Mardi Gras 2016 in New Orleans – Days 3 and 4

Our Mardi Gras madness continued! Our third day in New Orleans started with a trip to Mardi Gras World. (It’s open year-round, not just during Mardi Gras). Mardi Gras World makes and stores a lot of the parade floats. I was a little worried that, since Mardi Gras was currently underway, that perhaps it would be empty or not as fun to see.

Luckily, my worries were unfounded! This place was a photographer’s dream (er, in our case, an amateur photographer’s dream!)

Mardi Gras World

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It’s a bit off the beaten path, but Mardi Gras World operates a free round trip shuttle from various hotel stops in New Orleans. Luckily, our hotel was one of the stops, so we didn’t even have to go anywhere to pick up the shuttle! They don’t stop at every hotel automatically though, so you do have to call in advance to arrange the shuttle pickup.

Mardi Gras World | New Orleans Mardi Gras World | New Orleans Mardi Gras World | New Orleans Mardi Gras World | New Orleans

During the tour of Mardi Gras World, you get to stop at various “stations” all throughout the warehouse to see artists designing, constructing, and painting floats. The guide mentioned that as soon as Mardi Gras ends one year, the designs and constructions start for the next year!

Here were some float designs posted!

Float design at Mardi Gras World Float design at Mardi Gras World

So many art supplies. And my god, the STYROFOAM. SO MUCH STYROFOAM.

Styrofoam at Mardi Gras World Mardi Gras World Mardi Gras World Mardi Gras World

I cannot imagine the tremendous talent and patience that it must take to make rectangular styrofoam slabs and construct them into an amazing Mardi Gras Float like these!

Mardi Gras World Mardi Gras World Mardi Gras World Mardi Gras World Mardi Gras World Mardi Gras World Mardi Gras World Mardi Gras World

And, look what we found there! The same gorilla that everyone threw beads at the previous night at the Bacchus Parade!

Bacchus Parade Gorilla at Mardi Gras World

We bought a few souvenirs in the gift shop after the tour was over (and after we spent a ton of time taking lots of photographs!), and then took the shuttle back to the hotel. The shuttle ride unfortunately took quite a while because traffic was a mess. That’s what happens during Mardi Gras Season in New Orleans! Lots of closed roads to accommodate the parades. But, we didn’t mind being able to relax and rest our legs on the bus.

French Quarter During Mardi Gras

After we were dropped off at the hotel, the next order of business was getting lunch! And more walking around the madness that is the French Quarter during Mardi Gras.

New Orleans French Quarter

More Jesus signs, just like the day before.

Funny signs in New Orleans French Quarter

This dude in a motorized scooter had gotten into an argument with a guy in an SUV, and they were racing in the snail-paced traffic.

French quarter

And beads in trees EVERYWHERE!

Beads in trees during Mardi Gras

And, of course, a stop at Cafe du Monde for some beignets and hot chocolate. It was, expectedly, MUCH more crowded than our off-season visit in October 2008! There was a long line, but it moved quickly.

Beignets from Cafe du Monde in New Orleanse Long lines outside Cafe du Monde during Mardi Gras Cafe du Monde menu board Cafe du Monde seating during Mardi Gras Ken and I at Cafe du Monde Beignets from Cafe du Monde

We stopped by a mask shop and bought a fun Mardi Gras mask (just for our display shelves at home!).

Mardi Gras Mask Store Mardi Gras Mask Store

Then, we headed back to the hotel for a while. We had Bourbon Street balcony party tickets for later that night, and wanted to get some rest since it was likely to be a late night. (I’ll cover the Bourbon Street Balcony Party in an entirely separate post).

Fat Tuesday!

We woke up bright and early for the parades on Fat Tuesday! We had grandstand tickets at the Hotel Intercontinental, and the parades start around 8AM on Fat Tuesday.

The Zulu parade comes first.

Krewe of Zulu

Zulu parade | Mardi Gras 2016 Zulu parade | Mardi Gras 2016 Zulu parade | Mardi Gras 2016 Zulu parade | Mardi Gras 2016 Zulu parade | Mardi Gras 2016 Zulu parade | Mardi Gras 2016 Zulu parade | Mardi Gras 2016 Zulu parade | Mardi Gras 2016 Zulu parade | Mardi Gras 2016

This year’s Zulu parade had an amusement park theme, and I was so tickled to see the Cedar Point float. That was an amusement park I went to many times as a kid!

Cedar Point float | Zulu parade | Mardi Gras 2016 Zulu parade | Mardi Gras 2016

The most coveted “throw” from the Krewe of Zulu are little handpainted coconuts. Apparently those riding in Zulu are no longer permitted to throw the coconuts into the crowds. They have to gently hand them off to people. So, more experienced Mardi Gras goers come prepared with little baskets and nets that they can extend to the float and hopefully get a coconut placed in their basket!

Like the orange basket below which says “coconut please.”

Coconut basket | Krewe of Zulu

We were enjoying the parade, but damn, we were getting cold. The winds that day were 30+ MPH, and as I mentioned in our previous Mardi Gras posts, we were woefully unprepared clothing-wise.

Ken and I at Krewe of Zulu | Mardi Gras 2016

As Zulu was wrapping up, we decided to go inside the Hotel Intercontinental to get some lunch. Many restaurants are closed on Fat Tuesday, and since we were right there, we decided that the hotel was a good option. We warmed up with some soup and hearty burgers.

Soup at Hotel Intercontinental New Orleans Burgers at Hotel Intercontinental New Orleans

We stayed inside for a while longer until we started to hear marching bands playing outside the hotel again. That was the sure sign that the next parade, Rex, was starting up.

Krewe of Rex

Rex, Latin for “King,” reigns as “King of Mardi Gras.” It is one of the last parades of the entire season.

Krewe of Rex | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Rex | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Rex | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Rex | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Rex | Mardi Gras 2016

Apparently a big piece of one of the floats had fallen off earlier during the route! That big shell-looking thing was being towed in the back of a truck!

Krewe of Rex | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Rex | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Rex | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Rex | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Rex | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Rex | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Rex | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Rex | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Rex | Mardi Gras 2016

And, of course, lots of folks were dressed up for the occasion, including this guy wearing thong underwear on his head:

Costumes during Mardi Gras Parades Costumes during Mardi Gras Parades

There was a bull float that came by that seemed to be incredibly popular. Although it took me a while to find out the information, it seems to be that it symbolizes the last meat eaten before Lent.

Bull float | Krewe of Rex Bull float | Krewe of Rex Krewe of Rex

Right as the parade was wrapping up, we started to head back to the hotel to get packed up for our flight that was departing that evening.

Basement Renovation (Introduction)

A while after we had finished installing the recessed lights in our basement, Ken and I started to seriously consider a major basement renovation. But, we wanted to keep the budget pretty small. Here is what we wanted to do:

  • Remove the basement bar. Although it was a fun conversation piece, and we thought it was fun when we first moved in, we never really used it for entertaining. It was at an awkward spot. We couldn’t really use the area behind the bar for anything, since it was meant for people to stand there and serve drinks I guess? After living with the basement bar for nearly 7 years, we decided that it was a fairly big waste of space. So, it was time for it to go.
Basement Renovation | Before Photos | Basement Bar
  • Create a dedicated workspace / workshop table. As you can tell in our previous posts, like our DIY DVD shelves or our Ikea Barn Door Hack, or when installing our recessed lighting, our “worktable” consisted of a plastic folding table and an old black metal table that used to serve as Ken’s desk way back in the day. Since we don’t have a garage, and hardly any yard space, our finished basement is consistently our workspace, and we wanted to have a more finished looking spot to do our work!
Basement Renovation | Before Photos
  • Get a nicer, softer carpet installed. The carpet in our basement was berber, and the texture of it drove me NUTS. There were always little strings getting loose and getting caught on things. Vacuuming the carpet was always a gamble, because a single thread pulled into the vacuum could cause like a 1/4“ strip of carpet to completely unravel and basically disappear. Plus, if the bottoms of my feet were even the slightest bit dry, sometimes the berber would like ”stick” to my feet. It was a yucky feeling!
  • Somehow update the wall paneling. This proved to be the most problematic issue. Keep in mind that our paneling is not real wood, it is a fake vinyl-type wood. So that was a major factor in considering our options. We considered:
    • Ripping down the paneling and installing drywall in its place.
      • Pros: A fresh start on the walls in the basement, getting rid of the paneling once and for all.
      • Cons: VERY expensive. Also, ripping down the paneling meant that our entire baseboard trim would have to be ripped out and redone (since the drywall would be a different depth than the paneling). Further, we’d likely have to redo our entire drop ceiling, since the “grid” of the drop ceiling was attached to the paneling. Every time we heard more and more problems with ripping down the paneling and replacing it with drywall, all we heard was money rapidly draining from our savings account. This option would cost us $10,000+. Not exactly within our “small budget” desires.
    • Drywalling OVER the existing paneling using thinner drywall (like 1/4 inch).
      • Pros: Saving labor costs of ripping down paneling. The drop ceiling grid would likely NOT have to be redone, as some sort of moulding option could have been added to hide where the drywall met the ceiling grid.
      • Cons: We weren’t sure how the moulding option would look. Also, We’d STILL have to redo our baseboard trim since the new drywall would now protrude beyond the baseboard. Furthermore, the addition of the new drywall, no matter how thin, would make the drywall almost flush with the doorway frames in our basement (like the doors to the basement bathroom and to the laundry room.) We DEFINITELY knew that would look weird.
    • Painting over the paneling (without filling in the grooves.)
      • Pros: Relatively cheap and we could DIY the paint job.
      • Cons: Labor intensive (lots of sanding, oil-based primers, and many coats of paint). Also, I was afraid that the finished look would be a bit too “country cottage” for my taste. (I found tutorials here, here and here).
    • Painting over paneling (with filling in the grooves with wood putty or drywall spackle or caulk). (I had read tutorials for this method like here and here.)
      • Pros: Relatively cheap and would avoid the “country cottage” look of painted paneling that still has grooves.
      • Cons: EXTREMELY EXTREMELY LABOR INTENSIVE. Plus, there were questions about whether filling in the grooves would end up being smooth enough to paint over. Our basement is quite large, and the thought of filling in every single one of those grooves and then having to sand them down (in addition to all the “normal” prep work that would go along with painting paneling) made me shudder!

So, what option did we go for to handle the wood paneling? It wasn’t any of the above! I’ll talk about the option that we FINALLY selected in a subsequent post in this series. But it IS AWESOME!

For reference, here are some “before” photos of our basement! (Looking cleaner than it ever has!)

Basement Renovation | Before Photos Basement Renovation | Before Photos

Notice how dark the basement is with the wood paneling, even after installing our great recessed lights!

Here are our ugly, non-dedicated work areas:

Basement Renovation | Before Photos Basement Renovation | Before Photos Basement Renovation | Before Photos

And the bar which, while fun, was a waste of space.

Basement Renovation | Before Photos Basement Renovation | Before Photos Basement Renovation | Before Photos

And, our “home theater” area with our couch, TV, and projection screen that comes down.

Basement Renovation | Before Photos Basement Renovation | Before Photos Basement Renovation | Before Photos Basement Renovation | Before Photos

The next few posts will show all the steps of renovating this basement to a more modern space!

Grand Hyatt Seattle (Hotel Review)


After our gorgeous ride onboard the Amtrak Cascades Line, we arrived at the Seattle train station around 10PM. We quickly found a taxi and took it to our hotel, the Grand Hyatt Seattle.

We stayed for two nights, and both nights were free. A year earlier, I had applied for the Chase Hyatt credit card, which offered a bonus of two free nights. Although the Grand Hyatt Seattle may not have been the most valuable use of those two nights, the night were expiring within a month, so it was time to put them to good use! We booked a “City View with King Size Bed, floors 23–30.”

We arrived at night, so please forgive how dark the photos are!

From the door to the room was a long-ish hallway, with the bathroom on the left and the bedroom area straight ahead.

Grand Hyatt Seattle 1 Bedroom King, City View Room Grand Hyatt Seattle 1 Bedroom King, City View Room

The room was not overly spacious, but it did have room for a small sitting chair and a decent size desk and chair as well.

Grand Hyatt Seattle 1 Bedroom King, City View Room Grand Hyatt Seattle 1 Bedroom King, City View Room Grand Hyatt Seattle 1 Bedroom King, City View Room Grand Hyatt Seattle 1 Bedroom King, City View Room

The bathroom, on the other hand, was very spacious and had a lot of luxurious finishes.

There was a separate tub and shower.

Bathroom at Grand Hyatt Seattle, 1 Bedroom King room Bathroom at Grand Hyatt Seattle, 1 Bedroom King room Bathroom at Grand Hyatt Seattle, 1 Bedroom King room Bathroom at Grand Hyatt Seattle, 1 Bedroom King room

And, there was plenty of countertop space, which is always a plus!

Bathroom at Grand Hyatt Seattle, 1 Bedroom King room Bathroom at Grand Hyatt Seattle, 1 Bedroom King room

I really couldn’t believe it, but somehow I forgot to take pictures of the lobby and exterior of the hotel. That’s what happens when you basically have about 24 hours to see the sites of a major city! It was fairly generic.

The location was great. It was about a 20 minute walk to Pike Place Market, and it was a lovely walk, with lots of shops along the way. We Uber’ed or taxi’ed to most of the other spots in the city, like the Space Needle area and to the port the next day for our cruise departure.

The service at the hotel was decent. We had shipped our luggage ahead (more on that in a future post!), and the Grand Hyatt had received it the day before and had it sent up to the room after we checked in.

One minor complaint though on our arrival. We hadn’t eaten anything since we left Vancouver. So we were damn hungry and looking to grab a quick bite to eat. We asked at the front desk if there was some sort of quick sandwich or takeout place, or even just a nearby fast food place that was open. It was nearly 11PM, and according to our quick searches on Yelp, our options were fairly limited. The front desk staff said, “No, the only option at this hour is Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. Mention you’re a guest and you’ll get a discount.” This seemed pretty suspect that Ruth’s Chris was the only other option available. I explained that we were just looking for something quick and inexpensive. They said no, everything in that area was closed. So, we were annoyed. We went up to the room and unloaded our luggage.

Then, we decided to venture out to walk around and see what we could find on our own. I had found a restaurant while searching on my phone that was a few blocks away and still open. We started to take a different exit from the hotel, and lo and behold, there was a deli LITERALLY ATTACHED TO THE HOTEL. Like, we didn’t even have to exit the hotel to get to the deli. I guess the front desk staff had forgotten about this place? Or maybe they get more of a kickback for sending people to Ruth’s Chris? Either way, I can’t be sure. Ken and I ordered sandwiches from the deli and went back up to the room to devour them. Just what we had been looking for! Something quick and easy before crashing in bed after our long day.

And it was definitely a comfy bed!


DIY Recessed Lighting Installation in a Drop Ceiling (Ceiling Tiles), Part 3


DIY Recessed Lighting InstallationDIY Recessed Lighting Installation | The Process so Far!

Now that the actual lighting fixture was installed, it was time to rinse and repeat, over and over again, for each fixture we wanted installed.

As a reminder, this was the layout that we were following to install the lights (each box with an L indicates where we were going to install a light).

Diagram of Recessed Lighting in Drop Ceiling

We had it printed out and consulted it continuously throughout the installation process.

Recessed lighting drop ceiling installation layout

As a reminder, we decided to have three “zones” of lights in the basement. Each zone would be controlled by an individual switch. We had those three switches installed by an electrician before we started the DIY portion of this project. Here are the three switches that we had installed by the electricians:

Switches installed for recessed lighting

We repeated the process that we followed in Part 2 for each of the light fixtures, connecting them together and setting them up.

Installing recessed lighting housing

 

Installing recessed lighting housing

 

Testing that the Recessed Lighting Housing was Set Up Correctly

And now it was time to play god and proclaim LET THERE BE LIGHT. Just kidding, it was just time to install the lightbulbs temporarily to make sure that everything was wired properly.

Halogen lightbulbs for recessed lighting Installing lightbulb during recessed lighting installation Installing lightbulb during recessed lighting installation

After we confirmed that the lights turned on (meaning that the fixture was properly set up), it was time to close up the fixture box with the cover plate that came with the fixtures. We waited until the very end to do this, after we had confirmed that all the fixtures were working.

Installing panel enclosure on recessed lighting housing Installing panel enclosure on recessed lighting housing Installing panel enclosure on recessed lighting housing

 

Cutting Holes in Ceiling Tiles for Recessed Lighting

Now it was time to actually make those lights look pretty in the ceiling. That involved cutting holes in our ceiling tiles.

Ken created a template to make cutting process easier.

First, he took a ceiling tile and drew an X on the back of it, using a yard stick to keep things straight. This marked the exact center of the ceiling tile.

Cutting hole in ceiling tile for recessed lighting | Creating a template How to center a hole in ceiling tile for recessed lighting installation Cutting hole in ceiling tile for recessed lighting | Creating a template

Then he drilled a small hole at the center of the X that he had just marked.

Cutting hole in ceiling tile for recessed lighting Cutting hole in ceiling tile for recessed lighting

And now it was time to put our template into action. We had a lot of ceiling tiles to cut holes in!

Cutting hole in ceiling tile for recessed lighting

We laid a new ceiling tile on the table.

Using template to cut holes in ceiling tiles for recessed lighting installation

Then we placed the template (the tile that we had just drilled the hole in) on top of the ceiling tile.

Using template to cut holes in ceiling tiles for recessed lighting installation

We lined up the two tiles evenly.

Using template to cut holes in ceiling tiles for recessed lighting installation

And, we just drilled a hole through the existing hole in the template, all the way down to the new ceiling tile.

Now, that meant that the center of the new tile had been marked precisely without having to get out the yard stick. (Which would’ve gotten very tedious because we had so many ceiling tiles).

Next up, it was time to break out the hole saw. Our lighting trim was 4 3/8″ in diameter, so we bought this hole saw. Check out the instructions for your particular recessed lighting trim to determine what size hole saw you might need.

Hole saw used for cutting holes in ceiling tiles

We attached it to the drill.

Hole saw used for cutting holes in ceiling tiles

And then we were able to start drilling the hole precisely in the center of the ceiling tile, since we had just marked that using the template!

Cutting hole in ceiling tile for recessed lighting Cutting hole in ceiling tile for recessed lighting Cutting hole in ceiling tile for recessed lighting Cutting hole in ceiling tile for recessed lighting

So now it was time to place the ceiling tile where one of the fixtures had already been installed.

Putting cut ceiling tiles back in ceiling around recessed lighting housing Putting cut ceiling tiles back in ceiling around recessed lighting housing Putting cut ceiling tiles back in ceiling around recessed lighting housing Putting cut ceiling tiles back in ceiling around recessed lighting housing

This took a little bit of maneuvering to get the fixture to plop precisely in the ceiling tile hole. But, it finally got there! For the trim piece that we were using, the light had to be slightly above “flush” with the ceiling tile. The positioning might vary depending on the trim style that you choose.

Recessed lighting housing in ceiling tile without trim piece

Installing Recessed Lighting Trim Piece

But, of course, it wasn’t quite done yet. Next we needed to install the trim piece. (We talked about the different trim options we considered back in Part 2).

Here is what the trim parts looked like.

Trim parts for recessed lighting

Those two metal pieces were basically little tension rods that would keep the trim piece in place. Then, there was some minimal assembly required.

Trim piece for recessed lighting

Notice the wingnut pictured here in the housing. We ended up taking it off (but while it was in the ceiling) to make the socket moveable, which we needed to do for the type of trim we were using.  So, after removing the wingnut, the socket part started to dangle.

Trim piece for recessed lighting Removing wing nuts from recessed lighting housing Socket dangling in recessed lighting housing

We discovered that, depending on the trim pieces you use, you may not have to do this step. We also discovered that some recessed lighting housings do not include “moveable” sockets, in which case you’d have to buy something like this, a socket extender.  One of the reasons we liked these housings is because it allowed the socket to be moved. So, that avoided the cost of having to buy extra extenders.

Now, we could finally install the trim piece!

Installing recessed lighting trim Installing recessed lighting trim Installing recessed lighting trim Installing recessed lighting trim Installing recessed lighting trim

Then, that was it (well, for that ceiling tile anyway!) It was just time to repeat the process for all the other ceiling tiles that would have lights! (Oh, and install the lightbulbs of course!)

Putting lightbulb in new recessed lighting fixture Final recessed lighting view Final recessed lighting view

The lighting in our basement now is SO much brighter with these recessed lights. Because we were installing so many lights, and because it was a learning process as we went, the installation process did take quite a while. Probably a month or more (just doing it in our spare time after work and on weekends). But, we estimate that it probably saved us $3000+ in electricians’ fees. (The electricians estimated it would be about 15 hours work for them at $175/hour). So, it was definitely worth it for us!


DIY Recessed Lighting Installation

Amtrak Cascades Line Vancouver to Seattle (Review)


After our quick stay in Vancouver, it was time to make our way to Seattle, the embarkation city for our Alaskan cruise. And what a scenic journey it was!

View from Amtrak Cascades Line

As I mentioned in the introduction for this trip report, I kinda tripped upon the Amtrak Cascades Line as our method of transportation from Vancouver to Seattle. To recap:

My original plan was to just stay at an inexpensive hotel near Vancouver Airport, and then drive the following morning to Seattle. (Our flight wasn’t arriving in Vancouver until like 12:45AM, so I didn’t want to start driving so late at night. But there was one issue. Rental cars were INSANELY EXPENSIVE. A ONE DAY rental from Vancouver to Seattle was going to be $199 CAD (About $150 USD.) I swallowed my pride and made a reservation, but I couldn’t help but think that there had to be a better, and cheaper, way.

And lo and behold, there was! I came across the Amtrak Cascades option! I had read that it was a very picturesque way to get from Vancouver to Seattle, and much more relaxing than a drive. Even though we have Global Entry these days, the line at the Canadian-US border crossing can get very long, so the train seemed like a good option to minimize the delay as well!

Vancouver’s Pacific Central Station

We arrived at Vancouver’s Pacific Central Station about an hour before the train departure.

Outside Vancouver’s Pacific Central Train Station

We weren’t sure what kind of Canada customs or exit processing there would be. There was a dedicated line for the Cascades line, since it was crossing into the United States. There was also a dedicated line for business class passengers.

We walked around the station for a little bit.

Inside Vancouver’s Pacific Central Train Station Inside Vancouver’s Pacific Central Train Station Inside Vancouver’s Pacific Central Train Station

After a short while, they started processing the passengers, including checking our passports and providing seat assignments.

Amtrak Cascades Line Business Class Review

Amtrak Cascade Line’s business class consists of seats in a 2–1 configuration, which I had learned long before our departure. However, I wanted to make sure that we were on the “coast” side of the train. Since the train was heading south to Seattle, that meant we wanted to sit on the right side of the train to have the best views of the coastline. But, I was never able to figure it out in advance if the coast side was the “2 seat” side or the “1 seat” side.

Amtrak Cascades Line Business Class configuration Amtrak Cascades Line Business Class

At the check-in, we were assigned seats in the “2 seats” side of the train. I asked the agent if that was the “coast” side, and she said no. That traveling south, that’s the “1 seat” side. Even though it meant not sitting next to each other, we opted for the “1” side. But, as a bonus, she was able to give us two single facing seats, instead of sitting one in front of the other.

Seats facing each other on Amtrak Cascades Line | Business Class Seats facing each other on Amtrak Cascades Line | Business Class

Since we still had quite a while before the train departure time, I went outside and took some photos of the exterior of the train.

Exterior of Amtrak Cascades Line from Vancouver to Seattle Exterior of Amtrak Cascades Line from Vancouver to Seattle

Views from Amtrak Cascades Line, Vancouver to Seattle

This train route has been touted to be one of the most scenic in the world, and I dare say that I have to agree! [Photo overload to commence] View from Amtrak Cascades Line | Vancouver to Seattle View from Amtrak Cascades Line | Vancouver to Seattle View from Amtrak Cascades Line | Vancouver to Seattle View from Amtrak Cascades Line | Vancouver to Seattle

It’s worth pointing out that since we were traveling south, and seated on the west side of the train nearing sunset, it was incredibly sunny! Ken wore his hat and sunglasses even on the train!

Sunny side of Amtrak Cascades Line View from Amtrak Cascades Line | Vancouver to Seattle View from Amtrak Cascades Line | Vancouver to Seattle View from Amtrak Cascades Line | Vancouver to Seattle

Seriously, SO scenic. I couldn’t take my eyes off the outdoors.

View from Amtrak Cascades Line | Vancouver to Seattle

At the Canada-US border crossing, everyone had to stay in their seats while US Customs and Border Patrol officials boarded the train and checked passports. We were stopped for about 20 minutes or so at the border, and then the train continued on.

View from Amtrak Cascades Line | Vancouver to Seattle

Photo Tip: The glare from the windows of the train really could have affected our photos if we had not had our polarizer filters on our SLRs! Seriously, if you do this train ride, be sure to have a polarizer filter, otherwise your photos will be filled with glares!

I walked around to some of the different cars and took some additional photos.

Menu on Amtrak Cascades Line Dining car on Amtrak Cascades Line Snack bar on Amtrak Cascades line Snack bar on Amtrak Cascades line Advertisements for Amtrak Cascades

As we got closer to Seattle, farmland started to mix in with the coastal views (which were still scenic!)

View from Amtrak Cascades Line

And then, the sun started setting farther below the horizon.

Sunset from Amtrak Cascades line Sunset from Amtrak Cascades line Sunset from Amtrak Cascades line

We arrived in Seattle, disembarked, and took a taxi to our hotel, the Grant Hyatt Seattle. Highly recommend Amtrak Cascades!