Wednesday, August 26, 2009

More adventures in the Pacific Northwest

Picking up where I left off last week… Wednesday after work we walked over to the Pacific Science Center. We toured the museum, which is geared more towards children but has enough fun exhibits for people of all ages. We also watched an IMAX movie about the Lewis & Clark expedition. There was a somewhat bizarre temporary exhibit called Animal Grossology – featuring everything you ever want to know about animal & insect excretions. I enjoyed the butterfly garden, the mole rat colony, and the section devoted to Lucy, the fossil hominin discovered in Ethiopia in 1974. Thursday after work we took the bus south to the Museum of Flight, our one remaining ticket in our CityPass booklet. I was actually pleasantly surprised at the nice layout and thorough information provided in the exhibits and by the docents. Greg took a ride in the 4D simulator (I skipped this fearing it would trigger motion sickness). We also got to walk through a British Airways Concorde and retired Air Force One. We caught the bus back to Pioneer Square and had dinner at the New Orleans Creole Restaurant. The food was basic but tasty enough – I had cornmeal-battered fried oysters and Greg had spicy shrimp creole. It was another beautiful evening and we had planned to buy cheap tickets at the box office for the Seattle Sounders match. We totally underestimated how popular soccer is here! The lowest price for a single game ticket is $20, but when we showed up about 15 minutes before the game, the cheapest available seats were $45. We ended up buying ours through a reseller for $35 and were very close to field level with direct line of sight to the goal. Beer was not cheap -- $8.75 for a premium draft. We had a lot of fun – everyone was so into the match that they stood the entire time! The only unfortunate aspect of the week was that I started coming down with a cold on Thursday and by the end of the evening I was definitely sick – sore throat, sinus congestion, etc. That’s always the price you pay when you’re always on the go and not getting adequate rest. But I wasn’t about to let that interfere with our long weekend trip to BC. We got up early Friday morning and walked down to the waterfront to catch the free #99 bus to the downtown Amtrak station. I guess I’m spoiled by all the conveniences associated with taking Amtrak in NYC – Penn Station is massive and has many restaurants, delis, and other stores where you can buy just about anything. But King Street station had none of these; only a couple of vending machines. So our plan to buy breakfast to take on our 7:40AM train fell through. Luckily the train did have a cafe and we purchased breakfast sandwiches to eat at our seats. The scenic four hour ride up the coast passed quickly with the exception of lots of stops & starts once we were in proximity to Vancouver. From Pacific Central Station it was a short walk across the street to catch the SkyTrain into downtown Vancouver, and then a few blocks walk along Granville Street to our hostel. They are doing massive construction in Vancouver in preparation for the winter Olympics beginning 12FEB2010. Walking on the sidewalk involves a bit of an obstacle course, there is a fair amount of jackhammering noise and dust to contend with, and some buses are rerouted to avoid closed roads. Still, Vancouver is very much a walkable city, fairly compact and not terribly hilly. It is also very bicycle friendly, with well-marked street signs and bike lanes. After having soup & sandwiches for lunch at a grocery store café, we stopped at the Tourist Information booth for some additional maps & info and then at a drugstore so I could get sinus medication. It was another beautiful, sunny day so we walked around Chinatown, then along the waterfront facing the shipyard (where I spotted a harbor seal watching us from the water), then around to Gastown, where we stopped for a well-deserved beer. From there we walked to Yaletown (which very much resembles NY’s SoHo) and along the waterfront facing Granville Island. We decided to have dinner at Honjin Sushi, where we ordered the special “dinner for two” featuring assorted sushi, sashimi, tempura, dumplings, tofu, miso soup, and more. As we dined, a young couple was seated at the booth adjacent to our table. We didn’t take much notice of the two, but soon enough, other diners were stopping by their table asking for photos and autographs. Our dining companions turned out to be Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart of Twilight fame. We didn’t even know for sure who they were until I was able to double check their photos online. Exhausted from a long day of travel, walking, and my dealing with a head cold, we headed back to the hostel to shower and get some rest, thankfully in a private room (but with shared bath). We got up around 7:30 Saturday morning and took advantage of the complimentary breakfast at the hostel (toast, bagels, muffins, cereal, coffee). We went ahead and packed up our backpacks and checked out, leaving the bags in storage. We had miscalculated the distance/time it would take to walk across the bridge to Granville Island, but we survived the trek and enjoyed browsing around the market. We wisened up and took a bus back into downtown and picked up our rented bikes to ride the loop around Stanley Park. This turned out to be a wonderful way to spend a few hours and we stopped intermittently to look at totem poles, lighthouses, statues, and the rose garden. From there we headed back to the hostel to pick up our bags and took the SkyTrain back to Pacific Central where we boarded a coach bus to Tsawassen to catch the ferry to Victoria. The 1½ hour ferry ride was comfortable and scenic. The area we went through reminded me a lot of sections of the Inside Passage that I cruised in Alaska last year. Upon docking at Swartz Bay we hopped on the #70 bus (a double decker – Greg & I sat on the top deck in the very front) for the 40min ride into downtown Victoria. We checked into the hostel, this time in a couples dorm with 4 bunks (8 beds total). After a quick look around, we took a nice walk across the Johnson St Bridge out to Victoria Harbour where we had dinner at Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub. By the end of the meal I was truly exhausted from being sick and on the go for two days straight so we called it a night. We got up relatively early again Sunday morning (7am) and packed up and were out the door by 8. We had breakfast at the oldest bakery in BC, Willie’s, where I enjoyed a delicious Pacific eggs benedict (with lox & fresh spinach) and Greg had a BLT croissant with scrambled eggs. We walked along Government Street to the Inner Harbour, reading the historic building markers along the way. We were able to take a free tour of Parliament where we learned a bit more about the architect as well as the structure of the current government. From there we walked to Beacon Hill Park, out to mile marker 0 of the Trans-Canada Highway. We walked back into town through the park, past blooming flower beds, duck ponds, a putting green, and over an old stone bridge. Then up to Chinatown and the summer Sunday market, which was really just one block of vendors selling made in Victoria clothes, jewelry, accessories, music, etc. We picked up our bags from the hostel and retraced our walk from earlier in the day as we had spotted a sign at a café advertising the #1 coffee in the world, Panama La Carleida, which they were selling for $10 per 8oz cup or $105 per ½ lb. We were treated to silver service and sipped our coffee slowly, savoring every drop (although Greg drank his as if it were Starbucks!). We then walked back along the waterfront to Inner Harbour where we enjoyed a beer outside overlooking the harbor. Wanting to continue the outdoors theme, we had a late lunch/early dinner at the rooftop beach club of a nearby hotel accompanied by a pitcher of Kokanee beer. Then it was time to check in for our boat ride back to Seattle – not on a ferry but something along the lines of a yacht with capacity for around 300 people and an interior very similar to an airplane. It was a bit choppy in the more open water around the Strait of Juan de Fuca but I fought off motion sickness with some ginger candy and just by sitting quietly and not trying to focus on anything. We docked in Seattle around 9:45PM and cleared customs then walked back “home” to Queen Anne and quickly called it a night. Monday & Tuesday were recovery days for me. Very nice to be able to work from the hotel, do laundry, cook dinner, and just rest & relax. I did make one foray into downtown Seattle to drop off a few books at the central library and also picked up a few things at the ExOfficio store in Belltown. Today Greg & I celebrated our six month anniversary. Actually, celebrated is a bit of an exaggeration considering neither one of us knew in advance that today was different than any other day. I just happened to be going through my work calendar from earlier this year and noticed that today marked six months of our being together. The time has flown by and we have crammed in a lot in those months – Greg came up to NYC to stay with me for the better part of April & June, we took some mini vacations on the beach and in the mountains, we jumped out of an airplane together, we celebrated birthdays and shared meals with family and friends in Nashville, and now we have lived in Seattle for the past month. So what did we do to fete the occasion? Took the bus to Interbay and had lunch at Red Mill, a burger joint featured on Man v Food on the Travel Channel (and the last on our list of restaurants featured in the Seattle episode). We pigged out on supersize bacon cheeseburgers and onion rings and then returned to the hotel to finish working for the day before enjoying a beer on the roof deck with a clear view of Mt Rainier. It’s hard to believe we’re down to our last week here. We really only have a few more days left in Seattle since we’re going to Portland this weekend. So we’ve been making our final list of top things to see & do before we leave. Of course, it involves food and beer for the most part!!!

No comments:

Post a Comment