Seattle / Vancouver - June 2016

Seattle is anything but what I expected. The weather started out a bit chilly (that's 60 for those of you who don't live in the tropics) but for the most part, it was sunny and mild with occasional rain. It's very hilly yet easily walkable. We relied on Uber to go up the hills and our legs to go down.

When the sun is out, the people fill the streets; friendly, helpful, well-mannered for the most part. Yes, the city has its fair share of homeless and there's major construction everywhere - it's unquestionably a work in progress.

The iconic Space Needle is a must for the first time visitor. Erica and I rode the elevator up and spent about 20 minutes shooting pictures. It's totally safe for those with a fear of heights or falling and absolutely worth the time.

The Chihuly Museum & Gardens are conveniently located at the base of the Space Needle and is another of the not to be missed attractions in Seattle. Inside the museum, the famous artist's glass constructions fill every possible space from floor to ceiling. The colors are vibrant and the pieces have an energetic glow.

The outdoor spaces are a brilliant mesh of plants and glass that you could spend hours walking through and admiring from a myriad of different angles.

There are 31 retail marijuana outlets in Seattle. Any one of them will make even the casual user drool and start babbling like a child in a candy store. Uncle Ike's at 23rd and Union is the highest rated on all the websites and apps. The store has some interesting history. Ike originally ran a car dealership on the property, hence the massive parking lot in front. When pot was legalized, he sold all the cars and converted the office space to a pot store. The benefit for regular customers is that with any purchase of $30 or more you get a coupon for a free car wash at Ike's car wash around the corner. And, for those of us over 60, there's a 12% Senior Citizen's discount!

Seattle has some of the freshest sushi I've ever eaten and that includes Japan. For my birthday, Erica treated us to dinner at Sushi Kashiba. We turned the chef loose and told him to make whatever he wanted, whatever was the best and freshest fish. It was a feast of one tasty morsel after another until I had to open my belt one notch. For dessert - tamago, Japanese pressed omelet, with a candle.

From Seattle, we took the Amtrak Cascades train - a four-hour ride - to Vancouver. If not for the crying baby, it's quite a relaxing way to travel. The scenery, for the first couple of hours is beautiful - occasional glances of the mountains, massive bays with sparkling blue water, and deep green forests.

Vancouver, like Seattle, is also a hilly city loaded with sushi bars, Korean restaurants, and tourists. Lots of tourists. We were lucky to catch the last day of an International Jazz Festival. Crowded though it was, the music was loud enough to hear from anywhere nearby.

The best of Vancouver (at least for me) was a morning trip to the Bloedel Conservatory. The dome contains many of the plants and trees we have in our garden here in South Florida, but it was also filled with gorgeous tropical birds. The Oriental Gardens on the surrounding hills are stunning and you could spend hours just strolling the pathways. Upon our arrival there were several groups of people doing Tai Chi. A perfect setting for them.