American Adventures 1: Family Reunion

After dropping our wonderful little car back at the airport, Eva and I made our way into the airport to wait for our parents to arrive.

We were very excited. Eva had left the UK on the 1st January to go to California to work in a lab and I had left on the 10th January to go to New Zealand to start my world tour. So it had been a while since we had seen our parents in person.

We went into the terminal and got some paper to make a sign, then sat around for a while, waiting. After a bit, we noticed that their flight wasn’t on the arrival board, so we checked their flight number online.

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The signnn

Turns out they had a change in Edmonton, so they would be coming into the domestic terminal, not the international one.

We walked over to the other terminal and waited once again. After a while, we saw them at the baggage claim and decided to sneak up on them.

Reunited!

They got their bags and we took a taxi back to our accommodation. Mum and Dad were very tired from their flight, so they wanted to sleep.

We ordered some pizza and shared one of our Canada 150 beers, then Mum and Dad went to bed and Eva and I stayed up sorting out stuff and watching TV.

Despite giving mum and dad strict instructions not to wake us before 8, they woke us at 7, because apparently their phones/ watches hadn’t been adjusted correctly.

We had a little kerfuffle over breakfast, as it was supposed to be included in the rice of the room, but the lady working at the house didn’t get the memo.

Eventually we got something that passed for breakfast and sincere apologies, then we got ready to go and see Vancouver.

We walked from ours to the Bloedel Conservatory, catching up as we walked.

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A warmer visit to Bloedel

We arrived and went in to see the birds once again. It was strange to be back after a month of being away, but great to show the place to mum and dad.

After seeing the inside of the conservatory, we wandered around the gardens surrounding it – something Eva and I had missed on our trip.

They were very beautiful, with gorgeous planting.

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Pretty planting in the park around Bloedel

Afterwards, we went into Vancouver centre. We strolled along through gas town and saw the steam clock, which we knew mum would love.

We decided to have lunch at MeeT in Gastown, where Eva and I had our welcome meal.

We found the Marine building again and took more photos, even heading upstairs to see the foyer from above!

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The Marine Building foyer

We ambled along to the waterfront where we admired the views and were once again transfixed by the seaplanes taking off and landing.

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Seaplane port

Eventually we stopped at a bar to have a drink and some chips and chatted lots more. Mum and Dad were still a bit jet-lagged, so we didn’t want to do anything too strenuous.

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Tasty raspberry cocktail

It was a lovely relaxing place to sit and there was a lovely fountain next to us, that it seemed was specifically designed to run through in hot weather. Two ladies had a go at this while everyone watched them in amusement.

We went to look for food and got accosted by a man who talked to us for absolutely ages about various options that he would recommend.

We ended up going to none of them when we found “Smak” which sold delicious pots of hearty food.

Our first day in Vancouver drawing to a close, we made our way back to our accommodation and played some pool (there was a lovely pool table there) before bed.

The next day we were rudely awakened once again by the parents, because they couldn’t work the shower.

Once that was sorted, we had a better breakfast than the day before and caught the bus up to Stanley Park, where Eva and I had seen the goth squirrels.

We got off the bus by the pavilion which had a beautiful garden next to it, and then went for a wander.

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The Pavillion in Stanley Park

It is a lovely park with big gorgeous trees and the sun was shining. We found the totem poles, which Eva and I had only seen in passing previously.

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Stanley Park’s Totem Poles

We got some food and then walked around to the little lighthouse on the corner of the park. We sat on the grass and watched the world go by. A ship went past that said Eva on it.

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The pretty lighthouse

Eventually we got up and walked along by the sea, we saw some cormorants and a seagull fishing and watched them for a while.

We went to find some goth squirrels as they weren’t in such abundance as last time and eventually found one near the beautiful rose garden – it was quite friendly, coming very close to me, likely some tourists have been feeding them to get photos.

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Mum and Dad in the rose garden

We strolled back towards Vancouver centre, Eva somehow acquiring a vegan ice lolly enroute.

We were loosely making our way to gas town, only stopping to grab a cold drink at Starbucks on the way. We saw the steam clock do its thing again.

We had been trying to find somewhere to dispose of our bear spray all day, but with no luck, so after one last attempt, we made our way to a Lebanese restaurant in gas town.

We had to walk up a semi-closed road to get there. The road was filled with vintage cars and filming equipment and had been done up to look a bit 50’s but also like a bomb had just gone off.

It turns out it was a set for “The Man in the High Castle”.

After curiously taking in the scene for a while, we went in to the restaurant and sat down to eat.

They did a lovely Sangria and a very tasty Mezze selection which we all enjoyed.

After dinner, we found that the set was completely closed now so after another brief look, we found our bus back to the accommodation.

We decided to open the lovely bottle of Grand Reserve wine that Eva and I had been saving from our visit to Privato’s Vineyard and drank it while playing a few rounds of pool.

The next day we took a bright orange taxi from the accommodation out to the greyhound bus station. The rather eccentric, long-haired driver told us a few stories and shared facts about Vancouver.

At the bus station, we had a very short amount of time to grab some food to take on the bus. The bus driver made us worry briefly by suggesting we did need an ESTA (we didn’t) and getting funny about the fact that we had some fresh fruit. He seemed to think that the four of us would only be able to eat one apple before we got to the USA.

The bus journey was fairly comfortable and went fairly quickly. The border crossing went without a problem, even with Eva re-entering the US after her previous visa had expired. The border was not as stereotypically USA as I had imagined – not a bald eagle or a massive flag in sight.

We completed our border crossing and then got back on the bus for the drive into Seattle!

We arrived and headed out of the bus station, apparently it doesn’t just have a taxi rank outside, so we had to call a taxi. I called maybe fove or six companies before remembering that I had Uber.

We took the taxi to our accommodation with another friendly taxi driver who showed us a video of a motorbike event at his home city in Mexico.

We arrived at our pretty flat and settled in. Mum and Dad went out to buy food and Eva and I lazed around and watched TV.

Mum and Dad returned and we made dinner than had a few beers on the terrace. We decided to go on a short walk down to the park by the water.

It was only down the hill from us, past lots of beautiful houses. The park itself was mainly just grass, but the view out over the water was stunning and the sky was lit up in the gorgeous pastel colours of the sunset. There was a wonderful hazy view of Mt Rainier standing alone in the distance.

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A hazy Mt Rainier in the distance

We had one full day in Seattle, and it began with a lovely breakfast in our cute little basement apartment. After breakfast, we took the bus into Seattle and went straight to Pike Place Market.

We saw Rachel the piggy bank, a full sized brass pig who is the mascot of Pike Place. We saw fishmongers tossing fish and lots of busy little stalls.

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Rachel the piggy bank

We made a beeline for the Cinnamon Works, a cafe that sells, among other things, tasty vegan cakes and pastries. On the way, we passed the first Starbucks store, which had a massive queue outside it. Apparently the coffee tastes the same.

We bought a cinnamon bun, a banana chocolate muffin and an oatmeal and raisin cookie. We took these to a spot by the sea and shared them between us. Lovely.

We wandered around the market, interested in the various wares on offer. We ate some free cherries that were especially tasty.

Eventually, we found the famous gum wall. The wall began as a wall that often had gum stuck to it and they got fed up of removing the gum, so they decided to make it into an art piece. So now everyone sticks gum onto the wall to add to it.

It is disgusting.

And extensive.

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Mmm tasty…

We took a few photos, then walked on towards the Smith Tower. We went past a cool free outdoor music event with an epic metalaphone player, who was rocking it.

After watching for a bit, we went on to a place called Sprout for lunch where we had tasty wraps and were impressed by the way they had all compostable plates and cutlery etc.

Then we went up the Smith Tower. The obvious tower to go up in Seattle is the Space Needle, but we tend to stay away from the mainstream (because we are hipsters).

The Smith Tower was once the tallest building west of the Rockies. We learned about its history as we explored some of the lower floors, which were set up on the style of the time, with interactive things you could touch and listen to.

After exploring a bit, we took the lift to the top where there is a lovely bar and an outdoor viewing area. The views are lovely.

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View to the Space Needle, from the Smith Tower

We sat down to have cocktails, which is when Eva realised that she didn’t have her passport, just her driving licence, which they would not accept. She was annoyed as she hadn’t been 21 last time she had visited.

Mum, Dad and I had some cocktails and Eva had a virgin Tom Collins. They were all very tasty.

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Drinks in the Smith Tower

When we were done, we went to catch the monorail to the Space Needle, just to see it from below.

I was very excited about the monorail, and rightly so. It was so fun! We arrived by the Space Needle and had a wander.

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The Space Needle

We saw a massive fountain called the international fountain which sprayed jets of water to music. There were loads of kids playing in it as it was HOT.

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The International Fountain

One girl tried to take her very reluctant dog under the jets, but it protested until she gave up.

Eventually we stopped watching the mesmerising sight and made our way back to get the bus to the Thai restaurant we were going to eat at that evening.

On the way, Eva and I spotted a playground. We attempted as a group to play with a cool musical mechanism, but it was hard to play anything that sounded good.

Eva and I were determined to climb the lain playground apparatus and go down the slide. We climbed the massive web structure, but found that the bit at the top was not built for big humans and we would likely lose our balance and fall.

We climbed down and found another way up, a sort of rope-tunnel-ladder. This was much more successful, and we were able to go down the slide!

We got the bus out to the Thai place – it took ages as there was so much traffic! Eventually we arrived and went inside. The food was excellent, very tasty and cheap.

We took the bus back to the flat and ended up walking up a very steep hill to get there, apparently Seattle is quite hilly in places!

The next morning, we packed up and left the beautiful flat to go to Sea-Tac Airport, where we would pick up a car for the remainder of our trip.

The journey to the airport was quite annoying given how many bags we had with us, but after dragging them to a station and wrestling them all on and off a train, we finally arrived at the airport.

We went to Starbucks to get lunch. Mum wouldn’t let me have a muffin as well as a sandwich, despite the fact I knew I’d be hungry if I didn’t have it (spoilers: I was very hungry later that day – mums don’t always know best).

Annoyingly, we had to take an absolutely packed shuttle bus to the car rental building. We certainly had too many bags for public transport and had to uncomfortably lean/ stand/ support the bags/ try not to fall over.

Once at the rental facility, Mum and Dad sorted out the car, while Eva and I waited, lounging on the floor tired-ly. We got to choose which car we had out of ones of a similar spec. We chose a white Nissan Rogue that seemed to have ample boot space, loaded it up and drove towards Yellowstone National Park!

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Back on the road – this time as passengers!

Next time – hopefully soon – I will be writing about Yellowstone and its phenomenal beauty.

Canadian Adventures 1: Vancouver and Victoria

I arrived in Vancouver on the afternoon of the 7th June, after the night flight from Auckland – it had been a long day, I had left my hostel in Australia at 8am over 23hrs previously and it was still the 7th June! I waited for Eva to arrive and made her a sign – it was weird but good to see her after five months.

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My sign for Eva

We lugged all of our bags to our accommodation, a place called Churchill House, where we spent forever chatting and getting ready to go to dinner.

When we finally made it out, we were talking so much on the skytrain that we forgot to get off at our stop!

We eventually got to MeeT, a lovely vegan restaurant in Gastown, which serves comfort food like burgers, as well as tasty cocktails. We splashed out as it was our first night reunited!

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In MeeT with our cocktails

We had portobello mushroom burgers and two cocktails each (a pineapple basil one and a tequila mojito)! Despite our extravagance, the meal was still very cheap.

We got up quite late the next day (I had only got to sleep at 3am, because of the time difference). We decided to visit the Bloedel Conservatory – a big dome built in the 1960s, which houses plants and over 150 free flying birds.

It was such a cool place to be, with the birds swooping overhead, the cockatoos and parrots preening and occasionally talking. There was a big feeding area where most of the bird congregated. We spent over three hours in there, watching them and taking hundred of photos!

 

 

We especially loved the cockatoos – like Blanca, who hung from her branch by her beak and Kramer, who was a salmon pink colour and knew lots of phrases.

 

 

After our long afternoon in the conservatory, we wanted some ice cream, so went back to our accommodation via safeway to get some. Our evening was relaxed, we ate food and watched TV – but still didn’t get to bed early!

The second full day in Vancouver was bright, but not particularly warm. We took the chance to explore more fully. We found a cool art deco building called the Marine Building, which was decorated with sea creatures.

We had a wander round the waterfront and a bit called Canada Place, which has a walkway with names of different Canadian towns by Provence. After this we had a proper wander around the hipster streets of Gastown and saw the steam clock do it’s thing.

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By Canada Place

We had lunch in a lovely vegan pizzeria, called Virtuous Pie. The pizza was very tasty, as was the vegan ice cream! They had water on tap that you could take for free throughout your meal.

After faffing around and running into various shops to get change, we took a bus up to Stanley Park, the massive park north of downtown. This park is so beautiful. It runs along by the coast and has both cultivated and non cultivated areas. At the end of the park is a bridge that leads to North Vancouver, which we traveled along later in our journey.

 

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The waterfront by Stanley Park

One of our favourite things in Stanley park was the goth squirrels. This is not their real name, sadly, but you have to admit they have that stylishly gloomy look.

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Goth Squirrel

We really enjoyed walking around in the sun. it was very warm, but it was nice and the park was very beautiful. We sat around for a while by the Lion Bridge and watched the world go by.

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Cruise with Lion Bridge

We also found a cool and very sittable-on tree!

 

 

We took the bus back to our accommodation and spent a while getting dressed up to go out. We had found a gay club we wanted to check out. Before we headed to the club, we stopped at the Vancouver lookout tower, which wasn’t very expensive to go up. We timed it to coincide with the sunset! We spent a while there, enjoying the view, then headed up one more floor to the revolving restaurant, where we ordered cocktails and admired the view. The moon was massive and bright and kept being partially covered by clouds, making it look like an odd-shaped UFO.

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View from the Vancouver Lookout Tower

We headed down and caught the bus to the club. We had to change buses as our one broke, which was especially annoying because it was cold. When we arrived we were sad to learn that entry to the club was $40 as it was a special night. We had a strange cocktail each in the bar opposite, then headed home to have our own drinks and watch Hannibal!

The next day was a day of traveling: we had to take a train and a bus to Tsawwassen ferry terminal, where we caught the ferry to Vancouver Island, then another bus from Schwarz Bay into Victoria. The journey was 5hrs door to door, so we were understandably tired when we arrived. We repacked our stuff to fit it nicely into our assigned lockers, bought food and ate before the day was over.

The next morning we had a leisurely one: we ate breakfast and watched TV, then ventured out to go and watch whales! We had booked the tour a few months previously and we were very excited to see orcas, dolphins, seals and possibly humpback whales!

The company was called Spring Tide Whale Watching. We arrived and joined the group, paying our small conservation fee. We walked to our boat and boarded, enthusiastically taking seats on the bench right at the front of the front deck. We were given a safety briefing, which was momentarily interrupted by a sea plane taking off noisily.

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Sea Planes

As we set off into the bay, our chosen seats began to take a beating from the wind. I asked for an extra jacket (these were given out to people as part of the tour) and Eva shared a pair of her gloves with me. After a while I couldn’t take the cold any longer, so I retreated inside and grabbed a hot chocolate.

 

We went on for a long time without seeing anything, except for one or two fins that belonged to porpoise or dolphins. We were beginning to worry that we wouldn’t see any whales at all, when the boat turned and headed in a new direction. All the boats in the area radio each other when looking for whales, to tell each other where they are. We were heading towards a whale sighting.

As we approached we were joined by at least nine other boats. We stopped for a while and waited to see the whales, but then we moved on again. Eventually we caught up with them: a group of four orcas, a family of a mum and three babies of varying ages.

They were so beautiful.

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ORCA!

I wanted to watch the orcas for hours. They came up out of the water very often, moving as a close knit group, popping up in different combinations. The boats following them maintained a suitable distance and the cameras snapped. Eva and I became enthralled in watching and photographing them, so much so that Eva almost stepped off the edge of the boat with her one foot (there were railings, so she would have stayed on board)!

Eventually it was time to leave the beautiful whales, We were in a state of bliss after what we had seen and we were very sad to be torn away. We both want to see orcas again.

On the way back to the harbour, we stopped to look at some bald eagles chilling out on a rock, as well as a group of loudly honking sea lions and an elephant seal flobbling its way up a shallow slope.

 

As we pulled back into the harbour, we were told about one or two things, including one building, which is technically classed as a boat and used for navy training. We were also told about the sea plane runway, which is the only runway in the world that occasionally has to close because of whales!

We headed for dinner at a lovely Buddhist restaurant called Lotus Pond where the food was cheap and tasty and lots!

We then went for a walk around to Fisherman’s Wharf, which has lots of floating shops. As we walked, we watched the sun set and chatted. We saw a harbour seal chilling out, but it dived away as we got close.

 

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Sunset in Victoria

When we got to Fisherman’s Wharf, everything was shut, but we met a lovely, but pretty fat cat called Humphrey, who just sat there as we said hello. He resembled a furry puddle.

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Humphrey

On the way back to our hostel, we walked past the beautifully lit British Columbia Parliament Building and the pretty harbour. Victoria is an unexpectedly stunning city – both Eva and I were surprised at how nice it was there, mainly because we didn’t know much about it before we went. It is well worth a visit!

 

On our second (and last) full day in Victoria, we decided to visit the bug zoo. The bug zoo is a small place, only two rooms and a shop, that houses a collection of insects, arachnids and a few other creatures of a many-legged nature.

The zoo’s aim is to educate people, especially children, on the importance and beauty of these creatures, to help conserve them out in the world. There is a tour guide that moves around the rooms, explaining a little about each bug and giving you a chance to hold the more harmless ones.

Eva and I held practically everything! We held a beetle, a leaf bug, a praying mantis, a thorny devil, some millipedes (including one as long as my forearm) and a hissing cockroach. They don’t let you hold the centipedes because they are wildly aggressive.

 

Our favourite part of the experience was getting to hold the beautiful Chilean Rose Hair Tarantula, who gently strolled along our palms in a friendly manner. We also held a beautiful scorpion called Max!

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Eva and Max

Again, we were sad when we had to leave the bug zoo – it was such a cool idea and so much fun to visit! Our evening went by gently: we watched a film and ate dinner.

The next day we travelled back the way we came to Vancouver and checked into a different accommodation. This was much nicer than our first Vancouver accommodation which was in a very smelly, damp basement. This was an attic-type room in a bright, airy house and had two cupboards built under the eaves, which were fun to play in!

This time in Vancouver, so we didn’t do any more sight seeing – we had a job to do. We headed out to a massive shop called Canadian Tyre, where we bought around $200 worth of camping equipment, including bear spray. We returned on the bus clumsily, made a late dinner and skyped Mum and Dad before bed.

More on our Canadian adventures soon – in which we pick up a car and drive several thousand kilometers!