Summer Travels Part 2: Whale of a Tale Edition

The end of summer is nigh…and there is so much to catch up on from just a few days of traveling!  And since a picture is worth a thousand words, probably the best way to tell you what Chris and I have been up to is to show you what we’ve been up to.  How’s that?  This post will be mostly about the trip we took at the end of July, which we split between Seattle and San Juan Island.  Ready for the recap?  Swell!

First up, Chris and I stayed at Tulalip for three nights so that we could [both get pedicures and] attend his high school class 20th year reunion in Seattle.  It was weird – even though I didn’t know anyone there, I could still see all the cliques and kind of tell who was who.  Everyone was trying to impress everyone else.  I can’t say that I’m terribly disappointed that I missed mine last year; between Chris and me, one 20 year reunion was enough!  But Chris was happy that he went because catching up with a couple of old close friends was worth it.

DSC00756The next day was Chris’ 38th birthday.  Now he’s only two years younger than me and can’t make fun of me for being super older than him.  I took him out to a really nice dinner, because I’m sweet like that ❤

We spent Sunday traveling over to the San Juan Islands.  We caught the ferry at Anacortes and took it to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island proper.  The weather couldn’t have been more beautiful!  We stayed at a nice little bed and breakfast right downtown, where we had our own little apartment complete with private hottub and magically-appearing fresh-baked cookies.  And the breakfasts were Ah. Maze. Ing.  Nom nom nom!

One of the highlights of our trip was taking a five hour sea-kayaking tour.  There were only six of us on the tour, plus our guide, Owen.  We left out of Roche Harbor and kayaked completely around Henry Island, which was about 11 miles in all.  The weather was completely fantastic – sunny, a slight breeze, and warm.  We saw a pair of bald eagles, and a little red fox joined us on our lunch break.  We also saw plenty of harbor seals, but whenever I got my camera out, they dunked underwater.  Why do they have to be such camera haters?  The most amazing part of the trip happened about halfway through our day when we saw approaching orcas – K-pod, to be exact.  I don’t know how many we saw, but they did come fairly close; one female swam under our kayaks to get to a younger orca that was headed toward us along the shoreline.  It was really cool being so low on the water, watching them surface and blow, and even breach.  It was Chris’ first time kayaking (my second) and I’d say it was a success!

But wait!  There’s more, yes, still more!  The final full day of our vacation was spent driving around the Island, stopping wherever we thought would be interesting.  We saw both English Camp (hip hip hooray!) and English Camp (sad) AND I got my NPS passport stamps at both places, we stopped for an unexpected visit to some tidepools, said hi to a few shy alpacas, were astounded (and slightly dismayed) by the gastrointestinal parasites of pinnipeds at The Whale Museum, and bought a few treats at a lavender farm (the lavender ice cream was nom-tastic).  Here’s a quick tour!

Thanks for joining me on my little vacation retrospective.  We had a great time, plus I got to meet this guy and his dog!


Olympic Peninsula Vacation

At the beginning of August, Chris and I took a long weekend to drive around the Olympic Peninsula.  We stopped at the Hoh Rainforest and Hurricane Ridge, the Olympic Game Farm, took the ferry over to Whidbey Island and drove over Deception Pass, then landed at Tulalip Casino where we lost a bunch of cash (aside from my winnings at a slot machine called Siberian Storm, featuring lots of tigers).  It was a great break from work and it felt like an actual vacation!  Check out my photo album HERE to see some of the places we stopped.

Me and Chris in the Hoh Rain Forest, part of Olympic National Park.

Me and Chris in the Hoh Rain Forest, part of Olympic National Park.

A Fish Ladder, Finally!

Chris’ Grandma Lois turned 80 on July 19th, but since he was on tour with his army band, I took the train up to Seattle to represent.  I met up with Chris’ Aunt Carol, Uncle Bruce and cousin Terra before our big family lunch and they took me to the Chittenden Locks and fish ladder on Lake Washington.  I think this was actually the first time I’ve really seen a functioning fish ladder up close, which seems kind of silly to me at this point in my career.  But it was pretty cool – they had the ladder that you could walk along side of, and then you could go inside to see the fish in the ladder through a viewing window.  As it was in the middle of July, it was the height of the sockeye upstream migration, and that’s what most of these fish were.  But it was the beginning of the Chinook migration, and we saw a big old Chinook hanging out in the fish ladder too.

Here are some boats going through the Chittenden Locks into Lake Washington.

This is the upstream end of the fish ladder, looking towards Lake Washington.

Sockeye salmon, for the most part.

Hey you fish, you’d better hurry up or you’re going to have to wait until tomorrow to get to the lake!

There were also seals lurking very close to the entrance of the fish ladder,
filling up on breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The mini Gyger family reunion was a great time – I think everyone had fun at Ray’s Boathouse, and I know I had a good time chatting and drinking with Aunt Kim, Uncle Bruce and Bumper later that evening.  Here’s a link to the photos I took if you’d like to check them out!

Grandma Lois’ 80th Birthday

A Perfect Day

Hello, fair readers! Merry Christmas, and soon-to-be happy new year! Before I write about any holiday goings-on, you might recall that a couple of weeks ago I wrote a post that was labeled “The mooshiest post you’ll ever see me write”, or some such tag. Well, apologies to you, but today’s post might just supersede my previous level of mush…so be forewarned!

You’re probably wondering about what A Perfect Day includes. There are three main elements, which include but are not limited to:

1. Harry Potter
2. Getting engaged
3. An incredible Bela Fleck show

Surprising, huh? I would’ve never guessed that these three things would be the ingredients in my perfect day, but there you have them.

Last Thursday evening, Chris and I drove up to Seattle to enjoy a nice little getaway to commemorate the occasion of our first anniversary (our first date was Dec. 6, 2009). We checked in at the Hotel Monaco where Chris reserved a huge room complete with a two-person spa, which we took advantage of whilst sipping room-service ordered champagne. Fancy, huh? It was a nice way to end a day of work and driving up to the city; I highly recommend it!

On Friday, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast at Sazerac (banana’s foster french toast…yummy…), then walked over to the downtown mall and hopped on the Monorail. We sped off to Seattle Center and headed over to the Pacific Science Center where Harry Potter: The Exhibition is making its last U.S. stop.

Riding the Monorail to Seattle Center
The Space Needle

Since we were there on a weekday, there weren’t that many people – we were let right in, just the two of us, and sorted into Gryffindor house (surprise, surprise) right away (although the attendant said that he thought that Chris belonged in Hufflepuff and I might fit better in Ravenclaw…go figure). The exhibit was actually really cool, and well worth the money, I thought – tons of actual props and costumes that were used in all of the movies, along with an audio guide. It took us about 90 minutes to go through the whole thing, but a big Harry Potter fan could’ve easily spent half a day or longer in there…I just didn’t want to torture Chris any longer than was necessary! And actually, even though Chris is not a huge fan, he did indulge me in watching all the movies, and I think he enjoyed the exhibit as well.

We weren’t allowed to take photos, so this was grabbed off the website. But it gives you an idea of the sets they had – pretty cool, huh?

After the Harry Potter portion of our morning, we went to the butterfly garden at the science center and ate lunch in the food court. We got to listen to a middle school band perform some holiday songs – they were really good – and Chris introduced himself to the director after the show. We hopped back on the Monorail and returned downtown, back to our hotel.

Chris and me hitchin’ a ride on a caterpillar… 

Zebra longwing

We had dinner reservations and tickets to see Bela Fleck at Jazz Alley that evening, and we decided to get all fancied up for the show. As I was getting ready, Chris asked me a couple of times if I was nearly done, and I noticed that he was repeating the same song on his iPhone. Weird, huh? When I got out of the bathroom, Chris said he had something for me, a small token of his affection for me, and he pulled out a small box with a beautiful diamond/palladium ring. It took me a minute to realize what was going on, and even then, I wasn’t sure until he said he would be the happiest man ever if I would marry him. My reply was that I would, of course, marry him…such a surprise! It turns out that the hotel was having their happy hour in the lobby so we went downstairs and got a couple of glasses of champagne, quietly celebrating our moment in the middle of a crowd of people who weren’t in on the reason for our grins. We played a couple of rounds of Guitar Hero with Bailey (on vacation from Australia with his parents), then took a cab over to Jazz Alley.

Chris picked out this ring all by himself – it’s quite gorgeous!
Our first photo together as an engaged couple :oP

Once we got to Jazz Alley, we ordered a nice bottle of wine along with dinner, which we consumed during the Bela Fleck show. He and the Flecktones played nearly their entire holiday album (Jingle all the Way), and it was a FANTASTIC show. Bela Fleck is an amazing banjo player, and along with the others (Futureman, Jeff Coffin, and Victor Wooten), the resulting music was fun, dynamic, and in some cases, unbelievable (e.g., the entire “12 days of Christmas”, with each day sung in a different key and time). They were accompanied by Alash, a group of Tuvan throat singers, and were equally amazing. Really, it was one of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time.

Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, with Alash in the back.

A kindly older couple volunteered to drive us back to our hotel when they overheard us inquiring about calling a cab, which was a pleasant treat at the end of our night. We had to get back down to Vancouver the following morning, but it was a day in Seattle that I’m sure I will remember for a very long time. You can see more pictures of our trip by viewing the slideshow to the right, or by clicking here. I’m so lucky to have been able to share that day – a perfect day – with the man I love so much!

No, the *other* Vancouver!

Can you believe that Chris and I took *another* cruise? Well, we did, so believe it, folks! In fact, we took our second cruise on the very same ship we sailed to Alaska on, Holland America’s Rotterdam. We got a fantastic deal to sail from Seattle to Vancouver, B.C. during the seasonal transition period (the ship changes their weekly trips from Alaska in the summer to Hawaii and warmer locations in the winter), so we got to spend one night on the ship and it cost about as much as a nice hotel room. Plus, we had three meals included, along with all the fun of hanging out on a cruise ship.

Friday, Sept. 17, we drove up to Seattle and spent the night with Chris’ uncle Bruce and his two enthusiastic dogs, Bumper (shown at right with Chris) and Maddie. We wanted to get on the boat around noon, so the following day we only spent a few minutes allowing the dogs to burrow under our bedsheets (Bumper insisted, even though he is not as petite as he thinks he is) before we took off and parked the car at King Street Station. We took a cab to Pier 91 where we waited in several long lines to check in. Chris ran into an old high school classmate, whom we awkwardly passed in the line several times. What exactly is the protocol for that? We said hi, but is there any standard guidelines for what you should do each time you pass them in line? Do you have to make small talk at each intersection?

Anyway, our confusion and puzzlement were short-lived, because when we got to our check-in desk we discovered that we had been upgraded from a stinky standard D-category stateroom with just a little window on deck 2’s main floor to a fabulous private A-category veranda suite with our own balcony all the way up on deck 6. Suck it, steerage! We don’t wait in lines, and we don’t spend our nights in steerage!

After we explored our room, we ran over to the dining room and caught lunch at the last second that they were still serving. We enjoyed a fantastic lunch of salmon, ziti, chocolate mousse cake and fruit tart – so, in addition to not waiting lines and spending our nights in steerage, we also don’t eat on the lido deck at the infectious disease buffet! However, after lunch, we did enjoy drinks on the lido – mojitos and a sidecar – as Chris narrowly beat me at cribbage. And can you believe that they took photos for such a short cruise? Well, they did, so of course we had to go to the photo gallery to check out our prints.

After we had a loverly dinner in the dining room (yummy penne, eggplant cannelloni, toffee and apple strudel) with what appeared to be the cast of the Russian version of “Jersey Shore”, we met up with the ship’s photographer, Andreea, whom we had met on our first cruise. We’d been keeping in touch with her on facebook since our first cruise, so she was expecting to see us – we chatted over tea, and afterwards, she hooked us up with some of the photos of us that were at the photo gallery (wink wink!). It was nice to see a familiar face amongst a sea of so many strangers (except for Chris’ high school class mate, of course, which was just a bit awkward).

On Sunday, disembarkation started bright and early (ok, it wasn’t bright, since it was still pretty much dark outside). We ordered room service to arrive between 6:30 and 7:00 am, and at approximately 6:29 we got the knock on our door and the general PA announcement telling everyone to get off the boat according to their disembarkation group. Since we were in group 23 we at least had time to eat our breakfast, but we were off the boat with our packs on our backs by 7:30. Yawn! We had to go through Canadian customs, and were greeted by a smart-ass agent who cheerfully referred to us as being from “Vancouver Jr.” I looked over at Chris and almost wanted to start chanting “fight! fight! fight! fight!” but since we were going to have to do a lot of walking, I thought it might be best to conserve our energy.

We had to take some sort of bus through the port terminal, and then we took a taxi to Stanley Park. We didn’t really have a plan for the day, other than to “explore the great international city of Vancouver, B.C.” Unfortunately, there’s not much happening on Sunday at 7:30 in the morning, so Stanley Park was a good choice for us – we walked around the eastern side of the park as it started to rain, and then took a bunch of pictures at the totem pole display. After milling about for an acceptable amount of time, we walked back to the central part of the island to the Vancouver Aquarium, which is actually a pretty cool place. In addition to the standard fish exhibits, they also had a large section dedicated to the marine life of that area, a tropical rainforest section (with bats, a sloth, and tortoises), and a 4D movie about ocean life. Plus they had sea otters, particularly one named Milo. He really liked to eat!

After the aquarium, we took another taxi to the west side of the city, near English Bay, and shared fish and chips at the Boathouse – yum! We reluctantly strapped our heavy backpacks on (even though what we really wanted to do was take a nap) and started walking southeast through the very colorful Davies neighborhood. We jogged east through Robson, then southerly to Chinatown, where we spent some time walking through the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. Incidentally, I discovered that mastering the Chinese yo-yo is a whole lot harder than it looks, and that it is quite possible to bash yourself in unfortunate places with either/both the yoyo part or the sticks. I’m not sure I’m going to try *that* again.

After that, we walked west to the train station, where there were more very long lines and no upgrades available to business class. But that was actually ok, because once we were on our train, we found our seats to be quite roomy and nice – not at all like traveling on an airplane! Although the drinks were just as spendy – I enjoyed two rather large white Russians (courtesy of Christopher), a couple of episodes of The Office (season 6) on Chris’ laptop, and a nice nap after watching the sunset as we traveled back down to Seattle. I was briefly disturbed by a customs agent who came on at the boarder crossing – he asked us what we had purchased during our time in Canada, and my response was to look at the food wrappers on our fold-out trays and tell him “you’re lookin’ at it.” Grumpy when I get woken up from a good nap, duh!!!

We were back in Seattle by 10:30 pm, and since we had parked the car right at the train station, we were back on the road in short order. We drove down to Portland, and were in bed by 1:30 am. It was a busy trip and a long weekend, but we had a really great time seeing fancy new international places. You can check out more pictures by clicking here. Whew!

A *Sunny* Weekend in Seattle?

Yes, I know I’ve gotten a little bit behind in my blogging. But I’m still here, right, so that’s a vast improvement from last year (and by the way, I’ve already surpassed the total number of blog entries that I wrote in all of 2009. Yay, me!). So in an effort to catch up, I thought I’d tell you the story of a sunny little weekend adventure that Chris and I took up in Seattle a few weeks ago.

We drove up on the afternoon of Friday, May 7 and made excellent time, narrowly missing the closing time of Starbucks (whew!) by convincing the drive-through attendant that he should definitely let us order a strawberry-banana vivanno smoothie. Additionally, I tried my first crispy bean burrito at Taco Time, which was excessively yummy and aided in padding my ass so that I am better equipped to enjoy long car rides. Chris had made reservations at the Hotel Monaco, right downtown, and we were lucky enough to receive a free upgrade to a suite…it even came with fancy animal-print robes and free honor bar treats (up to $10 value, please)!

On Saturday we summoned our car from the valet (Chris dials the valet…ring ring…”Hello, Mr. Sigman – will you be needing your vehicle this morning?”), who was named Mario and who, I’m fairly certain, was an undercover secret agent spy who only had the valet job so that he could grab a car to make a quick getaway which would likely involve jumping over an open drawbridge. Seriously, Mario was a bad. ass. with his shaved head, fancy suit, and little secret agent earpiece with the curly wire down the back of his neck. I decided that it would not be in our best interest to mess with him, so Chris tried to tip him well.

Anyway, we headed out for a delicious breakfast at Glo’s (coffee cake and huevos rancheros…yum!), did some shopping, then walked around the International District where we explored Uwajimaya, a huge Asian grocery store with all manner of sea creatures (yes, to eat), vegetables, boxed and canned goods, and household objects. They also had a food court area where I bought a couple of pork buns, but I can’t say that they were among the best I’ve had.

I also was told not to take pictures of the roasted ducks hanging behind a counter. But take that, Uwajimaya! I got me a hanging duck picture!

Later that afternoon we drove north of the city just a bit to say hello to Chris’ dad, Walt, who still lives in the house Chris lived in as a kid. It was nice to meet him, and the garden in his back yard was amazing – I especially liked all the rhododendrons (blooming in purple, orange, and white) and the several varieties of Japanese maple he had. After that, Chris and I drove down to Bothell to his mom and grandmother’s house where we met up with them and his Uncle Bruce. My hair was passionately molested by one of Cynthia’s kitties (Peep), who apparently has some sort of uncontrollable fetish. We went out for a Mother’s Day dinner at Grazi’s and enjoyed some delicious Italian fare. I don’t remember much beyond that because I think I was in some sort of food coma. So full!!!

Sunday was an absolutely beautiful day – warm and sunny. The day before, I learned that Chris had never actually eaten dim sum, so I found a reputable dim sum restaurant in the International District and away we went. Jade Garden was completely packed, but Chris and I were one of the few non-Asian patrons so I considered that a good sign. In the waiting area there were all these aquarium tanks full of crabs and fish and things that were still alive but waiting to be eaten. After about a half hour (Seinfield, party of four!) we finally got a table. The dim sum carts did their little parade and before we knew it, we were stuffed with *good* pork buns, shrimp balls, and other tasty morsels (but no chicken feet or black jello; although the pork noodles were flaccid and slimy). Success!

After brunch we (so sadly) checked out of our room at the Hotel Monaco and said farewell to Mario. But since it was such a nice day we decided to explore Pike Place Market, which was super-crowded with people who were also out enjoying the day.

It was a fine, fine way to spend the weekend, and I had a good time meeting Chris’ family. We’ll definitely go back to the Hotel Monaco and I recommend it highly! If you want to see all the pictures we took that weekend, you can view them in the slideshow at right, or here.