Canada & USA
It’s been some time since we started our summer vacations. The leaves are colored, the air crispy and the first snowflakes fell. So now it’s really time to put up some photos and to write down some experiences of the summer trip. First of all it was amazing. The nature, the cities and the company. We felt so welcome at everybody’s place. Special thanks to Bruce, who planned our stay in Vancouver so perfectly and who showed us so much we would have never seen, Solveig and her family who invited us to see the cowboy-life in Alberta and of course Sandy and Rahul & Madhu, who came twice to San Francisco and showed us wonderful places there! But let’s get started ;)
We started our trip on Friday morning here in Helsinki and arrived – thanks to the different time-zones – already on Friday evening a bit delayed in Vancouver, where we took over the smallest car they could offer us. They asked twice, if we were sure we wanted to travel with such a small car through the dangerous world of SUV:s and trucks. We were wondering what car to expect due to this description and at least I was a bit nervous if our backpacks would fit into a Smart or something similar. But at the end we found ourselves driving a Ford Fusion with 5 doors and a looooot of space in the trunk. The first experience of “wow-everything is big here”.
Now we could start our 13 hour drive, with a lot of Red Bull and speed over the Rockies to Nanton, South of Calgary during the night. After the sunrise we were already almost out of the mountains, but got a first glimpse of what to expect on our way back. The scenery was stunning, beautiful, almost beyond words. The roughness of the Rockies, the feeling of being so small compared to the rest, which we would experience quite a few times during the trip. At around 10 in the morning we arrived in the small town and were welcomed by Solveig and her kids. Mikki was still at work and we met him in the evening after spending some time with the family, getting a bit of sleep, going to the local farmers market and seeing the sights of Nanton, a museum of 2nd world-war planes and miniature trains. In the evening we had the chance to see a local amateur rodeo, which was extremely fun to watch. After that we knew that the Cowboy culture is still alive, up to a degree I never would have imagined before. Guys riding bulls and horses, wearing hats and big belt buckles and are as manly as you can see in every average western movie. They didn’t shoot at each other, though.
The weekend passed fast. We played a lot with the kids, feeling like kids again, saw a lot of the life and wonderful, wonderful nature there and could see how and where Solveig, Mikki and their kids live. It was so nice that they took us wherever they went – the church and a big BBQ party – so that we got a good impression of their everyday live. On Monday, really early in the morning, we went one time-zone back over the mountains to Vancouver, where Bruce picked us up at the car-rental. First some things about Vancouver. It’s one of the nicest cities you can visit. Especially the opposites make it so interesting. It has a big and impressive downtown – but it is not too big and feels almost cozy due to the beaches and the small restaurants. It’s really Canadian, you can see the flag everywhere – but at the same time it’s really multi-cultural, with a big diversity of food from almost every place in the world, and the 2nd biggest Chinatown. It’s a quite rich city, with big business, sky-scrapers and suites, wherever you look – but the closeness to the incredible nature, a lot of small breweries and Gastown as such makes it feel somehow down-to-earth. So all in all it is definitely worth a visit and you won’t regret it. Bruce managed to show us all that and to guide us through the labyrinth of diversity of opportunities. We had a fantastic week, saw down-town, went hiking on Whistler, had a 10k run one morning in the biggest park down-town, ate all-you-can-eat sushi (all-you-can-eat and sushi was a contradiction for me before that), did whitewater rafting, had a dinner close to the beach, when the sun set, had Chinese dim-sum in Chinatown, ate home-made food by his mother, which was sooooo delicious, went to a fish-market out of town, had really nice talks in fantastic places, met nice people and had funny parties, Annika could share nice teenage memories. All in all thanks a lot, Bruce, for an awesome week and the nice company!
Bruce drove us on Sunday down to Seattle, from where we started the third part of our vacations. On the way we stopped at a huge outlet, where especially Annika found some nice clothes. It was huge, but we got already used to the fact that everything is a bit bigger – from the coffee over the cars to the outlet! After Seattle Bruce drove back to Vancouver and we started our road-trip down the coast to San Francisco. But first we wanted to see a bit of Seattle, the city of Grey’s Anatomy :) In the airport, where we rented the car, we asked somebody about the possibilities to get into the city, besides the car. He said there is a train, but he had never used that thing. So now for everybody who is visiting Seattle, there is a train, built in 2009 which connects the airport with the city for just 2 dollars. Amazingly fast and comfortable! We visited a nice alternative city, where music and artists were everywhere, bought good stuff in a nice market. Even though we didn’t have much time, we got a good first impression.
After Seattle we started to drive southwards. We’d booked a campsite next to Mt. Rainier, where we wanted to start our trip with a hike in the mountains. So we did. The campsite was really spartan, but nicely placed next to a river. From there we drove up to the visitors center, early in the morning, where we got a coffee and more information about hike-trails. There was an infinite amount of them, so we first went on a short and easy panorama hike and then on a longer trail, where we saw nice waterfalls and had an incredible view on the Mt. Rainier. Partially in snow we had a nice day-hike in the sun before we continued our trip towards the coast in the late afternoon. The whole way was sunny until we saw the coast where a line of clouds was waiting for us, and which would be there almost until SFO, which we hadn’t known until then. We arrived north of Astoria, which had surprisingly many traces of Finnish immigrants. At 9 p.m. we wanted to eat something in the village, where the camping site was, but the only open restaurant was a bar, where the local alcoholics met and where we were asked for an ID to order fish ‘n’ chips. After hiking and a pretty long trip, we slept like babies.
The next day we went down the coast, mostly in cloudy weather, always seeing the sunshine in the east. We stopped in nice villages and used the hour of sunshine, laying at the beach and listening to the sea. The next night we spent in a national park with just dunes around us before we got to the next highlight of our vacations the following day: the Redwood Forests. This is a national park, where you can find the world’s highest trees and where some scenes of Star Wars were produced. Both a nice experience. When we arrived there we got to the local office and got a permit to camp on a free campsite a bit out of the city and then we went hiking through the forest. As in Mt. Rainier, first the tourist trail and then a longer one. It was just stunning, unbelievable, breath-taking. We felt so little next to those huge trees. And there were so many of them. Fantastic! The night in the “wild” brought me nightmares of bears, as the warning-signs were all over the place and a bear-box contained all our food. Scary! Dreamed of a newspaper-article, which stated that a Finn and a German were attacked by a bear. Subconscious panic, not shown to the outside :) But – we survived and followed the Highway 1 down to SFO. It was a loooong way with a lot of winding roads and quite demanding to drive, but a nice landscape made it worth to go there. We were relieved, when we drove over the Golden Gate and arrived at our hostel, which wasn’t the nicest one we could imagine, with fights during the nights between clients and service personnel, but anyway cozy as we just were there a couple of hours to sleep during the night.
After the night we went down to see Mountain View to visit Rahul, a colleague of mine and then to Santa Cruz, where Annika had her first surfing-experience. The night we spent in downtown SFO. There we saw nice live-music and had a funny night. The next day we saw the wineries north of SFO. As I drove, Annika did the wine tasting and me the cheese and olive oil tasting. A traffic jam destroyed the whole experience a bit, as we had to pay extra for our car, which we brought back too late. We ended the day with a nice dinner with Rahul and his wife Madhu in a special restaurant. We had to go to bed early, as we had the sight-seeing marathon at 5 a.m. in the morning. It started so early, so that they could open the Golden Gate Bridge again in the afternoon. It was a really nice run, and bands and people supported us well, even though it was soooo early in the morning. Despite the hills we made a really good time with 3:44. After that we started with a sight-seeing walk, and later on Rahul and Madhu joined in and told us more about the city and the people. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to visit their place. But they helped us a lot to pick out some wonderful places, we hadn’t seen before. After that, we met Sandy, Annika’s flat mate in Ecuador, and it was nice for me to see her, as I’ve heard so many stories! The next day we went home, where our trip continued – from Germany with the car to Finland! But this is another story. Now, some months later I remember so many good things about the trip and I’m happy that we got so much support. It was amazing, how many experiences we made and how much nature we saw. It was an awesome trip!