June 17th - 26th:

After weeks and weeks of careful planning and great deliberation over amount of clothing to take and number of suitcases to pack them in, we finally got to Tullamarine Airport on the morning of June 17 for our flight to San Francisco via Sydney. Arrived in Sydney about lunch-time and a couple of delayed flight announcements later, we were informed that our United Airlines flight to San Francisco had been cancelled due to some mechanical problem. Amidst groans of disappointment from fellow travellers, came a further announcement that cheered us a little - we would be transported by a courtesy bus to the Stamford Sydney Airport Hotel to enjoy a complimentary overnight stay in a luxurious suite, a bottle of fine wine plus a complimentary late lunch and dinner that night.

We made a couple of frantic phone calls   regarding the delay (to our family in Melbourne and another to our friend ANGEL in WA), before we headed off to the hotel and made the most of this "compensation". A three course meal was enjoyed in the hotel restaurant before we headed off for a leisurely walk to the stores. From there we went up to our suite for a relaxing bath then went downstairs again to enjoy a scrumptious smorgasbord buffet dinner which included tons of our favourite seafood. YUM! In the morning, we were again on the bus to get back to Sydney Airport and from there we had a pleasant and uneventful flight to San Francisco, arriving some 14 1/2 hours later, on the day that we left, as we "gained" a day when we crossed the International Date Line. No mucking about on our arrival in San Francisco though, it was a mad dash through customs and immigration checks to catch the connecting flight to SeaTac Airport.

WASHINGTON, at last!!!

There at SeaTac to welcome us was our friend, Blue Eye Angel - at this stage, we have been internet friends for about a year but we had never met until that day. All doubtful thoughts vanished as soon as we clapped eyes on one another - there was that magical instant rapport usually only found in friendships of many years standing. But I digress... Where was I? Oh yes, after hauling our suitcases into ANGEL's vehicle, we headed for Eatonville to meet the rest of her family and friends. Once they began to understand our Aussie Speak beyond, "G'day, howsitgoing?", we got on famously with the universal language of FOOD! Of course there was a bit more confusion in that area as we have different names for some food - e.g. Aussies do not eat Cheerios for breakfast, we have our Cheerios with tomato sauce! No, we are not stark raving mad, because what we call "cheerios" are little hot dog sausages. Another item of food that caused a few raised eyebrows was "jelly" - we have our jelly as a dessert (fruit-flavoured wobbly stuff - Jello?) and not on bread.

We couldn't wait to see and ANGEL couldn't wait to show us the sights so the very next morning saw us all at the North West Trek Wildlife Park. Of course old Busy Fingers here took many, many photos of almost all the native animals that were out and about in this massive wildpark. Of course there were no native Australian animals like kangaroos or koalas but we sure saw heaps and heaps of American fauna - elks, racoons, etc... We enjoyed a guided coach tour of the park where we could see the animals roaming wild and free in the various sections. The outing took the best part of the day and all too soon it was time to call it a day and head for ANGEL's home. An enjoyable outing indeed on a lovely sunny day too!

 A couple of days later, it was off to Pike Place Market (Farmers Market) in downtown Seattle to be amazed by the abundance of Copperhead Salmon, Dungeoness Crabs and Monkfish in the seafood market. Unfortunately, our curiosity at seeing Geoduck (Prounounced "gooey-duck" - the name comes from the Nisqually Indian "gwe-duk" meaning "dig-deep"; scientific name: Panopea abrupta) up close and personal couldn't be fulfilled. [Geoduck photo courtesy of Washington's Outer Limits] I loved the atmosphere of this bustling market place with fruit, vegetables, flowers and crafts galore. ANGEL took us on the Bremerton Ferry on the return trip which gave us an awesome view of Seattle with majestic Mt Rainier seemingly in every direction we face!

Before we could catch our breath, it was decided that we would go to Ocean Shores, so we piled in the car and off we went. Had brunch of yummy clam chowder in a cafe just before Ocean Shores - clam chowder in a bread bowl... mmmm... We then continued on our way and walked a lo-ong way along the beach in the hopes of finding a recently washed-up perfect sand dollar and --- hey, what about geoducks??? I looked real hard but it was no good - I guess we weren't in the right area for geoduck. I did however come across an intriguing piece of driftwood with a whole bunch of baby bivalves attached to it... Could it be very young geoducks? I am left wondering to this day! As for the sand dollar - alas, all we managed to find were a few broken ones so we went to the souvenir shop to purchase a few specimens for good luck. All too soon, it was time for the long drive back to Eatonville...

I introduced our friends to my Special Fried Rice and Sweet and Sour Chicken and soon had them begging for more. ANGEL and her hubby treated us to a great dinner at an Outback Steakhouse and until then I have never even heard of the dish, "Blooming Onion" let alone tasted it! You see, the only Outback Steakhouse we have in Australia is in Sydney... And what do I think of the Blooming Onion? Simply "bewdiful"!!! I really must try and see if I can duplicate this dish at home one of these days. On days when we had been sightseeing or shopping and nobody felt like cooking, we would head off to Doreen's Cafe for a feed of yummy Philly Burgers! Another great "body-building" food as I call it - not an ounce of fat but lashings of it!!! But hey, who's worried about fat and bad cholesterol when on holidays, right? Certainly not me!

How true the saying, "Time flies when you're having fun..." as before we knew it, it was time to head off to Canada (British Columbia) - for the second part of our holiday. ANGEL got us to the Greyhound depot at Tacoma and waved us off on June 26. I believe they had a little party afterwards to celebrate their temporary respite.


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