We had a busy spring season as we introduced a new member into the family. Now when we travel, we are moving around with four kids instead of three! As daunting a task as this might seem, we find that practice makes better travelers. We hope to install a love of adventure into our kids and develop a family culture that involves traveling and enjoying new experiences with one another. Despite the fact that we were undergoing a rather big transition, we wanted to be able to take some type of family vacation this summer. That said, we also didn’t want to go too far from  home! We talked it over and decided to explore Northern Washington, an area of the country that we had not yet been to. The drive was within 8 hours which made it doable and thus we set off to see what we could see.

The first thing housewe do when deciding to travel is to settle on a general location. From there we begin looking up vacation rentals to see what might be available in the local vicinity. As we’ve mentioned before, we really do prefer to stay in vacation rentals instead of hotels as we find it more comfortable for our family size. Also, we enjoy having the freedom and flexibility of preparing our own meals which we usually eat at the house. We poked around on VRBO and found this house in Port Angeles. With our specific location selected, we packed up the food and the kids and hit the road.

We arrived at the house in the early evening and spent that first night settling in. This place was custom built by the owners who are now using it as a vacation rental while they stay in their RV on site. They are very kind people; they are accommodating, helpful and cheerful. They worked very hard to make sure we felt at home and at rest during our stay. Although they were on site, we did not feel like we were being kept under heavy watch, but were generally left to our own devices. It was a comfortable arrangement. As you’ll note on the VRBO listing, they have an indoor pool in a separate room which is attached to the house through the master bath. The pool was absolutely perfect for our family. It was not deep set and so we did not worry so much for our oldest who was navigating himself about more freely. We had control of the pool temperature so we were able to set it to our liking and we enjoyed many hours of play together in the pool. I would recommend this house for the pool alone.

It should be noted that the owners rent both the house and a cottage which is located directly next to the sliding door of the pool room. The house and cottage guests are both permitted access to the pool. Although there were guests staying at the cottage at the same time as we were renting the house, they did not come in to swim and we had the place essentially to ourselves. Still, sharing is an option that does exist. As I mentioned, the pool room enters into the master bath so there’s not a lot of space between you and the potential strangers in the cottage should they come in to swim. This may or may not prove an issue. It wasn’t one for us.

pool

The one and only drawback to this house in our opinion is in its open design. There are three bedrooms, two on the main floor and one which comprises the bottom floor. (This downstairs bedroom is situated right next to an outside door providing for its own entrance if desired.) The master bedroom is not necessarily secluded from the main floor. The wall of the room is open at the top, so that there is no sound barrier between the master bedroom and the rest of the house. There is definitely no illusion of privacy as a result. This isn’t a really big problem for the house, but it is something to consider if you are staying there with a larger group and are expecting and/or hoping for a bit of privacy. This house does not afford a lot of that. However, if your main point is spending time together as a family then it is perfect. We enjoyed it.

When not at the house, we were out exploring the town of Port Angeles. With this, we were less impressed. We traveled there in June and would have expected more tourist but the town was very sleepy. We saw many homeless people but not very many other locals or tourists at all. The town has sort of a dingy, tired feel to it and although we didn’t feel unsafe, we did feel like intruders. The main street felt very deserted and although we popped in a few stores it just had an awkward feel to it. We walked around downtown and along the pier. We opted against going to the Feiro Marine Life Center because it looked small and, frankly, a little under loved. Instead of the regular “tourist traps” we decided to enjoy more of the natural areas outdoors. I’ll provide more information on that in a separate post.

We ate at two different restaurants in Port Angeles. The first place we tried out was Landings Restaurant and Dockside Lounge (not to be confused with Smuggler’s Landing). We cannot stress how distasteful Landings Restaurant was. First off, the service was terrible. We walked in and stood around trying not to stare at other patrons while the same other patrons stared at us, waiting for a member of the waitstaff to decide it was worth their time to seat us. When they did attend to us, we were afraid to touch the table or utensils because everything was absolutely filthy. Menus and table were sticky to the touch. We should have simply walked out. Instead we made the miserable choice to stay put and eat questionable looking food in the most dirty environment you can imagine. While we waited (around 45 minutes) for our food to appear, we watched waitstaff walk up the stairs with their plastic food gloves on. They held onto the rail going up the stairs and coming back down to return to the kitchen. I only prayed they changed their gloves (but I doubted it at the same time)! Our oldest son had a horrific stomachache shortly after eating the meal and ended up being sick in the worst way. Don’t eat there. Convenience store food would be preferable.

cafegardenThe second place we ate was Cafe Garden. (We had the intelligence to do some internet research before eating out again and noted their 4 star rating.) We also noted that the restaurant was owned and operated by a family which always encourages us that our children will be welcome. It looked promising and so we committed ourselves to it.

Cafe Garden is a great establishment with good food at decent prices. The only problem is that they do not actually like children. This was the rather unfortunate discovery we made after walking in with four of them! Although there was room for our family to sit in the front of the restaurant they chose to seat us in the back room, alone. They spread plastic underneath our youngest child’s highchair and questioned our sanity probably as much as we were questioning our own at that point. When the staff left us to peruse the menu, we hissed out instructions to our children on how we all needed to behave in order to leave a good impression. “Tea party manners!” I declared. My children did not disappoint.

I do understand that some children are just miserable to be around. However, I also find it a little insulting when we are eyed suspiciously from the get-go without having a chance to show off our manners (which we do have, surprisingly or not). We are accustomed to being “shoved in back rooms” and sometimes I will make a request that we be reseated in the front. However, in this case, I decided to let be and try to enjoy the meal under the eye of our very suspicious maître d’. As I say, our kids performed beautifully and, in the end, we received compliments on our smart manners. We thanked them and left. Although their food was decent, we found them to be a little too snooty for our tastes and would not take our family back there again.

Truthfully though, we probably won’t be visiting Port Angeles again. We did enjoy our stay at the house (very much) but the town itself left a little to be desired. I’ll discuss our rambles over Hwy 101 in a separate post for truly we had a delightful time traveling along the coast.