September 24 - 28

Pacific Northwest Vacation

Toby and I vacation up in the Pacific Northwest: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; Seattle Washington, and Victoria, British Columbia. While in Vancouver, we visit with friends Trevor and Tom who recently moved to Canada from San Jose. In Seattle, we visit with Diana, a past co-worker at Symantec in Redwood City.

Day 1 - Thursday, September 24 - Fly to Seattle, Drive to Canada

On Thursday morning we woke up REAL early to drive up to San Mateo so Toby's dad could drop us off at SFO. We had an 8am direct flight to Seattle on Virgin America. This was our first time experiencing Virgin America, a very hip airline with fun personal entertainment kiosks. Our flight arrived to an overcast Seattle on time, a little after 10am, and we quickly picked up our luggage and into our rental Chevy Impala (with Hawaiian license plates!). We then hit the road for our long 3+ hour drive up to Canada on I-5. On the drive we got the munchies, so we made a quick stop at McDonald's in Bellingham before heading to the border crossing. By then the skies cleared up and temps approaching the low 60's.

It was a short 10 minute wait to cross into Canada. We had a few hours before checking into our hotel so we made a few stops while in Vancouver. Our first stop was Queen Elizabeth Park. This park situated on a high hill has beautiful manicured gardens, a floral conservatory, fountains, and has wonderful sweeping views of downtown Vancouver. We then drove over to Granville Island famed for it's public market and seafood restaurants. I have never seen so much produce in my life, the amount of fresh produce was amazing. There were huge selections of meat and seafood as well.

After a short visit on Granville Island, we head over the bridge to downtown Vancouver then checked into our hotel, L'Hermitage. We had a nice deluxe suite with separate bedroom, full kitchen, and even washer/dryer. We then contacted our friends Trevor and Tom who live within walking distance in downtown. They met us at our hotel and they gave us a walking tour of the city as we traveled along the main shopping street, Robson St., then north on Burrard toward the new Vancouver Convention Center. Once at the water front we took pictures over the Burrard Inlet toward North Vancouver, at this point I discovered that the built in flash on my Canon XTi was burnt out! URGH. Luckily I had my small Canon SD600 point and shoot camera for those dark photos. We then sat outside on the patio for dinner at The Mill Marine Bistro. We had a bowl of wonderful Thai mussels and we ordered salmon and halibut burgers. It was a long first day so after dinner we headed back to the hotel to turn in early.

  • Our early Virgin America flight from San Francisco to Seattle.

  • An aerial view of Mt. St. Helens in southern Washington state.

  • Driving on I-5 to the Canadian border.

  • Approaching our 10 minute border crossing wait into Canada.

  • First stop, Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver.

  • Overlooking the gardens at Queen Elizabeth Park.

  • Inside the domed Bloedel Conservatory in Queen Elizabeth Park.

  • Red shiny antherium blossoms.

  • The tropical rainforest habitat in the Bloedel Conservatory.

  • A pale pink cockatoo was amongst numerous birds in the Conservatory.

  • Toby by the fountains outside the Bloedel Conservatory.

  • FWEE, Alan by the fountains outside the Bloedel Conservatory

Panoramic view of downtown Vancouver as seen from Queen Elizabeth Park. (Image size: 2000px x 842px)

  • The park has great views overlooking downtown Vancouver.

  • The quarry gardens at Queen Elizabeth Park.

  • The waterfall into the quarry gardens.

  • The quarry gardens at Queen Elizabeth Park.

  • The quarry gardens below Bloedel Conservatory dome.

  • Toby at the Public Market on Granville Island.

  • Want some corn? Huge produce selection at the Public Market.

  • Toby on Granville Island by False Creek and downtown Vancouver.

  • A colorful aquabus on False Creek.

  • Produce produce everywhere at the Public Market.

  • Our suite at the L'Hermitage in downtown Vancouver.

  • The bedroom in the hotel.

  • Our balcony overlooking the hotels pool and jacuzzi.

  • Waterdrop sculpture by the Convention Center.

  • Dinner at The Mill Bistro in the Coal Harbour area of Vancouver.

  • The lap pool at our hotel at night.

  • Toby relaxing the hotel's lounge area.



Day 2 - Friday, September 25 - Vancouver, British Columbia

Early on Friday, Trevor and Tom met us at our hotel for a full day of fun tourist activities. We head north through Stanley Park over the Lion's Gate Bridge toward North Vancouver. Our first destination was Capilano Suspension Bridge.

Nestled in a deep heavily forested ravine, the Capilano Suspension Bridge spans 450 feet in length and 230 feet above the roaring river below. On the other side of the bridge are various paths and walkways. There are a series of suspended walkways mid way up several douglas fir trees, some as high as 100 feet above ground. Luckily we beat the big rush of tour buses while we headed out of the park.

Our next stop was just up the road to Grouse Mountain. We rode the gondola up to the peak of Grouse Mountain, almost 4,000 feet. From the top of the mountain we had clear views of Vancouver and beyond. While at the top we visited the Grizzly Bear exhibit, a huge enclosed area which housed two bears. We then rode a ski lift even higher up the mountain. At the top of the lift there were film crews taping paragliders launching off the mountain. As we ascended the mountain one of the paraglider flew into the ski lift right before us, which then ripped part of the parachute before tumbling to the ground. We were then stuck on the ski lift while work crews removed the material from the ski lift. What excitement!

Once down the mountain, we were hungry and headed for some Vietnamese food at a small restaurant called Chau on Robson Street. After our lunch we walked over to Spokes bicycles and rented a couple of tandem bikes for our trek around Stanley Park. We rode counter clockwise around the island stopping and a few choice vistas and attractions. Our first stop at Stanley Park was the Totem Pole display. Our second stop was Brockton Point where we, by chance, ran into our friend William from Atlanta, who was also in town visiting. Along our ride we also stopped by the Lion's Gate Bridge, the 'Girl in a Wetsuit' sculpture, and Siwash Rock.

After we returned our bikes, we drove over to Trevor and Tom's condo. From their place we walked around False Creek toward Science World, the still-being constructed Olympic Village, and over the Cambie Bridge. While walking over the bridge we passed actor Joshua Jackson, from the TV series 'Fringe' and 'Dawson's Creek'. Toby and I then head back to the hotel to rest for a while. Later that evening we walked over to the Gastown District to meet up with Trevor and Tom for an upscale dinner at the Water Street Cafe.

  • Alan on the the 450 ft long Capilano Suspension Bridge.

  • Totem park (story poles) in Capilano.

  • The bridge is 230 ft above the river.

  • The bridge was surprisingly sturdy despite it's look.

  • Toby on the Capilano Suspension Bridge.

  • Toby on the Treetop Adventure bridges within Capilano.

  • Trevor, Tom and I on one of the Treetop Adventure bridges.

  • Detail of one of the Capilano totems.

  • On the Cliff Hanger walk just below the Capilano bridge.

  • We had to take this fun photo at this totem pole.

  • Grouse Mt. Skyride gondola a mile long trip up a 4,000 foot peak.

  • Tom, Trevor, Toby and I inside the gondola.

  • Alan, Tom and Trevor in the gondola.

  • Looking down Grouse Mt from the Peak Chalet.

  • The Peak chair lift to the very top.

  • A paraglider crashes into the ski lift right before our very eyes.

  • Trevor, Tom, Toby and I stuck on the ski lift.

  • I think this is Mt. Seymour as seen from Grouse Mt.

View from the top of the Peak chair lift on Grouse Mountain (4,100 ft) looking down toward Vancouver. (Image size: 2788px x 900px)

  • Grizzly bear at Grouse Mt's Bear Habitat

  • Posing with the Grizzly bear.

  • Alan and the bear

  • Vietnamese lunch at Chau on Robson St. in Vancouver.

  • Our tandem bike ride around Stanley Park.

  • Totem detail on one of the elaborate poles in Stanley Park.

  • We try to mimick a totem pole.

  • View of Vancouver across Coal Harbour from Stanley Park.

  • We see William at Brockton Pt. in Stanley Park.

  • Under the Lions Gate Bridge

  • The Girl in a Wetsuit sculpture.

  • Silouhette of Siwash Rock.

  • Alan by Siwash Rock.

  • Alan taking photos from the back of the tandem bike.

  • Toby, Trevor and Tom by False Creek and Science World.

  • The Olympic Village for the 2010 games.

  • Trevor and Tom's condo in Vancouver.

  • Back at the hotel, getting ready for dinner.

  • Toby by the steam clock in the Gastown district.

  • A nice dinner at the Water Street Cafe.

  • Outside the Water Street Cafe in Gastown.



Day 3 - Saturday, September 26 - Drive to Seattle, Washington

Saturday morning we checked out of our hotel and then drove a few blocks by Trevor and Tom's condo, we were meeting for breakfast later. Before breakfast, we walked over to the free section of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Garden, the first classical Chinese garden created outside of China. We then head over to Trevor and Tom's condo for a wonderful waffle breakfast. Before noon, they walk us to our car and we bid adieu. Thank you Trevor and Tom for showing us your beautiful city.

We drive south out of Vancouver back toward the US/Canadian border. This time the lines were long and it took almost an hour to cross the border back into the US. Once back in the states, we head directly to the airport in Seattle to return the rental car. From the airport my friend Diana picked us up and brought us to her new condo located in the Belltown district of Seattle just north of downtown. We were staying with Diana that first night in Seattle.

After we brought up our luggage, we walked across the street to the new Olympic Sculpture Park, a unique contemporary urban park which crosses over the train tracks toward the waterfront. We then get ready for dinner at Salty's Restaurant located in West Seattle across Elliott Bay. This wonderful seafood restaurant had magnificant views of the Seattle skyline across the water, and Diana scored a sweet window side table! We had a great dinner as the sun set over Seattle while watching the skyline become ablaze in city lights.

After dinner Diana shows us Seattle via night time, we head over to Pike Place, the infamous market place in Seattle. It was quiet during the evening hours since it was closed, but we got some great neon sign photos. Then we headed over to Kelly Park to get some spectacular evening skyline photos of Seattle (see large image below). Then lastly it was off to Seattle Center and we walked around the base of the Space Needle which was glowing in bright flood lights against the night sky.

  • Entrance gate to the Chinese Gardens

  • Lily covered pond at the Chinese Gardens

  • Tranquil views everywhere.

  • The covered pagoda.

  • Toby in the gardens

  • Alan inside the Chinese pagoda

  • Toby and Alan inside the pagoda.

  • Saying goodbye to Tom and Trevor.

  • Driving to the Canadian / US border back into Washington State.

  • Diana picks us up at the Seattle airport after we return our car.

  • Diana's new condo in the Belltown district of Seattle.

  • Diana's rooftop view of the Space Needle.

  • View of Olympic Sculpture park from her rooftop deck.

  • At the Olympic Sculpture park with the Space Needle in background.

  • FWEE, by the "Wake" sculpture

  • Toby by Calder's "Eagle" sculpture.

  • Alan inside Calder's "Eagle" sculpture.

  • Alan and Diana by the park's waterfront.

  • The "Eye Benches" at Olympic Sculpture Park.

  • Posing for picutures outside Salty's Restaurant.

  • Diana striking a pose.

  • Cheers! Inside Salty's restaurant.

  • Diana, Toby and Alan looking over the menu at Salty's restaurant in West Seattle.

  • Downtown Seattle as seen from Salty's restaurant

  • Diana and Toby inside Salty's restaurant.

  • At Pike Marketplace in the evening.

  • Rachel, the huge bronze piggy bank at the Pike Marketplace.

  • Diana and Alan standing on the street corner.

  • The original Starbuck's at Pike Place.

  • Metal sculptures at Seattle Center

View of the Seattle Skyline as seen from Kelly Park. (Image size: 1935px x 900px)



Day 4 - Sunday, September 27 - Seattle, Washington

Sunday was a full day of Seattle exploration. We wake up early to get the day started, we walk from Diana's condo out toward the waterfront district of Seattle. The morning was sunny and bright as we headed south along the water's edge. We visited the unique Ye Ole Curiosity Shoppe before stopping for a quick bite at McDonald's.

From the Waterfront we head up the steps to a bustling Pike Marketplace full of weekend tourist. The Marketplace was sure a different experience during the day when it's open and full of vendors selling fresh seafood, flowers galore and all sorts of gift items. We witness the famed 'throwing of the fish' from one of the seafood vendors.

After walking through the entire marketplace we head toward Pioneer Square to purchase tickets for the Underground Tour. We had over an hour wait before our tour time so we walked over to the nearby Seattle Public Library. The new library has unique modern architecture designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaus in 2004. As 1pm approached we headed back to the Underground Tour. The large group of people were separated into three sub groups as we descended underground in various locations in the oldest part of Seattle. A very interesting story of the need to 'raise' downtown due to tidal flooding issues in the late 1800s. The city rose the streets up and the second story of the old buildings became the main floor, most of what we walked along were the old sidewalks from the old town. These passageways were creepy and haunting, a perfect location for Halloween or a deranged horror movie.

After the tour we were hungry and headed back toward the monorail for a bite to eat. We ate at Von's Roadhouse just across the street from Westlake shopping center.

After lunch we hopped onto the high speed Monorail which took us directly to Seattle Center. We walk around the outside of the Experiance Music Project (EMP), a striking building designed by famed architect Frank Gehrey. We walked to Fun Forest which is a small amusement park in the center of the complex. There was the Windstorm Coaster, a small compact coaster which I needed to ride to add to my coaster list. After the quick $5 ride, we took photos of the Space Needle as seen through the International Fountain. Toby and I then purchased tickets to ride up to the top of the Space Needle for breathtaking views of Seattle and the surrounding areas. We then walked backed to Diana's condo where she brought us to our hotel where we would be staying for the next two evenings.

We stayed at the historic Fairmont Olympic hotel in downtown Seattle. This hotel was built in 1924 and was once the center of the early Seattle elite social scene. After resting and relaxing, Diana picked us up for dinner, she brought us to her old stomping grounds of Bellevue Washington just across the floating bridges east of Seattle. We ate at Pagliacci's Pizza for some delicious Seattle pizza!

  • Along Seattle's Waterfront district.

  • At Pike Marketplace and the famed fish throwing vendor.

  • Airborn fish!

  • The market place was bustling with activity.

  • Huge amount of inexpensive flowers from various vendors.

  • Fresh seafood everywhere.

  • Outside the neon sign during the day.

  • The iron 'Pergola' from the 1909 World's Fair.

  • Inside the unique main Seattle public library.

  • Great use of light and angles inside the public library.

  • Diana, Toby and I in the underground tour.

  • Creepy hallways were once sidewalks.

  • Toby in the Underground Tour.

  • A haunting photo of Diana.

  • Old debris fill these walkways like an old SAMS store sign.

  • These were once store fronts, but now underground.

  • Having lunch at Von's Roadhouse.

  • Taking the monorail to Seattle Center.

  • The unique building of the Experience Music Project (EMP) in Seattle Center.

  • The curved EMP walls designed by architect Frank Gehry.

  • Riding the Windstorm coaster at Fun Forest in Seattle Center.

  • The Space Needle as seen through Internatonal Fountain.

  • Toby at the top of the Space Needle.

  • The view of Seattle from the Space Needle.

  • Toby and Alan at the Space Needle.

  • The view overlooking Elliott Bay.

  • View of the city during the day from Kelly Park.

  • At Kelly Park.

  • The entrance to the Fairmont Olympic in downtown Seattle.

  • Room 812 in the Fairmont.

  • Toby overlooking the grand lobby of the Fairmont.

  • The lobby of the Fairmont.

  • Yummy pizza at Pagliacci's in Bellevue.

  • Pizza time at Pagliacci's.



Day 5 - Monday, September 28 - Victoria, British Columbia

We wake up early Monday morning and catch a cab down to the waterfront where the Victoria Clipper passenger ferry service to Victoria was departing. We boarded the boat and luckily found a window seat for the 8am departure time. The boat took around 2.5 hours to reach the harbour in Victoria, British Columbia. By this time the clear skies started becoming overcast with very little sun.

It took a while to disembark from the boat and to pass through customs before we boarded the tour bus. The Clipper Combo tour led us through town, along Wharf Street, Chinatown then toward Butchart Gardens.

The skies were cloudy by the time we reached the gardens which is located north of town, but the overcast skies provided better photographic opportunities. We followed the map guide and proceeded along the designated tour direction. After taking photos by the park sign, we stopped by a hanging fushia garden before proceeding to the jewel of the park, the Sunken Garden. This carefully manicured garden was once an old rock quarry for a cement plant. This garden was absolutely breathtaking, the colors from all the flowers and foliage was unbelievable. Everything was immaculately trimmed and pruned, not a single flower was out of place.

Past the Sunken Garden was Ross Fountain which danced in a lower pond down the hill. From there we walked up the hill toward the Totem Poles and the Concert Lawn which had a path that was lined with an incredible display of dahlias. These flowers came in every sort of color and shapes imaginable. This path led to the Rose Garden which was not at the height of bloom.

We proceeded to the first garden created in this park which is the Japanese Garden. This garden had meandering paths, stone walkways over water and red curved bridges. The path led back toward the front of the park past the Star Pond and the formal Italian Gardens. We only had two hours to explore the park and the typical time would take an hour, but we were walking so slow, taking a lot of photos, that we took up the entire two hours to walk through the entire park. We stopped at the gift shop before we needed to hop back onto the bus to head back to the port of Victoria.

Once back in Victoria the skies darkened and we knew the impending rain would soon be upon us. We walked pasted the front of the famed Fairmont Empress Hotel and then toward the British Columbia Parliment Buildings. These magnificant building have a distinctive European flair. After a few pictures the sprinkles started to come so we decided to head down Government Street and have a Scottish inspired lunch at Bard & Banker Scottish pub. We both had Shepard's Pie.

The rain was constant once we left the restaurant, we had a short time to shop in the stores before heading back to the boat. Apparently many guests headed back to the boat early since the rain sort of dampened their touring experience downtown. Once back on the boat we sat in the center seat talking to a Vancouver island native who was heading to Seattle for the first time.

After the 2.5 hour ferry ride it was around 8:45pm when we arrived back in Seattle. We took a quick cab ride back to our hotel. That evening we wanted a quick bite since it was fairly late, so we went to the Purple Wine Bar which was just across the street from the Fairmont.

  • On the passenger ferry "Victoria Clipper" from Seattle to Victoria, BC.

  • A window seat for the ride to Victoria, note the skies were clear

  • Our ferry docked in the Victoria harbour.

  • Riding the bus for our Combo Tour to Butchart Gardens.

  • The Fairmont Empress from across James Bay.

  • One of the ornate buildings in Victoria's Chinatown.

  • The entrance sign to Butchart Gardens.

  • The hanging fushia and begonia garden.

  • Closeup of an ornate begonia.

  • The overlook into the Sunken Garden.

  • Toby at the Sunken Garden.

  • Alan at the Sunken Garden

  • Flowers ablaze everywhere in these gardens.

  • A reflecting pool in the Sunken Garden.

  • Colorful begonias line this path around the garden.

  • Many paths lead to wonderful views of the garden.

  • A sea of yellow chrysanthemums.

  • Ross Fountain.

  • On top of the central hill in the Sunken Garden.

  • Japanese maples changing color in the early fall.

  • The lawns here look too perfect.

  • A crazy dahlia.

  • A huge display of dahlias of all sorts of color and sizes.

  • There soon will be a Merry Go Round in the park.

  • Color maples line the hill into the Sunken Garden.

  • A meandering pathway in the Japanese Garden.

  • A colorful red plant leads you into the Japanese Gardens.

  • A reflecting ball in the center of the Rose Garden.

  • The Dining Room Restaurant.

  • The Italian Garden by the Restaurant.

Butchart Garden's "Sunken Garden" north of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. (Image size: 2788px x 900px)

  • Brugmansia blossoms at the parks entrance.

  • At the front of the Fairmont Empress Hotel.

  • The British Columbia Parliment building.

  • By the fountain in front of the Parliment.

  • Smile for the camera!

  • The "Welcome to Victoria" floral display.

  • A late lunch at Bard & Banker Scottish Pub.

  • Here comes the rain!

  • Last view of the Empress before heading back to Seattle.

  • Late night dinner at Purple across the street from the Fairmont.



Day 6 - Tuesday, September 29 - Fly back home

Our last day of our vacation. Before checking out of the hotel at noon we do one last morning tour of the city. We walk up University Ave by the hotel to Freeway Park which straddles the I-5 Freeway. The parks unique waterfalls were off when we visited.

After a short visit we headed back down the hill to Pike Market Place. We walked down Lower Post Alley and found the elusive Gum Wall outside Market Theater. We then grab something to eat at Piroshky-Piroshky Russian bakery before heading back to the hotel.

Diana kindly picked us up from the hotel around noon and dropped us off at the airport. Our Virgin America flight left promptly at 1:45pm and we were back home in the Bay Area by 4pm. What a whirlwind trip, we sure covered a lot in a few days and we had a wonderful time.

Thanks again to Trevor and Tom in Vancouver, and Diana in Seattle for showing us their new hometowns, we really appreciate it.

  • Freeway Park which straddles over the freeway.

  • Gum wall in Pike Place.

  • The gum wall outside Market Theater in Pike Place.

  • Our Virgin America flight back to SFO.

  • SFO for above.

  • The International Terminal at SFO.