Seattle – Washington – 2014

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I travelled to Seattle for a weekend trip (2 days, 1 night) with my friends Christian, Joanne, Yolande, Joseph & Stanley. We rented 2 cars and drove down from Vancouver.

We made it to the border by 9AM and first stop along the way was the Seattle Premium Outlet mall. Nike was on everyone’s mind and everyone left with a pair of shoes. When in the states, you can’t go wrong with McDonald’s for a meal. They had this deal called Feast Mode $10USD (2 cheeseburgers; in our case 3, 20 McNuggets, 2 med fries) that we got which fed 3 people. Seattle’s facade reminds me of Vancouver by the water but the highways and the actual downtown core like Toronto with a mix of New York. We stayed at the Paramount Hotel at 8th & Pine St (Paid parking across the street). Then straight to the Niketown and Nordstrom Rack (Designer goods at non-designer prices).

By the time we were finished shopping, it was already 8PM. We Yelp’ed a couple of places to eat and our first option that was open that late was Taylor Shellfish on Melrose. We walked up Pine St to Melrose St (this area is the Cap Hill neighbourhood) and walked into the establishment. It is not meant to hold big parties and is first come first serve on seating where you pick an item and they will grab it fresh from their selection. Unfortunately, it was already packed so we left and right beside it was Sitka & Spruce which was recommended that we check out. During the day, it’s a deli/butcher shop in the front and they serve coffee but in the back is the restaurant. The decor was very lovely and somewhat hipster looking. It was also very packed and they said they had multiple reservations however they did recommend other eats on the same street. We finally settled at the corner restaurant called Terraplata. It’s an earth to plate type of restaurant and is open late night. It is very cute corner restaurant with a solid oak door and windows on all sides with a huge bar and long communal table type of seating. I was fortunate enough for my dear high school friend Katrina to join us for dinner.  For dinner I had the Quinault river steelhead (cauliflower, harissa, cilantro, pinenuts, salsa verde). Crispy skin and the combination with the cauliflower made the meal. Presentation wise, they plated on these long and somewhat narrow plates which was okay but also at the bottom of their menu, it mentions their meals are made to be shared family style which is not the case.

After dinner, Katrina wanted to take us to Molly Moon for ice cream but it had just closed when we finished paying the bill so next best option – Cheesecake Factory.  Pineapple upside down cheesecake for me and I don’t regret a single bite of it.  As we were walking along Pike St, we passed by another recommendation – Rumba which is Caribbean dining.

 

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The rain never stopped falling during our visit. But it didn’t stop me from exploring. We walked over to Pike Place Market (Similar to Granville Island and St Lawrence Market) with the booths for fresh farmers market, meats, flowers, jewelry etc. We grabbed lunch at Pike Place Chowder for bread bowls – I grabbed the smoked salmon chowder and we all found a place to sit and eat where we were accompanied by a dog from one of the stalls. We also saw the first Starbucks that also had a huge line. Katrina recommended we try some Russian pastries at Piroshky Piroshky. I had the Cinnamon cardamom twist. A rainy Sunday but otherwise a fun little walk and great food.

Our last stopover before heading north of the border was to Trader Joes (2410 James St, Bellingham, WA 98225). I absolutely love this store and if I had one closer I would’ve bought so much more from this store. I loaded up on the Unsulfurated Dried Mangoes and the Dark Chocolate Edamame Beans because they are that good. We made it back in to for some good old volleyball and to the usualy spot for late night pho – Pho 99.

If we had time, we would have like to try these restaurants that were highly recommended:

Sitka & Spruce

Rumba

The Walrus & the Carpenter

Paseo a Caribbean

Kelowna – Vernon – Vancouver – British Columbia – 2013 – Day 1-4

10/09/13

We flew to Vancouver via Air Canada. We rented a car (2014 Volkswagon Jetta – almost brand spanking new with only 2000KM) from Alamo. We took to the road and drove to meet with our friend Ben who works at BMO. We helped load his SUV with items to prep for the BMO – Okanagan Marathon in Kelowna. Had lunch at Edge Cafe. From there, we then hit the open road and drove 4-5 hours to Kelowna. Jo was first to drive but couldn’t make it past 45 minutes so I took over. The ride up was interesting as the weather shifted quickly and there was chances of ice and snow and chains on tires. We’re staying at the Delta vacation condos with 5 in the apartment (Joanne’s sister Marisa will join us in the morning). We finally arrived and drove around part of the town and ended up at Yamas for Greek food. Greek ribs with prawns were good but so salty.

 

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Woke up early and went to workout. When everyone had awoken, we went to De Dutch for breakfast before heading off to pick up and drop off items at the run site. We spent the day setting up our space in the event tent which consisted of 2 tented areas to give away gloves, thunder sticks, apples, massages and where people can come to make signs to cheer on competitors. We finished relatively early and decided to drive to Vernon which is about 45min drive away to have dinner and see Marisa’s boyfriend Joshua and his family at Sir Winston’s for cheap wing night. We ended up at their home which is massive and overlooks Vernon with the lake view. The drive back to Kelowna was stressful seeing as there are no lights on the highway along the mountain so it was interesting flying down at 120-150KM turning around bends and trying to follow the person in front of you through the darkness. We got back with enough time to hit the hot tub for half an hour.

10/11/13

We had prepped enough the previous day so our start time for the race prep was noon. We drove over the bridge to Westbank and had White Spot for breakfast then onto Mission Hills Winery for some wine tasting and to purchase gifts for Yolande and Thanksgiving dinner with their extended family. It was perfect timing as we made it back in time to grab the last of the tents and officially set up our BMO stations in the tents.

Once everything was completely set-up, we drove back to Vancouver around 2PM. Joanne drove the whole way with one pit stop to get gas. She decided to make a buddy on the highway to follow but alas with us going 180KM we lost him because he floored it. We made it back in record time of 3 hours. We did however hit traffic once we got into Vancouver but that is to be expected. I cannot tell you enough about how Vancouver reminds me of Hong Kong with a little mix of Japan & Los Angeles on certain streets and a bit of Sydney too. We made our way to downtown Vancouver to meet with Yolande. We settled in for a bit before we drove to the airport to pick Vicky up. For dinner, we ate at Matsuyama in Richmond for fresh sushi! It was the after 9PM menu so it was cheaper and the food was pretty good. The sashimi slices are so thick and enormous. There aren’t any all-you-can-eat places in Vancouver however their sushi is the best (better than some of the best in Toronto). Nelson and Jordan joined us for dinner as well.

10/12/13

I had agreed to shoot the morning portion of Miranda’s wedding day so I had to wake up bright and early (only 3-4 hours of sleep for me) to head to her parent’s place. Her parents live right by the harbourfront overlooking part of Stanley Park and a yacht club but nonetheless the view from above (23 floors up) is unreal.

The ceremony was lovely. Miranda & Tom made the vows creatively echo one another. The wedding cake was actually the cupcake table where they had a cupcake periodic table. (Tom is a Bio Chemist)

We decided to go on a detour after to Thomas Haas for tea, coffee and the famous double baked croissants. Made it back to the apartment for a bit then off to Richmond where we went for the reception at Empire Seafood where we arrived just as the bridal party was making their entrances.

A lovely 10 course meal. The bridal party was very creative and performed like no tomorrow. They even performed a re-enactment of how Miranda and Tom met and proposed. They even sang “I’ll Never Break your Heart” by Backstreet Boys in Cantonese. By the end of the night, we took over the photo booth.

Rotorua, New Zealand 2010 – Day 15

05/09/10

Heading out of Auckland today and we wanted to rent a car to continue our journey to Rotorua and area. We got picked up by the car rental van. The guy was a total jerk and we definitely didn’t vibe with him. Ill refer to him as jerk. Anyways, we were told terms beforehand which couldn’t be offered for example parking. We will be driving back on the 12th as our flight is on the 13th at 7AM meaning we need to check in at 5AM. The jerk put us through a lot but luckily there was a customer who had just returned a car and was getting dropped off at the airport so we asked to be dropped off at the airport where we can rent a car for the rest of our trip and also drop off the car anytime. We rented with Europcar and prices were a little higher because we are “young drivers” under 25 and picked up a Hyundai Gatz. We drove straight to Rotorua as this was a hitch in our day with the jerk who took away 3 more hours than we would’ve liked.

GPS is our friend. I highly recommend making sure your rental has GPS included. Andrew was driving and well… I hate how he drives in toronto… Add new zealand driving on top of that…. Great… but I get to drive tomorrow! New Zealand/Auckland feels like a mixture of Pasadena/NYC filled with the hustle and bustle but its not crazy busy as NYC is. The streets especially residential are filled with slopes similar to Pasadena terrain. Getting on the highway from Auckland going towards Rotorua, the hills reminded me of LA like the the route heading up to Golden Oaks Ranch.

3 hours later we arrived into Rotorua and its got a very distinctive smell of rotten eggs due to all of the geothermal sulphurous gases. We checked into our hostel Crash Palace Backpackers (1271 Hinemaru Street) and basically strolled the town or surrounding streets. Can I tell you how dead it was… Mind you it’s Mothers day and a Sunday. The streets were empty and very much like Ottawa at 8PM.

We booked a Mitai (Mitai Maori Village – 196 Fairy Springs Rd) and Kiwi (Rainbow Springs) encounters upgrade for tonight and it was not let down. The Mitai was run by one family for generations but now is run by multiple families. They also called themselves the Maori. Aoeteroa – land of the long white cloud. We went to Mitai to enjoy a ceremonial hangi dinner where we participated in the burying lamb chicken potatoes and sweet potatoes in the earth where the heat would slow cook it making everything perfect. As we waited for the food to cook, we were led down to a river where a canoe arrived with men welding torches appearing then led us to a stage where they performed a cultural piece for us. In this performance, they showed us their traditional weapons, instruments, fighting techniques, training, music and games – well done!

They also explained the meaning behind the moko tattooing of birds. The story begins with a god and goddess in a quarrel where the god strikes his wife. The wife runs away and the man goes after her. On his adventure, he comes upon another god who has a beautiful moko tattoo on his face. He befriends him and asks him to give it to him as well. That man decides that he will only if he gives him his bird – owl, parrot, bat and kiwi in return for a custom/unique design. On the women, they have owls tattooed on their chin as they are the protectors. The males have bats on their foreheads with wings spanning over their temples. The face represents a home where the bat represents intelligence and wisdom. By doing so, the bat is historically placed in the very top of the house. The next bird they present on the face is that of a parrot being the watchers. They would place the parrot on the windowsill. the parrot’s eyes become the person’s eyes thus seeing both sides of the beak on their nose. The kiwi; the flightless bird remains on the ground, protecting the home by eating intruders. The beak and head of the kiwi is tattooed around the mouth. On the left hand side is the design of the mother clan (intelligence, calmness, femininity) and the right the father clan (rage, anger, power, masculinity). Yin and yang.

After a wonderful dinner and show, we went on a 45 minute tour at Rainbow Springs to see the kiwis at night and other animals. The Kiwi’s are nocturnal with very sensitive hearing and sight. The park had 4 on site and we would catch glimpse of them at the back of their cage.

Rotorua is the largest tourist area in New Zealand and it thrives off of that. This town is in it’s down season at the moment because its fall and snow hasn’t fallen just yet.

Tongariro National Park tomorrow!