Washington State: Friends Reunited

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November 1st 2012
Published: November 12th 2012
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We landed at Seattle airport not 100% sure who we would be meeting, Hannah or her mum, Corinne. We realised as well that we had not exchanged contact details beyond Facebook, but luckily Hannah checked herself in on Facebook saying she was at the airport picking up an old friend! So you can imagine Lauren's surprise when she suddenly hears Corinne's voice saying "There you are!" It was a lovely surprise though and after big hugs she told us Hannah was driving the car round and they were going to swap as we awaited our bags! Hannah appeared about ten minutes later and we both spotted each other at exactly the same time, and well you know the one, two friends reunited almost running to each other embracing! It was lovely and surreal to be honest, Lauren has dreamt so much of meeting up with Hannah having been such close friends for around four to five years when she was eight and as they never swapped contact details when Hannah returned to Washington Lauren resigned herself to never seeing her again. Her absolute glee when Hannah added her as a friend on Facebook in 2009 having searched almost monthly for her since she joined the network in 2006. No matter what your feelings are toward social networking sites, when used in such a way it can be an absolute blessing!

We left the airport with Hannah driving us the thirty or so minute journey to Issaquah where Hannah's parents live. We did not stop talking for at least the next four hours straight until Preston, her gorgeous three and a half year old son arrived with Corinne's sisters. We could not believe the luck that Hannah was able to spend the next four days in the area, as she moved one year ago to the Tri cities area some three and a half hours away. As we had no firm date for onward travel we realised we could come back with her on the Tuesday, staying till Thursday before we could get a bus combo to Vancouver. It was so wonderful spending time with Hannah and her family, just like the old days for Lauren as she would spend most weekends with them, and weeks at a time during the school holidays! The saturday evening was a wonderfully relaxed affair spent with quite a few of the family, sharing past time stories, detailing how we met and married and why we were on this trip! Everyone seemed amazed we had given up work to do this and exclaimed they would never have the guts to do it, thus reassuring us we still did make the right decision. We had Hannah's dads, Jack, homemade sauce and ribs which Ben gave solid approval on and he had bought Ben a range of local beers which washed down spectacularly! We played with Preston in the evening and watched a few films before retiring after a fantastic chilled out evening. Our room was awesome not only in decoration but the silver tub Corinne had left us complete with gorgeous towels, water bottles and soap! We were thoroughly looked after!

Sunday was slightly gloomy outside, the complete opposite of the inside of the house! We had an amazing cooked breakfast of sautéed potatoes, scrambled eggs and crispy bacon, washed down with Bucks Fizz or Mimosa as they called it! We played with one of the sisters dogs, Sable, a gorgeous labra-doodle, and watched more films with Preston. Unfortunately most of the family were leaving but it was great to meet them and enjoy their conversation. Emily, Hannah's older sister arrived at lunch as we ate the remaining ribs before the four of us, minus Preston, headed out to see some of the local area. Hannah drove us to Snoqualmie Falls, another stunning waterfall, this was becoming a regular feature for us! We had a few pictures and marvelled at the Autumnal colours before filling Hannah and Emily in on Lauren's game throughout the US. She is trying to get a picture of every state on a number plate and when Sheila told her that some quarters feature a state on the back she has been trying to collect these too. Perhaps it started to go too far though when we actually went through Preston's money box to exchange quarters and getting too close to cars on the freeway?!

We then were taken to a typical "American" bar- Irish of course! And we shared so many stories of past and filled each other in up to the present! Even Ben could pitch in with stories so not completely left out! We then went to a typical grocery store to get some things for dinner before a stop at a salmon farm where they were trying to get upstream to lay their eggs. We encouraged them along but couldn't help feel it was an impossible task as they tried to throw themselves up a weir and flailing back in a huge belly flop to the lower level! That evening Emily stayed which was great as Lauren had always spent weekends with her too, and Jack outdid himself cooking an amazing prime rib and Corinne adding the vegetables. It was delicious as was to be expected but with the absolute treat of Yorkshire Puddings! It felt to Lauren like she was back in the UK at nine spending another weekend with Hannah and her family, she could have cried with joy! We cleared up before watching some movies with Preston till he was tired out enough to go to bed. Then some fun really started with a game of Cranium. We had never played it although had heard of it, so we set about learning the rules and had a UK versus US team, and considering it was our first time we didn't do too badly! We shared ice cream at half time- way better Ben & Jerry flavours than back home before switching things up, Emily and Lauren versus Hannah and Ben. The most fun part coming from Hannah when she had to move Ben like a puppet and imitated a whistle in his mouth touching his beard! A lot of laughter was had indeed! We called it a night around one after yet another magnificent day!

Monday saw Jack and Corinne out to work so we leisurely spent the morning chilling out. Hannah up to her old tricks of sleeping in so we fixed up Preston's breakfast and sat and watched movies till the girls surfaced. We got ready to hit Seattle. The five of us, including Preston, set out and were meeting Hannah's sister in law for lunch with her two children, at a favourite of ours "The Cheesecake Factory". Hannah had been unsure where we should eat with three children but Lauren, unknowingly, had mentioned her love affair with pumpkin noting that she was only yet to try pumpkin cheesecake and pumpkin pie. It sprung to Hannah there was a cheesecake factory and that would be perfect, Lauren high-fiving Ben, was more than made up! We had a gorgeous meal although the portions still huge for a lunch time menu and only managed to share one slice of cheesecake between five of us! We said goodbye to Shelby and her two lovely boys before setting out to the city centre.

We were taken to Pike Place Market, somewhere we had both wanted to visit for a while, having seen an inspirational video in our places of work in the previous years. The video was of a particular fish stall where they throw fish and really entertain their customers. We wandered through marvelling at how big the market is and the array of products and produce available, we never knew you could get fruit so varied and colourful. Tiny jack-o-lanterns and the juiciest pears and apples ranked highly along with tequila caramel sauce that we tasted! We then arrived at the fish market and lucky enough to see someone buy some fish that was in turn thrown to be wrapped! We had been told its not always possible to see so we were delighted! We took pictures outside and obligatory ones of the first ever Starbucks opposite the market before heading back in where Lauren got a present for Christmas for her dad. We then passed the fish place again and they had a member of the public throwing and catching which was great to watch, double bonus! From here we left Seattle as it was getting cold and we wanted to go and see Corinne at work. She looks after two gorgeous children in a stunning house and area and Preston loves seeing the children, Olivia and baby Jack. We got there after a trip to Walmart, for us to see one, and Emily got creative with Halloween crafts!

We left Preston with Corinne, Olivia and baby Jack as we set back to the house to prepare for dinner, a "faux Thanksgiving" in our honour as we will just miss it. We all got on with individual preparation until Corinne returned and finished it off. Jesse, Hannah's brother arrived just in time which was a great surprise, and he, Ben, Jack and Preston watched a film until dinner was served and beautiful thanks given to God from Corinne. The food was delicious, butternut squash with maple syrup a firm favourite! After dinner Preston, after an eventful few days was pretty tired so as Hannah put him to bed we set up another eventful evening of Cranium, this time Hannah with Lauren, Emily with Ben and Jesse and Corinne making the third team. Fits of giggles mixed with wine and beer meant we had an absolute blast! Lauren and Hannah won despite forfeiting points as they were accused of cheating! The rest of the evening was spent as an interesting science lesson from Ben to the girls exploring complicated issues of the universe!

Tuesday was another relaxed morning getting ready to leave Issaquah for Hannah's home roughly leaving after one in the afternoon after sad goodbyes to Emily and Jesse. Unfortunately Corinne and Jack had left before we were up, so as we were unable to say goodbye we will just have to come back soon! The journey to Hannah's was slightly longer than usual as the weather had turned rather ugly, but nonetheless gave Lauren and Hannah a good four hours to chat non stop without needing to keep Ben and Preston entertained! They slept in the back (looking rather cute) after they tired each other out playing games! Although Ben was rather mean stealing Preston's blankie when Preston had no socks on! We stopped off after a while for a food break, a first drive in for us in the shape of Sonic. It was awesome, great burgers and every greater shakes! You drive up to a parking space, ordering from the fixed menu through an intercom, and the order is brought quickly by a waitress in roller skates it was a cool experience!

We arrived at Hannah's just before night fall so we could see her gorgeous home in all its beauty in a lovely suburban area. The house was huge as far as we were concerned with two acres of land around and a typical American flag waving outside! Joel, Hannah's husband met us outside and we settled in before a great evening getting to know Joel. He was very curious about how England was, having heard so much from Hannah, in particular about our films and music and the monarchy! We had a thought provoking conversation about the upcoming election before playing a game of Scattergories, another new concept to us! Preston enjoyed drawing and pressing the timer buzzer while we racked our brains to come up with words for certain categories beginning with the letter rolled on the dice! Preston went to bed soon after as we played a couple more rounds before deciding to hit the outdoor hot tub that Joel had kindly cleaned and heated ahead of our arrival- it would have been rude not to make use of it! We changed into swimwear and appreciated the warmth of the tub compared to the freezing midnight temperatures! The guys enjoyed a beer as Hannah poured Lauren a chocolate wine with ice cream- a delicious drink,similar to Baileys!

Wednesday and we started thinking about having to leave so we set off to the train station to book our onward travel, although this exercise was pointless as we had left our passports at the house and as we were crossing the border to Canada it was required! The second bad thing to occur was that although it was his day off, Joel had been called in for overtime which is too good to turn down. So we had a Mexican cantina lunch before dropping Joel off to collect the other car and we grabbed our passports. We booked our travel and then, seen as it was Halloween and Preston had been so behaved we went to a pumpkin patch. (Ah who we kidding we wanted to go we have never been to one before and got even more excited than Preston!) We had a great time, the place had a huge boutique food market with the most amazing jams and sauces- such a shame we can't leave the country with the produce! We then headed to the patch, stroking farm animals, Ben and Preston climbing a hay maze before we went on a tractor ride to see the pumpkin field! It was a delightful experience despite some cold weather but hey no rain!

Back at home we lost Preston as Spider-Man appeared! He was a similar height to Preston and then he took his mask off and we realised it was Preston in fancy dress! We took him out with a spare mask that both of us wore to feel like we attempted Halloween! Preston had such fun trick or treating and we thoroughly enjoyed watching him knowing he would be kind enough to share some candy! It went dark quickly and as so many kids were about we decided to head back as Hannah knew he would have as much fun handing candy to people knocking on his door! She wasn't wrong- he stood at the door begging kids to come and knock and loved handing out loads of sweets to young kids, and frankly some way too old to be dressed up trick of treating! Preston asked Ben to watch a film with him so Lauren and Hannah decided they would go to a local bar and have appetisers, dessert and a cocktail! They had a wonderful time and both felt very comfortable knowing Ben was great with Preston, although when they returned Ben had to admit Preston only went to bed ten minutes previous, not the hour like he should have! But it meant Lauren could say goodnight and have a big hug! We waited for Joel to return home before retiring ahead of a busy day travelling.

We left thursday morning around seven to get the bus to Seattle, before another bus to Vancouver landing roughly 6pm. It was an emotional goodbye, Lauren reading Preston a story before hugs all round. Lauren in tears when they had driven off! It had been so amazing spending time with Hannah and her family and has definitely left us questioning our future- where we want it to be and how. But then this is why we undertook this adventure to figure out where we want to be and in what capacity, and with Lauren and Hannah sharing a very similar career passion, perhaps this won't be our last visit to north west USA.

Things of note:

There are a lot of vocabulary difference between English and American words and phrases- definitely noted in the games we played!

Pumpkin is the best vegetable ever. Fact.

Everyone is carded at a bar if you look less than 40, and in the grocery store! Up until recently you could only buy alcohol in a separate liquor store.

There is a stunning drive from Seattle to Tri Cities over a mountain pass and the state is known for their beautiful evergreen trees.

There is a floating looking bridge over the river to get to Seattle centre which is really cool to drive along.

Nearly every person smokes cannabis in Seattle and you could definitely smell it at the harbour area!

The first Starbucks opened at Pike Place and their beans are still a brew around the globe, they have kept their original brown logo which was interesting to see too.

Halloween is taken very seriously, almost everyone dresses up their house, with pumpkins at minimum, near Corinne's we saw a full on house complete with witch, graveyard and giant spider!

What would we do differently:

Nothing, everything was perfect, staying longer would have been great, or never leaving but all good things come to an end, at least for a while.

Thefts: 0

Near Misses: 0

Fallouts: 0

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