So, we chose to go to Seattle, Vancouver and Anchorage cos we thought we would just be leaving one cold place for another. Turned out that it got really really warm here in Evanston - almost like Singapore warm! - the week before we set off! Oh well...
It was supposed to be an eating trip but I think we didn't overeat (too much, all the time), which was good for our bellies.. In fact, we walked so much especially in the first four days that it might have been a net loss!
Friday, 16 Mar 2012
We took an early flight to Seattle on Alaska Airlines - we liked it! People were courteous, they boarded us by row number rather than by some mysteriously assigned zone number, they asked passengers to put only large items in the overhead compartment, and they gave us yummy cookies in addition to drinks :p
Anyway, yes, Seattle. We took the train from the airport to downtown and walked to Sixth Avenue Inn where a very friendly and helpful guy checked us in. Found a little bolster on the bed - that helped me sleep better on my side :)
But of course we didn't sleep! We headed for the revolving restaurant atop the Space Needle. We had to "check in" to get the boarding pass for the lift.
The food was only average - or maybe I just wasn't hungry as I had a huge bagel for breakfast! - but for a slight premium, we got lunch plus access to the views instead of paying just for the observation deck.
We were lucky that it was a clear day! Took lots of pictures at every turn..
And there were cute little notes like this on the window ledge - kids just added on as they passed by each note :)
After lunch, we went to the observation deck. The indoor area has food and drinks for sale, and guess what? We found yard cups! Empty though, unlike the Bahamas one, filled with cocktail :p
It got pretty cloudy after lunch so we hopped into the iMax 3D theatre for The Lorax. We thought it was going to be like Omnimax but no... But it was a cute film. Love the fluffy trees! Love fluff haha! Wish there was more of the Lorax though..
And then, we explored a bit of the Pacific Science Center. Here's a shot of Sito being nerdy, playing with an Archimedes' Screw.
We left Seattle Center and walked by the Gates Foundation on our way to a yummy Korean dinner at Shilla Restaurant! We had BBQ kalbi and a tofu and pork soup! (The picture of the soup isn't too exciting - just a pot of orange liquid :p)
And when we went back downtown, we chanced upon this Gourmet Dog Japon - just a little cart by the side of the road. But I remembered that it had a stall in Pike Place Market and that it was on my eating list, so we decided to have a snack after walking around so that we could eat more of other things the next day yeah!!
This sukiyaki hotdog looked and tasted damn good! In fact, I wouldn't call it a hotdog - that term to me refers to frankfurters and I think this was more like a real sausage with meat pieces :)
Ended our day with a sundae from Macs next to our hotel - that was a consideration when I picked this hotel ha!
Saturday, 17 Mar 2012
Rain turned to hail and then snow - did we really leave sunny Evanston for that crap?? But, let's get our priorities right - we left Evanston in search of better food, not weather! So here we go!
We had a bit of trouble getting oriented to Pike Place Market, um... But we eventually decided on a crumpet with butter and strawberry jam to settle our growling tummies. The strange thing was that their crumpets were like what we know as scones, while their scones were like sponge cakes *.* Anyway, I like the cosy little shop..
With some food in our tummies, little as it might be, we were better placed to explore the rest of the market!
This is Rachel the Pig! The lines in the picture were slushy snow dashing down.. Behind her is the Pike Place Fish Co - we'll come back to that further down this post...
We found a Korean snack stall with giant sausages! Just had to try one :p And it was so meaty and yummy!
Next was coffee at the first Starbucks! I took the only picture I would ever take with a barista in uniform haha! He's a cute young boy :p And I also posed with our tall cafe latte. Yup, don't think I'll ever do that again too!
We shared our cuppa as we strolled through the market. Came across various things like a gummi bear made of gummi bears! Sito likes gummy bears :) Also saw old records for sale. Wonder who still has those old players for such records - I remember playing with the pin on such a player when I was a kid.. And the picture on the bottom right shows something gross - gum wall! Yes, it's a wall full of colourful chewed gum! Yucks!
Then we found ourselves in an otaku shop and posed with fun stuff - Sito with a long freeloader spork cos he always wants food and me with Duff cos I always want beer! :p
But of course I cannot have (a whole can of) beer so we went for crab cocktail instead, woohoo! It was $10 well spent - lots of crab meat and we even had a hot seafood soup full of yummies!
Before I forget, I must share mf's auntie tip for visiting such food market - bring wet tissue! It came in really useful.
After some scallop chowder at Pike Place Chowder and some froyo, we headed back to where we started - Sito must catch a fish at the Pike Place Fish Co!
Now that was really fun! First, we asked the chaps there if we could throw a fish. No, we could only catch. Good enough! So they sent Sito behind the counter where he was lost for a while. "Where is the fish coming from?" And the chaps had a good laugh! Then suddenly, there was a shout and a fish flew across the air into Sito's arms!
Bad point? He smelled fishy for the rest of the day *.* And at night, I washed the entire right side of his coat and we even bought a lemon to douse on the coat! The following morning, some fishy smell lingered so we masked that with my perfume - it was ok for him to smell flowery when he was with me :p
So, with a fishy husband hanging on my arm, we headed for the underground tour near Pioneer Square where we had a hotdog while waiting - our third in two days!! The tour was really interesting, made all the more so by a really funny guide who pointed out things like "the first website in Seattle" in a spidery corner!!
Seems that sewage was always a problem in old cities - heard a similar story in the Edinburgh underground tour. But here, when the tide came in, the sewage could backflow to create a freaking geyser! That was hilarious! So the first picture here showed an elevated toilet - I didn't take in the 1 m or so of elevation below, but I doubt it made too much of a difference, heh..
And just before the gift shop, there was an exhibition area with an old Singer sewing machine - apparently in an early census of the area, many young single girls called themselves seamstresses but of course, they were only seamstresses in name... There was a little girl in the tour with us and it was so funny watching her blur expression when the guide talked about the "seamstresses"! Nop, the mum didn't attempt an explanation, not right there anyway..
The picture on the bottom right was pointed out to us as we walked on the streets to get to another underground part. Years back, that hotel offered rooms at an hourly rate of 75 cents.
After the tour, we passed by a Vietnamese cafe so we decided a bowl of meatball pho between the two of us wouldn't hurt, especially since we didn't have a proper lunch :) But we encountered a strange French woman who kept talking to us in both French and English, insisting our surnames were Lin or something! The cafe guys had to ask her to leave us alone *.*
Anyway, next stop - the Klondike Gold Rush Museum where Sito tried to pan for gold :p
We ended up at Uwajimaya in the International District for dinner - Sito had Thai char kway teow and I had a bento :) And on the way to the free downtown bus, we passed by a ramen place so we shared a bowl of that and some gyozas! Really ate quite a bit that evening... No snacks that night..
Sunday, 18 Mar 2012
Sito had BK breakfast while I had a Starbucks muffin at the airport. The Seattle-Vancouver flight was even shorter than the Sg-KL flight! And it was a tiny plane so we "sky-checked" our suitcase as we boarded the plane on the tarmac. No more lost baggage, please!
The first thing we did after checking in at Sandman Hotel was to have a nice dim sum lunch at Imperial Chinese Restaurant! Look, a whole prawn in a siew mai! Finally some decent dim sum :) But it was quite expensive..
After the lunch, we went to the waterfront but it was quite overcast and I had only my iPhone cos the camera battery died in the cold so no good photo... Somehow, the waterfront reminded us of Hong Kong...
We walked along a random street parallel to the waterfront, which turned out to be quite nice as it cut through Gastown. We happened to be at the steam clock at 3 pm - steamy chimes!
We saw A&W's and just had to check it out. But guess what, they had no waffle and no curly fries! Fail!
On our way to Chinatown, we passed by a flea market quite unlike what I've seen before - the people all looked like vagrants! And there was so much cigarette smoke that we didn't linger..
So, in Chinatown, our first stop was the Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. It came with an admission fee so we popped into the free park next to it and found this sign :p
I must pose :) If you look closely, you'll notice that my coat pockets have gaps now that belly is growing!
Sito was learning to pose for the camera - here, he's chopping a bamboo tree!
After that, we walked through Chinatown and shortlisted makan places for the next day :p And Sito had a $10 gui ling gao at Chinatown Plaza, quite ex! With time to spare, we decided to walk to dinner instead of taking the bus - took some 45 min! But this sign along the way made it worthwhile - Kel, that's fyi haha!
We met WT and PS for dinner at Kwong Chow Congee & Noodle House. Met their little boy for the first time! :) But forgot to take a group picture! :( Only took a random shot of this bad translation:
We took a bus back to Chinatown in the hope for some baked goods but all the shops were closed! So we split at the waterfront station, and Sito and I took their recommendation to stroll down Robson St. We found an ice cream place and had a little dessert :)
Monday, 19 Mar 2012
Yes, dim sum again! Hoho! At Floata Seafood Restaurant in Chinatown Plaza. Yelp reviews weren't fantastic but we found it authentic and good! Instead of the cart, we ordered from a list written only in Chinese. And we were early so it was cheaper too! We were very, very full..... At this point of writing, Sito came up to me..
Sito: We were ok full.
mf: I was very very full!
Took a bus to Stanley Park. Unfortunately for us, it started raining when we arrived :( So we strolled a few kilometres along the northern seawall in the rain. It would have been much nicer in better weather. Then, as we left, the sun came out! Argh!
Found something like the Little Mermaid in Denmark so I must pose haha! And Sito suffered some cold air in the kids' dryer by a playground :p
With the dim sum now halfway through our digestive systems, we went back to Chinatown for some roast! Shared a 三拼 on rice at Kam Gok Yuen, supposedly the best roast in town! It was ok but ex - this plate cost $10!
Our bus tickets still had some time on them so we bussed down to Granville Island. Thought we were lost but the bus actually made a turn back under the bridge to get to the little Island. Forgot to take photos there but half the island was taken up by a public market which had plenty of food and produce. But we were still quite full and the food was quite expensive, so we had a bubble tea and bought a scone to take away.
This is the second consecutive holiday that we walked across a bridge! Took us a while to find the entry to the walking path but the bridge was actually pretty short. We walked through Yaletown to get to our hotel, where we had the scone and watched some TV. Sito even had a nap!
Eventually, we got off our ass to walk to Chinatown (again!) for some dinner. Settled on New Town Bakery and Restaurant where Sito had fishball and dumpling noodles and I had pork chop spaghetti. The noodles were as expected, with Singapore wet market fishballs, very 家乡 :) My pork chop was rather fat but the spaghetti was really nice even though it was coated in so much oil!
Psst, I look quite cute in the above photo, right? :p
And we bought some snacks back to the hotel - Sito had his second sundae of the trip while I posed with my giant 奶黄包! Don't you think I look so much like Sito here??
Tuesday, 20 Mar 2012
This was a very long day.. We left Vancouver very early and expected to spend just three hours waiting in Seattle for our connecting flight to Anchorage. Instead, we waited for almost 10 hours!! The stupid plane was delayed in Houston - the online update said it was awaiting the arrival of crew. Wth?!
The United counter staff was pretty much useless and offered no helpful advice. He only told us that the plane was held up by thunderstorms in Houston. The Alaska counter staff was on the other hand very sympathetic and helpful when we considered buying new tickets altogether. She told us that it would be expensive to get on a lastminute flight and that United wouldn't compensate anything if the delay was due to weather.
Oh well, in the end, the plane did take off from Houston and we got on it soon after they deplaned the incoming passengers. But we already lost half a day in Anchorage..
So we had both lunch and dinner at the Seattle airport - "fake" Chinese food and junk food! And Sito's hand spent some time on my belly and he felt a strong kick, stronger than the first time :)
Ramada Anchorage Downtown sent a shuttle to pick us up from the airport. Had an interesting conversation with the driver who was retired from the military with titanium plates in his chest! This was the cheapest hotel in this trip but it was also the only one with a king bed and breakfast included. We had waffles both days :) The bathroom floor was also surprisingly warm, nice :) But the only way to turn off the TV was to unplug the set!! We watched The Shawshank Redemption for the nth time that night..
Wednesday, 21 Mar 2012
So, adventure! We have never seen this much snow!!
Julie, our guide from Salmon Berry Tours, was super bubbly as she took us on a long drive from our hotel to the Matanuska Glacier. We first stopped at the Long Rifle Lodge for a simple lunch of fish burgers. The dining area was full of stuffed animals - I do mean taxidermy, not soft toys! - like muskox, beaver, brown bear..
This was the view of the glacier from our table. The glacier is right in the middle - it's a valley glacier.
Julie handed us over to our glacier guide, Adam, from Glacier Bill's - that's the name I saw when I was there but I think the URL is correct. Julie brought some snow pants for us but my belly wouldn't fit haha! But they found me another pair - a tad long but they kept me warm! Sito also had snow shoes. I thought my waterproof boots would be good enough but my toes got cold in the middle of it so Julie made a note to provide another pair of snow boots for the next day.
And so, we headed for the glacier! Adam brought us around on a sled and stopped at many spots to show us different parts of the glacier. He said the team would go onto the glacier at the start of every season to check the glacier and mark out a trail, and every day, they would check the trail again. Why? Cos the glacier moves! And the snow and ice can melt.
Here, we were standing on the snow and looking out at this patch of ice in front. You can see the cracks right? We also heard the cracks! We stood still for a while and it was all quiet around us and then, crack crack! It wasn't very loud, just very gradual cracking as the glacier moves. It was like waiting for baby to kick :p
We shared a kiss on the glacier! *blush*
Sito went out on the ice with Adam. The water was already melting underneath but Adam said it was safe as it wasn't deep at all. But he told me to just stay put, heh! Sito said he could see the bubbles moving under the ice!
Check out the blue ice behind us! It was a very sunny day. Apparently, when it's overcast, the colour contrast is greater.
Then we went into a cave!
When we laid on our backs, we could see the sky through a gap in the cave.
And then, I needed help getting up - no more abs haha!
Sito made a snow angel on a patch of snow! Being inexperienced, he didn't sink his head back so the resulting angel had no head *.*
The two guys went up a ridge which was challenging for me so I went down to take photos instead. The textured blue ice is very obvious here.
Another spot that was too challenging for me - Sito said they looked down at a very deep hole..
On the other side of the above was a patch of ice, sloping down, which made for a fun video! :)
Sito found a block of ice. The ice was very very smooth, and when we rubbed it, it didn't melt like those in our freezer!
I was pretending to eat a block of snow :p
Another guide came to us and said he found a new cave - we were the first to go there woohoo! As I was taking this photo, we heard a door slam. But of course, that was the ice cracking! It was not a gentle crack and Adam said that was a sign we should go, so exciting!
It was so much fun even though my toes were cold and I really needed to pee.. Think we spent almost two hours out there. We had a good guide who was also very helpful - he and Sito sandwiched me to help me down slopes.
Julie recommended Simon and Seafort's so that was where we went to for dinner! We missed the first seating menu by 20 min but well, that wouldn't give us halibut cheeks! The cheeks were on my plate - so so succulent! Sito had cod which almost melted in our mouths... The bread was warm and the butter was pretty and yummy - I kind of superimposed the bread picture on the bottom right corner of our food picture cos by the time the food came, we had finished the bread :p The chocolate cake was good as well though not the best.
Oh, Sito had a beer and with his incitement and approval, I savoured a 5 ml sip - oh I miss beer!!
Then we took a walk through the town, starting with Resolution Point. It was a tiny lookout point with a statue of Captain Cook and where we saw Mt Susitna across the water. The town itself was very quiet - everything was closed except for food places.
Sito is getting better at posing :)
Thursday, 22 Mar 2012
We started the day with a shot with a huge moose! :) Little did we know that we would be ending our trip with moose too.. Kiv that...
Our guide today was Sarah who brought us on a tour along the Turnagain Arm. Two other chaps joined us on this tour. Our first stop was a photo stop at Beluga Point. Didn't spot any whale here...
Next was the Alyeska Resort where we took a tram up 2,300 feet into foggy land! But the fog cleared suddenly and we were able to see the Turnagain Arm and the Chugach mountain range.
Can you see the building in the middle? That was where we started..
This was a ceiling in the hotel lobby - fake shimmering aurora that looked quite real!
Next stop was lunch at The Bake Shop for soup, bread and cinnamon roll. I had the creamy chicken soup while Sito had the goulash and then the chicken soup :p The cinnamon roll was good. Can't believe I finished everything! Sito didn't finish his bread and roll - I feel bad :(
Tummy satisfied, we headed for the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. This was one impressive male elk!
Hey, you female elk, quit eyeing my man!
There were a few other animals. I really feel for this bald eagle that was found shot. They had to amputate a wing to save it so now it cannot fly. It also has no mate. So poor thing! The thing about this conservation centre is that the animals are often found injured or orphaned. Some of them could be returned to the wild but some, like the bald eagle, would spend their whole life in there.
Our favourites were the two kodiak bear cubs! They literally charged at the fence when they saw people! But it wasn't scary - they were just playful and they stopped just before the fence. Here's my bear and the bear cub :)
At the end of the tour, we gave the town another shot. The shopping mall was nice enough to occupy us for a while but not long enough.. But on the way to an early dinner, we found a little park with ice sculptures so we spent some time looking at them and shuffling/sliding across the iceskating rink. This train reminded me of The Polar Express.
So, dinner! Alaskan king crab at Humpy's Great Alaskan Alehouse! Half a pound cost $22.99 and it was only one leg! Ok, so the leg was long and fat. Sito managed to get the whole chunk of meat out of this part of the leg - yum!
Our main courses were halibut - Sito had fish and chips and I had breaded halibut. It was nothing like what we had the day before but well, we were happy with seafood, especially the crab!
So we returned to the hotel to pick up our suitcase, clean up and get ready for the airport. But the staff called us suddenly and brought us to the door - we saw a mummy moose and her baby moose walking down the street across from the hotel! A long truck drove by at that moment and by the time it was gone, the animals had made a turn and I could only take this pathetic photo =/
We already heard from the guides that people had spotted moose downtown. We even saw a lot of droppings the day before but didn't realise those were moose droppings until the other girl on the tour mentioned it. Apparently, this was a rather warm winter - even though it was like -12 to -6 deg C when we were there! - so the moose had been coming down from the hills. Why? I forgot, ha!
The hotel arranged a free cab for us as their shuttle broke down. Turned out that it wasn't expensive to get to the airport, about $23.
Encountered a really friendly security officer at the airport - rare hur? We were chatting about babies when she was patting me down as I couldn't go through the X-ray machine. And after this trip, we've concluded that the Chicago airport is the most crowded, most unfriendly and most inefficient airport we've ever been to!
Ended our trip with the third sundae on this trip and some smoothie. And very very tired minds and bodies by the time we got off the plane the next morning. We didn't even bother much with unpacking before we took a much needed nap. I think we're still kind of tired now.. But it was a really good holiday! Now waiting for the next one in three weeks' time! :)