May 18, Thursday
This day was just really a travel day. We left San Jose in the evening and just flew into Seattle. We rented a car at the airport and drove straight to our hotel in Bellevue. After freshening up a little bit, we drove down to Bellevue downtown and had dinner there at Chipotle. Since it was still early and junta was enthu, we drove over to Alki Beach on the other side of Mercer Island and Seattle. Alki Beach is one of my favorite places in Seattle - you get such a spectacular view of the city from there. And the beach is also lovely to spend some time in the evening. In the picture, you can see the Seattle Needle gracing the skyline of Seattle. We called it a day after this trip to the beach.
May 19, Friday
Friday was our main Seattle Patel sight-seeing day! We were off to an early start to the most famous Pike's place market. It was up and bustling early in the morning with mainly two things - fish and flowers, more the former than the latter. But its a great place nonetheless - we saw some really interesting fish there.There are a whole bunch of regular mall-type shops there too but most of them were closed as we were too early. Most people there were tourists like us taking pictures all over the place. Next stop was Pioneer Square - about a half-mile walk from Pike's Place Market. it ha a pretty square in the middle with the statue of Chief Seattle (after whom the city is named) and some totem poles. (This was the beginning of the hundreds of totem poles we would see in the rest of our trip!) Pioneer Square is one of the oldest districts in the city with old building and underground history. There are underground tours which we skipped due to the long walk ;). Next stop Seattle Needle!
The Seattle Space Needle is located in a huge complex called the Seattle Center with many other attractions in the vicinity. It was built for the 1962 Seattle World's Fair and Papa had visited it when it has just been completed in time for the fair. At that time it was the star of the Seattle skyline - not so any more with the plentiful other high-rises. We took our customary tour up the Needle and soaked in the views of the city. Luckily, we will not encounter the typical sultry Seattle weather and everything was very clear to see. Then we walked around the Seattle Center - some of the other things we saw were the International Fountain and the Experience Music Project. EMP has this weird-shaped purple building with all history and memorabilia dating back in the history of music. We hung out for a little bit and then headed over to Queen Anne Hill which is this posh locality with very pretty old houses. Again we saw some spectacular views of the Seattle Needle and the skyline. We also spent some time in Chinatown and the big Chinese store Uwajimaya!
After a brief break at the hotel, we were to head over to Ushafai's place for dinner. First we drove around Kirkland waterfront and stopped there for a cuppa coffee. The waterfront was looking very nice although it was drizzling a little bit. We saw all the gulls and statues there before heading over to UDub. University of Washington abbreviated as UW and further abbreviated (while talking) as UDub has a cute campus. It was all very green due to the Washington greens and colorful with the plentiful rhododendrons. Next stop was Ushafai's place for dinner. We met up with Suryamfua as well as Ushafai's brother Jai Uncle and wife Bharti Aunty.
May 20, Saturday
Day two in Seattle. Or first stop was the Evil Empire of Microsoft. We drove around the Redmond campus and located the building (1) in which I had done my summer internship. There I am standing in front of the lake in the middle of buildings 1, 2, 3, and 4 where we used to have our TGIF parties once in a while. All the fond memories of the summer in Redmond came back to me - we really had a good time then with hardly any responsibilities and loads of fun! We also went and saw my old apartment complex - Timberlawn apartments. Somehow it did not look as impressive as it did when I stayed there. This is what living in the bay area with money does to you as compared to staying in New Haven without any. We drove around a little bit of Redmond seeing Lake Sammamish and Mayur's apartment complex. We also saw the Microsoft Research campus which is slightly away from the main campus. Redmond Town center was our next stop - the birthplace of the movie marathons. There was fancy-schmancy farmer's market going on there with lots of cutesy items. There's Papa stoking his silly new beard. From the town center, we decided to visit Snoqualmie Falls, about a half an hour's drive away from Redmond. The falls were full of water and looked beautiful. We did not hike down to the bottom of the falls but the gorgeous view was anyway right from the top. Snoqualmie was the first of the many falls we saw later in the trip including: Athabasca, Sunwapta, and Bow. Grabbed a quick bite there and off to Mt. Rainier National Park!
Mt. Rainier National Park - what can I say! It was the first of the many snow-capped mountains that we saw in this trip. It was a considerably long drive from Redmond but we finally got there. The weather was threatening to rain on us but we were very lucky (through the trip too) and were accorded some of the most splendid views of the mountain when we got to the top. Here's one view of Mt. Rainier. The park has two main points - Sunshine and Paradise points. Sunshine is the highest point in the park but the road was still closed due to snow. We went to the observation center at Paradise. It offered 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains. There were very few tourists and we were able to enjoy the place a lot. After spending about an hour there, we took the long drive back to our hotel. Ate desi food and crashed for the night. Tomorrow to Canada!
May 21, Sunday
We left early in the morning and drove to Vancouver, British Columbia. Before we hit downtown Vancouver, we took off to Tsawwassen to take a ferry to Victoria - the capital of British Columbia. We got to the ferry just in the nick of time and got aboard car and all. The boat was huge - replete with multiple desks, multiple cafeterias, massage chairs, a buffet lounge with a seaview, a business lounge with internet connectivity - you name it, they had it. We had lunch on the ferry as it was a 90 minute ride to Victoria. Downtown Victoria was another 30-minute car ride after we arrived at the Schwartz Bay ferry terminal.
We drove along the Victoria inner harbor seeing the Parliament building and the Empress Hotel along the way. We were lucky to be there on Victoria Day weekend so there was this big function on the lawns of the Parliament building - precision marching bands from all over Canada and Northwestern USA had come for a parade that day. We took a quick tour of the Parliament building before watching the parade. The Canadians have done this nice thing of having actors come in and act like historical characters such as Queen Victoria and her courtiers. They put on a little show for us during the tour - Queen Victoria was nicer than she must have ever been in her real life! We learnt all about this history of how long it took for the Canadians to get their flag right with the approval of the stiff Brits. They even designed a flag which had the sun setting on the British Empire! There was also a window dedicated to Queen Victoria which got lost (and was later found) during the restoration of the building. The architect of the building was a young gentleman from England who has lied about his experience to get the commission to build the building. In the absence of speedy inter-continent communication of the days of yore, he got to build the building in spite of being a relative novice :). The inside of the house was nice and royal red. After our tour, we waited outside the building to watch the Victoria day parade. All the kids put on an impressive show with their precision marching bands. Two bands stood out - one with a bunch of super-enthu old people, and the Bremerton High school kids who did a spectacular job of playing 'Tequila'.
After the parade, we strolled around the Empress Hotel which has designed by the same architect who designed the Parliament building. Clearly, he had gotten some experience after building the Parliament that people commissioned him to build some more prestigious buildings in Victoria. The hotel serves high tea in the afternoon. They serve you tea with super-fancy little tidbits like cakes and tarts. Well, it wasn't meant to be our cup of tea so we skipped :). Miniature World was our next stop. They had the most interesting displays of everything in miniature - old war scenes, the beginnings of the Canadian Pacific Railways, Charles Dickens' novel settings, doll houses, the circus, and this city in the picture. Can you tell which city's old scene it is? Surely, the double-decker buses are hint enough :).
In the evening, we visited the Craig Darroch Castle built by Mr. Dunsmuir who made all his money in coal but never lived to see his mansion being completed. We ate in downtown Victoria and saw more totem poles in Thunderbird Park right opposite our restaurant. Finally, before crashing for the night, we saw wonderful wonderful views of the lit-up Parliament building. It is lit up everyday using about 3000 lights. Looked marvelous!
May 22, Monday
Monday was one of the rainiest days we encountered in the trip. There was another Parade for Victoria Day which was actually on this day to celebrate the birthday or Queen Victoria. All the bands from yesterday, cultural groups, floats, and more participated in the parade. As per Papa's information, it was the first time in 47 years that it had rained during the parade! We watched the parade for a little bit and then headed over to the beautiful Butchart Gardens. These gardens were developed out of a cement quarry by a couple - over the years, it has become a neat little gem in Victoria - a must-see for everyone. There are several gardens inside the complex - the rose garden, the italian garden, the japanese garden, etc. But the one garden to rule them all was the Sunken Garden. You first get a view of the garden from a gallery and then you actually walk down and stroll in it. There were a couple of nice fountains and lovely colorful rhododendrons all over. No roses this time of the year though! After seeing the garden, we took the ferry back to Vancouver. First of all we missed one ferry as it was full; to add to it, the next ferry was very old and rickety, let alone the fancy one we came in. Glad we made it back to Vancouver safe and sound :). In the evening, we walked around old Vancouver downtown - Gastown - which has this neat little steam clock. We drove around Robson Street - the fashion mecca, and the Lions Gate bridge which is very much like Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco but much less grander. But it was well lit-up and looked pretty both by night and day.
May 23, Tuesday
Patel day in Vancouver! First stop? Capilano Suspension Bridge. Located in North Vancouver on the other side of Lions Gate Bridge, this bridge was built three times over before they made it fail-proof for Mummy. With not many tourists early in the morning, it was not shaking too much, and we made it safely across the bridge with Mummy in tow. On the other side, they have done a really good job of setting up a tree house adventure. There are small swinging bridges from one tree to another so that you can walk on all of them for a small little walk high among the trees. There were other vista points from where we got nice views of the bridge and the fast-flowing Capilano river underneath it. With great bravery and courage, we crossed the bridge back again and on to terra firma!! We drover around Mt. Grouse which has a gondola to the top of the mountain - but we saved our gondola rides for the rockies given the lack of views and sultry weather in Vancouver that day. We drove around North Vancouver hoping to locate some Indian reservation and accompanying artistry with no luck. But we were rewarded with nice views of the Vancouver skyline.
Lunch and afternoon siesta were in Stanley Park right below the Lions gate bridge. Stanley park is an oasis of green in the concrete jungle downtown, a little like Central park in New York. We first stopped at Prospect Point which offered lovely views of Lions Gate Bridge and the city in general. We drover around some more seeing some of the Vancouver beaches. We also saw more totem poles in the park - I think seeing totem poles was perhaps the distinguishing feature of this trip! After Stanley Park, we drove over to Canada Place. Canada Place looks like a tent flying in the wind in the skyline of Vancouver. Up close, it is a huge complex of theatres and a conference center located right by the water. We spent some time walking around there and watching sea-planes take off from the Vancouver harbor. The harbor even had an in-water Chevron fueling station which was quite amazing. Chinatown - see the impressive gate to the entrance to Chinatown. Somehow the gates are always super-cool, but there is not much behind them :). We also went to the Sun-Yat Sen Classical Chinese garden. Surely his father was Bengali with that kind of surname. So we were proud to see this neat little garden designed by some half-Indian :). The day was so clear - you can see the reflection of the little temple in the water so clearly.
Our final stop for the day was University of British Columbia. It is located way west of Vancouver downtown and has a huge green campus. There appeared to be no main quadrangle as we could not locate one even after asking a few local students. We hiked down to the famous Wreck 'Nude' Beach. There were a couple of nude people there who got quite cold by the time we were there in the evening and promptly wore their clothes. But even the hike down and back is beautiful and I recommend taking it anyway. Papa also walked all the way down with us - very impressive! We found a good Indian restaurant Akbar's on our way back and had a hearty meal. We spend the night at Elsie's Bed and Breakfast near the airport. Elsie and Werner are a Paraguayan couple of German descent who have lived in Vancouver for 29 years. Nice place to spend a night in their house!
May 24, Wednesday
Werner dropped us off to the airport early in the morning after a good breakfast at their house. And we were off to the rockies! We flew from Vancouver to Calgary, rented a car at the airport there, and drove off on Route 1 to Banff National Park. Banff is only about an hour's drive from Calgary. Banff marks the southernmost point of the Banff National Park and Jasper National Park. The entire area from Banff to Jasper are the magnificent Canadian rocky mountains. Our first stop was the Banff Gondola which took us to the top of Sulphur Mountain. There were about 40 little gondolas going to the top of the mountain, and each sat four people. Spectacular views of the Banff National Park were visible from the top! We could also clearly see the classic Fairmont hotel in Banff. Snow-capped mountains surrounded us. We were very very lucky with the weather as we did not hit any rain while we were sight-seeing anywhere in the rockies. At the top of the gondola station, they have put a nice International site which has the flags of many countries located in the directions that the countries lie. A short walk led to the observation deck at the highest point of the mountain. There was a small cabin for a single person at the deck which had been preserved since long ago. I wonder how people ever stayed here is such cold weather! The deck also had a cosmic ray station for scientific studies. From there, I got a nice view of the gondola station itself. After spending some time atop Sulphur Mountain, we came back down in the gondola and stopped for a little bit at the Banff Hot Water Springs. We drove in and around Banff town seeing the gushing Bow River and Bow Falls. The famous movie 'River of No Return' starring Marilyn Monroe and Robert Mitchum was filmed here. We promptly saw the movie after getting back home to relive the Bow Falls experience. We also drove along the Tunnel Mountain road - all over the scenery was just magnificent. Driving up Bow Valley Parkway, we got more awesome views of the snow-capped mountains and some incredible wildlife including a caribou. We drove up to Lake Louise, had dinner in our hotel, and crashed for the night. You can see Mummy and Papa *on* the car we had in Banff.
May 25, Thursday
The day of the Columbia Icefield and the Icefield Parkway - I would vote for this day being the most scenic in the entire trip! Our first stop was Lake Louise or Lake Lucerne as Papa preferred to call it :). We ate breakfast at the Fairmont Hotel with the backdrop scenery of Lake Louise and it was just spectacular. You could see the surrounding mountains being reflected in the serene lake. Parts of the lake were still frozen and apparently, people even walk and skate over it in the winter. There is a small tea at the far end of the lake. Some Yalies discovered this place earlier on and came back year after year till they lived to see the place become so famous with all the Asians :). After Lake Louise, we drove around the area and also saw Lake Moraine. Another beautiful and serene lake named after the cement and dirt that it pushed forward due to glaciers. Near lake Louise, we also an old Canadian Pacific Railway station which has now been converted into a restaurant. We were also lucky to catch a couple of trains go by at the same time.
After our stopover in Lake Louise, we took on the Icefields Parkway. The parkway is a spectacular road for about 200 kms between Lake Louise and Jasper which is lined on both sides with magnificent snow-capped mountains, lakes, and glaciers. It was a pleasure just driving down the road with all the scenery; add to it all the lovely places to see more stuff along the way. Two stops on the way were Crowfoot Glacier and Bow Lake and Glacier. Our final stop along the parkway before we hit the Ice Center was the Peyto Lake. It was a decent walk to the top of the view point through fresh snows and Christmas trees covered with snow. A lovely walk which ended in this awesome view of the clear blue lake. I don't think this picture even begins to capture the blueness of the Peyto lake.
Our next stop was the Ice Center which is right opposite three main glaciers along the parkway. In the middle of the Banff and Jasper National Parks is the huge Columbia Icefield. It feeds into seven glaciers - three of which are visible from this Ice Center - Athabasca, Snow Dome, and Saskawatchen. We took the snowmobile tour up on the Athabasca Glacier in these snow trucks with mammoth tires. First they used an ordinary bus to take us from the Ice Center upto the foot of the glacier, and then we transferred to the snow mobiles which took us right up on the glacier itself! The ice it so solid that first of all it takes millions and millions of years to get to be this way. Now, it can carry enormous weights without melting or being significantly affected. We were truly blessed with wonderful weather - it had been gloomy and overcast, even snowing, the whole day until right before our tour. For our tour, it miraculously cleared up and we got fabulous views of the Icefield and the glaciers. You can see Mummy and me standing right on the Athabasca Glacier. Usually there is a cold draft on the glacier as the air flows from the warmer parts of the park to the glacier but not while we were there. We also drank the crystal clear and wonderful-tasting glacier water. It was really cold too but very refreshing to drink it. We spend about 15-20 minutes on the glacier and then got back to drink hot coffee at the Ice Center. The Ice Center also had a lot of interesting exhibits about glaciers that we saw the next day on our way back from Jasper to Banff.
On our way to Jasper, we saw some more falls - Sunwapta and Athabasca falls. The latter were really interesting because From the Ice Center, we drove to the other end of the Jasper National Park. On our way there, the water can created these vortexes in the stone from its path from many many years. The rock formations were very old and very pretty. The Athabasca falls are the largest ones in the Canadian rockies. We reached Jasper in the evening - we stayed at these charming little chalets by the gushing riverside. If it were a little warmer we would have probably sat out for some more time. We had dinner in Jasper town - a cute little settlement. We also did some shopping for gifts and souvenirs in town before calling it a day.
May 26, Friday
Friday was really when the rain and snow in our entire trip started. Since we were mostly just driving back at this time, it did not bother us at all. And it also stopped for the few spots that we still were left to see. In and around Jasper, there are many lakes - Patricia, Pyramid, Edith, and Annette. We drove past all of these pretty lakes. We took a look at the Jasper gondola but did not actually ride it. We also saw the Maligne Canyon which was a small canyon formed by the river's path over many years. We stopped for lunch at the Ice Center and saw the glacier exhibits there. They had a nice video about the first few people who came to stay in the rockies and how they braved the vagaries of the weather. They lost many people and precious horses before they crossed over the many glaciers and charted out the entire territory. Those men were really brave!! We got more pretty views along the way back to Banff.
We drove onto Yoho National Park on our way back to Banff. Many parts of this park were still closed - such as the Takkakaw falls - due to the snow on the road and the dangerous driving conditions. We went to see the Spiral Tunnels. These tunnels are an engineering god-send for trains to traverse extreme slopes on mountains. Before these spiral tunnels were built, the trains had to cover a very steep gradient and many lives were lost in the journeys. Then these tunnels came along - here you can see that the train goes by a circuitous route to avoid the steep gradient. After a little bit, we even saw the front part of the train crossing a bridge while the lower part of the train was still right below the front part - pretty cool stuff! Last tourist stop for the day was at Emerald Lake - another superb lake with its cool emerald color in sharp contrast to the cool blue of the Peyto Lake. Interesting how water and its solvents absorb and reflect different components of light in different places.
We spent the night in a wonderful condo-suite place right outside of Canmore. Canmore was also a nice bustling town a short distance form Banff. We found a local vegetarian restaurant called Sunshine Cafe where we enjoyed a lovely vegetarian meal with plenty of choices to choose from!
We saw many different kinds of beautiful wild life all over the Canadian rockies and Seattle. Here are some of the pictures that we captured:
May 27, Saturday
Saturday was the day back to Calgary, Vancouver, and Seattle. First we stopped at the Winter Olympic Park in outskirts of Calgary. We saw ski slopes, the luge track and check out Mummy-Papa on the winners' stand :). Then, we spent a couple of hours walking around in Calgary downtown. We saw the Calgary Tower, and the 'Plus 15' walkways all over. These are elevated (15 feet above ground) corridors linking many different downtown buildings to ensure safe passage of the hapless denizens in the cold climes of this strange city. I wouldn't stay in a city with such provisions! Nonetheless, the city had a really neat garden tucked away in a mall bang in the center of town - the Devonian Gardens. The garden is located on the fifth floor in a mall and is like an indoor green house with fountains and benches for people to spend some time. We drove back to Calgary airport and flew back to Vancouver. Werner picked us up from the airport and we drove off in our car from their place. It was raining all the way back to Seattle. We shopped a little in the duty-free shop and cleared immigration into the US. Surprisingly, the officer allowed us to pass by just looking at our passports from the car. It took much longer and many more questions for us to pass through to Canada. Anyway, we didn't drive all the way to Seattle and spent the night in Everett as we wanted to see the Boeing tour the next morning before returning to San Jose. Had dinner at a cozy Italian place.
May 28, Sunday
Sunday was for the Boeing tour and return back home! We first visited the Boeing Gallery of Flight which has the history of all the different Boeing planes. It had some real engines from planes, simulators to build your plane, and mock-ups of the latest Boeing addition - the 787. We then went for the Boeing factory tour itself. They took us to the plant sire from where we could see how the planes are actually assembled. The 747 takes anywhere from 4 to 6 months for assembly; compared to that the 787 is supposed to take just 5-6 days - they have vastly improved the process for this new plane. There is already a huge backlog for ordering the places will be ready in 2008 - first for All Nippon Airways. The factory has huge corridors underneath for facilities maintenance which are often used by employees for exercising where there is poor weather outside! There is no heating or cooling in the building - the heat from the employees provides the heating in winter, and in summer, they simply open the gates to the assembly plant to provide air circulation. (Those massive gates takes 8 minutes just to open!). Well, Boeing was an eye-opener for everything with respect to size. We even saw a short video of the 777 plane being assembled - very impressive! We drove back to the Seattle airport, returned the car, fought with the Hertz guys over the bill, and barely made it to the flight in time. On the way back, we got this spectacular and timely shot of our beloved Golden Gate Bridge!
All in all a wonderful trip. We got to spend a lot of time with each other. Thank God for the incredible weather and no hitches otherwise too! The Canadian rockies are a must-see for everyone who can go there some time. Papa's (super-cool biased :)) bottom line of the trip is: Forget about the US - travel in Canada ;)!
Just for my reference in the future, here is the list of hotels that we stayed in (scale of 1 to 5 stars):
Days Inn Bellevue
3241 156th Ave Se
Bellevue, WA 98007
Convenient location in Bellevue - right off Interstate 90. Regular motel - nothing special. Decent breakfast and free internet in the reception.
Days Inn Victoria Waterway
123 Gorge Rd E
Victoria, BC V9A1L1
They were overbooked so they moved us to Accent Inns. Very poor service - no attempt to give some freebie for the move to the new sidey hotel. Accent Inns was also nothing special.
Downtown Vancouver, Canada
Holiday Inn Express
2889 East Hastings Street
Vancouver, BC V5K 2A1
Looked like a slightly shady locality - about 10 minutes drive from downtown although they have a shuttle service. Good room and bathroom - great breakfast. A little pricey. Parking with a badge was incovenient and a tad dangerous with some blind turns. Plenty of restaurants right opposite the hotel.
Vancouver Airport, Canada
Elsie's Bed and Breakfast
Werner & Elsie Wittenberg
3766 McKay Drive
Richmond, BC V6X 3R5
Neat little bed and breakfast run by a friendly German/Paraguayan couple. Its a stone's throw away from the airport. Good breakfast and nice rooms. We were able to park our car there for free for a few days. Accomodating hosts with pickup and dropoff to the airport for $10 each way.
Lake Louise-Banff National Park, Canada
Lake Louise Inn
210 Village Road
Lake Louise, AB TOL1E0
Nice location and nice restuarant. But only the rooms in building 1, where the lobby is located are good. All the other buildings and rooms are in very poor shape with musty bathrooms, worn-out carpets, and paint jobs going on. The building 1 rooms were excellent with granite counter-tops in the batroom. Check local hotel rate before booking with Expedia.
Jasper-Jasper National Park, Canada
On the Icefields Parkway
5 km S of Town of Jasper
P.O. Box 579, AB T0E 1E0
Superb location - right outside of Jasper but by a beautiful gushing river. Very well-maintained property with well-manicured lawns. Neat individual chalets. Bedrooms are available for cheaper if you don't want a whole chalet. Very reasonable given some of the other places in the rockies. Breakfast was expensive.
Banff/Canmore-Banff National Park, Canada
Banff Boundary Lodge
1000 Harvie Heights Rd
Harvie Heights, AB T1W2W2
Can't say enough good things! Excellent location close to Banff and Canmore which has many restaurants including Sunshine Cafe which is totally vegetarian. Condo-style duplex apartments with a fireplace, fully-equipped kitchen, and two bedrooms with king beds. Good choice fo movies to rent at the reception for use in the VCR in the room. Got an excellent deal with Expedia.
Best Western Cascadia Inn
2800 Pacific Avenue
Everett, WA 98201
Just a last-minute stay to spend the night. Good room with a fridge and microwave. Excellent full (not continental) breakfast.