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Great Northern

We got up nice and early because our flight to Seattle leaves at 9:00am, and we have to get down through San Francisco to the airport, and park our car in long-term parking. This time we tried a different parking company than usual, because we've had the coupons for ages and we had a little extra time in hand to compensate for getting lost, should it happen. It didn't, but the car park was almost full already, and Thanksgiving wasn't until Thursday! It pays to be early.

Walt Kennamer met us at the airport, and - unexpected bonus - it turns out that he wasn't busy and could hang with us in Seattle for a few hours. This was great. We found a car park near the Pikes Place market area and wandered around looking at things.

We found some Maple honey that looked rather good, and lots of arts and crafts and produce and stuff. Around lunchtime we decided to wait until a table was free at a place called "The Cafe at La Campagne" and it was absolutely worth it. Spectacular French country cooking. I chose an oven-baked leg of preserved duck which was fantastique. Best lunch ever.

After lunch we staggered out of the cafe and wobbled back to the car park. On the way to find the HeliJet terminal, we decided to kill another hour or so at the Flight Museum at Boeing Field. Another unexpected bonus. There were lots of cool things to see there - the Gossamer Albatross, half of a 737, a fearsome looking Blackbird, and tons of cockpits and displays. There was a section covering space stuff, including shuttles and Apollo, and one of the moon buggies.

The museum is located on the original site of the first Boeing Aircraft factory - a big red barn, which has been restored and forms part of the museum structure. It has some of the original woodworking machinery and other displays.

Outside in front of the museum there was a retired "Air Force One", dating from the Nixon and Kennedy administrations, one of the last ones before they switched to using a 747. You could walk through the entire length of the jet and see where the press sat, the communication post, the galley, etc. It all looked very comfortable and important. We had hoped to see Mt Rainier but it was being reticent. While I was on Air Force One I did manage to see it out one of the windows, and I took a picture.

As it was beginning to get dark, we drove around the perimeter of Boeing Field and eventually came across the HeliJet terminal. Because they fly across the border to Vancouver and Victoria in Canada, they are an "International Airport" complete with a tiny customs office.

We arranged our baggage so that Walt took half with him for later, leaving us with a bag each for the helijet.

It was completely dark by the time the HeliJet was ready to take off, and it turned out that we were the only passengers on the flight. The actual takeoff was kind of strange: The main rotor has to get up to speed, going through all sorts of resonant frequencies as it does so. At one point the cabin was rocking from side to side almost as though a rugby team were providing the power via pedals. That's really the best description of the feeling. Ornithopter-esque. Pretty soon, though, the rotor was up to speed and the cabin was vibrating but not swaying. Then we taxied forward until we were in the middle of a circle painted on the tarmac, at which point we gently wafted into the sky, continuing to move forward but getting higher and higher, until the nose dropped slightly and we started flying through the night.

It was rather like being in a large SUV, only with three rows of bench seats behind the drivers. More dials and control panels too. The Sikorsky had room for two pilots and twelve passengers, so it felt quite odd for the three of us to be chauffeured across the water by these two pilots.

The 30 minute journey took place in almost complete darkness - I was looking out the window and I could see the lights of car and buildings, until we were over water and all I could see was the reflection of Jupiter and Saturn over the water. Despite the noise it was very romantic, and Lisa and I held hands.

Eventually the lights of Victoria came into view, and as we descended we could see bays and docks and even the dome of some big building outlined in lights.

After we landed, Customs was relatively straight-forward, except that we had three different kinds of passports - US, NZ, and UK - and had spent different amounts of time in the States and two of us were married, but eventually we got it all straightened out and we could go through the door and into the terminal proper. There's a free shuttle to the Empress Hotel, which is where we were staying for one night, but there was some problem with this - I don't remember what, exactly - and they gave us a taxi-coupon instead.

On the way to the Empress, we saw what that outlined dome was that we'd seen from the air: there's this official government building thing that is all outlined in lights.

After we'd checked into our room at the Empress, which was very comfortable, we decided to go out and wander around Victoria. It was only 8:30pm, although it seemed later. We weren't hungry at all after the fantastic lunch we'd had earlier in the day, but we weren't sleepy, either.

We bundled ourselves up with many layers and woolly hats and scarves and went outside. It was pretty cold, but the streets were well-lit and there were still a number of people wandering around. We saw a family of raccoons rummaging in a trash can!

We found a market square, with flags and stalls and stuff, that was practically deserted, but lit up all the same. It had a cafe for pets called "Woofers" in it.

Before returning to the Empress and retiring for the night, we grabbed a coffee and desert at an Italian coffee house on Government St.