Flights originating in Canada are excruciatingly and prohibitively expensive due to complete monopolization by Air Canada and West Jet, add onto the already eye watering fares Canada’s air tax and you find yourself completely priced out. So much so, that often Canadian residents will travel to their nearest US airport and fly from there. With that in mind, and needing to get to Seattle we had a number of transport options.
The prices of coaches for 2 adults and 2 children from Vancouver to Seattle, were as follows and priced in Canadian dollars:
Quick coach – $150 (airport)
Amtrak – $120
Greyhound – $80
Bolt Bus – $80
We chose bolt bus due to the more convenient times for us, and within no time were heading from Vancouver train station to the US border. Here you get scammed a $6 processing fee per person, not really sure what is being processed, but in any case, if entering the US by land you DO NOT require and ESTA. The whole border crossing took around 15 minutes as the bus passes all the queues of other vehicles and has its own entrance point.
Seattle is one of the most congested cities in terms of traffic in the entire country, and it showed as we limped slowly into the city. We couldn’t wait to get off the bus and needed a place to drop our bags. If you research anywhere online people will tell you that you can drop your bags at Union Station – You cannot. People also claim you can just rock up at King Street station (a few minutes walk away) and again you cannot. However, there is a work around. Amtrak will store luggage before or after a journey for their customers. I asked if we could leave our bags at King Street station and was told with a wink, only if we had caught the Cal-train into Seattle. I explained that it just so happened that we had. The cost was $4 per bag per 24 hour period.
Seattle was nothing at all like I expected. I was expecting some huge modern city, but was completely wrong. It is an old, somewhat 50’s American style buildings fringed with a touch of boutique. Ivy drapes from red brick buildings perhaps a hundred years old, open squares are filled with musicians, people reading books, playing chess and watching the world go by. A movie was being filmed, and we walked for miles and miles just soaking in the atmosphere of this North Western city. Eventually we came to the most famous market we had never heard of – Farmers Market at Pikes Place. It is straight out of 70’s England yet adapted to the American over the top style of everything. Fishmongers dance whilst selling the days catch, florists are in your face convincing you to buy flowers for a women not in your life and fresh food abounds. No doubt there were more tourists there than locals and prices reflected that, but it was a mesmerizing portal into an era no longer celebrated in the UK as major stores have replaced local sellers on market stalls.
Our time in Seattle was spent literally walking the streets and falling in love with the city. When we left I swore to myself I would bring Gemma back to Seattle one day, and I have every intention of doing so.
The flight down from Seattle took just 2 hours, but for the second time on our trip, just as the plane was coming in to land it aborted the landing and flew back around. The pilot made no announcement and so I have no idea what the problem was. In any case, before long we were at the car hire desk and picking up our vehicle which would take us around the Western US for the next 3 weeks.
Having been to San Francisco before it was literally a whistle stop tour culminating in a relaxing bit of time on Bakers beach on the far north of San Francisco. The naked beach is also where I believe you can get the best shot of the Golden Gate Bridge, a fascinating site which never fails to amaze me. We had planned to visit Alcatraz (I have been before) as I knew the kids would love it, but for reasons that must be of corruption, the National Park Service allows only one boat company to ply the route eliminating all competition and obviously artificially pumping the price to extortionate heights.
San Francisco is a great city to be in, it’s the sort of place you can just mooch around and enjoy thanks to the vibe which engulfs the whole place. Having a car is never a good idea as traffic is crazy and parking costs can be anything up to $50 per day. But driving across the Golden Gate Bridge is worth it, a memorable experience which the kids loved.
We would like to have had more time in San Francisco, but we arrived on a Friday and hotel prices started at $130 per night for a $20 room + $50 parking. With that in mind I refocused our efforts at heading for some desert fun in Nevada, which meant heading East and making the 220n mile journey to the biggest little city in the world – Reno.