Hello Seattle, I’m Listening

Well, if you have not worked it out from my title, I am a big fan of Frasier. Not a crazy obsessive fan I hasten to add, but myself and Sacha do have the box sets and each episode has been viewed on more than one occasion.

So for the unacquainted, what is it about? In a nutshell Frasier is a US sitcom set in the city of Seattle which is based around the escapades of two pretentious yet well meaning brothers, Frasier and Niles Crane, their down to earth father, Marty, plus several other cast members including a dog named Eddie. Most evenings before bed I enjoy tuning in to an episode or two, where their peculiar and competitive obsessions for status recognition  lead to shenanigans with hilarity and a hint of mirth. So now that we are in Washington it would seem to be a missed opportunity if we did not go and explore the Emerald City for ourselves and discover Frasier’s territory.

image-6

 

This is Frasier’s Territory Isn’t It?

OK well I suppose it is time to break the news. Stop reading this post if you wish to continue viewing the show in blissful ignorance, but the truth is Frasier was not filmed in Seattle. In fact there was only one episode which was filmed in Seattle, which was called ‘The 1000th Show.’ Even on this show the only location I could really pinpoint would be the Space Needle. So facing facts this means;

  • There is no Cafe Nervosa
  • KACL is not a radio station in Seattle
  • There is no Elliot Bay Towers where Fraiser’s apartment was based
  • And all the people in the show are actors pretending to be real people, I want to cry.

Actually when you come to think about it, there are very few Seattle locations referenced throughout the eleven seasons. There is in fact very little time that the show is not set in an indoor location, and when there was an outdoor location it was always in a nondescript location generally filmed in Los Angeles, not as I had believed, Seattle. I truly hope I can watch the show again and not feel that the lies taint my enjoyment.

So, what does Seattle have then? “An excellent symphony and world-class dining” and oh my god I am quoting Niles Crane, enough already.

 

The World-Class Dining

Actually I cannot vouch for the symphony but our experience of the cuisine was indeed first Class. We started our culinary adventure on 4th Avenue at a mediterranean restaurant called Lola, where we stopped for brunch. The food was great. Sacha ordered lamb kebabs and I beef kebabs. There could not have been a better start to our visit.

Later that day we booked ourselves into a seaside restaurant set on pier 56 called Elliot’s Oyster Bar. Sacha, who is crazy about Oysters, was in her element as she ordered six oysters for us to share, and then proceeded to order another six from the amused waiter. For me, however, the highlight was the main courses. Sacha had crab marinated in sweet chilli sauce and I had blackened rockfish cooked in creamed beluga lentils. It may be some of the best food I have ever tasted. Definitely put this place in your itinerary for a visit to Seattle.

 

Pike Place Market

When most people think about this place they probably imagine the fish sellers flinging the customers orders to each other across the market place. I didn’t in fact see this, I think  to initiate the process people have to actually buy the fish rather then stand around with cameras just waiting for the action to unfold. I wasn’t willing to purchase or wait, but the sellers chanting to the customers was entertaining and gave the market a great atmosphere.

There are in fact a lot of stalls at the market place and you can easily pass a couple of hours wondering these. Most entertaining to us was a man who was charging $1 to sit with people’s dogs while they entered some of the shops and stalls. The man, who I may be unfairly guessing was out of employment but was at least was showing some slight entrepreneurship to get his dollar, had the dog on his lap, and it couldn’t have looked any happier to have a new friend.

 

The Space Needle

Pictures describe the views from this much better than words. We went up at about 4pm and it was not at all crowded with tourists. At the top you could take in the view from inside the observation deck or walk on the platform outside to get a better picture. The platform gives you a chance to see the city from all angles, as you see the yachts at the Elliot Bay harbour, downtown Seattle and I could just make the outline of Mount Rainer which stands large over the city.

 

 Good Night Seattle…

So obviously we didn’t go and discover Fraiser and Niles’ haunts, but what we did discover Seattle. We saw the markets, the views and the homeless and the wealthy. It is a great city to visit and as Fraisier says, ” we love ya.”

 

 

 

 

Some Photos of the Nice Scenery, And Some With Us!

Well, we have been exploring Washington for a few days now, and I thought that rather than boring people by writing about how nice the hills are here, or the trees or the sea or blah blah blah, I would just post a few photographs. Some of them are of the scenery and some of them have us within the scenery. This is in fact a contentious issue between me and Sacha. I like to go to new places and take pictures of the nice scenery, while Sacha only sees the value of a photograph with somebody within it. At any given location the conversation normally goes as follows;

Sacha: “Geoff, what are you taking a photo of?”
Me: “I’m taking a picture of the scenery.”
Sacha: “What is the point? Take some photos of us, you can just google the scenery later, you’ll see a lot of pictures.”
Me: “That’s not the same, I like to take my own photos.”
Sacha: “Do you want me to get you a postcard? I’ll get you a postcard if that’s what you want.
Me: “That’s not what I want, I want to take my own photographs!”
Sacha: “Well if you want to take your own photos then why am I not in them?”
Me: “Because I just want a few pictures of the nice scenery.”
Sacha: “What nice scenery?…I am the scenery!”
And so the conversation will go on. I will then tell Sacha to stand in the scene, but to walk away from the camera as to make it look natural. Needless to say, no photograph with Sacha in it looks natural, this is just my time to take a few photos of the scenery while her back is turned. I hope she never finds out!
Lynden
Blaine – This is an American town on the border with Canada.
White Rock – At the other side of the border in Canada is White Rock. Seemingly this place is named after a giant large rock, which is white and can be seen by the coast.
Walks and Trails – This area seems to be full of great places to walk. Most of these pictures are from the Oyster Dome Trail, off the Chuckanut Drive.
Mount Erie – This is a mountain overlooking Anacortes where we were able to drive our car up to the top. The road isn’t maintained during the winter months, but we were able to make it to the top without any problems.
Out And About – and here are some places, but we just don’t know exactly where.

Sacha’s Golden Homies

So we are in Washington, in March, and the first thing to observe here is that it rains, and it rains and then it rains some more. Apparently Washington is famous for it, or infamous, I don’t know which. Back in the UK I am sure there would be weather warnings and flood alerts by now. But we were not to be deterred.

People, Dogs and Llamas

We decided to ring the local Whatcom County office to ask for advice on local trails we could wonder. We were recommended a trail just off Chuckanut Drive, slightly north of Bellingham and were given a zip code to help us find it. So we put the zip code into our satnav, and let the annoying, and I believe to be moody female voice lead us the way. About half an hour later the sat nav voice (I have named Lorise) told us we had “arrived at your destination on the left.”

We hadn’t, Lorise was wrong. Firstly as we pulled onto a small track going uphill we were faced-off by a herd of llamas. This, I had not expected. Then suddenly a snarling, barking, vicious dog came running over to our car, then another, and then another. Now I’m no dog whisperer, but I’m pretty sure they didn’t want us to be there. The foaming mouths and big teeth indicated this. We then saw the owner stood by a trailer about 50 meters away, seemingly not concerned by the situation before him.

Well, I have heard about American residents’ penchant for ‘packing heat.’ I decided to turn and go forthwith. As I put the car into reverse I then looked over to Sacha, who had the window down and was photographing llamas, apparently unaware of the big doggies….’mental’ I thought.

We did find a track to walk further down the road, but it was wet and we did not go far before turning back. Besides there were crazy people with dogs about and…erm…llamas.

IMG_4903

This be llama country.

Sacha’s Golden Homies

Well this story starts back last Christmas when my mother gave Sacha the gift of knitting needles and some balls of wool. Sacha, instead of suggesting that my mother may have confused her gift with my Grans gift, in fact looked excited, if not a bit ecstatic about what was to be her new hobby.

So for the next couple of months when we visited my parents’ house, she would sit on the Living Room couch with my mother learning to knit. As I watched TV it did feel as if I was sat in a retirement home. Worrying still, was the deranged expression on Sacha’s face as she knitted. Cross eyed, non blinking, she would knit holding her new project half a foot away from her face. She looked like she had found her drug of choice and my mother was the dealer,…I just hope they were not sharing needles.

The problem Sacha has however, is that if she makes a mistake she needs my mother to rectify it before she continues. Well to continue for this arrangement to work now, a transatlantic journey would need to be undertaken every other day. This is unfortunately, not practical.

So one evening in Washington we were playing pool in the Club House, when some old ladies started to trickle in. We said “hello” and in very stereotyped old American lady voices, told us that “Happy Hour” was about to begin.

Apart from one who was enjoying a white wine, it was probably more like “camomile tea hour”. They also told us that Tuesday was their weekly coffee morning at 10am. Well we smiled politely and said “we would try our best to make it” as if we were giving it a real consideration. Well thats what I thought anyhow. No, Sacha had spotted an opportunity to get to know some likely knitters or knitterers or whatever the plural is, who would be able to fix her dropped stitches. This addiction has a powerful grip.

So Tuesday came and I was rudely awoken, very early I will add, and dragged to the Club House. What followed was cringeworthy at best. As I practiced playing pool Sacha knitted, then a few minutes later the first of the elderly residents made their way in. Well Sacha looked up as if surprised by the sudden activity of old ladies and  exclaimed “oh of course, it is coffee time I forgot, I just came here to knit where it is quiet.”

Well for the next hour or so we sat around a table drinking coffee, eating delightfully sugary homemade cakes (all made with green food dye for upcoming St Patrick’s day) and playing a word game, which not everybody seemed to fully understand, myself included. In the end I left Sacha to mingle while I went to play some pool and where I was challenged for a game by Bert, who is clearly a man past the age of retirement. Bert seemed nice, if not slightly hard of hearing. I warned him we might have slightly different rules to each other, but I would ceed to his greater knowledge and play his rules.

We certainly did play with different rules. I had assumed he understood that I would play his American, or even local Lynden rules of pool. Not ‘Bert has to win by any old means’ rules which he seemed to excel with.

So I potted my first ball and before I could walk around the table for my next shot, Bert reached into the pocket and put the ball back on the table. I looked at him bemused, but he didn’t even make eye contact. OK I thought, maybe this happens over here I will go with it. So I potted another ball and Bert duly placed it back onto the table. When I missed the next ball Bert proceeded to pot one ball after the next, non of which he felt the need to place back on the table. It seems Bert may have retired from work but not from hustling the younger generations.

When we made our way back to our house, Sacha told me she had made some knitting connections to help her with her new scarf, and I.. well I just felt stitched up.

 

IMG_6797

Some of the crew

Into Washington State

So my immigration papers are in order now and we are on our way from Vancouver to the American border to enter Washington. We had little problems at the border, I just had to buy a piece of green paper for $6.50, get a nice stamp in my passport and we were allowed into the USA. The landscape was quite flat and very rural, with many of the local enterprises geared towards farmers. In particular there is an abundance of cherry farms and vineyards and the farmers often come in the form of tobacco chewing, gun belt wearing, rootin’ and/or tootin’ cowboys.

Windmill Town

Within half an hour we arrived at our destination, Lynden. This is a town originally founded by Dutch settlers. To prove this is so, they have built windmills and placed windmill iconography all around the town.

IMG_4912

Downtown Lynden

The community which Anna and Todd reside in sits on the outskirts of town, nearby fields and surrounded by spectacular snowcapped mountains which cover the horizon. Interestingly the estate only allows the residents to be over the age of 50. There is also a club house with facilities such as widescreen TV, kitchen, pool table, exercise bike, treadmill and much more.

This got Sacha thinking and she enquired, “is this place assisted living?”

“No we don’t live in assisted living” replied Todd and Anna in tandem.

“Really? it sounds like assisted living to me” continued Sacha.

“No, don’t be crazy we are not old people, we do not need to be assisted to live.”

“Why do you live in an old peoples’ place then?”

They are not all that old, and they live by themselves, the cleaner only comes around once every fortnight”

“You have a cleaner?!”

Pancakes and Crunchy Ravioli

The food I have had here so far has been amazing…wait…let me qualify that,… I am amazed at the food I have had here so far.

The first morning Sacha told me that we must go have breakfast at IHOP (International House Of Pancakes), as they do on TV, apparently. Well on route to Bellingham to have our first American breakfast Sacha was listing to me all the possibilities of toppings for pancakes and the array of sauces that I was about to enjoy. However, once we reached the establishment and were seated, we peered at the menu, (which had nice pictures of all their delicacies I may add), we saw that each option had a calorie count. We stared blankly at the menu looking through each option one by one, then around the room to look at what the locals were eating.

From what I could tell the calorie count is used by locals as a sort of point scoring system. Possibly the more points that a person gets, the more local they are? Well if that was the case the old man to our right eating a comedy styled cream pie was the clear winner, and most local by far with 2000+ points. I doff my cap sir.

For our next experience of dinning out, we decided to go european and elected for some Italian fare. So back to Bellingham we went to the local Italian restaurant.

Again we had a calorie count on the menu, and again we proved we were not locals by any means. However this is not what stuck out in my mind. What clings to my memory (and probably my colon) was our starter.

We went with the ravioli and calamari option. It seemed an unconventional combo, but I am no food snob. Having said that I was not prepared for the deep-fried food that was landed on our table. Yes, OK , calamari should be deep-fried, this is correct, this is good, just how all squid should be served in my opinion. Deep-fried ravioli however,…well I’m guessing that this delicacy was not inspired from mama’s kitchen in some quaint sun-drenched village sat on the outskirts of Bologna, brought over to America perhaps by an immigrant farmer who dreamt of introducing his Italian culture to the States where he could make a big buck. This does seem unlikely.

So as I crunched on my ravioli I sat wondering how my spaghetti Bolognese was going to be presented.

image

Crunchy ravioli, mama mia!

Discovering America?

First Things First

My body clock woke me up bright and early at 4am this morning. Sacha’s didn’t. So as she slept peacefully in the hotel bed I was left alone to work out how the coffee maker works,.. in the dark I hasten to add. It took me a good half hour, but finally I discovered that the water goes in the maker itself and doesn’t just sit in the jug waiting for magic to happen. Now I could sit alone in the dark feeling at least a modicum of smugness at my early morning achievement,….now where does the actual coffee go?

Getting My Papers

Well the reason we were in Canada today was to pick up my papers from the solicitor’s office so I could be made a Permanent Resident. Our appointment was at 10am, so at 9, along with Todd and Anna we set off to wait in a Starbucks so that I could remove the taste of pale brown water from my mouth (I hadn’t successfully mastered the coffee maker).

Then finally it was time to collect my papers. What a moment. After starting the process about 9 months ago I could finally hold the paper in my trembling hands which allow me to be a Permanent Resident. It made all the hard work and effort seem worthwhile.

Ok, when I say hard work and effort we did pay for a solicitor to do the paper work….and all the worrying, the questions I wouldn’t even think to ask, and organising was done by my wife Sacha. But in my defence I had to hear about it. And if I had wanted to change my name during this time, I couldn’t. But the truth is I am a spoilt kid and owe gratitude to Sacha for seeing me through. We duly went to Richmond outside of Vancouver to celebrate this with Dim Sum and to discuss our plans for staying in America for the next few weeks with Todd and Anna.

So What Do I Know About the United States of America?

Well from my school days I remember that it is a country which has been “discovered.” This seems particularly interesting to me. I don’t ever remember being taught that Britain had ever been discovered, I guess it’s always just been ‘covered.’

I remember the primary school teacher mentioning the name Christopher Columbus as the man who is credited with the discovery. A few years later I understood that Inspector Columbo was a different man altogether. And just one more thing, since then I heard that Vikings discovered America first before him,.. Christopher that is.

We had Vikings in Britain too, and I would have assumed that a discovery must have been made for them to find it, but no, if you put this in your history school exam you would be marked wrong. Vikings apparently raided Britain, perhaps even pillaged Britain, but are no way credited with discovering Britain. As far as I can see no one is.

Recalling my history classes Britain had Normans from France, Saxons from Germania even Romans from Italy, and all of these are only credited with invading Britain. Plus the native people before these empires were known purely as Ancient Britains. It’s as if Britain has never been unknown. America itself had very ancient people, the old Native American tribes who lived there undiscovered for many centuries. It almost seems careless, nay impossible, that they lived in a country without themselves having discovered it first. I guess they were just unlucky.

Well today I shall discover America for myself as we travel south to Lynden, in Washington State. , or must I be raiding it?….I don’t think pillaging is applicable here.

image-2

On the road.

Arriving to Our New Home in Canada?

On An Airplane

After what has seemed like an eternity the airplane began to punch its way downwards through the clouds and I could see the city of Vancouver. It was at this point, after a 9 hour flight from Heathrow, and now for the first time overlooking my new homeland I began to have the thoughts that many others in my circumstance must have had before me…”how did people manage before the days of inflight entertainment?!” Goldeneye may have been a bit cheesier than I remember back in 1995, but I credit Bond for getting me through this journey.

End of the Journey?

So, from England here we are in Canada, so we’ve done it, we’ve emigrated right? Well no, not yet at least. Our course is set to take us on a move to Calgary, into a house that my Mother in Law, Anna, currently has tenants residing in. We are in Vancouver to pick up my residency Visa from the solicitors. But that is for tomorrow, as for today, we are jet-lagged and are still due to meet up with the Mother in Law and her husband Todd who are travelling up to see us from Washington State.

Anna and Todd

Firstly they are both nice and kind people, Anna originally from Jakarta Indonesia, Todd from Montana, USA, they met in Calgary and in the space of about two years moved across to British Columbia before heading to Washinton State. Ok so now I should be in the good-books.

They are also serial relocators. Sacha has listed to me over 18 homes in three different continents to me before we even met. Myself, at that point, have only ever lived in one house. I have no idea how they can get up and actually move homes on such a regular basis, to me it is mind boggling.

Fitting In

A couple of hours later they both arrived and knocked on our hotel room door. With our jet-lag we must have looked as if we were hungover as we made slurring greetings. We then decided to go and try to be Canadian. We did this by going to a sports bar to order some beers and wings as we discussed our plans. Tomorrow we shall get the Visa then go across a land border to the US to stay for a while. I’ve never been to the US so this is exciting. I always heard my work colleagues recalling their holiday trips to Florida, mainly to go to Disney, or California for the sun, or New York to shop ’til they drop.

The televisions at the bar were all playing the ice hockey, and it seemed that Dallas Stars were dishing misery on the Vancouver Canucks. I must admit apart from the basic concept of scoring a goal with a puck I have no idea how the game works, and from what I can tell the referees’ job is to marshall fights. I shall strive to learn this, but first after many spicy chicken wings it is time for bed.

Vancouver cityscape

Vancouver cityscape

One last night…(Canada, here we come)

So here we are in a Premier Inn at Manchester Airport, due to fly out to our new country of residence tomorrow, Canada. We were dropped off at the hotel by my parents, who after a drink fled in tears, so it is now official, we are bad people. I maybe expected a tear or two from mum, but if you see your dad break down in tears then a vigorous shower is required to wash away the shame.

My wife Sacha has won the battle for the hotel room television, not that an England Vs Denmark friendly football match promised to be a classic spectacle. So Sacha is camped out on the bed watching ‘One Born Every Second’, or some such broadcasting treasure, and I am perched on a twirly chair in front of a small desk staring out onto a frosty car park with the radio commentary of the football blaring in my ears.

It is at this moment I am remembering my friends’ suggestion to Sacha, as we were saying our emotional “bye byes” the previous weekend (hi Emma and Laura btw), they had suggested to her that she could write a blog about her exciting travels. Well it crossed my mind that homework may not appeal to her, but the idea of a little project for myself resonated positively. So here I am doing a blog, or being a blogger or bloggering, whatever the verb is. So our friend Emma had actually messaged Sacha a load of blogging information after making the suggestion, so of course I intercepted that in order to learn what the term involved. Well here is what I learnt;
1. Keep things short to keep people’s attention. Already a problem looming on this horizon I see.
2. Some people post entries to their blogs everyday in order to stay popular with the other bloggerers. Sheesh, that sounds needy, plus people are lucky to get a reply to a text message in a day off me, let alone a blog update. I shall aim for ‘once in a while.’
3. Other people will read your blog so do not be boring. Ok.

Why Am I Bloggering?

Well it was almost a year to the day when my trusty grey Vauxhall Corsa’s timing belt went ‘snap’ as I commuted home from work one cold afternoon. After the garage confirmed the car’s ailment was terminal I reported back to the wife and the resulting conversation went, “well should we now get a nice new car to drive around town in, or a cheap car so we can move to Canada within the year?” I may have slightly paraphrased here, but if these were the Cliff Notes you would pass the exam.

Before That Car Stuff…

Well I may not have started the story at the beginning. The truth is we had a lovely detached two story house in a very nice neighbourhood, we both had steady fulltime jobs, we lived in the historic city of York, went to restaurants on weekends, saw friends and family every week and lived the good life. So obviously it was time to move to Canada.

Ok so not too obvious then. Well for myself the truth is if the Head of Legal points to the Chief Director and says to you ” Geoff if you work here long enough maybe you could aim for that position,” if at that very moment your head slams into your keyboard then it is already perhaps time to think of moving on. Unfortunately I tend to procrastinate, so five and a half years later I finally handed in my notice. Sacha had also decided to hand in her notice for a job which was secure but in an industry non too progressive.

The truth is the economy had stagnated and we were considering whether it was worth leaving York in search of bigger and better. Sacha would look at Manchester and London, when suddenly it occurred to us, why not make a change into a journey? So off we go to Canada.

image

Bags packed, ready to go.

By the way the score was a 1-0 England win.