Travel Diary: Seattle Day 4 - Space Needle

January 18, 2016 (continued): First stop of the day was at the iconic Space Needle tower, a major tourist hotspot, but where else could I see a sweeping 360 degree view of the city? Ironically, I’ve lived in Auckland for most of my life and never visited the top of its sister scraper, the Sky Tower.

Tip: Get there early to avoid the lines as there are only a few elevators that can fit 25 people at a time, especially if you don’t pre-buy the tickets. However, the ride was at a blink and you’ll miss it speed, rocketing to the observation deck at 520 ft in a matter of seconds!

_MG_7883.jpg

The view was pretty spectacular, and I was lucky enough that the weather had cleared up nicely so that I could see Mt. Ranier in the distance.

Tip: Your ticket also allows one free digital picture at the “selfie” machine on the observation deck, where you scan the barcode of your ticket at the self automated machine and it will take a tall angled shot of you and the view below.

Since I had the City Pass for this particular visit, I did have a discounted ticket but I will say if you’re a first time visitor to Seattle, it’s definitely worth going for the views alone.

I spotted these giant daddy long legs on a rooftop that I thought was a 3D sculpture at first. Later I found out it was actually a mural created by Marlin Peterson who was commissioned by the Washington State Artist Trust to paint somewhere in the city.

Travel Diary: Seattle Day 4 - Walk of Art in Belltown

January 18, 2016: Day 4 of my Seattle adventure was going to be a culture-packed one, with the plan to visit 3 major attractions - the Space Needle, the Chihuly, and the EMP Museum. Since they were close to my hotel, I decided to walk over even though it was a blistering cold early morning, but it was worth it to stumble on little gems that I would never have seen through a bus or car.


My first discovery of the day was this giant, red, twin popsicle sculpture perfectly perched in front of a tall, commercial building. Later on I found out it was created by artist, Catherine Mayer who according to her website, “has been working to make multi-sensory art that inspires positive reactions in the form of murals, animations and sculptures.” To me, the sculpture totally hit on my love of whimsy, surrealism, and slight absurdity.

_MG_7860.jpg

Further along on my walk, I saw an open garage door and inside was an empty space with no one around, but there were two interesting murals painted on the walls. I went to quickly snap these paintings but was halted suddenly when the garage door started closing down on me. Then, as it was closing a man across the street starting yelling at me saying “Hey!”, I started to quickly walk away since I thought I may have accidentally stumbled into something private. He started to chase me down, and my panic mode starts to set in, but it turns out he was actually inviting me in to see it better! He let me come into the space and take a better shot of the murals, and told me that Dave Matthews (of the Dave Matthews Band!) had actually painted these himself and it was his studio!

_MG_7867.jpg

I knew my proximity to the Space Needle was drawing near when I saw it reflected in this mirrored building. The cool “shattered” effect the windows created definitely made me stop and have to take a picture.

One of the things I find fascinating is messages from unknown people and imagining a story about what compelled the person to write such things. Found Magazine and Post Secret books were in my personal library growing up and maybe it’s the voyeuristic insight into a person’s mindset that I find interesting, which is probably why I wanted to be a psychologist if I wasn’t a designer. So imagine my delight when I found these tiny little messages between two unknown people, inscribed on a random door frame, having a conversation about God.

_MG_7872.jpg

Travel Diary: Seattle Day 3 - Antiques & Wall of Gum

January 17, 2016 (Continued): Walking back from the dock near the waterfront, I stumbled upon an interesting antique store, full of mid century modern vignettes and the creepiest looking life size Mickey Mouse statue I’ve ever seen. Seriously, the photos doesn’t capture the eeriness I felt coming close to it.

Having some time to kill before dinner, and I being in close proximity lead me to the infamous tourist attraction, the Gum Wall. It had actually been recently cleaned for the first time in 20 years but had already started accumulating a mass of chewed up gum again. It is an odd thing to be known as an attraction but I guess I like odd things, still, it was pretty gross thinking I was standing near a spit mountain, as displayed by my face below.

Across from the wall of gum, was something I was more inclined to stand near and see - a great wall of art! It was fun to study it piece by piece, trying to figure out what message was being stated or creative expression being shown.

All photos taken by me via Canon 70D.

Travel Diary: Seattle Day 3 - Seattle Aquarium

January 17, 2016 (Continued): After arriving back at the dock from my cruise around the harbor, the next thing on my agenda was a visit to the Seattle Aquarium - it was part of the deal with my City Pass package. Usually I have mixed feelings about visiting an animal facility if they’re not a sanctuary, but this aquarium is a nonprofit and a research facility that helps educate the public about sea life and conservation.

I have a fascination with the sea and its life probably from my upbringing, being from Hawaii, my dad would take me down to the beach as a baby and taught me to swim as soon as I could walk. My birthplace seems to follow me wherever I go, as the exhibition at the time was the Sea Life of Hawaii of all things. There, they had on display the numerous and colorful tropical fish that roam Hawaiian waters. The sea urchin with these surreal pink and purple hues that I didn’t even know existed in real life. The staff invited onlookers to gently touch the languid starfish. The baby stingray looked like perfect smiling, pastel sea angels from the bottom. It was an excellent introduction to another world.

Moving further along in the newly renovated extensions, I witnessed sea lions that gracefully glided through water like nothing. One appearing above water, coupled with water beads on the glass and the shining sun, created a photogenic moment with a magic sparkle halo above its head. Next, were one of my favorite animals the sea otter. There was a group swimming rapidly amongst each other that I could barely capture any with my fastest shutter speed. They eventually broke out into a catfight (or otter fight?) and later a couple of them giving the public an Animal Planet-esque birds and the bees demonstration if you know what I mean.

My time at the aquarium ended as the sun set with the most spectacular rays of light streaming through the clouded sky.

All photos taken by me via Canon 70D

Travel Diary: Seattle Day 3 - Waterfront Cruise

January 17, 2016 (Continued): The day progressed with a waterfront tour by Agrosy Harbor Cruises. I got discounted tickets through a package deal, called CityPass. I highly recommend using this if you’re visiting a North American city for the first time and want to check out the main attractions / highlights. It’s easy to use as you purchase it online for the city of your choice and you get around four attractions for the deal, print out the little ticket and then exchange it for a booklet with your official tickets at any of the locations that you go to first.

Back to the main event, I was a bit worried as to how much of a view I was going to get since it was the middle of winter and a stereotypical Seattle rainstorm was settling in. Thankfully it held off with only a few drizzles here and there while on the cruise.

We took off from the waterfront with a guide narrating famous landmarks and sights to see as we passed by. It was a large ship with indoor seat with large windows on all sides, a snack and booze bar you can order from, and outside and upper decks for optimal viewing pleasure. We had passed by the waterfront, got views of the downtown skyline, Puget Sound, the Olympic Mountains and Mt. Rainier, along where the container ships dock. The whole tour lasted around an hour - I thought it was a great way to cover a lot of ground with little effort, something to consider if you’re tight on time but want to see a lot

Travel Diary: Seattle Day 3 - Biscuit Bitch & Pike Place Market

January 17, 2016: Day 3 of my Seattle adventures started off at Biscuit Bitch for a calorie laden breakfast to keep me warm during the rainy chill. I got there early, but because it was the weekend and the restaurant being a sardine sized tight quarters as it is, the place was packed with barely enough room to even stand in line. However, I was determined to get my biscuit, bitch (sorry, couldn’t resist) and decided to take my chances.

Upon reading the handwritten chalk menu, I failed to notice what I was ordering had a description on two lines so it was a little more than I intended but an interesting choice nonetheless, enter the Hot Mess Bitch. Then the universe conspired as I finished ordering, as someone decided to leave and I opted to share a table with another solo diner.

Out came the biscuit and gravy, eggs and garlic grits smothered in cheese, grilled Louisiana hot link and jalapeños, which I washed down with a little hot mocha. Verdict - the biscuit underneath was nice and soft, possibly a tad too salty but overall it was pretty good and an incredibly filling meal, I couldn’t even finish half of it.

After finishing up breakfast, I waddled my way down to Pike Place Market - yes, a bit of a tourist trap but it was nearby so I figured, why not?

On the way I spotted the other tourist trap, the “first ever Starbucks”, a small location with the line wrapped around the block. Though, I overheard that it’s technically not the first as they closed that location down in the 70s and moved it over to Pike Place.

The top level of the Pike Place was a mix of food and craft vendors, beckoning you with their wares. Most were Seattle inspired souvenirs and jewelry. One of the food vendors had every pasta flavor you could think of. I’m a sucker for neon signs and appreciated that all the directional instructions were made from that.

Below decks was a little more funky and interesting, if not still a little touristy but included a magic shop with two fortune teller machines outside. I couldn’t resist testing out the Swami - I’ve always wanted to try one of those ever since seeing it in Big. Unfortunately, it didn’t grant my wish to be big but I got a cool little fortune instead.

There was also an interesting book store with an eclectic collection of books, where the owner(?) greeted everyone with this booming voice and regaled everyone with humorous tales.

As I made it through the market, I stumbled on this outside deck where it had a great view of the waterfront and ferris wheel. It also seemed to be a mini herb garden for the restaurant nearby.

It was getting close to the appointment for my next stop, so I made my way down towards the waterfront to do a little exploration. To be continued.

All photos taken by me via Canon 70D.

Travel Diary: Seattle Day 2 - Seattle Public Library & The Pink Door

January 16, 2016 (Continued): Due to the heavy downpour that ensued after visiting Bruce Lee’s gravesite, and my hesitance to walk around in the freezing rain to tour the Lake Union area, I decided to head back into town and visit the Seattle Public Library.

Now, why would you visit a library when visiting another city? The Central branch of this library is known for it’s stunning glass and steel built architecture, and was voted #108 of 150 on the American Institute of Architects’ list of Americans’ 150 favorite structures in the US. It is free to visit as it’s a public library and there’s even a cafe inside to enjoy a little hot beverage while you read.

The structure was definitely impressive in person and the huge diamond cross windows give you 360 views of the city. You can go to the top floor and get a little vertigo when you see the ant-size people walking around below. It’s a good place to check out if you’re in the area, or if you need a little shelter from the rain. I wouldn’t go out of my way to see it, but it was interesting view to take a break in.

_MG_6889.jpg

Hunger struck, so I headed back to my hotel room nearby to change for dinner. I was greeted with pretty, leftover Christmas lights adorning the trees as I walked.

For dinner, I decided to go to “The Pink Door”, a highly coveted Italian - American restaurant located in the Post Alley near Pike Place Market. Reservations were already booked out, so I took a chance to see if I could get a walk in. When I got there, there were no signs, only a literal “pink door” to signal you’ve arrived at your destination and a line of people hanging out front. I guess exclusivity is the best advertisement! I made my way through the crowd of people inside towards the hostess and turns out flying solo has its perks as they had an open space at the bar, where they served the full menu.

I love handmade pasta and will try it any chance I get, so I decided to go with the PAPPARDELLE AL RAGÙ BOLOGNESE slow simmered meat sauce, fresh pasta. The pasta was perfectly al dente and the sauce was rich but clean, I was satisfied although it came in a somewhat small portion. 

For dessert I opted for the fresh made bombolone with custard dipping sauce - basically a fried doughnut deconstructed. The bombolone was perfectly cooked, crunchy on the outside, soft in the inside. The dipping sauce was nice because you could control how much sweetness you wanted.

Another perk of solo travel, and being seating side by side at the bar is you notice things that you normally wouldn’t being with other people (though it was hard not to due to their yelling because the room was packed). This particular night was a group of former Microsoft employees griping on how things have changed within the company over the years and it just wasn’t the same. It was an interesting inside scoop on the mega-corporation.

Filled to the brim as the carbs expanded in my belly, I made my way back for the night, since it was too chilly and rainy to explore further.

All photos taken by me via Canon 70D and iPhone 6.

Travel Diary: Seattle Day 2 - Bruce Lee's Gravesite

January 16, 2016: My second, though first official full day in Seattle started off in a stereotypical, rain soaked, gloomy gray fashion. It didn’t deter me, in fact I kind of missed the rain and different seasons having lived in Hawaii for a while, plus I was pumped to explore this new-to-me city.

Breakfast began at Smith, after my initial choice had a line out the door. It was a killer to get there from where I was since it didn’t look that far on the map but I didn’t factor in having to go UP hill after hill! I finally arrived, a little disheveled but with a worked up appetite. They had an interesting decor aesthetic with antique paintings and taxidermy animals scattered about.

I ordered their Brioche French Toast with homemade apple sauce and chantilly cream, and since I like my starch with starch, a side of crispy potatoes. The food was decent, and the service was nice.

A pit stop in their bathroom lead me to discover on the toile wallpaper, humorous little graffiti-isms that customers left behind as they were doing their business.

While I was waiting for the bus to take me to Lake View Cemetery where Bruce Lee’s gravesite is, a beautiful rainbow appeared giving me a sign of good things to come.

I arrived at the cemetery, and the rain had started to pick up to a drizzle again. Tucked away towards the top was the quiet, unassuming final resting place for Bruce and his son, Brandon. Bruce has been one of my heroes, not only for his martial arts and pioneering days of bringing Asian Americans to western cinema, but his philosophies on life. My dad recently pointed me to his daughter Shannon’s podcast discussing her father’s views and also the struggles of retaining his brand after his passing.

While I was there, I overheard another tour group’s guide talking about how someone tried to chip off the picture of Bruce on his gravestone and steal it. Also, this place was chosen because it was near where he went to high school at Garfield High School where he met his wife Linda.

After I paid my respects, I made my way out and got caught in a heavy downpour. I was planning to tour the nearby Lake Union area but since it was raining heavily and I would be walking most of the way I decided against it and took a detour that provided a little more shelter.

Note: I’ve decided to split up my Travel Diary series by locations visited within that day, to make the post a bit more digestible.

Photos taken by me via Canon 70D and iPhone 6.

Travel Diary: Seattle - Arrival

January 15, 2016: I had a late night arrival in Seattle, leaving little time for any exploration other than the midnight run for water and snacks. With that said, here are my first impressions and travel tips of Seattle.

After arriving at SeaTac - I went to catch the Link Light Rail at the station located within the airport. I highly recommend traveling this way if you’re on a budget, as the furthest route is still only under $4! You can buy the tickets at the vending machine located near the station.

About 40 minutes later, I made it to my destination in downtown and headed towards the Mayflower Park Hotel. I chose this hotel due to it’s central location, close proximity to the train station (10 minute walk), and it was a deal on Hotwire.com. If you haven’t used Hotwire - it’s a deal website where they try to fill up vacant rooms, seats etc. mostly on off seasons. It was my first time booking through them on this trip and I found it’s a hit or miss, I did like the hotel that I got and they do give you a hint as to what it is before you book, but after all the fees added on at checkout, I’m not sure how much of a deal it actually ends up being.

The hotel is a historic building, launched in the 1920s, it definitely had some of it’s old charm still but updated slightly to keep up with modern times. My room had a beautiful view of downtown (better pictures to come later), with the soft glowing lights of the towering buildings nearby. The walls were a little thin (could hear the party next door), but it was clean and nicely kept. When writing this, I discovered it may also be haunted - though I didn’t really experience anything of that nature when I stayed there (thankfully!).

Once I settled in and dropped off my bags, I went on the hunt for some late night snacks, the only nearby place I could find open was a couple miles away. Since walking was my only mode of transport I headed off, but I don’t really recommend this if you’re traveling alone and staying in downtown. As with many downtown areas it can get a little sketchy at night and found myself briskly walking past more than a few places. I headed back to my hotel and turned in for the night.

All photos taken by my on my iPhone 6.

Travel Diary: Portland - Day 4

January 14, 2016: On my last day in Portland, I wanted to explore the Eastern Promenade Trail where you can view many of the famous bridges that cross the Willamette River into downtown.

The day started off with breakfast at the much hyped Tasty n Sons, where I ordered the Moroccan chicken hash and a "nutritious" chocolate potato doughnut on the side. The Moroccan chicken hash had a nice, complex blend of flavors that warmed the palette with its hint of spice. While I found the doughnut to be nice, it was a little on the dry and crumbly side unfortunately.

Moroccan Chicken Hash at Tasty n Sons.

Chocolate potato doughnut with creme anglaise at Tasty n Sons.

Something that made me chuckle while waiting for the bus.

After breakfast I headed towards the Eastern Promenade Trail. Right away, you’re confronted by the Steel Bridge, opening up for boats passing through and rumbling under the weight of the light rail and cars. The view from the walkway, you can peek through to the Broadway and Fremont bridges. On the other side was a clear view of the Burnside bridge leading to Old Town. Seeing the expanse of the river and downtown was breathtaking (but it also could’ve been the dead of winter air that was taking my breath away!).

Heading further into the trail, there is a dock that you can walk into the river on and get an unobstructed view of the city. There, I found amusing little graffiti anecdotes that make Portland the absurd city that I love.

I ended my walk across the promenade and ended up in the Pearl District area. Needing a pitstop and shelter from the cold I went for a Moroccan latte at Ovation Coffee & Tea, which had a front row view of the Fremont bridge. Later on, I grabbed a vegetarian burrito for dinner at the Laughing Planet Cafe, before heading back to catch my flight to Seattle that night.

Fremont Bridge

My overall view of the first time visiting Portland is that it is one of the friendliest places I have ever been. I feel like their city motto of “Keep Portland Weird” really resonates with its culture in that I never felt judged by the natives, and everyone I encountered was willing to engage in a friendly conversation. It was definitely a great start to my trip across the west coast.

All photos taken by me on my Canon 70D and iPhone 6.