Emerald City

A three-day weekend was just the ticket for a quick trip across the border and down to Seattle. Far enough away to feel like we’re “away”–away, but close enough where we didn’t spend half a day travelling.

We went back-and-forth on whether we should take off at night right after Tom’s late shift ended, or just suck it up and get up early to beat the inevitable long-weekend lines. The latter won, mostly because it would save us an additional night’s stay in a hotel somewhere down in Washington State. We got up at the crack of ridiculous, and powered on about three hours sleep, headed for the border. The strategy worked though, there was very little in the way of lines, and we were soon on our way with visions of coffee cups floating in our heads.

We enjoyed a nice leisurely breakfast and because our hotel’s check-in wasn’t until 3:00pm we definitely had some time to kill. The idea was to do our major shopping that first day and leave the rest of the time for our more touristy endeavours. The weather forecast indicated that the worst of the rain would be that Saturday, with chances of sun/cloud (and the occasional sprinkle) for the remainder of the weekend. With weather like that on Saturday, it just made sense to be spending that day inside of stores and not the other way around.

We stopped and picked up some new sneakers for our walk-abouts and then, because we still had lots of time to kill, we decided to try to find a mall.  It occurred to me that while we were out-and-about we should look for a Lamps Plus see if they had any lava lamps in stock. Just as these words passed my lips –lo and behold–we saw a Lamps Plus. Tom said I should quickly say how nice would it be to win the lottery. Ha!

We stopped in and found a small display of lava lamps but no stock. When we finally got to speak to a salesperson they told us they had “just sold the last one this morning.” Were beginning to think this is their answer to ANYTHING that is out of stock because that is exactly what I heard when we were down in Oregon. I mean seriously, what are the chances there are rampaging crowds of lava lamp buyers who JUST HAPPENED to beat me to that last lamp by scant hours? Anyway, she told us there was another location near the Southcenter Mall, and as we were going to go to a mall regardless; Southcenter was as good as any.

I plugged the query into good old Peggy the GPS and after a bit of trial and error (read: Tom didn’t believe what she was saying) we found the mall. I came across a Sephora and that was the end of me. I can spend ages wandering around Sephora but I managed to keep it to around 20 minutes.  There was a funny moment when the cashier was surprised  I was Canadian, she said she expected me to have an accent or something. I thought it was funny because from my perspective the PNW-ers sound pretty much the same as we do up in Vancouver. The Canadian accent seems to get stronger the further east you go. Tom had wandered off to check out the rest of the mall and see if by chance the Lamps Plus was in it, though from his experience they are generally stand-alone. He didn’t find one but he did spot a Spencer’s who also carry lava lamps. Alas all they had were colours I already have but for an opened box yellow one and an orange liquid with black lava. I was turned off that one because the light was so dim you could barely see the lava moving.

We set out to find a Kohl’s and happened across a Seattle Lighting store and THEY had lava lamps! Ha! Nuts to you Lamps Plus, who needs you??! After some clothes shopping Tom was just about ready to pass-out while standing he was so tired. We figured it was about time that we could check in so we bee-lined for the hotel We figured Tom could take a nap and then we’d head over to Maggiano’s for dinner in Bellevue. By the time we checked-in though he was wide awake again and figured we could head out for an early supper and then he could crash for a while after. Erm, best laid plans and all that…

We had seen some warnings on the hotel’s website about construction in the neighbour hood and we weren’t really concerned as we weren’t planning on spending a lot of time at the hotel during the day. The problem it turns out, wasn’t noise it was congestion. Lots of lots of congestion. Tom pulled out of the drive-way, turned right, and then realized that “oops the road was blocked” hence the GIGANTIC line of cars waiting to turn left onto Denny. We had to u-turn and then get in that same line. Peggy was telling us to go ahead and turn right on Denny, but it turns out that Peggy wasn’t very smart this go-round, she wasn’t tuned into the intricacies of construction detours and led us in a circle back to where we came from. Tom decided to wing it and try to find another way to get to the highway.

It seemed though, that every single street downtown was just as congested and every single street was just inching along. Then we heard a loud ding. Uh-oh. Tom was nearly out of gas. He had meant to stop and get some but it had slipped his mind. Here we were in a lonnnng line of cars in the middle of a city where blocks of blocks of cool, hip stores were, and no sign of a gas station. I asked Tom if he knew how much gas was left at that point and he said that the gauge was pretty much flat by the time the bell goes off and he’d never driven that far the odd time he’d let his gas get that low. Peggy to the rescue again. I plugged in a request for the closest gas station location, and in-by-inch we reached the first address. DAMN! It was gone! I tried another and phew… this one was still standing. Needless to say we were both relieved to say the least. If Tom wasn’t wide awake before, the adrenaline rush he got from this little adventure certainly did the trick!

We both decided to try something different on the menu and though still good wasn’t as good as our favourites.. lesson learned! We headed back to the hotel, had a glass or two of wine and pretty much crashed for the night.

Our first full day in Seattle was designated to be tourist day, but the plan was to leave the car parked at the hotel and hoof it around town (in combination with the monorail.) We headed for the one place we know of that served a full breakfast called CJ’s (it is ALWAYS busy there, but the food and service is good.)

We headed back to the hotel to umm finish any morning “routines” and then the plan was to walk over to the monorail station and hop it downtown and catch the ferry to Bremerton just for the ride there and back. On our last trip two years ago we had done the same, but to Bainbridge Island. The ride to Bremerton is longer and a great deal at $7.50 a person return, not to mention no annoying tour guides. The plan had to be delayed a little because I ended with the WORST stomach cramps, most likely related to the meds I have to take since the GB was removed. I don’t tend to take them at home BECAUSE of their side-effects but travelling, particularly eating outside my home since then necessitates them unfortunately, unless I want to possibly endure an urgent trip to the bathroom right after. I know TMI right? Bygones. Because of my little stomach cramping incident we wouldn’t make the next ferry SO, once I was feeling right again we headed over to the “Needle” to walk around some before hopping on the Monorail.

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We strolled around the Space Needle grounds snapping many pictures and then wandered over to the Pacific Science Center. I’d seen signs around the previous day advertising a King Tut exhibit and I was curious about the cost to get in (we passed.) On the path there we passed a busker who was terrific. He not only could sing and play well but he was also a great showman and played it up for our cameras.

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Tom says he regrets not picking up one of his CDs.

Soon enough it was time to hop on the monorail. I’m not sure how often it runs but we had a little bit of a wait, not too bad.

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It is a quick trip downtown, but still a fun ride and a GREAT way to save some shoe leather if you know what I mean. We would already be doing a LOT of walking, so that little bit of a ride would leave us a lot less sore at the end of the day.

We walked over to Pike Place Market and grabbed some typical touristy pictures there…

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And I wanted to find the gum wall I’d heard about, yeah it is super gross but I wanted to see it for myself. There is a lot of gum there, some of it up at impressive heights. I dunno if it was done by a ladder or someone standing on someone else’s shoulders (and blargh at that thought cos someone would have to brace themselves against that sticky mess to accomplish THAT!)

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Along with just pressing a blob of chewed gum, there were others who put a bit of artistic effort into their tolerated vandalism (yes, this is an actual tourist attraction now.)

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I also found out that the wall smells particularly fruity when getting up close to take certain shots.

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It seems the Pike Place Market folks are trying at least to restrict the gum sticking to the theater wall only… how’s that working for ya?

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While walking towards the ferry terminal we passed the new “Great Seattle Wheel” which had just opened for business. The lines were daunting, so we took a pass. Maybe next time.

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Once on the ferry we spent the entire time both ways on deck, though Mr. Frosty here did spend a little of it behind the protective glass…cough*wimp*cough.

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The ferry does provide a panoramic view of the city, and for the price of a walk-on ticket it is a pretty sweet boat ride.

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There was a guy on the ferry amusing the kids with him by feeding the seagulls who were studiously keeping time with us. I guess these guys know that someone is likely to throw food and they were ready for it. The birds diving at him were making him flinch so he decided to hide his head and asked for a warning when they were coming in.

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One thing about Seattle, there are always interesting people to meet…

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We hoofed it back to the Monorail station and hung around the plaza around the needle and goofed around in the reflective surface of the Experience Music Project building but we decided not to bother going in and paying for the tour with only an hour left before it closed.

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Washington State privatized their liquor sales which meant we could no longer go to a typical liquor store to find Tom’s favourite bourbon and because he likes the good stuff it wouldn’t be found in just any store. This posed a problem because we’d checked out some of the grocery stores and it was nowhere to be found. Tom remembered a store we went to in a fairly nice area where we’d picked up some wine two years ago and sure enough there it was. Two bottle later we were headed back to the hotel.

We passed a few youths mucking around in a skateboard park near the stadiums. The pictures I got captured their successful tricks..there were more of the other kind. Still fun to catch some action shots though before they, yanno fell down or tripped over their boards.

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This one was taken right before a tumble.

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We had talked about maybe heading out in the car somewhere for dinner but bailed on that idea in favour of the Sport restaurant that was just across from the Needle and within staggering distance (kidding!) from the hotel.

I did treat myself to some kind of blue drink named in honour of the Mariners, wasn’t bad!

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As the sun was setting we figured it would be an ideal time to go on up to the observation deck of the Space Needle once again. The last time we paid for one daytime and one nighttime visit. This time we ended up right between the two.

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Our hotel as seen from the deck. It’s a nice place, large rooms and still pretty new. While it is on the edge of Belltown (which has some sketchy areas), it always seemed a safe enough area to us. Sure there are a few unique individuals hanging around, but I’m used to seeing them even in the nice areas of downtown Vancouver.

Our hotel from the Space Needle

We didn’t stay up there long enough for night to settle in completely, but did manage to stay at least until twilight had begun. Still very pretty.

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There is a new blown glass exhibit near the needle on the Seattle Center grounds. It looked interesting during the day but it really came to life at night. Again, we didn’t pay to go in but enjoyed what we could see from the outside.

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This trip was shorter than our last one so we were hoping we would be able to squeeze in a quick trip to Gas Works park and the Fremont Troll before we hit the road home and before the forecasted rain would set in. Before that though we did a little more shopping at the Seattle Lighting distribution center (Tom had thought maybe they had more models there than at the store but turned out to be the same one.) Still it was a success (two more lava lamps!) and we met an interesting fellow who worked there. We also found an IHOP for breakfast near a DSW (where we dropped some more coin) and a Kohl’s. Win-win!

It turned out that Gas Works was in the process of preparing to host a 4th of July event and our pictures were marred by corporate banners hanging off the fencing (boo!)

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But there was a large blow-up Lady Liberty head there…check out the men to the left for scale.

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So yeah, kind of ruined the industrial look I was going for but then I wouldn’t have been able to do this…

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Or this:

Kissing Lady Liberty - Happy 4th of July!

By the time we drove over to Fremont the skies were starting to look a little more threatening. After we found a place to park and made out way over to the underside of the bridge the rain started to fall, though light at first. As always there were lots of people there who insisted on standing around for AGES taking tons of pictures in front of the troll… sigh. I wish people would be considerate and give people a chance to either get their own pictures with nobody else in the shot (jump in take pic, jump out) but no, they have to take DOZENS of pictures with their kid picking its nose or whatever. I know, wah wah, but it annoys me.

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That was the least amount of people I managed in a shot. Ah well. As we were leaving the sky was starting to spit in earnest so we abandoned any thoughts of walking around the rest of Fremont. We’d already photographed the highlights the last time we were in town, so we decided to head on home. We were braced for a lonnnng wait at the border, it being a long weekend and all, but we were pleasantly surprised. At the most it was around half an hour, not bad, not bad at all.

Until next time Seattle. Stay cool.

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