San Juan Island: Orcas, Alpacas, and Lavender!

Last month we were lucky enough to take a second trip up to Seattle. And this time, we added a trip up to the San Juan Islands–a cluster of beautiful islands about an hour ferry ride off the coast of Washington and close to Victoria, British Columbia.

We drove up north from Seattle for about an hour and a half to the Anacortes ferry terminal. You can make a reservation to bring your car on board, which is what we did. That made it pretty easy to get around the island. It took about an hour to reach Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, the most commercial of the San Juans.

There is endless beauty on this island! My favorite spot by far was Lime Kiln State Park on the southwestern edge of the island. Orcas are frequently spotted here (though we didn’t spot any from there)!

Lighthouse at Lime Kiln
Lighthouse at Lime Kiln
Slightly outside of Lime Kiln, but a beautiful spot on the coast
Slightly outside of Lime Kiln, but a beautiful spot on the coast

Although we didn’t see any orcas from Lime Kiln, we did a 3 hour long whale watching tour and spotted several members of the J-pod, one of the resident orca ponds in the area! They were absolutely incredible, breaching the surface quite often and putting on a show for whale watchers all around. The guides on the tour were able to identify many of the orcas we saw, including J-2 Granny and little J-49 T’ilem Inges. Granny is the oldest known living orca (estimated to be about 105 years old!) and T’ilem Inges is a young one, about 4 years old.

The orcas travel together in their extended families (called pods), and hunt for salmon. Very sadly, the salmon supply is at extremely low levels due to dam construction and the southern resident orcas are endangered as a result. The whale museum in Friday Harbor has a whale adoption program to help support orca research. We very happily adopted little T’ilem Inges and now receive monthly updates about the southern resident orcas 🙂

Another highlight of the trip was visiting the beautiful Pelindaba Lavender Farm. Rows and rows of lavender make for amazing photo ops:

Pelindaba Lavender Farm, Friday Harbor
Pelindaba Lavender Farm, Friday Harbor
Matt in the lavender fields
Matt in the lavender fields
Me in the lavender fields
Me in the lavender fields

Pelindaba also has a gift shop with endless lavender goodies: tea, soaps, lotions, essential oils, cleaning products, you name it! Definitely worth checking out.

A surprise fun trip on the island was the Krystal Acres Alpaca Farm. I didn’t even know it was there until we happened to drive by it!

Matt Crystal Acres Alpaca Farm
Matt at Krystal Acres Alpaca Farm

Apart from watching the alpacas graze on the fields, the farm also had a nice gift shop with knitted goods and homespun yarn from the alpacas onsite! I of course had to get some to knit a few things 🙂

Yarn from Crystal Acres
Yarn from Krystal Acres
Pleased with my purchases :)
Pleased with my purchases 🙂

While wandering around the little Friday Harbor downtown, we stopped in the Griffin Bay bookstore, since we’re both suckers for bookstores. The store featured a collection of books and novels about the region, and I stumbled upon a gem called “Eliza Waite” by Ashley Sweeney. This novel takes place on Cypress Island (in the San Juans) during the Yukon Gold Rush. It has quickly become one of my favorite books of all time, telling the story of a young widow who has endured and overcome so much tragedy and has essentially been cut off from her family. I cannot recommend this book enough! I finished reading it in just a few days and have been raving about it to anyone who will listen ever since 🙂 Another unexpected pleasant surprise from this lovely trip <3


My Last Trip in Turkey: the Southeast and Trabzon

It’s hard to believe, but my time in Turkey is very quickly coming to an end. On Monday I’ll fly up to Istanbul to spend a few days there before I head back to the US early Thursday morning. Since I’ve finished teaching for the year, I’ve had a little bit of time to travel to places that are more out of the way for me. I’d been wanting to see more of southeastern Turkey since my quick weekend trip to Hatay and Gaziantep, so I thought this would be the perfect time to go, despite the heat.  Continue reading My Last Trip in Turkey: the Southeast and Trabzon

Spring Travel Updates!

Well I guess I haven’t updated this in quite some time! Over the last couple months I’ve been traveling all over Turkey just about every weekend. It has been a lot of fun, although also really exhausting. Some of the cities I have visited are: Didim, Davraz, Laodikya, Eskişehir, Bodrum, Konya, Kapadokya, Hatay, Gaziantep, Çanakkale, Troy, Bursa, and Efes (Ephesus). I think it’d be hard to write about each trip, so instead I’ll just write a little about some of my favorite places.  Continue reading Spring Travel Updates!

A Typical Day Teaching in Denizli

I’ve probably already told most people what my life teaching English in Denizli is like, but I thought I’d give a quick summary anyway.

The university I work at is Pamukkale University, just a short walk from where I live. The campus has a nice background, located at the foothills of the mountains.

Yabancı Diller Yüksekokulu (School of Foreign Languages) Continue reading A Typical Day Teaching in Denizli

Semester Break–Home and Istanbul

After having a nice break between semesters at home, I’m back in Turkey and leaving for Denizli tonight. It was to see everyone in VA/DC and Madison and recharge for the rest of my time in Turkey.

Before going home and since coming back, I’ve spent a lot of time in Istanbul. Apart from seeing the major tourist attractions (Aya Sofya, Sultanahmet, etc.), there is so much more to do and see in Istanbul. I stayed on the Asian side of Istanbul (in Kozyatağı), so every day I would have to take the ferry over to the European side to see places. Although the commute over took awhile, I still really enjoyed it. While on the ferry you get nice views of both sides of the city. The Bosphorus is always a little choppy, and is a greenish-blue color, which makes for some nice pictures.

IMG_1533 Continue reading Semester Break–Home and Istanbul