22 June 2007

American Diary Part 22 - Seattle Episode 3

Friday June 22nd - Seattle Had a sleep in again - must be tired from all the camping. 9am had fresh fruit in the hostel for breakfast - trying a detox diet - see how long it lasts! I had signed up for the Beach trip to Alkai beach in West Seattle, but seeing how the weather is COLD and grey today, I took my name off. Instead, I strolled down 1st avenue towards the Pioneer Square to find the Klondike Gold Rush museum and learn about this aspect of Seattle's history. The Pioneer area is worth a second look - I dismissed it before but when you really look at the buildings and discover the stories from the 1890's it comes alive. The Excellent Klondike Museum is free to enter and has some really well done exhibits and lively guides to take you through this period of North Western American history. The depression of the 1890's hit hard and news of Gold in the Klondike of Alaska started a frenzy of activity in Seattle and other Western ports including San Francisco. Pioneer Square was the focal point of this activity with steam ships leaving from the nearby port of Seattle taking prospecters up to Alaska. I really had no idea just how brave and tenacious these people were in search for gold - but many were desperate. When news of the Gold broke, literally hundreds of people quit their jobs and left their homes to head north - including the Mayor of Seattle! Their story is amazing and I want to read more about it when I get chance. (Jack London wrote some great books) They had to battle with the extreme cold weather conditions of Alaska and forge a way through mountain passes dragging all their kit and food with them. when they finally arrived in the Yukon (over half didn't make it) they then had to sit out the winter and wait for spring in order to chop down trees and build their own boats so they could float hundreds of miles down a river towards the gold fields (mad!). This river was a major white water experience, and at the end, they had to start the harder work of setting up somewhere to live, then finding somewhere to pan for gold or dig for it (most of the stakes had already been claimed) and avoiding the many swindles and raketeers going on. I wish I was going to the Yukon, would like to visit - maybe next time. This museum is part of the National Parks so I got another stamp in my passport! It's midday in Seattle and I'm in the public library in the middle of the business district. The library is housed within a very angular shell of a building of lattice work using metal and glass - diamond shaped glass panels let in lots of light. I'm using the free internet here before going on a wander of the shopping malls and thinking of a plan for the rest of the day. It's also a chance to check in online for my flight tomorrow! UPDATE 9pm So the diet detox has not gone so well. After the library, I went back along the main shopping area and avoided all the empting food places along the way, but did buy some trousers in GAP - my stuff is getting a bit worn out and I may need to be smart in Calgary. My feet seem to lead me to the Piroshky bakery again.. and it was there that my diet cam to an end, just 5 hours after it started! I had a delicious Beef and cheese, then went back for a pudding version with an amazing filling of warm black cherries and white melted chocolate - divine! I still prefer the rhubarb one though. A quartet of barber shop/gospel singers was keeping the crowd entertained outside the original Starbucks shop and I watched them for a while, then back tot he fish market to check out the throwing action - a large crowd had gathered (more people in town on Friday?) so the fish throwing was in full swing. I bought a souvenie 100 year anniversary poster for my house - when I get one again - then dropped it back at the hostel. The sun decided to come out to play, so I walked down to the waterfront and took the water taxi across Eliott Bay to West Seattle - Seacrest Waterfront. For just $3 and 13 minutes it's a bargain. It's about 2 miles to walk to the beach, so instead I jumped on the free shuttle which operates all over the area. It drove me and several others over the top of the hill with great views of Seattle and an insight into the homes of those who live over the bay. Most of the houses are wooden clapper board style in various pastel shades. Arriving at the beach strip the homes turn into beach chalet dwellings with balconies for partying. It all looked very tranquil and chilled out. The beach is shingle and sand stretching for about a mile lookng west across Puget Sound. People were all over the sandy parts playing volleyball, having barbeques, sunbathing or chilling out with friends. I walked from one end to the other with a fresh pina coladao smoothy from one of the beach front cafes, and found the plinth for Seattle's Statue of Liberty - sadly she was not there and is being renovated - never mind. I need to see the movie sleepless in seattle again as I'm sure this stretch of beach is where Tom Hanks plays with his sun at sunet in the motor boat whilst Meg ryan is secretly watching them. Feeling a bit tired (a lot of walking today) I flopped onhe sand and closed my eyes listening to the breaking waves until around 6.30pm when it got a bit chilly. I walked back tot he water taxi - about a mile - and was soon back on Pier 56. I saw the Yact 'Obsession' leaving for the 7pm sunset sail, and managed to take some nice photos of her in full sail. Since my diet was ruined by the russian bakery, I walked back up to Pike Place Market and the Bolivian restaurant 'copacabana' which I visited on Monday night. As a farewell to Seattle treat, I ordered the prawns and garlic with potatoes and salad - it was yummy, then had a flan for pudding and glass of Washington State chardonnay to wash-ington it all down! Back at the hostel, I have to pack and get to bed for an early start. Need to be at the airport by 7am and I hope Alaska air don't screw things up again!

American diary Part 21 - Seattle Episode 2

Thursday 21st June - Longest day! happy solstice.... OK, so here are some more things that Seattle is famous for that I missed off the list: 1. Bill Gates and his HUGE mansion and the software company he owns 2. Amazon .com HQ building 3. Boeing - the airplane makers started up here and still have their own place with an airstrip, along with an Aviation museum 4. Mount Rainier (pron. Ray knee Yair - apparently - I have been pronouncing it wrong since I got here) This 14,400 ft ACTIVE - repeat *ACTIVE* volcano was my destination for today.... so if you want to hear about it, read on! Alarm at 6am - hot night in Green tortoise, so not much sleep. I have a fan above my bed but it's really noisy so i can't really use it 'cos the others in the dorm complain. Gathered my hiking, walking, snowing, raining, eating stuff and headed onto the street. Rain in Seattle. just drizzle really. My rendezvous was outside the hostel on 1st avenue and Pine, outside a bagel shop which was closed still, so I walked a short distance to my fave rusian Bakery... which was also closed! then found 'Seattle's Best coffee' which was open and ordered a coffee and muffin (by the way, ordering coffee here is tricky - e.g. 'I'll take a tall, double skinny, why bother to go') By 7.30am I was on the street and got picked up by the tur bus. Along with 17 others we were driven very well by TOM to the national park of Mt Ranier some 80 miles away in glorious Washington State countryside. It really is green here - on account of the rain. We passed small towns, big towns and plenty of pasture, wooden barns and bungalows with horses, RV's and trailers. Stopping mid morning for coffee at Eatenville, the weather cleared so by the time we made it to the park entrance there was only a little amout of cloud on the sumit. We made various stops for waterfalls, scenic locations, river valleys carved out by glaciers and snow melts and then made our way to PARADISE the highest point by road and the location of the visitor Centre. I got another stamp in my national parks passport, and ate a very poor burger from the Restaurant. The summit was totally clear so I took far too many photos. Mt Ranier is an *ACTIVE* volcano.. last eruption was 15000 years ago but every 50 yearsit 'does something' according to Tom and it is over due to 'do something'. Luckily it didn't do anything when we were there! It is part of the Pacific North Western 'Ring of Fire' and one of 5 seriously worrysome volcanoes in this area - Mt ST Helens being the main one. When these 'pyroclastic' volcanos erupt they don't spew out 'magma' (said in the style of Dr Evil) - they have massive super heated hot gas explosions which blast the top or side of the mountain away. The biggest worry for this region are the mud flows which follow an eruption, melted snow running in vast quantities down the slopes and into the valleys destroying and covering everything in it's path. As pretty as the meadows and homes are in this area, I would not want to live here just in case. Amongst the many things I saw, was a suspension bridge across a glacial river, a thermal pool bubbling with mineral deposits like those in Yellowstone and a tranquil forest hike caled 'trail of shadows'. The forest in this region is dense, wet and a circle of environmental perfection - everything has a place and a purpose. One exciting thing about the summit area - albeit only 6000 ft up, is the SNOW!!!! i have never seen snow in June before, so this was a novelty. The mountain has many climbers each year and approx. 3 die trying. Just this weekend a man was killed in a fall. We were told some amazing stories - one woman who made it aged 78 in a record time of 19 hours so she could be home in time to receive her weekly call from her son in New York and a man in a wheelchair who made modifications so he could wheel himself on skis to the summit - using his friends to put him back in the chair when he fell out - amazing! There is a ballot to make an attempt and as well as $1500 you need to pass a rigourous fitness assessment and climbing test.... don't think I'm ready for that ! On the way back out of the park we saw a female deer leading her very newborn calf across the road - just like Bambi it could hardly walk straight and toppled over! so cute! We then stopped at the Copper Creek diner for some seriously good blackberry pie - and i MUST tell you the story about this diner..... it's a long one......... In the 1950's a couple on holiday passed the log cabin at copper creek and noticed it was for sale - so they bought it in an attempt to change their lifestyle and set up as a diner to feed hungry lumberjacks. The husband was a cook and the wife did the waiting and paperwork. Things went really well, until the third week when he left his wife in the middle of the night. So, not knowing how to cook she took a bicycle and visited homes in the area asking for help. A woman agreed to cook until she found someone long term and kept this going with her Blckberry pie recipe. In 1994 this woman finally retired having never been replaced! The original lady owner has sold it since but they kept the secret recipe going and to this day the pie is still served - and it was delicious! apparently over 200 pies are eaten in a typical summer weekend. Where do all the berries come from I wonder? So that was my day at the volcano. no eruptions Some pie some Snow A Waterfall Hot springs A Bridge Bambi cool. Back at the city, I walked from 6th and Pike down to the hostel, bought a SEATTLE shirt from the excellent shop on the corner - you pick a shirt and choose your logo design... then enjoyed the free all you can eat buffet in the hostel. Cool again! I found out from TOM that I had luckily avoided police trouble all week in Seattle, Jay walking is a serious offence, as is crossing a street on red and not waiting for the 'white man'. Both incur heavy on the spot fines, but I so far got away with it! It's hot here tonight - think I'll be Sleepless in Seattle!! Ha ha - i had to get that in somewhere! Kx

21 June 2007

American Diary Part 20 - Seattle Episode 1

Tuesday 19th June - Seattle Day One After a decent sleep in I got up around 9am and used the very good shower rooms here at the Green Tortoise Hostel. The Hostel is a bit dingy and small, but at least the beds are soft and the showers clean and quite newly renovated. The location is good too - right opposite the Pike Place Market. So, I found my way along the corridoor to the free breakfast which was DIY waffles or fruit, so I chose fruit, so as not to make a complete idiot of myself trying to use a waffle machine. The deal with hostels is that you clean any plates you use, so you join a queue of people waiting to use the sink. Then I was free to explore. I walked first to the post office to buy a shipping box then returned back to my room to pack all the unwanted heavy items to send back home. It has made my bag a lot lighter. Then I set out onto 4th avenue and walked towards the Science Park. THINGS WHICH SEATTLE IS FAMOUS FOR: 1. Space Needle 2. Frasier 3. Pike Place Public Market 4. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan Movie - you migt have heard of it... 5. Greys Anatomy - TV show I've not really seen it. Seatlle is hilly - not what I expected, but the streets are manageable. There are free buses, but I prefer to walk generally - you see much more. I noticed whilst walking that there are lots of PIGS in Seattle - on street corners, in alleyways, outside shops and cafes. I wondered why.... some are decorated and some are themed, very wierd.... At the Science Park, I paid $16 to ride up to the top of the Space Needle - well worth the view! 520ft above Seattle and Elliot Bay you get great views. The weather was clear, Mt Ranier, Mt Baker, Olympic Mountains and Cascade Mountains were all clearly visible - amazing scenery! Mt Ranier is huge! it sits behind Seattle like a mini Mt Fuji covered in snow. I spent almost 2 hours at the top, listening to the excellent free guides describing all the sights and giving a history lesson of the city. The Space Needle was built for the 1962 science expo. After that, I wandered the science park and museum, spent time with the tropical butterflies (good tip Abby!) and then watched an IMAX movie on the eruption of Mt St Helens in 1980. I had wanted to take a tour to the actual mountain, but the operator has chosent not to run the trips anymore, and I'm not too keen to drive there alone. Instead I am going to Mt Ranier on Thursday for a day trip. Anyway, back to Tuesday.... Leaving the science park on the monorail, I got off in the centre of downtown with smart shops and restaurants. Not being in a shopping mood, I ambled along the sidewalk and eventually decided to head back to the hostel . They offer a free supper on Tuesday whcih was pretty good! I then sat in the sofa and chatted with a German girl until 10pm and then bed. Wednesday 20th June Slept even later today! Missed breakfast so instead I headed into the Pike Place Market to wander around. The fish market traders are great - they throw fisah all over the place and yell out orders and prices to the public and each other. Most people just watch, but some buy and occasionally they throw a dummy fish at people to catch them out - good fun! There are all kinds of things in the market, but I like the fresh fruit and farmer's market produce. Walking along Post Alley I was looking for Starbucks - the very first one anywhere. I couldn't find it, and was getting pretty hungry (11am) on no breakfast. Walking for ages up and down stairs inside the market and along the street I eventually found it - only to be a bit disappointed to be honest! It was a shop, selling coffee... but no pastries, food - just souvenirs. I snubbed them for my breakfast and instead I found a brilliant Russian pastry cafe called Piroshky Piroshky and I highly recomment it - superb sweet and savoury delights with a great level of service and all baked on site. Think I'll go back every day - I ate Rhubarb Piroshky today. www.piroshkybakery.com Buying some fresh cherries I wandered the market some more - you can spend all day here, then joined 1st Avenue to find North Face's Seattle store - an hour later I had spent almost $100 on stuff! great! Walking some more, I arrived at Pionner Square and the statue dedicated to Chief Seattle after who the city is named. There is not much else there unless you are interested in antiques - which today I was not! So, being close to the Smiths Tower building I decided to spend $7.50 on a ride to the 35th floor to get some views across Seattle from the opposite end to the needle. The building was the first skyscraper built in 1914 by the chap behind Smith Corona typewriters and the Smith & WEston handguns - needless to say he had a lot of dough and could spend money on luxury fittings inside. The interior is marble and wood with bronze extras all over. the lifts are operated by gentlemen in uniform and they are all extremely polite! The 35th floor has an open air walking platform and the views were worth it. Inside the observation level is known as the Chinese Room, decorated with wooden carved ceiling and famous for it's Wishing Chair which is said to guarantee that the woman who sits in it will marry within one year...... so..... yes... I sat in it! I also made a note in the visitors book that if I DO get married within a year I will return to this chair! After that optimistic experience I rejoiend street level to wander down the steep hills to the Piers along the waterfront. I had intended to get a McDonalds or eat at IVAR's famous fish eatery, but when I got there I didn't fancy either one, so instead I sat in a smart table with excellent service to enjoy a seafood cobb salad at Elliots. Seeing a sailboat go out on the water gave me an idea, and instead of taking the ferry to Baimbridge Island I am going on a 2 hour sunset sail... more on that later! So now it's 5pm and It's hot in the city! I think I might be sleepless in Seattle tonight if the temperature stays like this! UPDATE 10m Just got back from a very nice Yacht trip out into Elliot Bay and Puget sound. Down at the water side, the piers were pretty busy with night revellers and couples dining out. I saw a poor guy lying in the road having been knocked off his bike, the ambulance arrived (perhaps they were filming Greys anatomy?!). Then 3 schoolbuses arrived and spat out a crowd of over excited colege kids on their graduation night - dressed up to the nines, they made a lot of noise! I was glad ot be going out onto the water! I caught the yacht from pier 56 at 7pm- a very sleek sailing boat called 'Obsession' crewed by Charlie and his mate Nate. Leaving Seattle behind, the skyline was more visible and very nice to see. Mt Rainier was clouded on top but still impressive. As we made it out into the bay, the wind picked up and we made good speed across to a group of islands. then the wind dropped completely so we drifted for a while and I chatted to a few of the other guests - a couple frm Texas who were in town to collect a vintage cadillac which they bought on eBay and driving back to Texas from Seattle, and a chap o his own on business with a medical job - also from Texas. Once they heard I was English, it was all about the Queen and how small and green my country is - same old questions! They were nice though. Around 9pm the sun set behind the Olympic mountains above Baimbridge Island turning the sky orange and casting bright lights across the bay to reflect on the glittering buildings of downtown Seattle. It then turned cold - really cold! The skipper gave us blankets though so I was fine. turning back to Seattle I had a great view of the skyline at dusk as he twinkling lights came on in all the skyscrapers, and the neon from Pike Street market, the Marina and docks. Tonight there was also a baseball game at the stadium which was all lit up. It is a lovely city to look at at night. Back on dry land, I walked briskly back up the steep streets via harbour steps (more pigs) onto first avenue. I walked fast partly to warm myself up and partly to avoid some of the undesirables hanging around. I passed 2 horses in the darkness of the underpass being unhitched from their carriage afte a long day of ferrying tourists around - they looked a bt forlorn and I wanted to go and talk to them but decided against it. Up on the higher streets I was soon back at the hostel whcih is where I am now, typing into my blog before going to bed. Mount Rainier tomorrow, then I hope to get myself on a whale watching trip on Friday. I found out about the pigs - apparently there is a piggy bank at Pike Place market, and it is 100 years since the market opened, so to mark the occasion, the city is displaying themed pigs all over the place, some sponsored by businesses and others by shops just for fun, or kids ones. It's quite cool. I'm trying to photo as many as I can. Tired now.. and hungry....Maybe I can get up early enough tomorrow for another russian pastry????? mmmmmm..........

18 June 2007

I hate LAX Airport and Alaska Air!!!

Forgive me for this rant....I left my LA hotel at 5am to catch a flight at 8am to Seattle. It is now 4pm and I am still waiting to leave the airport after sitting here for over 8 hours! Nothing to do, except internet at $5 for 15 mins... and spend a fortune in the fast food places. The plane had a fault, so eventually they put us all onto another flight which leaves at 4.30pm... I HOPE. Rant over. Enjoy your day. Kx PS Alaska Air sucks ************************** UPDATE - TUESDAY 19TH JUNE A plane from LAX finally tok off at 5pm and landed here at Seattle at 7.20pm. Luckily I was on it. I dumped my bags at the hostel, then walked the short distance to a fab little restaurant called 'Copacabana' with a sun terrace overloking Elliot Bay, above Pike Place Market. I had a cool glass of Chardonnay and a seafood salad to wipe clean the frustrations of my day! So, Here I am in Seattle, at the Green tortoise hostel opposite the famous Pike Pace Market. I have 4 days here and have just booked a day trip to Mount Rainier National Park for Thursday. sight seeing and mooching in the city until I fly to Billings, Montana on Saturday. I am smiling again. Kx

17 June 2007

At last...lots and lots of photos!

My first sunset in America - May 12th looking across the Atlantic with Hannah from the Maine coast near Portland. Bar Harbour, Jordans breakfast of Blueberry pancakes and maple syrup! Acadia National Park, Maine. Jordan Pond and the Bubbles behind (Hannah being daft!) Acadia National Park - Maine Acadia National Park, Maine. Cadillac Mountain view across the Atlantic from Mount Desert Island Acadia National Park, Otter Cliffs on Mount Desert Island. Me and Hannah Our 'Thelma and Louise' luxury vehicle! Bar Harbour Wonder View motel, Bar Harbour Maine My New England breakfast at Jeannies - Bar Harbour, Maine Camden, Maine on our way back to Yarmouth Hannah enjoying the food at Moody's diner, Maine. Boston - view from top of Bunker Hill Monument - over 700 steps! Fanueil Hall Boston My swanky Boston hotel! The Freedom Trail in Boston Where everybody knows your name! Boston common city skyline Poor Roly! scared of the lobster... Steamed lobster for my last supper with the Klepinger's - It's still alive! tasted good though! My 'hotel' in Maine! The Klepinger family home, Yarmouth. Going Lobster Mad in Portland, Maine Portland Lighthouse - Atlantic Ocean - Cornwall in the distance somewhere! New York city tour bus Lunch near the Brooklyn Bridge Strawberry Fields forever... Central Park tribute to John Lennon Boat trip around Ellis Island and statue of Liberty Statue of Liberty - bit of a grey day! Ground Zero New York Times Square Top of the Rockerfeller Centre, Looking at the Empire State building - going there next! That's the Empire state building behind me! Great Views! Top of the Empire State! Empire state building at night - raining hard! My hotel New York, Astor on the Park, Upper West side Central Park View from Central Park Our trek across America starts here - Jazz Hostel, Upper West Side, Central Park New York My bedroom for the next 28 days! Niagara Falls - crossing into Canada just for a few hours! Niagara Falls - water on my lens! Maid of the Mist, Niagara Falls Niagara Falls! OHIO, IDAHO, WISCONSIN, MINESSOTA all the farms look the same! Cleveland, OHIO 90 degrees and humid! Cleveland, OHIO The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Chicago Skyline - beautful city! Chicago 'Cloud City' mirror sculpture called The Bean Chicago - me at The Bean Chicago, view from SEARS tower, tallest building in USA. Chicago, view from the Hancock Tower Baseball Game, Chicago - Go Sox! ( I did enjoy it really!) Chicago at night from the Baseball stadium Loading our bags before leaving Chicago (Dan on the roof) The Mississipi The Great American Prairie - a typical farm The Badlands of South Dakota Viewpoint over the Badlands Badlands Ranch:Inside the Crazy lodge - some of my travelling pals. Badlands Ranch - our crazy lodge is on the right! Me and 'Lightening' look out over the Badlands of South Dakota Mount Rushmore, The Black Hills, South Dakota Crazy Horse Monument, Thunderhead Mountain, The Black Hills of South Dakota. 50 years on and only the head is finished.. how long before it's completed???? Buffalo and horns on our van - Custer State Park, Black Hills South Dakota Our Log Cabin, Custer State Park in the Black Hills South Dakota. Deadwood,Black Hills South Dakota, Saloon #10 where Wild Bill Hickok was shot during a poker game. Devil's Tower, Wyoming Crossing the Bighorn Mountains, Wyoming - snow in June! Yellowstone National Park Geo Thernmal craters, Yellowstone Old Faithful Geyser, Yellowstone Mammoth Springs, Yellowstone. Buffalo.. Bison.. Tatanka... Yellowstone National Park GRIZZLY!!!! (right in the middle, honestly!) Yellowstone. Hiking Mount Washburn, snow in June! Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming Phew! I made it! The Summit of Mount Washburn 10,000 ft Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. The Teton granite mountains, Wyoming Cheeky Chipmunk! Above Jenny Lake, Teton National Park, Wyoming. Jackson, Wyoming - the arch is made of Antlers! The Mormon Church, Salt Lake City Utah - didn't see any Osmonds though... It's BIG.. it's Salty... The Great Salt Lake... Salt Lake City Utah. Bonneville Salt Flats - Utah, site of many world Land Speed Records 500 miles of nothing! The Nevada Desert from Salt Lake City to Reno. Reno, Nevada. Get Married, Get divorced, Gamble your life away.. nothing else to do there - except maybe an 'All you can eat buffet!' Mono Lake, California Walking the volcano rim, Mono Lake 8000 ft above sea level. Paddling down the Merced River, Yosemite National Park - 'Half Dome' behind. Campsite at Yosemite National Park Can you spot the British tent! San Francisco! 4000 miles across the USA to the Pacific! San Francisco Skyline from the top of the Coit Tower. Aren't you a little short to be a Stormtrooper? A windy boat trip around San Franciso Bay - Alcatraz Island Mirror Lake, Yosemite National Park TIOGA PASS leaving Yosemite National Park, California. almost 10,000 ft above sea level. Death Valley - Badwater Basin - 282ft below sea level. Vegas at Night... Las Vegas - or is it New York??? Get your Kicks on Route 66!!! at Seligman, Arizona. Crossing Miles and Miles of the Mojave Desert.... London Bridge across the Colorado River at Lake Havasu City. The Pacific! Venice Beach LA - 5 weeks and 4500 miles after leaving the East Coast and the Atlantic Ocean in Maine. Life is like a box of chocolates... at Santa Monica Pier - Bubba Gump Shrimp restaurant. HOLLYWOOD!!!! Hollywood Boulevard walk of fame... Hollywood Hall of Fame - George Clooney's hands and feet!