Wandering the west coast... our visit to Seattle

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August 17th 2011
Published: August 17th 2011
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Off again on another adventure… this time chasing the Red Sox to Seattle (i.e. using wanting to see some baseball as a reason to visit another city on our list). As always, we set off fairly early… we flew with points this time, and so ended up with the completely foolish route of Moncton to Halifax to Toronto to Seattle. So we made the 2 hour drive to Moncton early in the morning so we could drop off some candles for a customer there at Chocolate River Station (if you haven’t been, it’s a neat spot – Ganong Chocolatier Shoppe and Briggs Maple – our customers – are there, as well as Olivier soap). Had a quick bite at the airport, and joined the 5 other passengers for the excruciatingly long 30 minute flight to Halifax. It was a neat flight actually, since a plane that small (it maybe held 15-18) doesn’t have a door on the cockpit, and Greg and I were in the front… so we could watch the pilots and see out the windshield (or whatever they are called on planes). Pretty neat.

We didn’t have a very long wait in Halifax, and happily the flight from Hali to TO was on my favourite plane… Embraer 190… only 2 seats on each side, leg room, TVs… love it … watched Never Let Me Go on that flight… I had read the book ages ago and didn’t even realize they had made it into a movie, but I liked the movie, and that pretty much killed that whole flight. Customs in TO was a clusterF… more so even than usual. Several flights must have came in all at once, and it was over an hour by the time we got our luggage and finished standing in the stupid customs line… they kept pulling people who were going to possibly miss their flights into other lines, which actually made ours shorter… but that section of the airport (US customs) needs an overhaul for sure. Again we managed to find a line with a sports fan as the customs agent, but again that agent doesn't like the Red Sox... this seems to be a trend with us. Ate a burger at some random restaurant in there and off to Seattle. Much to my delight… another Embraer 190! Yay! So the flight at least was comfortable… but the A/V system wasn’t working for everyone, so about an hour into Soul Surfer, they reset it… and reset it.. and reset it again. They never did get it working again, then one of the stewards handed out cards with codes on them, saying that if we entered them on the Air Canada site they would be worth discounts and points. (We gave it a try, and it’s 5% off a flight, no points, and not good on multicity destinations, so no good for us at this point… but good for a year or so, so we’ll see). On just about every flight, we were at the back of the plane (that’s pretty much how it works with points flights, and we're used to it at this point), but now the row of seats behind that are for the stewards on some planes. So on the flight to Seattle, we had stewards sitting behind us “hiding” because the TVs didn’t work and complaining non-stop about their new contracts. Didn’t affect my flight… I listened to some music instead… but just found it interesting.

Arrived in Seattle around 8:30 their time, got our luggage, and grabbed a cab to our hotel. We stayed at the Courtyard Marriott Downtown/Pioneer Square. Great hotel, conveniently located to a lot of what we wanted to do. It’s a “new” hotel in an old building – the Alaska Building – and they did a great job converting it over. The cab ride was about 30 mins and cost $42. Check-in took about 30 minutes, as the staff that night was a little overwhelmed with some big groups that were already there and some that were coming in… so they gave us a room and then had to switch it. The night manager apologized profusely and gave us free breakfast for 2 at their restaurant the next morning… incredibly nice of him, since we weren’t complaining and were just waiting patiently for them to get things sorted out. By this time it was about (9:30 Seattle time, 1:30 am our time, and after have left our house 17 hours ago, we mostly just wanted to go to bed). Got our room, unpacked, watched a little bit of tv while doing so, and off to bed. Oh, and free internet at that Marriott... which is virtually unheard of, but incredibly handy.

Thursday – Day 1 in Seattle – So coming from a time zone 4 hours behind Seattle, we were up pretty early. Breakfast at the hotel restaurant (The Bistro, complete with Starbucks – as is expected in Seattle) didn’t start until 6:30 am and we got there pretty much around then. Refreshingly, unlike some of the other Marriotts we’ve stayed in, breakfast was a reasonable price. So we had our free breakfast, grabbed some stuff from our room (translation – my camera and a reusable shopping bag), and trekked down to Pike Market (about a 10 min walk or so). Weather was a little chilly and overcast, but it lifted and was beautiful for the rest of the day.

It was still nice and early when we got there, and not as crowded as it was most of the other times we visited. We both loved the market, and apart from eating/activities, it was pretty much the only place we bought anything in Seattle. We watched the fish guys throwing fish around - with much dramatic flare of course - and all the flower vendors (and there’s A LOT of them) setting up… We bought some dark chocolate chipotle cherries (with no weirdo chemicals) from Chukar Cherries (and discovered last night how addictive those are), some pepper jellies from Mick’s Peppourri, spices and organic essences for baking from Market Spice, and some interesting pasta variations from Pappardelle’s Pasta. And with so much fresh produce, and with cherries in season in WA, many fresh organic cherries were consumed… much to my immense pleasure 😊 We also tried a cream cheese and berry vatrushka from Piroshky Piroshky Russian bakery, some warm cinnamon donuts from the Daily Dozen, some carrot juice from a place I don’t know the name of, and some salted caramel ice cream (again, forget the name of the place)… we just tried small bits and pieces of lots of stuff, but we definitely didn’t leave hungry. We walked among the outdoor vendors, checked out the park area across the street (with views of the Seattle port/cruise port/stadiums), and then checked out the lower levels of the Market. For us, there was nothing worth seeing in the lower levels… assorted odds and ends stores, and some resources locals might use. We bought some assorted beers to take back to the hotel from Pear Delicatessen & Shoppe, wandered off to see the disgusting gum wall in the alley (specifically to take a picture for Melissa M), and then trekked back to the hotel. OH! And we went to the first ever Starbucks location... they have a neat coffee machine there and the decor is different... and they have some special stuff there sold exclusively at that location (brews and merch and that kind of thing).

Our plan for at least part of the afternoon was to check out the Seattle Square Market in Pioneer Square. Being artisans and going to whatever markets we can find wherever we travel, I was pretty excited about this (and chose it over a farmers market further away from our hotel)… but I’m sorry to report that this market is an EPIC FAIL! They have a nice website, where they list lots of interesting sounding vendors and at least 4-5 food trucks that will be there at every market. In reality, this square is where the less fortunate people of Seattle go for free food (which I am completely fine with – people have to eat), and where 4-5 vendors, 2 of which were selling more yard-sale type items, and one trailer selling donuts gathered on Thursday afternoon. Since that took about 5 minutes to walk through, we headed off down towards the water instead. We walked along the water for ages… we stopped at Ivar’s for some salmon chowder and oysters and chips, and then continued on… we checked out a totem that was in the process of being carved/painting near the aquarium, and stopped to go and tour the Pallada – a Russian navy ship that was docked in Seattle for a few days. Greg was very excited that we got to go and check it out…a really nice looking ship (not that I know anything about ships, but I like going on them… cruise ship or otherwise 😊 It’s used for training purposes now and was full of naval cadets. After that, we continued our walk down along the water front… up to the roof of one of the port buildings for the view (nice view of downtown and part of the space needle), across the walkway, past the cruise port, and down to the Olympic Sculpture Park. If you’re a big fan of green space with random big art sticking out of it, by all means. I found it stupid. Walked back to the port of Seattle building when the ferry comes in from Victoria (Pier 69), and realizing we had walked about 3 miles again since we left the hotel, we took a cab back ($10).

We spent a few hours resting/researching what we might want to do on Friday – our only completely free day - and got changed to head out to find some supper and see Les Mis. I was sooooo excited once we decided to go to Seattle that we would be there when Les Mis was playing, and Greg – being the awesome husband he is – bought us tickets as soon as they opened sales. We had great seats to what was officially opening night… and I loved the show. I have wanted to see this show since middle school, and it’s been closed in every other major city I’ve visited… so this was pretty exciting for me. I was a little worried (well not really, but I noticed) when the lady playing Fontaine didn’t sound so great near the start, but it didn’t last and all was well. The sets for these shows always amaze me… how great they look, how cleverly they moved them around… well done for sure. And apparently I was so excited to write about Les Mis, I forgot to mention supper. We stopped at Rockbottom Brewery, directly across from the 5th Avenue Theatre. Their microbrew porter was good but not the best ever… had some pizza there… it was fine – nothing fancy. Greg had Mac & Chicken… he said he liked it. Show ended around 11 and we walked back to the hotel (about 15 mins, mostly downhill… yay!). Time change was hitting hard by the time we got back to the hotel, so off to bed.

Day 2 - Friday - So we decided to spend a day outside of the city, so we took a tour out to Mount Rainier for the day. We used Tours Northwest... cost about $110 pp and they picked us up at our hotel. I don't generally like organized tours, unless we've organized them with a private guide and a small group - but on short notice, this worked fine. There was maybe 20 people, and it's one of those tours where they pick up at a number of hotels... they told us to be waiting at 7:10, and we didn't get picked up until 30 minutes later, but not the end of the world. We just stood outside, I drank my coffee, and we chatted with some of the valets. En route to Mount Rainier, we stopped at a Safeway (also with a Starbucks - I love Seattle) and got a some lunch to take with us to the mountain. We spent the entire day up there and stopped about 20 times, including a longer stop for a few hours where we could wander off and do whatever.

Our guide was Mark - an older fellow with a deep love for nature and Mount Rainier itself. He's hiked it and summitted it, and was thrilled to tell people all about the area. He's apparently heading this way to visit Acadia Park in Maine and then roadtripping around the Maritimes, so he had lots of questions for us once we found out where we were from. The area around and up in the mountain was beautiful... we hiked through old growth forests for a bit, and since I adore trees, that was super fine with me. We saw glaciers, countless streams. some alpine lupins, and a bit of wildlife. We went up the mountain as high as Paradise... had lunch outside at the inn and then hiked up one of the trails a bit. We didn't have hiking gear or anything, and a lot of the trails are still covered in snow (from fairly high snow fall this past winter). After that, we stopped to have a couple of beers and admire the view... then more driving around and viewing stuff. We stopped at Wapit Woolies on the way back down - it's essentially a gift shop, but they have homemade ice cream in the back, including huckleberry ice cream (delicious), and Greg tried blackberry... combining ice cream and fruit in my world is a happy, happy thing. And they also had a Starbucks! Seattle is all Starbucks all the time... it's almost (but not quite) too much. The drive to and from the national park was uneventful... pretty quiet on the way back.

We got back to the hotel around 6:00 or so by the time everyone was dropped back off at all their hotels. We had planned to maybe go and check out the SLU block party that evening, but we were tired. So we wandered off to Chinatown and had some supper at Phnom Penh Noodle House.... really tasty and great prices. There were tons of great looking restaurants in that area, so with longer in Seattle, we definitely would have checked out some more of those. We grabbed a couple of pieces of cake at a Hong Kong style bakery called A Piece of Cake on the way back to the hotel, and called it an early night. We watched the ball game on TV. The Sox at least won that one for us.

Day 3 - Saturday - Baseball day... but lots more on the schedule that day as well. Had some breakfast, wandered up and around the downtown "shopping" area... Not a big shopper, so lost interest in that area pretty quick, and we headed back down to Pike Market. It's crazy down there on Saturday, but I got some more cherries to eat, took a look at the Norwegian Star in port, and just sat around in the park for a while and enjoyed the view. Then we wandered up to the Mayflower Park Hotel to start our food tour (we booked the Happy Hour tour through Savor Seattle - we had wanted to do a 3 hour gourmet one, but that was full, so this was the next best option). Our guide, Eric, was at the hotel waiting when we got there... he's a quirky, geeky kind of fellow - complete with pirate style mustache and a kilt... so I had high hopes for the tour... Mark on our Mount Rainier tour was more fact than fun, and when he told jokes, most people just kind of stared blankly, and he laughed at them himself. Anyways, Eric was a great guide... there was 12 people on the tour, and it was $49pp... about 2.5 hours by the time we were through... well worth it.

We stopped at Andaluca first and had some sangria and a duck cake. I'm not a big wine fan, but the sangria was pretty tasty... quite a process goes into their making of it, and they have the recipe on their website. Their chef competed against Michael Symon on Iron Chef America (in battle cucumber), but didn't win. After Andaluca, we headed over to Serious Pie... we tried some pizza with potato, and some chanterelle/crimini/truffle cheese pizza - which is the BEST PIZZA I HAVE EVER HAD!! Next, we were back down in the market area to visit La Buona Tavola... tasted some truffle salt, some soup with truffle oils (not the shitty ones, good stuff), truffle vinegar, and some lemon curd on a cookie. The owner took the time to talk to us all, and she was quite fun. Everything we tried there was very tasty. Then on to Thoa's, we got to try some pad thai with a chili sauce and some tasty drink with tamarind in it. Our last stop at the tour was Fran's Chocolates, we were tried some delicious chocolates with almond, whiskey, and salted caramel. We chatted with Eric for a bit after the tour, and then headed back to the hotel.

Got changed quickly and headed out to the ballpark. Safeco Field was about 15 mins from our hotel... We stopped to look at Century Link field (Quest) for a bit, and then went to Elysian Fields microbrewery for supper. Food was ok, beer was tasty, beer menu was cleverly written. Got some free organic granola bars en route to the park. We had decent seats in left field, the park is quite nice and new, but it doesn't have much "personality". But, it does have a Starbucks of course (limited menu, increased prices, but it's cold in Seattle at night, so it's all good). It has some "gourmet" options in an area called The Pen as well, but we didn't really eat at the park. Greg tried some $10 local beer. I had a family with 2 small kids beside me, but otherwise we were pretty much surrounded by drunks... which I have no problem with, because if nothing else, they are generally quite interesting... but they managed to get in a fight with the locals... and they all got the red sheet reminding them of the rules, and the father of the kids beside me, who seemed to be a pretty laid back, friendly sort, had to ask them to stop with the F bombs more than once. It was more stupid than anything by the end of it, and they were still arguing by the time we finally left. Sox lost. Boo. Back to the hotel, pooped, after that.

Day 4 - Sunday - More baseball today. We didn't do too much in the morning, and since the game was at 1-ish, we headed down towards the park fairly early. We stopped and had some food truck grub from El Camion en route... great spread of Mexican delishness with a drink and it was definitely enough for two, and it cost us less than $10. Then on to the game... Seattle is a hard city to dress for because it's cold to start and end usually, and nice in the middle (and only rains there about 1/2 the year, contrary to popular belief)... so I brought a hoodie that time and did end up needing it (it was a bit chilly the night before)... No interesting people around us at that game, and Sox lost again.

After the game, to drown our misery at another loss, we headed out to eat. We picked up some cupcakes for dessert at the Yellow Leaf Cupcake Co first, as they closed earlier than the pizza place... and then we headed to Serious Pie for some more delicious pizza. I had the mushroom one again, because it is the shit... and Greg tried a special one they had that day - lamb sausage and bing cherries. Also good, but not as good as my mushroom one... but Greg had some of that too. That place is super busy, and they have hooks under the tables to that valuable chairs aren't homes for people's book bags and that kind of stuff... and if a table isn't full, they seat more people at it. The owner, Tom Douglas, owns several restaurants around there, and is known for some famous coconut cream pie, but we just couldn't fit in anything else after the pizza. Got some hot drinks after that and headed back to the hotel... where we parked it in front of the TV and watched some American food network stuff (including the start of the second season of The Great Food Truck Race, which I LOVE) and the finale of the Next Food Network star). We also ate our cupcakes... we had to force them into our bellies we were so filled with pizza, but we managed 😊 We tried strawberry cheesekcake, coconot, something orange and chai, and pistachio... something along those lines... all were tasty, and their icing is quite good... I'll have to figure out how to make it, since I don't generally like icing, and it was nice and not too sweet. Normally we don't watch a ton of TV on vacation, but we walked and walked and walked in Seattle, so it was nice to have a little rest.

Last Day in Seattle - Monday - Boo. Seattle is fantastic, and though I like to get back to my life, the weather was so nice and we were having so much fun, I didn't really want to leave. We took a long walk from the hotel to the Starbucks Center (SoDo)... and not because we wanted to go to Starbucks (there is one there, but it's no different from the others, and there's no tours or anything there), but because we wanted to see the food trucks!!! Specifically, Maximus Minimus... we had some lunch there. Greg had pulled pork from Maximum Minimus, and I tried some curry from Curry Now. There were 2 others there... Fusion on the Run and one selling burgers. After that, we took the bus back to Pike Market (a handy note - the metro downtown within a certain area is free in Seattle during the weekday business hours). On the food tour, they had given us a card that gave us discounts at tons of places, and there was a couple of things we wanted to pick up. I wish we had done the tour earlier, because we had already bought stuff at many of the places before we went on the tour. No big deal though... we picked up our truffle salt, I got a pottery mug at the market and some more cherries. Greg tried some cheesecake at The Confectional, and I had some more carrot juice. Back over to the park for some more people watching and to have our treats. Grabbed a few chocolates (chocolate covered apricot - YUM) at Fran's and spent some time a Pike Brewery... Greg had some dirty nellies (organic ale), and I had some stout (and a stout float with vanilla bean gelato)... not too shabby at all.

After that, it was time to say goodbye to Seattle...back to the hotel to get our bags. Took a car service to the aiport (the valet told us it was cheaper than a cab - flat rate of $35). Dealt with the clusterF of checking in with United (no wonder Continental bought them - hopefully they can fix that mess). The check-in machines decided we didn't want to bring our luggage home, despite my assuring it that we did... and that we didn't want to have seats either. Ate something shitty at the airport, had a Starbucks for the road, and then stood around in the chaos that was a flight at was oversold by several, with dozens of people confirmed but without seat numbers, and with a standby list of 25+. Got sorted out by the time the plane was half full... Greg and I didn't get to sit together, but we got on the plane and that was good enough at that point. It was another points flight, so we had yet another ridiculous route - Seattle to San Francisco to Toronto to Moncton. Had an hour or so at San Fran, so we just got something to drink and I ate my cherries ... flight to TO was on a shitty plane, but at least the TVs worked, so we finished watching the movies we had started before... I attempted to sleep after that and Greg watched some more stuff. The flight had no leg room or arm room really, and it was HOTTER THAN HELL! I have never been happier to get off a plane than with that one... got into TO in the wee hours of the morning, customs was a breeze... the mister never said a word to us, luggage came through quickly... threw it back on the spinner, grabbed a quick bite for breakfast, and on to our last flight. Short uneventful flight, luggage made it to Moncton... got on the road and home by noonish... and then to bed for a while to balance out the red eye and getting back to our own time zone.

So, Seattle rocks! We would definitely go back... and likely will, as Dad wants to do an Alaskan cruise as his dream retirement trip... so I'll keep my list of other stuff we want to do handy. This likely ends our adventures for this year (it's been a great travel year) and it's hardcore candlemaking time now... next up, Europe in the spring. Stay tuned!

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