TRAINS, PLANES AND AUTOMOBILES TO OREGON

img_3533We have traveled to Oregon by plane and many times by all kinds of automobiles, including cruising the famed 101 in a red convertible. We’ve done it in moving trucks and campers. But I had never done it by train. 

So this time we wanted to travel south by train. Ultimately, on this trip, we have to get to Los Angeles but didn’t want to just fly there. We wanted to visit friends en route so opted for the Amtrak Cascades choice. We booked tickets well in advance. The train leaves Vancouver BC at an ungodly hour (6:30 AM) so we had to stay overnight in Vancouver. We found a Best Western on Kingsway which was a 5 minute taxi ride from the station the next morning.

The Amtrak train is not exactly the Orient Express. Pacific Station is grand and a conductor with a real train cap on greeted us. But that’s where the luxurious feeling ended, even before we climbed onboard. It’s just a train, comparable to traveling on the Greyhound bus. Not bad but a bit dingy. If the person in front of you reclines his airplane-type seat, he lands in your lap with a mighty bang.

Crossing the US/American border was a piece of cake on the train. Just some immigration officers who walked down the isle and barely seemed to look at passports.

We needed coffee and breakfast. The only option was a cafeteria counter which sold cold clammy sandwiches and burritos. So, not overly impressive. But it was fun to see the Washington landscape roll by. Just the Washington landscape though. As soon as we reached Portland, Oregon we had to get off the train and board a bus for the last 2 hours to Eugene. I cannot figure out the Amtrak schedule. Some trains seem to continue but usually you need to travel part of the route on a bus. Don’t ask me why.

gq2pe9zirht0fzmoxu62In Eugene, we stayed right in town in the gorgeous Campbell House B & B. It’s not so much a B & B as it is a small boutique hotel or city inn. The original house dates back to 1892 and is nicely redone. Lots of rooms, a large breakfast room and pretty grounds surrounding it all. Breakfast was served between 7:30 and 10:30, perfect. Lots of great choices and everything homemade.  We enjoyed fresh fruit, scones, bacon and eggs and more. Our room was a bit small with spotty wifi. Being in the historic ‘Carriage House’ wasn’t terribly sound proof so we heard our neighbors coughing and talking. But at night we enjoyed sitting by the fireplace and using the great wifi of the main house.

Best of all, at Campbell House, was the staff. I have seldom met nicer, more hospitable people. The cook was amazing and all the staff was incredibly friendly and accommodating. When they found out that we run our own B & B, they even sent us a large bottle of champagne, which added a very special touch to our stay. From Campbell House you can walk all over town. Too bad the view is largely obstructed by the only high rise in Eugene. (https://www.campbellhouse.com) img_0573

Having lived in Eugene, we enjoyed walking around the campus. Our favourite bookstore is here: Smith Family Bookstore has endless isles with floor to ceiling books, piles of books teetering everywhere. One of those iconic places where booklovers like to go.

There’s a fabulous wool shop, Soft Horizons, if you happen to be a knitter. A great, funky movie theatre called the Bijoux. And we took in a Duck women’s basketball game, together with 7,000 other Duck fans dressed in green and yellow. img_0569

One of our favourite places to eat in Eugene is the ever popular Oregon Electric Station. If you can’t get in, walk down the street to the Steelhead for great pizza.

But by far the best place to be, at least for us, in Eugene, Oregon is a small Italian restaurant named Mazzi’s. We lived in Eugene as students in the 70’s and Mazzi’s was there then. We had no money but whenever we had something big to celebrate, we’d go to Mazzi’s. Mazzi’s is still in the very same spot. It hasn’t changed much. The decor is the same, the menu is pretty much the same and it is still as wonderful as ever. We meet a large group of old friends at Mazzi’s. Fabulous, and it is always packed which shows me that it’s not just us who love to come here (http://www.mazzis.com)

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Where to Stay in Vancouver, BC

Vancouver B.C. is a gorgeous city, in as far as cities can be gorgeous. Usually I stay with friends but this time we needed a different place to stay. I spent many nights googling for just the right spot. Didn’t want to spend a fortune but wanted a clean place in a good location that offered:
a) a kingsize bed
b) free parking and
c) free wifi.

I find that often the cheaper hotels (Motel 6 up to Best Western) offer free wifi but the high end hotels charge more for wireless in your room. I refuse to pay extra for wireless…

Free parking turned out to be non existing in Vancouver – costs ranged from 15.- to 25.- per night extra to park your car in their garage.
Kingsize beds are hard to find in this kingsize city – at least in any hotels that are under 200.- per night. If you do not worry about a budget, The Granville Island Hotel is an awesome place to stay, overlooking False Creek and right on artsy Granville Island: http://www.granvilleislandhotel.com

But I do worry about my budget. So, after perusing Orbitz, Travelocity, Travelzoo, Booking.com and sites like this, I started from google maps – focused in on downtown and told it to “search nearby”. I found a B&B that had the answers.
Check out: http://www.granvillebb.com/ 
Granville B&B is a gorgeously renovated mansion right along Granville (and 35th ave). The house was sufficiently sound proof not to hear the traffic too much, although we had a room in the back. Not sure how noisy the front rooms are.
Beautiful, high end furnishings and decorations. No costs were spared when building this home: deep tub, his and hers sinks, beautiful bedding, white fluffy towels. Everything spotless.
And while there was lots of privacy (you receive a code to get in when you arrive) the lack of personal contact was a bit.. well.. impersonal. It’s more like a hotel than a B&B.
Breakfast was nice but meagre: juice, good coffee, choices of cereals and fruit. One slice of french toast. OK but not the abundance that one might expect at $125.- per night.
But with parking included this was one of the best deals, in a comfortable, clean environment, that I could find in Vancouver.

Smart Travel Tip: coming from mild Salt Spring Island, we did not have a windshield scraper in the car but found a frosty car outside . Using a credit card type card (I used my library card) works wonders to get ice from the windshield!