December brought a month of cheer with family visitors and adventures both in Washington and abroad.
The snow I’d so eagerly awaited in November arrived with a vengeance – we were gifted with many snow days throughout the month, and only once had to push my car out of the cul-de-sac (lesson learned: two wheel drives are a friend to nobody in the snow).
To borrow an Aussie phrase, between work and hosting and travel I was flat out like a lizard drinking.
Christmas spirit was also in full swing. We took in Christmas lights at Anacortes’ Winter Wonderland, Leavenworth’s Christmas Lights Festival and a display at Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island. I also spent the month living in my Christmas sweater and brand new Christmas onesie (thanks Hailee!).
A highlights tour of Washington
Tom’s parents and brother arrived early December to stay with us until Christmas. We’d been brainstorming and planning for months beforehand: none of his family had been to the USA before and we were eager to win them over with the help of Washington’s insane beauty and stellar brewing scene.
The month was a blur of travels between the islands, the mountains, Seattle city and beyond. In our ‘downtime’ we introduced The Budds to our favourite spots in Anacortes, and favourite nearby towns Coupeville and La Conner. One day we took Tom’s brother to Mt Baker – he did awesome as a first time skiier, in spite of our very elementary, highly unprofessional guidance.
While there’s no way to see everything in three weeks, I think we did a damn good job of the highlights tour!
I don’t usually need an excuse to spend time in Seattle, but showing it off to family certainly is a good one. The weather was pretty fantastic too – the mountains were out on some perfect blue sky days, and there were a few light flurries of snow.
Our first night was dedicated to a Seahawks game – a fun but definitely one-time-only given how expensive tickets are! The rest of the weekend was filled with stops at some of our Seattle old-faithfuls: Capitol Cider, Rumba, Pike Place Market, MoPop (formerly EMP) and Chihuly Garden & Glass. We also stopped in Fremont for the quirky art and statues, coffee at Milstead and Co and a wander along Lake Union to Gasworks Park.
Always keen to try new things, we brunched at southern-inspired The Wandering Goose, ate wood-fired bagels at Eltana and gorged on tacos, ceviche and cocktails at Casco Antiguo in downtown. I’ve also added another ‘must-do’ to our tour guide rotation: the Underworld Tour – a more risque adults-only version of the Seattle Underground tour. It gives a great overview of Seattle’s early days with more focus on the crime, prostitution and prohibition – plus the entry ticket includes a cocktail!
San Juan Islands
No introduction to Washington would be complete without a visit to the San Juan Islands – especially as the ferry to the islands practically leaves from our doorstep!
Unable to decide on our favourite island, we split time between two: San Juan and Orcas.
Day one was spent on San Juan Island, with a grand tour of the major sites including Cattle Point Lighthouse, Lime Kiln State Park, Roche Harbor and the sculpture park. Back in Friday Harbor, we warmed up at cosy Mike’s Wine Bar – most of the red wines are made at his winery in Woodinville, and it’s our go-to when on the island. We also tried out new waterfront restaurant Downrigger – a seafood restaurant that can also pull off Chicken and Waffles. Fantastic.
The next day we ventured to Orcas Island to hike Ship Peak Overlook and trying beers at local brewery Island Hoppin’. We lucked out on a suite at Rosario Resort for a cheap off-season rate, and after a day of hiking the onsite bar and restaurant was a welcome treat.
Christmas lights, and the coolest cabin in the snow
Tom’s parents are just as Christmas crazy as I am, so after such a fun experience at last year’s Christmas Lights Festival I knew I had to take them to Leavenworth. This year we went mid week to avoid the huge crowds – and I’m so glad we did. It was so much more relaxing to wander without the hustle, dine without reservations and easily grab a table at the brewery.
Best yet, Tom and I found the most amazing rustic cabin on Airbnb! A short drive out of town in the most idyllic snowy setting imaginable. There was even a waterfall a short hike from the cabin.
With a few spare days before Christmas we decided to jump back on the ferry. Destination: Vancouver Island!
Victoria is such a beautiful city and I was keen to take Tom’s parents there while the Christmas lights were on display. It’s probably one of my favourite cities to wander through, especially along Inner Harbor. And it’s home to both Bard and Banker (one of the most beautiful bars to ever exist) and Sea Cider (delicious apple ciders in a lovely setting).
Aside from city adventures, we spent another day chasing waterfalls in the rain in Goldstream Provincial Park. Oh yeah, and more Christmas lights at Butchart Gardens.
Christmas in Anacortes
Tom and I spent Christmas in Maui last year, so I was determined to celebrate the holiday at home this time round. It was everything Christmas Day should be: relatively lazy, filled with classic Christmas TV shows, games and plenty of delicious food. We cooked up a bonanza of untraditional Christmas food – mushroom mac n cheese, jambalaya and baked vegetables, with pecan pie to finish.
We even fit in a short hike to Sares Head. Such a beautiful clear day (note the reindeer sweater AND socks, because that’s how I roll).
Family time in the UK
The day after Christmas we boarded a flight to London – I warned you that December was hectic!
It had been years since Tom and I visited, and his uncle’s wedding seemed the perfect time to return.
December’s remaining days were spent in Rayleigh, where many of the extended Budd family live. A few low key outings, family catch ups and British food bingeing were on the cards, and I was thankful for a few chill days as jetlag was THE WORST (3am tea and crumpets on the other hand: the BEST). I also went to my first English pantomime… to be honest, I’m still confused about the experience…
The remainder of the UK trip was action packed, but you’ll have to wait until January to hear all about it!
New blog posts this month
December was pretty light on new content, because of the whole ‘lizard drinking’ situation.
Coming up in January
The first week of January will be spent in the UK: ringing in the new year in London, visits to Cambridge and York, and then to picturesque Royal Tunbridge Wells for a wedding!
This month we’ll also be hosting more Aussie friends, before jetting off to Toronto for another wedding. It’s shaping up to be an exciting month!
Expat Escapades is a monthly series here at Live Recklessly. I’ll recap my latest adventures in the USA, new Seattle favourites in food/drink/culture/activities, and uncover more of Anacortes and the Pacific Northwest region.
If you have any suggestions of where I should visit, let me know in the comments below!
Expat Escapades December Expat Escapades December