Seattle – a flying visit

Now to Seattle, this time we were here for 6 nights.  Originally we were thinking to go through some of BC Canada at this time but it is still really cold at this time of year so we decided to have an explore around the Seattle area.

Our accommodation was right in downtown which made it so easy to get around.

Seattle is a really green city lots of trees which grow well because they get lots of rain. We discovered this as it rained aa soon as we got there and continued on and off for most of our stay.
However really can’t complain as so far had had almost perfect weather for entire trip.

Seattle is the home of several iconic US companies like Boeing, Microsoft, Starbucks, and lately Amazon. Lots of construction going on and seems like a city on the up. Also means the business section of the paper is a much more interesting read than The Press business pages.

Seattle was also the home of grunge type rock and we spotted a few more Bill and Ted lookalikes than we’d seen anywhere else.

Seattle is big on aeroplanes as its home to the Boeing factory and the Museum of flight.

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The Museum has lots of planes on display from old war planes, to the last Concorde to be in use and the Airforce One used during the 1960’s. 

Here’s Rachel in the secretary seat typing up an important letter to the President.

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They have great informative pieces about how planes fly and what happens in the control tower to info about the Wright brother’s 1st plane and a flying car.

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This was as close as we got to a float plane.

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Rachel was Maverick and Matt was Iceman. Shame we left our aviators at home.

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Its not just planes but spacecraft too that they cover, from early discovery of space hundreds of years ago to the flights on Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic at $200,000 a seat.

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They also have a huge gallery with a very comprehensive look at WWl and WWll.

In hindsight it would have been good to spread out our visit over a couple of days rather than the 2 hours we did it in, there’s a lot of info to take in.

We visited the Boeing factory a few days later (when we were staying in Bremerton, included in next post) . This has the largest building in the world with a floor plan of 92acres and height of 6 stories. With around 40,000 employees (on rosters across 7 days a week) the whole facility (much more than just the 1 building) is like it’s own little community with lots of cafes, dry cleaners etc and its own road way.

This tour showed the assembly lines for 747-8, 737’s, and the new 787 Dreamliner in the making. With a much bigger window for taking in the view and the ability to absorb 60% more turbulence it sounds like a great way to fly. With the main sections of the Dreamliner being assembled off site, they are brought together here to form the finished aircraft, a feat that only takes 3 days! Sorry no photos as no cameras were allowed.

There’s only one small part of the factory that’s robotic, the majority is still done with people power. The factory was spotless and the most organised workplace we’re ever likely to see, which is a good thing for flyers.

MAY 12th: HAPPY 30th BIRTHDAY TO MATT :-)

We spent the day exploring Seattle, Matt bought a new shirt and we ate cake.
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We also went out for a very tasty vietnamese dinner, the clams were delicious. They had these cool copper mugs that they served Moscow Mules in. They keep drinks super cold (or hot like in hot water cylinders) They must be popular items to pilfer as they had a $35 charge if it wasn’t on the table at the end of the dinner.
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By the end of the night Matt was wanting to relive his youth and we happened to stumble past a gaming arcade. We played Pinball, Tekken, Deer Hunt, Rach went on the music dance mat, but Matt’s favourite was racing the Harley Davidson.

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The tallest building in Seattle is the Space Needle, a mixture of the Skytower and something I remember off the Jetsons. It was built in the 1960’s for the world trade fair and has a monorail to it from downtown.
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One of the more famous destinations in Seattle is the Pike Place Market well known for its fish mongers that toss fish to each other or scare people by pulling on the tail of a fish hidden by ice to make it jump. As well as lots of food stands there is also art and craft, clothing, nik naks, and amazing flower stalls. One of their mascots is ‘Rachel the Pig’, good luck if you put money in.
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It is also home to the original Starbucks, very popular, the line was always far too long for us to want to wait. Never mind there’s practically a Starbucks on every corner.

There’s always activity on the waterfront, lots of ferries coming and going, restaurants and they have a big ferris wheel too.
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From Seattle we ferried to the Olympic Peninsula and the sleepy town of Bremerton, hoping for some sun.

Viva Las Vegas Take 2

Our departure from Victoria led us to a quick stop over in Seattle before boarding a plane bound for Las Vegas for an early celebration of Matt’s 30th birthday.

No, it wasn’t that we won big last time we were there, its just that you can’t turn down a room with a view like our friend Simon was offering.

Speaking of views we had a really clear sky during the flight and got these pics if Mount Rainier, a volcano in Washington State considered one of the most dangerous in the world. If it erupted it could produce lahars that could cause major flooding to surrounding areas and Seattle. Big mountain higher than Mt Cook with a great conical shape.

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Although we saw it last time its still a bit of a surprise seeing pokie machines in the airport.

Caesars Palace was our destination this time, 4 different towers of rooms taking up about a whole block.

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The swimming pools (about 5 of them) looked great, wasn’t quite swimming weather the 1st day but nice to laze by the pool.

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The second day was really hot but the pools were closed for a celebrity chef event. 

It was fantastic to have a room overlooking the other hotels in the strip, especially when the Bellagio had its water fountain displays.

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We had a couple of great nights out both on the strip and downtown, no big wins this time either though.

We were sure it was another friend Scott who we spotted here in the band, last time we’d seem him on the axe was years ago at the lyttelon wunderbar.

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I think Simon was happy to see Matt after being gone a couple of months.

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Thanks for having us Simon.

Vancouver to Victoria

The ferry from the Canada mainland to Vancouver Island was great, it’s our new favourite mode of transport. It was such a smooth trip through the sounds. 
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We were lucky to have a friend Lisa to stay with for the 3 nights.  With her and Matt both loving cooking we kept ourselves well fed.

We were also extremely lucky with the weather – Victoria experienced record highs for the time of year – apparently as good weather as it gets in the height of summer.

Victoria is a beautiful city around the size of chch ( bit smaller) with some grand old buildings and great views from the beach across to the Olympic Peninsula of Washington.
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We borrowed Lisa’s car one day and went for a drive to the west ending up at Sooke. Neat spot on the coast where you can walk out onto the sandspit of the sheltered harbour.  
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The main reason people visit Sooke is the potholes. Not like Christchurch potholes, these are large pools formed in the river making it great for swimming. A but chilly for us to be tempted for a swim.

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On our walk around town one day Matt made some more friends, they were pretty quiet though.

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We haven’t played squash since we’ve been away so we took the opportunity for a couple of games of tennis. It was a bit of a shock how long it took to get the hang of it again. At least a squash court’s enclosed!

There are a lot of homeless people in the USA and Canada. Many of them use supermarket trolleys to carry around their possessions. This guy had a working TV. No idea how it was powered!

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Squirrels are still a novelty to us, this guy was all set to pose for the camera.

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Victoria’s well known for some great restaurants as we found out on a trip to a fantastic Italian place.  Yummy fresh bread (basket refilled as much as you want), beautiful pasta and rich chocolaty dessert.  All 3 of us just about needed to be rolled home.

We were really looking forward to our flight from Victoria to Seattle, our first float plane trip.  There was a constant flow of planes coming and going from the harbour every day.
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Well, unfortunately the flight got cancelled due to fog in Seattle so we had to hustle to arrange another way to get there. We ended up on a 3 hour ferry which wasn’t so bad, it gave a chance to catch up on some sleep. The float plane is still on our wishlist for another time.
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It would have been great to have some more time to explore the island and Canada in general, we’ll definitely be back. Thanks for having us Lisa.
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Canuck Time

On arrival in Vancouver we were met with beautiful scenery, snow capped mountains and glistening waterfront.

It’s a very easy city to get around, great public transport between buses and the trains. It really felt comfortable straight away like you could just move there and start living with no trouble adjusting.

Our accommodation was in a great neighbourhood reasonably close to town. We stayed in a studio beneath our hosts house who turned out to be an italian girl married to a kiwi with 2 young kids.

We had lots of markets and restaurants a block away and Commercial Drive, the ‘cool hangout’ was a short walk. Matt found someone there to give him a haircut just how he likes it so he was happy.

Across the water from downtown on the north shore of Vancouver there are a couple of canyons with swing bridges that you can do walks around. We opted for Lynn Canyon (mainly because it was free) which was pretty popular especially with the asian tour groups.

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Had do make sure we did our stretches before we started the walk.

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Part of the river forms the Emerald pools which look beautiful, neither of us were keen to test the temperature.

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We stopped off at the waterfront on the northern side to check out the market for lunch on the way home and stumbled across the ‘Soup Meister’, very tasty. We both think this was a better market to go than the famed Granville Island market which we had been to the previous day.

We got a great view of the city skyline on the way back over on the ferry, you can even spot a float plane coming in to land by the ‘skytower’ looking building.

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The local ice hockey team, The Canucks, were playing (playoffs) one night so we went along to a bar to watch the festivities. Hard to say we watched the game when the puck moves so quick you can’t see it, you just have to see what way the players are moving.
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Vancouver is a clean and safe city but there’s one particular stretch ‘Hastings and Main’ thats ‘home’ to a lot of homeless people who tend to congregate there day and night. Apparently the worst block in North America for drugs and general chaos although quite safe as there are so many people around.

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On the plus side this area does seem to have some new fashion stores opening soon, franchise anyone?
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We went on a mission one day to get a good view of the city and ended up in Queen Elizabeth Park. You can see from the mountains to the north of the city to the Olympic range west of Seattle.
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Along with a great 360° view it has beautiful gardens especially with all the tulips out.

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We made some friends there too.
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On our trip to Chinatown for lunch one day we passed through the Dr Sun Yat-Sen gardens which has great Japanese style buildings, and some really big carp in the pond. Wish we were as excited about the fried rice we got!
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Again we donned our cycling atire to have a good look around Stanley Park, where you get a great view of the harbour and beaches as you bike around.
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We swear that each day we were in Vancouver it got a couple of degrees hotter so was great weather for exploring. Apparently record weather for this time of year.

We interrupted our bike with a coffee in Yaletown which is an upcoming neighbourhood thats risen out of an industrial sector. Its right on the waterfront and has lots of restaurants/cafes and parks/gardens, a great spot.
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Due to Rach’s navigational decline we almost missed the ferry we wanted to take us across to our next destination Vancouver Island, but lucky for us we weren’t the only ones, so a reasonably priced taxi shared between 5 got us there on time. Next stop Victoria.

If you’re going to San Francisco…

Our arrival in San Francisco led to us saying goodbye to Zippy the car, he’d been very loyal and trustworthy but the public transport system was there to take over his job. 

Our first night here was our introduction to baseball. We met up with Craig and Brittany to cheer on the SF Giants. The view from the stadium is fantastic, you can see straight out over the water, just need to rug up warm because that wind is chilly.

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Despite us chanting the basic ‘let’s go Giants, lets go (clap clap)’ along with the guy playing organ they didn’t win.  Yes, apparently its not a recording like I thought, but one guy who’s been playing the organ for years. 

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We stuck with churros for a snack but check out this guy who was really into his peanuts, the pile of shells got bigger and bigger!
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Downtown San Francisco is busy like you’d expect a big city to be but seems a much higher proportion of younger people.  There are a lot of tech company’s based around here, or an hours drive away in San Jose (silicon valley) .  Google has it’s own fleet of buses that run people to work in San Jose each day.

Something that we think museums in NZ should catch on to is a ‘Thursday Night for Adults’ night that we went to at the Academy of Science. For a very reasonable ticket price you get entry to a lot of different exhibitions, heaps of them interactive /informative, and you can buy food and booze as you wander around.

Apparently its regularly used as a ‘first date’ night out.  I guess there’s plenty to talk about if the conversation stalls!

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We got to hold a wing of an eagle and owl to see how light weight they are, and there are lots of things hanging from the roof like a whale skeleton and an America’s Cup catamaran.

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The rooftop was cool, it’s a grass/plant roof that absorbs an incredible amount of water. 

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The aquarium is also open on these nights.  So many sea creatures to check out but Rachels favourites were the seahorse…

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and the jellyfish that changed colour every 30 seconds or so.

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Matt’s more into stripes than colours.

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One of the days we took a ferry (didn’t opt to swim) over to Alcatraz for a look around the penitentiary.
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They have a really good audio tour so you just pop on a headset and hear the voices of previous inmates, guards and their families as you walk around.
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It certainly would have been a horrible place, the wind whips through the corridors. You hear of attempted escapes and the notorious 3 who dug through the concrete walls with dining spoons and jumped into San Francisco bay never to be seen again.
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You can’t go to San Francisco without biking or walking over the Golden Gate bridge so to continue our trend we decided to bike. 
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There’s a great trail from fisherman’s wharf, around the bay, and over the bridge to Sausilito. 
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We had a good day for it, just a little windy on the way to the bridge.  Can’t comment on the weather for the trip back because we cheated and took the ferry, just like over a hundred others with their bikes.
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Our last day in San Francisco Craig and Brittany took us on a drive to Stinson Beach and Mt Tamalpais through the redwood forest.  Had great views from the top of the mountain, from the San Fran skyline, to Oakland, to the Pacific.
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They also took us to Alamo Park which borders the ‘Painted Ladies’ the houses made famous by the opening credits of Full House.
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Pretty great view across the city from there too.

Thanks Craig and Brittany for being great hosts, and for introducing us to yummy triple cream brie!
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Times in Lake Tahoe

The drive to Lake Tahoe was a complete juxtaposition to the scenery that we’d seen so far.  There had been snow to ground level on the day we travelled so it was great to be driving through the pine trees with the snow fresh. 

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Most of the ski fields around (of which there are many) had just closed so hitting the off season the town was relatively quiet.

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Our accommodation in South Lake Tahoe was about 500m from the state line on the California side, quite funny to see casinos lined up as soon as Nevada begins. We had a couple of nights checking them out, much quieter than Vegas but still fun.

At our motel there was a resident squirrel that the owners fed with peanuts, glad it was just a squirrel not the bear they had up a tree in the back yard last year.

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Tahoe was a cheap place to visit with accommodation in particular being good value.

Some notable affordable eats included $1 tacos from the local mexican- a shipping container on piles made if tree stumps attached to a motel (complete with mexican Days of our Lives soaps playing), and Rach winning the title of “Motel Chef” with her signature microwaved scrambled eggs and parmesan served on English muffins procured from motel breakfast.

One day we drove past what we thought was a bustling market, we stopped to check it out. As we exited the car the air had a very strong smell that Rachel didn’t recognise. The parking lot was filled with dreadlocked people celebrating “4 20” as it was April the 20th. Pretty much a national holiday in Tahoe, as through much of California. You can get a medical marijuana prescription for such serious ailments as a cold, bad nights sleep or a stubbed toe.

The drive around the whole lake gives you glorious views.  Emerald Bay in particular is stunning.

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There’s an old viking house that you can walk down to which has further tracks to Eagle Falls a very popular place to sight see, we even saw someone getting wedding photos done.

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Further round at the north of the lake is Truckee, it doesn’t sound like the type of town that would have much but it’s well equipped to tend to the tourist trade, lots of restaurants/cafes.

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Plenty of beautiful spots all around the lake especially with the beautiful extremely clear water. Scenery is quite Queenstown ish but with more pine trees and mountains not as high.

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We visited Virginia City, which is a mining town from way back.  They still have original buildings, a lot of them saloons. You can go on tours to see old mine shafts and an old bank vault.

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It was also the first (and consequently last) place that we tried some jerky.  Lets just say we hope the motel owner’s dog enjoyed it more than we did.

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Maybe we should have bought some lollies to get the taste out of our mouths, plenty to choose from in this shop.

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Because this side (east) of the lake is in Nevada there are pokie machines in most of the saloons, well who can say no when they’re offering a buy $3 get $4 coupon! The winning result….

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We took it to be our lucky day and left happy. 

On the way back to Tahoe we stopped in at Genoa which is home to Nevada’s oldest bar and saloon, est 1853.

They’ve tried to keep it original, including the dust, and have mementoes from famous visitors like one of Raquel Welshs bras flug over an antler on the wall. There was even a good old bikie bar brawl when we were there. Don’t worry mum no broken nose here, can’t speak for the other guy though.

Back in Tahoe we hired bikes and took them round the lake, great views of the mountains from the waterside. No one around on a Monday morning in the off season, was magic.

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Also stopped by Fallen Leaf Lake, the mirrored reflection was stunning. Thanks to Rachels navigating we only got a little lost in the forest.

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The Tahoe lakeside was a beautiful spot to just take in the view and relax.

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Also for watching the sunset.

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