Tag Archives: traveling

Finally, Vancouver!

<–Previously, we wrapped up our fun in Seattle.

There are a couple of options available to get to Vancouver from Seattle.  You can drive, you can fly, you can even take a ferry…but a recommendation I read online was to take the train!  And that sounded wonderful, and apparently beautiful, so that’s what we did.  It made for an early morning as it does take about 4 hours for the journey, but it was a lot of fun.  To make it as comfortable as possible, I had purchased us Business Class tickets on the Amtrak, and that was nice, and we ended up seated next to a couple that was a lot of fun.  She had a bunch of stories and the 4 hours flew by as we made our way to Vancouver, BC.

Thursday, Sept 7, 2017 – Vancouver via Amtrak

We got to Vancouver’s Pacific train station around lunchtime, and so after taking a cab to the wonderful Opus Hotel in the Yaletown area of the city and leaving our luggage, we got some food at the awesome restaurant Cactus Club Cafe.

ProTip:  These restaurants are fantastic, and there are 3 or 4 of them in the city.  They’re staffed by absolutely gorgeous people and all of them are like REALLY nice.  Almost weirdly so.  I’m used to L.A. where the more attractive the waiter/waitress, usually the more they can’t be bothered by you.  It was refreshing.   Also, the food was really good.  So if you have the opportunity, go to a Cactus Club Cafe.  You’ll thank me later.

We couldn’t check in, so we consulted our handy-dandy books and wandered around the area.   Happily, Yaletown is very centrally located and right across the False Creek from Granville Island.  There are also many water taxis to schlep you around that area, so we made use of the convenience to get over to Granville by walking over to one of the local water taxi stops.

Getting Acquainted with Yaletown

Water Taxi to Granville Island

Granville Island is well-regarded as a popular tourist destination and for being an artsy area.  You can stock up on custom glass sculptures, Native American artwork, woodworking and any other number of artistic stuff.    There’s a functional concrete plant that has had the storage tanks painted like figurines, which are now called the Giants.  It’s a fun outing, but you’re in tourist town, for sure.

Granville Island

All this was exhausting to do and we finally got a notification that our hotel room was ready and so we headed back there to get settled in and relax.  After that, I was kind of intrigued to explore and see the actual Casino that is present in Vancouver, which happily meant we’d walk along the route where the Olympics and Expo were held.  But first, dinner!   Larry found us a good spot at ‘The Flying Pig’ which was hip and happening and delicious.   A note:  Vancouver definitely has a lot of fun restaurants and bars – in fact, it’s a pretty great city to live in.  Not cheap though, as it’s quite a popular place to be.  Another thing to note:  Vancouver is not really all that interesting of a city to visit.  There’s stuff to do, but it doesn’t have a distinct personality, in my opinion, in terms of ‘visiting an interest city’.  Yet, I could totally see us living there as it’s just that kind of a city.  Clean, modern, and plenty to do.

Anyway, after dinner, we went on the walk towards the Casino, passing by the big soccer stadium and through the area where the Olympics Village was.  I thought it might be fun to gamble, but when we actually made it in there…it was kind of a weird, don’t wanna be here anymore vibe.  So we left.

Evening Begins

An unexpected thing happened as we were walking home from the disappointing Casino adventure.   We were walking along the False Creek rivershore to enjoy the atmosphere, but it was also full nighttime now and it had been sporadically sprinkling rain, so we were kind of ready to get home.   But as we were passing the Cambie St Overpass, we heard lots of people talking and occasional applause.  Intrigued, we walked from the path over to it, and it turned out to be a site for an art installment!   The art was projecting this giant movie called Uninterrupted about the lifecycle of salmon onto the underpass – we got to see it from beginning to end and it was mesmerizing.  It was also very much an aural experience and just overall stunning.  Also, while waiting for the movie, there was just cool vistas of the city surroundings too.

Uninterrupted at the Cambie St Overpass

After that, on the way back to the hotel, we found a gelato shop and since vacation calories don’t count, we partook.  It was delicious!   Alas, the rain did start to come down harder and it was an omen of what was to come the next day!

The Final Frontier & Other Seattle Fun our last day

Ha, I’m the worst at staying on top of posting these pictures.  That Twin Peaks post documenting the previous day’s amazing activities wiped me out!  Anyway, 2 weeks or so later, here we are and haven’t even touched the Vancouver stuff yet.   Let’s do this!

Morning Wandering

This morning, we had a great breakfast at Biscuit Bitch and then a stroll along the Pike Place area, checking out the Pike Place fish market.  Not much to see this morning, as only some squid was getting thrown around.   Then we took a walk over to the original Starbucks location – didn’t buy any coffee as I’ve had Starbucks coffee plenty of times and there’s no need to wait even longer than normal for it.

Monorail Madness 2: Monorail Harder

Now that it was a weekday (this was Wednesday, Sept 6, for reference), there really weren’t that many people as before out and about doing touristy Seattle things.  Made for a much less crowded experience everywhere!  And so this time on the monorail, we were able to get a seat right up at the front of the train, next to the driver.   Living the sweet life, we are.

 

The Seattle Museum of Pop Culture

If there is a museum that is more suited for either Larry or me and the things we truly love, it will be hard to tell me what or where that is.  As this museum is just amazing:  it’s got a Frank Gehry-designed exterior, the interior is wild and eye-catching, there’s a giant cinema screen in the middle highlighting all the exhibits in an awesome way, and of course the exhibits themselves are just a blast.  We went through many of them, but our prime directive for coming to the museum?  The 50th Anniversary of Star Trek.

The exhibit for Star Trek contained more than enough to satisfy most Trekkies’ needs.  Models of every Enterprise ship?  Check.  Costumes and props for EVERY series?  Check.  Videos and Trek history everywhere?  Check.   It was incredible.  I loved the Star Trek timeline that tied together every show, even the JJ Abrams alternate universe.  Just amazing.  And the fact is that the exhibit is done with style too – see the pics below.  Larry was in heaven, and it was interesting for anyone, honestly.

There were a few interactive portions in the exhibit, one of which is being able to put your face on top of William Shatner’s in the iconic “KHAAAAAANNNNN” scream from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  See below:

So here are all my pics from the Star Trek exhibit…

Other Exhibits at the MoPOP were also not to be missed, including:

  • Jim Henson Exhibition
  • Bowie by Mick Rock
  • Infinite World of Science Fiction (as seen in the last 2 pics above)
  • Indie Game Revolution

As you’ll see below, these were all a blast.  The Jim Henson Exhibition notably was magical to visit, as not only did you see plenty of stuff about the Muppets (which was ahMAZing), but the stuff that Jim Henson did before the Muppets as well as after.  I loved that you could stand in the Muppet Show’s iconic opening structure!

The MoPOP museum is right smack dab in that whole touristy central area, so we were able to go to the Armory to grab a quick bite before deciding what to do next.  After yesterday’s adventures, not having a plan was a bit of a nice thing.  We saw the ‘Ducks’ office right across the street and it was like, hey, why not just sit in an amphibious vehicle and drive around Seattle and then Lake Union?  And so we did.

The Land Portion of the Ducks Tour

We got driven all over the main downtown area of Seattle, and for the most part, it was stuff we’d had a chance to see ourselves.  It was just nice to not be walking or doing anything  except go along for the ride.  Also, the tour guides are funny and charming, and you listen to fun music while you’re zooming around town.  Highly recommended way to do this!

And then we went into the water of Lake Union, a small lake right north of Seattle and sandwiched between Lake Washington and the main Puget Sound:

Pictures in Lake Union:

After that, it was time to start wrapping up the day, so we did that by going to a fantastic restaurant, Von’s 1000 Spirits, for a delicious dinner and some beers.   And then back to the hotel to pack up as we had a decently early start the next morning to get to the train station and make our way north to Canada!

Seattle Day 1: Space Needle + Science Center Fun

It looks like Larry & I enjoy traveling during the beginning of Septembers, so to keep that rhythm going, we headed out for a much closer-than-usual destination: the Pacific Northwest.  We only were going for a week, so we split the time in half, with the first half in Seattle and the second half in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Our itinerary involved us not heading up until Monday, Sept 4, which was Labor Day.  Kind of calculated on our part, hoping that maybe people weren’t actually traveling all that much.  To hedge our bets, we left on a fairly early flight out, direct from Burbank (yay!) to Seattle on Alaska Air.  Since they’re buying Virgin America, can’t hurt to get used to what they’re like as an airline.  So, Seattle! (thanks Google Maps)

Our hotel, the Kimpton Hotel Monaco, can be seen in the map above, and what’s ideal about it besides being part of the Kimpton Hotel chain is that it was very centrally located in Downtown Seattle.  We could walk pretty much anywhere we wanted to go and you know Larry & I love to get our steps in.

Of course, getting in to a city early in the day typically means your hotel room isn’t ready, and that was our case.  Who cares though, once they hold on to your luggage?  We got our breakfast (finally) in the attached restaurant, Outlier, before heading out into the city to go see absolutely everything!

If we headed north from the hotel, we were able to jump on the Seattle Monorail’s southern end, which takes a huge chunk of the walking out of our travels as the other end is situated in Seattle Center, where the Space Needle and many other things are centrally located.

It’s a bit of a retro experience as the trains look like they’re the originals, but it’s still an effective way to get between these two points quickly.  While on the monorail, both Larry and I had to wonder why monorails aren’t more utilized in cities.  My guess is that they’re expensive, take up “overhead sky views” and people don’t want to be under their tracks, and maybe not as easy to manage as subway/light rail trains.

Seattle Monorail:

So as could be foretold in the pictures from the monorail, of course the first thing we were going to do was go up to the top of Space Needle.  One simply does not not visit the Space Needle when in Seattle.  It just isn’t done.

It was a very nice day to be going up to the top, as the sun was out and the haze wasn’t super bad as it would be on other days during our trip.    Why do I bring up the haze?  As the whole west coast seems to be on fire – check out this current map:

The pictures from this day really don’t show too much in the way of haze or smoke, except for the fact you can’t see the Cascade Mountain range, but I imagine that will happen enough anyway just from rainy days or regular smog pollution.  But in the pics from the following day when we visit Snoqualmie?  it’s not a Twin Peaks filter that I’ve applied to make all the pics have that yellowish tinge.  So yeah, kind of sucks.

Anyway, the line to get up to the top wasn’t bad at all, the views were great, and the weather wasn’t too damn hot like it had been in LA the previous week.  More on that in another post!  The funny thing about the Space Needle is that while of course it’s tall enough to be noticed throughout the city, it’s not all that tall, all things considered.  It’s got a great vantage point though, in that it’s situated near the coast and a bit outside of the downtown center, so you get nice views of everything from it.  And of course, it’s got quite the iconic look to it.  Since we had partaken in glasses of wine atop 1WTC, we figured it was appropriate to do so here.  Bring on more tall towers and their wine!

Seattle Space Needle

After finishing up our review of Seattle from above, our next stop was happily right there in the Seattle Center.  As you can see from this map:

Seattle has conveniently put quite a few of their most popular tourist attractions right all in one handy place.  I’m sure that makes the locals happy too, as it’s a place they can purposely avoid, much like New Yorkers avoid Times Square, Las Vegans avoid the Strip, and Los Angelenos avoid Hollywood Blvd, Universal Studios, 3rd Street Promenade, etc.  🙂

The tickets Larry had pre-purchased a month or so before the trip got us into the Space Needle, the Monorail, and the Pacific Science Center.  Also, that pre-purchase got us tickets into the exhibit that was closing that very same day, the Terracotta Warriors.   Since we were able to get into that exhibit, we went to that first, and you’ll notice in the pictures that it’s not exactly what you’d see if you went to the First Emperor’s tomb site in China, as that’s where the hundreds upon hundreds of warriors are situated in place.  Rather, these are touring examples of what exists in that site – it’s still quite an impressive collection to look at and take in.  The history that’s in this world is just quite exciting.

Pacific Science Center

After leaving that exhibit, we then meandered to the other portions of the museum, including the more kids-focused ‘science is fun’ stuff, and happily it also entertains adults.  The best part though was a chance to sit in the Laser Dome and watch a laser show set to Michael Jackson songs.  I didn’t know it before, but a laser show to “Thriller” is fucking amazing.

It was late afternoon by this point, and we had found out our hotel room was available, so we figured it would be nice to head back.  Instead of taking the monorail again, we decided to go for a walk, as while on the elevator down from the top of the Space Needle, the guide mentioned it’s worth seeing the area where Amazon.com is building up.  Specifically, the Spheres.  Neither Larry nor I had any idea what that meant, but we had the directions to get there and it was on the way, so off we walked through downtown Seattle.  As the pictures below indicate, there’s a lot of new construction going on here.  Not only corporate office towers but lots and lots of residential towers are going up – and they ain’t cheap.  I kind of was thinking to myself they might be, but no, Seattle is as expensive as Los Angeles, if not more so, due to the tech industry there.  The towers are beautiful (if you like futuristic, towering residential high rises) and it’s periodically easy to imagine living there, but we had some really good rain-free days this trip.  I can imagine when it’s nonstop rain, like it usually is, that gets old real quick.

So we walked and walked towards the Amazon.com complex, and found our way to the Amazon Spheres.   Long story short, I think these biospheres are intended for Amazon employees to be able to retreat to while working to reconnect to nature…or something.  But they’re still under construction yet their external ‘spheres’ is done and can be gawked at.

 

Via Wired.com:  https://www.wired.com/2017/05/amazons-expansive-biodomes-get-first-9000-plants/

Walking Downtown Seattle and Seeing Amazon’s Biospheres

Finally back at our hotel, the Kimpton Hotel Monaco, it was a much needed chance to get situated, unpack, and then head immediately back downstairs as by then, it was the Kimpton wine hour!  If you have stayed at a Kimpton Hotel before, you’ll know there’s a complimentary wine hour every day for hotel guests.  It’s the BEST.

Kimpton Hotel Monaco

After enjoying a relaxing hour resting from the day’s adventures, it was time to eat!  We got the first of many good recommendations for dinner – this time for Nijo Sushi, a few-block walk away from the restaurant.  Ended up being fantastic sushi.  After that, we then went for an evening stroll along the waterfront and watched as the evening lights all turned on, eventually realizing we were exhausted!

Dinner & a Waterfront Walk

A big day awaited us tomorrow with the trip to visit Twin Peaks filming locations set as the main attraction.  Stand by for that post as it will contain MANY pictures.

A Pictures-palooza From the Last Month – Pt 1

Normally, I’d insist on showing absolutely every picture I took….but I realize that will take a lot of time and effort.  So we’ll have to do a bit of editing, although I’m pretty sure it’ll still look as if I posted every picture I took.  What can you do?

It has been a busy month or so, since last I posted, whether it was work or vacation.  Work was especially intense and I can actually see a finish line for this engagement, if that can be believed. Probably shouldn’t jinx myself though, so I’ll leave it at that.

Sat, May 27, 2017: Starting Memorial Day Weekend with La La Land @ the Bowl

During Memorial Day weekend, Larry & I were heading out to New Jersey & NYC to spend the week with friends and family and to be able to attend our niece’s baby naming ceremony.  But before we headed back, I had bought us tickets to the La La Land in Concert @ the Hollywood Bowl….and it was great and a wonderful way to kick off the Hollywood Bowl season.  The kicker in this concert was that the orchestra would play the entire soundtrack while the movie played, and for this, they also included a jazz band, and there was a fantastic piano player who quite deftly played all the Sebastian music.  Pretty great experience, and aided by fireworks that kicked in at various moments in the movie.  Gotta love fireworks!

Sun, May 28:  Flying to Newark

Happily, flying out of LAX in the middle of a long holiday weekend isn’t a complete shitshow, and even while you can’t ever escape traffic at the terminal, we were still able to get in and to the gate pretty easily.  Pro-Tip:  Get yourself Pre-Check.  Everything is easier once that’s accomplished.

I liked these pictures I took right after take-off, looking back at Los Angeles and the area around Rancho Palos Verdes.

That first night, we got picked up by Fran & Joel and hung out at their place, eating some delicious New Jersey pizza.  Then it was time to pass out and hope we could get some sleep.

Mon, May 29:  A Day with Jon, Alyssa, Stacey & Rachel

Our first full day back was going to be spent with the Rausches as we never get to see them.  Plus, the baby naming ceremony for Rachel was the following weekend and that was going to be a hectic, stressful day for them.  So here, we could just relax and have a nice day.    Which we totally did, as we hung out at their house for a while, chatting, having a few drinks, eating lunch, and getting to play with Stacey & Rachel.  We then went to the local zoo!  It may have been kind of dreary and rainy, but it was still fun.  It was back to the house for some more Lego Batman movie watching and games directed by Stacey before we then went to a wonderful dinner with just Jon & Alyssa as Fran & Joel picked up babysitting duties.  In other words, it was a really fun day.

Tues, May 30 – Larry’s Birthday!

So this day was a day with Fran in NYC as well as us starting a temporary hotel stay in the city for a few days to be tourists and enjoy the old neighborhoods a bit.  First on the agenda was heading to the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the UES, as hello, it’s awesome there.  After Fran fearlessly navigated her way there – btw, the city seems to be a whole lot more crowded as lots of streets are under refurbishment? – we walked the few blocks to the Met and took in a few exhibits before heading to the roof.  It’s got a spectacular view of Midtown framed by a tree-top view of Central Park.  See for yourself!