Aboard!

After a nice evening last night with 27 of our fellow cruisers at Happy Hour. The bbq wasn’t really southern but it was tasty.

We aren’t used to getting up at 5:30 in the morning like we had to do to catch our train so I was dead tired-I think we were in bed by 10!

This morning we lazed around our suite until about ten when we walked the five blocks down to the cruise terminal and got the first look at Celebrity Millennium you see at the top of this post. Thr terminal is under the white “sails” you can see in that picture and below.

Vancouver is a beautiful city and has grown quite a bit since we were last here in 2003! I like the mix of new and old architecture. The first picture below is of our hotel, while below that are some shots from our room.

From dropping our bags until we were aboard only took 34 minutes and did not require a wait longer than two minutes anywhere! I like the way Celebrity does check in. If you elect to use their app, you do all the paperwork ahead of time and they issue an Express Pass (either paper or on the app). When you get to the port, they use an iPad to scan your pass, take a picture of your passport and send you on to security, followed by immigration and then onto the ship. The only issue is it is about a mile walk around and around and up and down the terminal building.

After a glass of pink champagne (it was nasty!), one can go to your stateroom where you key Card is waiting. There is a sign on the door saying “Perfection in Progress” requesting you drop any bags and head on to Public areas until 2 pm when the rooms will be ready.

While our upgrade bid to one of the aft facing balcony cabins (Celebrity calls them Family Verandas) wasn’t a winner, we are pleased that I correctly read the deck plan and selected a regularly priced balcony cabin whose balcony is slightly larger than most!

We sailed on her sisters, Infinity and Summit back in the early 2000s. Millennium just had a significant refresh and from what I can tell after a few minutes onboard, it was very well done.

We are now ensconced on the aft shaded deck outside the buffet having our first cocktail with the beautiful view of Vancouver you can see below.

We have a sea day tomorrow and then our first port is Sitka Alaska on Sunday followed by 10 (actually only nine I think due to the international dateline) before we port again In Otaru, Japan on September 18.

I’ve pre-scheduled a couple of posts during our time at sea when we won’t be paying for internet. Hopefully that will keep you entertained while I can’t.

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From Portland to Federal Way

We just got to our friend Andy’s in Federal Way (between Seattle & Tacoma) about 5:30 after a nice drive up from Portland. We are spending tonight here and the car is staying while we are in Asia.

We packed up this morning and left the apartment about 11, ran the bug covered Mazda through a car wash and finally had breakfast about noon.

We ate at a Northwest local chain, Elmer’s. I had their “German” pancake. I think it is made like a giant fallen popover (Yorkshire Pudding) that they serve several ways-I chose traditional-with lemon and butter! It was very tasty-I tried a little syrup and it was too sweet. Needless to say it was waaay bigger than I expected but given we barely had enough dinner last night (as we had misjudged how much food we were going to have leftover) and it was late so I was Hongry!

From Elmer’s we headed north with a short stop at Mount St. Helens. The visitor’s center showed a movie about the 1980 eruption. It was amazing to be reminded on the power of the earthquakes and eruption. The flume from the eruption went up 10 miles!

As you can see from below, the eruption caused one side of the mountain to slide away. This and the resulting mudslide caused forests to be destroyed around the mountain. The ash storm caused significant long term damage.

We are now off to dinner with Andy and he will drop us at the station for our 7:45 am train to Vancouver.

Portland Week 4 and a few days

We have been pretty lazy our last week or so in Portland. We talked about doing a wine drive but haven’t. Instead we have been getting our luggage ready, books loaded onto our iPads, counting pills into envelopes (gosh ain’t old age fun) and otherwise getting ready to head to Asia.

On Sunday we went downtown and walked along the Riverwalk. It was a beautiful day so there was good people and boat watching.

There is a big arts and crafts market held beside the river on weekends. Beautiful flowers and interesting products!

During our walk along the river, we were surprised by the number of geese.

The highlight of the day though was seeing the people powered party barge!

One morning this week, I got up early (well 7:30 which is early for us retired folk) and went to get donuts for us for breakfast. You may have heard of Voodoo donuts before but the folks in Portland say those are for tourist and that Blue Star has the best gourmet donuts ($3.75 each) in town. We tried Apple fritter, bacon maple, buttermilk old fashioned and raspberry rosemary buttermilk. All were tasty but for the price I like the donuts from Queen Donuts in Houston better…and we could have gotten a dozen for what these four cost!

Our stay in Portland has been enjoyable but I don’t think we will consider it for our permanent nest. It’s a little too big and while they have a great transportation system, we would still sorta feel tied to a car.

And we aren’t granola-y enough!

We leave in a few minutes to drive to Federal Way (between Tacoma and Seattle) where we’ll spend the night with our long time friend Andy where our car will be vacationing while we are in Asia.

Tomorrow, he is dropping us at the train station EARLY ๐Ÿ˜ข for our ride to Vancouver, British Columbia. We spend one night at the Hyatt there courtesy of Mike’s free anniversary night from his Citi card unless a threatened strike happens in which case we will revert to our initial plan to stay at the YWCA hotel. The Y gets great reviews but free wins! LOL

Then on Friday morning we will head to Canada Place to board Celebrity Millennium and leave for Tokyo that afternoon!

Portland Week 3

During our third week we finalized our post Asia trip plans (more on that in a future post), spent several hours at the car dealership giving the Mazda some much needed 60,000 mile love and visited the nearby Columbia River Gorge.

We also explored a bit more around our neighborhood. Portland has a ton of food trucks that gather in what they call pods. Either in an empty lot or like the one around the corner from us, around an old filling station. We both enjoyed our lunch there. Another day we went back deep into the Alberta Arts District and had what turned out to be the best biscuits we’ve had outside of those in Virgina and the Carolinas (Texans just think they can make biscuits!). Mike and I shared a wedge salad and then spilt the two biscuits. Mine was chicken with apple butter and his was chicken with pimento cheese. They were both quite delicious.

You may recall our aborted attempt during the Arts Festival to have some of the gourmet ice cream. Since we had walked a mile for a biscuit, had to walk a mile back home and the Salt & Straw was across the street and without a line we figured we should ….just for our readers’ benefit. ๐Ÿ˜‚. We got a flight to share. Left to right in the picture they are: Pear&BlueCheese, strawberry balsamic with pepper, vanilla and Carrot Cake. All were good, the pear and blue cheese wasn’t blue enough except when you got a whole piece of cheese and then it was too blue!

The Columbia River starts in Canada and one of its main tributaries is the Kootenay River (which we drove beside while in the Canadian Rockies) and flows into the Pacific near Astoria where we had lunch during our first visit to the Oregon coast. It’s hard to believe that we visited the origin and termination of this great river with a few weeks, that where we are staying is less than a mile from its banks and it’s even harder to believe how long it is!

The Gorge the Columbia cut through the Cascades west of here served as the primary way to move goods back and forth across the mountains. Today this 80 mile long cut is home to interstate and scenic highways and railroads. The river is also the border between Washington and Oregon.

We spent the day driving west along the river on scenic and historic highway 30. We crossed the river near The Dalles and returned to Portland down the Washington side of the River.

Our first stop was at Vista House where this post’s title picture was taken. This structure which sits above a hairpin turn of the highway serves as a visitor’s center and a great place for views up to the gorge as well as down river towards Portland Oregon and Vancouver Washington.

The Gorge has the highest concentration of plunge waterfalls in North America most of which are accessible from stops along the old highway. We stopped at all of them!

The fall below requires a hike of about a mile to reach which wouldn’t have been so bad but it was a really steep trail. But the end result was worth it!

Here was one of several switchbacks on the trail:

The highest fall in the Gorge is Multnomah where we had hoped to have lunch at the lodge. Unfortunately apparently so had everyone else. There was a line in both directions waiting to enter the parking lot which stopped traffic so while I stayed in the car in traffic, Mike went and saw the 600+ foot drop for both of us.

The last fall we stopped for was Horsetail. Like the others it was beautiful and I wanted to get in the pool at the bottom. But I was afeared I might not be able to clamber back up the rocks!

We stopped and had delicious fish and chips in Cascade Locks, a little town near the locks that keep the river navigable.

After lunch we continued to the Dalles. The change in scenery from a rainforest like setting of green green trees and ferns to a dryer more grassy and dry environment was pretty amazing. We had been told the Dalles was a picturesque old “western” town. We couldn’t seem to find that so we headed across the river to Washington and began our drive back to Portland. Just after crossing the river we finally saw Mt. Hood!

While we certainly enjoyed our drive up the Gorge, the ride back was very picturesque especially at the locations where Hood was in the background.

But the most amazing thing was when we reached a portion of the River Gorge where (according to Wikipedia) due to atmospheric pressure differences between the two sides of the Cascades, the winds howl and the kite surfers and wind boarders take full advantage. It was amazing to watch them riding the winds and waves.

We enjoyed our day trip and if you ever go, be sure to ride on both sides of the river!

Portland Week 2

Our second week in Portland was highlighted by a visit to another part of the Oregon coast (above), the summer festival in our neighborhood and a visit to another of Portland’s many farmer’s markets.

Our apartment says it’s the gateway to the Alberta Arts District. Gateway apparently means “somewhat close by”. While we are just a block from Alberta Street, we are at least 10 blocks to the artsy shops and restaurants that are the “district”. On the weekend after we arrived, they were having their annual summer festival so we strolled down on Saturday before lunch.

The street was closed for about 15 blocks and in addition to vendor and community booths there were bands and beer gardens at each end. It was a beautiful day so there was a big crowd.

We ended up having lunch at a local burger chain, Big Little Burgers. It was tasty but indeed was little-about the size of a White Castle! LOL

Attend lunch we walked to the end of the festival and back enjoying people watching and the nice day. I wanted to stop at “Salt & Straw” the local-ish gourmet ice cream place. Alas the line was out the door and down the sidewalk so we decided we would wait and do that one weekday.

Portland has a saying “Keep Portland Weird” and we saw lots of folks working towards that. As Mike has put it, being. Organic, Granola-y and Free Range here is a requirement. I think this sign on a shop window about sums it up:

Later in the week we returned to the coast to continue our drive south. This time we started at Cannon Beach and went all the way to Pacific City before heading back to Portland.

We enjoyed driving through the charming village of Cannon Beach and got our feet into the Pacific again.

Our next stop was at the Tillamook Creamery. This is a cooperative owned by local farmer’s that makes a sharp cheddar cheese that we first started buying years ago as we think it’s better than Cracker Barrel at a better price.

The Creamery has a new visitor center than includes a self guided tour where you look down at the operation from a second floor level, a food hall which sells cooked food and ice cream and of course a gift shop where you can purchase products as well as logo items.

We shared a bowl of razor clam chowder, a grilled cheese and a bowl of bacon-beer Mac n cheese for lunch…and I had a cider. All were good but of course the simple grilled cheese was voted best

After lunch we took the tour which ended with a cheese sample buffet!

Of course Tillamook has learned from Disney and the end of the tour the stairs down dump you into the Gift Shop.

After the tour, we took the advice above and shared a “flight” of ice cream. OMG, so so good. We had Oregon Strawberry, Marionberry (fancy hybrid blackberries) Pie, Washington Cherry and Oregon Huckleberry. The strawberry was my favorite as it reminded me of the home made my Mom used to make.

With full (very!) stomachs we headed out to drive further down the coast. There is a loop drive we hoped to take but unfortunately a portion of it was closed so we had to backtrack a bit. But as you can see from this post’s title picture and those below the scenery was just incredible.

At Pacific City we once again parked went to the water and got our feet wet.

We then returned reluctantly to Portland. Spending the day near the water had been great and we really wished we were staying closer to the creamery.. but for our waists it’s a good thing we aren’t!

We also visited the Hollywood Farmer’s Market. This one is in a neighborhood surrounding the old Hollywood Theater and was much more manageable (though no cheaper ๐Ÿ˜ข) than the big one downtown. While all the products were beautiful, we just got some more delicious tomatoes and honey crisp apples to go with the Tillamook cheese we bought.

This market became “our” market and we have visited several times since.

Next up, our day trip to the Columbia River Gorge and Mount Hood.

Levenworth

(Reminder: this post is being published well after our visit here, we are currently in Portland Oregon until Sept 4th)

We drove from Kelowna through the border to Levenworth, Washington. While the US border guard wasn’t quite as awful as our previous experience, it reminded us again of how nice the Canadians were to visitors. We both remarked on how we missed the “Welcome Home” that one used to get whenever coming back to the USA.

The drive took us through fruit tree country so we bought some cherries and were please to see that Gaffney, SC isn’t the only one to have a big peach!

Leavenworth is a little town that (according to the rabbit hole Mike went down) fell on hard times and after a study by some economists decided to turn itself into a German alpine-esque Village. The plan seems to have worked, everything is themed like the Disney Imagineers have visited.

Even our overpriced hotel joined in

And best of all you could get a kaffe at MickyD’s!

We did enjoy a brat and a beer for dinner during our walk about the small town. They had a zillion types of mustard as well as quite tasty buttery pretzels.

The next morning we drove the part of the Cascade Loop from Levenworth to Seattle. This scenic Highway goes up and over the Cascades through Stevens Pass. It was a beautiful drive but I’m afraid we have become a bit jaded. After 6 major National Parks in less than that many weeks, we find ourselves going, “oh that’s a pretty waterfall, but not as impressive as….”. So we don’t have any pictures to share. If you find yourself needing to get from the east side of the Cascades to the west though, we highly recommend the drive.

The only pictures we took were of the large carvings of bears below since we have yet to see a live grizzly these will have to do.

After we reached Seattle we stopped near the University of Washington for Mike to try on (and then buy) some allbirds. These trendy shoes are made from wool (they have another model made from bamboo) and are reported to be the most comfortable shoe ever. We heard about them through the Senior Nomads, the couple who inspired us to undertake our adventure of the last two years. Debbie just reported she had to replace her old pair and stated how she lived hers.

Mike seems to agree with the assessment that they are very comfortable.

After a Costco stop we headed on to Portland and arrived about rush hour ๐Ÿ˜ข but eventually made it to our home for the next month or so.

More on our adventures in Portland to come…

Cody

(Reminder: this post is being published well after our visit, we are currently in Portland Oregon until Sept 4th)

We got our first glimpse (and feel) of mountains as we left South Dakota and entered Wyoming. So weird to be driving with snow on the sides of the road on July 9th!

After driving most of the day, we arrived in Cody a couple of hours before the Buffalo Bill Museum closed. Several friends had said this was a not to be missed attraction. While it was interesting with displays about Buffalo Bill and his Wild West show (a la Ringling Brothers), and a moving (and disturbing) exhibit about the displacement of the native Americans, and a raptor talk, we both agreed that we were sure the relatively high price of admission was worth it.

However, we did enjoy our BBQ dinner that night!