The train ride from Vancouver (BC) to Seattle is one of my favourites. First, it's one of the quickest, easiest ways to cross the border into the US. No standing in line, no hauling your bags around, no taking off your shoes, or passing through scanners. The train stops for literally a few minutes, officials pass through the train and look at your passport and that's it. You'd almost think you were in Europe. I'm afraid Homeland Security will discover that there's actually a pleasant way to enter the US and decide to "fix" it.
Much of the trip is right along the coast. We saw dozens of great blue herons and even a few bald eagles. Get a seat on the ocean side of the train if you can (right side when heading south). For extra elbow room and a quieter ride check out business class.
The only downside, if you're not a morning person, is that it boards at 5:30am!
To get to California from Vancouver you need to change from the Cascade to the Coast Starlight train. And with trains you're better to leave an overnight between trains because they can easily be late. The obvious places to switch are Seattle and Portland. We'd just been in Seattle earlier in the summer so we stopped in Portland. It's one of our favorite US cities with the parks along the river, and the zoo and gardens. (warning - also a lot of homeless/street people)
We stayed a new hotel - Eastlund - which turned out to be the old Red Lion with a complete makeover. I'd stayed at the Red Lion previously when at conferences across the street at the conference center. The new Eastlund is much nicer - the rooftop restaurant is good, and there's also a bakery / coffee shop. Although it's not downtown, it's just across the river and an easy walk or transit ride, and because it's not downtown the rates are better. Sadly Portland seems to have dropped the free transit in the city core, but it's still relatively inexpensive (e.g. a day pass for trains and buses is $5)
The evening we arrived we walked across and along the river and had supper at Three Degrees, the restaurant in the Riverplace Hotel. (A great place to stay if you can get a deal, otherwise pretty pricey.) The restaurant and lounge have great views of the river and the happy hour prices are good. By the time we wandered back to the hotel it was getting dark and I could take some night time reflection photos.
We spent our next morning at the zoo - quite far from downtown, but easily accessible by transit. Normally from the zoo we'd walk the few kilometers to the Japanese gardens, but they were closed for renovations. Instead we went for a walk through the arboretum which is also lovely. Our only concession to shopping was a stop at the Patagonia store in the Pearl District.
We had supper at one of our favorite spots - Veritable Quandary - which was fantastic as always.
The next morning we went for a walk along the river, prompting more reflection photos :-)
We spent some time at Powell's City of Books - a huge new and used bookstore. And then a peaceful stop at the Lan Su Chinese Garden downtown.
Hard to tell this is bonsai and a few feet tall, not real full size trees:
As well as the gardens, they make good use of the walls to add interest:
This one seems somehow fitting for a Chinese garden:
See all 53 photos as a slideshow or overview
Next stop Klamath Falls ...