Saturday, October 9, 2010

Vacation!!!!! August 2010

(A Little out of order in blog posting...)

August – Time to relax, travel and enjoy some beautiful places!

I am really not a traveler. I haven’t done too much of it in my life besides traveling between Boston and Philly, and flying to Utah for college. It’s just not a driving passion of mine… but that might change even more after what I did in August 2010.

I quickly realized as July came to a close that I (the one who never really traveled anywhere) was going to be traveling for most of August because of a trip I had planned and with my new job! That was exciting, a bit stressful, and crazy for me to think about. I would be going to very different parts of the world requiring different items/clothing for me to bring along, so organization and forward thinking was key for me as I didn’t have much time to changeover between trips! (about 24 hrs)

Well, my first excursion was one I had planned just about six weeks before we left… kind of on a whim. I had been yearning to take a cruise earlier in the year, but it never came to pass. I needed a vacation. A REAL one. I usually only traveled to family's houses for vacation time… but since I was turning THE BIG 30, it was time to venture out a little bit more! And, I wanted to spend my 30th birthday someplace other than the East Coast, where I have lived for 25 years of my life!!

I had heard some amazing tales from friends who had taken a cruise to Alaska and had looked into it before, but never too seriously To make a long story short… through a series of random events, I stumbled upon a great cruise to Alaska that was perfectly laid out in the time I had allotted to take vacation in August. This trip would also allow me to visit my grandparents in Seattle, whom I hadn’t seen in a couple of years…. and the whole thing just sounded exciting to me!

When I called my mom to tell her about it, I think she thought it was another one of my crazy ideas and that I would realize this within a few hours or days and move on as I do with my other crazy ideas. She's always so supportive while probably secretly praying I'll come to my senses! Well this didn't happen this time. Within a day or two I had convinced my mom that not only was I going, but that she was too!! Ha, ha, ha!!!

So, Wednesday August 4th, my mom and I took off for Seattle, Washington! I had done a TON of research on the area and felt pretty prepared for it… but the best part about traveling is what happens when you get there… what you stumble upon, etc.

I had forgotten how long the flight was to Seattle and got very restless by the end! Ha, I don’t know how I would ever handle a flight to Europe or even Hawaii! We arrived late and stayed in a hotel close to the airport. On Thursday morning we went into the city to rent our car from a location close to the pier where we would be boarding our cruise on Sunday. The weather was beautiful and I remember feeling how refreshing it was to not be swamped down by humidity (which we had all summer long in DC).

Evergreens were everywhere. Downtown Seattle was much smaller than I remembered, and I thought the incline of the streets by the pier were absolutely crazy to drive on… or build a house on! I would never drive on them in the snow and I would HATE to drive a manual car on them! The piers were beautiful. We didn’t get to walk around because we wanted to head toward Whidbey Island in order to get there before the ferry traffic got bad later in the day.

So, off we drove to the north about one hour until we got to Mukilteo, WA. Even though it was only 2 o’clock in the afternoon we still had to wait for three ferry’s to come and go before we got on one. (I would hate having to live here and do this in the summer when the ferry traffic is so bad! But, that's probably why there are two or three ice cream shops to go to while you wait... my dad's favorite part of taking the ferry!)

The spot we were put was one of the ones I dreaded as an adult, but wished we would have as a child!

Almost like you could really just float into
the river if your brake suddenly stopped working!
(we're the black car)
My mom!

Here’s a picture of me on the ferry boat
and my grandfather’s house is behind me!
a bit windy...

I thought it was really interesting that my mom had actually NEVER seen my grandparents house on Whidbey Island. She had come with my dad when his parents had purchased the land, but never saw the finished product and they’ve lived there for over 28 years or so! I’ve been many times in my life, but somehow keep forgetting that my parents divorced when I was seven and we didn’t all travel together! So, anyway, I was excited to show her around. Ha ha… there’s not much to show but it has grown a bit over the years!

After dinner and time spent talking with my grandfather, I went with my mom into “downtown” Langley, which is the place where all the tourists come to shop, eat ice cream and enjoy a relaxing day. It’s a very cute two or three blocks that sit right on the water, but that’s it! We walk around and it was such a beautiful evening that I asked a man sitting there reading his book to take a picture of us!

My mom and I

On our way out I noticed the gorgeous
flowers outside the small Langley Public Library.

The next morning I noticed a picture of my brothers and I when I was probably ten or so. I had my mom take a picture of me now… with what I looked like then! Still some of the same features, but I have tamed my hair a little bit!

After some more time with my grandfather, and watching the deer and animals on his front yard, my mom and I took off for the north part of the island to visit my grandmother in her assisted living home. It’s about an hour north from where my grandfather lives and it was a pretty drive with everything being so green from all the rain they get!

This was the first time I had been to my grandmother’s new home. She’s been there for about a year now I think because her Alzheimer's is getting worse and my grandfather couldn’t care for her safely anymore while still trying to maintain the house and some of his social life. It has been an adjustment for both, and I know my grandfather misses her not living at home, but I do think it was a good decision.

I was happy that she recognized me at first and it was neat to talk to her and spend time with her. My mom and I arrived a little before lunch, so we stayed while she ate. For lunch, one of her friends came to sit with us. Her name is “Skipper” and she is hilarious and full of life! She came to the table singing and then got my grandmother singing along with her… just songs from when they were younger. I think they would have gotten up to do a dance too, but lunch was ready! The two of them laughed and joked with each other throughout lunch and it was refreshing to watch! Skipper is full of life and just makes you want to smile and be happy when you see her! She has such a positive outlook and HER MOTTO IS: Life hands you what it hands you. Make the best of it and ENJOY it! Skipper was so happy and not sad or complaining about anything, although I am sure she had things to complain about.

Nana and I
Skipper and Nana

It was sad to say goodbye but we knew we had a long drive to Bellevue and needed to get started. We drove back along the only road connecting the island to the mainland and stopped by Deception Pass. It was an overcast day… but here are some pictures. It was quite beautiful!

Our drive from there was an adventure! We were hungry for lunch and I thought Quiznos sounded like a good option.I went on my phone and found a few locations just off the highway on our drive. We tried FOUR different addresses Quiznos gave us on the internet and they were all NO LONGER operating! They had been turned into other restaurants. Well, the first one we went to… it was frustrating. But, we decided to try one at the next exit. Again, same thing. There was another one listed a few exits away. We decided three strikes and you’re out. Well, NOT REALLY! Because this one was closed too!!! If I hadn’t been so hungry at that point, I would have thought this was funny because we really were on a wild goose chase! I just couldn’t believe their website could be that wrong! So, after the third strike, my stubbornness kicked in and I WAS DETERMINED to find a quiznos. So, for the 4th one, we went even farther off the exit than we should have and yet again---- NOT THERE!

So, my hunger took over my stubbornness and I gave up. My mom and I decided to take a different route back to the highway and stop somewhere close to the highway.

WELL, wouldn’t you know
… on our drive back towards the highway we pass a QUIZNOS! One that wasn’t listed on their main website! HA! So we stop. Mostly because I wanted to ask why their website was so out of date… and because I was starving!

Well, I am grateful for our scavenger hunt for three reasons! 1. I can look back on it and laugh… now. Not then. 2. We did get to see some parts of Washington we wouldn’t have seen if we stayed on the highway; 3. The Quiznos we did find had THE NICEST workers. It was family owned and operated. They were generous with their portions, catered to our requests and were just so nice and fun to talk to. Normally when you go to a sandwich shop, the employees slop together your sandwich and don’t even look up at you. Or, I feel they are not very good with customer service. BUT, this family was! If we we had been staying anywhere near then the next two nights, I would have been willing to eat lunch and dinner there just to support them!

Now it was off to Bellevue, Washington where (unknowingly) I had booked ourselves in one of the BEST hotels I have ever stayed in. It was a good deal when I had looked online, so I took a gamble because I had never heard of the chain before. Well, the rooms were fabulous, the free breakfast was yummy and had a good variety, the staff were so friendly and nice, the location was within walking distance to the temple (and they gave us a room with a view of it after requesting it!), there was a gym we could use for free right next door (!!!!), free internet, and it was right by the main highway into Seattle. I would stay there again in a heartbeat!

Friday night was arrived and just chilled… awaiting the VERY BIG and Special day we were going to celebrate on Saturday!

MY 30TH BIRTHDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!

Well, the only thing that was not perfect about this day was the weather! It was cloudy and overcast, but in a way, I felt that was how Seattle was showing me its best on my special day, because Seattle is known for its rainy days!

I started the day with an awesome workout at the gym, then breakfast, and then it was off to the city! My mom had lived with my father there after they were first married so she mentioned shared some of her time and memories with me, which was nice. I am sure a lot has changed though!

I had done some research on what I wanted to see and do and so had my mom. I wasn’t interested in the common tourist things, like going to the top of the Space Needle (I had just been to the top of the Empire State building… not much can beat that!), or wandering around Pike’s Market. So, I chose to go to the “Underground Sidewalk”!

Now, what’s this you ask? I was confused too! But, I learned so much going on this tour (and the tourguides were funny too!) It’s a series of underground passageways and basements that used to literally be ground level in the mid-1800’s sidewalks. After a huge fire (set off by a cabinet maker accidentally overturning and igniting a glue pot) 25 streets were destroyed. City leaders decided to only use brick and stone to rebuild and they made each street one to two stories HIGHER than the original one. This also ensured that some of the toilet flushing didn’t back up on the streets when it was high-tide! (It’s so secret I couldn’t find a website for the tours!)

Skylights were installed on the sidewalks years later, and it was cool to look up when we walked under these on the tour! Retailers used to have stairs that the would use to reach this “first floor”, but it was no longer considered the ground floor. Some businesses used this space if it had not been destroyed in the fire, but when the pneumonic plague threatened the area in 1907, the city condemned this floor and it was left to deteriorate or was left as storage.

Here are the pictures:

Sink and toilet!


Next we went to Chittenden Locks where salmon pass through from the salty Puget Sound to the fresh waters of Lake Washington. It also is an area that provides a link for boats between the two. Now, THIS was SO cool! Not only did I never realize things like this existed, I was able to see it LIVE with a few boats passing through. Even though it was misty and raining, it was well worth it! It’s a process run by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and it’s a system that adjusts the water levels to allow safe passage between the lake and the sound. I don’t even think I could accurately describe what a “lock” in and how it works, but if you’re ever in the area, it’s really neat to watch!

We then went underground and watched the salmon navigate their way through the locks as well since it was still the season for it.

After leaving here, we worked our way back towards the hotel. I spent the rest of the afternoon getting ready for our cruise, resting, reading blogs, and having a nice dinner with my mom (MY FAVORITE – Mexican!)… (although I spent a ridiculous amount of indecision time in trying to figure out what I wanted to eat!)

It was a wonderful day and I was so happy I got to spend it with my mom!

Sunday morning – CRUISE DAY!!!! That will start my next posting.

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