Our North American Trip - April to June 2010.
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Trip Report for Seattle - Vancouver.  May 5 - 12

(This will be updated as and when the opportunity presents itself, and we’ll add photos when time permits.  It could be a bit disorganised at times due to infrequent Internet access!!)

Wednesday, 5 May:   Portland - Seattle
Weather:
   Fine & cloudy – some rain            Temp:  8 - 14oC

Up a little earlier this morning to have breakfast, pack and drive to Seattle.  After packing the car and tidying up we checked with Terry (our host) so she could have a quick look through our cottage (and refund our deposit) before we said goodbye and set off on our way north.

We left Portland around 9.30am and drove to Tacoma (about 2.5 hours non-stop – lovely 4 to 6 lane freeway so stayed in ‘cruise mode’ in the car the whole way) so we could view the two Tacoma Narrows Bridges (the second bridge was under construction when we visited this area 3yrs ago – now completed – one bridge for each direction of traffic).  Found the local Tacoma Mall and had lunch (teriyaki chicken, prawns & veges cooked as you watched).  As we left Tacoma it started to rain quite heavily as we drove toward Seattle, arriving just before 3pm.  Checked into the Comfort Inn & Suites, then went into the city. 

We caught the monorail into the centre of the city (downtown), had a walk around a Columbia clothing shop, then down by the Pike Place Market area (all closing as it was around 6pm) - alongside the harbour, then casually walked back to our accommodation.  As we walked along 4th Avenue we noticed a couple in a café sharing a nice looking thin crispy crust pizza, so we also shared a small pizza for dinner – it was very nice.  We also passed by the Space Needle (restaurant and view point) and the Science Fiction Museum.  When in at the market area we also saw quite a few shops we would like to go back to, so we will return in the morning and spend some time looking around while they are open.

I am currently typing this while Annette hangs up our washing on the clothesline I have strung around the room – talk about a Chinese laundry!  We avoid hotel driers where possible as they generally manage to destroy clothing from NZ.


Thursday, 6 May:   Seattle
Weather:
   Fine sunny day with little cloud          Temp:  9 - 16oC

Took advantage of the complementary breakfast that was on offer in the accommodation we are staying in, then caught the monorail into the centre of the city (downtown) and walked down to the Pike Place Market area – typical market area with lots of fruit, flowers, seafood and there are many other shops close by who are appropriately positioned to also take advantage of the crowds that the market draws eg, cheese shop, bagel shop, crumpet shop, chocolate shops, dry roasted nuts and apple (thinly sliced and slowly roasted in an oven - crisp and pleasant). 

Had an early lunch and returned to our accommodation before driving north of Seattle, initially to collect a parcel at Ann & Scott’s place in Lynnwood (we were to go there for dinner tonight but have not as they have had a bereavement in the family), then onto Everett to the Future of Flight Aviation Centre and Boeing Tour – booked for 3pm.  It was interesting having a look around the Flight Aviation Centre before our tour. 

Once we joined our tour at 3pm (no mobile phones, cameras, i-pods, mp3 players etc, were allowed on the tour), we initially watched a short film on the history of Boeing, and then we boarded a bus that took us over to the massive factory where they assemble the Boeing aeroplanes.  Our initial view was of the 3 Dream Lifter aeroplanes parked outside the aeroplane assembly building – these planes were modified 747’s to transport various 787 plane assembly parts eg, fuselage, wings, etc from manufacturers within the USA and other countries around the world eg, Japan and Italy.

Our entrance into the assembly plant was via one of many under floor tunnels (1/3 mile in length) then we caught a lift (50 or so people) up to the 4th level where our guide explained the progress of the assembly of each of the new 747-8’s; we then went by bus further along the building and saw the production of 777’s and the new 787 Dream liners down on each of the floors and the sections of each of the aeroplanes looked so small down on the floor area in comparison to the size of the building.   The aeroplanes are initially made up in sections before being assembled together before any wings and tails are attached, then the wheels, and lastly the engines (made by Pratt & Whitney elsewhere in the USA).   Many of the people looked so small and periodically we would see some people riding around on bicycles – 2 and 3 wheelers (full sized bikes).  It was particularly hard to comprehend how huge the factory was – the building could apparently hold 900 soccer fields (the biggest building on earth). 

When our tour finished, a Boeing catering celebration had started in the Future of Flight hall where about 10 different caterers had a small but amazingly wide variety of food portions available and drinks for sampling, and as we had been told we were most welcome to join in, we did so.  It was nice of Boeing to supply us with our evening meal tonight.

When we drove back to Seattle we drove down Highway 405 turning across Mercer Island before returning back to our accommodation.  Once back we visited a supermarket close by to get a few food items before doing another clothes wash and retiring for the evening.


Friday, 7 May:   Seattle
Weather:
   Fine sunny day  (initially a little cloud)          Temp:  9 - 16oC

Had some of the complementary breakfast at our accommodation before catching the Monorail into the city, close to the City Market. 

At 10.15am we met up with Brett, our host for the Savor Seattle Food Tour (walking) at Starbucks at the Pike Place Market.  Initially we called into Daily Dozen Donuts - tasted some mini cinnamon & sugar donuts;  MarketSpice shop - tasted their signature tea known as Market Spice tea (a black tea with cinnamon, orange & cloves in it – even Graham likes it) & Alderwood Smoked Sea Salt (for using on salmon or any meats) (www.marketspice.com);  Pike Place Fish Market – tasted 3 different types of smoked salmon & watched a fish being thrown across the store;  fresh fruit produce stall – tasted fresh apple & pear (pear imported from NZ);  Pike Place Chowder - sampled two different style clam chowders;  Chukar Cherries – tasted a dried cherry & 4 different types of chocolate coated dried cherries;  Beecher’s Handmade Cheese – tasted some aged cheddar and some macaroni cheese;  Piroshky-Piroshky (bakery) – tasted some salmon and mince mixtures filling inside a thin bread casing;  Etta’s Seafood Restaurant – tasted some mini crab cakes.

The tour was for 2 hrs - our host (Brett) was very good and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

The fresh flowers in the market were spectacular – tulips at their best – obviously sales had been good today as by early afternoon there weren’t many left to sell.  After the tour we returned to some of the store holders to make some purchases and shared some more clam chowder for lunch.

We returned to catch the Monorail back to our accommodation only to find it had broken down.  Two Americans from out of Seattle were also going to catch the Monorail down our end of town so they could check into their accommodation at The Hampton Inn close by, so we helped them catch the bus – as usual one pulled out as we approached the bus stop!!  Instead of waiting another 10mins we caught another bus that was going close by and returned to our accommodation to drop off the stuff we had purchased before walking up to the road again to catch a ride up the ‘Space Needle’ in the Seattle Centre so we could get some good views of Seattle.  After coming down again we walked through the Centre to get some good views of the fountain playing in the park – quite spectacular and the younger ones enjoyed running in and out of the water as it spurted out.  One of the most spectacular fountains we have ever seen.

We went to a nearby Sushi Train restaurant for dinner


Saturday, 8 May:   Seattle - Vancouver
Weather:
   Beautiful fine sunny day            Temp:  10 - 17oC

We again had some of the complementary breakfast (supplied own Raisin Bran & fruit) at our accommodation before packing up and departing for Vancouver around 10am.  Before leaving Seattle we drove up to the view point at Kerry Park to take some photos looking down over Seattle (thanks to a local supermarket checkout guy’s suggestion).

As we drove north, we briefly stopped off at the Flight Aviation Centre to get some photos of the Boeing buildings where they construct their aeroplanes as we didn’t appreciate the size of these buildings until we had gone on one of the Boeing Tours last Thursday.  A little further north we stopped off at La Conner for lunch, then proceeded to head for the USA / Canadian Boarder (15 min wait) and were quickly processed by the boarder control and cleared to drive into Canada.  We both realised at this point that neither of us had any Canadian money on us – when we find a ATM Machine we will withdraw some!

As we drove into Vancouver we stopped off at the Queen Elizabeth Park viewpoint to take some photos of the city with the mountains in the background, however some of the trees are now too tall for one to take advantage of the spectacular city views any longer.

Arrived at our accommodation at the Sunset Inn & Suites, luckily found a park (alongside a massive blue “Trook” – our Nissan Maxima looks small alongside it), then we settled ourselves into our very roomy studio suite (with full kitchen) – just like the room we stayed in 3yrs ago!  It’s a bit like madness around here at present as there are hundreds of people visiting Vancouver this weekend to take part in a fun sun run tomorrow (Sunday) morning and it’s also Mother’s Day tomorrow as well!! 

Went for a walk downtown to find an ATM Machine to get some Canadian $$ and passed an Italian restaurant (Italian Kitchen) that looked interesting, so we asked for a table and ordered our meals.  G ordered spaghetti bolognaise (how unpredictable!) and A had pasta with prawns, tomato, coriander & capers – it was delicious… it reminded us of being back in Italy.  We had a table quite close to the kitchen downstairs and were fully entertained watching the 8 or so chefs (while waiting for our meals) cook all the meals – they were flat out.  A wanted to take a video of them to show Andrew and Lee!!

Located a supermarket on our way back to our accommodation so we could purchase a few items for having breakfast in our room.


 

Sunday, 9 May:   Vancouver
Weather:
   Beautiful fine sunny day            Temp:  10 - 17oC

Turned my mobile when I got up only to receive two text messages – one from Simon and Andrew wishing Annette a happy Mother’s day, so that was really nice.  After having our own breakfast in our room, we headed off to Granville Market, initially by walking down to Sunset Beach to catch a False Creek ferry across to Granville Island.

It was interesting walking around looking at the different stalls – fruit & veges, different kinds of meats from fresh, to gourmet sausages, gourmet pressed meats (duck & pistachio terrene;  blood & tongue roll;  pickled headcheese – port brawn back in NZ – purchased some of each); French style salami, marinated meats, etc.  Lots of salmon, pink, silver & sock eye (Alaskan), fish and lots of different prawns, mussels and oysters, etc.  Several different bread bakeries (naturally Graham was very interested in these), coffee and many different foot outlets.  There were several different jewellery, scarf and clothing stalls.  

We purchased some of the three different deli meats from GT Sausage, then found some Pecan & Cranberry sourdough bread from La Baguette & L’Echalote (some of the nicest bread we have ever tasted), an Avocado and fruit to have as a slack evening meal tonight, as we were going out for lunch.

Late morning we started to drive toward the western side of Vancouver, but as the Annual Sun Run around Vancouver was on (had started at 9am), many of the roads around the CBD were closed for most of the morning.  As we left our accommodation we found ourselves in gridlock traffic for the first 45mins then as it eventually freed up and we started driving across the Lions Gate Bridge there was a nose to tail accident in the centre (highest point of the 3 lanes) of the bridge – we were stationary again!!  Amazingly, we arrived at our lunch venue dead on time – 12.30pm (Graham had allowed 1hr to get there, knowing we were likely to have trouble with all the road closures).  We met up with Sheena and Terry (Slow travel friends) at the Salmon House on the Hill (Cyprus Mountain) – the food was particularly nice (A had: Pacific Omelette – lox salmon, shrimps, yellow pepper, spinach, etc - G had:  Eggs Benedict with locally smoked salmon) – the views of Vancouver and its surrounding harbours from the venue were quite spectacular.  We had a lovely time catching up with Sheena and Terry and talked for nearly 3 hours over lunch.

Once we had left the Salmon House we drove up Cyprus Mountain to see if we could see where some of the Winter Olympics had been in Feb 2010 – sure enough we could see where some of the snowboarding runs had been, so that was great.  Part way up we stopped at another view point to get further views of Vancouver and surrounding areas.  The road up the mountain is nearly 10km long and a steady climb all the way.  We passed many people cycling up the hill and they obviously really enjoyed the long fast ride down again.  A group of skateboarders had gone up the mountain in a van and were really enjoying their downhill run.  They said they typically reached 70km/h in places.

Once back at our accommodation (lots of parking places available in the basement this time) we went for a walk for over an hour along the False Creek walkway as far as the BC Stadium and General Motors Place Stadium (winter Olympics Ice Hockey stadium), then caught one of the False Creek Ferries back to the Sunset Beach jetty before walking up the hill back to our accommodation (our water taxi driver works up at Grouse Mountain during the winter and drives the water taxis during the summer months and was from Nova Scotia, East Canada).

Got back to our room around 7.30pm and had some of the food we had purchased earlier in the day from Granville market and some berries and yoghurt for desert – lots of yummy flavours.

We had such a lovely warm day today and were told by two different people that we must have brought the fine weather with us to Vancouver.  Certainly the last two days have felt like summer is coming over here.


 

Monday, 10 May:   Vancouver
Weather:
   Beautiful fine sunny day            Temp:  10 - 17oC

Had our own breakfast as usual and then caught the little ‘put-put’ boat over the water to Granville Market.  Bought another loaf of Pecan and Cranberry bread and then had a freshly baked bagel each and a coffee.  Bought a number of things for dinner tonight – pork chorizo sausages, asparagus, salami (French recipe), milk and yoghurt.  Came back to the apartment and made lunch – salad with bread and meats left over from yesterday, strawberries and paw paw.

Walked around downtown and found the Information Centre, and then wandered around separately (G is rapidly losing interest in women’s shops!) for a couple of hours, then came back to our accommodation to make dinner.  Had sausage, tomato, and mushroom with pasta and asparagus, followed by the usual strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and yoghurt.

We have had problems with email in the past couple of days, receiving incoming is no problem at all, but can't send emails.  Have discovered that the hotel's ISP is blocking all outgoing emails as spam protection.  Can still send by connecting to our web mail, but rather more time consuming.  Should be back to normal when we move on Wednesday.  Last trip to North America we had very infrequent access to the internet, this trip so far we have had access everywhere and always free.


Tuesday, 11 May:   Vancouver
Weather:
   Beautiful fine sunny day            Temp:  10 - 18oC

Had our own breakfast and then walked to Stanley Park where we had a horse-drawn tour through some of the park for an hour.  Walked from there back along the waterfront into the city and then down into the historic Gastown area (steam driven clock).  Had a snack at a food hall for lunch and then walked home to do some washing.  One the way back to our accommodation we passed by a Community vege Garden – we thought it was interesting to see something like this in such a built up area (backing onto a hospital).

Vancouver has been lovely this time with fine weather and we have really enjoyed our time here – last time we were here it rained a lot!  This city is very pretty with lots of tree lined streets even in the business and commercial areas, there’s quite a lot of bird life and lots of people walking small dogs – not nearly so many middle or larger sized dogs.

We have noticed though that Canada is significantly more expensive than the States, particularly food, liquor and fuel, and they have high duty/tax on alcohol and some unusual regulations.  Apart from being expensive, alcohol is difficult to purchase in small quantities.  I decided I’d like a beer with dinner last night and had a lot of difficulty buying one.  It appears that private licence holders can only sell beer in minimums of dozen lots, but one can get 6 packs and even a few single cans (large cans only) from the Government liquor stores.  This is possibly a means of limiting access to beer for those who can only afford the odd can.  The beggar population appears to be much higher and more noticeable here - we saw beggars on the streets in San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle, but not like the numbers here, they are on many corners and other prominent places – degrades the city quite a lot.

Click here to go to May 12