I had been having a bit of a rough time in life and had decided it was time for a getaway, flights were pretty expensive at the last minute to anywhere really and I wanted to try and get some stays for the Club Carlson promos done and out of the way. So I was hunting down a Park Inn and found either a few options in Texas (but flights were a no go) however there was one in Vancvouer! Awesome. I could get the stay done, visit some friends and it would be a quick trip. Originally had planned on driving till I found some stuff on Bolt Bus.
Bolt Bus is like the Low Cost Carrier of Greyhound (if that was possible). In reality they are more like an express service. They had only just opened up services in the Pacific North West. Fares were cheap! I also managed to get a great deal on a 2nd night at an amazing hotel (but I shall leave that to later). Plans were set but no bookings were made. Weather did not look good, so the plan was to hold of as long as possible. This would be a very spur of the moment trip, definitely not me.
Thursday morning, weather improved, it was looking passable. I pulled the trigger and booked it all. I was set to head north!
Friday 8th June 2012
Finished work on a high note thanks to figuring out a very complicated itinerary and getting something to fare so I was extremely happy. I just missed the bus to Downtown as I needed to make my way down to the King Street Station area. So after waiting around and still unable to find any information on any lockers at King Street Station (there aren’t) , I caught the next 550 to Downtown. Damn was it a long long journey. Almost an hour! Wasn’t able to read, as I only had the Spinner suitcase it rolled around way to much on the bus and had to spend the whole time holding onto it on a very packed bus going stop start for almost an hour.. not a good way to have your mood go from good to frustrated.
Frustration got a little bit worse when I finally got to King Street Station as there was not a single sign for Bolt Bus anywhere! It was still about an hour till the bus so I figured I could get some dinner at Uwajimaya (conviently opposite the station) and pick up some supplies for the journey. After checking out the shops for a little bit and picking up some weird Green Tea Cookies (that were yummy by the way) and some water I managed to grab some dinner and after rushing to finish it before what I thought would be the time I would need to be there for the bus.
I rocked up back to the street around 730 for an 8pm bus figuring I needed to be there. WRONG!!! Bus was no where in sight, no one was in sight at all. There was literally nothing to even tell me if I was in the right spot. As time went by more and more confused travelers stumbled around all asking the same thing “Is this the stop for bolt bus?”. This is obviously not a good sign for Bolt Bus at this stage. Even a sign would have been a good thing.
Eventually about 7:55pm the Bus rolled up after a fight almost broke out at the dodgy looking pub across the street. Damn the driver for taking away our focus on the entertainment. Almost the entire bus emptied off and a large crowd was gathering around the bus by now. From here the driver went through his speel. Boarding by Groups on your boarding pass. Make sure you have your passport out and open and feel free to sit wherever you want.
Thankfully I was in the A Group even booking the day before so that was a good thing if you ask me. Maybe the closer you book you get a better boarding group? Who knows. But I dropped my suitcase underneath, lugged the camera bag up into the bus and took the customs form off the driver.
Onboard the bus it looked good. Bolt Bus has only been around a few weeks in the PNW so the bus is obviously still pretty fresh. Leather seats, power points at each row, plenty of leg room and free wifi onboard. Definitely a good thing if you ask me. All it really needed was a Tray table for laptops and it would have been perfect.
Wifi was active straight away, powered up and logged in, I didn’t even realize we were on the way. We probably pulled out about 5 minutes late. To be honest this was great. I had the time to settle down and get through all the emails and stuff I had put off for 2 days and catch up on life a bit. By the time we reached the border I had seen a beautiful sunset, enjoyed finishing off some snacks and then had also spent the time chatting with friends as well. At the border your informed the Wifi probably wont work after that point, so good to get any stuff you want done before the border (or after it on the Southbound).
We arrived the border at around 10:05pm really about 5 mins behind schedule so can not complain. I believe Bolt Bus allow approximately 30 minutes for the crossing but I have heard stories of buses taking over an hour. But this was good. We were running on time really and the border crossing was a non issue. A number of questions grilled by Canadian Immigration (same as last time but not as bad) and I was greeted in for the weekend with a stamp.. yay!
Back on the bus and on the road around 10:35pm so only 30 mins! Awesome! Book out, last few messages out before the Wifi dies and as we power north to Vancouver I chill out. Next thing I know after tuning out we are in Vancouver, rolling into Pacific Central Station at 1135. That is definitely good news, only 5 mins behind schedule the entire way!
Jumped in a taxi at the Station and I was at my hotel just minutes later. I had booked Friday night at the Park Inn & Suites Vancouver mainly to get their promotion stay where I can get about 44,000 free points with a 1 night stay. Would I stay here normally, nah I would stick more downtown. But I was not worried all that much. The rate was fairly good, I would get a room upgrade thanks to now being Carlson Clubgold thanks to a status match and I wasn’t going to spend all that much time at the hotel.
Check In was a bit slow with lots of paperwork required (more than usual) but eventually I was handed a “Letter” and directed up to my room on the top floor. I had been upgraded “according to the registration sheet” to a King Vancouver Vista room (possibly a business class room not sure) but either way the room was good. Didn’t see much that night as I was in bed, 10-15 minutes later.
Saturday 9th June
Woke up and the weather looked good, the view was amazing, just stunning, so decided to go for a run along the Seawall. After some quick directions down the Seawall and stuffing up my run tracking (yep im that retarded) I had a good run along the waterfront along False Creek. Felt good! After a slow morning of finding out the blog was offline, reading my email updates and general goofing around. I headed off to get some currency exchanged and then the first hit for the weekend of Tim Hortons… Conviently across the street!
After grabbing some breakfast and chilling out for a little while catching up on life, it was time to hit the road and get out to the airport to meet my friend. Leighton was kind enough again to take me spotting for the day and I was looking forward to a relaxed day without much else to do. I packed up all my bags and strolled on down to the Broadway Skytrain station. This station is on the Canada line which runs directly to the airport so I didn’t have to spend the time playing change trains to get out there while toting a suitcase.
Why dragging my suitcase? Well I had managed to score a room at the Fairmont Vancouver Airport for an insanely cheap deal. VERY VERY cheap rate. $69CAD for the room. For an amazing hotel, at the airport itself, I couldn’t believe it!
So I jumped on the train and 20 minutes or so later I was jumping off at the airport and strolling my way over to the Fairmont. The one thing I love about the Fairmont at the airport is that it looks super modern just like the rest of the airport but there are certain little things that keep it in line with that Chateau styling of the Fairmont brand. You actually enter the airport itself and then head to a level above the check in facilities to the reception of the hotel.
Being 11ish in the morning I did not expect to get access to a room, the plan was to drop bags and head straight off spotting. But the hotel had a room ready for me so I headed on up. There was a few issues with Wifi reception so the room I was originally in, was swapped for another room but the hotel was more than gracious. In fact their service was fantastic!! I could not fault this hotel, large spacious rooms, lovely luxurious beds, big bathroom, the only downside was a lack of power outlets (a common theme). Big picture windows overlooking the US Flight ramp (in the 2nd room) and I was in heaven! But no time to waste!
Spent the afternoon chatting, spotting, taking photos, eating, drinking (had lunch at the Beaver Bar which was fantastic as always). I enjoyed the day so much I lost track of time as by the time I got back to the hotel it was almost 5pm! There was a lovely little gift waiting for me in my room and the choc coated strawberries were delicious! I could get used to this. With more time spent taking photos from the room, I eventually headed downtown for dinner after not being able to make up my mind what I wanted.
The night was a bit mixed, with my usual self getting in the way. Managed to get lost, not look into things better and after not being able to make up my mind had part of my dinner at one place and finished it off super super late back at the Fairmont after a stop at the Whole Foods on Broadway… not my finest moments!
Sunday 10th June 2012
The morning was spent with a gym session where I could have been on the internet on the exercise bike (it didn’t work though which is probably a good thing), cleaning up the absolute destruction I caused last night in the room and just generally relaxing while taking more photos. I had been woken up by an offending Dash 8 spooling up to full power right outside my window. I guess sound proofing just cant block a full power turbo prop. Either way I didn’t mind. After a stroll through the airport to Tim Hortons down at the Domestic Terminal, with a good view of the runway and the taxi ways I enjoyed more time catching up on life with photos and some Tim Hortons.
Made sure I was back in the room for the Asian arrivals of JAL, China Eastern and the Air Canada from Tokyo and the Air Berlin flight from Dusseldorf. With the active runway for the Heavies right next to my room, it was a good way to finish off my stay at the Fairmont as I would eventually have to leave ?
Made my way back to the Skytrain (I had pre bought my ticket at the 7-11 after yesterdays costly mistake) and headed into the city. I made my way over to Pacific Central Station to drop my bags in a locker then reversed my journey back to downtown to spend some time doing a bit of shopping. I figured that if I could find a jacket the last time I was in Vancouver for cheap when I was desperate, it may work a 2nd time.
It did. I did a fair amount of exploring, hitting up wherever I could find (even heading back over to West Broadway.. thank you to the North Face Shop on West Broadway for their tip) but I am now the proud owner of a lovely warm North Face jacket, one that will keep me warm and dry during the Seattle weather!
After some shopping and wandering and aimless nothingness I hit up Japadog for a Kurubota hot dog Japanese styles (YUMMMM) and then slowly headed back to Pacific Central station to get my bag and wait for the bus. At least this time there is 1 sign in evidence at the Bus station but since Vancouver is the terminus you aren’t going to miss the bright red buses.
Again boarding was done via 3 groups (A, B & C) but the drive had everyone line up so there was some order to everything. This was a bit out of place compared to Seattle but maybe this is how its meant to be done. Either way I was in the A Group with 2 other people. There was a very very small group this time, maybe 12 or 15 max. So we boarded and were gone right on time. The road out was quick and there was not much traffic on the road so we made really good time to the US Border. What was even more impressive was the quickness of the processing. No hassles only a few questions this time (compared to entering in LAX) but to be honest it was a quick stop and we were on the road before we were even meant to be arriving at the border. This meant 2 more hours south and we would be in Seattle early!!
The wifi signal kicked in about 2 minutes after the border, so this is good timing as that’s how long it took me to get everything sorted! With Wifi up and running and my phone back out of Canada roaming o it felt good to be back in touch with life!
We flew down the Interstate as there was very very very little traffic and it was as though the day was just for us. The sun was out, I had wifi, and as we approached Seattle a magnificent view of Mt Ranier (which I couldn’t get a good shot of).
To be honest this was a great way to end the trip. We got in 30 minutes early (how often can you say that on a flight) and within 10 minutes or so I was getting picked up and ferried back to the apartment after promising a box of Tim Hortons donuts to someone. Easy as pie!
Absolutely loved the weekend. Some definite highlights and one or two low lights but that’s the way it always goes. The weekend was definitely successful in what I had intended on it doing. Getting me reinvigorated with life. It was great to spend Saturday with a mate and get to catch up on life and have a good afternoon where you can switch off and not worry about a thing.
Bolt Bus was definitely a fantastic thing and I will definitely use them again. It is silly to drive to either Portland or Vancouver with tickets so cheap, seriously cheap!! They are bargain fares but your not getting bargain service out of it. My only suggestion to them is some form of sign at the Seattle stop so people don’t mill around so much.
The Fairmont Vancouver Airport… well what can I say. I am in love with this hotel. Amazing people, amazing service and to top it all off… the location and the views. Found out this morning that I could of borrowed a BMW bike which would have been cool and next time I stay there I most definitely will take advantage of that and go for a ride somewhere. The hotels views were just stunning in my opinion and the airport has a lot to offer (the food there isn’t all that expensive in the main terminal either! So you don’t really need to head into the city for a decent feed).
Plans are afoot for another trip north, but for now I am ready to hit the streets for more adventure in life!