This continues on from Canada – Ottawa, Toronto, Niagara!
We would have eight days in the western side of the continent, visiting Seattle, Victoria and Vancouver. The main reason for the visits was to catch up with others working with Rhonda on her piano keyboard project. But there would be plenty of time to look around.
The Seattle, Victoria and Vancouver region is one of our absolute favourite places. We had visited all three cities a couple of times before and felt that we knew them well. The connection is the sea, and we would take a ferry from Seattle harbour through Puget Sound to Victoria, then later take a ferry to Vancouver. Both trips were in sunny weather. We passed numerous islands, the water was calm and one ferry stopped so that passengers could get a close up look at a pair of surfacing orcas. On the first stage the snow-capped mountains of the Olympic National Park west of Seattle framed the trip. On the second stage the snow-capped mountains north of Vancouver appeared from behind the islands.
A major contrast is between the harbours of the three cities. The Seattle and Vancouver harbours are working harbours with a marked industrial feel in both, as distinct from the beauty of Sydney Harbour which is a recreationist’s paradise. Victoria is a much smaller city and the harbour is a joy to arrive in and be around, not unlike Hobart’s. The first photo is from Pike Place Market in Seattle, the second is Vancouver Harbour and the third Victoria Harbour.
Behind the wharves, railway lines and freeways that line the Seattle foreshore lies one of the most remarkable cities on the planet. It the headquarters for some of the world’s best known companies, including Boeing, Amazon, Starbucks, Microsoft and Expedia. The CBD is very much like Melbourne’s with wide, modern streetscapes. Amazon has a “campus” of buildings, with glass spheres the centre piece. We attended a packed concert by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, we walked around the sculpture park. We visited an amazing wholefoods market which specialises in natural and organic produce, and uses them in quite spectacular and classical ways.
For us, though, the main attraction was the Pike Place Market. Like the ByWard Market in Ottawa, it is a precinct where people come to meet, to eat and wander around as well as to stock up. It has an astonishing range of produce and food outlets.
We stayed in the Belltown area of Seattle. It is immediately north of the Pike Place Market and within easy walking distance of downtown and key sights. We found a good range of restaurants nearby. And it was also in easy walking distance of the ferry to Victoria on Vancouver Island.
Victoria is the capital of British Columbia. There are impressive government buildings around the small harbour which is dominated by the Empress, one of the great railway hotels built across Canada over 100 years ago. The harbour is well-protected and criss-crossed by cute water taxis. We caught one to Fisherman’s Wharf which, while it is tourist oriented with several enticing food outlets, it is very pretty, with many permanently moored houseboats.
We stayed three nights with Rhonda’s piano contacts, Linda and Dave. They cooked for us two of those nights and we will mention some of their dishes in the next blog post. One evening we went to Brasserie L’École, a terrific French restaurant with a well-priced menu of traditional and less-typical dishes, a restaurant we would love to have in our Melbourne neighbourhood.
Victoria has a micro-climate that makes it much more temperate and snow-free than what one would expect. The trees bud and the flowers bloom much sooner than elsewhere in Canada. The streets had wonderful displays of spring flowers, blossoms and rhododendrons.
Vancouver Island’s main attraction is the Buchart Gardens and they were coming into full bloom. The restaurant is in the former house of the family who created the park and we enjoyed a very sophisticated lunch.
The city side of the harbour is mainly used for servicing sea craft. Canada Place, marked by the white sails, is the location of the convention centre; railway lines and yards limit access to the water. Beyond the industry of the waterfront are the elegant streets of the CBD, again very Melbourne-like. You will see some outstanding architecture, like the library, and come across high quality food outlets, including wholefoods and chocolate makers.
Granville Market is on its own little island and can be accessed by boat or bus. It is another extraordinarily popular precinct where people come to meet, eat, wander and shop. The stalls, food and other outlets are housed in a scatter of buildings of different styles and eras.
We were very happy with our hotel location on the northern edge of Yaletown. It was an easy walk into the CBD and to Gastown. There were some smart restaurants and cafes nearby.
And we were lucky enough to find the superb restaurant streets in the middle of Yaletown. The first photo below is from the website (c) of The Metro Vancouver Convention and Visitors Bureau which says “Yaletown’s old redbrick warehouses were built to include exterior platforms to allow for easy loading of textiles onto trains to be sent back east.” Those same platforms, remnants of the old Canadian Pacific Railway system, now form the patio terraces for numerous restaurants built into the red brick former textile warehouses. The third photo is ours, taken at about 10.00 pm. It is one of the most creative reuses of abandoned buildings we have ever seen!
We ate in the area twice, including at one restaurant touted as one of the best Italian restaurants in Canada. On both occasions we had the chance to enjoy some excellent Canadian wines from the Okanagan Valley.
Our final day of vacation was to take a bus trip to Whistler Mountain, two hours away. There were still remnants of snow, and the gondolas had just opened that day for the summer season. At the top, a wedding party was assembled to receive the bride and groom.
Time to head home
Our seven weeks of travels were over. The key reason for the trip, for Rhonda to meet up with piano colleagues, had been a great success. We had managed to weave an interesting vacation around those meetings and we ensured we dined and wined well along the way. Time to head back home to Melbourne!
For a continuation of our travels, see: Some homecoming recipes!