Conquering Seattle During a Layover

On a 10-hour trip to Hawai’i from Boston, I decided that breaking up the trip into two parts would be a good idea so as not to completely exhaust myself, and to also squeeze in some more sightseeing. I had always wanted to go to Seattle, Washington and I figured this would be a good test to see if it would be somewhere I’d like to go back to for a longer amount of time.

Hotels were within walking distance of the Sea-Tac Airport so if staying near the airport, just walk yourself to your hotel; you’ll feel like a fool waiting for the shuttle that takes forever when you just could have walked. Trust me. Also, the Sound Transit Link Light Rail is located at the Sea-Tac Airport so getting into the city center is easy from there.

With about nine hours to pack in as much Seattle as possible, and needing to be back to the airport to catch a 6:50 pm flight to Hawai’i, the race was on for all things Seattle Center. The Link Light Rail from Sea-Tac to Seattle Center took about 45 minutes and was a great above-ground ride.

After getting off the Link Light Rail at Westlake Center, I easily found my way to the Westlake Center Monorail station. Originally built for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, it was a quick ride at just under one mile. If you want the experience of riding on the nation’s first full-scale commercial monorail system, then it’s worth the $4.50 round-trip adult ticket. Once I realized how short the distance was from Westlake Center to Seattle Center, I felt silly that I hadn’t just walked. But… I would have missed sitting in the very front seat of the Monorail and getting the experience of feeling very queasy looking down at the straight drop to the ground below me. Totally worth the nausea and, for the video nerd in me, the footage.

So what’s in Seattle Center? Known as a cultural and civic gathering place, some of its highlights include: the EMP Museum, the Pacific Science Center, the Space Needle, the Chihuly Garden and Glass Exhibit, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor’s Center, The Children’s Museum, the Seattle Opera, the Seattle International Film Festival, and a whole lot more that I wish I had been able to see.

As I exited the Monorail station, just a short distance away was this magnificent “garden” and glass house. What was this? There were real plants mixed in with glass plants. And then inside the glass house were even more amazing glass plant sculptures built to an astonishing height. It was named… wait for it… The Chihuly Garden and Glass Exhibit. Genius. Because of the limited amount of time in Seattle, I had to forego seeing the inside and spending what would have been many nerdy hours photographing/filming and “ooo-ing” and “aaa-ing” at all of the art. So a free tour outside the walls of the exhibit had to do, standing on benches and reaching really high to get photos and video.

Next to the Garden is the famous Space Needle, which rises up 605 feet in the air. For you fellow fun fact nerds, the elevator travels at 10 mph, 14 feet per second, and 800 feet per minute. The elevators are on the outside of the Space Needle so, again, nauseating, but a great view of Seattle. The view from the observation deck is fantastic, whether just looking down at the nearby attractions in Seattle Center, enjoying the water, or being captivated by the busy city in the distance. It was windy and quite cold up there (even in May), but I loved it. The experience is definitely worth the $19 adult admission. Oh, and you also get a free picture taken of you in front of one of a number of Space Needle backgrounds, and it then gets sent to your email. And, no, I won’t be posting my photo. It is awkward, and I don’t want you to feel bad for me.

A few steps away from the Space Needle was the impressively built Frank Gehry Experience Music Project Museum. Hendrix and Nirvana fans…this is the museum for you. But, even if you don’t go inside (and I’m kicking myself that I didn’t), the outside is just breathtaking. As the story goes, Gehry looked to music for inspiration, and his structure symbolizes the energy and fluidity of music. The plan was to have the red sections fade with time, thus altering the appearance of the building’s exterior and reflecting how music is ever changing. Deep stuff.

Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market

Next, I was off to the century-old Pike Place Market, or “The Soul of Seattle”, which is America’s premier farmers’ market. As a local told me when I asked him for directions there, just head down Pike Street and you’ll walk right into it. Yup, I did, literally. “The Market”, as locals call it, was phenomenal. There were pastries, meats, fruits and vegetables, flowers, performers – everything you could possibly want. The vendors were eager to have people try their products but weren’t very pushy. I was given a kumquat, and the not-so-great-outter-skin-taste stayed in my mouth for hours. So be careful what you try. Kumquats = bad. And, yes, the Market includes the Pike Place Fish store where fishmongers throw huge fish to one another and catch it. Entertaining. And slightly stinky.

So, did my 1-day excursion in Seattle make me crave to go back? Yes, indeed it did. Looking forward to it!

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Categories: America, Memoirs, Washington | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Travel Companions

When traveling to a destination, be it a local day trip or a weeks-long overseas excursion, if you decide to travel with someone it is imperative that you choose this person wisely. I say this whether you are married or not, because your significant other may not always be the wisest travel companion for where you want to go.

Some things to think about:

Compatibility

How well do you know one another? And I mean really know one another? Are you longtime best friends, significant others, or coworker acquaintances?

Have you ever been with this person in a situation where you’ve had to compromise or make decisions together? If so, was it handled well/easily? Do you respectfully work things out or is it tense? Is there a natural flow in your relationship where you feel free to openly discussing things?

Are you both somewhat similar in terms of sleeping/waking hours, cleanliness, and trip expectations? Are you physically active expecting to mostly see things by foot but your companion assumes you’ll mostly go by some form of transportation?

Time Apart

Is your travel partner someone who will agree to, and also not be offended by, you exploring for a day or two by yourself? Maybe you want to go location X, but your companion wants to go to location Y. It’s important for both of you to get the most out of the trip, so being flexible and OK to travel separately at some points will be key. It’s important to agree to this beforehand and not spring solo travel on your companion during the trip.

Or, what if your companion gets a cold and is out of commission for a couple of days. Are you confident enough to still go out by yourself and explore or are you and your travel partner dependent on one another?

Splitting Bills

Finances lead to the demise of many types of relationships, so don’t let it ruin your travels. These obligations should be discussed before you go anywhere so there are no surprises or feelings of resentment while on the trip or after returning home.

If your travel destination requires things like hotel rooms, car rentals, groceries, etc., is your travel companion responsible and considerate with money? Or will you be footing the bill for everything, hoping to later recoup payment, if at all?

If one of you is booking the car and hotel, and the other is booking the flights, create a spreadsheet with line items for each expense and who paid. Then it will be very clear if expenses are evenly paid for or if one of you owes the other. Work out and pay for these pre-destination items before the trip so it’s not on your mind during the trip. Also, a breakdown of the costs may put your travel partner’s mind at ease knowing that you are a fair companion.

Once at your vacation destination, it may be a good idea for you both to agree to pay for your own items (food, passes, souvenirs, etc.) so as to keep finances cleanly divided. It may seem like a good idea for one person to get breakfast and the other to get dinner, but if your companion pays for a couple of morning bagels and coffee and you’re springing for a high-end dinner, you may wind up feeling resentful. Make it easy and agree to separate checks at meals.

Also, have plenty of cash on hand in most all levels of denominations so you’re prepared for situations (tipping, fees, etc.). If you are going somewhere that has a different currency, get different levels of dominations equivalent to at least 100 American dollars before you leave America. When you arrive at your destination you may need to take a cab or train or eat. Being prepared will make sure that you and your companion don’t have to borrow money right from the start, which may make things awkward.

Categories: Advice | Tags: , , , , ,

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