theTravelsketcher this week – May 7, 2021

Off to Prosser and the Washington Wine Country last weekend, first trip in many months and it couldn’t have been more welcomed, as well as therapeutic. Then on Wednesday I spent some time on Magnolia, easily my favorite district of Seattle.

Wine O’Clock Restaurant in Prosser has been a favorite of ours for years, sadly this visit was not as stellar as anticipated, it seemed a bit tired – chalk it up to the challenges they face trying to keep up the quality during the open-then-closed uncertainty of the pandemic. Will go back though, as we all have off days.

Milbrandt Vineyards tasting room is next door to Wine O’Clock, best patio for tasting in Vintner’s Village. There were pink dogwoods all over, I do love the colors of spring.

Tricia and I discovered a new place, 7 Gables Mercantile and Farm, they just re-opened under a new owner on the first of May, a treasure trove. I even found new demitasse cups. Check out Tricia’s post for more wonderful photos from the trip.

Back home I did a bit of ink drawing with my fude pen.

Had a bowl of chowder on Wednesday at Highline at Fishermans Terminal in Seattle.

Some mountains at l’heure entre chien et loup.

It was a good week, looking forward to the next adventure. Hope you are well, vaccinated, and getting out more. I love that the CDC says we don’t have to always wear masks, easier to breath for sure. Keep traveling and sketching.

BTW the mystery location for the sketch I posted a couple of weeks is Hogland House in Mukilteo.

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theTravelsketcher this week – April 29, 2021

Le Confinement is easing, we are vaccinated, the CDC says we can even go without masks in public, there is an air of anticipation and relief in the people I meet. Tomorrow Tricia (Travels Through My Lens) and I take a small step toward normal, a road trip to Prosser and wine country – travel sketches sur place.

This week was eclectic, a sign of my growing restlessness – OK, my forbearance is straining to stay intact.

We have cautiously visited restaurants during Le Confinement, more than some people did, yet we always took the recommended precautions. Dining is our main hobby, even when traveling, thus it is integral in maintaining our sanity through all of this, whether at home or going out. So we once again visited The Oyster Bar, easily on the list of the best places we have ever been. The service is amazing, the gnocchi appetizer is worth the drive, and the daily specials are spot on – the setting alone and the view are the pièce de résistance – Samish Bay, San Juan Islands, and Taylor’s Oyster Farm right at your feet.

But then of course one must savour simple daily pleasures. For me it is mornings, which usually begin at about 5:00am. For many years I rarely drank coffee, except when we stayed at the Airbnb of Pete and Krista in Newberg, Oregon. Pete is the founder of Caravan Coffee, in the morning he would brew me a coffee and I loved it. At his recommendation I ordered his Sidecar Blend, brewing it in my three-cup (six ounce) Moka pot. I am now an avid coffee drinker, sorry Starbucks. So a morning of coffee, a bit of news, tempered by a bit of meditation is the perfect start to the day.

The intrinsic value of friends, connected with through Zoom, Skype, Face Time, email, or texts, grew more precious and they cushioned the isolation of these last months. Another glimmer of the imminent emancipation is that we had appetizers with friends from down the street, they came bearing tulips, c’est parfait.

We Skype with our friends in Portland most every week. They, non-pet folks for the most part, were dog sitting for a friend. A sketch of Louie seemed fitting.

Of course there will always be a sketch of France. The EU is talking of opening a bit in the next few months so we are encouraged that we may still make the move.

Yet I never forget that the walk right outside our door is quite nice. Spring is bursting out in shades of green.

This has been a year we will never forget, we all have experienced frustration, disapointment, sadness, and pain to one degree or another. I am reading The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World – a dialogue between the dear friends Desmond Tutu and The Dali Lama. They say that we cannot know true joy unless we have trials and even suffering to measure it against, that is good lesson for me today.

I pray that you are feeling a bit of encouragement that there is light on the horizon, less restriction, more harmony and cooperation between factions, AND travel. So get out there as you can, and sketch along the way. If you are on FB visit my page and post your sketches for us all to enjoy.

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theTravelsketcher this week – April 23, 2021

Spring continues to unfold, the trees just get greener, rhododendrons are starting to bloom, and the days get longer by about six minutes a day. One of the things I missed while in le confinement was lunches out and about, so I was thrilled to get back to a bit of that this week.

One of the reasons I do not end my social media is because of the connections I make with folks around the world. Susan @bluefullwood posted a photo of the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canals, it was the inspiration for the first sketch of the week. Thank you Susan. Check out her Instagram for some wonderful posts.

The Center for Wooden Boats is a prominent attraction and of course favorite spot of mine on South Lake Union, in Seattle. The Fountain at South Lake Union Park is the venue for much smaller sailing vessels – radio-controlled. As if by magic they skim across the lake and around pilings, remotely piloted by sailors with electronic tillers.

Sunday was of course another day of cooking.

Thanks to Tricia and work I was back in Seattle on Monday and Wednesday – Monday coffee at Portage Bay in the Amazon district, Wednesday lunch at the Local on Terry Ave (fitting).

The perfect way to start a day or finish a meal is with un café. This is from a trip to the Oyster Bar on Chuckanut Drive.

As always I hope you are traveling as you can, even just in the neighborhood, sketching your memories, and staying safe.

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theTravelsketcher this week – April 16, 2021

The annual Spring Tease is on – a few days, even a week or two, of wonderful warm sun that entices us into thinking that spring and summer have arrived. Though I know that summer does not start around here until July, I throughly embrace these days. They are some of the best days of the year. I got out a bit and did some actual urban sketching.

My DIY watercolors from the Roussillon pigments took a bit of tweaking. Researching on-line was little help as each writer had there own ratio of pigment to gum Arabic. My first mixture had far too little pigment, it took two more attempts to get it to work well. After all that effort it seemed a semi-monochrome sketch of Roussillon just made sense.

One of the traditions that kept us sane this last year was our Sundays. Long Sunday lunches are ubiquitous in France. Friends and family gather for most of the afternoon to cook and eat multiple courses, which they will gladly admit is just an excuse for conversation and a bit of debate. Most Sundays Tricia and I have our own déjeuner français even if it is just the two of us, it is the highlight of our week.

While Tricia started some prep work I sketched some ingredients. Check her instagram for photos of the finished meal.

The Mukilteo Beacon still carries my column, I am so grateful. My current quest is to find unfamiliar places in the city. I stumbled on this place, if you know where it is send me an email and get a free copy of my book Let it be Hot!. And if you know some obscure interesting spots let me know.

Tuesday morning I sat at Grounds Coffee Co. which is a 446 ft. walk from home. The trees are starting to bud and bloom, people were walking by, across the street is the 10th Tee of the golf course; you can see the golfers as they swing.

Wednesday I started the morning with un café noisette at Urban Espresso on Magnolia, sketching the Starbucks across the street. Then I moved on to Maggies Bluffs on Elliott Bay for lunch and a sketch of Mt Rainer with the container terminal and the bay in the foreground.

A good week, it felt just a bit normal. Hoping you are getting out as you can, getting a vaccine, and of course traveling and sketching along the way.

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TheTravelsketcher this week – April 9, 2021

A bit of a light week though I did embark on a long overdue project. Monday I was back at Uptown Espresso on Magnolia – a perfect macchiato and a sketch.

Tuesday I started the day at Red Cup with a dry cappuccino, next time I ask for less foam. Then I stopped at Tapped in Mukilteo to meet with the manger to discuss some art projects, sketched tulips on the table there. They are quite involved in the arts so it might lead to some projects in the future.

Of course the boats at The Center for Wooden Boats in Seattle still are an attraction, so I sketched the Sea Witch, a beautiful old rescue boat from San Francisco Bay.

On our 2017 trip to France I bought some raw pigments in Roussillon, a village in Provence that is known for its ocher color and pigments. Thursday I finally decided to attempt making my own watercolors from them, and doing a monochrome sketch. I plan to set up my mini-arttoolkit pallet with three of the colors and black.

Lastly, how about a first time ever glimpse of my “artist’s hovel”? It is this wonderful small space that a former owner built in the garage, under the stairs. I do share it with the water-heater in the corner, but have plenty of space. Neville, mon chat, often joins me; he has found some spot under the bench where he sleeps. I have to be cautious that I know where he is before I close the door and leave – he would not be happy if I shut him in – you can follow him on Instagram @nevilleofmukilteo.

I hope you have a wonderful week, that you are getting out, vaccinated, and of course sketching. A few of us are doing a virtual sketch group, so I think a virtual workshop would be in order, and as soon as it is warm we might try a live workshop, Tapped has offered a location in their tent. Let me know your thoughts.

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theTravelsketcher this week – April 2, 2021

Hard to believe that it is already April, it seems like the year just got started. With spring in the air and a sense of hope regarding COVID things are looking up. This break in all of our lives will certainly have a ripple effect on the plans we have and had for the future. Sketching is one way that I appreciate the present, reminisce about the past, and dream of the future.

The deck at Sage & Cinder was perfect for a spring day. I had the leek and mushroom pastie, Irish for March. Getting back to Sage & Cinder is a reminder of some happy times there pre-COVID, more to come I am sure.

With the nice weather I can start frequenting South Lake Union again, especially The Center for Wooden Boats. Jen, the director of CWB, let me wander the docks to take some photos. My first nautical sketch was of Pirate, a restored sloop that I first sketched last year while she was docked, this one is a sketch of her maiden outing now that the restoration is complete.

CWB rents sailboats, canoes, and rowboats, this is the shack where you rent and pick up your oars, paddles and flotation devices.

Then of course I have to end up in Europe one way or another.

I hope you have a good week, keep dreaming of travel and sketching your dreams.

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theTravelsketcher this week – March 26, 2021

This week started and ended with some actual, not virtual, urban sketching. There was the last of the Nature Obscura sketches, some remembering of past travels, and dreams of future destinations when the skies and countries are open once again.

A sunny, but cool, Friday morning at Cafe Louvre in Edmonds, nice to get out in the sun.

A domestic house spider, they are amazing creatures with a history of misunderstanding, myths, and phobia.

In 2017 Tricia and I spent five weeks in Europe, we have posted about that trip in both of our blogs. Our friends Tim and Lisa joined us for two of those weeks. We met up with them in Edinburgh. The first sketch here is of the building that our Airbnb was in, next to Edinburgh Castle. We drove through southern Scotland, through a bit of England, then flew from Bristol to Nice, rented a car, then drove to Robion, a small village in Provence. The second sketch is Tim and me walking back to our gite, Le Chat Rouge, from coffee at Le Cafe de la Poste.

Thursday I checked out a new place in Mukilteo, Tapped Mukilteo. This proves to be a needed addition to the restaurant scene in the Harbour Pointe area of the city.

Hope you are getting your vaccine soon, I had my second shot Sunday. There is a feeling of hope in the air, and we anticipate getting out more soon. Keep traveling and sketching…

Posted in Digital Sketching, Europe 2017, France, Travel | 2 Comments

Villages, Castles, and Cuisine

Tricia asked me the same question that I have asked so many people over the years, but I was stumped, I did not have a ready answer. We of course talk about travel often, that is like breathing and eating for us, but she asked specifically, “Where do you most want to travel when things open up?” I babbled on about loving to travel and would go anyplace, but realized I did not have a top-ten sort of list.

It is true that I would go most anyplace and would throughly enjoy it. We of course are serious francophiles so France is most always on our itineraries, and there is the North Coast 500 trip in the north of Scotland that I have wanted to take ever since learning of it, but beyond that I drew a blank. She suggested places: Portugal, Greece, Spain. Yes they all sounded great but did not fit the Bucket List kind of thing. So she got me thinking, what is it that makes me want to travel? 

What I realize is that it is not specific countries, it is three things: Villages, Castles, and Cuisine. Any country that produces two of the three and I am in, all three and it is high on the list. (Though for some reason Germany and Russia are low on the list, go figure.)

Yes I do love the big towns, Paris, Edinburgh, Barcelona, Melbourne, etc., but after a day or two in them I am ready to hit the countryside and visit Gordes, Bonnieux, Golspie – the small villages with a history, and the countrysides that surround them – mountains more desirable than oceans.

Castles, and their close relative chateaux, captivate my sketchers eye, cathedrals would also fit well into this grouping. The tiny chapel in Gordes is the best part of that popular village.

And of course cuisine – food. We live to eat, the highlight of most everyday at home is cooking and eating, and the highlight of every day of traveling is finding an intriguing place to eat, then lingering over the meal – we reminisce about meals long after we have returned home.

So I think I have an answer to Tricia’s question: “I want villages, castles, and cuisine.” Anyplace that has all three, put it on my bucket list. So the places she mentioned do have a place on my list: Portugal, Spain, Greece, Viet Nam, Tokyo, all those places in The Alps… BUT now I know why.

So with that in mind I found a good place to start, or at least hit early: The Castle of Almourol in Portugal. Located on the islet of Almourol in the middle of the Tagus River in a mountainous part of Portugal. This one hits all three, so lets get packing.

Be sure to check out Tricia’s blog Travels Through My Lens

Posted in Europe, France, Travel | 1 Comment

theTravelsketcher this week – March 19, 2021


This week I continued the theme I started a week or so ago with Tricia in  front of Mount Saint Michael. In 2017 we went to Florence in Tuscany. The Piatti estate and gardens are on a hill overlooking the town, with the Duomo in the distance. It is still the highest building in Florence so it is visible from most everyplace.

On that same trip we visited San Gimignano, just over a one hour drive southwest on the A1 tollway. It is famous for its towers, some of which are like todays multistoried townhouses, with kitchen on one level, salons on another level and bedrooms on yet another level. The only tower currently open to the public is the Torre Grossa, with 218 steps and of course no elevator. Thankfully there are landings along the way with horizon-stretching views that make the rest worthwhile.

Fresh flowers on the coffee table always make for a morning sketch with un café. This week for my Nature Obscura sketch I did one of Magnusun Park and of the dragonflies that live there.

Another place that we have enjoyed is a lot closer to home, Joshua Tree National Park. These delicate trees need our protection as they are endangered. What is it about climbing? Towers, rocks, hills, trees we never seem to outgrow the desire to get higher, so of course Tricia climbed on one rock after another. Check out her blog on Joshua Tree, and San Gimignano.

I finished off the week with a sketch of a Wine Window, buchette del vino, from Florence. According the Wine Window Association these were first built during the plague in 1532 as a way of dispensing wine without coming in contact with people. There is currently a resurgence in there use, some good ideas just come back around.

I get my second shot this Sunday, I hope you have had or are on the list soon for yours. It gives me hope that more getting out will come as the weather gets better for outdoor sketching. So keep on traveling, even if only around the neighborhood, and of course keep on sketching.

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theTravelsketcher this week – 12 March 2021

This week I travelsketched around the world, capturing the memories in paper sketchbooks and digitally on my iPad, savoring both. The experience is different on each; challenging as well as enjoyable.

The weeks journey began in Trôo, a small village in the Loire Valley; thanks to Tricia and Travels Through My Lens for the reference photos. We admired the buildings and troglodyte homes, then ate lunch at Auberge Sainte Catherine.

Château de Lavardin, is one of the plethora of chateau in the Loire Valley – some pristine, some derelict.

Then, motivated by a travel show about the lochs of Scotland, I virtually visited Loch Maree in western Scotland. My reading group of Nature Obscura brought me back to Puget Sound for a sketch of a Barn Swallow – both on paper with fude pen and watercolor.

Then it was back to France, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie. Thanks to @C_pax_photographies (Instagram) for the reference photo.

This week’s travels ended with a vision of the Cascade Mountains and a memory from our last trip to Tokyo. We were staying in the Iidiabashi area, one morning I got up to go for a matcha, the subways are packed with commuters in the morning, who stride down the streets toward their offices, I felt like I was going the wrong way on a one-way street.

I hope your week was good. The news is encouraging that we may be able to actually travel again one day. In the meantime keep traveling, in your neighborhood or virtually, sketching and sharing your adventures.

Posted in Digital Sketching, Last week, tokyo, Travel | 2 Comments