Exploring Vancouver, BC…A city that I love.

In October, I ventured north across the US/Canada border to race in the Inaugural Rock N Roll Vancouver Half Marathon, which ultimately means “MINI VACATION”. (You can read about the race here).

I’ve been planning on running this race since mid June just shortly after accepting a new position. Thankfully, I was able to get several days off to take a long 5 day weekend. Like the times before, I selected to stay at the Samesun Hostel right on Granville Street, located in the heart of downtown. Now, I know what you’re thinking…”why on earth would you stay at a hostel if you’re there to run a race?” Well, that’s simple. It’s great for solo individuals on a budget. You get to meet so many people from all over the world (new friends), you have a bed (sleep) with roommates (new friends), and you are close to the action (fun). How does that not sound like a win-win. I know it does tend to get noisy in hostels but that’s what headphones and earplugs are use for.

Vancouver can be tricky to get to if you don’t know where you are going, and since I’ve been before once I entered downtown I was able to locate the parking garage immediately. Once checked into the hostel, I immediately connected with one of my hostel mates who I noticed getting ready and asked to tag along (which you can’t be afraid to do at hostels). She said yes and I’m glad she did. We ended up enjoying a great night out on the town with several other hostel mates (and we may have stayed out too late and drank a few beers). I knew I wasn’t going to be able to go out very much during my first few nights here and I don’t do well just sitting at the hostel, so I’m glad I started on such a high.

The next day was a day I was looking forward to for sometime. There had always been one tourist attraction that I felt I was missing every time I’d come to Vancouver and since it was only Friday (2 days till the half), I knew I had the perfect opportunity to go there. Where’s there? I’m taking about Capilano Suspension Bridge Park.

Capilano Suspension Bridge Park (CSBP) is located approximately 30 minutes outside of the city center and can be accessed easily by car or bus. In fact, CSBP offers free shuttle services (times vary depending on season) that pick up and drop off at several locations around downtown, providing easy access to/from the park. Utilizing this service, I didn’t have to stress much on transportation and could spend a little extra time researching about the park. Here’s a quick summary taken from Capilano Suspension Bridge‘s homepage:

“Capilano Suspension Bridge crosses to towering evergreens, cedar-scented rainforest air and Treetops Adventure, 7 suspended footbridges offering views 100 feet above the forest floor. The new Cliffwalk follows a granite precipice along Capilano River with a labyrinth-like series of narrow cantilevered bridges, stairs and platforms and only 16 anchor points in the cliff supporting the structure!”

The suspension bridge itself was built in 1898 and is Vancouver’s most popular tourist attraction. It stretches 450 feet across and 230 feet above the forest floor and Capilano River. The park is 27 acres large  and new attractions being added since it’s opening. Other attractions around the park include the Treetop Adventures, Cliffwalk, Kia’palano (BC’s first nation people history), and the park even offers live guided nature tours. During the winter months, don’t forget to stop by the nighttime Canyon Lights attraction. This is a MUST DO activity when visiting…and it’s fun for all ages.

I ended up spending several hours around the park and was in complete “ahhh” walking over the suspension bridge multiple times. The weather was perfect so speed wasn’t a factor. I have this thing with nature; whether it’s simply just walking around the wilderness or exploring a park, nature has this way of bringing me back to my center. This park has much to offer someone who enjoys experiencing new adventures.

After exploring for hours, I made my way back to the hostel where I met up with my roommates for an exciting night out on the town. I knew I wouldn’t have much time to go out because I was there for a race, so I wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity to spend a night out in Vancouver.

The next day, Saturday, I was able to meet up with a friend I met during my first trip to Seattle nearly three years ago. She has been living in Vancouver for about a year. Today was a bit rainy but it didn’t stop us from enjoying a delicious brunch, and venturing around downtown and to Granville Island. Of course, we decided to do a little Granville Island Brewery tasting, which I haven’t been to Vancouver without drinking there.

I decided to take it easy this night because the next morning, Sunday, was my big race. The evening included getting dinner with Adrienne and enjoying some hilarious time with all my hostel mates, who were all drinking and getting ready for the big night out. There was quite a bit of alcohol consumed and many drinking games, which from a bystanders opinion was entertaining and quite enjoyable. I hit the sack early and was blessed with amazing roommates, who were kind enough to be very quiet when they arrived home in the early morning hours (2 AM) to allow me to get a good night’s sleep. Talk about support.

The next morning was the race. You can read all about it here on another blog post.  After the race, feeling exhausted and finally having a shower, a fellow hostel runner Donnie and myself ventured out for some food. I always feel like a massive burger after exercising and that’s exactly what we ate. We ventured down Granville Street to a local restaurant called Stackhouse Burger Bar and enjoyed a very juicy and meaty burger and fries.

Following lunch, we headed back to the hostel to relax and enjoy many beverages (as well as icing several body parts). The night continued with some entertaining moments and resulted in a semi-early bedtime as dehydration kicked in.

I knew my time in Vancouver would be short and sweet, but I couldn’t have imagined the weekend I had experienced. The amount of fun, laughter, memories, and friendships I made was more than I could have asked. The race, although injured, was still an amazing experience and I am happy that I was able to be apart of the Inaugural year for the Vancouver RnR Half Marathon.

Stay tuned for the next Mapless Adventure…

Family Travel: Little Brother Visits Seattle

It’s been nearly two months since I turned 28 years old and that means it’s been two months since my little brother, Joel, came to visit me from his summer in Chicago. My brother, who was interning with his company at their head quarters in Chicago, was given the opportunity to fly out for an extended weekend. It would be his first time in the PNW and only my second family visitor since moving to WA in 2012. We have been discussing this trip pretty much since the moment I found out his company provided each intern with a free flight. In all reality, it was pretty much me telling him “You’re coming to Seattle”. My parents were also onboard with this plan to use the flight to visit his big sister, because we all knew he’d never come otherwise. I know I shouldn’t say never, but it’s hard for ue Lang siblings to travel to visit each other. So I was so excited when he actually booked the ticket. Plus, it was my birthday weekend too!

He landed pretty late Thursday night and I knew Friday was going to be an early morning so we didn’t do much once he landed. I love playing tour guide so I packed our weekend full of “typical” WA adventure starting off with a beautiful drive and hike in the mountains.

I’ve mentioned this before that the Cascade Mountain Range takes anywhere from a 45 minutes to 2 hour drive northeast/east/southeast from Seattle. For our hike, I selected one that I have been wanting to go on for sometime but haven’t been able to go. This summer has been all about alpine lakes and what better “Welcome to Washington” gift to my brother then to take him 4.1 miles up a mountain and make him jump/swim in one. This particular hike, called Lake Serene, is quite popular to many Seattlites and Washingtonians.

It’s a 8.2 mile round trip hike that climbs 2000ft, reaching the alpine lake at 2521ft. We started off on an old logging road before starting the climb up through  overgrowth forest, crossing over waterways and ascending upwards with the use stairs (yes, physical stairs built along the trail) until we finally arrived at the lake. We took a short break to refuel and then took a dip into the lake. The dip started off freezing, as the sun was beyond the mountain ridge and left us in full shade, but after several minutes became refreshing and much needed.

After the decent, we ventured to a local brewery in Everett, called Scuttlebutt, for some burgers and beers. It didn’t take us long after our arrival home before we crashed, as we knew another long day was waiting for us upon waking.

Saturday came quickly and before I knew it, my brother, my roommate and myself were heading down to CenturyLink Field for some pre-gaming at Pyramid Alehouse, where we met up with several other friends. This was my “birthday celebration” and what better way then to celebrate watching my beloved Seattle Sounders FC. The whole concept of our weekend together was to show my brother what it’s like to live here, and Seattle sports are a huge part of that. I don’t attend the Seahawks games ($$$) and rarely attend the Mariners, but the Sounders are a whole other story. My brother has never been to a professional soccer match and I loved being able experience it with him. The game was against Tottenham Hotspurs, a member of the English Premier League. Not only was this his first MLS game, it was both of ours first European match. It was a high scoring game of 3-3, but did end in a tie. I guess a tie is better than a loss.

After the game, the group ventured to a local pub for some grub. We didn’t last long before exhaustion set in, so we headed home for some RnR. The night was still young and as we were celebrating my birthday, we got ready and hit up the local bar scene in my favorite neighborhood, Ballard.

Ballard is a fairly popular night life spot that is only 10 minutes away from my home. It has one fun bar/dance club that my roommates and I are fond of, so after grabbing beers at King’s, another bar, we decided it was time to dance and DANCE we did, all night long.

You could imagine what Sunday consisted of after dancing all night long. If you’re thinking eating and lounging then you’d be correct. Joel and I left for brunch at popular joint called Portage Bay Cafe, per recommendation from one of my roommates. We weren’t disappointed and came home stuffed to the max. My original plan for Sunday was a microbrew tour throughout Seattle but being completely hungover (not going to sugar coat that fact) we didn’t make it very far from the couch. We did move later the evening and drove down to Tacoma to enjoy a delicious dinner at one of the local breweries and met up with our brother-in-law’s little brother, Joe, who is currently stationed at Fort Lewis. This particular day, we were blessed with meeting his new wife and her daughter. I have spoken with his wife on the phone very briefly but I loved being able to finally met her and we enjoy each other’s conversation. After dinner, we decided that we wanted to relax but still do a little brew tour. Luckily, many of the local brews bottle their beers, so we did a “stay-at-home” brew tour with 6 local brews and watched movies.

Monday, his last day, was our “tourist” day. We drove past the Fremont Troll, wandered around Pike Place Market, stuck gum onto the Gum Wall, visited the Space Needle via the monorail, and walked along the boardwalk. Before his final departure, we ate lunch at The Pike Brewing Company, located in Pike Place Market and brewing since 1943. I “made” him get the beer sampler as one last good-bye from the Emerald City.

It was a hard, sad good-bye at the airport, but I couldn’t have asked for a better packed-filled weekend with my brother, Joel. We hiked, watched sports, drank local craft beer, and saw the sights. Hopefully, someone else will want to come visit me next summer so I can show them the Seattle Experience. I love my city! Until next adventure…

Contiki Friends Visit Seattle

My April Mexican Adventure with Contiki Holiday was amazing and came with many new friendships. Two of these new friendships even made their way to the Pacific Northwest for part of their holiday adventure and I had the privilege to be able to play tourist/tour guide to Nicola and Todd, both who venture their way to Seattle. Talk about exciting!

Nicola, who is from New Zealand was venturing to Hawaii with several girlfriends after Mexico but given a few extra days between decided to come to Seattle. Reason…”I just always wanted to come”. Unfortunately, due to work conflicts and busy schedules (as this was just 10 days after I returned), I wasn’t able to spend an extreme amount of time with her. Luckily, we did manage to finagle a night, where I took her the Seattle Underground Tour in Pioneer Square. This is very touristy, not honestly not as touristy as you’d think. These tours take you to the original Seattle downtown, which as the tour title gives it away is underground.

If you don’t know already, Seattle’s original downtown is actually 1-level below the current street level. I could provide you with more details but quite frankly this is one of those learning experiences that you actually need to hear and see for yourself. Nothing I could write would explain it to you well enough, nor do pictures do it justice. This type of experience is one that I was very happy I got to share with someone who isn’t American and really didn’t fully understand what makes Seattle my favorite city. I love the history of this city and HIGHLY RECOMMEND anyone visiting Seattle to attend one of the Underground Tours.

After the underground, we ventured to a coffee shop close to where Nicola was staying and spent a good hour just talking. It was a very simple yet exciting time to spend with someone as lovely and kind as Nicola, plus she can make anyone laugh!

A few months after the Contiki tour ended, I had the chance to spend a few days with another tour mate, who to be honest with you, I only spend maybe 4 hours with him. He was on the second half of the tour, whereas I was on the first. Thankfully, Contiki provides a good chance to interact with people in that short amount of time.

One of the main reason Todd ventured south from Vancouver, BC, Canada was to watch the Seattle Mariners baseball game. Don’t get me wrong, I do love baseball, but I have always had a hard time with  the whole “American Baseball Experience” concept. At the same time, I’m never going to say NO or turn away from going to a sporting event, and I do love watching baseball. This was exactly what Todd and I did pretty much immediately after I met him at the greyhound station just outside the stadium!

We spent the afternoon chatting about our travels and enjoying some delicious beers watching the Mariners! After the game ended, we ventured into the heart of downtown and wandered the city before parting ways for the evening. The next morning was our “Extreme Touristy Day”, which is basically doing every typical Seattle tourist attraction within the downtown area. We walked through Pike Place Market, where we enjoyed delicious mini-doughnuts, Starbucks, and some Beechers cheese; spent some time being grossed out by the Seattle Gum Wall then headed off to the Space Needle. At this point, I was suppose to head off to work but due to unfortunate circumstances, I was blessed with the entire day off.

So what do you do with an unexpected day off with an Aussie…well I took him to one of my most favorite places to eat…”The Crab Pot”. Let me explain. The Crab Pot is a restaurant overlooking the Puget Sound and you can select from various mixtures of seafood, which they proceed to dump the food directly onto the table. You are given a mallet, a wooded board and bibs. Get it Crab Pot. It was quite delicious and very messy. After lunch, it was time to send Todd back to the greyhound station for his return to Vancouver. I didn’t know Todd much before this quick trip but I’m thankful for Contiki Holidays for allowing us to create such a wonderful friendship! Now it’s my turn to visit his city: Sydney, Australia. A girl can dream…one day, one day!

Going Underground of Seattle, Washington

Well I did it. I finally made the move into The City! Although I’m still further away from downtown Seattle than initially wanted; a $2.50/30 minute bus ride beats a 2.5 hour drive any day. Moving day went fairly smoothly- thanks to my amazing friday Sydney for helping out! In less than 8 hours, we drove 2 hours, loaded a u-haul, drove 2 hrs back, and unloaded.  One of the best parts about moving was that my mom came to visit/help me get settled!

When my mom first decided to come into town, we had the plan to organize, hang and turn my apartment into a home. We accomplished this over the course of 5 days (well, we kind of waited to hang things until Sunday) but it involved a few trips to Michaels, Costco, Ross, Target, MANY, MANY Redbox movies and one free, beautiful, sunny day in Seattle. I spent a few days trying to think of something touristy to do with my mom because let’s be honest she can’t come all the way to Seattle and not see Seattle. We both decided the best thing was learn the bus/train system to ease my transition a little easier. It was fairly easy to learn and we ended up choosing Pioneer Square as our destination. Pioneer Square is known for one BIG thing in the tourist world- Underground Tours. Here’s a little history:

Pioneer Square a.k.a. “Skid Road” is home to Seattle’s original downtown dating back to 1852. This district is characterized by late nineteenth century brick and stone buildings, and one of the nation’s best surviving collections of Romanesque Revival style urban architecture. In the early years of the neighborhood, many of the buildings were mostly wood, which were all nearly destroyed in the Great Seattle Fire in 1889. Following the fire, Pioneer Square was quickly rebuilt, however this time the main floors were build 1-level above the original. The reason for the elevation of main street had mostly to do with the ‘drainage’ problem that was occurring, since much of the main housing was up on a hill causing the nickname “Skid-Road” (and by ‘drainage’ I mean sewer). With the elevated first floor, the original entrances are now a part of Underground Seattle, some of which is accessible during these tours.  After the rebuild, Seattle and Pioneer Square became a center for travel during the Klondike Gold Rush in 1897 and 1898.

You will notice in the pictures (Go Here) of a lot of debris, and unfortunately I can’t say that those are from the original downtown but from a major earthquake that hit the city.  It’s kind of creepy knowing now that I walk above the original Seattle, but make me happy at the same time knowing I live in an amazing city that has something as unique as an Underground. Want more information regarding Pioneer Square and all it has to offer…Click Here!

Until next mapless adventure!