Travel – Seattle, Washington

To kick off writing about travels, I’d like to begin with my current home city!  SEATTLE, WASHINGTON!  Seattle has so many wonderful things to offer for every traveler and sometimes can seem a little overwhelming.  Here’s a fast paced tour through the city and a few outlier towns that you will surely be able to find your style of entertainment in!

Of course the main Seattle attraction that you must do no matter what is Pike Place Market:

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All photos on this blog entry were taken by Arlene Chambers Photography for our One Year Anniversary photo shoot at Pike Place Market!  Featuring our one and only Simon!

A heads up:  Go there starving!  Don’t be fooled into thinking this is one small area, find a map of it online because it actually covers a few acres close to the waterfront.
The original Starbucks is here, and don’t be let down if there is a long line, these baristas move tail! You’ll probably get through that line faster than at the Starbucks near you with only one person ahead of you.
If you are looking at the Starbucks and head to your right, there is a “bakery” (you can’t go inside, you just order from the sidewalk) called Cinnamon Works. They have the most amazing cinnamon rolls I’ve ever tasted (which is a lot……). Here’s the kicker, try the vegan one with the icing and have it warmed up…..it’s cinnamon goo heaven. I promise you will not be disappointed.  No joke….GET THE VEGAN ONE!TMA-4970
There is another store front close to the Starbucks called Piroshky Piroshky. They serve fresh-baked, you guessed it, piroskis in over 20 flavors. There is usually a looong line for this as well, but again….worth it!
Another great spot if you are looking for the ultimate chowder is called Pike Place Chowder, it’s in a small alley, but easily findable with your map on the phone. Get the New England clam chowder. DONE. TMA-5082
Next up is a fantastic Mexican restaurant called El Borracho, which translates to: the drunk. I’m from Florida, but these people know their stuff. We travel close to an hour to get here just for their burritos!  They have their own infused liquor selection and a killer habenero tequila that they make margaritas with. Try it! Like the name implies, they make stiff, yet well made drinks. One more restaurant to go into, but the food isn’t noteworthy…is called The Athenian. They have spectacular views of the water and on a nice day views of the Olympic Mountain Range. But my reason for sending you here is so you can snap a picture of the two bar stools at the counter right when you walk in. If you are a fan of Sleepless in Seattle, there are plaques attached to the counter where Tom Hanks and Rob Reiner sat during a scene in this movie. Don’t be afraid to just pop in for that, they understand! TMA-4908
Away from food already! If you go towards the main area of the market, right where Pike Street dead ends, you will see a giant golden looking pig.  People are always surrounding this statue and snapping pics, so it might not be too easy to spot from a distance.  Look a little more to your left and there’s a small staircase that goes down to an alley. If you can’t find it, ask a vendor. This is Post Alley and if you keep following the brick lined street down and you will end up at the most disgusting but interesting spot you’ll ever see. It’s called the gum wall. You’ll see why. Don’t miss this.

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Here we are walking down those steps to Post Alley.
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Simon is looking towards the direction you need to walk to get towards the Gum Wall.  Such a helper bee!

Enough of Pike Place Market, next stop, the waterfront:
The waterfront has places like Ivars (famous for their seafood), Ye Ole Curiosity Shop, the aquarium, Argosy dinner cruise lines, the Great Wheel (fun and giant Ferris wheel that goes over the water!) and the ferry terminal. One of our favorite things to do in Seattle is to hop on a ferry. To walk on I believe is 8 dollars and they leave close to every thirty minutes. If you do this, which I wouldn’t miss on a sunny day, walk onto the one headed for Bainbridge Island. You will get amazing photo ops of the city as you pull away, as well as being able to see and be mesmerized by Mount Rainier. It may seem like you’re close to this volcano, but it’s really a good few hours drive away.  Feel free to walk onto the upper decks outside and feel the breeze and search for sea life.  You can always walk all the way down to the bottom car deck and walk to the very front of the ferry.  It’s closer to the water (obviously) and you can get fantastic views!

Once you get to Bainbridge, just follow the crowd off. You will walk up to Winslow Way. Turn left and you will be in the middle of this quaint town full of tiny shops and restaurants and bookstores in about 2 minutes. They also have a free art museum that is much better than even the Seattle Art Museum (or SAM) in downtown Seattle. You can get the ferry times from Seattle to Bainbridge on your phone via the Washington State Ferry website, or just in paper form at the ferry terminal. Keep your eyes on the water, you could get lucky and spot a seal or other sea life! (I’ve heard, but never seen the resident orcas sometimes come down this far.)
Next up, Pioneer Square:

The most noteworthy thing to DO here is the Underground Tour. This tour allows you to go underneath the city and experience the history of Seattle and learn interesting and funny facts about why people settled this awful spot of land. I’ve taken this tour with family and friends so many times and I have yet to tire of it! I recommend buying your tickets online or going early to get a spot.
A few blocks away is a teeny, and I mean tiny, insy, weensy sandwich shop. It’s owned and frequented by Mario Batali. I don’t eat meat anymore, but I’ve heard on numerous occasions that’s you won’t ever have a better sandwich. It’s called Salumi and is opened weekdays from 11-3:30, but the line gets long FAST.
On the other side of the city is Seattle Center:

This area encompasses Key Arena, the Science Museum, the EMP museum (Experience Music Project, or the one that looks like a million welders all practicing at once to make a crappy looking building), the Chihuly Glass Museum, the Space Needle and The Armory. Phew, a lot all packed into one spot.
At the center of this is a huge opening with a large LaRgE LARGE metal dome. Don’t get too close unless you are extremely hot. This is were Seattleites bring their kids to cool off. It’s a giant fountain and is sometimes set to music. Very cool to sit and watch.
I wouldn’t pass this opportunity to visit both the Space Needle (which speaks for itself) and the Chihuly Glass museum. It’s so beautiful inside that you’ll never want to leave. Stunning glass sculptures.  You can buy the two sites as a package deal at either spot for a little cheaper than buying individual passes.

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OK, so this picture was taken by me with my phone.  I am standing inside one part of the Chihuly Museum looking up at the Space Needle.

Then there is a large block building which is called The Armory….bc it used to be. But now it is packed with an eclectic food court. Take a walk through and see what interesting food you can find! Yummmmm! (Can you tell I’m obsessed with the food experience!?)
Seattle Center also hosts many weekend events, so you might get lucky and have a festival to join!
You might hear about the Ride The Ducks tours also, but I’m a little leery of those because they have been in a few fatal car accidents very recently. They are interesting, but I guess ride at your own risk.
If you or any in your group are fans at all of Fifty Shades of Grey (I’m blushing….but I want them to know this if they are) The Escala is a few blocks away from your hotel. It is the luxury high-rise where Christian Grey, the main character, lived. You can’t go inside, but it’s cool to see that places in books and movies really do exist, AND it’s close to the Westlake Mall.
Oooooook, so outside of Seattle now, I will just name places, but won’t go into detail since  you will need transportation. But google them all because these are all huge amazing things!
*Canlis. Yes, it’s another restaurant, but you’ll never dine in another spot like it. Views over Seattle and very very fancy. It’s very expensive, but the food is so unbelievable. This must be booked in advance….the sooner the better! This restaurant is an institution in Seattle. Anthony Bourdain ate here and featured it on his show The Layover. They even went as far as to prepare a special meal for me, since I am vegan, and I dream about that meal constantly! They are also the restaurant that shut down during one of the large fatal accidents with the Ride the Ducks tours and voluntarily made and handed out food and drinks to rescue teams throughout the day and night working on the scene. It is family owned and I can’t speak higher.
*Gas Works Park
*Fremont (awesome awesome eclectic town and you can see a giant statue or Lenin….yes the communist revolutionary, not Lennon the Beatles.
*Fremont Troll (yes, we have a giant troll living under a bridge)
*South Lake Union Wooden Boat Museum (you can rent boats and take them out onto Lake Union!!!!)
*Woodinville….this is a wine connoisseurs heaven on earth. This town is home to a billion little wineries and also a few big named ones including Chateau St Michelle, Colombia Winery and also Redhook Brewery. You can get tastings and tours all day! But head there early so you can walk (or stagger happily) through a lot of them. Redhook has a cool restaurant within it that plays sports on the TVs and is just a cool atmosphere.
And last but not least:
*Snoqualmie Falls. This is where I live and it draws thousands of people from all over to see this amazing waterfall. If you are/were a fan of Twin Peaks the tv show, the lodge in the show is THIS one! Snoqualmie is also a small town, which main attraction is the very old trains. These still work and you can go on a ride. The town has coffee shops, a brewery, a very popular steak house called The Woodman, and an unbelievable view of the famous Mt. Si (or as tourists call it, Twin Peaks).

I hope this finds its way to helping our out-of-town visitors and guides you along some great but maybe lesser known spots in the area!  TMA-5314

Happy travels!!!!

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Let’s Get Lost

Living in the Pacific Northwest this time of year means that you tend to wake up early with an abnormally bright bedroom.  The sun filling every corner and nearby clock urging you to sleep in because not only is it the weekend, but it’s only 5:30am.  However, this morning the air was thick with fog.  The mountains normally visible from our bedroom window were completely covered in low, lazy clouds, making it seem as though we lived hours from the nearest mountain range.  These quiet, filtered mornings are my absolute favorite.  There is a stillness that comes with swirling mist.  It brings with it a sense of calm and allows you to be ok with going about the day differently than originally planned.  The gray morning fills me with the urge to get outside and hit the woods.

Blog 6With a pot of dark coffee brewing downstairs, the rich smell wafting through the chilly house and up the stairs, we dress for the rain and pack the backpack.  Extra jackets, hats, a backup leash, dog treats, water and the camera.  We pour the muddy brown, caffeine laden liquid into our travel mugs and hit the road.  Less than twenty minutes and we are in the Snoqualmie Pass, a part of the Cascade Mountain range.

Blog 1Using nothing to guide us but our vision and intuition, we exit and head up a deserted forest road.  The Pathfinder is traversing giant potholes, splashing thick mud up the sides of the car.  The dog is sitting in the back, trying desperately to keep a good foothold.  As we steeply climb, with the gravel road narrowing, we finally pull over where we see a promising place to disembark.

Blog 3After gathering our gear, we walk through the dimly lit forest.  We aren’t on a designated trail, but just want to see what’s around.  We struck gold.  As we turn a corner, the path is beautifully socked in.  Mossy trees show off their bright green leaves and their rick chocolaty bark.  We climb over fallen trees and jump in glistening puddles.  The puppy hurdles over branches and digs in the damp, rich earth with a light in his eyes.

Blog 5We savor the quiet world around us, knowing we shouldn’t stay long, because like most everyone, we do have responsibilities to get to.   After snapping a few pictures and crunching our way through the twig strewn forest floor, we head back to the car.  Our clothes sparkling with droplets of blue water, we pile back in the car and hit the road, smiles all around.

Blog 4You don’t have to have time blocked out and set aside to take a breather from your normal life.  Just get dressed and head out with no particular destination in mind, if even for an hour.  You never know what you might find, but it might just turn into great story or even just a fantastic memory.

Blog 2Let me know where you’re from and what you find!  Happy getting lost!

And So It Begins….

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photo credit Arlene Chambers Photography

Some word vomit to kick this thing off right:

I’m one of those people who love to test my limits.  I need to get out and see, do, experience.  I use the word NEED, because life is like a drug to me.  Sitting stagnant in a tiny bubble, doing the same things daily, while living within a vast world of experiences turns me into a crazy person.  I need to get lost.  If I have no plans for the day, I hop in the car and see where the traffic lights take me.  GREEN lights take me straight, LEFT GREEN ARROWS guide me left, and RED lights turn me right quite literally.  I follow the signals as they are when I get to them so I don’t have a chance to follow my previous, normal drive.  I’ve lived in Seattle, Washington for 5 years now and am still finding places that born and raised Seattleites have never seen or known about.

I challenge you to get “lost” where you live.  Stop at a restaurant you’ve passed a million times but always had an excuse to not enter.  Talk to the people sitting next to you at any time and find out where they are from, why they are there at that moment, or if they have any suggestions for you to do or see.  (Hint: An adult beverage always helps to boost the nerves!)  Talking to strangers is a difficult feat for me.  It takes a lot of courage for me to strike up a conversation, but once I do I find that humans can actually be NICE!  I’m American, and we don’t always have the best rapport with citizens of other countries.  When I first sought out travel beyond the United States, I was compelled to say I was Canadian.  I knew enough about Vancouver, British Columbia and could talk my way around well enough to convince anyone I was from there.  Even though I have that safety net, I was and still am determined to show that Americans are not all that bad, or ditzy, or smug, or rude, etc.

One quick story to prove how we Americans are represented within other countries for a laugh:

My first night in Dublin, Ireland, after a LOOOOONG flight and a short nap, I mustered up the energy to get out and go on a *ghost tour of the city.  Who should I meet up with first….but a singles group from….SEATTLE.  Go friggin’ figure!  Of course I travel all the way across the world to hang out with people I could find in my own city on an average day.  Regardless, I met some interesting and very funny people.  About the second stop on the tour, we all disembark the tour bus and gather around the guide.

“Let me tell you about the ghosts who are still said to be present in Kilmainham Goal!”  The tour guide is dressed from head to toe, with full makeup as a plague victim and tattered, stained clothing hanging from his body.  His thick Irish accent bellowed so loudly out over us that I’m sure if the windows were open in the hotel across the street, that they could hear him perfectly as well.  The chains wrapped around his wrists were clanging as he walked briskly around our circle.

“Goats?” says a twenty something girl….from Seattle.  I dropped my head.  The tour guide didn’t miss a step.  For a good 2-3 minutes he rambled confidently on about the goats that  had been raised for many years within the jail walls, stating “fact” after “fact”.  The girl was intrigued and delighted to have been correct.  You could see exactly what she was thinking through her sparkling eyes, “YES! He did say GOAT!  I’m glad I clarified that for everyone else.”  The rest of the group was starting to fall apart, no longer able to contain their laughter.  Then, with a straight face, he walked up to her, loud as can be, and yells,”Yea!  F*&#in’ GOATS!  Because we are on a GOAT tour!”

I’m telling you, the embarrassment level had already peaked on my first night.  Still 7 more to go….

However, throughout the entire trip, this one incident fueled my determination to prove that Americans are not ALL as stupid and stuck up as we are perceived.

Look for the next blog coming soon!

*Ghost tour mentioned was the GraveDigger Tour!  Click here to be sent to their home page!