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!

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