Saturday, 12 June 2010

Tuesday 8th of June - Victoria

Eggs Benedict with mushrooms again.

Into Victoria - Maritime Museum, Bug Zoo (went yesterday as well, but only managed half of it with my thighs, and it was absolutely brilliant), Miniature world (OK if you like models, no the other sort)

Lunch with MKitty at Pescatore had seafood linguine very nice.

Supper at Superior again, crab cakes (sort of like chinese fishballs but a bit less solid and a lot more crabby), bruschetta - with fig paste as well as the normal which worked well, and fingerling potatoes with curd cheese.

Monday 7th of June - Victoria

Placeholder

Woke up relatively early, omlette for breakfast, not as good as the previous two days, weather looking a lot better, and I finally remembered that painkillers are not just for headaches and so am a little more comfortable walking around.

Booked tea at the Empress at 15:45 and paid the dithery lady, this meant that I missed the first tourist bus and so stood around had a cup of coffee etc.

Caught the tourist bus again went round town, the bays seemed so much nicer in the sun.

Had lunch somewhere, pootled round town.

Tea at the empress very pleasant, most civilised, the tea itself was very nice.

Sunday 6th of June - Victoria

Just a placeholder really

Breakfast at the hotel which was rather good, Eggs Benedict with mushrooms instead of ham/bacon.

Dreary rainy day, caught the tourist bus, went round quite nice, although as Victoria is quite small we did cross the same roads a number of times.

Purchased a girly hat at the market to keep me dry.

Lunch at Don Mee? Dim Sum, it was OK, not quite as good as London, however that may be because I am more used to the flavours there.

Walked through the market square, quite disappointing, slipped and pulled a muscle on my right side, which goes with the thigh pain. Purchased some local beer and caught the bus to Fishermans wharf, quite nice houseboat area with a fish shop and Barbs Fish and Chips. Purchased a steamed crab from Barbs as the fishmonger was all out and walked back to the hotel.

Ate the crab later on with the leftover bread.

Saturday 5th of June - Victoria and Vancouver Island

Woke up about six o'clock, feeling quite tired and my left thigh quite painful, not sure how much I would be able to walk today, which would be a shame as I am going out with MKitty, anyway pootled around a bit and went for breakfast, I had paid in advance for breakfast during my stay however when I checked in I was only given one voucher, checked with reception and they are going to drop off the rest of the vouchers in my room later today. Had the "Sunshine Breakfast" scrambled eggs with ham, hollandaise and fruit on muffins, with tea, really rather pleasant.

Ambled around the hotel for a while and then went out for a small walk. My hotel is only a block away from the parliament building, so really quite centrally located, there is a lovely little park with the shields of all of the Canadian Provinces in it that I had a look at, and just opposite is the state government building which looked very impressive. Crossed the street to the wax museum and had a chat with the lady on the tourist bus stall, she gave me a few details and I declined to purchase a ticket until tomorrow.

Didn't want to get too far from the hotel as Mkitty was picking me up at 10:30 and as my thigh was somewhat uncomfortable I didn't want to have to rush back from anywhere. Went back to the room and read for a while and then went to sit outside to have a cigarette, no hotels seem to have smoking rooms any more, and this one has banned smoking on the balconies as well.

At almost the exact time MKitty and Mr MKitty strode round the corner and greeted me, MKitty then said that I had a choice, we could go to Buchart Gardens, or we could go round the island a bit visiting wineries, taking a ferry across an inlet and driving back through the countryside. I always enjoy my visits to Wisley (www.rhs.org.uk/wisley) and appreciate the beauty of the gardens, however I'm not knowledgeable about plants, and so I asked if they would be OK with the tour, they were and we set off.

They drove me through the back of Victoria giving me information on the city, before too long we were out of town and starting to see a bit of country, they showed me the outside of their house, which looked gorgeous, if any of my invisible friends come to the UK, I may indicate my flatlet from the M25, but that would be about it :-)

Our first stop was at the Barking Dog vineyard, which turned out to no longer be a vineyard, but was now a distillery specialising in Victoria Gin, the chappie in charge showed us the distillery itself and explained how they make their various spirits, we then went upstairs to the lovely Natalie to sample the wares. They had laid out the ingredients used for the gin including a secret ingredient! My guess would be sassafrass, however I'm not sure. Tried the gin, very citrus, I liked it, think it would be very refreshing with tonic on a summers day, the aged gin, interesting but I don't remember it particularly, some bitters which were quite good, an eau-de-vie made from wine which was very brandyish but clear, and a vodka which was really very interesting it was made with hemp seed which gave it an oily, olivy mouth feel, purchased a bottle for bairn, but I'm wishing that I had also bought one for myself. MKitty also purchased some vodka, along with some of the bitters.

We then drove on to Brentwood Bay, just near Buchart gardens and parked in the front of the queue for the ferry then popped to a very posh pub for lunch, I had an halibut burger with chips and a wedge of a huge gherkin! They did that thing where they served the piece of fish on the bottom part of the bun on one side of the plate and the top of the bun with the lettuce, tomato and gherkin on the other which always seems a little strange to me, so I assembled the sandwich (minus the gherkin) myself. The fish was gorgeous, and the chips were very nicely homemade, Mr MKitty had sweet potato chips which looked battered to me, he and I also had a glass of the same wine which was really rather pleasant. Mr MKitty paid, I have never been good at persuading people to let me pay, they were taking me out for a day with them, suffering my company, I really would have liked to buy them lunch, however it wasn't to be.

Walked slowly back to the car taking in the stunning scenery, beautiful forests on mountains rising over a crystal blue lake, and then we noticed that the ferry had arrived and other cars were overtaking us and boarding, so we rushed to the car! Despite the wonderful weather the ferry wasn't full and so we were able to board without any issues, although the price was surprisingly high I have gone to France for less! The ferry was very small, one proper deck with the cars parked on it, and a higher deck with the lavatories and captain on it, we walked up to the upper viewing area (about 10 foot wide just in front and below of the captain) and gawped at the view, the weather was clear there were a few fluffy cloud enhancing the sky and the water was still as a millpond, it was one of the most beautiful boat trips I have taken, up there with cruising the Corinth canal and the underside of Turkey.

Sadly we reached the other side of the crossing at Mill Bay and drove from there to a vineyard called ??? dash it I cannot remember, where we tasted their wines (Well I only tasted one of the reds as I really don't like the tannins) I have to admit to my surprise at how good they were, their Pinot Gris was flinty and citrussy in a quite amazing way, incredibly light as well, I purchased two bottles one of which will be drunk in Victoria!

We then went on through the country, passing loads of dressed up 16 (18?) year olds dressed up to the nines for "Graduation" and to Cowichan Bay, almost via Mama MKittys' residence! Where the MKittys knew of a Cheese shop and a bakery. The cheese shop was quite small, I wouldn't say that it had more than about 30 cheeses, although as well as local cheeses they did carry a selection from all over the world, including 5 counties cheese, which one rarely sees even in England! Canada has had a habit of using names that are not strictly their own to use in relation to foods, and so I purchased a goats milk Camembert, made with milk from the flock of the owners of the cheese shop, it wasn't as aggressive as goats cheese normally is, and it didn't quite have the pungency of Camembert although this could be because I never gave it time to mature, taken on its own though it was a very nice cheese indeed. We then walked through a little passageway to the bakers, there was a wonderful selection of breads, rolls, and viennoiseries, I purchased a couple of "Pretze" rolls which were quite like a German pretzel, a ficelle, which was pleasant, but was chewy rather than crisp, and a pain au chocolat, not quite flaky enough, but it was a little late in the day.

My cough had been bothering me during the day, and so I ordered a coffee and glass of water in the bakers to calm it down a bit, I also ordered another pain au chocolat, however that was for purely narcissistic reasons, as I was sipping the coffee I realised what Victoria was missing, Tim Hortons! Apparently there is one in Victoria city centre although I didn't track it down, but they are mainly situated out of town in the local shopping parades.

Having purchased a planned supper we headed off to visit another vineyard, I have to admit I didn't care for this one as much, the chappie running it was simply unloveable and I found his white wine, which contained out fifteen varieties of grape (I kid you not) confused and depressing, although the MKitties seemed to enjoy it so I may have been missing something. He did let me try his Gew├╝rztraminer which was surprisingly crisp and dry, although I have to admit I wouldn't have purchased any even if he had some to sell.

Sadly all good things must come to an end, and so we wended our way back to Victoria, along the main roads this time, although there was still deep forest on both sides! MKitty told me about the difficulties of getting in to work in the city over the pass in the mountains when there was snow on the ground, it almost sounded like being at home! On the way back through the city the MKitties went out of their way to show me a restaurant that they had always enjoyed called "Superior" in concept it was similar to Tu Tu Tango, one orders a number of small plates. I reciprocated by boring them with a mention of the Niagara peep meet going to Tu Tu Tango (which had closed when I visited Niagara so Meemo, Pepe, Pene, Seana and I went to a different place).

MKitty and I arranged to meet for lunch on Tuesday, and they dropped me off at my hotel at about half past five, I popped and and refreshed myself before heading out to Superior! A truly wonderful supper, I think this is the first time that I have ever been to a restaurant where I would gladly have ordered anything from the menu (although not the three things that contained nuts) I had some spot shrimp that were to die for, a small cup of a sort of chowder with beans in that was simply amazing, and the charcouterie plate that was again just divine, finished with strawberry and marscapone wonton with caramelised olives that worked perfectly.

All in all a wonderful day, walked back to the hotel and to sleep.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Friday 4th of June - Seattle to Victoria

Woke up about seven, washed and dressed, started the packing, gave up and went for breakfast downstairs. Had two eggs over easy with toast, hash brown, and sausages (which were the correct shape) the eggs on toast were lovely. Back to the room, and more attempts to pack, eventually I had to abandon the duty free Pimms, I guess shot glasses and coffee cups do take up a lot of room! Thinking of buying a small suitcase if I can find a cheap one to make the packing easier.

Then to checkout, where I purchased a sommeliers corkscrew with the hotel logo on it, and unloaded my bloated suitcase.

Exited the hotel to catch a bus to the Space Needle (Seattle Centre) and ran into Raul, who told me about golf, and asked me to mail him photos of Europe and generally kept me chatting for about a quarter of an hour. Having passed him on to someone who works in the hotel I then waited about another ten minutes for the bus, and leapt aboard!

Seattle has a strange bus system, some buses are free, and some charge on exit, I don't know how to tell them apart, anyway I missed the stop I wanted and on getting off at the next one the driver waved me off without payment.

Looking at the photos of me, Karchita and Sharnina I was quite distressed by my hair, I have very fine hair that curls in odd directions when it reaches a certain length, and having washed it that evening it was flopping and curling everywhere, as I walked up the hill to where I hoped the Seattle Centre was I spotted a barbers so went in and asked for my hair to be defluffed, twenty dollars seemed like a lot to me, however at least my hair is shorter now!

Kept on up the hill and arrived at a basketball stadium at the top of Seattle Centre, so I started heading down to the Science centre, however whilst walking that way I thought "sod it, I'm going shopping instead" so went to the monorail and rode that to the Westgate centre, quite a cool ride really, not sure if I have done an outdoor monorail outside of Disney before, and one got an interesting look at parts of the city.

Not that much that I was interested in in the Westgate so went outside and had a cup of latte at "the most expensive Starbucks in the world", according to yesterdays guide Starbucks were desparate for the site but the owners who were a rival coffee chain refused to sell so Starbucks purchased the entire chain just for that site, wasn't a particularly wonderful version of the shop (although the barristas were very pretty) so I am dubious about the story.

Then popped into Maceys looking for pants and socks, Maceys is like Debenhams in that it seems to be made up of loads of small shops and has nothing of its own to sell, all of the socks were dull, and all of the pants overpriced, I need to go to France soon to get some more, just checked and they still do the Estragon sauce as well :-)

Anyway, by now it was almost midday so up to the food court in the Westlake I went, Firstly I purchased a bubble tea, I didn't read the directions so just ordered a Canteloupe tea, and when the lady asked what I wanted in it I just said Bubbles, I realised whilst she was putting it together that they did different flavoured bubbles, but I had the standard sort of flavoured but not really ones. Then I purchased some sushi which they actually made fresh, it was better than supermarket sushi, although it wasn't as good as the sushi Waitrose used to do, I suspect any food purchased in a foodcourt would be disappointing, and I was really spoiled in San Francisco.

Ambled round a little more however I didn't want any sweets, and couldn't fit any Lush in my suitcase, so decided to head back towards the hotel, hailed a cab as I had no idea which buses were appropriate. Didn't go into the hotel, but to a local coffee shop where I asked for something refreshing, and they suggested a peach iced tea where the peach was "subtle", I liked it, however the peach was about five times stronger than it is in liptonice so subtle may not have been the most appropriate word.

By the time I left the coffee shop they were all calling me Andrew as well, in the UK I would suspect mickey taking however in the US it seems genuine. Walked up to the hotel, picked up my suitcase, was interrogated again by reception on if I had enjoyed myself and if I was coming back to visit again soon, I would certainly like to come back, there is so much I haven't seen, however the costs of the flights and hotels tells me that it isn't likely into a taxi and off to dock 69 for the Victoria Clipper, despite giving this information to the driver, and despite the doorman also having told him this he decided to drop me at dock 66, as there was a big cruise ship there I suspect that he was after a fare there. I did tick him off, but walked the distance to the correct pier.

Checked myself and my luggage in, was told by the lady who checked me in that boarding would probably start at a quarter to three for the three fifteen departure, well we were marshalled into a queue, then into another queue, and then into a third queue before we could board, I think I actually got on board at the time we were supposed to depart. The ship itself was a fastcat, but much better laid out than the one on the Newhaven - Dieppe route was, although I think it was also quite a bit smaller.

Purchased some duty free fags and a bottle of "purified" water (I'm paying how much for tap water? Why?) wrote my postcards, looked out of the window at the beautiful forested shores on both sides of the sound and relaxed. After about an hour and an half things got a little choppy and I started to feel a little tom (in the same way that you can use any word for drunk (I was absolutely Seattled) I think you can use any word for nausea (I felt quite Seattle)) fortunately one was allowed out on the stern deck, and one was allowed to smoke there! So, after a lot of wasted gas I stood there in the very windy fresh air, smoking and feeling less sick, unfortunately I had a bit of a thing and couldn't approach the rail where the ashtray was as I saw myself going overm the drugs are making the compulsions better but they are still there. Saw some parasurfers on the way into Victoria, it looks like great fun, although very cold I should imagine.

Got off the boat in Victoria and passed through Canadian customs, really a pleasant experience, they don't seem to have the chip on their shoulder that so many American immigration officers do, put my case in the back of a taxi and told him my destination, about a minute later we were there, I apologised to him profusely and overtipped. although I was grateful that I hadn't pulled my case that quarter of a mile.

Checked in to the hotel, where they had upgraded me to a deluxe room with a balcony, which was nice, when I reached the room I found it was very large, only slightly smaller than my flat and with a lot more wardrobe space! The kitchen is quite impressive for an hotel, hobs (stovetops), oven, and microwave, having nothing to cook I went Off to the hotel restaurant, where I had a Caesar salad (you want $8.95 for that? It isn't even shaved parmigiana, actually it isn't even parmigiana), and a mushroom and tarragon chicken schnitzel, not sure what the mushrooms were for, and there wasn't enough tarragon for me, although I appreciate that I am inordinately fond of tarragon, and do like a lot of it. Along with a pint of very paletable Canadian wine.

MKitty wrote to me to confirm my arrival and location, she has a bad cold, so I hope that she feels better, and if not that she doesn't feel she has to come out just to see me when she would rather be in bed, after all whilst we can't do the gardens later, I think that she has a full time job, we can catch up for a meal or something in an evening.

Bedtime

Thursday 3rd of June - Seattle

Oh forgot to mention that yesterday I tried to go to the science centre which is in the same park as the space needle, unfortunately their computers were down and they were unable to let me come in :-(

Awoke at about seven, I guess I am getting into US time! Bathed and tidied, and set off to the restaurant for breakfast, it seems odd to be paying for a breakfast in an Hilton, however I suppose I have to get used to it now :-( They did a version of Eggs Benedict with crab and spinach that I tried, they served it with Hash browns (rosti) which was a little odd, but quite useful to sop up the extra sauce and egg yolk! It was a nice idea.

Then walked down to Pioneer Square to catch the bus. Back with the same driver as yesterday who remembered me! And a new guide, which is always interesting as he focussed on different things, rode the bus all the way around again which took about an hour, but flew past. Did meet up with a Puerta Rican family who were quite entertaining, I eventually got off the bus at the Miners Pier, where I went into "Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe" which was a standard tourist shop with a number of strange things in it, shrunken heads, mummies, hunting trophies, guns, various parts of whales (including a penis, which was smaller than I was expecting). An odd thing, but quite interesting.

Pootled around the pier for a while, and then got back on the bus and rode it almost all the way round to Pike Market where I walked round all of the market, including popping into the first Starbucks where I purchased a travelling coffee mug with the original logo on it, although they did take a loooong time to make my coffee, which surprised me.

Then back on the bus again and back to the waterfront, popped into a restaurant, called Ivars which had the motto "Keep Clam" I wasn't feeling that hungry, hardly surprising after all I have eaten! So I ordered the mixed seafood cocktail, which contained two crab claws, two big prawns, a lot of small prawns two pieces of avocado and two of (unripe) mango, along with a spicy tomato ketchup, it was nice, however I was still a little peckish afterwards so I ordered the Calamari! Unfortunately they were severely breaded, and the oil they were cooked in wasn't hot enough so they were greasy, claggy and unpleasant :-( left most of it, and paid up and left the restaurant.

There is a free bus that goes along the waterfront in Seattle, called the 99. I then caught that to Chinatown, it dropped me off at the top of a hill, a couple of steps away was the Wing Luke museum which showed the Chinese experience in early America, and a lot of interesting stuff on the Asian experience in the US and was very interesting, then I walked down enjoying looking in all of the shops and restaurants, at the bottom was a gate, although it didn't have any Fu Dogs, just through was the station and I walked down past that to the Gold Rush museum, which was fascinating it showed the lengths that people had to go to in order to get to the Yukon, the amount of stuff that the Canadians insisted everyone carry with them was quite amazing, enough to last people for a year. They illustrated this with five peoples stories, which really helped in being able to imagine their experiences. In the window they had a mock up of a ton of gold, it is a lot less in size than one might think.

Then popped into the Zeitgeist coffee shop, which had some wonderful Art Deco woodwork, a clock I would kill for, and a large collection of coffee pots, took a cup away from there, and waited for the 99 bus, and waited, and waited, my thighs were killing me by the time it eventually turned up, I rode it up to Chinatown and waited 10 minutes for it to turn around, got off when it reached the miners pier, my thighs having recovered, caught the double decker up to the square (on their last run of the day) bid the driver a fond fairwell and walked up the hill to my hotel.

After a period of recovery I then walked to McCormicks fish restaurant, which was just above my hotel, had singing pink scallops! in a chardonnay sauce, they were a little smaller than I was expecting being the size of my little finger nail, and were something like a cross between a scallop and a clam, the sauce was a little sweet for me, however it was a nice change I ordered a glass of A by Acacia wine which was OK, but a little rough around the edges. I ordered a mixed seafood thingy for my main, I always seem to do this I cannot bear to miss out on something so I order the combo. It was salmon, halibut, mussels, mini prawns and cockles (although they called them clams) in a sauce that was surprisingly similar to the scallops sauce, the salmon was good, the halibut was heavenly and the shellfish was good, wish I had just ordered the hallibut though!

Then back to the hotel, and sleepytime.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Wednesday 2nd of June - Seattle - Peep Meet!

Awoke at five , and pootled around a bit, managed to get to sleep again a bit later and awoke again at ten to nine, packed the rucksack and headed out. Tried to work out the underground system but with no joy, walked to pioneer square (triangle), which is quite interesting, late nineteenth century architecture, some of it quite posh, but generally utilitarian, which is really good, of course most of these buildings around the world have had plateglass windows put in if they haven't been knocked down, so it was really interesting to be able to see them almost unaltered. The main problem here, and to be honest in a lot of Seattle is that every third person seemed to see me as a human cash machine, which got most irritating after a while.

Waited around in the square for the tourist bus, one drove past but didn't stop, and I couldn't see where I was supposed to catch it, walked back to the hotel and caught a bus out to the space needle (some buses are free, some you have to pay for, I really have no idea and I paid), when I arrived there was a McDonalds and decided to pop in for breakfast. I ordered a sausage and egg McGriddle because I thought it sounded interesting, it was an omlette and sausage patty inbetween maple syrup pancakes (little ones, so it was like a burger with US pancakes on the outside) to be honest I found the sweetness quite unpleasant, however I guess that it a) because I generally don't care for sweet and savoury together, and b) I am very unused to that sort of thing.

After finishing my repast I walked over the road to the park with the Space Needle in it, as I walked in I noticed the Science fiction museum, the chap selling tickets tried to con me into buying a city pass "if you are doing x y and z it will save you money, it only costs 54 dollars" me "X costs 15, y costs 17, and z costs 18, how am I saving money?". Forked over $15 for the sci-fi museum, and got free entry to a "music" museum as well. The science fiction museum was very interesting, original outfits from Star Trek, Twiki from Buck Rodgers in the 25th century, The Death Star and lightsabres, all very good, spent quite some time there :-) really a highlight!

Then to the emp, I lvoe, lvoe, lvoe music, my tour of the hard rock vault in Floridia (shut down now alas) is one of the highlights of all of my trips, unfortunately I have some musical blind spots, whilst the museum suggests that it covers all music with a lot of Jimi Hendrix I couldn't find much that wasn't Jimi, and I just don't get him at all. Other weaknesses, Robert Morley and the Wailers, and Mickie Jackson.

Spotted a double decker bus on exiting the museums so I walked over, discovered that they drop off the pickup signs as they go round and don't reach the square until well after I was there. Purchased my ticket for 48 hours and boarded the bus, the weather was very changeable, was up and down to the open top of the bus any number of times!

The driver seemed to take a fancy to me and the guide (Cheryl) had lived in the UK (Branston in Lincolnshire, I didn't know anyone in the US had even heard of Lincolnshire!) so we hada very nice chat.

Seattle seems to be a city on its way up, there are a lot of old and new buildings, quite a few places by the waterfront at a surprisingly inexpensive cost (and some at a phenomenal cost!). The bus went round to pioneer square, Pike market, the shopping district, the waterfront, and back to the space needle, I rode it all the way round, and then got off at Pike Market, ambled round a bit, it seems like a really big farmers market, a lot of little stalls, fruit, veg, seafood, honey, t-shirts, hand made hippy tat, went into the Athenian, where Rob Reiner and Tam Hanks had a meal in Sleepless in Seattle (which I haven't seen) and had a crab, which was very nice, although I think I have been spoiled by the King Crab that I had in Oakland!

Ambled around the market a little more, and purchased a Starbucks, not at the original, but at another one just opposite the market, although this one did use the original logo (the mermaid is topless in the original, Americans being what they are when Starbucks went national they changed it). Then stood waiting for the bus where I met Eleanor from North Carolina who had been in town for a teachers convention and was now quickly riding the bus before heading home. Her chappie was from Liverpool, or maybe north wales, and she had been to the UK a few times, we chatted as the bus went round and at the end she tried to interest me in a health drink (I think) from Australia for which she and her chappie are the US and European representatives.

I got off the bus in the Square at about fourish, where Cheryl yelled Andrew is coming down, and the bus driver held the crowd back saying Andrew is getting off the bus, there was much welcioming of me by name by the people waiting for the bus, flustered I managed to throw all of my pressed coins into the tip box, and Cheryl chased after
me to hand them back.

Quite tired I went back to the hotel, had Raul talk to me for a quarter of an hour on what I had done in the day, and then went to my room to bathe and pretty myself up for my evening out! Put on one of my new pink shirts (second one saved for the visit in Calgary! And my lovely new (still frightened by the price) jacket, and my I think they are jeans but I'm not really sures, and at a quarter to six went out to the hotel entrance. Unfortunately the hotel has two entrances on two streets, although if one stands on the corner one can see both. Up at the main entrance there was this chap with a mustache, and a small rucksack. Karchita had said that her husband might meet me in the lobby, when Karchita pulled up it turned out that he was Mr Karchita, and I apologised for having ignored him, but I was popping up and down the hill to check both entrances (and of course chatting to Raul).

The traffic was apparently quite heavy, although I have to admit it seemed very light to me for rushhour (I still flash back to Romania for bad traffic, that was amazing, stationery or 90mph no inbetween, but mostly stationery), some chap had broken down and was blocking one lane of a dual carriageway, once we were past that it was clear sailing all the way. When we got to Ray's cafe their car park was full, so we parked on a street just a little way off.

On entering the restaurant Karchita confirmed her reservation and we were shown upstairs, the view of the Puget sound was lovely, so green and pleasant over the water. We were given menus, and I ordered the Globalrita (sauza hornitos tequila, jagermeister, cointreau, lemon lime, & fresh orange) which was OK but didn't really grab me, and we chatted for about ten minutes before Sharnina, her husband and two of her lovely daughters turned up. Ordered the food, and Mr Sharnina said Grace, we shared hummus and calamares to start, the hummus was fantastic, so much lighter than I am used to but still packing the flavour, and the calamares were almost perfect, a light batter, and not just the rings but also the tentacles which I adore!

I then had Blackened Red Rockfish, the fish was nice, haven't tried Red Rockfish before, although the sauce was a little overpowering for it although the guacamole and corriander & lime sour cream worked really well, the polenta was a revelation, I am used to the Romanian version which is nice, but again heavy, this was light and really a very good textural accompanyment. Finished the meal with a Key Lime Cheesecake, which was a little heavy and needed a little more oomph.

Throughout the meal Karchita, Sharnina and I chatted, often about RTVW and the peeps there, but on a wide variety of other things as well, it was a really lvoely evening, it's funny how one sort of knows people from an online forum and worries a little that they will be serial killers (or at least aggressively boring) in real life, although one knows that they aren't just from their online selves, and how they are just even more faceted, fascinating individuals in real life, the evening flowed so easily, although it may have been a little dull for the non OTers there. After what seemed like ten minutes we needed to leave, what with tomorrow being a school day, and with Karchita needing petrol, and sadly the party broke up.

Karchita gave me a lift back to the hotel, Raul welcomed me back, I had a couple of cigarettes, and went upstairs to bed. What a lovely day :D

Tuesday the 1st of June - Coast Starlight - Seattle

More details about the train, it was about eight carriages long and the carriages were double deckers, we had two sleeper carriages with cabins on the lower deck and sleepettes on the upper. I was in sleepette 5, most of the wall was window, overnight pretty much the whole thing became a bed, when the steward changed it to the daytime layout it became two seats facing each other, no facilities, however there was a lavatory on the top deck, and two more with two showers on the lower. I awoke about half five, and realised that I didn't have a change of clothes with me, so I popped down to my luggage picked up a T, some pants and socks, did my toilette as best I was able to, changed and put my old clothes in the suitcase.

About 7 I popped along to the end of the corridor and into the next carriage, which was the parlour car, it had a number of seats, a bar, and a few booths, below was a cinema. Then on to the following carriage which was the dining car (after the dining car were the non sleeper carriages) where I had a breakfast of scrambled eggs with sort of rosti, a couple of rubbery burgers (called turkey sausage, actually I like rubbery, chinese fishballs are amongst my faves and in texture these were similar) and a scone, spent the time chatting to someone who was on her way to Eugene.

Back to the sleepette, Anthony had changed the configuration so I slumped in the chair and watched the view out of the window. Regarding scenery please refer to Jerome K. Jerome in "Three men on the Bummel", I will say though that it varied, beautiful forests, impressive mountains, big rivers, dull farmland, junkyards, generally I would say that it was well worth taking the train for the views though. Ate lunch in the parlour, tomato "bisque" which I had to drink using a teaspoon, and a chicken caesar wrap, which was served with the dressing on the side and crisps which was very nice.

More training with the very rare stop, on a couple of occasions it was possible to have a cigarette, however mainly it was the nicotine inhalator. Supper was barbecue brisket of beef with mash and beans, I was going to have the half roast chicken, and to be honest I wish I had. Had supper with a lady and her (six year old?) daughter, who gave me a few hibts and tips on what to do in Seattle, although why she should think I would be interested in aeroplanes escapes me.

We arrived in Seatle at about eight, which was about three quarters of an hour before I expected to, we detrained and I picked up my suitcase, they are doing a lot of work on the station, however it is very impressive inside, beautiful marble work. Leapt in a taxi and off to the hotel, couldn't help but notice that there seem to be a fair number of hills in Seattle! Was really hoping for some level ground after San Francisco.

The taxi dropped me off at the Arctic Club, where my suitcase was appropriated by Raul, who had me checked in and introduced to my room in a very civilised manner, honestly I don't think I would have been treated better had I been The Queen herself, after checking if I was going out for supper (I said that I might want a little something, but had eaten on the train) he popped up after about 5 minutes with a plate of fruit and cheese and a bottle of water, which was most gratefully received. Really very tired, so to bed although to be honest it was quite late.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Monday 31st of May 2010 - San Francisco - Oakland

Awoke this morning at six, so I started to pack and popped down for breakfast at seven, had a couple of their quite nice croissants, which were not quite as good as the ones I had on my first morning, but were still not unpleasant. Went back to my room and finished the packing, unfortunately it seems that I have purchased too many clothes and the case was very difficult to close, in a way I am looking foward to Seattle where I can give my presents to Sharnina and Karchita which will give me a little more room ;-) On the other hand I think maybe I need to roll my new shirts rather than trying to pack them flat! Anyway with a bit of pushing I managed to get the bag closed, then turned round and noticed that my bottle of Pimms was still on the table. Having only had one glass of it so far (last night) I was loath to leave it behind, however there wasn't really room for it, so I unpacked my jacket to give me the room, and resigned myself wearing it around town.

So went next door to check out, which involved me passing them my keys and them telling me to have a nice day, and to leave my case as I didn't really want to walk round the city with it. Then to the cable car line just up the street where I caught a trolley to Fishermans wharf and walked along to pier 39. Looked around pier 39, which was quite touristy, and caught the harbour cruise at 10, this took us out and under the Golden Gate Bridge, and round Alcatraz, I have been very lucky with the weather, so of course all was clear and the views were really very nice, although the commentary was a little irritating.

Arrived back at the pier at about 11 and decided to have a clam chowder in a sourdough roll at Boudins who claim to have invented the concept, and do actually have a bakery just up the road from the pier. It really was rather nice! Although I have to admit that I don't know if one is supposed to eat the bowl when one has finished or not, anyway as Molaholic had recommended a Mexican place to me I decided that I wouldn't. Then I went to the Aquarium of the Bay, the first few rooms were less impressive than the Academy of Sciences, but still interesting, however after that one went down in a lift and walked through 100 yards of undersea tunnel, now the tunnel isn't actually in the bay and so they were able to have two separate environments to walk through, firstly a "close to the surface" one, where I had a school of anchovy swim over my head, and a "Deeper water" one where I had a ray and a few sharks swim over my head, I was captivated, particularly by the anchovy! Then one took the lift back up to an area where one could fondle fish, having touched enough fish in my time I wasn't too disappointed that the area was overrun with children.

After this I walked back to catch the cable car, and came back to Union Square, went into Chipotle on O'Farrell street and ordered a Barbacoa Burrito as Molaholic had suggested, they then asked me a lot of technical questions, to which I replied "whatever you think goes best" and I ended up with a lot of "hot" sauce on my burrito. What I ended up with was a soft taco filled with rice, haricot beans, warmed rillettes, cheese, and of course "hot" sauce. Now I'm not really one for hot things, I can go to a dhansak ot Patia because I adore the flavour, but it can be a little warm for me, this sauce was really quite mild from the British pov. The burrito was interesting, I think I would have enjoyed it more had there been less in it and the meat could have taken a more prominent role in the meal, I may try another Chipotle in Seattle and go for less rice.

Sat back in Union Square for a while just soaking up the rays, then back to the hotel to pick up my suitcase, I never want to have to walk up as many hills as I have in San Francisco! After retrieving the suitcase walked down Mason to get to the Powell street BART stop, leapt on the train and then off at 12th street Oakland, checked the directions for the train station, and all I have to do is walk up Broadway and I will be in Jack London Square. Well I reckon that Oakland my be the panhandling capital of the US I was asked for money seven times, and sworn at twice for not just handing it over. I do find the aggressive begging they have here to be quite unpleasant.

Anyway down to Jack London Square, if I had a connection I would check who he was, I'm thinking he wrote Whitefang or A call of the Wild, not sure, anyway he was an author and in order to recover myself I popped into a pub which was mentioned in one of hos books, inside the bar was set on a slope, but built flat if that makes any sense, picture a normal American pub, then tilt it 10 degrees, not sure how people kept their drinks on the bar, I sat outside!

Then tried to walk to the station, however I was on the wrong side of the line, and wasn't able to get over, so I returned to the pub, where I had another wheat beer, then decided as it was about six and my train wasn't leaving until about a quarter to ten that supper would be a good idea. Walked to a restaurant called Kincaid's (Presumably after Tex Kincaid, frontier accountant) where I had a Sirloin steak with mashed potatoes, crispy onion strings and half a pound of King Crab legs, it was all very nice, never had King Crab before the legs were huge, I only got two for my half pound (or was it a pound?) and they were full of meat.

Then meandered over to the station, where I checked in, waited a while for the train and the boarded, unfortunately the lady who boarded me misread the ticket and put me in the wrong cabin, I was in my skivvies when she asked me to move, dressed and moved carriage to one that it closer to the parlour and dining car. undressed again this time in my correct cabin tp sleep with the rhythm of the rails by about 11