I'm Ba-Ack!!!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Hello everyone! I'm back from Seattle/Vancouver! It was a great trip, and a lot of fun - not to mention horribly exhausting! Usually when I travel, I'm up at the crack of dawn... but at least I'm in bed by dinnertime! With these people, we were up around 9 or 10, but not in bed until 2 a.m.! Yikes!

Either way, it was a good time. Draining on the bank account, but still good. It was good for my mental health to get out of the city and away from my ever-longer to-do list.

We left Calgary around 8 p.m. and drove straight through to Seattle. We crossed the border just south of Cranbrook. Here is the route that we took:

We added about another 45 minutes of driving by not taking the northern route, but we opted for this route for a number of reasons. First of all, given that it was the long weekend, I imagined that the Trans Canada would have been packed solid. We barely hit another car heading south until we hi the I90. And second, none of us had really seen southern Alberta before. I vaguely remember driving through it, but the countryside was really beautiful.

And of course, lots of local wildlife... Hah. But really, come dusk, the countryside was beautiful: rolling hills and just lots of empty road. It was perfect.

We actually rented a PT Cruiser to get us there. We had originally reserved a Dodge something... but the guy at the auto place said that he was 'upgrading' us to the PT Cruiser. I still hold that they are very, very ugly cars, but it was brand new and worked just fine. It was good on gas, too.
However, it was NOT comfortable to sleep in. I've slept in my fair share of cars, and the back seat of the PT Cruiser was so stiff - good for sitting in, but SO bad for sleeping. I managed to find a couple semi-comfortable spots, but I probably only got about 3 hours of semi-sleep the whole night.

It didn't really matter, though, since the moment we got into Seattle I was full of adrenaline!

Really, Seattle was a beautiful city. I loved the contrast of the ocean, the city line and the mountains in the background. And the mountains were much closer than those from Calgary, so they looked more impressive.

The first day we headed to our hotel and attempted to check-in. Unfortunately they didn't allow check-in until 3 p.m. and it was around 7 a.m. Hah. So my travel buddy did a little flirting and the clerk man said that if we came back at noon he'd find us a room. Silly silly girl.

So we drove around and found a breakfast place, at there, then headed into Seattle. We visited the Aquarium and got to touch some fish! (Yes, we were allowed to touch the fish...)

No, that's not my hand and yes, that's an anemone and a starfish! The anemones felt sticky, but that was really them spiking you with poison! Not very nice, I'll admit. The fish man said that we only feel sticky because the poison doesn't really affect us - we've got something like 7 layers of skin so the poison can't get through. Fish, on the other hand, only have 1 or 2, so the poison stuns them.

After that everyone (except me!) was feeling pretty beat, so we returned to the hotel. We checked in and the three of them promptly fell asleep. I, on the other hand, had an awesomely long, hot shower, sent people e-mails and surfed the web. I work them up about 3 hours later and we all got dressed and headed out to the outlet mall. This was probably the best shopping that I did - I seriously love outlet malls! Had I known that I wasn't going to come back to one I may have bought more crap. All in all I only bought two scarves from Coach. Either way, I love them and I'll take pictures of them later!

We came back to the hotel only to do some research on a good dinner restaurant. We ended up at a fancy little sushi place downtown. It was good sushi... but it was very "white-people" sushi. Things like odd meat and mayonaise sushi, very 'hip'. Some of it was good, but I think I would've preferred good ol' unagi and salmon skin rolls. Mmmmmmm.

After that we got back to the hotel around midnight. This is when we decided to stay the extra day in Seattle. Originally we were supposed to fly out Monday night around 6:15 p.m. from Vancouver. This would've meant that we would've been rushed all day Monday before arriving in Vancouver only to fly right now. We spent the next hour or so on the phone to WestJet changing our flight from Monday to Tuesday morning. They were really good about it, and the change only cost us $30.

The next morning (Sunday), the two other girls wanted to go (back) to Hollister (barf!), so me and one of the girls' bf went to the Pike Place Market.

I love markets. The energy was amazing. It was very crowded, but any market would be on a Sunday. We saw the guys who throw the fish (just look it up), and all sorts of neat shops. We munched on mini-donuts (so good!), beef jerky, the best peaches ever!, and garlic jelly. Yum. I would've loved to buy some bouquets of the flowers that they had there, because they were so beautiful and cheap, but what would I do with flowers? I bought a scarf instead.

I also saw the original Starbucks - which was pretty cool! Note that the logo is different. I could've boughten a unique cup with this logo on it, but then I thought - what am I going to do with yet another travel mug when I don't even drink hot beverages! So I didn't....

We met up with the girls for lunch at this place called the Crab Pot. They do something there called the "Feast" which is what we did. Basically they cover the table with paper, give you all plastic bibs, and dump a giant bowlful of assorted, seasoned fish, sausage and veggies directly onto the table. They then give you a little wooden plank and hammer and a little fork and let you have at it. The prices of the thing were dependent on what kind of fish you had - ours had oysters and scallops and king crab legs. Then we also had corn and potatos and spicy sausage. It was very good and very dripping-with-butter, but it's probably one of the reasons that I now feel ill just thinking about all that damn fish.

After our very filling meal, the gals bf and I wandered over to Pioneer Square and Chinatown to check it out. Pioneer Square was very beautiful - leafy and funky. Chinatown was sketch. Sketch sketch sketch. But that probably has something to do with the fact that we were there on a Sunday night.

After that we returned to the hotel and napped again. We got up about 10:30 or so and headed out in search of food. We didn't really want to do all the way into Seattle again, so instead we drove to the Tulalip Casino. The casino was beautiful on the inside - it'd never really been in a casino that big before! I bought a $10 voucher for the penny slots and left with just that - ten bucks. At one point I was up about $3, but I gambled it away. My friend S won about $20 bucks, though, although her bf lost about $60 on craps (A game I still don't understand). We ate at the 24 restaurant in the casino, and I had an awesome salad (I couldn't bear the thought of eating something heavy again... bleh).

Monday morning was a lot more relaxed. We slept in (a little), got ready, and headed out to do some shopping in Seattle. We visited another mall where the girls went to Hollister... again. (Double barf!), and I went to the Container Store. Seriously, it was like my heaven. If I could have a shopping spree there, I totally would!!

It actually worked out rather well, since they were having a travel sale, and I managed to stock up on lots of Eagle Creek packing cubes for my trip to London. I had bought some at a store here before I left and I just loved them on the trip. It was so great at staying organized! I had one cube for jeans, one for shirts, another for undies and socks, one for toiletries... I could go on and on! But yeah, the container store was marking them down to about 50% of what I was paying here, so I bought about 10 of them. I'm so very excited about using them in the fall.

I also saw a shopping basket there that I had been eyeing online. I love the idea of bringing my own basket to a market, and while it was a good price at the container store, I hesitated because it would be bulky to bring with me. Since the company is dutch/german??, I will probably just buy one there. Either way, I got to play with them and I really like them.

Either way, after we were done at the mall we headed over to a Target store to find out what all the hype was about. The GPS machine got us horribly lost along the way (somehow the GPS thinks that Target was a ranch in rural Seattle...), I wasn't really that impressed with Target. It looks like a Walmart or a Zellers. Yep, don't really know what to make of that.

We packed up at the hotel and I took one last picture out the hotel window before we drove off.

After that we took off for Vancouver. It was a nice drive up, and we only waited about 30 minutes in the customs line, which was way better than what I was dreading!

We arrived in Vancouver and dropped our bags off at a friend's place (they were at work), before we headed to what the friend's bf said was the best Chinese food place in Coquitlam. We ended up there (Now, of course, I can't remember what the name of it is!), and the food was very good. It wasn't westernized Chinese food, it was the original stuff. Think dumplings and noodles and strange meats and steamed veggies. It was very tasty, and a nice experience. As much as I hate to admit it, I really do enjoy the white people deep fried junk. Still good, though.

We drove back to Vancouver and wandered up and down Robson St doing some shopping, but not before our trusty GPS machine drove us right now East Hastings. Yep. That's great. I can't believe it's gotten to such a level! I was in Vancouver about 3 years ago, and maybe I wasn't looking properly - but hasn't it gotten worse? I'd be terrified to walk down that street - hell, it was nerve-wracking driving down it!

Robson St. was okay - nothing really of interest for me. We met up with the friends and drove back to the apartment where we got to sleep around 1:30 a.m. only to wake back up at 4 a.m. to drop the car off and catch our flight. It wasn't the most comfortable of sleep, seeing that I slept on a yoga mat on the floor but still, it was very nice of them to open their house to us.

We caught our flight to Calgary and we arrived, luggage intact, exausted, but very pleased. I promptly went home and slept for about 4 hours.

I'm really glad I went on the trip. I always say that you never really know someone until you travel with them and boy, that is the case. My friend S and I never really had any problems. Her bf started to get on my nerves after a while. He mumbles a lot and is so indecisive it's annoying. And S's friend A and I had some fun, but we're still not super close. I think by the end of the trip I was itching to spend time alone, but I didn't really hate any of them, which is good.

I haven't put together all the expenses for the trip yet, as A put all the gas, the hotel, and the car on her Credit Card and will divy it up and 'bill' me. I have some rough estimates which I will talk about later.

All in all, I enjoyed Seattle. I would probably go back again, but not right now. And I think i'd do it alone, at least for a while. Or with someone who enjoyed the same kind of shopping that I do. Because waiting outside Hollister or Forever 21 for an hour isn't really my idea of shopping. Hah.