Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Seattle, Quack!

 Caution... bad puns ahead:

Back in February we had a gaggle of guests from Paris and Geneva staying with us. I love showing people around Seattle because it is so freaking gorgeous! Since time was limited we decided to take the Ride the Ducks Tour. I won't lie, I was SUPER excited as I had never gone on the Duck. Generally I loathe tourist things but this had just enough kitsch to get me on board! 

After fueling up on CFS and breakfast margaritas at Peso's on lower Queen Anne we boarded our Duck and with our Captain at the helm set out to see the sites.

The Duck made it's way along the Waterfront, past Safeco and Qwest Fields, thru Pioneer Square and Downtown. We then got onto 99 heading towards Fremont. It was as we were driving past Queen Anne that I said to Dayne "there is something wrong with this Duck, it is slowing way down!" Our Captain then yelled back to us that we were breaking down and immediately got on his radio to headquarters. Smoke started billowing out of the engine as we drove over the bridge, a lot of smoke! Finally we were able to pull over and had to make an emergency exit!

The whole situation was crazy! After a bit of waiting a new Duck arrived to pick us up and continue our tour. Our Captain was visibly shaken but was doing his best to get things back on quack. It was at this point where we were to drive into Lake Union, the vehicle turning into a boat of sorts. Not feeling overly confident in the workings of these amphibious trucks a few of us were noticeably nervous as the truck drove straight into the lake. But once we were floating around we were able to take in the amazing view of the city and our Captain even took us (illegally) close to the houseboat where they filmed "Sleepless in Seattle".


A bit longer on the lake and then back on land we drove into Fremont and past the Troll and finally back to the base on lower Queen Anne.

All in all the tour was fun albeit a bit long as the 90 minute ride turned into a 3- hour tour....

Quack!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Cuba Wrap Up, Adios!

It's time to wrap this Cuba trip up. Have I told you everything? Of course not, but I've got other trips to write about and there's still so much to tell!



There were the dinners in Havana's El Barrio Chino. A strange Chinatown with no Chinese people and an equally strange blend of Cuban and Chinese food on the menus. Highly recommended by Luis one of the restaurants was actually quite delicious. Our only gripe was that when I asked if it was family style or we should each order our own plate we were told to order our own. There was enough food leftover to feed a small army! The other Chinese restaurant not only ended up delivering some of the worst food ever but had us waiting practically all night for it. Our normally quiet and well behaved French friend Matt stormed into the kitchen demanding they bring out what was ready immediately!

 Matt giving the kitchen the "what for!"
 
And there was the very interesting Museo de la Revolution, housed in the old Presidential Palace and decorated by Tiffany's of NYC. Inside we found life size Che & Fidel figures, a history of Cuba, their struggles against the world (told with an incredible communist slant, natch) and the funny Wall of Cretans!


And also the Capitolio Building, a gorgeous domed structure resembling the US Capitol that use to house the Cuban Congress. It's full of beautiful offices, libraries, huge bronze doors, and even a 35 foot statue of a woman. In the center of the main floor is a 24 carat diamond from which all distances between Havana and other cities in Cuba are measured.


There was the day spent in Vedado with it's huge abandoned mansions, amazing Art Deco, Hotel National, Plaza de la Revolucion and the cemetery Cristobal Colon, including it's impressive list of residents such as La Milagrosa


And one of the most fun nights spent up at the Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabana where Dayne shook drinks on a cannon before we all sat and watched the festivities of the nightly 9pm cannon shooting, complete with guards in costume!


Besides staying in a Casa Particular we also stayed at the Hotel Sevilla, considered to be a moderately upscale hotel. In addition to the stories about other thugs, writers and celebrities Al Capone once rented out the entire 6th floor here. We enjoyed their large rooms, running hot water, outdoor courtyard, music and mojitos.


And there was New Years Eve, which was a quiet one this year since we had to get up early the next day. We started with champagne, shared with Luis and Luisa at their home, then had a nice seafood dinner by the waterfront where we watched fireworks at midnight. There were parties in the streets as we headed home, people dancing and having a great time. Unfortunately for Tim and Forest, there is also a tradition of dropping water balloons off balconies, which they experienced first hand.


So there you have it, our Cuba trip 2009-2010 in a nut shell. Lots of pictures of all these things and more are in two sets here and here!