Mrs P’s travel from YVR to SEABack to Forum
Anonymous2 Jul 2013
I have started a new topic so you can choose to read or not read and not have to scroll through stuff of no interest. 🙂
We arrived into YVR, a bit tired but happy and, in my case very excited as we looked forward to our Alaskan cruise, and after a glorious descent into YVR, over The Rockies which were still snow-covered and stood majestically in all their stunning glory.
I had to quietly admit that I would have to agree with Canucklad that there is indeed another “God’s Own Country”! :-))
We are usually pretty bushed after a long transatlantic flight and I didn’t fancy the idea of collecting a rental car and then driving, on the wrong side of the road, to an hotel. So I thought the best course of action was to book an hotel near the airport. Now thanks to my American Platinum card and with some great hotel deals offered via this site, I booked us into the Fairmont Hotel at YVR. It was a great decision!
We were, of course, amongst the first off the aircraft and walked what seemed like forever to reach immigration. No waiting, but, we just made it off the escalator before the crowd descended from behind us! I think we waited all of 1 minute to pass through immigration and then we were looking for the carousel and our bags. Would they come off first, as they should, or would we still be waiting after the crowds had descended and would there be an elusive last suitcase? Not this time – all four bags came off pretty much one after the other! The DH gets me organised with a couple of trolleys and I stand back a bit as there is nothing worse than trying to swing your suitcase off the belt with someone standing right up your you-know-what and refusing to move! However, as the crowds started to pour through, this little space got filled up and honestly; will people move to let you get your case through, No! So I shoved one trolley into the gap and then thought much as it does go against the grain, it is all for one and one for four in this case (excuse the obvious pun) and much to the displeasure of a very grumpy woman standing beside me who was huffing and puffing, our suitcases all arrived almost at once. And the DH’s loud “coming through Madam thank you!” saw her move, well enough to just about let him load the trollies. What she failed to realise if she had let us through, then we would have been away and she could have had more room for huffing and puffing! So, off we sailed with our loaded trollies as I smiled generously in her direction ;-)!
Through customs, handed over the declaration form and into the terminal itself. YVR is a bright and spacious terminal but not very well sign-posted at all. We knew the hotel was actually in the terminal, but there were no signs, well none that we could see. We finally found a map and tried to work out where we were and how to get to the hotel. Now I don’t know about you, but trailing around an airport terminal with two loaded trollies is never much fun, and much less when you have no idea where you are going. The hotel is situated right at the far end of the international terminal – that is all international except for US flights which have their own “international terminal” and the farthest end from where we were. At that time, that section of the terminal was almost deserted save for one lone security lady and she confirmed that we were headed in the correct direction.
The Fairmont at YVR has a direct access from this terminal with a lift and escalator from the terminal floor. There is a bell boy stationed there and our luggage was whisked away (thank goodness) and we ascended up into the calm of the hotel lobby.
First impressions, this was going to be OK.
As I had booked through AMEX Plat, we had a discounted “group” rate, which I only realised when our confirmation came through with a strange reference on the booking. Years in the hotel business immediately told me that we had been “sold” a wholesale rate which Amex booked for us through another travel company as an IT rate (individual traveller), but I didn’t care what basis we were booked on as long as we had the room we specified, and if it got us a less expensive rate then all the better. But a word of warning about these “group rates”, sometimes they are non-refundable, so buyer beware! I had booked on a room only basis, as you never know with time changes what time the next day you will get up, let alone if you will want breakfast!
We were checked in swiftly and I asked for a room overlooking the runway as although I am not an aircraft “geek”, I do enjoy all the comings and goings. Our room could not have been more perfect! We had a lovely, spacious king-size and our view was just great – we could see all the comings and goings on the main runway and watched our 747 leave later that evening for LHR! What a sight that was, as so often at airports, your view is restricted, so seeing the amble to the runway, the turn, and the take-off, all the time in my head I was imagining being on that aircraft and wondering just who was enjoying seat 2A now. It never ceases to amaze me how these great big beasts actually manage to get into the air.
And I didn’t think to grab my camera until the great beast was half-way through the take-off! I could have kicked myself because how often do you get to watch the whole, uninterrupted take-off!
A good night’s sleep – broken only for a cup of tea and a snack on the pinched gluten free biccies from T5 – and we headed down for breakfast. I have to mention here that every single member of staff we met at this hotel was warm and friendly and couldn’t do enough for us. They offer a lovely buffet breakfast which had everything from the standard breakfast items, to freshly made omelettes, smoked salmon -you name it, it was there and at CAD$56 for both of us, we didn’t flinch.
Raring to go after our hearty breakfast, our next challenge was to find the car rental offices and I didn’t fancy trailing all that luggage back through the terminal. I have Hertz Gold membership with my lovely Amex Plat, however, I found, as others on BT have mentioned, that booking when logged into your Gold account, does not necessarily offer up the best rates. So as we were hiring a car a few times on this trip, I did do quite a bit of jiggling around with bookings and rates. I will give you this particular rental as an example. Booking through the Gold club, they were going to charge a one-way hire fee, around $100 – but no such charge just reserving online without Gold. So guess which way I went?? LOL! But that would mean no quick check-in, or would it? 😉
It was a fair walk to the Hertz office from the hotel (all the car rental offices are in one place, and it’s very easy to find once you work out how to get there, again the signage is not great) but the porters at this hotel have it all worked out for you. They will look after your luggage while you fetch your car and as soon as you drive back around, they will literally spring into action and load your car up for you. That worked out perfectly and another bill or two was palmed perfectly! 😉
There was a small queue at the regular Hertz counter, so, of course, in true Mrs P style, I waltzed up to the Gold Counter and quite charmingly explained that I was Gold but for some reason I couldn’t attach my membership number to this booking. No problem said the very nice Hertz lady! (Quiet sniggering from DH standing behind me – I can only imagine he was standing with that slightly bemused look on his face, and slight shaking of head when I do things like this – I am not saying he would never “wing it”, but what’s the worst that could happen?) You really do just have to act “like you own it”! In the nicest possible way – ALWAYS! LOL! So, not only did we have a much expedited check in, we were offered a nice double upgrade, which we had to pay all of $20 for, to a very nice, brand new Mercedes 4×4.
Quick turn around the block to pick up the luggage and we were headed south towards Seattle. As we were checking out the receptionist told us that there was about an hour’s wait at the Peace Arch Canada/US border crossing. I said we had thought about heading inland to Sumas to cross there. That got the reaction that we would be mad to go so far out of our way, so we decided just to go with the Interstate 5 and take our chances.
What seemed a very short time, we arrived at the Peach Arch crossing. This crossing is famous as they built it for the Olympics and is quite nicely laid out with areas to relax and break your journey, however, we were pressing on. The illuminated signs were showing 5 minutes wait – brilliant we thought, the receptionist has got it wrong! How we did laugh! We’ll be through with no hassle! How we laughed! An hour’s wait, hhmmm it’s 5 minutes! How we laughed!
Pulling up to a booth took 5 minutes!
The very serious US border chap took our passports – we had our ESTAs, so it should have just been a formality, right? Nope, wrong. As soon as he spotted our suitcases, he started asking all sorts of questions, including pronouncing that we had an “awful lot of luggage” – to which the DH rolled his eyes at me with a “not a word” look. So we were instructed to park up and go into the building. I think unless you have a Nexus, this is standard procedure.
We were not laughing now!
There were maybe about 50 people waiting in line, and you were directed into a line which was not very clear as to why. Anyway, out of maybe a dozen or so operator terminals, only 2 were manned, to our dismay, but then all of a sudden they did bring in more officers. So our wait was not as long as we thought it might have been, but was still around 40 minutes standing from entry to exit. And they fleeced us for another $6 each! No idea what that was for as we already had our ESTAs, so why, but at this stage, you really don’t query anything as you want to be in and out and not “noticed”.
So, the receptionist was totally correct – it was about an hour!
Our car was not searched – so the comment about the luggage was just fatuous.
We took the scenic route down to Seattle, as suggested by the receptionist and stopped for a late lunch at a lovely family restaurant, dining outside on their deck with wonderful views of the mountains and sea, all at the same time. It was glorious and a sample of the fabulous scenery and weather we were to enjoy for the whole trip – well almost!
We finally arrived in Seattle and it was very easy to find our home for the next two nights – the Fairmont Olympic, Seattle. Again I had booked this on the Amex Plat site, and our rate included an upgrade on check-in, complimentary breakfast and “something else” option. Well the “something else” turned out to be a $100 Food and Beverage credit. They gave us a lovely suite – well almost suite – the bedroom was separate from the living area, but not really a totally separate room, but with a very spacious bathroom, we were happy. And I was even happier when a lovely plate of canapés arrived with the Manager’s compliments and welcoming us a Fairmont President Club members. Now join this if you ever plan on staying at a Fairmont – it gives you the usual points, and free internet, but also seems to work it’s magic with upgrades and nice little touches like the canapés etc. Lovely!
The hotel itself is very traditional, and the staff although quite welcoming, were not a patch on their sister hotel at YVR.
Breakfast is a somewhat dismal affair. The food is very nice, but the included continental buffet is all carbs – bread, pastries, cereal, fruit – nothing else and all presented on a non-chilled table in the middle of a vast and lofty and very grand dining room. You know the sort of place you whisper in, just in case someone scowls at you! So, we ordered from the menu. We both only had some muesli from the continental buffet – there was no choice where you could have muesli or juice for example and then some eggs. It was quite strange, so I ended up having smoked salmon which was delicious and came beautifully presented with chopped eggs, chopped onion, capers and a toasted bagel with a good slice of cream cheese (yes slice – it was pretty solid cream cheese). I can’t remember the costs, but I was glad we had that F&B credit to use, which I think just about covered us for breakfast both mornings, bearing in mind the CB was included! I know we could have walked out to a local place for breakfast at half the price or less, but we don’t know Seattle and we had a date with a 787!
When we first mooted going to Seattle, someone, somewhere on BT mentioned Boeing and that a good choice would be to visit the Future of Flight at the Boeing site at Paine Field, just north of Seattle – thank you, you know who you are! 🙂 In fact the very same person recommended the Amex Plat – so thank you again! 🙂
I booked our tour easily online before we left home, well months before we left home and saved a couple of dollars each! We headed off and directions were very clear from their website and we found the Boeing Plant no problem, an easy 45 minute drive from the centre of Seattle. The whole site is split by the main road and you get a great view of the size of the giant “hangers” as you approach. With plenty of free car-parking, we found a spot and it was an easy stroll into the visitor centre. I had booked us on the 11.30 tour but we had arrived early and almost before I could say anything the receptionist asked if we would like to go on the 11 am tour. Yes please. You are allowed nothing in with you on the tour, so any bags, cameras etc., you have must be placed in lockers for which there is a small charge.
They make lots of announcements to get you into a presentation theatre on time – the whole tour is a very slick machine and the tours run to clockwork. The tour is 90 minutes long, so you should visit the facilities before! Now, they make several announcements telling you to go to the bathroom, and I mean several as there are no facilities on the tour – I knew I had gone, but I just hate it when someone says, do you need to go, or, if you need to go, go now, over and over – you do start thinking “do I, do I, but I’ve just been” No doubt there is a posh name for this reinforced thinking! Anyway, I didn’t “need” to go! LOL!
The group was split into 2 smaller groups by colour – you were given a coloured ticket as you entered the theatre – I think maybe about 25/30 people in each, and each group boarded a coach. Yes the site is so big, you are bussed around each section and security is tight. We were told there were around 40,000 employees – the size of a town and they have facilities on site that any town would envy. No wonder people work for them for years – they appear to look after their employees very well, but you have to work for them for over 25 years to get a privileged parking space right next to the huge hangers! I can’t remember how many bicycles they have on site for people to get around.
We were escorted by vehicles with yellow flashing lights across the runway – this is the main runway and is used for all test flights. I don’t think I would like to live nearby here! We spotted several aircraft, mainly 787s including at least 3 with their BA livery sitting out on the tarmac.
If you want to read all about the Future of Flight – this is the link http://www.futureofflight.org – I would just summarise it up to say it was fascinating and if you ever get a chance to go, go! Even someone who is not hugely interested in aircraft, could not help but be fascinated when standing several stories up and looking down on the production line of a 747, 767 or a 787!
On the way back to our car, I thought I could see some yellow flashing lights on vehicles by the massive Dreamlifter – the specially modified 747 which is used to transport fuselage parts and other parts of the Dreamliner to the Boeing field from other manufacturing sites. We were in for a treat – this massive aircraft started to move and it headed to the end of the runway – at this point we were standing on the bank at the end of the runway and it was only a few hundred yards from where we stood. The size and the noise, it was incredible and we were so lucky to see this magnificent machine take-off. (the DH tells me that if you google Dreamlifter on Youtube you will see footage of this beast taking off).
It was a lovely sunny and warm day, so we took the scenic route back to Seattle – we went to a place called Mukilteo on the shore of Puget Sound which has a busy vehicle and passenger ferry that ploughs the bay to the island offshore this beautiful coast. Again we were able to soak in the gorgeous scenery and dine outside at a great place called “Arnies” – http://www.arniesrestaurant.com/Mukilteo/lunch.php. I had the most delicious new season Alaskan Salmon – just to get me in the mood! We also strolled around a small town called Edmonds, which is a lovely place to walk around and we idled away a couple of hours shopping in delightful small shops and enjoyed a snack in a traditional diner, which was fun! I normally hate shopping, but when you have time on holiday I find I quite enjoy browsing and surprisingly, so does the DH!
We returned the rental car which was very easy to deposit, even though it was by then after hours, at the nearest Hertz office. It was then only a gentle 15 minute stroll back through the emptying city centre streets to the hotel where we plumped for a relaxing evening and some room service.
Everyone was just so friendly and we loved this part of the world but were a teeny bit sad we didn’t have longer to enjoy it. But our “home from home” for the next two weeks was sailing towards Seattle as we got ourselves ready for our departure the next morning for our True Alaskan Adventure aboard the MS Oceania Regatta.
More to come …..
I will be posting some photos as soon as I can sort through the 100’s we took, just to give you a pictoral guide. I think a lot of my Alaska review will be in photos as I don’t think I can truly describe the beauty of the state in words.2 Jul 2013
Just wanted to say how much I’m enjoying your trip report, papillion. I’m off to YVR in a few weeks (but alas, slumming it in CW 😉 ) and hoping to do a trip to Seattle next year.
1F2 Jul 2013
Sounds an amazing adventure Papillion. I’m quite envious. Just heard a talk at my old school’s speech day by Alex Hibbert who crossed Greenland on skis, then came back again. I need to be more adventurous.
I look forward to the next episode and especially the pictures, though not sure how you’ll show us those?2 Jul 2013
Tsk Tsk Mrs P………
Should have taken my advice about the border crossing….would have been a lot less stressful using the truck crossing. Although probably still officious, as is the way with the Americans now.
Whilst you were talking with the very serious border chap, your car was probably getting the dog treatment!
Anyway if you had been looking out the 2A window on the last part of the final approach, you pretty much would have looked into my sister’s back garden. You’ve made me a bit homesick right now……especially the walk to the arrivals hall…..through the magnificent BC temperate forest and the BC Haida art work! I find it quite relaxing !
Glad you enjoyed Washington too…..always think of our southern neighbours as wannabe BCer’s ….. they even took our liberal approach to BC ‘s finest grass that step further LOL : ))3 Jul 2013
Just a quick note – and I think from previous posts you have flown to the US recently – but an ESTA is not required when entering the US by land – only by boat or on a plane. So not sure if having an ESTA will make things any quicker or easier when going into the US by Car.
Cracking review by the way.3 Jul 2013
I made the same border crossing last month after staying 3 nights in Vancouver (at the Le Soleil hotel). In our case, we arrived at the border at around 10am and had a wait of about an hour before we got to the border post. I wasn’t surprised that we got pulled over like you as we were an unusual couple. My friend is an American lady from Texas and with me as Brit travelling in a Canadian hire car from Canada to USA did confuse the guard. It took us about another 20 minutes to clear the hall. Our return trip through Canadian customs was much quicker about 15 mins in all.
Tim, I wasn’t aware you didn’t need an ESTA by car. They did ask me if I had an ESTA but they didn’t seem to make effort to verify that.3 Jul 2013
As below on the ESTA website under Help
Who is required to have a travel authorization?
All passengers traveling under the Visa Waiver Program are required to have an approved travel authorization prior to traveling to the United States by air or sea. Even non-ticketed infants are required to have an approved travel authorization, if they do not have a visa for travel to the United States. An application may be submitted by a third party on behalf of a Visa Waiver Program traveler.3 Jul 2013
Good afternoon all – thanks for the responses! :-))
LP – I will load a selection of photos to photobucket or similar and you can then access them.
Canucklad – I know I forgot all about choosing the truck crossing – but it could have been a lot worse! Yes, we did see a couple of working dogs, so I imagine their noses were being put to good use.
TimFTC – I didn’t know that about the ESTA –
So what visa would you need to have, as I can’t imagine any other way a UK citizen could arrive in the US except by plane or ship? (I suppose you could come in by land through Mexico as well as Canada?!)
At the Peace Arch crossing, they certainly did check our passport and scanned them into their system and asked if we had our ESTA. They also wanted to know where we were headed and for how long (and I don’t just mean next stop Seattle, we had to give them chapter and verse and final date of leaving US) and also the address of where we were staying in Seattle.
When we went from Alaska, USA into Canada, briefly on a tour, Canadian border patrol did come on the coach going into Canada and checked our passports. On the train going back into the USA, border control wanted to see our passports and “visa”, but what he actually checked was that we had the white card you get stapled into your passport and the passport stamp when you first arrive in the USA.3 Jul 2013