Seattle Tourists

It’s that time of year again. Summertime in the PacNW!

If you’ve got one shot in any given year to spend time in the Pacific Northwest, it doesn’t get much better than August. That’s our feeling on the matter, at least.

…unless our visit coincides with one of the worst fire seasons on record, which happened to us last year.

August is also the worst time to be in Nayarit, unless you like oppressive heat and humidity and tropical storms and hurricanes rolling through every ten days.

Plus its summer break for the kids. Students in Mexico get one month off during the summer.

A bit of vacation roulette with the fires, but in our minds it’s worth it for the other reasons.

Time to catch our flight.

Bye for now, Puerto Vallarta.

Hello Seattle!

After our Covid cloister in summer 2020 and being out of the country for 19 months prior to that, we’ve got some long-overdue catching up to do with family and friends.

Rental cars, flights, and hotels are even more expensive than last year, so we’ve had to get creative.

We’ve decided the best use of our time and money is to do an overland adventure of sorts, starting in Seattle and continuing to head south over the next four weeks, ending our trip in San Jose, CA, from where we’ll fly back to PV.

The way flights and everyone’s schedules landed, we ended up with four days in Seattle, where I lived for four years and not a bad place at all to find yourself with extra time in July/August.

It’s been a couple of years since we’ve gotten to play tourist with the boys in a big city, and we’re really looking forward to it.

We’re excited to see family and friends, but it’ll be nice to have a few days of low-key time with the boys before heading south. I think Noe in particular is going to get a kick out of Seattle.

We’re staying in a brand new hotel in South Lake Union called Citizen M, which is unlike any hotel we’ve stayed in. It’s hip, the rooms are compact, and most importantly, the price is right for four nights in downtown Seattle.

We checked-in later than expected, and there wasn’t a whole lot open within a short walk of the hotel. We tried to go to a brewpub, but after 9pm, it’s over 18 only. Welcome back to the States, I guess.

The only other place open was a Chipotle. Kind of the last thing we wanted having just deplaned from Mexico, but beggars can’t be choosers.

It was tasty and the boys were happy. But still.

Good morning!

We weren’t really sure how the sleeping arrangements would work with the four of us. The room is small, but does have a king size bed built-in to the far third of the room against the window.

Lori and I knew that with the boys at 5 and 2.5 years old, the four of us in one bed probably wasn’t going to turn out well.

Fortunately, Riley is still using his travel crib for a little longer, so we set him up on the floor in that and the three of us took the bed. It took the boys a bit to get settled, but once they were out, we managed a fairly good night’s sleep.

We’ll see how nap time pans out tomorrow. We might just try to have Riley take his on-the-go in the stroller.

The next morning, we had our first Seattle breakfast experience in years, Brunch, on a South Lake Union sidewalk, with canned cold brew. The place had a pretty amazing Belgian waffle bar, though, which made the boys’ day already. A good start.

South Lake Union wasn’t my first choice of areas to stay in Seattle, especially without a car and with two little ones. But the price was right, and it’s still pretty convenient to the city center.

It was also an intriguing option for another reason. Friends have been telling me how the neighborhood is completely unrecognizable from a decade ago when I lived in Seattle.

The Amazon headquarters moved from the hill down to the lake shore and the entire area has been completely transformed from warehouses, parking lots, and automotive shops to a modern tech center with glass high-rises.

I was curious to see it for myself.

But first on the day’s docket, Covid jabs for me and wifey.

It felt a little awkward to show up in a city like Seattle where something like 90% of residents got their first Covid shot four months ago and not a lot of people showing up for them these days. Kind of like a “Showing up a little late to the party, aren’t we?” feeling.

But oh well. We’re just happy to finally be in a country where somebody will stick us with a needle of something with better efficacy than 50%. Better late than never.

Follow the yellow sign road.

It should have been a straightforward affair leaving us plenty of time to enjoy the beautiful morning outside. After all, it was early in the day, there was no one else in line, and they had done this a million times by now. But no.

When we checked in, they told us we needed to complete a form. Great, no problem. But there was a problem. The form was only online, we didn’t yet have data in the U.S. and they didn’t have WiFi. So…there’s no paper form? We could just complete the form? Nope.

The lady was helpful and even tried to share her personal hotspot with us, but the online security they had set up for the forms didn’t like that. So…we hightailed it four blocks to Starbucks.

Application completed and barcode in hand, we headed back. Only now, there was a second part of the form. Online only. The boys were getting restless, so I took Noe with me back to Starbucks, completed and submitted the second form, then returned.

Then we had to wait for them to prepare the vaccines. From the time we arrived to the time we left with jabs in arms, the process took around 90 minutes. Without a toddler and preschooler, that’s one thing. But with…ugh.

All jabbed up, we lingering the requisite 10-15 minutes, determined we felt fine and finally moved forward with our day.

So, first of two jabs done and done. Finally. Noe was a bit bummed kids aren’t eligible yet, but also happy he wasn’t getting stuck with a needle today…and happy to finally be out of CVS.

We met up with Lori’s brother and wife near Lake Union. On our way, we made sure to swing by the Center for Wooden Boats, a Seattle institution and one of my favorite places in town.

The handmade boats are cool, but it’s also a great area to mill about for a while with lots to explore, included a historic light ship and tug.

Plus, it’s one of the best places in town to watch sailboats ply the lake and seaplanes land and takeoff from the water.

After a quick visit, it’s off to dinner. We’ll see more of Uncle Dan and Aunt Lauren tomorrow.

Heading north in the direction of South Lake Union and the Denny Triangle. It’s weird to think that not a single one of those shiny high-rises existed a decade ago when I was living here.

It’s always nice in the States when a nice eatery is also kid-friendly. Too many restaurants in the U.S. are unwelcoming or outright hostile to kids and families. Very different than our experience across much of the globe in that respect.

Saturday was sightseeing day! We met up with Dan and Lauren at a tasty and casual little bagel place in Belltown before setting out to explore downtown and beyond.

This was the boys’ first real trip to Seattle and our first visit downtown in several years. We’ve visited friends since Noe was born but hadn’t done any sightseeing in that time.

Before our visit, we weren’t sure how Covid would affect our sightseeing plans, but Seattle felt strangely normal for the times. Lots of masks, but lots of people, which we didn’t expect.

Lori and I certainly weren’t prepared for the scene to be like this inside Pike Place Market.

I remember the market being busy on the weekends, but this was the busiest I’ve ever seen it. No thank-you.

We made it to the exit and headed back outside into the warm and foggy Seattle August day.

Since we felt like we hadn’t exposed the boys to enough germs for the day, we made our way to Seattle’s famous Gum Wall, which is now an entire gum alley.

Onto Pier 57 and the Great Wheel, another new addition since my Seattle days.

Being a typically grey Seattle day, we didn’t think much of taking a ride on the Big Wheel (I’m not sure if it had even reopened yet). The boys were just as fascinated with the view of Elliott Bay and the boats, which was fine by us.

We were surprised to already see the Alaska cruise ships running again, but there they were.

After a run around the Sculpture Park, it was time for lunch. We grabbed an Uber and headed over the Aurora Bridge to Fremont Brewing.

I couldn’t visit Fremont with the boys without having us make one other stop first.

On Sunday, we had something extra special planned for the kids. From the moment we figured out we were spending a few days in Seattle, I knew we couldn’t leave the city without taking a ride on a ferry. It could have been to anywhere, but the obvious choice of destination was Bainbridge Island.

We made our way down to the ferry terminal, with a couple of quick stops.

When I left Seattle in 2010, they were starting to dismantle the Alaskan Way Viaduct along the water and replacing it with a tunnel and surface roads. 11 years later, they’re still at it.

But I lived in Boston during the Big Dig, so the progress here (or lack of) felt all too familiar.

After all these years, watching the Seattle skyline roll away from the top deck of a Washington State ferry on a calm and warm[ish] August day like today still gives me goosebumps.

I could tell Noe felt similarly. Riley enjoyed the experience as well, in his own Riley sort of way.

Bainbridge is pretty much just as I remember it. And even here on a Sunday in early August, the crowds felt pleasantly manageable.

After a fun few hours ambling about on the island, it was time to head back to the big city.

After nap time, a quick snack in the hotel lobby before catching the bus to Ballard.

What’s in Ballard, you ask? Well, a lot of things. But we made the trip out here today for the Ballard Locks.

More cheap fun for the whole family (fortunately the whole family likes this stuff as much as I do).

Well, three out of four ain’t bad.

Lori unfortunately spent most of her time chasing after Riley, who wasn’t nearly as into the boats and heavy machinery as I thought he might be.

Maybe next time.

It wasn’t a total loss with Riley. We did eventually find something that captured our animal lover’s attention. The fish ladder.

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