1. A Journey of Firsts: The Pacific Northwest

    With over three decades of experience in the travel industry, I’ve had the good fortune of visiting a lot of amazing places around the world. I’ve been through nearly every US state, climbed the Eiffel Tower, journeyed down the Silk Road, sailed the Arctic Circle and trekked across the great plains of Africa. I thought I had seen everything there is to see. But there was one amazing part of the US that I had yet to explore but had always heard such wondrous things about: the Pacific Northwest.

    I’m an East Coast girl at heart, and I thought that nothing could top the tranquility of the Atlantic coastline, the local seafood or the picturesque beauty of New England in the fall. But that all changed when I laid eyes on the awe-inspiring landscape of the Pacific Northwest with Road Scholar earlier this year on our On the Road educational travel program, which took us through Mount Rainier, the North Cascades and Olympic National Parks.

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    Sunset over Oregon

    The states of Washington and Oregon are simply spectacular. From their vast and ancient forests (Washington’s red cedars predate many of Europe’s medieval castles) to its extraordinary mountain peaks to its serene lakes, I immediately fell in love with the region.

    But the Pacific Northwest isn’t just about mountains, lakes, and miles of wilderness coastline. Its cities are just as amazing to behold. I was particularly taken with the cuisine in Portland. The city is known for its world-class cooking school, a diverse array of food trucks, and its renowned collection of five-star restaurants. Clearly, food is a big deal here. I was so impressed by their imaginative cuisine and even more so by their commitment to using organic and locally-sourced ingredients.

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    Food trucks are everywhere in Portland!

    On our program, Portland’s Culture and Northwest Cuisine, I quickly become acquainted with the city’s vibrant culinary scene. Notable local experts took us under their wing and taught us about what’s going on in Portland kitchens. I tasted local craft beers and learned how it’s produced, and even visited with local farmers and sampled their bounty at the farmer’s market. After spending some quality time in its kitchens and scenic backdrops, I quickly realized why the City of Roses has become such a popular destination in recent years.

    From the jagged alpine terrain of the Cascade Mountains to mossy rainforests and wave-battered headlands, the Northwest landscape is as awe-inspiring as it is unique. Just as impressive are its economically vibrant cities: the incredible art, architecture, craft brewery scene and burgeoning food culture left an indelible mark on me (and my stomach). You can discover all of this for yourself on our diverse selection of Pacific Northwest programs. I can’t wait to return!

    Check back next month for more travel adventure advice on my next installment of Boomer Tips!

    -JoAnn Bell


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