #1 tourist site in the Columbia Gorge.

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Overcast weather adds atmosphere to the Multnomah Falls hike

If you’re going to walk to the waterfall, wear appropriate footwear. Waterfall spray and the wet Pacific Northwest climate mean that hough paved, the trail does have pools of water and puddles that are unavoidable.


Reverse view of 69 foot drop of the second tier of Multnomah Falls from above Benson Bridge

The downside of being user friendly? Multnomah Falls is popular destination and often crowded. If you want to avoid the crowds, nearby Wahkeena Falls can be reached by foot and is significantly less popular than Multnomah Falls.

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Looking up at the top tier of  Multnomah Falls

The Multnomah Falls Lodge has a visitors center, gift shop, and restaurant and is nestled at the base of the falls.

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Scarlet and Zeppelin enjoyed exploring the trail to Multnomah Falls

The paved trails are also pet-friendly, so expect plenty of dogs to be enjoying the scenery as well. Dogs need to be kept on a leash at all times, but there was plenty to sniff and keep my two labs excited about on this nice day hike.


Benson Bridge over Multnomah Falls adds to the cliffside drama

If you’re planning on photographing the waterfall, bring a wide angle lens. I shot mostly using the 24-70 mm Canon zoom as well as my iPhone. I also got a few good shots with my Fuji X-30.

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Misty morning scenery in the Columbia Gorge

I tried a few shots using my Moment Lens wide angle 18 mm lens attachment, but had uneven results due to vignetting. My fingers are crossed my replacement Moment Lens Case corrects this issue.

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The view of the top tier of Multnomah Falls from above the Benson Bridge

I was wowed by Multnomah Falls. It’s not as powerful as Igauzu Falls but it’s steep drop and tree-lined cliffs are dramatic. Plus, it’s close to Stumptown Coffee, vegan cheese, and and the cajun tots that seem to be on every menu in Portland. It was a nice place to get in a little sightseeing, morning hiking and get some good photos.


Happy hikers at dog-friendly Multnomah Falls.

Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls Is easy to reach from Portland. Take I-84 eastbound for approximately 30 miles. Follow signs and take exit 31 (an unusual left-side exit ramp) off I-84 to a parking area. There is a path under the highway that leads to the falls viewing area. Lower trails are paved.


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Pet Friendly Pacific Northwest Road Trip to Cannon Beach, Oregon

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The sand on Cannon Beach is soft and white 

I recently took a road trip from Seattle, Washington to Cannon Beach, Oregon to spend a few days at the Oregon Coast.

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Some moody road trip scenery in Oregon

Since relocating to the Pacific Northwest, I’ve really enjoyed Washington’s beaches and how pet-friendly they are. Longtime Washingtonian friends of mine told me that Oregon’s beaches were even better, with the bonus of sweeps of soft white sand and gorgeous scenery.

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Adirondack chairs on the Oregon Coast

The drive from Seattle to Cannon Beach started on 5 and continued along the 101 took a little over four hours with stops. The scenery started getting pretty in Pacific County, driving through South Bend, Washington and heading into Astoria, Oregon.

Cannon Beach is lovely little Pacific Northwest vacation hamlet. With a population of less than 2,000 residents, the average home price is over $700,000. The town feels like the setting of a Spielberg film. Not shocking considering scenes from The Goonies were shot here and in nearby Astoria.

Pro tip: Skip the Goonies House in Astoria. The owners have closed it down to visitors in August 2015.

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Iconic Haystack Rock rises 235 feet above the Oregon Coastline

We booked a pet-friendly room at the Inn at Cannon Beach. The management knows if you’re taking your dog on vacation you are most likely going to have it up on the bed. They provided pet bowls, treats, and an additional top sheet to keep your linens free of pet hair.


The Inn at Cannon Beach has a great location, near Tolovana Beach

I liked that the Inn at Cannon Beach had breakfast included. During my stay I realized I enjoyed walking over to Sea Level Bakery  across the street for some killer Stumptown coffee and delicious baked goods in the mornings.

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Left: Fab beach houses on Cannon Beach Right: view of iconic Haystack Rock

The Inn has a great location near Tolvana Beach State Recreation Site and is a few minutes walk to the sand.


Random gorgeous Oregon Coast Scenery

It’s also a nice walk to the main stretch of Cannon Beach, near the pet-friendly Hallmark Resort and Spa Cannon Beach and shops, and restaurants.

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Dramatic Clouds on Cannon Beach

If you’re looking for the best places to eat in Cannon Beach, I’d advise checking out Cannon Beach Hardware & Public House. They had tasty cajun tots, good barbecue, and delicious Bloody Marys. There was also have an actual hardware section which came in handy when I needed to buy a new watch battery.

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Silver Point on Cannon Beach

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 Haystack rock and the Needles, famous images from Cannon Beach

The black and white image above was shot using my iPhone 6 and Moment Lens (the 18 mm) and Moment Lens case.

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Corgi on dog-friendly Cannon Beach (shot with my 18 mm Moment Lens)

Unfortunately, my Moment Lens Case has vignetting issues and I’m still awaiting a replacement case. Still, I like the additional drama the wide angle lens provided and am hopeful my replacement case will solve the issue.


Sunset on Cannon Beach near Haystack Rock

No clue if my replacement case will work with the iPhone 6s I’m expecting any day now, but a girl can dream!



 Left: Haystack Rock in Black and white. Right: Rush hour on Cannon Beach


Sand Castle on Cannon Beach with Haystack Rock in the distance

Dogs aren’t the only animals on Cannon Beach. The area had a bunch of rabbits hopping about. They definitely added to the charm of the coastal beach town, and there were several on the grounds of our hotel.


Rabbit hopping along near Cannon Beach 

My lab, Zeppelin, has a pronounced prey drive, and I kept him on a leash unless we were on the beach. There did not seem to be many rabbits on the sand.

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Bunny rabbit near Haystack Rock and the Needles

I shot this black and white image of a bunny rabbit using my iPhone 6 and 18 mm Moment Lens and case. You can see the vignetting issues in the lower corners of the frame. I think they work here so I did not crop around them.


 Rabbit enjoying killer views of Cannon Beach, Oregon

I was charmed by Cannon Beach and I’m sure I’ll go back. Perhaps next time I’ll stay at the oceanfront Hallmark Resort & Spa.

3116 S Hemlock St, Cannon Beach, OR 97103, United States
+1 503-436-4254
1235 S Hemlock St, Cannon Beach, OR 97110, United States
+1 503-436-4086
3215 S Hemlock St, Cannon Beach, OR 97110, United States
+1 503-436-9085
Worth a trip:
127 Laneda Ave, Manzanita, OR 97130, United States
+1 503-368-5080
Dogs are allowed on the Patio.

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A Pet Friendly Stay at The Resort at Paws Up in Montana

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Scarlet goes glamping at the Resort at Paws Up

If you have a dog that you think of as a furry family member and have ever tried to take it on your family vacation, you’ve probably learned that the term “pet friendly” does not necessarily mean “pets welcome.” Sometimes the the reality of traveling with your pet means getting the worst room in the hotel, which smells like a kennel, and the harsh realization that there is a huge difference between hotels that are merely “pet tolerant” and those that truly welcome them.

Thankfully there are also true pet friendly resorts where your dog is not only included, but appreciated. The Resort at Paws Up is the real deal. Pet friendly means just that. The staff is welcoming and enjoys having your dog along on your western adventure. This is one of the reasons I chose Paws Up for my recent family vacation to Montana.


Garnet Ghost Town is an easy drive from The Resort at Paws Up

After my first visit to The Resort at Paws Up three years ago, I knew I’d be coming back. I spent many childhood summers in Montana and still love it to this day. Paws Up is such a great destination. It’s an easy 45 minute drive from the Missoula airport (and airport transfers are included in the rates). There is so much to do at Paws Up– you can try sleeping under canvas in the luxury glamping tents or checking out the unique and memorable activities the resort offers. Where else can you ride a horse on a cattle drive?



At Paws Up, guest with pets must stay in the Luxury Homes instead of the Glamping Tents. The Big Timber home we rented, Glimmerstone, worked perfectly for our group of four adults, three teenagers, and two dogs. We were visiting during a heat wave and the reliable air conditioning was a real bonus. Our house also had a tent on the property, which we used during our stay.

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The tent in the yard at Glimmerstone

I was surprised that my nephews, all experienced scouting types, preferred to sleep in the posh comfort of the loft beds instead of the tent. They had two weeks of tents in their future at summer camp and had no problems with sleeping in a luxury cabin. My brother and sister-in-law spent a night in the on-site tent.

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A living room in one of the Luxury Homes at Paws Up

My dogs, Scarlet and Zeppelin, enjoyed being ranch dogs during our stay at Paws Up. They joined us on the patio for breakfast and lunch everyday at Trough and the staff was always quick to greet them and make sure they had a bowl of water. I felt the staff was warm and welcoming to them. A few even offered up belly rubs.

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Montana style French toast

Traveling with three teenage boys was definitely different for me. I was blown away by how much they can eat. My nephews, beanpoles all of them, can easily put away French Toast for breakfast and be ready for a buffalo burger a few hours later for lunch. Dinner, including dessert, was enjoyed by all. Paws Up’s rates include full breakfast, lunch and dinner for all guests. We only paid extra for alcoholic beverages and guided activities.

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The adults enjoyed the great margaritas at Tank

Some of my must have travel gear for pets
I have two 60 pound  labs and when they travel with me I always bring the following supplies:
This soft cover canvas crate is easy to break down and assemble. It stores flat and easily slips behind the drivers seat in my car for road trips. They come in a range of sizes for dogs weighing 10 – 70 pounds. My labs each have a 36 inch version.
Made of waxed canvas, this collapsable water bowl is a must for travel as well as hikes with my dogs. I always keep one in my car.
My touchless poop scoop of choice.


My view from the cattle drive at Paws Up

The Cattle Drive was one of the highlights of our family vacation. It was fun to enjoy the gorgeous Montana scenery while learning how to round up and sort cows instead of taking a nose-to-tail horseback ride. We lucked out and were the only people on our cattle drive… and we kind of sucked.


Left: sorting cattle Right: moving the heads of cattle

We lost six cows along the ways, which was funny, memorable, and made the activity seem all the more real.

Cows and Montana Scenery on the Cattle Drive

The Chuck Wagon dinner was another crowd pleaser.


Scarlet and Zeppelin were big fans of the Chuck Wagon dinner

Draft horses Pete and Re-Pete driving us to the Chuck Wagon Dinner

While meat grilled in the open air is an eternal summer favorite, Dutch oven master Cee Dub was in residence during our stay and made a killer brisket at the Chuck Wagon.

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Left: Cee Dub’s amazing brisket Right: Tomahawk steaks on the grill.

We felt the need to taste it all, including the tomahawk steak. No one went hungry on this trip. We made sure to check out Cee Dub’s Dutch oven frittata at breakfast the next day.


Cee Dub and the cowboy poets at the Chuck Wagon Dinner

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Scarlet and Zeppelin enjoyed sniffing around the banks of the Blackfoot River 


Gorgeous Montana skies on the Clark Fork river

Paws Up offers tons of options for activities. We opted for whitewater adventure through the Alberton Gorge on the Clark Fork river during this trip, which was a perfect choice since our visit coincided with a heatwave. You can read more about our rafting trip in this post.

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Misty Montana morning at Glimmerstone

We also explored nearby Garnet Ghost Town. My nephews had no problem heading to the brand Wilderness Outpost activities center to check out the archery set up.

PawsUp Scenic

Gorgeous scenery at River Camp

Every time I return to Paws Up there is something new. This trip I was impressed by the Paws Up app, which made communicating with the staff easy to do from my smart phone. It was really useful for making requests and communicating with the staff during our stay. I was a little bit sad when I deleted it from my iPhone after my vacation.


The sunrise view from Glimmerstone

The thank you card I got from my brother, sister-in-law and nephews after the trip further convinced me that Paws Up was a great choice for our family vacation. A good time was had by all, and my nephews were already missing waking up to the fresh pine scent and drinking huckleberry lemonade.

The Resort at Paws Up

40060 Paws Up Road
Greenough, MT 59823
Toll Free: 877-588-7151
Int’l/Local: 406-244-5200
Fax: 800-473-0687

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Classic California PCH Road Trip: A Mobile Photo Essay

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PCH Panorama shot on my iPhone 6

I recently spent a day driving down the PCH from Big Sur to Los Angeles with both my dogs for company. It’s one of my favorite drives and I try to do it once every year or so. Here are some of my favorite images from that trip.


Moody blue coastline

I started my trip in the morning, which is not really the best way to do it. The coast is notoriously foggy and often doesn’t burn off until later in the day. Fortunately, I liked the moody morning and the cool way it made the coast look.


Rocky Creek Bridge

I stopped at several scenic points along to way to take photographs with my iPhone 6. The scenic overlooks near the bridges are my favorites.  The bridges are so impressive and I like to imagine what the building process must have been like back in 1932.


Left: A Seagull who knows location is everything Right: Flowers at Limekiln State Park

Mobile phone service is very spotting along parts of the coast and I forget this every time I do the drive. If you want to visit a specific beach or park, I’d advise bringing a paper map or printed directions with distances between landmarks. I missed the turn off to Pfeiffer Beach, often considered the crown jewel of dog-friendly Big Sur beaches.


Foggy tree line above Limekiln State Park

Instead I stopped at Limekiln State Park, which has a dog-friendly beach area. Parking was an issue at Limekiln because of the number of campers, but I lucked out and got the last space.


Zeppelin and Scarlet exploring the beach

I don’t have a ton of photos because it’s tough to get great photos when your handling two dogs who are curiously exploring the beach.


Left: a stream flowing into the pacific at the Limekiln beach  Right: Zeppelin in Profile

This was the first time I’ve had a chance to take both my labs to the beach in California. They have previously enjoyed the Washington Coastline and San Juan Islands.


Scarlet on the sand

I always stop for a bite to eat in the town of Big Sur. I like the Big Sur River Inn because it has a wide expanse of lawn near the river where I can walk the dogs. There is also free wifi, which is rare in these parts.


An old school omelette at the Big Sur River Inn

The Big Sur River Inn is a total time warp. The soft 70s musical stylings of Al Stewart and Jim Croce play in heavy rotation and the menu doesn’t feel likes it’s been updated since 1977. There is something fabulous about how non-ironically retro this place is that brings me back time and again.


Spring has sprung south of Hearst Castle

Foodies might prefer grabbing a bite at the Big Sur Bakery, or popping into the restaurant at the Ventana Inn & Spa for a meal.

*All images in this post were shot on my iPhone 6. I used the ShakeItPhoto App for the groovy, 70s inspired Polaroid effect inspired by the music at the Big Sur River Inn.

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