Thursday, March 25, 2010

SAM & The Space Needle

Inopportune: Stage One by Cai Guo-Qiang

Thursday is our last day in Seattle and it rained. How fitting! That makes it a perfect day for the Seattle Art Museum or SAM, as it's called here. We hopped on Bus 15, paid our $2 fares and headed into Downtown. The entrance fee is $15. We brought our cameras, hoping to get a shot or two of something beautiful to take with us. About 15 minutes into the tour, a young man came over and asked us to not take photos of the painting we were viewing. We were confused since we both had read downstairs that photography was allowed, without flash and we were careful to turn off the flash. We decided to go back down and check and sure enough, we were right. Apparently, the rules had recently changed and the young man had not been told. We shrugged this off and continued our viewing. A short time laster, we were asked to put away the pen we were using to take notes. The gentleman said "We're terrified of pens here" and he handed us a pencil. We apparently missed that rule. There seemed to be a lot of rules in this museum...and guards. All in all, our trip to SAM was enjoyable. There's not much here but they do have some great pieces. Go on the first Thursday of the month and avoid the entryfee.
After spending about 5 hours at SAM, we hopped back on the bus and headed for the Space Needle. Although it had stopped raining earlier, it had started again. We had contemplated spending the $17 for a ticket to the top, all week. We finally went for it. The rain meant fewer people but also cut down the view. But it was still pretty breathtaking.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Bainbridge Island

I had read that Bainbridge Island was accessible by ferry and would make a good day trip. We decided to give it a go. We walked a few blocks down First Ave to catch the bus in the Free Zone and took it down to Marion to catch the ferry at Pier 52. We paid $6.90 for each ticket and found out on the return trip that we needn't pay to come back.
Pedestrian Crossing Flags
We walked down the main street toward the downtown area. This is a quaint, small town street that is lined with shops and restaurants. We walked down to the end and had lunch at Emmy's Vege House. This will be the only restaurant that I will recommend for this trip. Great food here. Vegetarian-no meat. But if you weren't told, you'd swear you had chicken in that bowl. We had the Ginger Chicken Bowl with brown rice. Sauteed vegetables in a delicious ginger sauce for around $7. Others recommend the #10.

After lunch, we walked back toward the harbor and stopped into the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum. This is a small museum in an old schoolhouse and it's packed with the history of this island. They have done a fabulous job and this turned out to be one of our most memorable experiences of the trip. Find out what happened to the Japanese-American population at the time of WWII. Find out about the Filipino Americans and how they grew on the island. The Strawberry Festival history is interesting also. There is just a lot to take in here for $2.50.

After lunch, we walked across the main street and found the trail to the waterfront. The temperature reached 68 degrees today. Record breaking! It was very warm!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks

This morning we woke up to some pretty fair weather, 56 degrees and no rain. We decided to take a trip up to Chittenden Locks, a FREE sight. We hopped on a bus going North for $2.75 each, got a couple of transfers and that got us back at no additional charge. We had just visited the Locks in Panama last August so were familiar with their workings and were very excited to see locks in the U.S.

The locks here do 3 things:
1. maintain the water level of the fresh water Lake Washington and Lake Union at 20–22 feet above sea level.
2. prevent the mixing of sea water from Puget Sound with the fresh water of the lakes.
3. move boats from the water level of the lakes to the water level of Puget Sound, and vice versa.
We saw the locks in operation so that several ships could move through one way or another.

We also viewed the Fish Ladder. Unfortunately, it was still a bit too early for the salmon - "peak" viewing time is during spawning season, from about the beginning of July through mid-August.

The grounds also features a visitors center, which is closed on Tuesdays, as well as the Carl S. English, Jr., Botanical Gardens.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Pioneer Square & The Underground Tour

The Underground Tour takes place in Pioneer Square. The tour is $15 and this is really a bargain as you will learn the history of Seattle as you are led down under the city back into the late 1800s. Do this at the beginning of your trip so you get an understanding of this city.

On the Tour, looking up through the sidewalk

The city square, listed on the National Register of Historic Places,  is dominated by the Victorian pergola, a bust of Chief Seattle and a Tlingit totem pole. According to our tour guide, there once was a very large, public restroom built under the pergola in 1909. However, that restroom is no longer in existence. Too bad as there does seem to be a lack of public restrooms in Seattle.

A couple of blocks away from the Pioneer Building is the Klondike Gold Rush International Historical Park. Here you will learn a little more of the Seattle area history, it's FREE and it's a rather small building so it won't take much time to get through it.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Olympic Sculpture Park, Pike Place Market, Starbucks

The Olympic Sculpture Park was about an 8 block walk from our Hotel. What used to be a Union Oil Co. site was transformed into a nine acre green space for art. It's FREE. We then walked about another half mile down the coast and spent some time at the Public Market on Pike Street. FREE also except for the $2 you'll spend for hot fresh donuts made on the spot and another $3 for your Starbucks coffee you can pick up at the original Starbucks on Pike Place.

The Marketplace is a great place to pick up fresh fruit and vegetables, flowers and arts and crafts. 
But it is famous for the Fish Market. Watch this video of salmon throwing.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


Off we go, Burbank to Seattle for $179 RT, each. Alaska Air, so we end up paying $15 to check one bag, each way. We arrived today, March 20 and will stay 7 days. Temps are in the mid 50s with scattered showers on a couple of days. Flying in to Sea-Tac, one is struck with the beauty of the area below. Mount St. Helens and Ranier, peaking out from the clouds. Huge amounts of water, the tall buildings along the shore and then the budding greenery as the plane flies closer to the ground.
We are staying at the Inn at Queen Anne in the Queen Anne area of Seattle. There's a Starbucks around the corner and a Dick's Restaurant, several nicer dinner restaurants and a nice grocery store within walking distance. Built in 1928, the Inn at Queen Anne is older but quaint. Although the room could use a little TLC  (ceiling by the window has water damage, carpet's worn, etc.,) it's very clean and close to public transportation. Room has a kitchenette so we'll be making our own meals a lot. At $71 a night, you can't go wrong in a city where the cost of living seems to be a little higher.
*Travel Tip: When staying in Seattle, don't bother renting a car. Take the Light Rail for $2.50 from Sea-Tac to Downtown and stay in any Hotel. It's an easy walk. We got off at the last stop and then to get a little further, we hopped on the Monorail for $2 to the Space Center. We walked to our hotel in just a few minutes.