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Monthly Archives: September 2015

Seattle to Vancouver and Victoria- Day 10

Sun. Aug. 30, 2015:
Sooke to Victoria, BC to home:

It was nice to already have a breakfast ready-to-go and an iced coffee as well. It made getting up early that much less painful. I drank my iced coffee while standing on the balcony watching the river otters play. In total we counted about seven of them. Two came ashore and we realized it was a mother and her baby. They groomed each other for a bit and then swam off. We had printed our boarding passes the night before (why it never occurred to us to do this every time, who knows).

As we drove on the highway a bird flew right in front of our car and it had nearly cleared us, but as it was passing by *THWOMP* it was a goner. In a highway median we saw at least 40 black and grey rabbits. I guess at the first sign of rain they were eating what little grass had already started to sprout.

There was no easy way to get to the airport. We had to take a coach bus and that hour seemed to go on forever. The people behind us were talking so loudly the whole time, the guy barely came up for air. The bus stops were not announced and we were unsure of when exactly to get off. We got off at what we thought was our stop, but in walking to the airport we realized we had missed the stop. Even still, there was no bus that actually went into the airport and where we were walking there were no sidewalks. It was poorly designed. Later on there was a bike lane so we walked in that instead. Near the airport there was a large grassy field, apparently there was a bull who grazed there, but I saw nothing.

Our flight had been overbooked and they were offering a $400 credit to anyone who would take the next flight, arriving two hours later. Alas, a lady had beat me to the counter and she got it instead.

 
 

Seattle to Vancouver and Victoria- Day 9

Sat. Aug. 29, 2015:
Salt Spring Island to Sooke, BC:

It had rained itself out again in the night, which worked out great for everyone. We still had nice vacation days, and British Columbia was getting some relief from the drought. I awoke really happy again, swung the door open only to find no muffins. Did we not get muffins because it was the weekend? Because we were checking out this day? As we left for breakfast we found our muffin delivery at the main door (there were two suites in our building). Now that we were walking to breakfast though we saved the muffins for later. Breakfast was the same as the previous day, more delicious granola and some objectionable fruit. We walked down to the edge of the property to have one last look for eagles. Overlooking the marina, we still saw nothing. We walked next door to the restaurant and down into the marina. No eagles. This was our last full day of vacation, our last chance to see an eagle and time was running out. Walking back to our room we saw a large bird high atop a lone tree. Could it be?! It was a crow.

As we drove to the ferry the sun started peeking out from behind the clouds. We had just missed the ferry by a few minutes. We queued up the car and parked. Standing around I was getting antsy. There was nothing nice to look at and nothing nearby to walk to. We were trapped. We decided to plan the rest of the day which was rather open other than driving to Sooke and an evening dinner reservation at the hotel. Google said our hotel in Sooke was a good spot to see bald eagles. Apparently we would also be driving by two more promising spots. Our plans were set: we would stop at Goldstream National Park (which I had seen on our way up) and then another smaller park. Operation Spot An Eagle was a-go, we had it all planned out. As we started driving onto the ferry the car in front of us took a left turn and drove off. They had been trapped in the queue for 30 minutes! We had a good laugh at their expense. It was a good thing we had saved the muffins, I devoured mine (blueberry) while we waited to board the ferry.

Driving back south down the TransCanada Highway there was an overhead sign saying the highway was closed at GoldStream Park. There had been some construction signs so I figured maybe it was an old message? Maybe the delay was just past the entrance? Or maybe we could find a detour roundabout way to get to the park? As we sat there in traffic as far as the eye could see Brent Googled the hold-up. As it turned out there had been a horrible car crash that morning… right at the entrance to the park. We had jinxed ourselves the day before wondering what happens when the highway is shut down.

The first detour suggestion was to take a ferry to Victoria but we figured everyone would go for that and we decided not to risk it. When I tried to pull it up on my phone and on the GPS neither would acknowledge that there was an alternate route. I had to pull up the map and look for the detour road given in the news item. I then had to navigate us to a nearby city and from that city navigate us to this road. Neither the GPS nor my phone would take me directly to it without taking the TransCanada Highway- it was infuriating. We backtracked to where we had gotten off the ferry and a little further north, then we had go all the way across until we hit another road going south. We drove in the shape of a giant box and it added at least 3 hours to our drive.

Instead of driving directly south, this was the only other option, as there were not other roads.

In back-tracking we drove right into the rain storm we had been slowly leaving behind. Adding to the crappiness, the road we were on was a logging road so it was windy and narrow. There was nothing to look at but clear cut forests. It was no wonder both Google and the GPS did not want us going this way. I was getting sleepy, hungry and I had to go to the bathroom. We pulled over at a viewpoint but there was not much to see, just the Olympia Mountains off in the distance.

We stopped at Juan de Fuca park, we both needed to stretch our legs. We walked down to Juan de Fuca China Beach through a forest where apparently cougars and bears roam enough for there to be a sign warning of this. Again, we saw no eagles. Things were not looking good for us. The beach had gorgeous views of the American side, there was a lot of driftwood and some bluffs on the beach. We watched as a guy jumped rope with a piece of kelp. I was going to make fun of him to Brent until I saw he was doing this to amuse a child which made it less dorky. We also heard a jay and then saw one. He posed on a branch not nearly long enough for me to properly photograph him though.

Walking back Brent remarked that at least it had only rained while we were driving- and it proceeded to rain on us. We stopped at McDonald’s for a late lunch, we still had 3 hours before dinner. There was nothing wacky on the menu. We stopped in at Serious Coffee next door, I was hoping maybe they would have nanaimo bars, alas they did not. All they had was a weird guy from Alberta talking about the Blue Jays (after he saw Brent’s hat). Before heading to the hotel we stopped at Shoppers Drug Mart so I could get an iced coffee for the next morning. We had an early flight and the airport is nowhere near downtown Victoria where we had to return the car.

We were staying at the Sooke Harbour House and it was super fancy. In our room we found a complimentary bottle of port wine and a plate of cookies. Additionally there were cookie jars throughout the hotel that we could help ourselves to. All this and our room did not have a TV. Our room even had a sunroom (great when it’s raining, not) and a balcony, we could look at the ocean and surrounding islands from our windows.

We walked the grounds before dinner, secretly on the lookout for bald eagles. Instead we spotted a bride and groom having their wedding pictures taken in the park next door. This also stopped us from walking to the end of the jetty in the park. There was even a rainbow in the background. We saw four seals and watched river otters play tag and chase each other in the water. We would have ended up late for dinner if the otters had not swum off into the distance.

Dinner was not outstanding, although the seafood dish of mussels, clams and scallops that we split was amazing. The rose wine was from the Okanagan valley. We were too full for dessert, but when the bill came they gave us little complimentary desserts. They had figs, it was unpleasant. Maybe I was not as impressed with the food because there was so much other stuff going on in the restaurant around us. The bride and groom were having their pictures taken outside the house and were paraded through the dining room. The couple to the left of us were looking at her and all the woman (who was in her 50s-60s) could say to her husband was “look at her boobs” in reference to the bride. I was floored. At the other table there was the most insufferable man of all time, dominating the conversation. His wife only said stuff to please and support him. The other couple never even had a chance to say anything. We knew they were there by the “uh huhs” and other such barely verbal sounds. This guy had once known Jim Flaherty and now the world needed to know. And lest they forget, five minutes later he would start another story with “Jim….” His wife then took the reins for a moment to complain about Toronto and the welfare state and then she passed the mic back to him. It was unbelievable how long the windbag could go on for. When we got there they had already started their mains, when we left they were considering dessert. As we sat there waiting for the bill, I happened to look up. I was sitting facing the window and suddenly I found myself staring at a deer. Close behind her was her young fawn, who was so fuzzy and fluffy and cute I wanted to scream. She was eating the flowers in the windowsill box.

Because we were checking out of the hotel early we had the option of getting breakfast delivered to our room the night before (at this hotel you have breakfast brought to your room in the morning). We found croissants, cookies and yogurt in paper bags in our fridge. After dinner we changed and went back out to the park. The sun was setting and it was getting dark but we wanted one last look. We saw a heron wading into the water and the river otters were back and playing again.

 
 

Seattle to Vancouver and Victoria- Day 8

Fri. Aug. 28, 2015:
Salt Spring Island, BC:

During the night it had rained but thankfully by the morning it had slowed down a bit- although the weather report called for rain later in the day too. I awoke with a flurry of excitement. I had read in the binder that in the morning, around 7:30am, the staff leave you a basket of muffins at your door. I checked the clock and bolted for the door. MUFFINS!! They were not in a basket, but they were still warm which more than made up for it. I devoured it right there by the door, still in my pajamas. Breakfast was in the main dining room where we had dinner the night before. I had come to expect my name on the place setting but it was just a menu. I did not feel like having eggs or bacon. Granola, yogurt, toast and were fruit sounded much more appetizing-housemade granola no less. It was amazing, but I could have done without the dried bananas. I felt similarly about the honeydew melon and pineapples.

It was still lightly raining out so we headed back to our room for Netflix and to plan out the day, see if maybe there was a movie theatre in town. On the TV I found a USB input which made me feel like a genius: I could just plug the iPad in and we could watch Netflix on the TV! So simple and yet somehow (for some technological reason) it would not work. All I could do was display photos. I instead resorted to watching The Price is Right and yelling at the contestants. As I sat there with my feet up I suddenly had an odd sensation… something warm on my arms… coming from the window… could it be?! The sun was out?! The weather was improving and we wasted no time getting outside. We stopped in again downtown to grab snacks and check out the liquor store (again). I found another BC cider, Rock Creek, which was made with Okanagan apples. There was another cider too, but it was in a giant swing top bottle which posed two problems: the first was that it would be too much to drink (as I still had one of a similar size in the fridge) and the second was that having to lug two swing top glass bottles around just seemed impractical.

Driving back to Ruckle Park (there had been two trails and we had only been on one so far) we passed signs for Mt. Maxwell. We decided to reverse the order of our plans as it made more sense to go to Mt. Maxwell first. The plan was to try hiking to the summit and depending on the state of the trail, see how far we could make it. The road was not in the best condition, not quite a dirt road but not paved either. It was incredibly bumpy the whole way up. Near the top there was a sign warning us that the road ahead was bumpy. We looked at each other, “oh god!”, how much bumpier could it get?! We got to the parking lot only to find out that this was the summit. So much for hiking it. There was a ridgeline trail we walked along with absolutely stunning views of the valley, oceans and a marina way down below. Because it had been raining there were some low-lying clouds adding to the “we are so high atop this mountain” feeling, even though the elevation was not actually that high. The lookouts along the path provided stunning views of the landscape. All this and still no eagles.

It was a slow drive down the steep, curvy, bumpy road. On our way into Ruckle Park we saw another deer crossing the road. At this point we had seen so many deer we were no longer fazed. It was like “oh look, another deer.” We walked along the other trail in Ruckle Park, heading in the opposite direction than the previous day, but still along the coast. We could see where we had been hiking the day before. Still we saw no eagles. We did see some kingfishers and a lone seal swimming about. Every time he went under we wondered if he would resurface or if we should keep walking. I almost stepped on what appeared be animal guts being eaten by wasps. Walking back was a lot faster because we were not stopping every few minutes to take in the view. Despite the earlier rain our hikes were a success, the paths were not muddy and easily traversable.

We got back to the hotel 5 minutes before afternoon tea began, which was just enough time to grab a drink at the hotel and eat some snacks. The jalapeno cheddar Doritos were so good, it totally hit the spot. I sort of regretted having finished off the Oh Henry! bites in the car, because now I was craving chocolate. The selection of desserts at tea helped satiate that craving. It was nice to sit by the fireplace eating mini cookies and drinking tea from a fancy teacup… for about 5 minutes. Back in our room we had Netflix and more ciders!! The Salt Spring wild cider was well worth the price, it was delicious.

We were having dinner again at the hotel, but this time at the more casual bistro. Out of all the dishes we ordered the appetizer was the clear winner: house-smoked salmon adorned with quail eggs. My main course was better but Brent’s side was tastier, it’s too bad we could not just switch sides and keep our mains. Gnocchi is so much better than shredded potato. The dessert also fell a little bit short. It was a vanilla caramel flan but there was no custard! We did find out from our waitress that there is a bald eagle nest near the parking lot next door and another one near a lumber yard. There was still hope!

Back in the hotel I finished off my cider while we finished off an episode of Lost. As part of turn-down service I found the cutest travel memento of all time on our pillows. A little sheep made of local wool with a tag reminding us of our stay at Hastings House. I was seriously falling in love with this place.

 
 

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Seattle to Vancouver and Victoria- Day 7

Thurs. Aug. 27, 2015:
Victoria to Salt Spring Island, BC:

Our hotel did not have free breakfast and we were all out of snacks. My iPod would not open iTunes and in my hungry state I actually attempted to load podcasts onto the iPad- it was not a good idea, in fact it was quite awkward. I made in-room coffee but somehow while I was brushing my teeth it had managed to overflow the mug and spill everywhere. When we got to the car rental place I noticed that the internet had lied and it actually opened a few hours earlier (even if that meant having to wake up early).

The TransCanda Highway appears to be the only route between Victoria and Nanaimo. We wondered aloud what happens if there is an accident, and then we saw that they had u-turn pull offs for just such cases. They also had scenic overlooks. We missed the first one and there was no easy to way to get back to it. Five minutes later there was another one so it all worked out in the end. We had gorgeous views of the river and the islands the mountains. We could see Salt Spring Island where we would be staying and the San Juan Islands where we had previously stayed. We were using Brent’s phone to determine what we were looking at.

We were going to Nanaimo, BC with sole purpose of me getting to eat as many nanaimo bars as I could whilst IN Nanaimo, BC: the namesake and the birthplace of one of the best desserts of all time. There were many (seriously, over twenty) places to choose from. I had researched it ahead of time and had narrowed it to two contenders, with an open slot: if I passed anything whilst walking between the two I might stop. Nanaimo bars are rich and prone to melting, making them terrible to binge-eat and difficult to save for later, hence the truncated tour of the Nanaimo Trail. (Seriously, they called it that and there was even a map on the website).

The first stop on our mini tour was Serious Coffee. Although it is a chain coffee shop, apparently only in Nanaimo do they serve nanaimo bars. The reasoning was twofold: 1.) coffee, enough said. 2.) they were the popular choice, having been voted best nanaimo bar a few times. It gets creativity points for having peanuts in the base and it had a lot of filling. Was it the best? That is hard to say, it was good but not outstanding. We also made the mistake of getting a lemon bar, it was not that good and too much food. To fuel me for our walk I had a cinnamon latte. On the way we passed by a bakery that had a Nanaimo trail sticker in the window. I had to go in to Mon Petit Choux and investigate. The nanaimo bars looked delicious (even though I had just eaten one). It was served to me in a small box with a ribbon. Maybe it would survive transport to be eaten later? it would have to because there was no way I could eat it at the moment. I was really intrigued by it, the filling was a lighter shade of yellow making me think maybe it was not as rich and somehow that made it seem even more appealing. Stop two, well now three, was Pirate Chips: a pirate themed restaurant. This nanaimo bar was the exact opposite end of the spectrum: the novelty pastry. I was here for the deep-fried nanaimo, finally I would get to sink my teeth into it. For years I was curious about it since it was supposed to be sold at the CNE until the vendor pulled out at the last minute. I placed the order to-go and the lady warned me that it would not survive well later. We walked down to the marina with it and pretty much devoured it. The ice cream and the whipped cream were completely unnecessary. The nanaimo held up surprisingly well, maintaining its structure and it deep-fried very well. It was so melty and delicious and it had just the right amount of batter. I had reached nanaimo-satiety. Downtown Nanaimo was ok, it was like any other small town main street. The whole time walking back I was worried that my massage bar from LUSH was going to melt, I had left it in the car.

Driving to the ferry to take us to Salt Spring Island we drove by the world’s stinkiest factory. It was a mixture of sauerkraut, all-dressed chips and stale farts. We had a clear view of the smelly offender from the ferry. As we queued up to board the ferry there was a giant truck in front of us, however it was not clear if he was also queued up or just waiting for the ferry traffic to clear. Once the cars ahead started moving he just sat there so we started going around him. As we pulled up beside him Brent rolled down his window to clarify if we had cut or not, and if need be to apologize. Turns out we had skipped the line but the guy did not seem to care at all. We also had no idea what he said, we guessed all this. We had missed the 12:10 ferry and assumed we would be departing on the next one at 1:15. However, as soon as we boarded the ferry left. No arguments here, I do not care if they stick to the schedule or not. The ride itself was only 15 minutes long. Again we had many beautiful views of the surrounding landscape and we saw a seal. Walking back to the car I passed by the giant truck and for a second was alarmed to see feet sticking out from underneath. Sitting in the car waiting to disembark, even with the windows rolled down, the car was a sauna and we could not turn the engine on yet. I was getting antsy in addition to the dizziness. I was worried about my nanaimo bar and massage bar. Both did not deal well with heat.

We drove by a yellow-grass dried out golf course. I could hear in my head what it was must sound like to walk on it, crunch crunch crunch. You could see how bad the drought was. We passed a sign for the Salt Spring Cider Co. but I had noticed it too late. Or so I thought, Brent pulled a nice u-turn and we headed back. On the side road we also saw a deer on its way back into the woods. It stopped for a moment to look at us. At the ciderworks I could see people peeling apples and feeding them into a big juicing machine. I had high hopes for this cider. It had better be good I thought, what with the exorbitant price I paid. The high price was only slightly dampened by the nice swing top bottle the cider came in. And the size of the cider bottle too I guess.

We were staying at the Hastings House, it was cute and cozy. There was no a/c but at least this time the room had a fan. Our names (yes, my behemoth of a last name) were written on our door. It was a nice touch. The info binder in our room informed us that there is lots of wildlife to be seen on the island, especially bald eagles. We had not given up on that quest. Our room also had a gorgeous antique wooden chest just mocking me. I was tempted to steal it, for only a split second. Nanaimo bar #3 had suffered from the heat and was in a terrible state of melt. I put it in the fridge but after about 20 minutes I could not wait. Surely it would have re-solidified and regained structural integrity? If only I had been more patient. The nanaimo bar was still very melty and difficult to hold. It was an awkward situation and almost as if in slow motion, I brought it to my lips and in that upward action it started to teeter and collapse in on itself, tumbling in the air, bouncing off my shirt and *plop*…. A terrible, horrible, awful mess on the carpeted floor. It was just about the worst possible thing that could have happened. At least if I had gotten one bite! But no, all I got was a lick of filling. And it was damn good filling, much better than Serious Coffee. Quite possibly the best nanaimo bar filling I have ever had. And now it was all gone, in a horrible CSI-worthy mess on our hotel room floor. The kicker was that this was lunch. And it was too early for afternoon tea at the hotel. I was lunch-less.

Drove to see what “downtown” was like. It was just a few shops around a marina and no sign of fast food. We were going to Ruckle Park because according to the internet this was our best bet for seeing a bald eagle. On the way we passed by a lot of hitch-hiking hippies, quite a few of whom were heading to Ruckle Park. We started to wonder where exactly it was we were going. Was Ruckle Park actually a hippy commune?! It was a nice easy hike, really more of a scenic walk. We had beautiful views of the other islands, and we could see the ferry we had been on a few days ago, off in the distance. Again we could see the San Juan Islands too. There was a lot of looking at places we had just visited and realizing we had been looking at where we were now. We did not see any whales or any eagles. All we saw was dried out landscape. We had to cut our hike short because the path was quarantined. The only wildlife we saw was a deer in the parking lot a few feet away. We could hear it rustling and slowly it came into view. Driving back to the hotel we saw 4 young deer grazing by the side of the road.

I was getting hangry, very hangry. Back in the hotel, we had just missed afternoon tea so I resorted to eating the lemon bar. With each bite I made a face. Watching the Food Network did not help matters. Thankfully the Merridale Cider I had from Vancouver was delicious and enough to distract me until it was time for our dinner reservation at the hotel restaurant. The hotel had two restaurants, one was a fancy place with a prix fixe menu and the other was a bistro. Tonight we were having a fancy dinner so we had to dress the part. We had quite the debate over who had ordered the better appetizer. It was really difficult to decide, both the scallop ceviche and the venison carpaccio were delicious. I contend I won for the best main, I am not a fan of halibut but it was delicious. I’m also not a fan of lamb, even if it is locally raised lamb from the island. For dessert we split a chocolate pate and a cheeseboard. The chocolate pate was a little too rich for me. I was also not having the goat cheese, although I discovered that plum preserves can make it (and by proxy themselves) quite palatable. The overall winner of the dinner was actually the amuse bouche: a pickled quail egg topped with salmon and caviar. We overheard the lady at the table ask the waiter, in the utmost serious manner, “who peels the quail eggs?” and then she chuckled to herself at the thought of someone sitting in the kitchen peeling a pile of small eggs.

 
 

Seattle to Vancouver and Victoria- Day 6

Wed. Aug. 26, 2015:
Vancouver to Victoria:

I grabbed a coffee and some mini muffins from the hotel for the walk over to the bus terminal which was at the train station. This time the walk was much easier, as it was downhill. Our tickets warned that we should show up at least 30 minutes early. This was unnecessary and showing up 5 minutes early worked out perfectly. We were taking a coach bus to a ferry terminal to get to Victoria, BC. The bus went through a tunnel that had a sign banning people from wearing sunglasses. It makes perfect sense but still it made me giggle. We were unsure of the exact process of getting to Victoria. I did not expect the coach bus to drive right onto the ferry, dropping us off in the cargo bay. As it turned out the ferry not in downtown Victoria, so we would have to board the bus again in an hour and a half.

There were annoying people cramming into the elevator and yelling to each other as if it was the end of the world and all 6 of them had to be in this elevator, god forbid they split up or wait for the next one. We had all of our bags with us and I did not feel like going to the open deck. I found a comfy window seat and dug in for the long haul with all our bags. I arranged them so I could put my feet up. It was great, sitting there staring out the window at the passing landscape and listening to podcasts. My peace was soon broken as we had to get back on the coach bus. It was odd to be sitting on a coach bus in a cargo bay. I was getting antsy, this was not helped when a baby started crying.

The bus station in Victoria was across the street from the Royal BC Museum but we had to backtrack to the hotel first to drop off our bags. As it turned out, the place that Brent had decided on for dinner was connected to our hotel and we got a discount there. We had a nice little hotel room that got a million bonus points for having a stovetop and a kettle. This almost made up for the lack of a/c and no screens in the windows. The Royal BC Museum was much smaller than what I had anticipated. I was expecting a huge museum like the Royal Ontario Museum. They had an interesting exhibit about the BC gold rush. Apparently there was a lot I had not known. There were no dinosaur bones. The last exhibit we saw was more geared towards children with a lot of recreated spaces from the turn of the century, interactive gold panning and pop culture objects.

I had grabbed a tourist map from the hotel front desk and circled a bunch of things I wanted to see. Thankfully we were in Canada now, so we could supplement the tourist map with our phones. The British Columbia legislature was next door to the museum. Unfortunately the sun was right behind it, making it difficult to photograph and to appreciate the architecture. Making things even worse, I had not brought my sunglasses because when we checked the weather it said it would be cloudy all day. Cloudy my foot, my fried retinas beg to differ. I was starting to get hangry as we meandered along a waterfront path through marinas on our way to Fisherman’s Wharf. It was a very inefficient path, they could have built a bridge instead of making us go up to the main road and then back down into the next marina. It was in complaining (and swearing) about this inefficiency that I realized how bad my hanger was getting. In my notebook it says “yeesh” referring to it.

Fisherman’s Wharf turned out to be a few restaurants and houseboats. At the end of the dock there was a hilarious sign that said, “if you are past this point you are in the ocean.” Knowing that we still had a 20 minute walk ahead of us to lunch, I remedied my hanger with chocolate soft serve from the ice cream shop. When I ordered I said “small” to save face, but this was all ruined when he called out my order, “kiddie size.” We took a more direct route to Red Fish, Blue Fish: a taco stand in a repurposed steel shipping container. We walked right by and did not realize, the directions could have been clearer. We had to go down a set of stairs to a marina to get there. We were hungry and this place was apparently really good. We ordered one of each type of hand-rolled fish taco for a total of five: grilled salmon, tuna, tempura fish, jerk fish and another iteration of salmon. They were all really good and it was difficult to rank them, there was a lot of hemming and hawing. We finished all but one and ate that one as we walked.

On the map I had seen another nearby point of interest: Bastion Square. We walked through it and I did not understand for the life of me why it was a POI. It was just a few restaurant patios and cobblestones. It was nothing special. Up next was Canada’s oldest Chinatown. We walked down one side of the street, dipped into an alley, crossed the street and walked back to the main arches. It was nice to see, but not that many shops and not very busy. On the way back to the hotel we stopped at Starbucks. When we ordered the tacos I had made the mistake of not ordering soda and I was feeling dehydrated, I was in desperate need of a green tea lemonade. Afterwards we walked through Centennial Square. Apparently there was a fringe theatre festival happening because the square was packed. There was an annoying guy in a spacesuit on a unicycle and I wanted to get away from there and fast.

We stopped at TD bank so I could get coins for Sunday (I did not enjoy this reminder of the real world, having to think about being back home and doing laundry). I was exhausted by the time we were back in the hotel. I wasted time on the iPad while drinking tea. I was desperate for some nice products from LUSH. My face had layers on sunburn on it and now it was starting to get dry and peely. It was a truly awful feeling. As it turned out there was a LUSH nearby and Brent was in need of restocking his beer supply. Having rested a little, we headed back out. On the way to LUSH we passed a liquor store, rather than having to walk to the one Brent had Googled, we checked out this one to save us a trip. The stock was amazing, I found two different BC ciders. It felt so good to buy a massage bar from LUSH, I also got free samples of hair product and a lotion for Brent’s sunburnt neck. We saw the best passive-aggressive mad kid of all time, she was walking really slow, little shuffles and with every step she stuck her tongue out.

The first of my two ciders, Tod Cider (fermented apples and sulphites said the ingredients list) was terrible. It had a funny aftertaste. Thankfully Firefly and Futurama on Netflix were enough to distract me. Instead of cracking open another drink we headed downstairs to the Argyle Attic. On the website the menu had listed perogies, but they were nowhere to be found when we got there. Instead I ordered the whisky-BBQ chicken wings. Thankfully they do half-orders and so it was the perfect amount of food, as we were still full from the tacos earlier. I decided to change it up from ciders to cocktails. The first one had Old Dad bourbon and a locally-made cola. The second one had Okanagan (local-ish?) peach vodka in it. I did not even know that Okanagan peaches were a thing. The restaurant was really busy and the service was slow, but we had been forewarned so it was OK. At least the drinks arrived fairly quickly. There was no way we would be ordering dessert, partly because had already eaten so much and partly the slow service.

 
 

Seattle to Vancouver and Victoria- Day 5

Tues. Aug. 25, 2015:
Vancouver :

I woke up at 7:30am and decided to stay awake, we had a long day ahead of us. I grabbed a coffee, bar and yogurt from downstairs. The Vector cereal bar I grabbed was disgusting. I took so long getting read that we did not leave until almost an hour later. Our first stop was Granville Island where the shops did not open until 9am so it worked out in the end. The walk to the island was along the marina, the whole time we searched the nearby trees and masts of sailboats, desperate to spot a bald eagle. We had read that they often sit atop masts. We did see a heron hunting down some breakfast. On Granville Island there were a bunch of storefronts and a community centre. The main attraction was the farmer’s market building. This was what I had expected when we went to Pike Place: a giant building, full of stalls, not too busy. Brent ordered a chicken sandwich, but it was too early in the morning for me to eat a giant sandwich. Plus our lunch plans were sandwiches. I opted for a donut and pepperoni sticks with an iced coffee from JJ Bean. We tried to eat outside but a wasp kept bugging us.

We walked to Kitsilano Beach after breakfast. We saw a rocky beach, which at first we mistook for Kitsilano. However Brent pulled up the map and it turned out we were just walking along the shoreline during low-tide. Kistilano was the next one over. Looking back we had gorgeous views of Vancouver with the mountains in the background, all across the river. We could also see Stanley Park across the way. It was our next destination, we were so close, we could see it, yet we had to backtrack to the bridge to get back across. This added about 30 minutes to our trek.

Stanley Park was our best chance of getting to see a bald eagle, so said the internet. We Googled the best spot to see them and got a very precise location of where an eagle nest had been spotted this year. The park was huge and a real gem. Once you were in the heart of it you forgot that you were near downtown. It was only when a road cut through the park and we had to go over a bridge that I remembered- that and the occasional distant siren. But in the thick of it you would think you were out in the deep wilderness. The whole time we walked, we kept our necks craned upwards, desperately searching the tree tops. Nothing, not even any false hopes.

We got to the outdoor theatre, the nest was in a tree somewhere nearby. We stood near the theatre, looking up and turning in circles. I am sure passersby thought we were nuts. Brent spotted what could possibly be a nest, I took a photo and zoomed in as much as I could (which is not much, as my lens only goes to 55mm). We circled the theatre to get closer to the tree. As we walked we would periodically lose sight of the nest. Finally we had a good vantage spot. And so we stood there looking and discussing. Was it? Wasn’t it? It defineintly looked like a nest and it was high up. But what if it was old and had been abandoned? What if it was just a pile of dead branches? What if it was another bird nest? That last one we ruled out quickly, the potential nest was enormous and very high up- no way it was anything but an eagle nest. I suggested looking at the ground around the tree. And so we started circling the tree hunched over and examining the ground. I noticed a few pigeon feathers and some white fluffy ones. Brent noticed a few bones. I saw a bird wing. He saw two bird skulls. I saw a severed gooseleg that was bright red at the joint where it was torn. We looked at each other, our little CSI episode was a success! We had discovered and confirmed an active eagle nest!! Now all we had to do was look up and there were would see the eagles. Right? We stared and stared. There was something up there, something white and small. Turns out it was a feather stuck in the nest. Why were they not home?! We were so close!!! After 10 minutes of nothing we left. We checked out the aquarium but it was too big and we would have had to rush. I did stop at their snack bar for some soft serve and a rocky road brownie (for later). We went back to the nest for one last look, maybe, just maybe, they were back? Alas, there was still no sign of them.

I decided against a third cup of coffee on the way to lunch, I was way too hungry to delay. On the way we passed by the Olympic torch and decided to take a small detour. It was a good detour, we also found an orca made of LEGO bricks and we got to watch seaplanes take off and land. There had been a sign about a bathroom, but the sign lied. Until then we had been having a good run of public bathrooms.

The main reason we were lunching at Meat & Bread was so that Brent could recreate a photo of Josh, who had been eating a sandwich there last week. That, and when we Googled it the menu sounded amazing. At 1:45pm it was incredibly busy, you would think that by then the lunch rush would have died down. Brent ordered the porchetta sandwich, I went with the daily special which was soy ginger beef. While Brent waited for our sandwiches I managed to snag a table near the front. It was one table over from where Josh was sitting, and it would have to do. Before we could dig in, we had to take the photo. It took some adjusting but finally we got as close as possible. The sandwich was delicious. My only complaint was that it had not been cut in half, so having to bite into it crust first was less than pleasant. It was also rather messy with all the sauce running everywhere. I was covered in it by the end. Now that my hunger had been satiated, my caffeine craving came back. We walked back one block so I could get a nitro-cold-brew coffee from Timber Train Coffee. It was a novelty, poured from a tap like beer. It poured so creamy that I forgot to put milk, it seriously looked like milk had already been added. Only as it started to warm did it regain its true dark colour. It was a little too winey to be had black and it was tough on the stomach.

My hanger taken care of, we headed off to Dr. Sun Yat Sen’s Chinese Garden. The problem was that we had to walk along E Hastings St. Now, were not at the bad part yet, but the parts leading to it gave us a glimpse of what to expect. It was not nice and I can only imagine what the infamously bad part is like. We passed through one intersection of Chinatown and it was not at all what I had expected, partly because the road was under construction and partly because we did not continue exploring Chinatown. (As a point of reference, I am used to Spadina Ave. in Toronto).

The garden itself was very peaceful and pretty. It was nice to walking around, sipping on a cup of green tea. We had managed to just miss the tour, alas we kept getting stuck behind them. We resorted to going out of order. Afterwards we went to the Chinese public park that partly surrounds the Gardens. It was not as pretty but we did get to see a turtle and a koi pond.

Dr. Sun Yat Sen’s Chinese Garden

It was a long, slow, very tired walk back to the hotel. Minus the 20 minutes of sitting at lunch and 10 minutes at breakfast, we had been walking for about 7 hours. We stopped at the liquor store next to our hotel for beer. When we got to our hotel room it was being cleaned and it was awkward. I changed into my flip-flops and we headed back out. We went to Shoppers Drug Mart to get snacks for the next day. We also went back to the liquor store, Brent had his beer list with him this time. It felt so good to rest back at the hotel. I plotzed and watched Under The Dome.

It was a 30 minute walk to Tojo’s, and it was east, therefore we were walking into the sun. We were dressed up fancy, and my sunglasses case doesn’t fit in my fancy purse. The whole while I wished for my sunglasses to make the walk a little more tolerable. As it turned out, we did not need to dress up fancy at all. There was a guy in shorts and a t-shirt. The only fancily dressed people were a bunch of guy in suits near the bar. We had really high hopes and Tojo’s delivered, and then some. We ordered the two dishes the chef was known for: marinated tuna and the BC salmon sushi roll. Both dishes were outstanding, amazing and beyond delicious. All we could do was look at each other wide-eyed in disbelief, as in: can you believe how amazing this is?! We also ordered a plate of assorted sushi so we could try a wide range. It was difficult to split as there was one piece of each type. It got messy at times. Some of them fell apart and I had to take it in two bites:rice and then the fish. The sushi platter only further confirmed my love affair with eel. It’s the best sushi. After all this we were still a little bit hungry. We ordered the Pacific West roll (i.e.: the original California roll). Turns out what we thought were good California rolls in the past were only subpar. It had the added bonus of a scallop adhered to the top of the sushi with wasabi and then sprinkled with roe!!! This was easily the best sushi I had ever had, and one of the best restaurant experiences ever. (Both at home and on vacation). The waitress was really nice. She even complimented us on not using soy sauce (why destroy something so beautiful?)

We had ordered the perfect amount of food- although I was tempted by Marble Slab on our way back. I managed to resist, I still had the rocky road brownie back at the hotel. It went perfectly with a cup of tea and Netflix to round out the evening.

 

Seattle to Vancouver and Victoria- Day 4

Mon. Aug. 24, 2015:
Seattle to Vancouver, BC :

I was starting to wake up and I feared another sleepless night. As I was rolling over I found Brent about to wake me up 5 minutes early so we would have time to grab food. I may or may not have screamed. I grabbed a coffee and a packaged muffin from the hotel. There was a really long line-up at the train station. Even though we had bought our tickets, we still had to reserve seats. Thankfully we did not have to clear customs, so the line moved quickly.

We settled into our seats, and no sooner had we gotten comfy, our peace was ruined. There was a woman on the platform yelling “IT’S IN THE FRONT POCKET!!!”… then it was silent… and without missing a beat: “LARRY!!…. IT’S IN THE FRONT POCKET!!!’ This went on for a few more minutes. Our seats were on the crappy side of the train, we did not get a view of the coast. The train featured free wi-fi but there was a pop-up message saying that it blocked video streaming. What is the point of free wi-fi on a train if you cannot watch Netflix?! The only thing it was good for was checking my messages. Marianne had written hoping I had not been sleepless whilst in Seattle, which was just brilliant. Across the aisle we could sort of see out the good windows. We saw small hazy mountains off in the distance, lots of boats on the ocean and a lone seal.

We were heading to Vancouver and thus would no longer need our American money, what little we had left of it anyways. This was the perfect opportunity to spend it on snacks. We had barely eaten breakfast as it was. I was also starting to fall asleep, and it was only 9:30am. I made the mistake of ordering a breakfast bagel for us to split. My suspicions of how wrong I was, were only confirmed when I heard the beeps of the microwave. Trying to cut it in half proved difficult: the bagel was rubbery. The sausage’s presence was only evident by the grease it left everywhere. There was barely any cheese to go with barely any sausage. I ate it as fast as I could, trying hard to ignore the texture, taste and grease. Thankfully I had also gotten a coffee and a Snickers bar to wash away the awful taste. It was a good thing I had that coffee, because my iPod was starting to infuriate me. It would not download any new podcasts. The book I had gotten from the library turned out to be a cookbook, so the only book I had with me on vacation was Pride & Prejudice, which is not easy reading.

British Columbia! We were back in Canada and I had another province on my list (even though I do not keep track of that one). This also meant that there was only one hour left- of a four hour train ride. We could see giant mountains off in the distance and below us on a bridge logs being towed in the river. In my head I started singing “this log is your log, this log is my log” and it made me giggle quietly to myself. I thought the wait at customs would be much longer, partly because of how long it took for the train to get to the station since the message that upon arrival we would have to clear customs. The train had to turn around, and at some point we were past the station. On a map we could see that we were close to the hotel, alas the train had to backtrack. Thankfully we breezed through customs.

My first impressions of Vancouver were that it is a really nice city, from the get-go I was certain it would be near the top of my list of all-time best cities. The only part I did not enjoy was the walk to the hotel. But that was because we were lugging our heavy bags and my calves kept seizing because we had been sitting on a train for four hours. Our first destination of the day was the University of British Columbia to see their Anthropological Museum. It was not within vacation-acceptable walking distance (two hours is too far) so we took the bus. We tried to pay with a $5 bill, but apparently buses in Vancouver only take coins? The driver let us on for free. I was still very tired and I kept falling asleep whilst listening to podcasts.

UBC campus was unfairly beautiful. It had ocean and mountain views, I do not know how anyone actually went to class, as I was mesmerized by the scenery. It made all other university campuses I have been to thus far look terrible. The Museum of Anthropology was awesome, they had a broad range of artifacts from all over the world. I did not expect to see objects from Kiribati. There was an info panel showing where Kiribati was located, so I learned a little bit of geography too. The totem poles throughout were enormous and stunning. The craziest piece of craftsmanship however was the wooden boxes made of one plank of wood that was BENT INTO THE SHAPE OF A BOX. A solid plank of wood… was bent… into the shape of a box and nailed into place. I could not believe it, I just kept staring wondering how. Even though there was a detailed and clear explanation of exactly how. Still I could not fathom this feat. All I could think was this would be a great modern-day Pinterest fail.

Before heading outside to see the lodges and some more totems, we stopped at the museum café. We needed change for the bus, and I was starving. It was the perfect situation for a cookie. After the museum we walked to a nearby beach accessible from campus. Wreck Beach was at the bottom of an unending staircase. With every step I thought to myself, I’m going to have to climb back up all these stairs. At the top we had noticed a crowd gathered around the beach sign, it warned that the beach was clothing optional. Somehow, for some reason, I did not think that there would actually be nude people. Not only was I wrong, I was very wrong, the beach was packed. There were so many nude people walking about. Needless to say it was difficult to take in the nice beachfront ocean view. We sat down on a piece of driftwood and tried to relax and enjoy the beach. Our experience was only made worse when some annoying people sat down nearby and would not shut up. “Oh my god, where the F*CK [emphasis theirs] did you get those shades?!” was enough to make me reconsider my fear of the stairs. I needed to get away from there. They were intolerable, insufferable and I could not stand to listen to them. It was a long slow stair climb back to the top. I was huffing and puffing towards the end.

We stopped at campus Starbucks, I was in desperate need of a green tea lemonade. The bus ride back was even worse than earlier. The bus was crammed with people and I was dangerously hangry. As we drove I stared out the window, we passed by LuLuLab and I made note of it, as it was near Tojo’s sushi restaurant (our plans for the next day). I was also using the fact that LuLuLemon is based in Vancouver as a potential reason to shop the next day. The bus had stopped and I watched as a guy in his car, waiting to turn at the intersection was jamming out to the radio.

We took a mini-break in the hotel. I had enough time to catch up in my notebook and swap out my purses. It was a 45 minute walk to BierCraft. The restaurant was in former Little Italy, now hipster-central. The Toronto Star newspaper had recommended this. As we walked I saw a cat, but he was not having it, he wanted nothing to do with me. An ambulance was about to turn and Brent had started going into the intersection. He moonwalked out of the way to let them pass and it made the driver giggle. In a residential neighbourhood that was not the nicest we saw six pairs of shoes hanging from an overhead wire.

The restaurant was not too busy. I overheard people at a nearby table saying they had been there before (in total I heard three groups say so, it bodes well for the place). We were at a Belgian beer bar, therefore I had to order beer of some sorts. I ordered a sour cherry lambic, Echt Kriekenbier, that I had never seen before. It was the best one I have had thus far. I ordered the poutine dish because the gravy was made with beer. We split a pound of hot wings as well. I was starving, we had barely eaten all day. It was just the right amount of food, except for Brent who had ordered a second beer. There was no way I would get a second beer, it was too much of a gamble and there were no bathrooms on the walk back to the hotel. As we sat on the patio, a lady who was drunk as a skunk kept pestering people on the patio nearer the sidewalk for a dollar.

Walking back we passed a guy in a Blue Jays hat and jersey. Brent shouted “Yeah! Jays!” at the guy. The guy looked bewildered at first, “what?… YEAH!” He was so bleary-eyed and stoned, it was incredible he was able to remain upright and walk. We stopped at a Tim Horton’s. I was curious to see if the west coast had any wacky donuts- they did not, I was very disappointed. Brent had gone looking for a bathroom and came back right as I was choosing timbits (I had decided to change it up and get 10 timbits instead of a donut). He changed my order and added a chocolate timbit. The coconut timbit was not as good as I had remembered. I made Brent eat his two chocolate ones, as I am not a fan of them. The best ones by far were the usual go-tos: birthday cake and sour cream.

We saw two more cats but they were also completely uninterested in me. A guy had stopped at a red light and we started to cross… and he started to drive. He had stopped paying attention and nearly ran us over. A fearful moment like this is not good when you have to pee. I was exhausted by the time we got back. All I wanted was to sleep, but I had to shower- my feet were filthy from wearing sandals all day.

 
 

Seattle to Vancouver and Victoria- Day 3

Sun. Aug. 23, 2015:
Friday Harbour, San Juan Islands to Seattle :

It would be an understatement to say I slept poorly. My face was a bit swollen and I am pretty sure I had a small fever at some point in the night. I kept waking up feeling delirious and my nose was stuffy. I woke up just after 7am and thought there is no way I am getting out of bed, I needed at least another hour of sleep. When I finally did wake up there was no sign of Brent, the note said he had gone for a walk. I got a latte from the hotel café rather than making in-room coffee because I assumed that as soon as he was back we would be leaving. As it turns out the car rental place did not open until 10am. I sat around dunking cookies in my latte, would two mediocre foods make for a great combo? Sadly no.

We walked down to the marina again to see the seal one last time. He was nowhere to be found. The walk in the fresh air at least cleared up my stuffiness a tiny bit. Back in the hotel we looked up the walking and biking distances to the places we wanted to see, as a fallback plan in case the car rental plans fell through. It turned out everything was quite far away. Fingers crossed, we walked to the car rental place up the road. The car was not in the best condition. I told Brent to get out the auxiliary cable so we could plug the iPod in and he just laughed. I assumed this was because we would be driving a short distance. That is, until I got in the car and realized that the car was so old it did not have an auxiliary input. The radio would have to do. The stations changed as we drove around the island. At one point we were picking up a station from Victoria, BC.

I had a really hard time trying to navigate as Brent drove. We were using a tourist map that was neither to scale nor showed the accurate shape of roads, there were bends where there shouldn’t be and vice versa. More than once we had a few confusing moments where I could not even find us on the map. Our first stop on the San Juan Island tour was an alpaca farm. Going in I was not sure if they raised them for wool or for meat (or somehow both?). They were raised for wool which was sold in a small shop on the farm. I was not there to buy wool, I had one goal: gawk at the super cute alpacas. And boy did they deliver in the cute department. They had just been sheared so only the tops of their heads and their legs were fuzzy. One alpaca got mad and just started running head first at his friend. This did not faze the napping alpacas.

Driving to our next destination we saw two deer, one was grazing on the shoulder of the road. Lime Kiln State Park was the go-to place for whale-watching, they even had signs directing people from the parking lot. The lighthouse was scenic and nice to look at the ocean from. We could see the other islands across the water. There were so many people sitting on rocks along the coast, yet no whales to be seen. Everyone there had clearly hunkered down for the day, lots of coolers and picnic baskets. We hiked along a waterfront trail to a beach at Dead Man Bay. Insurance jokes ensued about the name of the bay. There was lots of driftwood and few people at this beach. We found a shady spot and sat there staring out at the ocean. No whales, just a seal. After a while I got bored and we headed back. We had not anticipated being out in direct sunlight or hiking, we did not have the sunscreen and had to try and stay in the shade the whole way back.

We had a back-up plan. At the Whale Museum we had found two places for whale-watching. The second was at Cattlepoint. The stupid map really screwed me up with giving directions. It showed the road as being completely straight and turning left near where we had to turn to get to the park. Driving along, we had such a turn and I said we would be turning right soon. Only the road we were supposed to turn on never showed up. Until about 20 minutes later, when I had figured out an alternate route. at some point on this long road the rock station turned into a Spanish station. We switched to a station from Victoria. As we sat in the car putting on sunscreen “I Want It That Way” by the Backstreet Boys came on (there are a bunch of hearts in my notebook). Cattlepoint Park was by far better. There were no people around and there were giant rocks you could sit on, overlooking the ocean. There was a tiny island nearby that had been taken over by seagulls.

It was a bit colder in the park, with the cold breeze off the ocean and all. We went back to the car for my sweater, and to grab drinks. It was so nice to sit on a giant rock, drinking my Steel Reserve blackberry cooler, writing in my notebook and just talking. It was very relaxing and even though we did not see any whales it was still a really nice way to spend time. The whole time however I was trying to remember who sang the song “I Want You, Always Forever.” I could remember the music video, with the pink fuzzy wall but I could not for the life of me remember who sang the song.

The only downside to Cattlepoint Park was the bathroom. It was atrocious, there wasn’t even a sink or hand sanitizer. I went in and left twice. The first time because I had to hand my purse to Brent, there was nowhere to hang it. The second time, it was because I had noticed there was no toilet paper, and I needed to grab Kleenex from my purse. Like I said, atrocious.

Trying to navigate with a novelty map in unfamiliar territory after downing a pint of 8% cooler in the hot sun proved to be difficult- as did trying to write about it soon afterwards. “Take on Me” by A-Ha came on the radio and we both broke out singing along. We were having so much fun singing the high parts that we almost missed our turn. I was so bad at giving directions, I said left but pointed right. The first gas station we pulled into was confusing, it said “commercial gas” and we had no idea what that meant so we bailed and found a nearby Shell. The same station had now gone from playing A-Ha to Bruno Mars, this was my kind of station. As we drove to the gas station Brent realized he had no idea what side the gas tank was on. In newer cars there is an indicator on the dash board. Not so with this crap car. I did the only thing I could think of: I rolled down the window and stuck my head out. First I had tried to check by adjusting the mirror but that did not work, the mirror did not have enough range of motion. We returned the car at exactly the 4 hour mark.

We walked down to the marina. We still had time before the ferry boarded. The first restaurant had a 20 minute wait, so we backtracked up the street to Herb’s Tavern (apparently the oldest tavern in Friday Harbour). It was not the greatest, just greasy pub fare. It did not help that I was sobering up and felt sun-fried. After a while the greasiness of the calamari started to get to me. The line-up at the ice cream shop by the ferry was too long, but I had seen people further up the street with ice cream, therefore I reasoned there must be another ice cream shop on a side street. I was right, there was a third one on a small side street (there was also one closer to the hotel but too far to walk back to). The ice cream was supposed to be toffee coffee crunch. In total I got maybe two pieces of toffee. It was just weak coffee ice cream.

As we waited to board the ferry I was so tired. Ahead of us a conversation had begun about baseball based on someone’s hat. Thankfully we did not get roped into it. After what seemed like a century we finally boarded the ferry. All I wanted to do was sit down and have a nap. No more sun, no more cold wind. We passed one island that was dominated by seagulls (maybe the same one from before?) and another overtaken by seals. One seal slowly waddled into the water, it was hilarious to watch. After an hour long nap I awoke to find out I had missed nothing on the top deck. Then came news of a humpback whale sighting in the area a few hours ago. Alas, nothing ever came of it. I sat back in my comfy seat, listening to podcasts in a dazed half-sleep while sucking on a ginger candy that they were giving out for free. My mouth was mildly on fire and I regretted having earlier finished the strawberry Gatorade.

Walking to the hotel we got stuck behind a really slow family. I recognized them from our first day in Seattle, the mother and daughter had matching hair and purses. We were staying at the same hotel, thankfully the weird guy from the first day was not working. We called for a cab and it was a really long wait. During the 20 minute drive I finally remembered the name of the singer that had been bugging me earlier in the day. It was Donna Lewis I was trying to remember. We got to Ray’s Boathouse 20 minutes early for our dinner. We were hoping to catch the end of the sunset. We had a table on the patio, overlooking the ocean. Alas, we barely saw the end of the sunset. When we got there we found out that it was actually two restaurants. We had reservations in the more casual one upstairs, but Brent had looked at the menu for the fancier place downstairs. I was not that hungry nor was I in the mood for alcohol of any sort. They had a really intriguing offer of lemonade with the option for pureed fruit added in. I was sold! That and clam chowder made for a pretty damn good meal. The view was nice while it lasted, we could see the base of the Olympia Mountains. Thankfully the patio was heated for when the sun went down.

The hostess called a cab for us, she warned us it might be a long wait. She was not kidding, we waited at least 15 minutes. However it felt like much longer. We sat there on the stairs of the restaurant looking out hopefully. We kept mistaking passing cars for cabs. I joked that it was like whale-watching. On the way back we passed by Pike Place Market and got to see it all lit up at night. It looked much more welcome at night, empty and lit up. The ferris wheel at Miner’s Landing was also lit up. We passed by the other side of the sculpture park. Turns out we had missed one sculpture, the only famous one too. It was the wheel with a fringe. I was dreading yet another early wake-up. I had not adjusted to waking up early even though I went to sleep earlier.

 
 

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Seattle to Vancouver and Victoria- Day 2

Sat. Aug. 22, 2015:
Seattle to Friday Harbour, San Juan Islands:

Despite the early bed time, and the west coast time zone, the 6:15am wake-up felt awful. I honestly thought that when Brent kissed my forehead, that he was saying goodbye because he was off to a meeting at work- not waking me up so we can catch a ferry to the San Juan Islands. It was a slow walk to the ferry terminal as we were lugging all our bags. Not helping matters were my legs, my thighs were “dead, dead, DEAD” if I may quote myself. We got to the terminal right on time, however there was a bottleneck because two ferries were boarding at once. Good thing we had gone ahead of time to get our tickets, and also not shown up the recommended 45 minutes before boarding- 5 minutes was all we needed.

This was our first outing on the water, we were psyched about the distant possibility of seeing a whale (or some other aquatic life). In the harbor we had seen a jellyfish. The brochure was giving me a sense of hope. We sucked it up and sat on the upper open deck. We sat there, faciong backwards staring at the Seattle skyline. Periodically we would glare at the stragglers running late. About 10 minutes in and we started to rethink our plan. Rather than give up and go inside we layered up. The trouble was again my legs, this time it was because I was wearing cropped pants. My calves were uncovered and I had no way of covering them without looking ridiculous. I pulled my hood up close over my face and tried not to think about it. I also deeply regretted bringing my t-shirt thick sweater instead of any other sweater.

I started to come apart at the seams quickly. I’d be sitting there shivering, and periodically I would mistake kelp for sealife. The shimmering of the waves was also playing tricks on my eyes. All I could do was sit there and stare at the receding ocean, trying my best not to think of how cold I was. We saw some porpoises (confirmed by people with binoculars) and seals. At one point someone noticed Brent’s hat and commented that because we are Canadians we must be used to the cold. Hah, not a chance I thought. Eventually the sun came up. Whenever the boat slowed down it was really quite warm, but then as soon as we got going the winds picked up and it got cold again. Somewhere in all this we finished off the Oreos, I was very sad when I reached in to get one and was grasping at nothing. It had been helping distract me. In the end, with all the shivering and cold, I wound up with a terrible sunburn on my face.

We stayed on the same boat after we arrived at Friday Harbour. We had booked a whale watching tour. I only found relief from the cold when we got nearer to where the orcas had been spotted, the boat finally slowed down to a comfortable speed. On the way we had a few more false sightings. Eventually the boat stopped and everyone rushed to one side, for seemingly no reason. There was nothing there. Then a few of us rushed to the other side, still nothing. Brent called me back, there were orcas! I ran back and stopped short. What the hell was everyone looking at? There were just a few boats off in the distance. I stared and stared and saw nothing. What was everyone seeing that I was missing?

Then off in the distance near the boats I saw a tiny little black triangle. And then another. I was starting to rethink this whole whale-watching business. All this commotion and excitement over a few black triangles? Had the world gone mad? There was one boat really close to the pod, turns out it was a research crew. We had to stay further away as per regulations.

Eventually we did get a little bit closer and then things finally got interesting. You could see a little more than triangles. And the orcas became more active. They were surfacing for air and spraying water in the air. Then for a while nothing happened. They had gone under and the suspense was killing me. Would we still see them again? They resurfaced further along the course, assuaging my fears. We followed the pod up the coast.

Soon the orcas encountered a group of kayakers who had moved to the side, hugging the coast, to let the orcas pass. The whale at the front of the group did a little spyhop to assess the situation. It was hilarious to watch as the orcas passed around the kayakers. This seemed to have warmed the pod up. Soon we saw a few more spyhops, a few tail slaps and even a sideways roll (“breach” if you want to get technical). It was clear now that this was a rather large group, and in it there was even a baby. They were growing on me, they were so cute. We had also inadvertently become part of a convoy of other whale-watching boats, the research boat and fisheries and wildlife boats (making sure no one gets too close). The only other sealife we saw were a few salmon jumping out of the water.

On the boatride back I sat downstairs on the covered deck, where I promptly fell asleep. I was so tired and my face was so sunburnt. I did not put on sunscreen because the last thing I wanted was sunscreen in eyes coupled with being freezing cold. The mango Fanta was delicious and made me feel better. It tasted like Starbursts.

When we checked into the hotel it turned out the island was really busy and it was a good thing we had booked in advance. We walked to the liquor store across the street. I only found one good drink, a cooler called Steeltown. We dropped off our drinks at the hotel and walked to the Whale Museum. On the way we passed a sign for the restaurant The Bluff. I had found it earlier when looking for restaurant recommendations but we could not find it on the map. The Whale Museum was pretty awesome. They had a lot of whale bones and a ton of information about the orcas we had seen when whale-watching. We also found out the best spots to whale-watch from the island. That cemented our plans for the next day: we would go to two parks known as good whale-watching spots. The one thing I did not expect to see at the Whale Museum was preserved specimens. They had a dolphin brain, a whale brain, a human brain and additionally a porpoise fetus.

Before heading to lunch, we followed a sign I had seen earlier to the marina. We were on a mission to find the friendly harbour seal who resides in the marina. We passed a fresh fish stand and I could not resist going in and browsing. I ended up buying a small baguette and some crab dip for later. While I was in there Brent had seen the seal surface but had lost track of it among the boats. We walked to the end of the marina in hopes of getting a better view. From there we saw the seal back by the fish shop! He had never left! From there it was hard to see him, so we walked to one of the docks on the side. We saw him briefly but he disappeared. As we were leaving I noticed a dock leading under the main one, back to the fish shop. There was a sink where people could clean off freshly caught fish and sure enough the seal was hanging around there. In total there were 3 seals playing in the water. Brent said hi to one, and the seal snorted, slapped the water and swam away.

We had a late lunch/early dinner at The Bluff. The restaurant lived up to its name, it was indeed on a bluff and overlooking the marina and the other islands could be seen off in the distance. It took us a while to decide on what to order, but finally we settled on: salmon tacos and chips with salsa for Brent. I opted for the clam and salmon chowder and crabcakes. The chowder and the tacos may very well be the best I’ve ever had. I had ordered a caipirinha, the special summer cocktail. Only after continuing to look at the menu did I notice that they had a rosé wine from Washington State. We ended up getting a second round of drinks so it all worked out in the end.

The grocery store selection was subpar. There were no wacky flavours of Oreos and Brent vetoed coconut Chips Ahoy. When looking up the highest rated beers for Washington State, Mike’s Hard Cherry Lemonade had appeared on the list so we grabbed one of those in addition to M&Ms and Keebler cookies. As we walked back we snacked on a white chocolate Reese cup. It was not a good combination, it was off-balanced and you need the stronger flavour of regular chocolate to make it work. We also realized that given the amount of drinks back at the hotel, chips might be a good idea. The selection at the pharmacy sucked, Brent tried the convenience store across the street. He brought back spicy nacho Doritos and double-ridge Ruffles.

I was so tired and sunbaked. All I could do was sit in the Jacuzzi tub, eating cookies and drinking the cherry lemonade. The one downside to a Jacuzzi bath versus a regular is that when eating cookies, the crumbs circulate instead of sinking to the bottom. After a while I started getting really annoyed. The jets were uneven, they were higher on one side of the tub. The tap was also crooked. I had to get out of there. The Keebler cookies were not good, they were a crappy version of rainbow Chips Ahoy. The crab dip was more dip than crab. Pretty soon I had eaten all the crab pieces and was left with a sour cream dip and a baguette. As if that were not enough, the spicy Doritos just tasted like regular Doritos. Netflix made everything better. Except my sunburn, my face was so red and tight.

 
 

Seattle to Vancouver and Victoria- Day 1

Fri. Aug. 21, 2015:
Toronto flying to Seattle, Washington

We got to the airport just after 7am because the subway does not start running until 6am. Our flight was at 8:30am so we still had plenty of time. Or so we thought. We did not anticipate the airport being a complete and total zoo. Hundreds of people (maybe a thousand, this is still up for debate) were being funneled into one gate for entry into US customs and security. Brent went ahead to see how long the line was and to ensure we were in the right place. Somehow he ended up cutting in line. From where I was standing it looked like the line looped back on itself about 10-15 people ahead of me, so I had no idea where he had managed to cut in. As it turned out the line went around the corner, disappeared somewhere, and then came back out, where I saw it appear to double-back on itself. Like I said, it was chaos. An employee came by looking for people with 8:30am flights and we got bumped ahead. Even still there were so many of us that the line was still long. At the security check they did another call for 8:30am departures and once again we got to cut the line. At this point we did not have much time left. And worst of all we wound up in the slowest of all the lines. We were stuck behind three old ladies that kept setting off the metal detectors. They got pulled to the side and the rest of us got to pass. Another lady tried to bring a water bottle through. It was painful to watch.

We actually ended up running through the airport. We made it with about 10 minutes to spare. We were lucky that we were in the last boarding zone. Only once I was settled in on the airplane did I realize that I was hungry. And no wonder, a 5:30am wake up and since then all I had was a bite of a Cinnabon. The Wunderbar bites we had as a snack had melted, but I could care less, I was starving. A 4 hour flight with no good movies is a horrible situation. I tried watching Bonnie & Clyde but I got bored really fast. Things soon worsened as we ran out of snacks. It turns out Air Canada no longer offers free in-flight snacks like they used to. I ended up watching the first two episodes of iZombie. Then I took a break for some naps, then back for more iZombie. I was restless and fidgety and I wound up just watching the flight map.

Washington! A new state!

We had a nice long walk through the parking garage of the airport to get to the light rail train. It was a 40minute ride to downtown Seattle. Along the way we got to see some crummy neighbourhoods, so much for a scenic ride. It was a short walk to our hotel, however our rooms were not ready yet so we left our bags at the front desk.

Our first stop for the day was Top Pot Donuts. In researching the trip I had found a list of Seattle’s best donuts and this was one of them. The chocolate donut was amazing, it was not too rich. The SeaHawks donut was pretty good for a plain cake donut. It had cinnamon in it, and gets bonus points for having sprinkles on top. We stopped at Target so I could stock up on my usual American supplies. Unfortunately they did not have any Dunkin’ Donuts coffee (I should have anticipated this as we were in Starbucks country). I manage to find brownie batter Oreos.

Walking around downtown Seattle I started noticing that everyone was wearing SeaHawks gear. I was confused, it was not football season, and there was no way all these people were such diehard SeaHawks fans. I wondered if maybe they were all tourists?

Pike Place Market was insanely busy, there were so many people we could barely walk. The line-up at the first Starbucks was way too long to be worth it. and yes, there was another Starbucks around the corner. The line-up at the nearby bakery, Piroshky Piroshky was equally as long. Everyone was moving so slowly and people would stop abruptly, I was starting to get claustrophobic. It took us a while to find the gum wall, it was tucked away off to the side. It looked pretty, but as soon as I started thinking about it, I realized how gross it was. Brent contributed to the wall, I chose to stand back and just photograph him instead. The last thing I wanted was sticky fingers for the rest of the day. The line at the chowder place where I had wanted to go for lunch was the longest one yet. So much for going to recommended places I had researched. We would just have to get lunch from whichever place did not have a line up.

Inside the main building we found a fish sandwich restaurant that was not too busy. I ordered the tiger prawn sandwich, Brent had the salmon sandwich (which was their specialty). It was a nice added touch that the sandwich was served on bread from a nearby bakery in the building (Le Painier). The guy said it would be a 12-15 minute wait for our sandwiches so we wandered off to explore the building. We passed a fruit stall selling “big ass grapes.” We also passed by the (apparently) famous fish stall, where when someone orders a fish one guy tosses it to another who catches it with brown paper to wrap it. They chant stuff while this happens. I watched in awe as the fish flew through the air. I’d be so afraid of getting fish-slapped across the face. The crowd was loving the “show” that was being put on. There was a “live” monkfish that had been made to look like it was trying to escape. I was suspicious as it had a sign denoting all this. Looking it up later, I found out it was on a wire and they would make it appear to flap in despair. I could not believe the size of some of the lobster tails for sale at stalls. I also could not believe the size of the massive cloves of garlic for sale, they were the size of a small apple!

We got back to the fish sandwich stall just as they were calling out our order. The lower levels of the building were practically empty, everyone was milling about outside. It was easy to find a table. The sandwiches had been mislabeled, Brent opened up his sandwich and was faced with rows of shrimp. Once I took care of the pesky tomatoes (lettuce and onions are acceptable) the sandwich was amazing! It was spicy and the sauce was amazing. I stole a bite of Brent’s sandwich but it was not as good, it was lacking in sauce. Eventually the sandwich got to be too much, this was because my headache was coming back.

Passing through Pike Place one last time I noticed that people here love fresh cut flowers, almost everyone we passed was carrying flowers. The market even had a rooftop community garden. We found stairs to a walkway that would lead us right to the Seattle Aquarium. The aquarium was really busy, but because it was mostly summer camp groups, they were easy to get around. Plus kids are short, so I could just look over their heads. By far the coolest exhibit was the sea otters. They were so playful and cute. We went back to see them one last time before leaving. This time they were being fed. One otter knocked over a crate. Another was eating a clam that had been tossed on his belly. He would rotate in the water as he ate. There was a giant octopus that was slowly inching its way along the edge of the aquarium, as it reached one tentacle up I immediately thought it was trying to escape. When we came back later it was asleep, suctioned to the glass, with its head pulled in. the head had turned white. It was a really odd sight. It was hilarious to watch a giant harbour seal flopping about and fidgeting, trying to get comfy for a nap. It seemed an impossible task.

The aquarium did not take as long as we had planned and we had some extra time. We walked over to the next pier to get a better view of the ferris wheel. We figured if we were already walking in the direction, we may as well go to Olympic Sculpture Park, which we originally had scheduled for Sunday evening. Along the way I thought I saw a seal in the water- it was just a piece of kelp. We stopped and picked up our tickets for next morning’s ferry. It was a genius idea, now we could sleep in a little longer the next day. we passed a train running parallel to the road, and then across an intersection. I can only imagine how frustrating that must be for drivers. As we walked by the waterfront we could periodically see the Space Needle, but half the time it was hidden behind other buildings making it seem less impressive.

The sculpture park was OK, there weren’t that many artworks, we did see the two eyeball chairs that we had seen in Pittsburgh though. Just past the sculpture park there was a small mediocre beach that had really nice views of the water and coast. We walked back to the hotel along the waterfront which was nice, until we got to the part with construction and a highway overtop.

We stopped at a 7-Eleven near our hotel for snacks for the next day (a Whatchamacallit chocolate bar and spicy taco Doritos). I also found a new Fanta flavour: mango and a weird blue Mountain Dew. Apparently the “baja” Mountain Dew was a collaboration with Taco Bell? It tasted fruity and it hit the spot. There was a weird guy in line in front of us complaining that a cup of ice was now 55 cents. He said he got this everyday and that it was always 50cents and now it’s 55 cents?! He was so mad, it was unreal. The cashier gave us this look afterwards as if “did that just happen?” The cashier also lent us 10 cents because he did not feel like making change.

At the hotel I tore into the snacks, having immediately forgotten that they were tomorrow’s breakfast and ferry snacks. Instead I focused my attention on the brownie batter Oreos. They tasted like slightly richer Fudgee-os. I showered before the baseball game, that way as soon as we got back it was straight to bed. I was dreading the early wake-up, even though technically we were 3 hours behind, so really 6am should feel like 9am.

It was a 25 minute walk to SafeCo Field, along the way we passed by a bar called Damn The Weather. It did not apply that day, as the weather had been fantastic and completely unlike what I had expected for Seattle. It had been a warm and sunny day. Outside the stadium we saw at least 4 people with signs, chanting stuff about Jesus and repenting for your sins. One guy was reading his speech with no enthusiasm off his phone.

Once inside the stadium we did a full lap of the concourse before deciding where to get our food and drinks from. I had looked up some of our food options beforehand, I had a general idea of what I wanted. Alas, the cocktail place I was looking forward to visiting was nowhere to be found. On our first tour I had noticed a place that had interesting seeming ciders, except on our second round I thought I had missed it and settled for another less fancy cider. And then a few minutes later we passed the fancy cider stall. For dinner split a bacon-wrapped hotdog with jalapenos from Edgar’s Cantina and a Dungeness crab sandwich from the Way Back Crab Shack. The hotdog was spicy, but there was too much going on. I would have preferred a bacon-wrapped hotdog on its own, no jalapenos, no fancy mayonnaise, no fried onions. We traded halfway, now I was eating a garlic bread crab sandwich. It was tasty yes, but not outstanding as I had been expecting. This might be that by the time I had my first bite it was no longer piping hot. By the time I was biting into it, we had walked up to our seats, stood for the anthem, I had eaten my half of the hotdog. A good 15, maybe 20, minutes had passed.

The game itself was uneventful. No squirrels, no fights, no hat crumpling and throwing in anger. Nothing at all. We were sitting on bleachers above the bullpen, thankfully nothing got hit towards us. I was told we were in prime ball-hitting-to territory. The moose mascot had come out before the game. He did a backflip and then disappeared until the 7th inning, at which point he stood around in the crowd during the stretch. That was it, he did nothing else. Worst mascot so far. I had insisted we stay until the 7th inning stretch, i.e.: the only time during a baseball game when I am entertained. Not this time, this time there was nothing entertaining. We left right after and we were barely at the next block when we heard loud cheering and noise. The Mariners, who up until then were losing, hit a homerun. I felt cheated, why had they waited for so long?! Why did they wait until I left?! It was only 9:30pm, but I was exhausted. With the time difference, we had been awake since 2:30am west coast time, no wonder I was tired.

 

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