Victoria B.C., Seattle without the Hipsters

Has it been that long?

I’ve really slacked off in the last year. I completely missed this trip, figuring out that I overlooked it when dumping pictures off my cell phone. I probably had it in my head that I went to Seattle and who cares about that? I go there all the time.

In any event, I had cool trip up to Victoria, British Columbia. I was meeting a coworker up there to visit one of our offices. So unlike most of my trips where I have to actually do work, and am usually under the watchful eye of a customer, here all who had to put up with me were other employees. Chances are they’d be more forgiving.

The logistics of getting up there started out all screwed up. Unlike a normal trip, where I fly into the airport and rent a car, here I’d be spending part of the week in Victoria, the other part in Seattle and the flights to and from Victoria from Seattle were way too expensive, as was a three hop trip. Besides the goal here was to meet up in Seattle, and head to Victoria as a pair. I made a call to another guy in our department, who gave me the lowdown – take the ferry, it drops you off a block away from where you need to be. Stay at the Marriott down the block. I like it. Works for me.

Except, coordinating where and when to meet wasn’t progressing well. And is actually a dilemma. If we meet at the ferry, I need to stay downtown. If we’re driving in, I need to be near the office. We were ahving a hard time, for a number of reasons, settling on a plan. However, it all sorted out when chatting about my plans with my boss he was incredulous that I’d take the ferry. “What are you doing taking the vomit comet?  Last time I took that I got [seasick as hell]. Take the seaplane.”

Seaplane? Hello.

Turns out, it’s fairly easy. For a third of a flight to the airport in Victoria, the seaplane takes off from Seattle and lands at the harbor, a block or two from where I needed to be. The only issue was a 25 lb baggage limit. No Sweat. So I flew up Sunday on Alaska Air and stayed at a crappy Hotel near the airport. Why? Because the crappy ones are closest and I didn’t want to take a cab. I literally could walk to where I needed to be in the morning.

In the morning I waddled down to the seaplane counter at SEA-TAC. They sized up the passport, weighed the bag, and we whisked off to the terminal downtown.

Turns out the 25 lbs is a hard limit, as one of the other passengers came to find out. Your options are to store the extra crap you brought at the terminal in a bin, or pay a dollar a pound. Just an observation, one that I’ll no doubt get flack over, but people in general and women in particular pack way more than they need. This woman had nearly 50 lbs of extra stuff.

It was a beautiful, sunny day as we walked out and climbed aboard a blue Dehavilland super otter. I’m a huge aircraft fan, and this put me in heaven. The pilot fired up and we puttered out into the sound. When it came time to take off, it blasted like a speedboat and leapt into the air for a picture perfect takeoff.  He buzzed the space needle, and off we went.

Fly one of these babies if you can


Buzzing the Space Needle

Landing was just as cool. We splashed down, puttered to the terminal. After a cursory check at Customs, I hit the streets.

And subsequently discovered a huge problem.

I didn’t print a google map. I’d stopped doing that awhile back, since the phone has a maps app. I figured I’d simply fire up the smartphone and see where to go.
When I did I got a “Do you want to connect to Bob’s cell service” or something similar. The fees looked stiff, so I turned roaming off the phone and puzzled what to do next. Wander aimlessly? Ask someone, like a mook tourist?

I ended up doing something more old school. Picked up the courtesy phone and called the guys we were meeting.

After a short walk I settled into the office and chit chatted for some three hours as my friend that took the ferry caught up. Apparently, it was choppy, so they took “the island route”, meaning the long way around. Glad I flew.

I only rubbed it in a little. I also was told that turning off roaming was a super wise move, since the last person that didn’t racked up $1500 of charges in a few days. Keep that in mind. AT&T is ubiquitous in the US. In other countries, not so much. Same with Verizon, I’m sure.

Victoria is fantastic. It’s clean, pretty, has cool restaurants. Even the exchange rate wasn’t all that bad. One of the things I liked the best was that if you were ordering a burger, you could order it made out of lamb, which was delicious. It’s literally like Seattle or Portland, only not as scrungy around the edges and with no irritating hipsters and yuppies. And this with a university near by. If they were there, they were deep in the shadows because none crossed my path.

When I travel for business, a flagship hotel is usually verboten. However, it isn’t when there’s little other choice. So I checked into the Marriott, hit the elevator and was whisked up to the concierge, elite level, far away from the tourists. The concierge level  sports a lounge that has free breakfast, and a rather nice one at that. And, a spread for happy hour.

And….and an Honor bar. With top shelf booze.

Sunset, over the harbor, from the concierge lounge

I can’t recall leaving the bar to go out to eat any night, although I may have once. I had to. Didn’t we meet up the last night for dinner? Did I mention they had an honor bar?

Looking back, I think I spent each night admiring the view, enjoying the free grub, all while pickling my liver.I spent a lot of time reading the Canadian paper, sipping 12 year old scotch, and marveling at the writing – even the op eds – that was factual, well thought out, and crafted in excellent english. It was a treat to read a paper devoid of the hysterical bs, lazy reporting, and the downright talking point stenography in most of the American press. I once counted the phrase “..according to those familiar with the situation” in some iteration or another five times on the front page of the Wall Street Journal once. Just who are “Those familiar”? Your idiot friend at the bar?

I hated to leave so soon.

When it came time to go back, I strolled to the harbor and checked in. On the dock, the lady pilot sized up the list and passengers and read off names. One of them mine.

Turns out, the fatties need to sit towards the front. Hah! Jokes on the others! – the back moves more than under the wings. Making the fatty seat quite coveted. On both trips, the people that sat in the tail of the plane got queasy. So there’s a tip. Enjoy your fattiness, it may get you a plum seat sometimes.

Back in the US, I had to navigate customs before hitting Avis and heading to the office. Good lord, are all the customs guys mutants? Why is it I can enter nearly any country with a minimum of fuss, but when I return home I get either Joe Friday or Barney Fife asking me stupid questions?

The rest of the trip wasn’t noteworthy. I love the Seattle area. I got a crappy Dodge 200 to drive about. That most certainly is a car you drive with a long face, if I may borrow a line from Jeremy Clarkson.

On the way home, it was clear and sunny. Not American Air, not a bad flight to end a great week.

Mt St Helen’s on the way home