travel things

Seattle

Seattle.jpgThis post is way overdue. (And way long, yay for those of you who love long posts!)

There are so many places we visited last summer – I wanted to share all of them, but because we were traveling so much (and prepping for an international move!) I (forgivably) never got around to it.

Buuut that won’t stop me from sharing them anyway!

There are actually a lot of posts I’d like to write about places I’ve traveled, so hopefully it doesn’t matter to you that they didn’t already happen ultra-recently.

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On a side note, over the past half-year I’ve thought a LOT about the best way to keep track of and share my photos.

It used to be that people would share a huge album of their vacations/trips/outings/every day life and everyone loved to look at each one. Now that social media has exploded, and we follow influencers whose sole mission is sharing amazing photos, we’ve become inundated with images. We’ve seen the beach pictures, we’ve seen the pumpkin patch photo shoot, we’ve seen the gelato cone in front of the Amalfi coast.

It’s such a bummer because it feels to me like each picture has lost its significance.

Now that you can see 5,000,000 pictures of the Eiffel Tower on Pinterest, blogs, Instagram, twitter hashtags, etc. – how moved are you if you see one more?

On the other hand, as many pictures as I’ve seen of the Golden Gate Bridge, if my cousin or one of my best friends posts a picture of her and her husband there, I totally ogle over it!! I actually would love to see MORE of my friends living their lives, and LESS of just some random person visiting a beautiful countryside b&b in upstate Vermont.

Do you hear me??

Anyways, I had to re-strategize a bit and I think that, for now, I feel like my photos are most appreciated when shared INFREQUENTLY on Facebook, more POTENTLY on Instagram (i.e. only one or a few at a time/of a location/event), and more THOROUGHLY on my blog. I love following my friends and people-who-I feel-like-I’ve-become-their-friend who share photos with stories specific to THEIR personal life. I want to do that, too, because I want to encourage the momentum for others to keep it up – because I’m a consumer of real-life-personal-story-social-media.

Okay, rant over. On to Seattle…

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First, a bit of background. {I’ll continue this timeline as I share more posts! If you can believe it, this is only the beginning of the craziness!}

July 3 – Pack up house. Moving truck arrives.
July 4 – Pack truck. Clean house. Attend 4th of July party. Sleep in house on air mattress one last time.
July 5 – Drive to Richmond. Move everything into Whit’s parents’ house. Set aside some things to go to my brother’s/parents’ house.
Earrrly morning July 6 – Leave for Seattle.
July 6-7 – Tour Seattle with my uncle.
July 8 – Drive east and drop my uncle off at his godson’s house.
July 9 – Fly to Colorado.

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All you will see below are pretty pictures, but here’s the real truth behind the story:

My uncle Darrell had been talking about taking us on a trip to Hawaii for several years. He had prostate cancer and wanted to live life to the fullest. He never married, and after reconnecting with our family around the time of my wedding, he really wanted to show his family where he lived (on Maui). When we started planning it, he ended up saying he didn’t want to just do a few days in Hawaii, but would rather us start in Seattle and show us his city, too. Since that trip would be so long and expensive, concrete plans never came about, and we realized it was something he kept in his mind to give him hope for the future.

Fast forward to early 2016. Whit and I told him we could make a trip happen over spring break. We couldn’t make both trips happen, but we could at least do Seattle. He said, “No, no, I want to do it right. Just wait and we’ll plan the whole big trip someday.” But then, in April his health deteriorated quickly. It didn’t look like he had much time left. We wondered if we could somehow make a trip to Seattle happen before our work trip to Colorado, since we’d already be on the west coast. But in May, his health was so poor, we didn’t know if he would make it until the first week of July.

My dad and uncle visited him in June and he was hanging in there. He was actually able to get out of the hospital and take them to dinner a few nights. So we bought tickets and prayed we would be able to experience Darrell’s Seattle with him, knowing it might be the last time we saw each other.

So sad, right?? It was truly a bittersweet trip because though he was functioning okay when we were there, we knew that it was only a matter of time, and we were getting ready to move out of the country.

So now you know the purpose of our trip.

Another disclaimer: I honestly did not LOVE Seattle. I felt extremely out of place and disoriented for much of it, because it is SO SO SO diverse. Not just that there are lots of gender identities, nationalities, and economic classes, but even if you looked at a small group of friends walking together, it seemed like all of them were always completely different from EACH OTHER. It was so strange and something I’d never heard people talk about when they talk about Seattle! I appreciate cultural diversity, but I also think that having common ground is super helpful for humanity to feel connected and comfortable. I think in Seattle people come together over the common ground of not having common ground! Ha.

Of course, we were there under trying circumstances and our Airbnb was a little funky, so that added to the overall weirdness. But I figured I’d throw that out there because I wish I’d been more prepared for that before we arrived! I just couldn’t stop commenting on how DIFFERENT the city felt than any other city than America. It felt way more like Toronto or Melbourne (very diverse places!). However – everything we ate was INCREDIBLE, and we had some of the best food we’ve had – ever – there! And the city was super packed with interesting places and the scenery was gorgeous. But there were some weird vibes going on. Just FYI!

Of course we started off by going to Pike Place Market! Seattle is not actually on the Pacific Ocean, instead located it’s a little further east, next to the Puget Sound. It’s surrounded by water, in a way that reminds me of cities at the base of Norway or Sweden (not that I’ve been to either, just seen them on a map!). Anyways seafood is abundant, and Pike Place is famous for selling fresh seafood as well as other farm-fresh items. (According to Wikipedia it’s the 33rd most visited tourist attraction in the WORLD!) When we were there, it was all cherries, lavender, and peonies!

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Seattle is SUPER hilly, and you have to walk or drive down a steep hill to get to the market, which has several tented and indoor areas with vendors and craftsmen/artisans, and is right next to the waterfront. Looking out across the sound you can see Mount Rainier, the highest mountain in Washington. (See the snow-capped peak in the center of the photo?)

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On the city-side of the marketplace are more shops, many winding over small hills and tiny alleyways. So fun to meander if you have plenty of time! Of course, there’s also the original Starbucks storefront (founded in 1971!). There’s a long line to buy a drink and it’s obviously small as it wasn’t designed to host loads of tourists (!), and we had other plans for later in the trip, so we took a pic and then moved on.

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We also had to stop by the Pike Place Fish Market, which I unashamedly know about from an episode of the Bachelor way back when, where the fishmongers make a big show of throwing fish back and forth to each other when preparing a customer’s order. We waited around for a little while hoping someone would buy one so we could see the show. Eventually we did but of course I got distracted so I only caught a bit of it.

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Another fun, weird attraction is the gum wall, a weird site that’s basically an alleyway where – yep – people stick their old gum. Even though it was kind of gross close up, I still loved how colorful it was.

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After exploring the market area, we wandered up the hill and checked out a few of the shops. There are so many quirky places! We were pleased to wander into a store that is exclusively focused on selling all kinds of maps. There were interesting old maps, books on travel, and fun children’s books about various places around the world.

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After exploring we got back in our rental car and went to pick up my uncle from where he was staying. We got a tour of his old stomping grounds and he took us to his favorite view of the city. It was unusually clear, so we had a perfect view of Mt. Rainier and the Space Needle!

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He asked us what we wanted to eat, but of course we wanted his recommendation! Upon learning that we like sushi (though we’d both only had it a handful of times), we took us to Maneki, the oldest sushi restaurant in Seattle.

He was freaking out a little on the way because we were driving through rush hour, and he was afraid we’d miss our reservation (he had called in the afternoon as soon as we decided in order to get a table, because they’re normally full). He texted (on his flip phone! Love it!) them to notify them we would be late, and told them they could give our table away if they needed to. We got there about 15 minutes late and were happy to find that they had saved our table for us. We also discovered…. that they recognized Darrell as soon as they saw them! The hosted greeted him by name, and then an older Japanese woman came in, who he called “Mom,” and gave him a hug!

They chatted a little and when we sat down, he finally explained that he’s been coming to Maneki ever since he moved to Seattle some 15-ish years ago. Apparently the woman he called “Mom” used to be owner or part owner of the restaurant, but when it came time for her to take over, she didn’t want to do management, so she is usually around the restaurant waiting tables! So humble. Oh and her nickname is Mom! Go figure. We caught a tender moment between them when Darrell informed her that he has been suffering from cancer for many years, and was preparing to move out the city.

A different waiter came to take our order, and Darrell asked to have a certain type of sushi. The young man told us that they don’t have that kind of fish and pointed out that it wasn’t on the specials board. Darrell insisted when he went to use the restroom, he had poked his head in the kitchen and inquired for the chef’s recommendation. The waiter went to check and see if this was true, coming back to verify that indeed the fish had just come in this afternoon and was not yet written on the daily specials board. Among the other items we got, that fresh fish was incredible!! Our takeaway: get to know the chef and learn the daily specials of a long-running, credible restaurant!

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That night after we took Darrell back to his hospice room we shared meaningful conservation, good memories, and helped him process his future. It had to be so tough to be in his situation – the doctor had given him only a few weeks to live and yet there he was, still going. He was determined to keep living life to the fullest, give his anxieties over to the Lord, and find joy and peace in Christ.

Whit and I have always been so impressed and taken aback at Darrell’s ability to speak exactly what’s on his mind. Sometimes it’s awkward, sometimes it’s heavy, but he has an ability to speak his emotions and just bare the blunt truth that I was never able to do until starting to learn from him.

We had a really special gift from the Lord when, after explaining that there is a hawk’s nest outside his window that Darrell enjoys watching from his hospital bed (isn’t that a  great view with the water and mountains??), a hawk landed in the nest just as the sun was setting. It was as if God was reminding us that He is watching over us and with us.

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The next morning Whit and I started early with breakfast and meandered around the city, hopping from meal to meal, until we met up with Darrell again in the afternoon.

First we had brunch at Portage Bay Café. I had seen someone I follow post about this place, and knew I had to take Whit. You order waffles (including heavenly gluten-free ones!!!) or French toast, and then HEAP blueberries (Whit’s favorite!!), strawberries, blackberries, and whipped cream all over them! It was so decadent.

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Next we drove to the OTHER Starbucks location I wanted to see. Now, I’m not a Starbucks maniac, or for that matter even a coffee fiend, but I do enjoy trying different drinks and honestly love the chain because they always offer free wi-fi and great smells! But when I found out about the Roastery, I knew it sounded like a can’t-miss attraction for anyone even vaguely interested in coffee.

The Starbucks Reserve Roastery is like a brewery, but for coffee. All the machines are set up in full-view so you can watch the roasting process in action. They offer specialty coffees made from beans specifically chosen for this unique location, and they have drink specials that you can’t order anywhere else. On top of all this, they have bar seating and full-service. We didn’t end up having a ton of time to hang around, and I was actually too nervous to try any of the specialty coffees (eeeek sorry coffee-lovers!!), but I got a to-go cup of my favorite iced mocha in a fun reusable cup, and it was still a unique experience.

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For lunch I had found – get this – a place that sells GLUTEN-FREE FISH AND CHIPS!!! I was SO excited because I love a good fried fish (and of course fries), but I haven’t had any since I became gluten-free. I know, tragic! Even when we were in Australia and they were eeeeverywhere! So sad. The restaurant was in a reallllly eclectic area, and was like a fancy pub with quirky undertones. We split the meal because we had been eating so much already (after one day! ha!), including a FLIGHT of gf ciders!!! Swoon!

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Once we caught up with my uncle again, he decided to take us up to Salmon Bay so we could visit the Ballard Locks. Not having taken much interest as a child (or adult) in mechanical engineering, I had no idea what a lock was. Turns out it’s a system in which water is lowered or raised in a series of steps to allow boats to pass through despite changing water levels. That completes my knowledge of the subject, so if you want to learn more about it you can find more info here.

The whole area the locks were in was beautiful (they’re next to a botanical garden!) and it was entertaining watching people on their yachts or fishing boats hang around while the water around their boat slowly raised them higher and higher. But the coolest part was seeing the Salmon run!!

After crossing over the bay a mini-aquarium-type-room is set up with windows where you can actually watch the wild salmon swim up the river. There are several “rooms” set up with holes carved out like stairs for the fish to swim through to get to the next level. Something instinctive attracts salmon to swim upstream, and the holes concentrate the waterflow so that the fish seek the downward flowing water. Once they get through the little door they enter the next “room” and do the process again, and are eventually drawn to the upper part of the river, past the “hill.”

(Apparently I don’t have any pictures of the locks, so here’s another pretty harbor pic instead.)

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Darrell had heard of a seafood festival taking place in the area, so we found a parking space and wandered over to the tents to see what was going on. Unfortunately, the festival wasn’t offering ANY SEAFOOD until the next day!! The first night was just music and beer. Boo!! We decided to go back to the city for dinner, but before trekking back we tided ourselves over with a quick stop at my uncle’s favorite Mexican restaurant, where I had one of the best tacos I’ve ever had. Back in the heart of the city we got delicious Thai food from another favorite restaurant. Dang, Seattle just kills it in the food department, and Darrell’s recommendations could not be topped!!

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That was basically all of our short tour of Seattle. The next day we did a mini road trip which was fun, beautiful, and very different. This post is long enough though, so I will save the second half of our trip for another post!

7 thoughts on “Seattle

  1. Love reading about your Seattle trip and was praying for Darrell even though I did not know youuwere visiting . Never got to be around Darrell but always loved him! So thankful you got to experience Seattle with him!

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  2. I know exactly what you mean about photo sharing being so different now. I still old school manually scrapbook and keep printed albums–but sharing online has become less “500 photos in an album” to now “pick the best 4” and move on. I don’t want to lose it all so I’m with you on blogging them 🙂 and thanks for reminding me that’s it’s never too late to share great travel posts (even if they’re 6 months or 4 years old)!

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  3. Aww I’m so sorry to hear about your uncle but I am so glad you guys were able to fit this trip in to spend this time with him! So special!
    Also, I have never been to Seattle but it’s high on my list because I have several friends and even family members who live there now…but I never would have imagined it’s hilly! I just assumed it was pretty flat for some reason. So weird.

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    1. Thanks Emily. Yes, and driving there is crazy! Pedestrians have complete right of way – which is scary as a driver because if you’re coming up over a hill you might have to stop halfway if people start crossing the street. Eeek!

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  4. Pingback: Seattle Part II

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