Category: Seattle


Used: 2010

To mix up my traveling a little bit, I decided to make a giant loop and go over to the city of Victoria on Vancouver Island before returning to Washington State directly from the island and fly home instead of backtracking through Vancouver via Peace Arch. Going on harbo(u)r cruises are a huge touristy thing to do in both Seattle and Vancouver and while I love a good boat ride, I decided to combine it with actually going somewhere instead of just the cruise and back. After 2 days in Vancouver, I’m up super early to get to the ferry on time. I have made a reservation because I wanted to get on a certain boat to maximize my time in Victoria and everything was wickedly easy. I actually got lost on the way to the terminal but like a girl, I stopped at a gas station and asked for directions. The attendant couldn’t have been more helpful and it was a good thing I asked because even though I was going in the correct direction, there were no signs to the highway. Something I wouldn’t have experienced if I had any gadgets with me!

I took BC Ferries from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island and the ride was great! So beautiful, especially nice because it was so early in the morning.

City to Island

Early Morning

Summer Mountains

The following day, the ferry left a little later but I still got up early for fear of traffic and after a quick breakfast at my favorurite Canadian coffee chain, Blenz I drove up to Sidney to get the ferry back to the US. Another reason I wanted to go this way, besides mixing it up is because my flight was leaving that day and after my experience at the border all those years ago, I didn’t want to worry about anything and my reasoning is that they only have to process so many people on a boat, they’ll be prepared for this. Leaving the country was a little interesting. I got questioned a lot, a lot more then the BC plated cars in front of me. They asked me the same questions over and over again and since I had nothing to hide it was fine, but I hate being made to feel like a criminal. I think it was because I was a single girl traveling alone, knowing no one in Canada, reentering the country via Vancouver Island after only being there a day and driving the Titanic. I don’t know. They even checked my bag and trunk briefly. Since the Sidney to Anacortes in Washington is owned by the Washington State DOT they only accepted USD’s on the boat, which I thought was kind of funny. I mean, it’s a valid question because the boat is going between two countries, but there were huge signs EVERYWHERE telling us all that USD’s only! I was the first in my lane in the car, which was awesome. The ferry ride was again great. We saw dolphins and the ferry was so empty! A great way and excuse to get on the water without paying tourist prices.

Islands

Warm ferry ride

US Volcanos

Once back in the US, they process you again and they put me in a short line and I got through quickly. The agent this time was very nice and said Los Angeles the “real” way, which is a nice treat in Wash State. I was waved through quickly. And then dropping the car off and back to the airport where check-in was a breeze. Since I flew Southwest I checked in everything and just got on the plane with my purse, my favorite way to travel!! It felt a little weird and naked, but I quickly got over it and didn’t miss a thing. Middle seat between two good people from SEA to SAC and then window from SAC to LAX. I don’t mind Southwest. My opinion is Southwest is like riding the bus and Virgin is like taking the train. They’ll both get you there, just in different degrees of comfort.

Moral: To me, transportation when I travel is very important. I will spend a little more on something if it’s different or mixes up the trip a little bit to make it a little more exciting then normal. I hate backtracking on the same road twice if I can help it.

Used: 2010

What is so special about the route from Seattle to Vancouver? Besides some of the worst travel memories for me, not really much. For some reason, I guess I like torturing myself because for some reason I really wanted to recapture the hellish trip the family and I took nearly 20 years ago. My parents decided to take a day trip from Seattle to Vancouver and we ended up in the worst line ever both ways at border and each trip took about 4-5 hours. Googlemap it. This is a route that should take 3 hours. Tops.

So I take the Link Light Rail back to the airport to pick up my rental car. In doing research before hand, all rental car companies seemed to be outrageous! Over $500 for less then (but technically) a 5 day rental? What the hell?? After getting that punch in the face, I check to see what kind of discount programs I belong to will get me. I am a member of AAA (yay maps!) and AAMiles. I search around the AAMiles website and find that I can hire a car from Avis for about $230 for the same time period. I swear this is a typo because the price change is so much. But I book it, thinking I can cancel it, if something is wrong. But I try to log into the Avis website to check my reservation and there is it! Hmm..Everything looks okay, whatever! I go to the Avis counter and check in. All the people in front of me the agent tried to upgrade, etc, etc but when I get up there, she is like (to paraphrase), DAMN! You got a good deal. I realize she doesn’t try to upgrade me and I question it and she said because of the price I paid, I can’t upgrade but I can’t downgrade either. I get a little scared at this point. What are they going to give me? I go directly to the car from the counter in the terminal and I see this BOAT sticking out of the parking space. I know immediately this is mine. I throw my stuff in the backseat and play with everything and get the seat set up (I had to ask someone how to fix it), take a walk around the car and everything seems fine before I leave.

The Boat

I get on the road, making a pit stop to meet up with a friend in Bellingham for lunch. The town is super cute and we had lunch at this great pizza cafe before I get back on the road for a trip across the border. They now have signs that tell you how long the wait time is and with Peace Arch (the main road) being a 15 minute wait and the alt route being 10, I suck it up and take Peace Arch. Ahh memories! The border is a snap. The agent slightly questions all my stamps and stickers, but I am allowed in with no issue.

Peace Arch, Canada/US

My phone immediately changes to the Rogers network and I am now out of reach for a few days.

Don't call me, I'll call you (at 79cents a minute!)

I spin around the radio dial, laugh and sequel at the accent and am just super excited to be in another country! And then the traffic. They are doing some bridge an tunnel construction south of the city and traffic comes to a standstill. And we sit. And sit. And sit. And sit. I turn off my motor a few times. We are not moving. Flashbacks from waiting at the border 20 years ago are coming back. I am enjoying the music on CBC Radio 2 a lot. No commercials! It’s beautiful outside so I roll down all my windows and really, like when I was unemployed and lounging in front of the Sydney Opera house, I think, it could be a lot worse. If anything, the situation was just really annoying. I finally move forward a little and see that there are 3 lanes coming out of the city and only 1 going in. To the American me, this is just unacceptable. Yes, it’s rush hour and more people are going out then coming in, but we were just SITTING there. This would never happen in America. But then I remember that I am not in America anymore.

I nervously drive into the city as it seems the lines on the road have gotten narrow (and it doesn’t help that I am driving the Titanic). I find a covered garage to park the car for the weekend and check into my hotel. Day 1 down!

Moral: There are other ways to get to Vancouver. In doing other research, people also highly recommended taking the train, which would have been nice. But I am a car person and I like having the freedom (plus I wanted to stop in Bellingham) as well as the space to stretch out. I wanted (and went) to Victoria and wanted a car for that. But if I was going just from Seattle to Vancouver and back, I would definitely look into the train. Apparently if you take the bus, they make you get out at the border, get processed and then get back on, while the train goes straight through.

Bonjour y'all!

Seattle

Used: 2010

One of the reasons I started this blog was to get myself writing about my current traveling as well as the past. If I keep putting off what I am currently doing, I’ll never get it done! So for my summer vacation this year, I decided to keep it local and traveled up to San Francisco (I haven’t been since December!), Seattle, Vancouver and Victoria. I have been to all these places before (except Victoria) but I went to Seattle and Vancouver as a kid and have been wanting to go back for years, but the reason I haven’t is that the price for plane tickets has never been justified for me. What the hell, it costs like $200-250 to fly from LAX to NYC, but closer to $300 to fly from LAX to SEA? That doesn’t make any sense. I mean, I know what that is, but it still annoys me, which is why I have been putting on this trip for so long. But this is the first summer I am back in the US and working again and since I didn’t really know my vacation schedule or how the company I work for reacts to traveling, I decided to keep it local and do something I have been wanting to do for a long time. And in regards to the plane tickets, since I just bought a bunch of one-ways, I don’t think I saved any money, but the timing was fine and the price was in my range. Oddly, my best deal was the SEA-LAX leg at $118 on Southwest (with a stop in Sacramento) and the worst was SFO to SEA at like $128 on Virgin. What the hell?

Anyway, since I don’t really have anything big coming up at the moment, I decided to bit the bullet and just go this summer. After 4 days in SF with my sister, mother and various friends, it was finally time to hit something new! During our marathon driving vacations as a kid , we went to Seattle with a day trip to Vancouver and ever since then I have been wanting to go back. I remember the city being just the right size, right on the water and beautiful! I get off the plane and the first thing that greets me is the HEAT. What the hell? Another reason I chose Seattle was to ESCAPE the heat. Of course, I had just come from SF, the always coolest city in the lower 48, so my comparison was a bit off. I took the lovely Link Light Rail straight from the airport right into town, and the last stop is like 3 blocks from my hotel. Choice!

I stayed at the Moore Hotel, right at the edge of Downtown and Belltown. 2 blocks from Pike Place Market! The room I reserved was European style and upon check-in, the guy asked if I wanted a room with AC and a toilet on a lower floor or a top room with just a bed and sink. He did slyly tell me that this was the hottest day they had had all year so far and that it was supposed to cool down and before I could even choose, he suggested the top room. And what a great choice! I had a view of the Sound and part of the Public Market sign. I left my window open every day but closed it within a crack at night because the hotel was on a busy street and it did get loud. The room was HUGE! Came with a HUGE closet, sink, desk, two chairs, queen bed, tv and drawers. And look what met me when I walked in!

Look what was on my bed!

I am so used to hostel style places and this place provided bar soap, cheap towels and plastic cups, it was beyond what I expected! Plus there was a public computer in the lobby so I could quickly check and clean out my mail every day. Not expected at all. And the best part was location. It was easy walking distance to EVERYWHERE. 3 minutes to Pike Place Market, 20 minutes to both the Space Needle and Pioneer Square and a nice 45 minute walk up to Volunteer Park and the “Black Hole Sun” doughnut. Plus, when I was there, the weather did cool down considerably.

I was only in town 2 days and I covered a lot of the city area. The first thing I did when I woke up on the first day was do the Underground Tour as this is something I have wanted to do since I was a kid. It was fantastic! Very funny and informative about the history of Seattle. My guide was also a history teacher for a while and her enthusiasm for the subject was a great bonus. After the tour, I walked back to Pike Place Market via the harbor front, which I have to say at this time, isn’t the most attractive. Some of the piers are done up in pure tourist fashion which I am kind of meh on. Great for kids though! I walked around the market and loved getting lost amongst all the levels of it. I watched some fish being thrown before grabbing some lunch in the area. In the late afternoon I walked over to the Space Needle and went to the top. I am sucker for observation decks and almost always have to go to the top of the highest building or famous structure in town. I did the Space Needle 20 years before, but this time I thought I would mix it up a bit and go at dusk and it was definitely different! I don’t know if I would recommend sunset for a first timer, but no matter what time of day, the view is great.

Mount Rainier in the distance at sunset

The Sound and Cascade range at sunset

Looking up the Space Needle

The next day, on the recommendation of the front desk when I checked into my hotel, I took a long walk up to the Capital Hill area and over to Volunteer Park. Volunteer Park is home to a pretty cool water tower you can walk up and have views of the park and Space Needle (FREE!) as well as “the doughnut” as everyone calls it. You might know it better as the thing Soundgarden were referring to in the song “Black Hole Sun”. After seeing it, guess what song I had in my head for the rest of the day? I took a leisurely walk back into town, stopping for lunch on Broadway which is filled with normal shops and restaurants.

Black Hole Sun, won't you come...

To read my Yelp reviews on places I ate, see my Yelp page here. One place I didn’t eat at was Starbucks. Since Seattle is known for coffee and I can have Starbucks anywhere else in the world, why would I have it here? I drank all the local coffee I could. And it was delish!

Moral: And that was my time in Seattle!! Perfect weather, enough to do around town for 2 days with no car. Anymore time and I would recommend renting a car for day trips to nature places outside the city. Project for next time!