#31 new US state: washington

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Tasks #31-33 are to visit 3 new US states—visit, as in stop, go to places, photograph and experience as opposed to drive through. This is the first one, where I visited the Pacific Northwest for the first time.

I travelled to Seattle via Vancouver with mum to go on an Alaskan cruise. Got there a couple of days beforehand as we’d never visited that part of the US before. Saw Pike Place Market, Space Needle, Chihuly Garden & Glass. People say it rains a lot in Seattle; aside from a little rain in the morning, we had really good weather so no complaints.

The highlight was definitely Chihuly garden. Well worth the price of the combo ticket with Space Needle. On the whole I liked Seattle (notwithstanding the homeless behind Pike Place market). It’s relaxed, pretty and doesn’t have the manic busy feel of New York or LA. They have fresh seafood at Pike Place market, access to great wines from Washington state and Oregon plus lots of craft beer choices. If I were a coffee drinker, it’s a big coffee city too.

Full writeup: here | flickr set: here

#6 visit an art exhibition: chihuly garden & glass

As soon as I read about Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle as part of our cruise research, I knew it was a must visit. Situated next to the iconic Space Needle, the museum is a showcase for the works of glass artist Dale Chihuly. I remember seeing the glass ceiling at the Bellagio in Vegas and thought it was brilliant.

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The museum is organised into separate galleries that holds pieces that are colourful, intricate and breath-taking in detail. The first gallery has an early piece, Glass Forest, with vertical blown glass lit by neon. Just beyond features a room with an American Indian feel, of large glass bowls/ baskets and a tapestry made from blankets.

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Then it’s the sealife room with a huge tower of blue seaweed and golden sea creatures hidden in the swirling mass.

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The Persian Ceiling gallery had flowers in all colours suspended from the ceiling. Lighting effect brings the colour to the walls and floor of the room. This was the first room where I felt a big wow.

The next gallery was even more wow-worthy. Called Mille Fiori, Italian for a thousand flowers, it was like a big garden where everywhere you looked there was something new, something to study and discover. Many different shapes including spheres and stalks and leaves. There was just enough messiness for it to feel like it was based on a real garden.

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Talking about spheres the next gallery was all about them. The Ikebana and float boat had perfectly formed glass spheres apparently inspired by blowing glass into a river in Finland. After the large hectic garden, this felt more peaceful as if the rowing boats were really floating on a river.

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The small room next had chandeliers, and it brought us to the Macchia Forest. The pieces shaped like bowls were actually very technical in terms of colour. Instead of simple solid colours or patterns, there were unexpected specks scattered in the glass made by rolling the molten glass in other pieces of coloured shards before blowing. Truly great.

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The second part of the museum was the outside garden. The Glasshouse, the centrepiece of the museum, dominated the garden. A 40-foot tall conservatory with a 100-foot long piece in autumn colours. Seen from the right, the Space Needle loomed over it through the glass panels of the glasshouse.

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And then we reached the garden, with a mixture of real plants and glass plants. A new vista at every angle and every perspective. Many of the spheres reflected the Space Needle in the background, giving a different backdrop.

A great find, a great museum, so happy we visited.

cruise alaska day 02: seattle

Breakfast at the hotel, ham steak, scrambled eggs, waffle made from machine. They also have english breakfast tea so I could save my pg stash. By the time we were ready to had out it was already 10am. Sigh.

It was raining a little. Short walk to Seattle Center to take the monorail downtown. $2.25 for me and $1 for mum, the trip was around 1 mile, there were only 2 stops and took all of 2 minutes. Kinda fun, especially when the driver took one curve at a fast speed.

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First stop after we got off the monorail? Gap, Old Navy, A&F so mum could look for…I don’t know what she was looking for. It was boring. We finally made it out of the shops and walked towards the seafront. Found a nice shop that sold chocolate and wine, they had a wine and truffle tasting for $20, with great-looking local wines, but it was too early in the day. I wanted to go back later, but never got the chance.

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We spent a long time at Pike Place Market, for good reason. Great place, with stalls for fresh seafood, fruit & veg, flowers, snacks, nuts, souvenirs and trinkets. Bought apple chips and mum bought nuts. Opposite the market itself were specialist food stores including salmon, oil & vinegar, desserts plus the original Starbucks with a long, long queue. Apparently they still make coffee the original way, whatever that means. We obviously didn’t join the queue, but we did join the queue for piroshky piroshky bakery, a Russian bakery selling sweet and savoury pastries made onsite. We bought a salmon pât&233; pastry and a cardamom apple cinnamon roll.

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We went back into the market to buy 2 portions of ready-to-eat alaskan king crab legs and apple cider. The area just behind the market at the sort of park/promenade was an uneasy mix of tourists and homeless; we found a table, ignored the people around us and enjoyed our lunch.

Underneath the market in post alley was the gum wall where people stuck pieces of chewing gum on the wall. Pretty disgusting. We left the market and walked up Pike. No hard rock shirt, it was a repeat. We found a Target and mum went to town buying vitamins and stuff. I bought a shower curtain liner. We carried our loot quite a few blocks uptown to the cheesecake factory. Shared our favourite red velvet cheesecake and I got a glass of an oregon pinot noir at $4 happy hour price. Happy.

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Took the monorail back to our hotel to drop our shopping. I went to the lobby to print a combo ticket for space needle and chihuly garden to take advantage of the online discount. It was great to have our hotel so close to Seattle Center. By then the day had turned into a glorious blue sky evening. Even though our Space Needle slot was 6pm, it was still very much light outside and we took our time going around the observation deck. Great views.

We saw that part of the park had a bunch of stalls in what looked like a pop-up market so when we came back to ground level we walked over to explore the folklife festival. We heard music and saw a bunch of people dancing on stage to what turned out to be the anzanga marimba ensemble. Nice. There were stalls selling folksy clothing; the food stalls in contrast were all about deep fried food, hahaha.

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The visit to Chihuly garden and glass was higher on my to-do list (if the weather wasn’t nice, we wouldn’t have even bothered with space needle). The entire museum was a showcase for the studio art work of Dale Chihuly. There were separate galleries for different projects and works of art. So skilful, so intricate, every piece was interesting and fascinating.

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Great timing as we came to the outdoor garden part of the museum it was almost sunset. The highlight of the museum was the glasshouse with an intricate piece from the ceiling that allowed the space needle to act as background. Outside were many other pieces that reflected the space needle, very clever. We sat for a bit, visited the gift shop and wandered out.

By the time we left it was around 9pm, still a little light. Didn’t feel like eating but we went to walgreens again to get coke and I bought a beer from Pike Brewing company from the gas station around the corner. Interesting label, a tripel ale.

flickr set: seattle 251 photos, 6 videos

#70: new restaurant seattle: five point café

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Tasks #69-73 are to visit five new restaurants in five different cities. This is the second one.

Mum and I got to Seattle after flying to Vancouver and driving down. By the time we checked into our hotel, got settled and everything it was too late to venture downtown. The friendly cashier at the nearby Walgreens directed us to the 5 point café which is somewhere between a diner and a bar. I had chicken fried steak and Mum had the steak dinner. Large portions and even though we were pretty hungry after our long day we couldn’t finish the large mound of mash that came with each dish. The food tasted okay, no complaints.

They also had nice craft beers, I had two: a Maritime Pacific dark and an amusingly named Northwest Crazy Bitch IPA. The bill came to $50 including tips.

cruise alaska day 01: flight, seattle

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Final packing done quickly in the morning. Had salmon spread on crackers and oatmeal for lunch, then left at 12.30pm. Taxi, check-in, train and I was at the airport in less than 1 hour. Parents arrived about 10mins after I did, and I took Mum to the senior check-in counter so she didn’t need to queue up. Got through security with plenty of time to spare so we browsed through duty free. Tried a taste of Aberfeldy 12 and 21 plus Jack Daniels Honey, can always rely on duty frees for whisky tastings.

The plane arrived late at the gate so the flight was delayed about half an hour. It was a very full flight, even the middle seats were taken. I’d booked 2 aisle seats at check-in, G and H, and it proved to be a good decision because we both had a little bit of space and we could move around without disturbing other people. Lunch was fish, ice cream and beer. Pretty bland and forgettable. Watched Hobbit 1, I’d seen it before on a flight and I wanted to see it again. Then I discovered there was the entire season of The Great British Bake-off, so I started watching it, episode after episode. Wonderful. Breakfast was sausage and eggs with weak tea. At least CX knows the concept of tea.

Arrival at YVR was uneventful although there was a long wait at the luggage carousel, which stopped at one point. Luckily (or not), most passengers were waiting still, so it wasn’t our luggage specifically.

Car rental places was just across from the terminal in the car park. I’d booked through avis uk which gave me a better deal than avis us, so I used my uk licence and lloyds credit card. Hyundai Accent in white, a neat little car. We set off at 3.15pm with the mileage reading at 20,997km.

An easy drive down BC-99 to the US border, we got there at 4pm. Then there was an hour’s delay while we had to park, go into the customs building, queue up for a long time to wait for immigration. And all this despite us having visa waiver status and ESTA, plus they charged us $6 each admin fee. We never get charged admin fee at airports.

We got to Seattle around 6-ish. One way system and a bit of map misreading meant we got a tad lost. I wasn’t that worried, because I saw from the map I printed that the hotel is near the Space Needle and it was just a matter of finding the right street. And without a map or GPS I actually did, ha! The hotel was a modest Quality Inn, which worked out to be just over $200 per night including room, taxes and parking. Fairly large room, if a bit dark.

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It was getting late so time to find food. Walked to a nearby Walgreens to get toiletries and coke. The friendly cashier directed us to the 5 point café which is somewhere between a diner and a bar. I had chicken fried steak and Mum had the steak dinner. Large portions and even though we were pretty hungry after our long day we couldn’t finish the large mound of mash that came with each dish. The food tasted okay, no complaints. They also had nice craft beers, I was thirsty so I had 2: a Maritime Pacific dark and an amusingly named Northwest Crazy Bitch IPA. The bill came to $50 including tips.

Walked back to the hotel via the Space Needle, which looked very impressive at night. Showered, got on internet, pretty tired.