All right, the last two days in Portland I can just pump out quickly because Robyn and I had both been to Portland before, so we didn’t have to do anything too touristy. I remember it being CRAZY HOT at the time like upper 90s. Which feels awful in Portland. Now that it’s 2017, I believe both Portland and Seattle have gotten even hotter this summer.
Anyway, on Tuesday, May 31, Robyn and I did a little jaunt about town of all the things we liked to eat. It says on my Google Calendar that I went to the gym but I have very little memory of this. We hit up Stumptown and Blue Star Donuts (though my current favorite donut place is actually Dough in Manhattan). I got an acai bowl at some random yuppie looking place because it was so hot and I needed some semblance of a fruit in my body. We then killed quite a lot of time just roaming around Powell’s before heading out to eat again. We hung out at the Portland Test Garden which was my pick (there were flowers in bloom but it was a bit too hot and with the direct sunlight, photos weren’t as great) and then hung out in a very divey bar until it was late enough to drive over to Connie’s where we spent the night. I also ended up buying Nike shoes at FULL PRICE at the Nike store. They are pretty, but I think they might actually be too small because my toes hurt if I go on the elliptical. Too late to return now.
Connie and Tyler were very nice hosts and did a backyard BBQ for us. We were served gluten free hot dog buns which were disgusting. To make it worse, they had been previously frozen LOL I only say this because Connie admitted herself how gross the buns were. Robyn then had an early morning flight and left SUPPPPEEERRR early the next day to go back to work. I got to spend the day in Portland with Connie and flew out to socal that night.
So Wednesday kicked off with brunch and Salt & Straw in the morning then a cider place before my flight out. The cider place was right next to a pizza place called Sizzle Pie which we were able to eat at the cider place! I remember getting really red faced because the cider I chose was pretty high in alcohol content. And that’s the end of my Oregon trip! I flew out … went home … relaxed … and then a year and 3 months later, here I am!
Total Miles Traveled: 750mi one way
Miles by the Day: (437mi, 177mi, 145mi)
I woke up early on the third day and did a solo walk around the area of Newport. The hotel we were staying at was right along the beach, so it was nice to venture out. There was an RV area, where tons of trailers were parked and people could just do RV beach camping. There was a lighthouse you could walk up to. I just remember listening to podcasts before turning back to the hotel. I vaguely remember making a ton of waffles at the hotel and taking them back to our luxurious room to eat on our balcony.
At this point, Robyn decided to take her shoes and bang the sand out of it … and with the sand went her expensive orthodic. It fell down our balcony and into some vegetation growing along the cliffs of the beach. Cue massive cursing and anguish. There was a lot of drama involving a very unhelpful front desk person, but luckily, a very calm worker got a pool net and was able to wrangle the orthodic from the bushes. Eventful morning!
We headed to the Yaquina Lighthouse – I thinkkkk around there were tidepools that we explored, though I can’t exactly remember if this was the same stop or if they were a little separate from one another. In any case, we weren’t able to enter the Yaquina Lighthouse, but it looked pretty cool because it sat on a cliff. The tidepools were REALLY cool and I could’ve spent forever there. We saw starfish and tons of urchin and sea anemones which would curl up if you poked at them.
Then we set off for the Three Capes tour. There’s Cape Kiwanda, Cape Lookout and Cape Meares. I still don’t know what the definition of a Cape is. I also don’t really remember which cape is which as I look at my pictures…
Ok after some yelping and googling, I’ve figured out. This is Cape Kiwanda, recognizable from the giant rock. Cape Kiwanda seemed like it had a lot more people, I think because it’s more beach-y whereas the other two capes are farther and more hiking. There’s also way more hotels right by Cape Kiwanda, some of which looked like some pretty awesome luxurious stays. Most notably there was a restaurant called Pelican Pub & Brewery that was right at the beach and a TON of people were waiting for seats. I can’t remember if we ended up eating here or not, but I have a feeling that we didn’t. The cool part of Cape Kiwanda was that there were a ton of cars just parked along the beach, and then closer to the giant rock, people would climb up this giant sand dunes hill and then sled down.
The whole Cape Tour was only about two hours from Newport, and the three capes are within 45 minutes of one another. Next up was Cape Lookout, which was probably the least interesting of the three. We basically just stopped along the road and took a picture from above (which I didn’t really love so here’s another one from Instagram).
Last up was Cape Meares, which was maybe my favorite, but mainly because there’s more hiking involved. You can walk to see the lighthouse, along the way, you get a great view of Cape Meares which is a lot more stunning in person, and then another attraction is the Octopus Tree which is a weird tree with tons of trunks that was probably forced into this shape by indigenous people.
With our outdoor part of our trip over, now starts the food tour! We made it to Tillamook Cheese Factory, which was about a 30 minute drive away. It’s a huge factory with the highlights being the ice cream shop and cheese samples. There is a cafeteria with surprisingly horrible food. Like, we got mac and cheese and pasta and it was some of the worst stuff I’ve ever eaten. It was so bad I thought I’d never order mac and cheese again. The cheese samples were good though (my fave was eating the cheese curds because you could really hear the squeak!). And ice cream was fun, but I didn’t really like it. The scoops were way too huge, and there was very little time for you to choose what scoops to get (and no samples, I think). A ton of people were funneling in and out of the factory though, looking back, it is kind of amazing how many visitors they get at this cheese factory.
Then we headed into Portland, where we had a night stay at a Kimpton. The following night, we’d be staying at Connie’s house, which was nice to be able to stay with a friend for a night. Tonight was date night though! We had reservations at Little Bird Bistro, which I think is a sister restaurant to Le Pigeon, which is possibly the BEST expensive restaurant I’ve ever had in my life (I went with Kathy years ago and the way they cooked salmon blew me away). After this dinner, we walked around our hotel area which included hanging out at Bailey’s Taproom. What I love about Portland is that they have the cutest little beer glasses, smaller than a pint, which is PERFECT for me. I wish everywhere had this.
I really liked our room, though I do remember paying a bit for parking. It was a pretty central location, importantly walking distance to Blue Star Donuts!
Onward! The second day of the drive had a TON of stuff! We left our place in Gold Beach fairly early in the morning and our first stop was Prehistoric Gardens which was a VERY COOL roadside attraction involving DINOSAURS!!! There are about 20+ lifesize dinosaurs put in a very lush, green park. Park might be an exaggeration actually, because it probably isn’t that large but the way the pathway curves in and out through the landscaping gives you the impression that it’s much larger than it actually is. The gardens are pretty well kept, and you walk along a wooden footbridge, and you get a map that marks the location of each dinosaur (though they’re kind of hard to miss). This is like an instagram bonanaza! This has to be my favorite roadside stop of all time as it combines two of my favorite things, greenery and dinosaurs!!! It is $12 per person, but well worth the price haha
We set off for Bandon, which was another hour’s drive. At some point, we stopped to get coffee at a fairly cute little random town (Port Orford). We ended up exploring this impromptu stop and found a really cool beachside park that had tidepools!!!
After that, we arrived at Bandon about an hour later. There’s a few more shops here, and we did quite a bit of shopping at a large store called Cranberry Sweets, which had a huge selection of popcorn and tons of samples. Great gift stop! Bandon is a pretty cute, small town to look through, and another big store here is the Face Rock Creamery where we took quite a few samples of cheese and briefly debated getting an ice cream cone until we saw the size of it and decided it was a bit too early for that amount of sugar.
Another half hour drive later, we made a lunch stop in Coos Bay, at a restaurant called 7 Devils Brewing Co. I liked it for the outdoor seating, and it was perfect weather that day – sunny but not too hot and not too windy. Our next stop was the Oregon Sand Dunes which is basically a huge recreational area. I think there were a few hike options, and people sometimes go ATV’ing, but there was tons more to do the rest of the day, so we just went to the dunes briefly. We probably should have planned to bring something to slide down the hill, like a plastic sled or something. We used a pizza box to zero success. Oh well! Compared to White Sands, this was not as beautiful, but still a fun, quick stop with good panoramic camera potential.
Onward to Yachats, the major stop being Cape Perpetua, which has Thor’s Well, a major photographer’s destination. There are way cooler videos online than the one I took, but Thor’s Well is a natural sinkhole on the beach that creates a really cool water suction effect during high tide. We conveniently arrived in time for sunset, and there were tons of photographers lined up and setting up their shots. Since it’s westward facing, you probably have to have better equipment to really get a good picture during sunset.
Cape Perpetua itself has a few hiking options, so we did a few quick trails that took us really high up to views of the coastline. It was kind of late in the day, so the trails were completely empty, but the trailhead and parking lot had the feel of a typically very crowded stop, so it felt a little like a ghost town. We hiked up a significant climb, got a great view, and then headed back down. Then we crossed through a tunnel that took us toward the ocean where Thor’s Well is located.
Then we drove the last leg of our day, a 30 minute drive to Newport, which was a relatively larger town. We ate at a really good Thai place (one of just a few places still open at this hour) and one of my biggest bummers was not turning the car around to take this great picture of the bridge leading into Newport, right when the sun was setting. The image is still floating around my memory, and I guess here’s a picture on Instagram that is a close approximation to it.
Our stay that night was in Elizabeth Inn, which was a REALLY nice place to stay, in that the room felt huge and luxurious. There was a fireplace, a HUGE bed … it honestly felt like a suite! Good on you Newport for having an awesome hotel! There were also cookies when we checked in, and our receptionist was really nice though Robyn said she had “meth mouth.” There was a pretty large dvd selection but we were so tired from the drive, we didn’t end up borrowing any. Our room also had a nice balcony that we got to relax on the following morning. Anyway, great second day to the trip!
So… back over Memorial Day weekend of 2016 (note, today is now August 2017), I had a five day road trip driving up the Oregon Coast with Robyn (and then we flew down to LA for three days, mainly to watch The Little Mermaid at the Hollywood Bowl). It’s long been on my to do list to post a blog entry about this vacation. At this point, I don’t think anyone reads this blog (I say this every time, but there is NO WAY anyone’s reading this right?!), but I’ve found my entries occasionally useful years after I’ve gone on a vacation to rejigger my memory, so I still find them worthwhile to write. And mainly, it’s kind of nice to have the pictures here with more words than an IG caption would have. Actually come to think of it, if Soundcloud has taught me anything, it’s that I shouldn’t trust anything to the cloud/private enterprise and one day WordPress will go out of business and all these hours, probably cumulatively DAYS, will have gone to waste. Hm. Now I’m seriously rethinking this commitment to writing a blog post. Isn’t the next best thing to just do this on a Microsoft Word document and copy and paste my pictures and then print them out? LOL Oh well. I’ve committed already. It’s 10:45am on a Saturday (technically my alarm went off at 6:45am but I was too lazy to go to the gym and other than an extra hour of sleep, I think I spent the rest of my time watching youtube videos of crappy but still very addicting clips of Wynonna Earp) SO I GUESS I CAN FINALLY CHECK THIS OFF MY LIST. I’m giving myself until noon to complete this … GO!
The background for this trip is that I was supposed to go with Kathy, but a few days before, she backed out and I already had hotels booked so I asked Robyn (rather unconvincingly at first, I suppose it’s not very persuasive to tell someone ‘want to go on this vacation with me? my other friend cancelled. but you better tell me soon otherwise I’m just going to invite my mom’). Thankfully she agreed although she was very reluctant at first, as driving from one place to another really conflicts with her preferred vacation style of going to lounging on a beach. She was actually just about to book a solo trip to Maui before I was like “hey how about Hawaii … we DRIVE FOR FIVE DAYS?” Spoiler alert: she ended up LOVING IT despite the fact that I essentially made her drive 85% of the trip.
So we headed out on Saturday May 28th. Of course any time I head north beyond San Francisco, there is my obligatory stop at my favorite restaurant in the Bay Area, SOL FOOD!!! I got a bistec sandwich (I don’t have insanely good memory, there is a picture of it in my archives) and I remember Robyn getting a vanilla latte and it was WAYYY more delicious than I expected it to be. Anyway, onward ho, after our obligatory breakfast stop! Usually I only eat Sol Food after a long hike but having it early morn was a bit odd (restaurant opens at 9 and I definitely dictated our out the door time to coincide with this restaurant’s operations.
DANGGG I have amazing memory!!! My Google Calendar says our next stop was a coffee shop called Steep Coffee. I couldn’t remember the town’s name but after staring at the Google Maps, my first guess was right – Ukiah! (Ok technically I guess it’s Hopland, but Yelp still found the coffee store so I consider that a success). This was a tiny little town that looked like all of its 10 establishments were running along the 101 which at this point, was more like a quiet two lane road. Steep was REALLY cute and had a honey latte drink that was great. Importantly, there was an insanely adorable dog sitting outside.
We walked back to our car and there was a little house that offered medical marijuana licenses, by appt only. Robyn knocked on the door, no answer. As we turned away, the owner of the office walked up the path and was like “oh did you have an appointment?” and we very abashedly rushed off going “no! thanks though! we’ll drop by again if we are ever in the area!”
At this point we were 130 miles from my house (2.5hrs). Onward we went, past the Avenue of the Giants (I think we stopped for a single picture but then continued on). We had stopped at Confusion Hill, in Piercy, which I normally would not have stopped at but I think we both needed to pee. This was your typical kind of very random roadside attraction and it’s classified as an amusement park on yelp. We didn’t enter any of it, and just took pictures of random stuff in the parking lot, which involved a shoe house and a giant totem pole. Along this route, you start getting a lot of roadside attractions involving giant cut down redwood trees that have been painted and carved into huge wooden statues. At this point, we were 250 miles or 4.5hrs away from home.
We arrived in Eureka probably around 2pm, our lunch stop for the day. Eureka seemed to be the largest city to stop in on our first day, though there wasn’t thatttt much to do. It’s near the water, so you can walk along the small pier. There was a small town square, I vaguely remember a few homeless looking people, and the square being pretty quiet, but we did venture into a chocolate store and picked up a few small truffles and a chocolate banana slug as a gift for Connie, who would be hosting us in Portland at the end of our trip.
We ate at a restaurant called Sixth & E which was a decently good burger joint and a very refreshingly cool AC system. I remember there being bar table style seating, which I enjoyed as it allowed me to stretch out my legs after the long drive (which was only halfway through!). Then we stopped by the Carson Mansion, which is a historical building that inspired McScrooge’s mansion in Duck Tales. Pretty cool! I think it’s now like a private club.
We continued on, and the next thing we stopped at was the Trees of Mystery in Klamath, which is about 375mi from home. This is another roadside attraction, way cooler than Confusion Hill. It just has a TON of redwood statues around, the most impressive one being Paul Bunyan and his Blue Ox, Babe! I’ve included one photo of me under Paul Bunyan’s foot to give a better representation of its huge size
The main thing I really wanted to see was Samuel H Boardman State Park, which was another 50 miles away and just a little past the Oregon state border. However, a huge theme throughout this vacation was that I had wayyyy overestimated our ability to drive and explore, so by the time we arrived at a place, we’d already be several hours past schedule. At this stop, the first picture I could take was the sun setting into the ocean. Robyn got a little frustrated because I wouldn’t tell her anything about the places we were headed, so when we’d arrive somewhere, I’d be like “ok and now we’re supposed to do a 2 hour hike! Except … hmm there’s still four hours of driving left … and it’s 4pm … but I don’t know why we’re here if we aren’t going to hike!” I’m pretty terrible.
What I learned about this park is that it’s not really just a park, at least not what I envision as a park. It’s more like there’s several roadside stops along the freeway, and you better be pretty quick with the wheel to make it into the parking lot. Luckily there was barely anyone on the road at this hour and Robyn was driving. There are a few hikes that can take you down to the beach, but since the sun was setting and there was still TONS TO SEE in the park, we had to keep moving! Also, it seemed pretty steep to walk down, and we hadn’t brought hiking shoes. I was a little bummed that we had to be the kind of travelers that just park and take pictures and leave, but we had had a very fulfilling first day, and if we had left any earlier in the day, I wouldn’t have been able to eat Sol Food! In the end, I’m happy with what we did but would definitely do the roadtrip again (with more emphasis on the hiking).
Samuel H Boardman Park was still fun even though we didn’t spend as long as I would’ve liked. There are some crazy cool pictures I’ve seen on IG from down the shore like this one (sorry I have no idea how to embed). We got some great photos of the huge rocks on the beach that are so iconic of the Oregon Coast. I liked how it turned out, and due to the timing of the sunset, I really only have the one picture and not like 50 taken in incremental seconds. We headed on, stopped at the only restaurant that was open in town (a decent pizza place) and took home a box of pizza to eat in our hotel! Motel?
Our stay for the night was in a town called Gold Beach (I forget where, but other towns people stay in are Brookings further south or else Bandon further up). Our place of lodging was called the Inn of the Beachcomber but I have no memory of the room, and the photos on Yelp are pretty atrocious, it seems like a collection of every guest’s past grievances. There was a photo of a hot tub, which reminded me that we had bought pizza and I got the thrill of eating PIZZA in a HOT TUB! A questionably clean hot tub … but oh well … this was PURE LUXURY. A year later I did read an article (OMG I FOUND IT – I’m kind of amazed throughout the writing of this post how relatively it easy it was to google what my memory failed to remember) on Vulture that said “I couldn’t stop thinking about how gross it would be to eat a slice (of pizza) that’s covered in the spray of a hot tub” and when I read that, I thought “is that not a symbol of luxury?”
So that was the first day! I originally thought I’d just put the entire trip into a single blog entry but given how long this one already is … I guess … I should split it up! It’s 12:20! AHHH I was supposed to be done by noon! OF ALL FIVE DAYS! I’ve only done the one day!!!
Oh dear. Now I’m sitting at the Vancouver airport!!! Totally failed to write down my thoughts in Canada as they happened.
On the last day, we woke up on Victoria in the Chateau Victoria. My dad’s knee seems to have essentially blown out during our four hour tour of the Butchart Gardens, so he sat in the hotel room in the morning while my brother slept and my mom and I went out to see Beacon Hill Park around 8am. This was my pick for the walk, and I’m really thrilled that I ended up doing this. I have no interest in parliament buildings or harbors, which seems to be the main attraction in Victoria.
Beacon Hill is essentially their massive city park – when I think of city parks, I usually just think boring fields of grass, and a couple of trees. But this one was REALLY nice. There’s several different walking trails, if you go all the way to the northwest end, there’s even a coastal trail that gives you a view of the water and distant mountains. There’s a little rose garden area, several patches of beautiful flowers throughout, a children’s farm which has goats, a pig, a sheep, and chickens … there’s even peacocks roaming around and I saw a heron nesting area. Near the coastal trail, there’s “the world’s tallest totem pole” (it did look quite tall) and it was near here that we saw a deer. So, TONS of wildlife!!!
The slight negative is that there aren’t thatttt many restrooms and with my mom in tow, that sort of limited us to a certain radius. But we still got to see a LOT. There’s biking and walking paths, and there’s a few ways cars can drive through the park, though of course it’s much nicer to walk through it. Reading through the yelp reviews, I don’t think most people have the time to go through the entire park (it took us over two hours, and while I think we saw all the important bits, I’m sure there’s little gems we missed). Overall, an amazing park!
We even had time to walk down to the harbor and take a few pictures with the building. The plus side is that the hotel I got was pretty central to all of this. We got back to the room around 10am, finished up our packing, and then checked out. Because my dad couldn’t walk in the morning, I drove everyone around to see everything again via car. He got out to look at the ocean view and the farm (he loves taking the worst, most blurry photos of birds – I don’t know why). Then we set off for our 1pm ferry back to Vancouver.
This time, the ferry experience was less thrilling for everyone, as my dad couldn’t walk around and my mom is now sick (it turns out, from bronchitis!). I fell asleep in a chairfor what must have been about half an hour or more. It’s more scenic near Victoria than it is near Vancouver, because the ferry passes through a few islands as it heads into Victoria. The ferry was much less crowded today.
We headed to Costco mainly to get poutine, though I wish we had had time to shop around. I kept mistakenly thinking my parents and brother’s flight was an hour later though, so I was in the mindset that we had all the time in the world, and meanwhile, I think everyone else was silently freaking the fuck out. We got our Costco food court food, which I must say, was DELICIOUS. We shared fries with poutine (YUM, I think they’re quite generous with the cheese portioning, and their fries are a perfect amount of crisp and thickness), chicken wings (personally my favorite because they were surprisingly very moist – and I normally HATE wings), two hot dogs, and chicken strips with fries. Pretty darn good meal! Thinking about it, I don’t think they sold smoothies or chicken bakes.
I dropped my parents off at the airport then circled around to get gas at the airport gas station, before returning the car. My flight is two hours after theirs, so I wasn’t in a rush at all. In fact, part of me debated driving out to explore more, though I probably saved myself a massive stress attack by just sitting it out and writing my blog posts in the airport. Now, here I am!
In summary, I found a list I made on my last day of the cruise. If it had a title, it would be “a revised packing list.”
Alaska was generally much warmer than I had anticipated. Certainly there were a few cold moments on the ship, but I suspect it was because of the wind and maybe not exactly because of the air temperature. So, stuff I brought that wasted precious luggage space that I wish I hadn’t brought:
My down jacket, which was the largest piece of clothing I brought. Thank goodness I didn’t bring my even larger down jacket though, which is the type of jacket you would see New Yorkers wear in the dead of winter
Thermals, which admittedly did not take up that much space, but STILL!
Umbrella, which I could have maybe used in Ketchikan but it wasn’t raining that hard and my waterproof jacket sufficed
Book, as I may have referenced before, I didn’t open my Anna Kendrick memoir a single time
Scarf, I don’t even know why I brought this
Stuff I WISH I had brought though, and will need to keep this in mind if I ever go on another cruise:
Air freshener, I thought it would have been nice if we just brought a plug in. Since we had an interior room, the air really does get a bit stale
Lotion and soap, while the ship provides it, I think I could have bumped up the luxury by just bringing my own toiletries
So on Sunday morning, we left our Vancouver hotel around 9:30am, and had to catch the 11am ferry to Victoria. The hotel had a complimentary breakfast – basically the key ingredients to my parents LOVING the hotel is that it should have a jacuzzi and free breakfast. The breakfast was decent though carb heavy (waffles, pancakes, toast, yogurt). We had woken up around 6:30, excluding my brother. My mom and I did a quick walk to the steam clock, and made sure to get back before 9:00. I think we probably could have walked around a bit more and taken in more of Gastown’s brick cobblestone ambiance, but oh well. Nothing was open at the time anyway.
Our hotel, the Hampton Inn, was right across from the football/soccer stadium, BC Place, and a BLOCK from Costco. Everyone in my family was seriously bummed that we hadn’t had the chance to go out and explore Costco. I made up for this by going to the Richmond Costco on Monday, right before going to the airport, but I do kind of regret not having the delightful experience of walking to a Costco. We had some sandwiches with us that we had taken from the cruise, which we ate on the ferry to Victoria.
The ferries here seem really well run – I would hope they work just as well elsewhere in America, but who knows. It got us into Victoria around 12:30, and we drove to Butchart Gardens, about a half hour drive. This is often on the top 10 gardens in the world – I would say it was nice … but I personally liked the Edinburgh Royal Botanic Gardens even more (maybe because that was like a nice surprise and was an easy bus ride away) yet I’ve never seen that one listed on any top lists. There were way more people at Butchart Gardens, understandably, and while it was really nice … it also seemed, I don’t know … kind of basic? Like, not as creative as as Edinburgh Gardens which had a lot of interesting touches like the greenhouses and composting area and such.
Nevertheless, we took our sweet time here, about four hours in the gardens. I wanted to make sure we got a FULL experience, as I don’t want to have to take a ferry out to Victoria Island again in my life (not that it was a bad experience, there’s just so much to do in the world and it seriously takes up so much of the day just to get out to the island). Unfortunately, while walking around the Japanese Gardens, my dad’s leg really started to hurt, so he had to sit through the rest of the day with my brother (I think my brother was relieved) and even as we left Canada, he is still clearly limping. AHH my parents are getting old!!!
After Butchart Gardens, I made a quick stop at a really cool looking rock wall I had seen driving in – from what I can tell, it was built right next to an elementary school and seems to be free? There were zero reviews for it on yelp, so I don’t know how new it is. It seemed WAYYYYY higher than any other wall I’ve seen in climbing gyms. I don’t know how to convey my first sight of this wall, but it was almost like a mirage. Imagine driving past just fields and fields of grass and then out of nowhere there’s a towering structure that turns out to be a ROCK WALL! Sooo cool, I’m honestly considering returning to Victoria Island just to try the wall out.
Then we drove to the hotel I picked out, the Chateau Victoria. The hotel has the feel of an old hotel, with attempts to modernize it, but you can still smell the oldness of it in the paint and the wood. I was really relieved that it was essentially a suite, with one bed in a room and the other in the living room – even though it looked odd, at least we weren’t all in the same room breathing together. I think that is the one thing that really sets me off about vacationing with the entire family – my brother likes to sleep late and have the tv on, and while my parents seem to sleep with it ok, I end up stewing in my bed thinking “JUST GO TO SLEEP OR LEAVE!”
Because my dad couldn’t really walk around, and because my mom and I were probably sick and tired of eating out all the time, we walked out to get Subway sandwiches to bring back to the room to eat. My parents LOVE Subway, so I knew this would actually delight them, though it’s the kind of thing that annoys my brother. Well, while ordering the Subway sandwiches for my parents, I decided I no longer wanted a sandwich, because it just seemed so sad in the Subway (and the guy didn’t seem to really know how to make sandwiches that well, no offense to him). So my mom walked back to the hotel with the sandwiches (the greatest thing about traveling with her is that she actually has a better sense of direction out of everyone, even though she generally has no idea what the plan is) while my brother and I walked around “looking for restaurants” which was more like, I was yelping as we ambled around.
We settled on a place called Bin 4 Burger, which featured gourmet burgers. They had fried red onion rings which were REALLY good and a selection of sauces – I chose curry aioli to go with our fries, and it was REALLLLYYYY good. I was debating between a vegetarian burger called “Mr Bean” and another burger that was a mix of pork/chorizo, with panko fried goat cheese. I ended up choosing the latter. Even though the vegetarian burger sounded sooo good, I never end up getting those because I’m always like WHAT IF IT’S TERRIBLE?!??! And I’ve never walked into a burger place thinking “I am craving a vegetarian patty.” It’s just such a risk that I’m not willing to take. The burger place was really good though – I usually don’t bother linking to restaurants in my blog posts but HERE IT IS.
We then walked back to the hotel room, and my mom tried to go to the jacuzzi but unfortunately there was a group of three that took it up the rest of the night, so she decided to just shower and go to bed. I stayed up a little later to finish a game of sudoku and some youtube, before heading to bed around midnight. SO SAD, the last night of the trip!!!
OK the day of our cruise check out! We were luckily placed into a later check out time, which worked well with me, because there wasn’t thatttt much I wanted to do in Vancouver. I enjoy Vancouver but when I first visited, I thought the architecture was hideous. Even though it’s considered a beautiful city, presumably for the trees and the water, I feel like the architecture is irredeemable. I also feel like there are more high rises here now than I remember, but come to think of it, it’s one of the few cities I’ve visited that doesn’t have undergoing construction littering the skyline.
We had to leave our cruise rooms by 8am, and leave the cruise ship at 9:35am. My mom and I ended up waking up around 6:30am, and we went to the breakfast buffet around 7am. I kept wanting to have a conversation with my favorite employee of the trip, the bouillon lady, but I also felt rather self conscious and didn’t want to disrupt her work. I’ll never know her!!! Haha I did finally get a glimpse of her name tag though, which was Natalia. Though, I feel like these are not their real names, and that the cruise line assigned them names that people would feel more comfortable with. Like, of course you’re going to give an Eastern European woman the name of “Natalia.”
Anyway, goodbye to Natalia Bouillon, my favorite employee. My family took a few pictures of Vancouver from the top deck of the boat, and I enjoyed having the time to do that. Then we had to leave!
Here is where I WENT WRONG IN MY PLANNING! I decided to get a car from the docks to the airport in order to pick up the rental car, as it cost $50 more to pick up from a different location. I assumed there would be Uber here, but it turns out there isn’t. So the taxi ended up being $42, and I wasted an hour of everyone’s time. SIGH SIGH. What we could have done in that hour was walk to get the rental car from another location, then drive to the hotel, then walk around the Costco that was located A BLOCK from our hotel. Sadness.
Anyway, we got our rental car (a Camry! Hurrah!) then I basically drove us right back to where we started, and had my family go around Granville Island. It turned out, by an extremely good stroke of luck, I parked off the island and decided we’d just walk there, because I didn’t want to pay too much for parking. REALLY luckily, I found metered parking about a 10 minute walk away from the Granville Island entrance. It was far enough that the time limit was three hours, rather than the two hours that closer meters had. The downside was I forgot that there is such a thing called $2 coins, and I needlessly threw $2 into the meter. But oh well – we walked to Granville Island … and essentially my whole family split up to do their own thing because at this point, everyone wanted to do different things (my brother wants to eat, I want to walk around and make sure I capture every possible picture, my mom wants to look at crappy souvenir shops, my dad just wants to walk around very slowly).
I walked around the food market a little too long – there was one street with more artisanal craft stores like a BROOM STORE, a glass art store, etc., that I only got to see a small portion of and wish I had explored the entire street. I had assumed there was less to Granville Island than there actually is. It’s more than just the food market! While walking around, I kept seeing ALLL of these parking spots open, FREE FOR THREE HOURS! I was getting SOOOO pissed at myself, for throwing away $8 on parking!
WELL while I was buying up cute little postcards at one of those artisanal stores, the storeowner told me that the entrance of Granville Island had been completely blocked off because a SINKHOLE had appeared that morning! So that was why there was so little car traffic! She mentioned (and I later saw on yelp reviews) that typically parking on the island is a shit show. So I’m really glad I had parked on the street, as I’m sure it would’ve been impossible to get in otherwise. Everyone on that island had essentially walked in! (Later they opened up the entrance to single lane traffic which also looked like a horrible ordeal on the news).
So, I will overall classify our Granville Island experience as a success. It was the same weekend as a Kids Festival thing, which the storeowner said usually makes it the most busiest time on Granville Island. So by extreme luck, thanks to that sinkhole, we were able to have the island a little more to ourselves (though of course, to the detriment of the vendors on the island).
Well, around this time it was 2:40pm so I drove to our hotel. I honestly thought the Hampton Inn was similar to a Best Western (I think I internalize the name as “Holiday Inn”), but it turned out it’s REALLY nice … and my room ended up being FREAKING $400!!!!! WHICH IS INSANE TO ME. I guess that’s $400 CAD, so luckily it wasn’t as bad in USD.
The room WAS nice, but a suite is probably the way to go from now on if I’m traveling with my entire family (which I hope doesn’t happen again in a very, very long time). I no longer want to ever travel again with my whole family, but I’m pretty sure I say this after every vacation and I always end up feeling guilty and planning a family vacation anyway. I just cannot handle having all four people sleep in the same room. It’s SOOOO ANNOYING. That’s just too many people in one room, breathing the same air, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory style.
Upon entering the hotel room, everyone just sort of collapsed onto their chosen thing and sat around. We kept saying “ok we’ll leave soon!” but clearly no one wanted to get up. I think we sat there for an hour before we gathered our energy to leave. I made my brother drive us to Stanley Park, though I would come to regret this because I HATE his rental car driving style. I must distinguish this from his normal driving, which is typically fine. But for some reason, when he’s on vacation and driving a rental car, I feel like he thinks very highly of himself and starts to drive very riskily and shittily.
I’ve been to Stanley Park twice before, the first time via bike with Kristen, Andria, Leneve and Christina which was really fun. I have memories of me biking with my camera in hand. The other time was with my mom, and all I remember was that it was pouring rain, but we committed to walking around the entire park in the rain with no umbrella. And the entire time, we only saw TWO other people who were committed to doing their running routine in the rain. We kept seeing tour buses pull up to major stops, and no one would get out, and the buses would just continue on.
This time, we did more of a drive and walk tour. We weren’t able to walk the entire perimeter due to timing and the drag of my dad and brother, which kind of sucks. My mom and I ended up ditching them, and walked the most important parts on our own (which I deem to be from the Bridge to Ferguson Point/the Teahouse). We eventually met up with my brother, then decided to drive around the Park again just cuz. We ended up stopping at a lookout point right when the Princess Cruise we just came off of was leaving the port, so we took a ton of pictures of it leaving. It felt weirdly sad! To see our home of the past week leave without us. Goodbye, Natalia Bouillon!
Then we drove out of downtown Vancouver to try a sushi restaurant my brother’s friend recommended called Kushimoto. It’s known for the oshi sushi, which is essentially box sushi? I don’t know why it’s so amazing but I didn’t think it was stellar. The plus side was, the wait to get in was about an hour, so we ended up walking to a nearby pizza place that had AMAZING, unique pizza for SUPER cheap. The small regret is that for a dollar more, we could’ve gotten two cokes, but I had initially been too cheap to pay for the special and hadn’t done the math in my head to realize they were practically giving cokes away! We initially got four slices – a crab, bacon, alfredo pizza, a spinach and feta pizza, a chicken masala pizza, and a honey pork pizza. My favorite was surprisingly the crab bacon. After this, we decided to get another two slices as part of the specials deal, and share a coke between us – this time we got a lamb pizza and an artichoke/olives/something one. Everyone was thrilled and all of our slices and that one coke cost $14 CAD, which is SUPER cheap.
At this point, everyone was questioning whether we should eat sushi, until I was like “the WHOLE POINT of eating pizza beforehand was so we would go into the sushi restaurant semi-full, because we were too cheap to stuff ourselves on sushi! SO we are actually EXACTLY where we planned to be!” and everyone was like “hmm that’s true!” So when we finally got in, we got an udon, two sushi rolls and salmon cheeks. Again, I don’t think the place was thattt amazing but I’m glad we tried it.
Then we went back to the hotel, mainly so that my mom would have time to jacuzzi. My mom and I did the jacuzzi, and immediately afterwards, I went out onto the rooftop to look at the view. My mom ended up getting sick the next day, and she points to this as the reason why. Her words: “I’m too old to have such romantic experiences.” Her doctor told her that she had bronchitis, and it came from over exhaustion and dehydration. So … NOT the hot tub!
Then we went back to our room to sleep and get ready for … VICTORIA ISLAND!!!
Last day of the cruise! We arrive in Vancouver tomorrow morning and will have to exit our rooms by 8:00 and my family’s scheduled time to exit the boat will be around 9:35.
Today was a relatively easy going day. My mom’s goals were to do the steam room and the hot tub (success!). My dad’s goals were to eat ramen (success!) I’m not sure what my brother’s goals were. I guess my goal was to do the bouillion station, afternoon tea and gym (success!).
Actually, I guess my day started off with a slight fail, because I wanted to eat at the more formal breakfast as opposed to the breakfast buffet, but I woke up too late. Over night we had to “switch our clocks back” to normal time, which meant that I was no longer granted an extra bonus Alaska hour! So my mom, dad and I had to go to the breakfast buffet. We then went to watch what I thought was going to be a lecture on how they cook our foods, but it ended up being just some sort of singing/comedy show with some of the kitchen staff. The highlight was when one crew member sang a great rendition of Frank Sinatra’s (?) My Way – he had a great deep voice and he ended it with a standing ovation (every other singer had just received polite applause).
I had to bow out early though in order to make my BOUILLON STATION!!! I got two bowls. I am bummed because my favorite crew member on the ship, the bouillon lady, wasn’t there today. I was totally planning to get her name so that I could put her on my special recognition card. I don’t know why I liked her so much, maybe it was because she was such a nice person who was consistently the face of the bouillon station (my favorite food on this ship). I remember thinking “ha! she seems fun” because when I got one bowl of bouillon, she asked me “what toppings?” and I said “green onion only” and she then went “parsley?” and I went “um… ok!” and she then went “cheese?” and I went “umm… ok!” and then she said “so everything then?” and I said “yeah I guess so” and she added the last topping, croutons. Something about her tone (and her accent) just made me laugh.
Anyway, after the bouillon station, I had no plans, so I ended up going to the gym in the afternoon. Then I was exhausted but was in a weird time between lunch and afternoon tea, so I went to get a hot tuna panini from the 24 hour international cafe that my family had been stealing sandwiches from for our port days (finally I got to eat a HOT sandwich!). I eventually ran into the rest of my family, and after a little walking around the ship together, I convinced everyone to go to afternoon tea, and told them that even if they weren’t hungry, they could just watch me eat. Everyone obliged.
It turned out to be great because I don’t think anyone in my family would’ve thought of going to afternoon tea, but it ended up being a nice, fun, semi-formal but not really, event! Everyone loved the little sandwiches and desserts and tea. We even added the cream and sugar to our tea, which we normally do not do as an Asian family. My second favorite dessert on the ship, a vanilla something something (essentially like puff pastry layered between a vanilla custardy cream) was served, along with scones (yum), cream puffs (vanilla and chocolate!) and other desserts. Then we had an hour to get ready / hungry for dinner!
Dinner, I got MEATLOAF!!! It was delicious. I also got an Alaskan Seafood Soup which was good because it was a little sour like a Thai soup. Dessert we got baked alaskas, ice cream, and a chocolate tapioca pudding. For the past two nights, the ice creams advertised are nothing like the ice creams we actually receive. We were supposed to get a rhubarb and none of them tasted like rhubarb!
Then my mom and I did another crazy windy jacuzzi adventure. A man doing his nightly deck walk passed by us and said “you guys are my heroes” for doing the hot tub in such insane weather. Then we had to go back into the boat and we passed two crew members who were talking by the doorway, and one of them gave me the biggest “what the fuck?!” look HAHA
Now I guess I have half an hour to do my second gym session! I’m trying to power through my last two episodes of Raw Data so I can say that I did actually complete a podcast (I did!). Then tomorrow I have to be ready to take my family around Vancouver! Ugh I feel exhausted just thinking about it. I’m so used to just sitting in my room quietly and feeling comforted that my family can figure out what they want to do on their own.
Today was Ketchikan – pretty much deemed from the start to be the least interesting port of the three. The boat docked in the port at 9:30 and was scheduled to leave around 5:15. My family and I got off the boat around 9:45 or 10:00 and immediately headed to the bus stop. There’s a public bus that will take you to the Totem Bight State Park (the only attraction I saw worth going to). It turns out that this city bus’ last stop is the park so I don’t know if that implies there’s nothing else in Ketchikan beyond this park. There were a few Ketchikan residents legitimately using it to get around. There was one guy on the bus who was getting frustrated with how many tourists were trying to cram on board that he started to yell out to the bus driver, “COME ON FRED! FUCKING FRED! Fucking tourists.” I didn’t turn around to look at him at the time, but later I was really surprised to find that this surly local resident was not a fat white man, but a regular sized asian or else Alaskan native man.
It rained the entire time in Ketchikan – for some reason I didn’t bother taking my umbrella off the ship, and this would have been the only port that would have required an umbrella. Instead, I just wore hiking pants, hiking boots, and my rain jacket. The bus ride took 30 minutes to get to the park and was crammed with probably 90% asian tourists, 5% white tourists and 5% local residents. My research said it would be $1 each way, but it turned out to be $2 each way. I confirmed online that the fares were as we’d been told, because I did initially suspect Fred was skimming off the top (he wasn’t).
The totem park was actually pretty cool, relative to what else was available to do in Ketchikan. Mainly I just like parks that are by the ocean or have old growth forests, and this had both, which is a rarity in CA. We roamed the park within an hour, which meant that we were able to catch the bus back to town, thank goodness. The buses only run hourly and there truly wouldn’t have been much to do if we had missed the first bus.
We got back into the ports area and ended up deciding to go back to the ship to eat lunch, as it was around 1pm. This ended up being a great decision because everyone secretly wanted to get out of the rain but no one said this outloud, and lunch ended up being delicious (on top of already being included in our cruise fare, we saved ourselves the trouble of roaming around Ketchikan looking for a restaurant). This was probably my favorite lunch buffet to date, mainly because they had three great cold salads (one with roasted pork, one that I think was essentially with imitation crab, and one with octopus and potatoes). They also had chicken cutlets stuffed with cheese, lamb empanadas, and mozzarella with tomato dish that I liked a lot. Win!
My brother and dad decided to stay on the boat and out of the rain, while my mom and I ventured out. I didn’t know really what there was to do in town so we just wandered around the shops, which is what my mom loves to do. A lot of shops later, we wound up walking around the waterfront area, which is
really about like two blocks long. From there, you can enter Creek Street, which I think used to be Ketchikan’s Red Light District. I also realized there was a street called Park Blvd, which sounded very promising. Unfortunately, my mom had spent so much time in the shops that we didn’t have much time left to complete the Creek Trail that would’ve led us to the fish hatchery. Oh well, it turns out the fish hatchery is closed indefinitely and I think I was probably only a few steps away from finishing the trail anyhow.
It was lobster tail night for dinner, which I don’t eat, so instead I got a beef wellington. Everyone tonight got the featured dessert which was some sort of round cake made of pistachio creme bulee and a chocolate mousse. It was way too decadent. We also got ice cream, which was supposed to come with mint chocolate, a basil lemon sorbet, and a macadamia nut, but only the mint chocolate tasted as it was advertised. Lastly, our server presented us with a complimentary little plate of small desserts – I tried one and it was SOOOOO good – a chocolate and nut thing. If I had had a ziplock bag, I would’ve taken them all. Laura’s family ended up taking the plate out as we left the dining room, which I’m not sure if that’s considered low classy. Well we did pass an empty table where the group had left their dessert plate untouched, and I did refrain from picking THAT off the table. So I have some standards!
At this point in the trip, I haven’t read a single page of the book I brought (Anna Kendrick’s memoir) and I haven’t gymmed for essentially two nights. Maybe I’ll go tonight. After I close my eyes and listen to this podcast for a little bit…….
So I fell asleep for an hour, then my mom came back to the room and we decided to go use the hot tub on the upper deck. It was FREEZING. There is an indoor hot tub but it’s near seating for the buffet and people are constantly walking by. I knew my mom would not want to use the hot tub with so many people nearby, so instead I took her to the one on the upper deck that I had discovered while doing a night run in circles around the deck. While very isolated, this deck is unfortunately also extremely windy. So windy that even the captain mentioned it today at dinner as a hazard. I had to tie a towel to a metal bar to ensure that it wouldn’t fly away, and hide our robes and clothes behind the drinks bar. Once in the water, it felt relaxing, even though it was clearly freezing outside of the water. AND we were actually situated under a lounge that people take an escalator to get to, and my mom was like “people keep staring at us” haha they were probably thinking “wtf are these insane people doing, hot tubbing in 40 degree weather?!”
After that, my mom and I went to the gym before it closed. I didn’t do very much, because you really shouldn’t be hot tubbing prior to exercise, as your muscles won’t cooperate. Then, while she was showering, I sat and watched my brother and dad eat ramen at the buffet. They have the ramen available every other day, and looking around, it seems like the obvious thing for Princess to do is to just have a ramen bar available every night. All around us are Asians, which make up at least 40% of the population on the cruise, and everyone is thrilled to finally have some NON WHITE FOOD! And ramen is SO CHEAP.
Today was a pretty fun day in Juneau because I spent MONEYYYYY!!!!! I signed up for a $300 excursion to Mendenhall Ice Caves. Prior to going, I thought the ice caves would be disappearing due to global warming. I learned it’s actually the opposite – as the glacier continues to recede, it’ll start to open up more ice caves. So supposedly, these ice caves explorations are actually a relatively new addition to the excursion listing!
We got into Juneau around 6:30am, so I got up at 5:30 and ate breakfast at the buffet. I’m eating less and less for breakfast because over time, I realize there’s a lot of things I don’t actually particularly enjoy eating (ex. omelettes, breakfast meats). For this breakfast, I ended up getting a single french toast slice, a spoonful of scrambled eggs, a slice of banana bread and then a bunch of fruit every breakfast.
We were supposed to meet our guide at 7:00, and we ended up being the first to arrive around 6:45 (me, Jessica and Laura). We didn’t have the rest of our families come because this was a more strenuous excursion (though still marked as moderate). Our group ended up being a total of six + our guide: it was us three, a 40ish year old couple from Mexico, and a Vietnamese girl from Mountain View who looked our age. Our guide was a youngish female named Brittany who went to one of the Alaskan Universities for Environmental Science and Geology (?) and originally came from somewhere in Colorado. I don’t know why, but I wasn’t expecting a female guide and was pleasantly surprised haha
Upon pickup, we were driven to the ABAK (Above and Beyond Alaska) headquarters which was a relatively large two story building. Along the way there’s an area where you can see many bald eagles, though one person said the area was a trash dump and another person called it a nesting ground. Hm. The headquarters looked like the kind of building that was built by someone who had always dreamed of running a co-op like excursion tour company in Alaska. By that I mean, everything seemed pretty meticulously thought out – from the racks to hang various gear, to tubs that fit perfectly on shelves to hold other gear, to a giant prep room for employees to clean gear and sort Costco purchased snacks for customers … it was really nice! Upon entering this building, you see several wooden benches which have tiny white boards attached where they write the names of people so everyone in the group knows upon arrival where to start unpacking and sorting their daypacks. It was a spacious, open space that still held a ton of gear. And they had canvas printed several pictures that our guide later told us were all taken by customers.
We got nice rain jackets, rain pants, boots, and a daypack containing a helmet, crampons, a hiking stick, a snack bag containing way more snacks than I expected, and a water bottle that ended up being our souvenir. Also, a harness in case one of us fell into an icy hole and had to be fished out (thankfully this did not happen). It was really awesome! So we got our gear, made sure everything fit, then got back onto the van. They took us into the Tongass Forest which was across from the Mendenhall Glacier, and then we walked to an area where our canoe was stationed. After carrying the canoe into the water, we all got in and paddled up to the glacier. Then we hiked a little to reach the ice caves, then walked a little farther up, put on our crampons, and got to explore on top of the glacier. I thought there’d be much more to the ice caves but it was smaller than I expected. Walking on top of the glacier was awesome, I think because I had never walked on top of a glacier before and had no expectations.
On top of the ice cave, our guide took us to see a huge crevice, in which you could see the gradients of glacial ice blue, and glacial water below. She said in prior years, it was possible to grab a water bottle and drink glacier ice – but now parts of the glacier have opened up and the water has dipped too low. Then she showed us another part of an ice cave where you could see anchors drilled into the ice. She pointed out the dark parts in the ice cave, which represent parts where the ice had melted away and had left behind mainly rock and dirt, which would one day collapse. She also pointed out some roots in the glacial ice, some of which was already starting to poke out, and said this was a relatively new discovery indicating that the glaciers had formed where an old forest once stood.
As expected, I really hated the canoeing part (I hate canoes and kayaks) but it was kind of worth it because you got a really good view of the glacier and its distance from the visitor center. I guess the glacier once actually reached the visitor center, but since its receded in a few decades, it’s now not even walkable from the glacier to the visitor center. I LOVED the crampons part (ice walking) because it seemed way easier to walk downhill in crampons as opposed to walking in shoes on a downhill dirt path. I asked our guide Brittany about ice climbing, which she made to sound like a really fun and totally doable thing to try out one day. Last note, I’ve never really seen glacial blue ice up close and it looks REALLY beautiful.
After this, we went back to the warehouse, then got taken back to the cruise docks. Jessica and Laura went back to the boat to watch Rogue One, while I decided to walk all around Juneau. I passed through the Main St and stopped in a handful of shops, but mainly wanted to just keep walking as high as I could. I originally wanted to hike Mt Roberts and possibly use the tram to get down, however, I guess they no longer sell one way tickets, and it seemed stupid to buy a full priced ticket if I hiked half of it, so I didn’t bother. Also, I wasn’t sure how long it would take to hike, plus it was very overcast so I didn’t think the visibility would be that great anyway. I loved what I ended up doing though, which was just walking around the neighborhood, ending up at Cove Park, a small residential park, and just seeing all these cool hidden staircases. It reminded me of Seattle, because these staircases would link streets that couldn’t be connected via car. Love!!!!!! By the way, it started raining around 1:00, so thank goodness I had brought my waterproof jacket. This might have been one of my favorite parts of the day, because I just walked around with zero destination in mind, stumbled upon a small park in Juneau, listened to Another Round and Still Processing podcasts, and my feet were nice and warm because I had worn hiking boots. Yay for preparedness!!!
I got back on the boat around 3:10 – the boat was supposed to set off around 3:30. My mom and I walked around the decks and watched the boat set sail and then I left her to go take pictures of Juneau in the fog. Today’s been pretty jam packed, and I need to go to the gym!!!
For dinner, it was just my family because Laura’s family decided to try a restaurant for seafood. Today was apparently Italian day – I got a beef carpaccio, a pot roast (surprisingly good meat), and a veal milanese (again, surprisingly good). For dessert I got a hazelnut semifreddo which I already have forgotten about – as a family, we ordered the “sweet & nutritious fruits” and joked about what the fruits could possibly be. I thought it would be the same as the buffet (melons) but everyone else optimistically thought it must be berries. Well, it was melons – watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew … ANDDD strawberries! Big whoop.