A Travellerspoint blog

Seattle/Tacoma and Vancouver

Part two! It was a 10 day trip so there are a lot of pictures.

After my girls left, I got to meet up with a friend, Jochen, that I know from Germany. What a small world to have a German friend that I met in a tiny town in the Eifel who now lives in Tacoma. So weird. He picked me up from Seattle and toured me around his new "hometown" of Tacoma. It is so beautiful with a nice bay and houses built into the hillside. We were even lucky enough to see a seal swimming in the bay. Can you see him in the picture?


If not, they have a little caricature of him on the bench.


Here is Jochen and I trying to take a picture on the timer when I realize it is taking 3 pics.


He showed me some cool houses in his neighborhood and led me on a little hike through their municipal park. It was really gorgeous with beautiful views.


We were back in Seattle in time to see Quinn after work. Jochen brought him a surprise all the way from Wisconsin. These Spotted Cows made 4 flights from Wisconsin to Seattle for all of us to enjoy. Prost!!! Thanks Jochen. What a thoughtful friend to bring Quinn a little taste from home!


Jochen was also apparently reading Quinn a bedtime story or something! See you again in Germany Jochen.

The next day I was on my own and I went to the Chihuly exhibit down by the Space Needle. Dale Chihuly is a famous glass blower who has done some massive exhibits in Israel, Venice, Scandinavia, and even one at the desert botanical gardens in Phoenix, Arizona. This a permanent installation and garden and is absolutely stunning. I really could not capture the scale, colors or drama of it all. To give you some idea, most all of these exhibits are at least as tall as me and taller.


Not sure if I have shared this on the blog before, but many of you already know that Quinn is working on his master's degree in Transportation Engineering at the University of Washington-Seattle. So this trip also served the purpose of connecting with some of his professors and classmates that he has only been able to "meet" online. That was very cool for him. We also got to tour around the campus and Quinn got his student ID card, AKA "Husky Card." He was pretty stoked.


We did a little collegiate photo shoot. Why not?!


It truly is a gorgeous campus. Now we know where all of our tuition money is going.....landscaping!! Just kidding.

The next day we packed up and drove up to Vancouver to visit some friends of ours that we know from Arizona, Erin and Stephen. They relocated to Vancouver and we haven't seen them in 7 years! Now they are a family of 4 with two year old Ellis and 2 month old Finn.


Erin was so cute to make little activity lists for us. And when I say little, I mean tiny!!


It was really fun to catch up with them, meet their kiddos and see their new digs. Vancouver is such a sleek, clean, modern city that really takes advantage of its waterfront and bays. I hate to say it, but Seattle should be looking to their neighbors in the north for some inspiration. I don't mean to sound harsh but Seattle does not take advantage of its waterfront as it could and the park systems along the water in Vancouver are really great. We also got to check out Stanley park which is Vancouver's "central park."


They live right in the center of Vancouver so we walked along the water to Granville Island to check out the art scene, fancy food market and operating cement mill. Interesting mix of industrial and commercial but it works! I really enjoyed this area.


They also have a brewery. Don't mind if I do try a sampler flight. We also had the traditional Canadian dish of French fries with gravy and cheese aka "poutine."


We also went on a little hike in Lynn Canyon. The old growth redwoods are so amazing and I just loved seeing everything coming alive for spring.


Yet another sushi fix. Erin and Stephen even got a babysitter so we all could have a little evening on the town. There are soooooo many Japanese restaurants in Vancouver. This one was delicious.


We also were treated to a swanky breakfast place that had a new take on just about everything they served, including the Bloody Mary.


It was so fun to see old friends and get to experience a piece of their life adventure. Thank you for hosting us Erin and Stephen and hopefully it won't be another 7 before we meet again!

Posted by trackers 10:14 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Seattle and Catching up

It has been a while since I have written anything. So here is a little catch up. Over the last two months here are some of the events we have been up to:

2 birthday parties
2 wine tastings (one French, one German)
2 hockey games
1 live production of Rocky Horror Show
1 half marathon (Quinn) (first one since broken leg)
half a dozen hikes with the dog

We have been waiting and waiting for Spring and some sunshine and we finally got a little bit but we were really hoping for some more so we went to Seattle. Just kidding, we went to Seattle for a work thing for Quinn. You know you live in an overcast cold place when you go to Seattle for sunshine....didn't I say that about London too? I never thought I would live in such a climate being that I grew up in Florida and Arizona, yet here I am. I own more winter coats than bathing suits at this point.

When Quinn told me that he was going to Seattle for a work trip I decided to tag along and convince two of my best buds to meet us there. Andrea and Sarah obliged and we had a blast.

Andrea arrived! Reunions:


We stayed in a very funky airbnb with an assortment of decorations

View from our living room window


The three of us headed out to get our sushi fix. This place had a very authentic feel, including AMAZING service.


Cruising around Volunteer park and enjoying the spring blossoms. I wish I knew the name of these purples flowers....anyone know?


View from the water tower


Swanky neighborhood around the park


Afternoon cocktail in the sun followed up by gourmet ice cream. Is this a pacific northwest thing or is hipster ice cream sweeping across America? They had flavors such as Earl Grey tea, Balsamic Strawberry, Honey Lavender. It was so rich, I could hardly eat dinner, but it was delicious.


We love graffitti


Then Sarah arrived....More reunions


Sarah's reaction to viewing our unique apartment


Quinn teasing us about being on our phones....We were planning our attack for the evening, okay?


Unfortunately, the next day Quinn had to attend to his work commitments so he missed out on some of the fun. We had a great girls weekend. We mostly just walked around the city, ate food, drank Starbucks, and enjoyed catching up. These two girls haven't seen each other in 10 years!



Tourist stuff, Pike's market and the Ferris wheel.


Famous skyline


We miss you Quinn.


He's back afterwork.


Group shot


Being silly, night on the town, and Andrea and Quinn get a crazy sweet tooth and buy half a dozen cupcakes.


Negotiating over choices and yelling at me for documenting this event.


Luckily the next morning, there was one cupcake left and I got to try it......I can see why they were so excited.

This is the premier swanky Starbucks reserve that we met at every morning. I don't get it.


Here are some pics near Pioneer Square which is an area they they appear to be trying to revitalize with art shops and renovations of historic buildings. One square block of it is very nice and has a neat urban vibe but unfortunately the economy around it is quite depressed and there were many homeless gathered around the outskirts of the area. It was really sad to see so many people in need.


It is tough to say bye to friends. I wish we lived closer to both of these ladies. THANK YOU both so much for meeting up with us. It really means a lot. (Sarah insisted that we see this disgusting gum wall so I am putting this as a tribute to her!)


Posted by trackers 11:03 Comments (0)

Santiago de Compostela

For Valentine’s day weekend we caught a little Ryanair flight to Santiago de Compostela. This is a city in the most northwestern area of Spain. It is known for being rainier and colder than the rest of Spain but it is also much greener. The coast along this area is known as the “coast of death” because it is very rocky and contains many peninsulas and bays. Many sailors lost their lives when their boats crashed into the rocky outcroppings. All of this greenery and rugged coastline make for some gorgeous scenery. We took 400 pictures in 3 ½ days (with little sun). That is too many to share on here but just believe us when we say that we really thought it was gorgeous. It wasn't a bright sun shiny trip and there was a tinsy bit of rain and mist but it was still a really great time.

I really love Spain because it gives me a chance to practice my Spanish, the people are welcoming and patient with my rusty Spanish and the food and scenery are incredible.

The Spanish schedule is so different than what I am used to. We got to our hotel at about 9:00 at night, leaving us more than enough time to unpack and still get dinner in Spain. Many of the restaurants don’t even open until 9:00. We had our pick of tables and the Spanish people started rolling in around 10:00. This area is known for their seafood and also the Gaelic influence. So we had fish with potatoes. It is such an interesting mixture to have a Gaelic influence in Spain. There are boiled potatos with most meals, often coming as Tapas, and it is common to come across buskers with bagpipes on old Spanish streets.

On Saturday morning we cruised around Santiago de Compostela to hit up the farmer’s market. We had fresh squeezed orange juice for only 50 cents a cup. Yum yum. Then we had some wonderful empanadas for breakfast. The price of fresh fruits and vegetables is so much lower in this area as compared to Germany. It took a bit of effort to initially find the market, but following the stream of people with blue bags worked well.


Fresh milk vending machine


They are famous for their almond cake. Yum! I wished I was driving instead of flying on this trip because I would have filled up the whole car with various goodies. This summer we are planning to road trip through Spain and plan to make up for it.


All the dogs were stylish.


The architecture and buildings in this area are very ornate. Here are some pictures to give you a taste of the style.


We were excited to see the crown jewel of this area, the church of Santiago de Compostela. This is considered the third most holy site for Catholics in the world and every year thousands of people do a pilgrimage starting in France or eastern Spain. There are multiple routes for the pilgrimage and many take about a month. Unfortunately, the church was covered in scaffolding on the outside due to renovations. If I walked for a month and showed up at a church to see it was covered in scaffolding I would not be a happy camper (uh…pilgrimager). The inside of the church was quite amazing and included an organ covered in cherubs, a huge incense burner that swings over the entire crowd and is held up by some serious scaffolding and a statue of Saint James that people could embrace.


Quinn and I walked through the area where people embrace the statue and we did not embrace him but looked up at the ceiling and carvings all around. There was a priest sitting there and he actually signed and sucked his teeth when we did not give a money offering after walking through. Wow! Good thing I didn’t hug the statue….I don’t know what he would have done.

We stopped at a little famous café/restaurant called Abastos 2.0. They get all of their ingredients from the local market and are known for making delicious pulpo (octopus). This region is famous for octopus so we had to give it a try. It was such an amazing texture, something between crab and chicken and the outside was crispy. That is because they boil it and then bake it.
I was so impressed. I could have eaten 10 pounds of it. I didn't think anyone could make octopus better than the Japanese chefs, but tada! This Spanish restaurant has done it!

Since it was a little cold and rainy on Saturday we decided to go to Ourense, which is a hot springs town about an hour from Santiago. I was really excited about this expedition because one of the places modeled themselves after a Japanese Onsen. It had multiple different pools and some were outside with a view of the mountains. It was only 5 euro to enjoy all of the pools for two hours. We weren't allowed to take pictures so I took this picture from a google search.


There were also free springs right along the river that anyone can enjoy. The river was so high during our visit that it overwhelmed the springs and there was not any hot water. So the only option for our stay was the Japanese spa which was fine by me. It is kind of an odd experience to be homesick for a foreign country!

We treated ourselves to a special Japanese/Tapas dinner at a restaurant known for its unique treats and also its price. Spain in general is quite inexpensive in comparison with Germany and its more northern neighbors but this place was an exception. To be completely honest, I think the cheaper meals we ate were just as delicious. Although, there was one dish that tasted exactly like Poke from Food City in Hawaii, so I did enjoy that dish a ton.

On Sunday, we drove down the coast to Cambados. There we enjoyed another Tapas lunch. It was a choice of two menu items plus dessert for only 10 euros. I had langostines and STINGRAY and Quinn had another round of pulpo (octopus) and razor clams. As you can see, we were really embracing the seafood. Dessert was ice cream and peaches.


Pics around the town


Building for sale. Anyone interested?


Quinn claims this guy stole his pen.


This town turned out to be a super cute old fishing village.


There was a little port and an island connected by a little footbridge.


Apparently they also dig for cockles in this area. Quinn and I never found out what a cockle was….okay, I just googled it and it is a type of clam. No one was looking for clams while we were there but at some point, in this area, people look for clams.

Another cute dog.


And another....I can't help it. The Spanish dress their dogs up so cute!


Neat mixture of materials. These sea towns often have such great architecture, but with a little grit to it.


I love the windswept look of this tree.


The longest stretch of beach in the area. It is 7 kilometers long. It was windy. I am sure this is packed in the summer because there was an enormous parking lot and I hear the surfing is good. This area really did not have any tourists but I assume it is bustling in the summer.


Afterward, we drove to Parque Natural de Carreiron. This was the highlight of the trip for me. It is a little island off the coast that is connected by a bridge. Half of the island is a national park and there is a little path that traverses it. Every turn is another bay with another amazing view and along the path are pine trees and forest. It was incredible. I don’t think the pictures do it justice. We were the only ones there that day but I suspect in the summer, this area is hopping.


Random bridge on the way home. If you look careful you can see Quinn standing on it.


This region of Spain still gives free Tapas with a glass of wine. So technically, one could just go around to different bars at dinner time, order a glass of wine at each one, and eventually you would be full or drunk or both. A glass of wine is less than 2 dollars so this could be very economical or dangerous or both. We went to a famous little Tapas bar called Casa Pepe. The two regional wines are Albarino and Ribeira. Both of these were white wines and the grapes originated in Germany but the climate in Spain obviously produces a much different wine than it would in Germany.

We had a flight to catch at 8:00 on Monday night which left us with a good chunk of the day to see some more of the area. We didn’t really have anything planned so we started the day at a busy little café that we noticed was frequented mainly by older locals. Older locals on a budget always find the deals, this is good to know when trying to find reasonable prices. Quinn ordered the special which was coffee, chocolate, and churros. We were interested to see what the chocolate part of this meant. Turned out that it was a mug full of melted chocolate, kind of like pudding. You use that to dip your churros while enjoying your coffee. Quinn was in heaven! This is his kind of breakfast. (note from Quinn: Eat your heart out Ian)


Our last meal of the trip was a lunch before we went off on our adventure for the day. We were just thinking of getting a little more pulpo at Abastos 2.0 before we left but the cafe part was closed and only the restaurant was open. Once we were seated we were informed that they only did a course menu for lunch and it was an all or nothing deal. So we signed up for a 35 euro a person lunch. Some of it was scary, most of it was delicious, and there was even a little intrigue. The first dish was an orange, pumpkin and carrot soup, followed by a clam (possibly cockles?) thing in a gin foam...yes, gin foam. Next up was a squid ink blob with noodles (scary but delicious) and then mushrooms. The server actually congratulated me on being brave when I ate the squid ink blob. I guess I didn't hide my look of terror well. Then the main course of fish followed by another main course of beef cheek. They finished it off with some apples that had been vacuum sealed with citrus and a cake with banana cream accompanied by smoked cheese ice cream. I never imagined such a thing as smoked cheese ice cream but it is incredible. I would order it again in a heartbeat. All of this fabulous food for 35 euro!


Then we picked a random spot on the map and started driving. We saw some nice countryside with rolling hills, coastline, and horreros. These are old style grain storage facilities. They are definitely iconic for the area. I read on wiki that people pay big money to have these old structures on their property and that it is big business to restore old ones.


Posted by trackers 11:43 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Cocktails and Beers

Got a little behind in January and February so here are the events from that month.

We had a little going away party for our friend Casey, who is moving to Alaska. Since we were seemingly always going to cocktail bars with him when we traveled together, I thought it was fitting to have a surprise going away cocktail party. Each person brought along the ingredients to make one cocktail and then demonstrated how to make it for the group. At first, people were hesitant but then it became quite the show. There were elaborate stories, painstakingly made ingredients, and even fire! It was a great time. We will miss Casey and wish him all the best in Alaska!


Here is Quinn dressed up in his Uncle Lonnie's coat that he found in Grandma Doris' attic. Doesn't he look spiffy?
(note from Quinn: Lonnie, I really love this jacket. Thanks again, and I'll be sure it gets good use. Sue, please show Lonnie his jacket.)


Here is the cocktail list where everyone signed up.


Did I mention that I cooked spaghetti, salad, and garlic bread for all 30 people that came? That was quite the feat and definitely the most intensive party maneauver I have ever pulled off.


The guest of honor contemplating a party concoction, and then insisting Kristen tries it first.


The mixologists.

People having fun.


One hungry guest.


Attempt at a group shot but we didn't really all fit.


Bar after the party. I think we inherited some more bottles.


Also, wanted to thank everyone for their Christmas and New Year's cards. They look so nice on our wall. If you have not received one yet, Quinn got through about half of his list and then got side tracked. I am still working on him to get them out!


The next weekend we went with a great group of people to a beer fest in Brugges. Not many pictures of the fest because it was quite crowded and we were concentrating on scoping out and tasting all the beers. It was a great time. A little bit about Belgian beers for those who might want more information. These beers are typically anywhere from 8-12% alcohol. This means that they knock you on your butt a little faster than a Miller! The Belgians also like to experiment with their beer so there are fruit beers like raspberry, coconut and mango and there are also dark beers, hoppy beers, and everything in between. There were over 75 vendors with more than 300 beers to choose from. Quinn really loves Belgian beer so we were happy to taste quite a few. We definitely feel like we are missing out on the craft beer revolution in America. We enjoyed checking them all out this past fall.


We were also able to meet up with our friends Pieter and Liesbeth who live in Ghent and see their baby Isolde. The last time we saw her she was just a little infant and now she is growing up so quickly. Quinn got a couple of cute action shots of them.


The morning we left, the sun was shining so here are some obligatory photos of Brugges. It is a very scenic little city but also quite touristy.
(note from Quinn: we often throw in the bit about the tourists because our friends Pieter and Liesbeth previously pictured live in Gent, and there is a bit of bad blood between the two cities, specifically from Pieter.)


Posted by trackers 04:01 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Cruising in Switzerland

We went on a group ski trip with some really fun friends of ours in Switzerland this past weekend. We rented a chalet in Interlaken which is really the best way to see Switzerland. It is so much fun to have a group get together and a place to party and cook and it saves money to stay all in one place and not eat out every night. Here was our home away from home.


We drove to Switzerland (5 1/2 hours away) in gender seperated vehicles. This meant introspective conversations with healthy snacks in one car and beef jerkey and testosterone fuelled conversation in the other. It was a fun trip down to say the least. On the first day 5 of the 8 went downhill skiing and 3 of us (Erin, Cole, and I) hiked around the town of Grindewald. It was snowing the whole day which made for beautiful pictures and a really great winter atmosphere but did not allow for much viewing of the surrounding mountains. Here are some pics from our day of walking around the town.


Where we decided to stop hiking....it was a little too steep.


We heard later from the skiers that visibilty was really poor for skiing but that they all really had a great time. Here are some pics from their day.


The next day, we all strapped on our snow shoes and cruised around the top of the mountains. We took a ski lift (gondola thing) for nearly 20 minutes to the top. I have never been on a ski lift for so long.


We hiked for about 4 hours and meandered through some little towns, saw some paragliders, and frolicked in the snow. The sky cleared today and we had a big round globe of a sun shining down on us all day long. It was simply awesome.


Falling down in the snow.


Here are some shots our friends took.


Group shot.


More frolicking in the snow.


No one wanted to get in my picture!


Then Tom came to save the day.

Each night and morning a different couple cooked and we were treated to delicious meals, entertainment, and of course, group games. It turns out that charades and guessing games can get quite intense. It was such a beautiful trip with fun people.


Posted by trackers 07:08 Archived in Switzerland Comments (0)

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