My Travel Philosophy

“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” – Saint Augustine

Monday, August 20, 2012

Great Weekend in Seattle

We're headed out on a cruise to Alaska and, since none of us have ever been to Seattle (I was for business but didn't see anything), we thought a weekend here was in order.  I'm so glad we did!  I had been to Seattle on business but, frankly, couldn't remember anything of note.  As it turns out, Seattle is really a great city to visit.

Susie and I flew in separately on Saturday.  [Sidebar story:  not sure what I was thinking when I booked my flight but I flew from Milwaukee to Phoenix to Seattle.  Basically took me the whole day.]  I had booked the hotel online with no real knowledge of the layout of the city.  I wanted something reasonably close to the action so we could walk around, but I also didn't want to pay the 'downtown' prices.  Additionally, Tracy and Shirley would be driving and I didn't know how comfortable he would be with downtown traffic.  Segue to some background....

Space Needle
Tracy and Shirley Eytcheson are Mom's backdoor neighbors, and they actually booked the trip to Alaska first and asked Mom if she wanted to go.  Of course she did!  Susie and I both wanted to go along and we were able to book a cabin for the three of us just a couple of doors down from Tracy and Shirley on the ship.  They had planned to drive out and back, and Mom drove out with them for the front end of the trip.  (She'll fly home with Susie and I as it will have been 2 weeks away from home at that point.)  Anyway, they had their vehicle upon arriving in Seattle so that was the cause of my concern about staying in downtown traffic.

Part of the World Fair grounds
So, we ended up at a TraveLodge near the Space Needle.  The hotel itself wasn't great (kind of dated), but not bad and the location was really good.  We had our very own homeless person who hung out all the time.  Interestingly, they never shoo'd her away and, apparently, she would actually check in once in a while.  Not sure how that worked.  Anyway, she never bothered anyone but was quite the sight!  She had mounds and mounds of long hair; so much that it didn't even look real.

Guy on a bicycle
Susie and I arrived on Saturday, the 19th of August and, after checking in, went out to do some exploring down near the water front.  First thing on Sunday morning, we headed over to the Space Needle to check out that area, which turns out to be an entire complex comprising not only the Space Needle but museums and shops and eating places.  There is an entire complex that dates back to the World's Fair of 1962, which is when and why the Space Needle was built.  There are machines to play with and gadgets; it reminds me a bit of the type of gadgetry at the Museum of Science & Industry in Chicago.  On the other side of the complex, though, there is the tram that runs into downtown (also built for the World's Fair), a new and very modern museum, and Starbucks.

King Tut
Egyptian jewelry
I didn't realize that the traveling King Tut exhibit was at the Pacific Science Center -- one of it's last stops before leaving the U.S.  It had been in Chicago but I had never gotten to it so we decided to see it.  There were movies to sit through and, then, a huge traveling exhibit of the things taken from King Tut's tomb, as well as other Egyptian antiquities.  Some of the jewelry was particularly impressive -- especially some of the earrings!  I mean:  look at the size of the post that has to go through your ear!  Everything was made of gold and jade and precious stones.  It's kind of mind-boggling to imagine how much stuff has never been recovered from any of the tombs or burial sites and how much is still buried in the desert that may never be found.

Later in the day on Sunday, Mom, Tracy, and Shirley arrived after their week-long expedition that took them into Canada and through National Parks and past a forest fire and almost nose-to-nose with a bear.  Sounds like they had a really great trip!

Lots of pigs in town -- not sure why
After they got settled, we headed back over to the Space Needle area so they could enjoy the beautiful gardens -- including the glass works of the Chihuly Gardens -- and the musicians playing and general feel of a fun Sunday afternoon.  We jumped on the monorail and took it into downtown and, from there, we walked down to the waterfront.  The Fish Market was hopping and full of huge baskets and arrangements of gorgeous fresh flowers, plus the fresh produce and fish being sold from the various stalls.  The street in front of the market was especially lovely with flowers trailing from the balconies much like the French Market area of New Orleans.  And they have a real thing for pigs in Seattle!  We saw them everywhere -- much like the cows you see all over Chicago.

Mom is begging on the street
In front of the pot shop
As we were meandering the area near the Market, we spotted a guy holding a sign asking for money for Weed.  Mom gave him money so she could borrow his sign for a photograph!  Then, down the street, we spotted a shop selling hookahs and other drug paraphernalia so we had to stop and get another photograph.  [Sidebar:  the next day was Mom's birthday and Tracy had run over to Walgreen's and printed the two photos and framed them up for Mom's birthday present!].

After some wandering, we took the monorail back to the Space Needle area and looked around a bit more.  The flower gardens were all in bloom, the sun was out, and it was a really gorgeous Sunday afternoon.  We have big plans for Monday with all-day sightseeing and a dinner at the top of the Space Needle, so we made it a pretty early evening.

Up in the big ferris wheel
The Sound is in the background
Monday could not have been a more beautiful day!  We took the car this time and headed back down to the waterfront area.  There is a brand new attraction at the waterfront:  a giant ferris wheel.  It has pods for the passengers to sit in and moves more quickly than some others I've been on (e.g. Navy Pier in Chicago), but we really wanted to see the view.  It was absolutely gorgeous!  The Sound area, Mount Ranier off in the distance, the boats -- all of it was really beautiful.

Shirley was a little nervous at first because she's not a big fan of heights.  But the pod is completely enclosed and the view is so gorgeous that you stop worrying about the ride and get pretty caught up in what you're seeing.  I was trying to get a picture of Mom and Susie with the next pod of the ferris wheel and the Sound in the background, but Mom kept moving to get out of my way.  I finally got her to sit still so I could get a good shot of the two of them.

I'd like to have this sculpture
Detail from the sculpture
Detail from the sculpture
As I had mentioned, there were sculptures and artists along the pier area, but this particular sculpture just stood out for me.  I would dearly love to have a smaller version of it planted right on our beach up at the lake.  The detail is amazing:  every time I looked at it I would spot something new.

Great lunch spot
From the pier area, we decided to check out the Underground Seattle attraction that everyone talked about.  Once we got to the area, though, we decided to give it a pass.  It really didn't seem like something that would be all that interesting and would require a lot of walking.  Instead, we looked around the general area and found a fun place for lunch and margaritas!  They have an interesting and really convenient thing in Seattle, the buses are free (within a zonal boundary) until 4 p.m. every day.  So, even though we were pretty far from our hotel, we were able to catch one of these buses and ride to within a couple of blocks of our hotel after our sightseeing.  (Tracy and Shirley were staying in a different hotel on Monday night where they could leave their car for the duration of the cruise.  After our sightseeing, they were heading to their hotel to get checked in and get ready for our evening dinner).

The Space Needle at night
Mount Ranier from the top of the Space Needle
That evening, we went over to the Space Needle area a bit early because our dinner reservations included a free trip to the observatory where we could get beautiful views of the city, the Sound, Mount Ranier, and even further.  Once again, the evening was lovely and we enjoyed the view for quite a while before sitting down to a really fabulous (and quite pricey) dinner.  The restaurant at the top of the Space Needle revolves so we were able to enjoy a 360-degree view of the entire area and watch the sun set over the Sound.  When we left, it was dark so it was a perfect opportunity to get pictures of the Space Needle all lit up.

Time to head back to the hotel for a good night's rest and some packing.  Heading off to the cruise ship tomorrow morning for our journey to Alaska!