Sightseeing around the Emerald City

As I’ve already mentioned, Janice and I did what tourists are expected to do in Seattle — visit the Space Needle and Pike Place Market. We did get rained on, but less than expected. There was no shortage of things to see in the city, and we got glimpses through the mist of the green and mountainous Northwest beyond.

Gene in Seattle
Looking out from Seattle

On Sunday, June 23, Janice and I went to historic Pioneer Square. We had a real character as our guide during the Underground Tour, and we also enjoyed browsing at the Magic Mouse toy store and the Seattle Mystery Bookshop. We also checked out the impressive modernist Central Branch of the Seattle Public Library, which was only a block from our hotel.

We walked up to Kobe Terrace Park, but we didn’t fully explore the International District, where many Asian-Americans live. After the harbor cruise the next day, we wandered among the tourist traps of various piers before heading to the Seattle Aquarium. It might be smaller than the New England Aquarium, but it was informative about how humans have both lived off the sea and (belatedly) tried to protect it.

We also saw some fun public sculpture and goats grazing beneath an underpass. As I noted in my blog post about Seattle food, Pike Place Market was great, while Pacific Place and other urban shopping malls cater to the locals and business people. I’ve been asked whether I was interested in visiting the headquarters of Microsoft (or Wizards of the Coast), but that would have been too much like work.

I’m glad that Janice and budgeted most of Tuesday, June 25, to see the Museum of Flight, which is next to Boeing’s sprawling campus. It featured lots of exhibits on the entire history of aircraft, from the Wright brothers through the World Wars and the International Space Station.

We’ve been to the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., as well as the Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles Airport, and this was as impressive as either of those. Among the aircraft we saw were the P-51 Mustang WWII fighter, the SR-71 Blackbird spy plane, and one of the jets designated as Air Force One through several presidential administrations.

Wednesday, June 26, was the quietest day of our vacation, since we expected heavy rain (which never came). We went to the Seattle Art Museum, which had small but strong collections of ancient through modern art. I didn’t take many photos in the museums because most prohibited the use of a flash. Janice and I also visited some art galleries and shops of First Nations or Native American art such as Northwest Tribal Art.

The next day, Janice and I visited Victoria, the capital of British Columbia. We admired the architecture and meticulous gardens. The Royal B.C. Museum was one of the highlights of our trip, including a recreation of a Western town in which you could enter rooms in each building, ranging from a saloon to a train station to a fancy 19th century hotel.

We also checked out the spectacular dioramas at Miniature World, which is similar to Roadside America in Pennsylvania. I got a new sun hat at the Tilley store, and we viewed nature art at the Robert Bateman Centre before heading back to the clipper to Seattle.

On Friday, June 28, we walked to the Olympic Sculpture Park and Myrtle Edwards Park for a mostly clear view of the Olympic Mountains. We then walked to Seattle Center, spending our last afternoon in town in the same way we had spent our first one — near the iconic Space Needle.

The EMP (Experience Music Project) Museum focuses on popular culture. It was cool to see the artifacts from Jimi Hendrix, local band Nirvana, and the “Women Who Rock” exhibit. Of course, the exhibits on science-fiction icons, fantasy world-building, and classic horror movies were of particular interest.

On a related note, Golden Age Collectibles in Pike Place Market had a wide selection of comic books and games, and I’ve known Seattle for years as the setting for the Shadowrun cyberpunk/fantasy tabletop role-playing game.

At the Pacific Science Center, we saw the usual planetology and paleontology exhibits, as well as the Air Racers IMAX film, which was timely because of our visit to the Museum of Flight.

I did check e-mail periodically during the vacation, but it was nice to get away from the usual routine. I did follow the news, including the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings on the Voting Rights Act, which I disagreed with, and the Defense of Marriage Act, which I’m glad was struck down, as were people who gathered at the courthouse near our hotel.

In future trips to the Pacific Northwest, Janice and I hope to see more of the great outdoors, First Nations and Asian culture, and maybe other cities, such as Portland and Vancouver. I’d be happy to return to Seattle anytime!

Since then, I’ve been busy catching with work (especially after the latest reorg), gaming, and genre TV. I look forward to seeing friends during the coming weekends.

Restaurant ramblings in Seattle

While Janice and I were on vacation in Seattle in late June, we settled into a routine: Wake up later than we would back home, find a nearby place for breakfast, go sightseeing, and then head back toward our hotel for dinner. Still, we found a wide range of moderately priced and good meals.

Pike Place, Seattle
Janice at Pike Place Market

Since the Renaissance Seattle is in the downtown business district, we had no trouble finding breakfast joints — during the workweek. The YMCA’s Delinomore had a cool communal feel, while Market Fresh, Mel’s Market, Simon’s, and Sister’s Garden Café all catered to office workers.

On the way to and from Seattle, we grabbed a bite to eat at the airports, such as from Sandella’s Flatbread. On our first night in Seattle, Janice and I had a good Mexican-American meal at Tacos Guaymas on the Harbor Steps, followed by gelato at Bottega Italiana (the first of a few desserts there).

After skirting the International District, we had dinner on Sunday, June 23, at O’Asian, a quiet and upscale Asian restaurant. The next day, we had an excellent lunch at Delicatus in Pioneer Square, followed by dessert from Cow Chip Cookies. On Tuesday at the waterfront, Janice and I had an OK lunch at the Alaska Sourdough Bakery.

The Wings Café at the Museum of Flight had a great view of airplanes, both part of the collection and taking off and landing. We had wraps during our cruise to Victoria, B.C., but I would have liked to try out a Scottish pub if we had more time.

Over the course of the week, we enjoyed dinners and beers at Mod Pizza (great thin-crust pies), the Elephant & Castle Pub, Kell’s Pub, and Bruno’s Italian/Mexican Restaurant (a family establishment that was more harmonious than you might think).

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention all the great eateries at the famous Pike Place Market. Sure, some of the many vendors are tourist traps, but there is enough fresh seafood (some of it airborne), curious arts and crafts, and produce to keep a browser busy and happy for a day or two. In our case, mainly June 24. Janice picked up some chocolates for her co-workers, but I don’t think mine would appreciate smoked salmon.

Janice and I aren’t coffee drinkers, so we only peeked into the original Starbuck’s. We did sample cheese from Beecher’s and Mt. Townsend Creamery, pastries from Piroshky Piroshky and Three Girls Bakery, and chowder from Pike Place Chowder (which I had learned about at the Newport Chowder Fest). I definitely recommend Seattle to seafood fans.

The Arsenal at Seattle Center was also a gourmand’s paradise. We ate on June 28 at Bigfood Barbeque and Confectional Cheesecake, and we got fresh-squeezed lemonade from a booth next to proficient Latin American street musicians in the shadow of the Space Needle.

My last look at Seattle (for now) will focus on the tourist attractions we visited.

Seattle 2013: Planes, trains, and boats

Janice and I vacationed in Seattle, Wash., from June 22 to 29, 2013. Although Janice had attended a conference there years ago, this was my first trip to the Pacific Northwest.

Seattle visitors
Arrival in Seattle

We flew via JetBlue from Boston’s Logan Airport, and we took a train into downtown Seattle. We found it quieter and cleaner than its counterparts in Boston or New York. Janice and I then walked up a steep hill to the centrally located Marriott Renaissance Seattle. Since the weather was nice during our first afternoon in the city, we went to the Space Needle, a landmark from the 1962 World’s Fair.

Contrary to popular belief, Seattle is not rainier than many other North American cities. The Olympic Mountains screen Puget Sound from rain coming off the Pacific Ocean. In the week we were in town, there were several overcast days, but we actually had more sun than rain. We also escaped the heat wave that had started affecting most of the U.S.

Sticking with the transportation theme, Janice and I took a harbor tour aboard an Argosy Cruise Lines vessel on Monday, June 24. The City Pass was a good deal for discount tickets to several attractions. We got good views of the Seattle skyline and massive container ships and cranes.

For the most part, Janice and I did most of our sightseeing on foot, and I’m glad that we didn’t have to drive anywhere or pay for parking. We walked to Pike Place, Seattle Center, and Pioneer Square. I was curious about the monorail, but trolley cars up some of the hills would have been more helpful. On Tuesday, June 25, we took a bus to the excellent Museum of Flight outside the city.

On Thursday, June 27, Janice and I took a Victoria Clipper to scenic Victoria, British Columbia. On the way, we glimpsed otters, dolphins, and numerous sea birds. There were fewer homeless people in the Canadian provincial capital than in Seattle, but everyone was friendly and polite on both sides of the border.

I’ll discuss restaurants and various attractions more in future posts.