Friday, May 03, 2013

Seattle 2013 Day 1: Arrival and Pike Place Arcade Lights

Seattle 2013 Day 1: Arrival and Pike Place Arcade Lights

And so begins my somewhat impromptu 4-day trip to glorious Seattle, Washington!

I have been meaning to go to Seattle for quite a long while now. I think I first wanted to go after seeing a photo of the Pike Place Market - it seemed like such an interesting place, mired in history, and basically the Seattle version of the Ferry Building, which we all know is my most favourite place ever. Anyway, it seemed "my kind of vibe". As my recent post implied, I was keen to "reconnect" this weekend... try to turn off the cell phone, ignore the slew of crazy news feeds on Facebook, and get some time doing some good exercise, enjoying nature, and exploring an exciting new city.

I usually budget for this kind of stuff in advance, but this kind of trip is really easy to pull off - the costs aren't very high if you make good choices. As I said to my bro Matt in Toronto in an email thread we were having, fortuitously, as I was on the way to the airport... the largest value for money is gained by spending your money on "experiences". As Dave Matthews would say, "Make some memories with us now".

My aim as I mentioned is not to answer phone/messages/Facebook this weekend. I will ignore/put it on airplane mode, or just leave it at the hotel. This device is so darn useful it's hard to leave behind... maybe privacy mode will do the trick. There must be a workflow for this. "Need usefulness of phone, but want no interruptions." The point of my weekend was a work break and didn't want to have any work talk or that sort of thing, but I was wearing a Monsters, Inc. shirt I got at Uni Qlo. It was funny... EVERYONE seemed to be commenting on it, saying how much they love the movie, etc. That was fun.

The airport trip was great, super smooth and no worries. Virgin America friggin' rocks. Each booth had a different cute/funny quote at their booth. It's quite clear that their corporate policy must encourage the people at each gate to take it upon themselves to write something funny and topical. One said, "T.G.I.F.". The other gate which was going to Los Cabos said "No hole punch, no Mexico for you"!! haha. Hilarious.

Tasty Greek Yoghurt in the airport
Got some tasty greek yoghurt and a Blue Bottle drip coffee at the airport. The yoghurt and fruit was a great idea - 2nd only to have enough wherewithal to prepare and eat the same thing at home before leaving for a trip :) Took care of the last emails for the weekend to my parents and my buddy Matt. Then a lady asked me for advice on Wreck-it-Ralph (was it good for kids, how scary was the villain compared to the bear in Brave). People LOVE this shirt I am wearing :)

So after the emails, I went back to using the phone for usefulness only. I found out that Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (where I was about to head to upon arrival to go tour their visitors centre), is right beside something called "Seattle Center". I checked how to get there from the airport... and bingo!!! There is a cool Monorail that goes from downtown to Seattle Center, cool. But even betterm there's a Light Rail, right from the airport to downtown!! I was gonna cab or something, and I'm super lucky, this light rail drops right near my hotel. Amazing. I am totally gonna do that, dropoff luggage, check in at the hotel and then head off to the Monorail!! So sick!! So much more fun than a boring cab ride. Daaamn I am excited about the monorail :) So fun. And frugal! It's much more worth spending my money on things that make sense (a Zipcar rental for the day on Saturday to go biking, a Bike Rental), but a cab is nothing special. So that was smart. Can't wait for this trip!

Got onto the plane and edited my speech for the Waterloo Alumni Event I'm speaking at on the Facebook HQ Campus in Palo Alto next week. I spent just a bit of time editing it and I am very happy with it. It has a great flow and I'm proud of it. I guess I've been thinking about it for a while, but the themes really just kindof fit together. I only wrote it a week or two ago in a couple of sittings, but it's feeling pretty polished which I am happy about. This stuff is getting easier to do now... TEDx was a big learning experience!!

It's fun to journal for the weekend as well. I am going to make a point not to "check in" or post places as I go on Facebook. It's fun to do that usually, but I am gonna treat this the same as a longer trip like in Peru last year. So that it's a proper break, I'm going to record notes in a paper journal and take photos and just post a journal when I get back to SF. Good times. In that spirit, oh look, there is TV and WiFi on the plane?! Cool, but noooooooppppe. :) I also found out how to (mostly) silence my phone. Privacy mode should do it. I will have to control myself in terms of not checking email and Facebook, but I can use Maps and Yelp and phone calls come from the Favourites List only. Seems pretty good.

Anyhoo. I got in an hit up the light rail... $2.75 all the way into downtown!! Amazing. I helped a couple of people out who couldn't figure out the ticket machine. One lady said, "I'm sorry, it's my first day here!" I laughed and said "Me too, but I've been googling all morning figuring out how to get to downtown from the airport!" The train was smooth and an easy way to get downtown. Awesome. After about 45 min I got off downtown and walked up a few steep hills (this IS kinda like San Francisco!) and checked in. The staff was super nice. My room rocks!! Super nice, and a huge bed. I got the "highway view" that people seemed to be dissing on the reviews, but... whatevs. It was not a biggie, and you got to see some awesome city lights. Can't argue with the epic Priceline price I got though! I was rainy looking, so I put on my trusty Arc'Teryx jacket and ended up taking a short cab ride to Bill and Melinda Gates up near the Seattle Center. It was an awesome exhibit. It explained a lot about the aim of the organization, and was incredibly inspiring. What a great place for schoolkids to feel welcome and encouraged to make a difference. There were some Bill Gates, Sr. quotes on the walls too. What a great family and it is so cool to see what they are doing for the world. Fantastic.

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation!
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation!
Reminds me of how AMAZING Bill Gates Sr.'s book "Showing up for Life" is
Contribute your own "what would I do?" to the digital wall
Contribute your own "what would I do?" to the digital wall
This little exhibit packed a huge emotional weight
Share Your Cause "Trees". Amazing place for kids to learn and be inspired to take part
I stayed for about an hour. They do less in international education/teaching/technology access than I thought. It seems their education focus is more in the USA, and their focus in developing nations is on health care. Pretty friggin' amazing to see the specifics of how they accomplish tasks that seem insurmountable. It was particularly interesting to see how they apply Microsoft-style computer science logical rigor to solving world problems. There were a lot of cool portions of the exhibit talking about data usage, tracking their progress quantitatively, best bang for the buck, etc. Pretty darn outstanding.

From there I headed to the Seattle Center and wandered past the EMP (Experience Music Project) museum. It looks kick ass, I will have to go there later in the trip... Frank Gehry-designed building, Nirvana exhibit, Art of Video Games exhibit... YEP. I headed to a place called the Armory, which seemed mostly like a huge building containing like 20 separate bouncy castles for kids, and food. I was hungry and I got a tasty poutine which was MASSIVE. It was at a restaurant on the "Misc." menu so that was fun. They had something else on there called a "Caramelized Grapefruit" which is a grapefruit with sugar on it that is then put on a grill. Sounds pretty awesome.

The Space Needle
Poutine inside on a rainy day, plus an entire room of nothing but bouncy castles
A little bit of Donkey Kong
I remember this guy well
After a very short history of video game consoles area (and a couple min playing super old-school Donkey Kong), it was time for a walk. I saw the outside of the Chihuly glass blowing museum, looks pretty cool and I might go later in the weekend.

So this is pretty funny... the Seattle Space Needle is TINY!!!!!!!! I was expecting something like the CN Tower, and I actually saw it from across the street and thought it was a scaled-down model of it or something!! haha. Sorry, Seattle!! It's not even really part of the skyline is some places, and it's not a lot bigger than most of the big hotels downtown I don't think. Very strange!! I believe it is from the World's Fair though, so we should give the poor Space Needle a break. I walked for a bit and the poutine was a good call to warm me up as the weather was getting damper.

A wet skatepark
Good advice
Seattle Olympic Sculpture Park
I walked towards the water, and the area started reminding me more and more of Toronto. Condos facing the water, a Waterfront that looked so much like Front St. as I was walking along it, Parks, and even an Old Spaghetti Factory right near the water!! So Toronto-y right there!

And then off to Pike Place. It was really starting to rain now and so I took a couple photos and kept rockin' my trusty jacket, but then made a break for the original first-ever Starbucks store. It was super fun in there.

This area reminded me SO MUCH of Toronto
And... sortof Toronto Waterfront, but in Seattle
O.G. Starbucks
Original Starbucks logo, with, um... well...
I saw the Beecher's Cheese Curds store which a friend had recommended to me, so I'll have to try them out tomorrow or Sunday. Man this Arc'Teryx jacket was worth every penny!!!! It stopped pouring so intensely and then got misty, then heavier rain again. It was actually quite nice, and my jacket was keeping me nice and dry, so it was kind fun and cozy to be walking around and checking out different warm places amidst the spring rainfall. There was a tasty looking breadshop and French bakery which looked great too.

My new favourite place

I then went to wait in line for Arcade Lights. This event turned out to be this same weekend that I was already planning to be in Seattle. It's a bi-yearly event where local vendors take over the Public Market and you get 10 tokens upon arrival with your $25 entry fee. Then you go check out all the different food and drink and dessert places and pick what you like and give (usually) 1 token per food or drink item. Fun stuff. I got my "Arcade Lights tasting glass" and the tokens wrapped in a green bandana as I entered. So cool.

There were 4 different main sections: Savory, Sweet, Wine, Beer. So amazing! I started with Lamb Sausage Chili from Uli's Famous Sausage which was amazing. Then got some of this Wood Fired vegetarian pizza from Roving Pizzaioli which was so insanely awesome that I went back again. Then some mini donuts from Mighty-O Donuts, then a cheese plate from Mt. Townsend Creamery. Some ginger cider and then some tasty Blood Orange IPA beer from Elysian Brewing.

Lamb Sausage Chili
This Pizza was EPIC
Awesome view!
Cheese plate, beer tasting glass
Mmm... more tasty local food
PB&J Ice Cream, and Peanut Butter Crunch Cupcake
After tasting so much epicness, it was time to grab some dessert and roll out. I got this crazy PB&J Ice Cream from Six Strawberries which was really excellent. The people working there rocked too. And finally, a Chocolate Peanut Butter cupcake for later from Yellow Leaf Cupcakes. Amazing!! What a great event and what a cool start to my first Seattle experience.

Oh Arcade Lights, you are epic
Rainy and beautiful evening
From there I walked back to my hotel. I took the long way, checking out downtown a bit and I'll have to spend more time down there later. I went to City Target and got a few essentials (Beef Jerky and Clif Bar for mountain biking tomorrow). Back to the hotel and unpacked a bit, and some chillin'.

Rainy and beautiful evening

There was a hilariously fitting book in my hotel room called "What to read in the rain"... from 826 SEATTLE?!!!?!?!?! I had no idea 826 Valencia had a Seattle store/creative writing center, and that quickly became another obvious thing that I had to do. I had hardly seen the hotel since arriving, so I wandered a little, checked out the hotel bar just to see the view (nice view) and the workout room. Back to my room for 2 cups of tasty tea (which I had brought from home) and that epic cupcake. I connected my iPhone to the TV to get some awesome tunes playing and wrote my journal notes. Maybe I'll even have a bath!!

Comfort & Joy... and a Cupcake!
Rainy night and view of the lights from my hotel
Whew!!!! What a GREAT start to the trip. Amazing. I am really enjoying everything, soaking it all in (haha, I *really* would have been soaking it all in without my jacket!) Tomorrow is going to be unbelievable: Zipcar, crumpets. then BIKING!!! Yes.

Already my mind and thoughts are focused on so many different things than they have been for the past while. The perspective and good vibes are already hitting me. It's funny, the thoughts that pop in your head. When I was walking along Pike Place and looking at strangers I'd never see again, I was thinking about how people go about their lives in their own cities, for the most part completely unaware of how you live yours. They have problems, you have your own problems, but people just carry on with what they know, and with no knowledge of your situation. Strange thought. But this is exactly the kind of perspective I came here to get!

There was an office building across from my hotel window. It was an incredibly generic looking office, with lots of random people's desks. Who do they do all day? This was a pretty big office building. Do they love it? Do they hate it? Why did they choose that career? Is their company doing well? Do they wish they lived somewhere else or do they love living in Seattle? (I assume they do, it rocks here already). Not sure why so many thoughts like this were running through my head... probably the moodiness of the rain mixed with this great tea and thoughtful quiet time. But anyway, this is the exact kind of perspective that came just by showing up here and soaking it all in, rain and all.

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