sábado, 11 de junio de 2011

Continental Airlines to Seattle; Greyhound Bus to Vancouver.

March 29th – April 2nd 2010

This trip was planned two months before the departure date with the objective of visiting my brother in Vancouver, BC and his girlfriend in Seattle, WA and to discover the West corners of the US and Canada. This was a first in many ways; the first time I booked and paid for my own transportation and food (except while been taken care of by these two wonderful people).

In January I decided I wanted to see my brother and get to know what he had been doing given he had started his University courses in September 2009 so I was really curious about visiting Vancouver and Seattle, two places I had heard are gorgeous! So I went onto the Continental Airlines’ website and started looking at flights, times and prices, and also was considering Delta, but it would take me via Salt Lake City [(SLC) I have nothing against SLC, and I’ve never been there either, but I wanted to go specifically via Houston (IAH)]. And so I chose the flights to Seattle via Houston both ways and now I had to look at going to Vancouver either by air or by bus, and as my brother used to do the commute between Vancouver and Seattle by bus every now and then, I decided to try them as well, so I went into Greyhound’s website and looking for prices I found discounts which were very helpful to save some money.

I was all set and I had just to wait for the day of departure. The plan was to arrive in Seattle at night of the 29th, spend the night at my brother’s girlfriend house and leave for Vancouver the next afternoon (I know, short, hey?). I was to return on the 2nd because of school starting back on Monday the 5th and I was just able to book that trip in my sole week of holidays, so I decided to make most of it. I boarded on a Boeing 737-800 N12225.

The flight was uneventful but it was funny because I thought I would try to make myself sound British and it sort of worked because I was seated to a woman who didn’t have a clue if I spoke Spanish or just English, but when the flight attendants started the drink service, I was watching a film and this woman, to call my attention was stammering a bit and was hesitant whether to ask for “Señor” or “Mister” and when I thanked her I did it in Spanish. This whole confusion started when we were given the US CBP and TSA forms to fill out and I had some questions, so she was startled when I spoke in Spanish.

Landing was great, a bit of a crab due to a cross-wind and we landed on runway 27 at Houston – George Bush Intercontinental Airport where I would spend a good part of an hour-and-a-half in immigration alone and over 2 hours waiting for my flight to Seattle, which gave me the chance to go to the D-Gates to see the international flights arriving such as Emirates and Qatar Airways’ Boeing 777-200LR (new type for me!), British Airways and Air France’s Boeing 777-200ER and Lufthansa’s Boeing 747-400. I was hoping to see Singapore Airline’s Boeing 777-300ER from Moscow and Singapore, but that day there wasn’t service.

Fortunate enough I was allowed in the cockpit when everybody had disembarked the aeroplane and this is the result.

I was amazed by the coverage of Mexican routes by Continental from IAH, it was similar to that from AA in MIA, and Central America is pretty well covered by both Continental Airlines and American Airlines. I was also impressed by the gate signs which had Spanish and English writing, and it made me realize it’s almost the second language and maybe in a near future, the second official language in the US. It is true that Mexico, Central and South America have a lot of influence in the South and some parts in the North of the US.

After waiting for a bit the time had come to board and as I had just bought my lasagne, I was forced not to enjoy it and eat it as fast as I could because as the US had changed clocks to the Daylight Saving Time, I still hadn’t adjusted my watch and I thought I had at least another hour, and turned out to be wrong. I ate my scorching hot lasagne (on the outside; inside it was almost cold!!!). Luckily the fast food place was right next to the gate and I was able to swallow the lasagne before I showed my ticket and boarded last on the beautiful (my favourite) Boeing 757-200W N27559.

As we waited for the push-back I saw the Emirates Boeing 777-200LR begin it’s 16-hour trip to Dubai and I was amazed by how, being that heavy (I saw the boarding line while in the D concourse), it just rocketed to the sky! The takeoff was from runway 15R and it was beautiful! What a beautiful golden light on my side!

The sunset as we made our way to Seattle, heading West!

My favourite cockpit! Privileged to have been allowed inside!

Received by the Seattle grey and rainy weather, I made my way into town and was met by my brother’s girlfriend. The next day it was all about seeing Seattle from top to bottom. I went all around walking, Troll Street, Gasworks Park, Kinnear Park, and I then went to see the Space needle and actually took the chance to go up and see Seattle from above!

I tried going to the SAM (Seattle Art Museum) but unfortunately was closed only on the very same and only day I had to spend in Seattle, so I moved on and went to the first ever Starbuck’s Coffee shop, although I didn’t buy anything I enjoyed seeing where it had all begun in the 1970s; and while I was close by I went to see Pike Place Market, it is amazing!!! It's lovely the way the streets leading to Pike Place Market are organised with all the small businesses and little cafés. That's my favourite thing about places, the cafés and bars. They usually tell a lot about the history and the culture in the city/village.

Lastly, before taking the bus for Vancouver I went to see the school where my brother’s girlfriend studies and I saw all sorts of arty people, they’re just the best kind, their originality just pops all the time and I know everyone is one of a kind, but they show it more!

One thing I have to say... I learnt my lessons in the North.
1) If you're going to travel up there in March, take a really warm coat, it gets COLD!
2) If you have contact lenses of the hard type, try not to wear them as much, because they stick to your eyes and make you cry for days!

So... time to go to Vancouver!

Greyhound was simple and comfortable; I would definitely pick them again for other trips. It was a 3-hour bus drive to Vancouver with a stop in Bellingham that was pretty fast to unload some passengers and the rest of us continued on to the border for a 20-minute stop and then on to Vancouver Downtown station. I arrived tired after a long day’s walk in Seattle that caused a guy to wake me up once we arrived in Vancouver. I was sleeping profoundly and with the mouth open which caused some giggles from a girl in the bus.

As I walked in the station, I saw my brother, it had been a very long time since I had last seen him, and it sure was a happy reunion. We took a bus to his house and we called it the night. The next morning I accompanied him to his school and again, arty people!!! He’s studying Visual Arts and he’s really good, with some exhibits he had coming, he was a bit busy, but he managed to fit me into his schedule.

After he went in class, I took his bike and amused myself in Vancouver, going everywhere from the library that looks like the Coliseum, the Vancouver Art Gallery to see the Da Vinci’s exhibit, Granville Island to Waterfront and Gastown. I arranged to meet my brother for lunch and to help him put up an installation which was amazingly put together. The subject was the human body and how he would represent it using techniques he had seen in class and materials he had previously used, so he would create a human body out of cardboard, see-through plastic paper, aluminium and other sorts of things. He showed me around Granville Island market, the bread, the artists, the essentials of his life in Vancouver, it was pretty fun!

My walk also included the Winter Olympics’ torch and the Waterfront Seaplane Airport and I enjoyed myself for about an hour or two just watching the seaplanes come and go and I really craved for a flight in one of those Twin Otters! In the afternoon, I met up with my brother and we went to Horseshoe Bay to spend some time together and catch up on our lives. We had awkward, sad, happy, and serious moments, but it was very well worth going up North to catch up, and to see him! Up there in Horseshoe Bay we just walked around seeing the marvellous scenery in front of our eyes and we just talked and talked. He showed me where Victoria is and how to go if I'm ever again in Vancouver or thereabouts. We spoke to a Puerto Rican couple which was weird, because we never expected to find Latin people all the way up North, but, you never know. We had a nice chat with them.

The next day it was off to Chinatown and Stanley Park!

Later that evening we had to prepare our things to leave together to Seattle and me, to go back to Mexico City the next morning.

We both slept on the way to Seattle and we had to wait almost two hours at the border to get cleared, it was a long line for the checkpoint! We arrived close to 2300 that night and it was off to bed, preparing an early departure to the airport next morning.

Next day, an early 4 am wake-up call. I was off to the airport and after saying goodbye to my half asleep brother and his girlfriend, with a knotted throat I left for Seattle-Tacoma (KSEA) Airport and checked-in for the flight to Houston and Mexico City.

Again, the Seattle weather bid me farewell and as I made my way to the gate for the nice Boeing 757-200W N14121; I grabbed some breakfast, a nice tea and sat down waiting for boarding. As we boarded, I began to feel hot so I took off my jacket and I almost hit the woman sitting next to me who turned out to be a Boeing employee working on the Boeing 787-800 project! The whole flight was uneventful and I tried to catch up with my sleep and as we were making our final approach to Houston I started having the most interesting conversation with this Boeing employee, and well, it was a pity we hadn’t started to speak earlier.

So there I was waiting for my flight to Mexico and it finally came the time to board after 3 hours of waiting and I boarded the Boeing 737-500 for the first time in my life and N16632 was my first ever B735! Happy to have flown it, although the pilots were a bit overprotective when I asked the registration... but anyway, I had fun and the trip had sadly come to an end. I enjoyed myself while being far from home but with really nice familiar faces. I don’t know when I will be going back, though. Hopefully it’s soon!

You've read it...

miércoles, 8 de junio de 2011

Montana & the Yellowstone Experience!

July 2009

Without knowing what would happen, I went in a trip with my younger brother to Montana, United States. The trip was more or less unplanned but started taking shape once we got there. We left Mexico City to Bozeman via Denver and because the aeroplane in Mexico City arrived late from its previous flight, we left over an hour-and-a-half late, missing our connection to Bozeman where people were expecting us. We were hoping to see Montana by day when we got there, but it turned out to be quite different.

We flew with Mexicana to Denver and then United Airlines onto Bozeman. We waited for over 7 hours in the airport waiting our connection, but, well, we must have walked the whole concourse over 3 times and then we had lunch at an overprized Domino’s Pizza. We thought it through because we hadn’t eaten since 10 am that day and it was already 5 or 6 pm, so we decided to spend 8$ each... that really hurt for just buying a mini pizza. Finally we had to board, but it was hilariously ridiculous how they wanted us to board. We were supposed to board at one gate, but then they changed the gate, then another gate with another aeroplane, then the gate and the aeroplane again, until we finally installed ourselves in an Airbus A320-200 and we were unsure where it was we were going and even if it was Bozeman due to the whole imprecision by United and/or Denver International Airport.

We had a nice flight and we landed in Bozeman some two hours after leaving Denver and it was dark, almost no light, which was impressive, and as I said, we didn’t really know what to expect as it had been the very first time we had heard of the place, but then again, we were invited by our dad’s friend to stay at her place with her, her son and their dog, a very big dog, wouldn’t know what breed, but he’s called Pepper. As we disembarked the aeroplane, we made our way to the baggage claim area, and for our surprise, after 30 minutes of waiting hopelessly, we didn’t get our luggage and we filed a report, for which they told us they had located our bags in Denver and they would bring them the next morning on the inbound flight. After that it was off to bed but first we grabbed some supper at a Subway’s... it was nice, but it was really just a junk-food day.

The next day, after resting some 13 hours we woke up with the door bell ringing and we went to see who it was and it turned out to be the airport guy who delivers delayed baggage, so we did get our luggage after all! So we were happy now! We went for a walk over to town, which is outside Bozeman itself, Livingston, and it was scorching hot, a bit humid, but the view was amazing with the mountains in the background, we were just breathless. It was really a nature trip we took because we were escaping the agitated Mexico City atmosphere for a bit, and you feel the air quality improve once you’re close to those mountains! We got to know some locals over a town fair of some sort and it was fun to just walk around and practically be the only tourists in town.

That night we went out to walk and if you turned skyward, you could see the Milky Way line and all those stars, because of the clarity and purity in the air! It was unbelievable to see that white line across the sky. As we continued on walking we met some guys our age and randomly ended up playing poker and grabbing a wheelchair to do some tricks. It was pretty funny! We even had to run because one of them did something stupid and we heard an alarm and a siren shortly after, so we didn’t want to risk it.

During the next days we visited the mountains and the parks close to Livingston and we had a blast. One of those days, we went to Pine Creek Trailhead where we were looking for a lake in the middle of two mountains, and there’s clearly a trail, so we followed it for a good 2-3 hours and never really made it to that lake, but what we did find was an amazing stream in “Cascade Creek” still in Pine Creek Trailhead, the stream of pure water from which we drank the most delicious water ever! It was so fresh, so sweet, and so clean! We filled our bottles and we decided to go back because sunset wasn’t far away, so we headed back the same way, but there was something new that wasn’t there before... a sleeping bear! We caught a glimpse of it but decided not to provoke it, so we were really careful how and where we moved.

Another day we went to the Yellowstone River to do some kayaking in wild waters, it was pretty fun, although it was cold. Why do I say that? Because I fell into the water... yes, you read it correctly. We were shown a technique to be able to avoid falling when the crests of waves were too high, so I attempted that manoeuvre and, lucky me I did it inversely, so I was thrown into the water, but after some 20 seconds of battling and a bit of help from the guide, I was back in my kayak with my sunglasses still on!!! It was amazing; I really enjoyed it despite swimming in those 10°C river waters.

We also went to the Yellowstone Park to see the Geysers in Mammoth Springs and the Park in General. So we were now in Wyoming and all those buffaloes all over! It was incredible to see them up close as well, when we had the chance, of course. When we got to Mammoth Springs, we were amazed by how the weather changes so quickly! As we arrived it was pouring rain and ten minutes later, it was sunny as hell! It was nice though, to feel the heat after the rain. It almost felt surreal after seeing all that water fall from the sky.

The interaction between human and nature is such that you can get close enough to almost touch the animals, that’s pure wilderness! We saw buffaloes, deer, and prairie dogs for the most part. We also saw a black bear!!!

Another day we drove to one of the highest “highways” in the US and there were even glaciers up there which was quite frankly, impressive for the time of year.

Little Bear Lake:

Up, up, up!!!

We descended from the mountains into a little town which I forgot the name of, and we had some supper over there before returning to Livingston.

We went to Bozeman to spend a night at a Youth Hostel where we met the most amazing people from all over the US. They were all from Miami, San Francisco, Chico (Arizona), New York and some other parts in the East coast. We unfortunately didn’t bring a camera with us, but it was a pleasant day over there where we met a Norwegian scientist that was doing some research on fish and their behaviour in the US... the important thing is we weren’t expecting more foreigners in Bozeman, because for us, it was a place really hidden from the public view, or so it seemed.

We had to cut our trip short because of some personal issues of the family we were staying with, but we had a blast! We didn’t know what to expect and we didn’t even know the family, but in the end it turned out to be quite interesting and fulfilling experience, especially because I had the chance to communicate a lot more with my younger brother, with whom I didn’t really bond before that trip.

Here are the last pictures of the last day in Livingston before heading back to Bozeman, Denver and finally Mexico City:

Off to Denver from Bozeman:

The Sleepless:

A whole different animal.

Off to Mexico City: