We are back! After all the planning and looking forward to it, the trip is now over, boo! But to keep it fresh in my mind, and maybe make some of you interested in that region, I’m telling you all about it today.
Let’s deal with the basics first: the 18 night road trip was booked with Thomas Cook, that means flights, rental car and some (about half) of the hotels. Because this isn’t the most sought-after region for Belgian Thomas Cook clients, we couldn’t find hotels in all locations, so we booked these ourselves at booking.com and once at the hotel’s website (I’ll mention it later).
We flew into Seattle via Amsterdam with Delta Airlines and I was impressed, the food was okay (Jet Airways is still the very best ever for me), the inflight entertainment was really good (I saw Maleficent, Horrible Bosses 2, Cinderella, Into The Woods, Annie, The Mazerunner and part of 22 Jump Street which totes disappointed me…) but most of all I loved how much water you got! It’s important to stay hydrated and sometimes you mostly get drinks with the food, but we were offered water all the time and not just in cups, but bottles as well, yay! That way you can put your tray table back up and try to get some sleep but still have your water nearby. That is if you manage to sleep on a plane, which I don’t, hence all the movies I saw.
The travel part was draining though, our Brussels-Amsterdam flight was at 06h15, which, according to us, meant arriving at Brussels Airport at 3h15 (international flight), but apparently we could’ve gotten there an hour later, the whole USA security check was at Amsterdam… Some waiting around at Amsterdam, the 9 hour flight to the States and then arriving in Seattle at noon, trying to stay awake as long as possible, adjusting to the 9 hour difference as soon as possible…. We were knackered! But that’s a luxury problem, so no complaints, well, not too much.
We started and ended our trip in Seattle, but in 2 different hotels. Our first hotel was the Warwick, located in Belltown, very close to Downtown Seattle.
Breakfast was not included (very common in the States), neither was WiFi (very uncommon in the States) but the rooms were comfortable and quite big. The location was great to discover Downtown, which we did upon arrival and the day after.
One of Seattle’s most known spots is Pike Place Public Market, there’s something for everyone there, not just food. There were some beautiful flowers, but yeah, the food…
Seattle is where Starbucks comes from, and more specifically the Market. The Starbucks close to the Market is designed to look like the first one (which no longer exists), so if you’re a huuuuge fan, take a look but be prepared for big crowds and queues.
If you’re just a regular fan, don’t bother, you will find a Starbucks in no time. Just walk around and every few minutes you will spot one.
If you’re a WiFi deprived tourist, I suggest you do the same: Starbucks’ WiFi is free and fast and hey, get one of those Mini S’Mores Frappuccino’s while you’re there. Or Iced Lemon Pound Cake, the perfect slice of cake if you ask me.
Back to the Market, it’s also the place to be if you want to see people throw around fish (don’t ask, it’s a thing there…). We had breakfast at Lowell’s and made our way to the Public Library and the Columbia Center where we went up to the Skyview Observatory to get some views of the Emerald City.
Yes, you could go up the Space Needle, but then you won’t see the Space Needle and it would be more expensive.
After that it was time to explore Seattle’s historic district: Pioneer Square, Occidental Park and Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, which is a must. You get a lot of information, interactive exhibits and much more for free!
A walk along the waterfront (with Ferris Wheel) took us back to the hotel.
The next day we went looking for Jimi Hendrix’ statue and our rental car. Yup, it was time to hit the road.
We left Seattle with mixed feelings, maybe it was because it was Memorial Day Weekend, but we didn’t really like Seattle’s vibe. It wasn’t as foodie friendly as we had hoped. Yes, they were quite fancy and experimental, but also kind of expensive and too complex. Sometimes you just want a simple meal for a reasonable price.
Another thing that caught us off guard in Seattle was the number of homeless people. Every park we walked through was like a camp for homeless people, it was very sad. We had noticed this too in San Francisco, but nowhere in the world have I seen as many people living on the streets as in Seattle.
We knew the city would get a second chance later on, so we hopped in our rental and after a few stops just outside Seattle at the Fremont Troll, Gas Works Park, a mall and an outlet mall we checked into our next hotel: Holiday Inn Express & Suites Burlington. Another 2 night stop here and a reunion with my beloved Cinnamon Rolls!
Onto our first park! North Cascades National Park is a lovely park to see Mount Baker, glaciers, forests and lakes. It’s not the only one where you can see these, more later!
First stop is usually the Visitor Center, where you can pick up a map and ask the friendly Ranger(s) for some tips on trails, activities, etc. Also: toilet break!
We are not hikers, so we always asked for several short easy or moderate trails. Don’t be fooled, moderate is not just a walk in the park here. Be prepared, wear appropriate shoes, always have water with you and don’t overestimate yourself. You should also be prepared to encounter some wildlife…
Our last night in Burlington was spent at Train Wreck Bar where we had one of the best meals of the entire trip. Great stuff, just have your ID ready: you will get carded, even if you don’t order alcohol. 21 and older only here.
Back on the road, we made a weird stop. Yes, a bit of wtf-stop. Leavenworth. What’s so weird about it? It’s modelled after a Bavarian village, even the Starbucks-logo is different here. It actually looks like you’re in Germany, except for the big American cars that ruin the illusion. Great fun to see, they went all out! Definitely worth a stop for some Bratwurst and Schnitzel.
Our hotel that night was Comfort Suites Wenatchee, our first Comfort Suites experience and a very good one at that. The rooms were big, comfortable and clean. Breakfast was similar to the Holiday Inn breakfast, instead of Cinnamon Rolls you can make your own waffles here. Fun!
Before leaving Wenatchee again we stopped by the Washington Apple Commissions Visitor Center. This region is all about apples and if you want to know more, this is the place to be. Free entry and you get an apple juice!
After that we went to the Rocky Reach Dam to check out the dam itself and the fish ladders. Very interesting and again, for free. It also provides a lot of information on Native American tribes.
Our next bed was in Comfort Suites Moses Lake. Two Comfort Suites in a row, and we were happy about that because the first one had been so good. Comfort Suites is very similar to Holiday Inn Express & Suites: rooms at both are always clean and spacious, they are located perfectly for road trips (free parking!), the WiFi is complimentary and good, and breakfast is also included and quite nice. The only difference is that (well, it was for the 2 we stayed at) Comfort Suites don’t look exactly the same. There’s a little difference in style and decor, so they’re not all identical. But both are great!
We drove to a park (which one though…?) to enjoy Moses Lake, it was stunning. But it was so hot that day!
We’d been in the apple area, now we were heading to the wine area: Walla Walla. We spent the day here, thinking we’d drive along vineyards like we did in Napa, but we didn’t see any!
But as I said, we did spend the day in Walla Walla doing a walking tour that took us to the University and some parks. Spring Fling was happening at Pioneer Park, so we checked that out. All the fried food during this heat was not appealing!
Next hotel on the itinerary was Red Lion Hotel Pendleton, marking our first stay in Oregon, the Beaver State, and a temporary halt to the warm weather.
About Shilo Inn and Red Lion: they are more basic than Holiday Inn Express and Comfort Suites, but you do pay less, so if you’re not picky about your room, don’t necessarily need complimentary breakfast and want to save some money: go with these. All these hotels can be found near each other, so location wise you’re not compromising.
You’ve probably noticed there was quite a bit of driving going on these last days, but all of this was to go the next place: Crater Lake National Park, the most southern place of our trip.
Crater Lake is a unique thing of beauty. It’s a crater but not because of a meteor. Nope, it’s actually the result of the collapse of Mount Mazama, a volcano. And it’s a lake, but without any rivers flowing into it. The water comes from rain and snow. That’s what makes it so blue and pure. You have to see it to believe it.
We knew we wanted to spend some time here so we decided to splurge a bit and stay at Crater Lake Lodge (booked directly online).
One thing you have to remember about US National Parks is that they are huge and we often underestimate the driving times. If you want to spend a day or several days in a park you should consider staying in the park as opposed to staying near one and driving in and out. If you’re really into nature you could also camp at most parks, which is probably all kinds of awesome but not for us.
Back to Crater Lake Lodge: it’s gorgeous! A grand fireplace, a beautiful dining area (breakfast, lunch and dinner: make a reservation for dinner) and terrace with the most amazing views of the lake. Worth the splurge!
We did several trails here, drove around until the road was blocked (it happens in parks: check road conditions online or at the Visitor Center) and said goodbye to one of the prettiest places I’ve ever been.
We did spend as much time here as possible before heading to Rodeway Inn Eugene, by far the lowest rated hotel from the trip, in our opinion. You don’t need to offer breakfast, but don’t call the coffee, OJ and cookies in the lobby continental breakfast, please… It wasn’t even the cheapest!
That’s it for part 1, come back next week for part 2!