We flew out of Anchorage to Seattle at 9am on a very tight schedule. On arrival we only had a one hour window to make the ferry to Victoria, British Columbia (Canada). If we missed that boat, all our pre-booked excursions would have been thrown into disarray. We never normally pre-book excursions for this very reason.
Of course, the flight from Anchorage was delayed by 20 minutes as it arrived late. Great! But we made up the time during the flight due to a tailwind. We arrived at Seattle right on time and to our surprise found that our bags were on the carousel waiting for us. Great! We jumped in a cab and headed downtown. It was 2.30pm and there was a lot of traffic on the road, but with some deft driving and weaving we were dropped at the ferry terminal at 3.10pm. We had just enough time to check in, drop our bags and step aboard before the ferry pulled away at 3.30. Phew!
The three hour ferry journey was smooth and uneventful. Even though a killer whale pod had been seen in Puget Sound earlier that day, we saw nothing.
The view of Victoria inner harbour that greeted us on arrival was magnificent. Despite being situated on Vancouver Island, away from the mainland, Victoria is the capital of British Columbia, and as such has been graced with some magnificent public buildings. The parliament building is a magnificent British Imperial edifice in grey granite, which is counterpointed by the magnificent The Empress Hotel at the head of the harbour.
After taking a few too many photographs and uttering a few too many superlatives, we headed up the mall to our hotel, which was conveniently situated only two blocks from the harbour, right in the heart of downtown.
Downtown Victoria features quite a few excellent 'British' styled bars, but they were very different from the British pubs in Australia - or Britain for that matter. They were definitely a colonial adaptation of a British bar, featuring large, elaborate bars and fine furnishing. We visited all the downtown bars during the course of our stay.
On our second day we took the public bus out to Burchart Gardens, one of the highlight tourist attractions of Victoria. The Burchart's were a well to do family in the 1920s. Their home however bordered on a quarry and mill that was the source of the families wealth. Under Mrs Burchart's guidance, the quarry was landscaped over and, over decades, a stunning garden was created. The garden has since been opened to the public and draws hundreds of thousands to tourists annually.
After several hours admiring the gardens we set off back to the city and enjoyed high tea at The Empress Fairmont Hotel, the marvellous Victorian era hotel that dominates the harbour front. Tours through the hotel are also on offer but we weren't able to attend.
After two relaxing days in Victoria we jumped on the ferry back to Seattle. Again we were running against the clock. The moment we arrived in Seattle we had to race to our hotel, the Kings Inn on Fifth Avenue, drop off our bags and then run to the meeting point for the Savour Seattle bar tour. We made it just in time. There was only one other couple on the tour, Andrew and Carla from Townsville, Queensland. The tour took us to a number of restaurants and bars - Low's Vietnamese restaurant and bar, El Barocha Mexican taqueria, and the Ballard Underground burlesque bar where we drank absinthe and .... some other places. I'm a little vague on the other places as Andrew, Carla, Shelly and I continued our own little bar crawl after the tour and the end of the evening is quite a blur. I know we made it to Capital Hill - where exactly, hey? But we all had a great time!
Shelly and I weren't so fresh next morning but struggled out for the Seattle Markets tour. It was an interesting tour but not quite as much fun as the bar tour.
After the tour we ate some chowder, wandered the streets, did some shopping and bought some Mexican artefacts (as you do). That night we went to for a few drinks and finished up at a jazz club.
The next day we treated ourselves to a lie in before heading out to the Aeronautical Museum at the old Boeing factory. It was a pretty good collection, on par with the Smithsonian in Washington.
We rushed back to the city to watch Australia lose to Chile in the World Cup.
We visited the Waterfront, the Space Needle and rode the monorail (I love monorails!).
That evening we did a bar crawl through Belltown, which was good fun.
The following day we picked up our hire car from Alamo at the SeaTac airport (the international airport midway between Seattle and Tacoma). As we were close to Tacoma we decided to visit the Lemay Auto Museum. The museum was extremely busy as it was hosting an exhibit for the 50th anniversary of the Ford Mustang so parking was a challenge. Strangely, although Americans are generally very friendly and courteous, when it comes to parking, there are a lot of very inconsiderate people. People would walk out to their cars, see the queues of people waiting for a space, then sit in their cars, do their hair, make a phone call, eat their lunch, take a dump. We experienced this almost everywhere where car parking was congested.
Nevertheless, we did manage to grab a parking space after some 15 minutes of driving around. The collection is extensive and focused - as you'd expect - on American cars. It has some interesting vehicles, such as a 1948 Tucker and - my favourite - a 1937 Cord. The collection however, isn't presented in any order. I think it would be better if the cars were in date order or grouped by a theme.
But enough of that, it was time to hit the road.