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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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Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts: Double Loop- Day 1

Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts- Double Loop
July 10-19, 2015:

Fri. July 10, 2015:
Toronto flying to Hartford, Connecticut

The day started off kind of weird. The Pan Am games were beginning and the subway was full of unbearable teenage tourists. There were two separate tour groups, by the time they had all cleared out it was amazing how quiet the subway was. Even with that minor annoyance, we were making great time.

The airport was not busy at all, which was a bit surprising as the Pan Am games torch had passed through that morning. We got through security quickly with no delays. It turns out our gate was in some far off corner of the airport, I kept calling it Siberia. It felt like we had been exiled. We actually passed a sign saying that from the sign to our gate was another 7 minute walk. Then we passed another sign warning us that the convenience store was the last one we would pass. There was no way I was going to back-track to Tim Hortons, the round trip (not counting waiting) would be at least 15 minutes! Forget that, I ordered a bagel from the Great Canadian Bagel instead. Not only did this save me some time, it gave me more time to watch Under the Dome on the iPad. TV is not the same without snacks, and so I ended up cracking open the cherry blasters I had been saving for the flight. In no time we had polished off the whole bag. Oops.

I was starting to get antsy. We had arrived two hours before our flight was to leave and it was past boarding time. I had looked up at the board before and noticed it said Hartford 13:30. I thought nothing of it, assuming that was the flight after ours. If we were delayed surely they would have announced it? In short order they did announce it. Mechanical delays they said. Suddenly we were delayed two more hours. The walk to Timmies did not seem so bad anymore. My legs were cramped and my neck hurt from watching The Grand Hotel on the iPad (the Netflix app is a god-send). Walking there I was a little nervous. I texted Brent asking if they can un-delay a flight? Of course he did not respond, as he had left his cell phone at home. Even still, checking the boards the whole time, I hurried back from Timmies and Starbucks for fear they might start boarding soon.

What I came back to was a full airport lounge. Due to the delays, the departing flights were starting to stack up. There were no free seats and people were getting mad. Brent had gone for a walk to stretch his legs. I spent the whole time telling people the seat was taken, instead of watching more TV. There was a bottleneck of people at the gates. Our gate was changed to the next one over, which did not help as they were all in one corner anyways.

And then another update: we were delayed by yet another hour. For those of you keeping score: we were now 3 hours delayed. What else could I do but keep watching TV? At 4pm, when our flight was finally due to take off we were informed that it had in fact been cancelled. A wave of groans and anger rolled through the lounge. On my earlier adventure I had made note of where the Air Canada customer service desk was. Just before they made the announcement I had noticed on the board that it was cancelled. I grabbed my stuff and made a beeline to the desk. Yet another upside to travelling light, we were able to grab our stuff quick.

Now we were at that point where we realized if we had driven we’d already be at our destination. We were one of the first groups to the desk. We got tickets on an 8:00pm flight and were put on stand-by for a 4:00pm flight. Things were not looking good, it seemed our first day of vacation was quickly being eaten up by the airport. Air Canada gave us $10 food vouchers- as if that helped matters at all? Great, I thought, a voucher towards crappy airport food.

I was getting really antsy and sick of sitting in the airport. I longed to go outside, I was starting to forget what sunshine felt like, what fresh air smelled like. As you can see, I was getting the airport crazies. We had been in the airport for about 6 hours by that point.

When it came time for the boarding of the 4:00pm flight we crowded by the gate. Again, there was a bottle-neck due to many flights being delayed. It was just a bad day at the airport all around. We had no idea how stand-by works, and so I had to Google it. Another couple who had been ahead of us in line got on the flight. We remained slightly hopeful. Then, what seemed like against all odds, the lady read Brent’s name and tried to read my last name but just pointed to us and asked if we were travelling together. Yes, yes we were. She asked if we were willing to be split up, there was one last seat on the list. At the time, it did not make sense for us to split up as one of us would be stuck at Bradley International Airport just sitting there in a rental car. We had gotten so close! Did I mention that this flight had also been delayed? Only by about 30 minutes, but still.

We had another 3 hours before our flight and despite the stress we were getting kind of hungry. We had dinner at one of the airport pubs, at least we could use those stupid vouchers. To go with my mac and cheese comfort food dinner I ordered sparkling wine, served in a champagne glass. It was an odd combination but at least for a while I forgot I was trapped in an airport.

Back in the airport lounge we were down to the wire. Only an hour and a half to go and we would be on our way. I was mostly just tired by this point. I could hardly get mad, as our flight had been cancelled due to mechanical troubles. I’d rather that than a crash.

There we were, anxiously awaiting our 8pm flight… and the unthinkable happened. Our f*cking flight was f*cking delayed. I just about lost my damn mind. I actually exclaimed quite loudly, for f*ck’s sake! It’s ok, by that point the only people left in the lounge were the fellow failed travelers from 2-3 delayed flights.

No reason was given why the flight was delayed. A 9pm flight would get us in to Hartford, Connecticut at about 11pm. It was time to start worrying about the car rental. Apparently the place we rented our car from closed earlier than the others. And so Brent began his epic (horrible) journey through a maze of phone calls trying to rectify the unforeseeable situation. First he was told that if we came to pick up the car the next day they would charge us as if it was a new rental, i.e.: charge us all over again. He tried to get them to transfer the purchase to another rental owned by the same head company. Budget and Avis were open later. Nope, that did not work. He tried to get a refund in full. No-go either. After 16 phone calls, countless “can I speak with your supervisor?”s, over an hour later: we finally had a solution. A nice lady who works at Payless Car Rentals, would leave a note on the counter explaining our situation and that we would be picking up our car the next day. The lady sitting across from us said it was like watching an episode of Seinfeld. I had no idea what she was talking about. They had rented from Enterprise and within minutes they had resolved their being-late-to-pick-up-rental-car problem.

While Brent was lost in a vortex of inept customer service reps, I got called to the Air Canada customer service desk. I had just been there inquiring about whether or not they would reimburse us for the fees incurred due to the delay (he had been dealing with a very angry lady, and so he shot me down and just gave me a card with a number to call). Turns out they called me back to give us another $10 food voucher each. Brent was sad he had missed it, he had wanted to rip his up in front of the counter.

During all that drama our flight got delayed yet again. This time we were told 11:45pm. When I was picking up the food vouchers I asked the guy whether or not this was another lie. Was the plane actually going to be here? Turns out the delay was because there were not enough propeller planes to go around. Apparently our plane had flown some people (from another delayed/cancelled flight) down to Harrisburg, was coming back to pick us up and finally fly us down to Connecticut. He said that unless something happened to the plane, we were set. I had trouble believing him. Thanks to Air Canada I developed some deep trust issues.

The lady from the Great Canadian Bagel walked through the lounge doing a last call. I figured I might as well get $10 worth of snacks, why not. And so we were stuck there, like sitting ducks, trapped in the lounge. For a while we were there with the Indianapolis people, until their gate got moved. Then it was just us. The Hartford Stragglers and a few Air Canada employees. I no longer cared, I put my feet up and stretched out for a nap. Brent had tried to nap, but he gave up quickly. I did manage to snap a picture of him napping and I posted it to Instagram with the whole story and many hilarious hashtags. It made me feel better, if only for a few minutes. Walking to the bathroom I passed by some of the other Hartford Stragglers. I overheard that the 8am flight had also been cancelled due to mechanical delays. Some people had been here since 6am! It made our 13 hours in the airport seem like a cakewalk.

When we got word that the airplane had landed, we tried to book a hotel room at the Hartford Airport. There was no way we would make it to our hotel in New York state. We were unsure if the booking had gone through, but I was far too tired to care. We’d find out when we got there. I was just happy to finally be boarding the damn plane. A 1hr 40min flight took us 13hr15mins and that is just to the point of boarding the plane.

As we got on the plane I snapped a quick picture of Brent. The first officer asked if I wanted my picture taken, but after 13 hours in an airport, I was in no condition to appear in photographs. Because we were flying on such a short route, we were on a small propeller plane. It made me really nervous, add in the fact that this crew had just flown people to Harrisburg and then more people from there to Toronto and were to fly again? Add in the fact that we had recently started watching Lost, and I was much more nervous than usual. Thankfully the first officer was so nice and charming, it reassured me for some reason.

I managed to get in a good nap on the flight. I was so tired that the white noise of the plane was reinterpreted by my brain as a podcast. In my dazed half-sleep I was very confused as to why I was listening to podcasts when I was trying to sleep. We landed at 1:30am, exhausted and desperate for sleep. I just wanted the day to be over. Thankfully the Sheraton was connected to the airport so we did not have to fuss with a shuttle. We were in bed and asleep by 2am. Our flight was originally supposed to land at 2pm.

UPDATES: turns out Air Canada had emailed Brent a new itinerary, we were supposed to fly to Montreal and from there fly to Hartford, CT. Somehow this information was not in the system? Not shared with the Air Canada customer service reps or input into the system?

 

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