Here is a very long post about a very short vacation!
I’ve been saying for years that I want to move to the Pacific Northwest. Problem was, I’d never really been there. I’d spent two days in Portland for a wedding and I drove through the Columbia Gorge a few weeks ago, but that about covered my time up in that part of the country. Yet if anyone asked me where I want to move, I’d always say Seattle or Vancouver.
Last weekend, I finally had a chance to see if Seattle and Vancouver were everything I dreamed they would be.
And oh yes, they were.
But let’s back up. My grad school friend Julia and I try and get together once a year or so. Last year, I went to Baltimore to visit her (and several other friends), so this year she said she’d come out this direction, especially since she had a conference the following week in Park City, UT. We decided on Seattle, since her friend Jake lives there. Their friend Lora joined us (I’d met both Jake and Lora before) and the four of us had Mad Pacific Northwest Adventures. Unfortunately, all my group photos turned out blurry! Hopefully Jules will send me one and I’ll post it one of these days.
When I got to Seattle, Julia and Lora met me at the airport where we rented a car and headed north toward Canada (Jake was working, so he didn’t join us for the Canadian part of our adventure). Right off the bat, I was struck with how green that part of the world is — just gorgeous. We stopped for lunch in a little pub in Mount Vernon, WA, kicking off our Eat All The Pub Food Ever theme of our trip. Crabcake sandwich, fries, and a lemonade. Mmm.
Then, CANADA! Hello, bonjour!
My grad school friends (who were from places like Michigan and Maine) were always surprised that I’d never been to Canada. I’m from California! We go to Mexico. I’ve been there seven times. But never to Canada.
So we drove into Canada and headed to Vancouver, following a bus that made us say, “Canada, what?”
Our hotel was smack in the middle of downtown, and was perfect for the three of us. We got settled and walked down to Granville Island, recommended to us by some of my friends who had honeymooned there. We decided that Edible Canada was just the place for a glass of wine. We drank some Canadian wine (the Moon Curser Merlot was the best wine I had the entire trip) and ate a mediocre Canadian brownie and caught up on life.
After our little drinks break, we wandered around Granville Island’s Public Market. There was tempting stall after tempting stall of fresh veggies, meats, coffees, handmade items, and other local goodies. I could easily move in there and never have to leave. We also strolled along the riverwalk outside the market, where a lot of people were enjoying the unusually warm weather and the beautiful views of Vancouver.
We ate dinner at the Sand Bar – I had the scallops, which were mmmmmm. During dinner, though, I got quite a bit of a headache – it had been a long day and I hadn’t had nearly enough water. After a while, I was afraid I was straying into migraine territory so I ended up catching a cab while Julia and Lora went to an improv show. I crashed and felt 100% better the next morning.
The day before, our waiter at Edible Canada had been very friendly so we asked him what we should do with our 24 hours in Vancouver. We had mentioned that we were thinking about going up to the Capilano Suspension Bridge, but he told us that it was so crowded and touristy, so he recommended the Lynn Suspension Bridge. It’s not really in the guidebooks, so it’s not overcrowded, and, even better, it’s free!
It was beyond lovely in that little park – so green and lush, and there weren’t a ton of people. I found the bridge itself slightly terrifying. It’s 135 feet long and 164 feet above the river, and though it was perfectly safe I felt very unsteady and didn’t spend much time on the bridge itself. It was so…sway-y. The bridge can hold a 747, which made me nervous because if a 747 landed on the bridge while we were on it, it wouldn’t be able to hold our weight!
I may look normal, but not so much.
On the other side of the bridge is a two-mile hike/walk, which had about three bajillion stairs but was really pretty nonetheless. Western Canada does forests the bestest. They even have Bob-Ross-like happy trees:
Then we decided to go to Whistler, because why not? It was an hour and a half from North Vancouver, and the drive on the Sea to Sky Highway is absolutely stunning. We’d be in the middle of a conversation and all of sudden all three of us would stare speechlessly out the window at the mountains and water and trees. Simply gorgeous.
Whistler, where all of the skiing events for the 2010 Winter Olympics were held, is beautiful even in the dead of summer. It was packed with vacationers, and a ton of mountain bikers — Whistler has some of the longest downhill courses in the world. We ate lunch in Whistler Village at a place called La Bocca (burger = divine), and then our waitress suggested we buy the (not so cheap) lift ticket to the top of the mountain. Four gondola and ski lift rides would get us up the mountain, across to another mountain, and back down again.
Not going to lie – I was not a happy camper on the first gondola. It was a warm day and very little air made it into our little greenhouse of a car (presumably, this is a good thing when it’s freezing). I was nauseated and my fear of heights was in high gear. And the ride is a long 35 minutes. And sometimes it stopped.
But by the time we got to the top, it was worth it. The views of the valley below the mountain were unreal – it’s really hard to grasp the scale of the majestic mountains and lakes. It’s enormous. The second Peak 2 Peak Gondola is one of the longest (2.37 MILES) and the highest (1430 feet) in the world. It carries passengers between two mountains (instead of up and down), Whistler and Blackcomb. Each car carries 28 people. It’s a lot sturdier than any gondola I’ve been in, but the height sort of makes up for it – it’s still quite scary for someone who doesn’t like heights. Yet, it was an amazing ride. If you’re up in Whistler, you must do it – it’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced.
We wandered around Blackcomb for a bit – I think the views were even better here than at Whistler – and then took two regular open ski lifts back down to the bottom. Turns out the open-air chair lifts were the least scary part of the adventure. Who knew?
After Whistler, we drove back to Seattle. It was a long drive, but the company was lovely and the scenery gorgeous. The border agent in Blaine, WA was quite the charmer. Not. (“Why would you ever want to go to Canada?” Well, because people like you are here in the U.S.) But we got back into the US no problem, despite having passports from California, Georgia, and Maryland, and a rental car from New Mexico. We stopped at the same pub in Mount Vernon and had dinner (pulled pork sandwich!). Jake picked us up from the rental car offices at the airport, and we all crashed in his studio apartment.
The next morning, we got up and started our Seattle adventure. We got some coffe and Jake drove us to this great lookout point. We were so blessed to be there on a clear day, and we could easily see Mount Rainer in the distance. It was absolutely stunning. I never wanted to leave.
Jake and Lora dropped Julia and me off at the Space Needle (they had both done it before). We decided the Space Needle is a great deal — you get not only a ticket to the top, but a photo of your party for $19. Well worth it, especially since the views are spectacular. And we could still see Rainer in the distance.
Julia and me looking particularly wind-blown:
Then all four of us took a Duck Boat tour of Seattle, which was a lot of fun. Sometimes the drivers of these tours can be over the top and, frankly, really annoying, but our driver was goofy without us wanting to punch him in the neck. We drove all over Seattle, and learned a lot about the city and its history. We even saw the Sleepless in Seattle house. *squee*
We then did a lot of walking. I didn’t mind, except that it was quite toasty for Seattle — 90 degrees! Jake said we were there for the entire Seattle summer — one and a half days. We walked from the Space Needle / Duck Boat area to a pub where we had lunch (fish and chips!) and then headed down toward the waterfront and Pike’s Market. By then we were quite hot, but we wandered around the market for a while and saw some Famous Things, including A Big Sign, Men Throwing Fish, and the Starbucks Mothership.
We decided to take the ferry out to Bainbridge Island for dinner, which turned out to be a disappointing choice. The ferry ride was gorgeous and it was cool out on the water:
But once we got to Bainbridge — at 5:00 on a Saturday evening — pretty much everything was closed. We found a place to grab some coffee, and then barely made the return ferry. Maybe we missed something, but Bainbridge = boring. Perhaps it’s good for old people who go to bed at 4:00.
Instead, dinner was at this totally sketchy Vietnamese restaurant that turned out to be GREAT. By that time we were all completely exhausted, so we crashed fairly early. The next morning I had to go home, but we managed to squeeze in a visit to the friendly Fremont Troll, who likes his Volkswagens fresh in the morning:
And then, after saying goodbye to my friends, it was back to the Hot Mess that is Sacramento in the summer. Someday, Seattle. I will live in you. Until then, I’ll just watch Ten Things I Hate About You over and over again.