Can I tell you a secret? I’ve been to Seattle a few times since I’ve lived in Vancouver and I’ve never really understood what all the fuss is about. It’s great for shopping, and I’m all about dinner at the Cheesecake Factory, but other than that it’s just a slightly uglier version of Vancouver, right? Well, yes and no. After talking to some friends who are significantly more enamoured with the city than me, I started to wonder whether I had it all wrong. I still don’t think Seattle will be winning any ‘most beautiful city’ awards, but now I’ve realized that’s not the point. It’s not supposed to be as pretty as Vancouver, because it’s not Vancouver. It’s the birthplace of grunge, a pioneer in performing arts, home to over 3,500 restaurants, and a mecca for craft beer and coffee. In other words, its hipster central. Although this made sense to me, I was confused as to how I hadn’t experienced any of this in my trips to downtown Seattle. The answer seemed to be to look outside of the tourist district, so the man and I headed down for a dog-free long weekend in search of the ‘real’ Seattle.
Even though we were pretty much boycotting Downtown when it came to exploring, we ended up staying at the Westin because it was central, had a pool (number 1 on the wish list for our dog-free weekend!) and we got a great deal on Priceline. When we checked in on Friday afternoon we were upgraded to the 42nd floor with great views of the city. We headed out pretty much straight away for stop number 1 on the hipster tour: Ballard.
Ballard is a neighbourhood in north west Seattle which seems to be the equivalent to East Vancouver, in that its home to a TON of microbreweries and tap rooms. James was in charge of picking the route, and he chose three breweries which were within a few blocks of each other. We jumped in a cab (about $20) so we could both partake in some tasting, and enjoyed samples at Stoup Brewing, Reuben’s Brews and Populuxe Brewing. All of the breweries were small, basic and packed full of after-work drinkers. Stoup and Reuben’s were in large warehouse-type buildings with garage doors which were open in the warm weather. Populuxe was in a converted house, with a bar in what would be the living room and picnic tables in the garden. None of the breweries sold food, which mean that they were all pet-friendly and full of dogs. And I mean real dogs, not Yaletown dogs. They all had delicious looking food trucks parked outside which were very popular.
The best thing about the breweries was how laid back they were compared to Vancouver. There was no need to worry about finding a seat or waiting outside, drinking whilst standing was encouraged and made for a much more enjoyable atmosphere. James preferred Stoup and Populuxe to Reuben’s (the beers there were very, very strong), and when pushed said that Stoup was his favourite. After our evening of sampling we jumped in a cab back down to Capitol Hill and had a burger (and another flight of beer) at Six Arms, followed by dessert from (of course) Cheesecake Factory.
2014 was the year I finally saw some of BC, and then left BC and saw some of Alberta. I also saw a lot of other places too, some familiar and some new. I was a self employed contractor for the whole of 2014 which meant I could take as much time off as would fit around work, and I made the most of that flexibility. I did a LOT of things in 2014 (start a couple of new contracts, pass the Certified Human Resources Professional exam, invest in some personal development courses), but my travels have definitely been the highlight. Below is a snapshot of the 15+ cities I visited over the past 12 months.
My first trip of the year was just a day in Whistler at the end of January, but was still a little bit of a big deal. I hadn’t been on the Whistler slopes since a few hours’ skiing in April 2011, and I hadn’t ever snowboarded before. Even though Whistler is so close to Vancouver that it’s practically considered a ‘local mountain’, snowboarding there was still something to check off the bucket list.
February arrived, as did my parents. They came to visit for 10 days, the last of which I spent with them in Seattle (technically we’re into March now). I’d been to Seattle a couple of times before and never really loved the place, but this time I took a short ferry trip to sunny Bainbridge Island. It reminded me of Bowen Island and Gibsons, very small and laid back with some fun little shops and great ice cream. That trip made me want to give Seattle another shot. Hopefully I’ll get my chance this year.
As I finally open wordpress and go to write this post, I see that my last post was published on February 13th. Have I really not written anything in that long? Sorry all, it’s been a hectic couple of months, and the list of posts I have to write is growing by the day. Like most people who work in an office, I often find that when I come home from work the last thing I want to do is get back on the computer. So I go out and do fun things, which I then need to write about, but don’t want to. Thus, the circle continues. It’s hard to do anything creative when you’re not in the mood, but today the sun is shining, I have a spare hour and I remembered that I actually really like writing! So here’s what you missed since February 13th…
My parents came to visit!
At about the time of my last post, I was floating through my days thinking of nothing but seeing my parents come through arrivals at YVR on February 27th. I’m sure I annoyed everyone I spoke to, as most of my sentences started with ‘when my parents are here…’ This year I had someone to wait at the airport with, and my brother and I got there early and made a sign, as is our tradition. I hadn’t seen them since I went home for Christmas 14 months earlier, and this was the longest I’d ever been without seeing them. They stayed for 10 days and I was able to take a fair few days off work to spend time with them. It was their second trip to Vancouver to see me, but the first time they were here to see my brother. This meant we did some of the things that we did the last time they came (Granville Island, walks along the seawall) but also lots of new things too, like driving up to Squamish for lunch, hiking at Lighthouse Park, watching a Canucks game (we lost, obvs) and most exciting of all, skiing! My amazing and very talented ski/snowboard instructor friend gave the entire family ski lessons at Grouse Mountain, which I really enjoyed as I could finally show everyone my winter playground!
When the 10 days were up, I went down to Seattle with my parents for a couple of days, and then they flew from there down to sunny California to finish off their North American adventure. As last time, it was really sad to see them leave, but was helped by knowing I’ll be going back to see them again at some point this year. I just found a great cheap flight with Virgin Atlantic (yes!) for the first week of October, so will hopefully be booking that in the next couple of weeks!