Friday, June 5, 2015

First Big Family Vacation - Day 5

Here we are, already on the fifth day of our Seattle vacation , or as I affectionately call it, the day we learned that GPS's don't work well in a concrete jungle.

After spending the first four days of our trip driving all over creation to see various family and friends, we finally took a day to head to downtown Seattle and enjoy the touristy stuff. As a huge bonus, Dave's aunt (the one who surprised us with her presence on day two) decided to tag along for part of the day! We were all very excited about that, especially given the intense cold shoulder disappointment we experienced the day before.

We made our way to the downtown area after breakfast, with much excitement! Aidan had been begging for days to go to the Space Needle, and since that particular place is such a huge and happy childhood memory for me, I was dying to take him. But first, we were to meet our auntie at the Seattle Aquarium. I couldn't wait!

As we neared the core downtown area, I started noticing that Emily, the lovely British woman inside our rental car's GPS, seemed to be getting confused.  She wasn't sure where we were, nor which way we should go. The bigger issue was that her uncertainty did not cause her to stop giving us (what ended up being poor) directions. We got a bit turned around. She even told us to get out of the car once and walk the rest of the way. True story! We were not amused. Oh, and how about some road construction to further complicate navigation? Why not?


With all that said, though, I do love downtown. As a sheltered Alaskan kid, I'm always so blown away by the massive buildings. I think they're pretty.

We finally found our way with the use of two iPhones. We read there was a parking garage right across the street from the Aquarium. We found that and ventured in, only to learn it was cramped, damp, creepy and smelly. The smell of urine was a lovely distraction from the fact that the doors seemed to have locks and bars on them where they shouldn't have. By some miracle we made it out of there alive and wandered across the street.

While Aidan was totally captivated by the Aquarium, I was flooded (see what I did there?) by childhood memories of the place. It was just wonderful to be back there.






Did I mention it was a good time?  The Seattle Aquarium is actually not all that large, which might be my favorite thing about it. You can see everything in a couple of hours, and still leave feeling impressed and like you've done something to connect with nature.

After the Aquarium, we wandered down the boardwalk not-very-far, looking for lunch, and found the Crab Pot restaurant.  I thought the place was cute and I felt inexplicably compelled to buy a tee shirt there that said something like "I got crabs at the Crab Pot!" I talked myself out of it just in time.

After we filled our bellies and said goodbye to our auntie who had other commitments for the afternoon, it was time to tackle another attraction. Aidan first spotted the Great Wheel last winter in a skyline shot of Seattle during a Seahawks game on TV. He asked if we could go on it when we went to Seattle. To say he was excited about this would be an understatement...


I'm proud to say the kid had no idea that was really nervous about this! I definitely wanted to do it, but I'm not big on confinement nor being way off the ground, and on top of that I have balance/vertigo issues sometimes, so it was a bit scary. But we climbed into our lovely enclosed private gondola and off we went! It felt pretty weird at first since the gondola was rocking, but after the first couple times around, I got used to it and felt comfortable enough to enjoy it and take some pictures.






That last one has been the wallpaper on my iPad since the day it was taken! I just love it.

Any guesses as to what came next?!

YUP!  Finally!


It was like walking up to an old friend - except the whole area has changed so much from what I remember 30 years ago. Of course when you walk into the base of the Space Needle, you walk immediately into a giant gift shop, where I spent more than I should have but far less than I wanted to, so I call that a victory! Tickets to ride to the top are spendy, but really, how often would we get this chance? And I certainly could not deny my kid a trip to the top of the Space Needle he'd been begging to visit for over a year. So, up we went.

I had forgotten just how stunning the views are up there.






There's a little cafe up there and tons of info about the Space Needle and Seattle in general. I absolutely loved it, even if I felt a bit dizzy most of the time thanks to my oversensitive ears. I also am certain the thing kept swaying back and forth slightly when we were at the top, but Dave insisted it wasn't. I still think it was! At some point it occurred to me how much I would NOT want to be at the top of the Space Needle in a big earthquake. I quickly shoved that thought away and laughed at how my brain works sometimes.

After descending from the sky, we decided to hit one more attraction, even though we were getting tired and ready for some relaxation. 


My mom used to take me on the monorail in Seattle when I was a kid and I thought it was so cool! Naturally we had to take Aidan too. It's a short ride - maybe five minutes each way - but since he loves all things train-related, he loved every second. We had hoped to have time for a couple other fun things at Seattle Center, but it just didn't happen this time. 

In hindsight, we should have stayed there for just a bit longer, because our next adventure shall forever be known as 'that time we tried to get out of downtown Seattle at exactly 5:00.'  Oh my goodness, what a mess an adventure that was! I can't remember how much time it took us to get to Mukilteo, but I remember being quite frazzled by the time we did.

Thankfully, we had another opportunity to visit with not only my Grandma and Pop, but my uncle and aunt were there too, so we got to see them for the first time in about ten years. That was really wonderful! We had a great dinner together and I so enjoyed getting the chance to catch up with them. I adore them both.

That wraps up a very eventful day five! We truly had a blast. And once again I was grateful for the very nice hotel to go 'home' to that night. I was exhausted, and again, fell asleep in seconds.

Monday, June 1, 2015

First Big Family Vacation - Day 4

By the fourth day of pretty much any vacation, I am usually beginning to feel a little fried and ready for a mellow day. Thankfully, that's exactly what we had in store for day 4.

From our hotel in Mukilteo, we decided to head north a little to explore. My mom had told me repeatedly there was a quaint little town up by the water, with a little lighthouse. She was right! We saw Ivar's - though never did make it there to eat, unfortunately - and then found the park with the lighthouse and ferry terminal. 


Aidan loved walking on the beach collecting shells. It was a chilly, gray day - my favorite - but I had neglected to bring a jacket, and it was extremely misty out. It's unlike me to wimp out because of cool weather or rain, but this time I did, as I didn't want to look like a drowned rat for the rest of the day. The weather on our trip sure was a lovely contrast to what was happening back home, which was 6" of snow the night before we left, wind, and cold.

After exploring the waterfront area for a little bit, we headed south of Seattle to visit our company's location there. It is a regional service center type place, so we deal with the people there on a daily basis, but had never met most of them. We got a nice little tour, met lots of great people, and had a lovely visit.

At this point, we began trying to contact Dave's sister about the day's plans, as she lives right near the place we had just visited. She had told us the night before to text her in the morning and we'd hang out. We weren't shocked when she didn't answer right away, as that is fairly typical. So, we decided to seek out some lunch in the area while we waited.

For the 18 years we have been together, I have been hearing all about hubby's childhood fondness for a particular fast food restaurant in the northwest. I don't believe I'd ever been to one. So, what better time than right now? I googled it, then entered the address in the GPS. Within minutes we were sitting down.


Okay, yes, not the healthiest option in the world. Shush, we were on vacation. I must say it was rather delicious for fast food! I especially loved all the emphasis on recycling and not generating more trash than is necessary. I'm happy to spend a couple more bucks and not contribute much to the landfill. 

We left there with full bellies, and decided to explore the area a bit while waiting to hear back from Dave's sister.

I could tell you a long, frustrating, and sad story about how this whole thing played out, but I honestly don't feel like giving it the time and effort. I'll just go ahead and skip to the end. She completely ignored all of our attempted communications and stood us up. And my husband, who is much better at giving people lots of chances than I am, and who had his heart set on seeing her, wanted to wait around for quite a while hoping to hear from her. 

So, long story short, we blew half a day of our vacation wandering around her area hoping she would reach out. No dice. Super fun with a 4-year-old in tow, I tell you. Sometimes I don't get people. I was sad, but more ticked. I don't like seeing my husband crushed. It makes me very angry. But, I'm realizing that you can't make people give a darn about you, blood or not. Sad, but true. Thankfully we had tons of other people who DID want to see us, and we had great times with them instead.

On another upside, during this time, we found a nifty shopping center just chock full of stores that we don't have in Alaska. So, it was not altogether a waste, though we'd much rather have been spending time with family. I stumbled across a clothing store that I would give a limb to have in Alaska! It is very hard for me to find off-the-rack clothing, but this place was full of it! I spent an hour in there and $300. Oops. But so worth it! The clothes are fantastic and I very rarely buy clothing because I hate shopping so much. So that was great.

Dave finally gave up on his sister around dinner time. We'd seen a Sizzler on the way in, which I know is not exactly high-brow dining, but we used to have one back home and it closed many years ago. So it was a place that both of us had a lot of childhood memories. It was fun to go to the modern version. The food was good. After that, we headed the 45 minutes back to our hotel. I must say, I love the Seattle skyline! (Pardon the crummy moving iPhone pictures through car windows in the dark...)



I could stare at that night skyline for hours without getting bored.

My husband sighed a lot when he got in bed that night. I tried to hide my anger. Neither of us slept worth a darn.

First Big Family Vacation - Day 3

This second full day of our vacation will probably go down in Aidan's memory as 'the day we learned the hotel has free make-your-own Belgian waffles.' Oh my heavens, this kid was excited.


All joking aside, we did find out that our hotel had a really good free breakfast - not the mediocre-to-disappointing sort of thing we've found at most other places. I felt really good about that since the hotel was quite a bit more expensive than we usually go for. At least we were saving money on food?
Enough about breakfast!

After that was done, we hit the road south to Tacoma to visit my cousin and her family. She and I had not seen each other in something like 25 years! We used to write letters back and forth as kids, back when long distance phone calls actually cost something and we couldn't really call. Of all the dozens of cousins I have on that side of my family, she and I have somehow always had a special bond even though we've never seen each other regularly, having never lived in the same state. I was SO excited to be headed to her house.

Thankfully we only had one unplanned detour on the way from north Seattle to Tacoma thanks to some confusing road signs. (That's our story and we're sticking to it.) But it was no big deal, we ended up back on the interstate soon enough and saw some cool stuff in the interim that we wouldn't have seen otherwise. Eventually we made it to my cousin's house and had a lovely reunion.
I finally got to see her house, which was lovely, and has a great story to go along with it. My uncle, my cousin's dad, helped her get into a house before he passed away years ago. As luck would have it, she ended up falling in love with the guy selling the house. He moved back into it and they got married! Speaking of her husband, after only communicating with him on Facebook for the past few years, it was wonderful to finally get to meet him and spend some time with him. He's great and so perfect for her.

We headed out almost immediately to this awesome place! Neither hubby nor I had ever been there, and being a bunch of animal lovers, we were very excited. The adventure there was a bit rushed, but still marvelous. There were elephants and sharks and monkeys and my favorite animal on the planet (sea otters) and baby tigers, need I say more?!




After the zoo, we went back to my cousin's house. The boys (her two and my one) and the men (hers and mine) played with toys and video games while us lady folk got to spend some time in the kitchen together. She wouldn't let me help with dinner, so I stood there and pretended to be useful while we got to catch up on 25 years of life lived too far apart. We had a lovely dinner before heading an hour back north to our hotel. We had to use Netflix on the iPad to keep the kid awake that long, as he was completely worn out from the day's activities.

Actually - we did take one little detour on our way back to the hotel. Dave's sister, who is hard to reach via electronic means most of the time, works about halfway between my cousin's house and our hotel. We hopped off the interstate and after getting turned around a couple of times, found her work and waited outside, as she was due to leave work any minute. We got to surprise her, which was really fun. We made plans to spend time with her the following day, and then took off to the hotel.

Again we all collapsed into bed at the hotel, exhausted, but so happy.