This was my third time at Seattle, having been in the city once ten years ago and last year where we visited the Boeing Factory in Paine Field. For the second morning, I really wanted to check on Pike Place Public Market and of course the first Starbucks coffee store in the world. People in the Pacific Northwest really do love their coffee as seen from the number of coffee places at every block in downtown Vancouver and Seattle. Besides Pike Place, i had also made a list of some points of interest I wanted to visit after some research from the internet. Since the W in Seattle is such an uninspiring place for meals, we headed out to Pike Place Public Market for some coffee from Starbucks while my Brother and Sister went on to find some breakfast treats from this family owned bakery called Piroshky which makes a special kind of pastry called Piroshky and it was delicious to eat with coffee! Recommended when one heads to Seattle.
There are more to see in Pike Place Public Market though, so rather than spending too much time in the first Starbucks store, we headed out into the sunshine that morning to admire the waterfront views from the small park at the end of Pike Place. In such a fine winter morning, the place was great for some photo-taking! We filled our stomachs and had some leisure time, so now it’s on towards shopping in Pike Place Public Market proper. As the name goes, it actually is still a public market selling fresh fish, produce and meat though with the influx of tourists it also has clam chowders, fish & chips and knick-knacks. Just like Granville Island in Vancouver and Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco then. We got some natural honey produce before making our way back to the car to head to our next destination, which was to purchase tickets for harbour cruises.
There are several types of harbour cruises one can take while in Seattle, a lake cruise where they will show visitors the home of the rich along the lakes as well as point out Bill Gates’ residence or a locks cruise which will bring visitors across the harbour into the lakes, and a combination of both. However the limited departure timings and the fact that the locks cruise requires us to register at the other counter, we decided to skip this cruise and save it for next time. Instead, we headed to Alki Beach on the opposite shore of downtown.
Similar to Vancouver, the geography of Seattle is surrounded by a bay and we had to cross a bridge with a great vista of the downtown skyline and the Harbour Island on the right, as we head towards Alki Beach. On the way, we also passed by the Qwest and Safeco Field, home to the local NFL and baseball teams. The great clear day that morning meant we had a nice view throughout and even more so when we cruised along Harbour Avenue. After taking the required shots with the Seattle downtown skyline, we checked out Salty’s along the way which were packed with guests heading for brunch noting it was a nice holiday, and since we weren’t keen on brunch or waiting in line, we headed out towards Bellevue for Taiwanese food at this restaurant called Facing East, which we got to know from Yelp.
It seems to me Bellevue is to Seattle as Richmond is to Vancouver. With both suburbs having a substantial Asian immigrant population as well as having great Asian food. Located not far from central Bellevue, Facing East is located in a nondescript suburban mall, and it was full even though we reached there after 1.15pm. Packed with Asian diners, we browsed through the menu and was pleased at its reasonable pricing and ordered a some classic favourites from Taiwan which includes Fried Chicken in Salt and Pepper, Oyster Omelette, Seasoned Beef slices in Crepes, and a serving of Fried Rice. These dishes were really huge in portions and more than adequate for 3. In fact I don’t remember finishing the Oyster Omlette. While the restaurant was nicely fitted out and had clean bathrooms and dining areas, the food wasn’t on par to some of the offerings that one could have in Vancouver. I did enjoy the beef dish as it had adequate flavour and it was my first time tasting it.
Since we were in Bellevue, we decided to spend the rest of the day venturing into town and as we did so, arrived at Bellevue Square Mall which is probably one of the largest mall in Greater Seattle area. It is a huge mall with several departmental stores including Nordstrom and Macy’s. Connected to this huge complex were several hotels operated by Westin and Hyatt while luxury shopping also abound in this mall. Since we did little shopping in the outlet yesterday, it was time to spend more today and this was also where I got another gift for my sister for her birthday! Another interesting discovery was the Microsoft Store just a few stores down from Apple Store. So Microsoft has gone down the route of Apple, opening retail boutiques to market and promote Microsoft products, and it even has design themes from the Apple store, with bright white lights, an open space layout. Unlike the simplicity of the white and grey hues of Apple Stores though, they had more colour and whimsical themes especially since they just launched the Kinect and there was a demo unit. A fitting location to find my first interaction with a Microsoft Store since it was also in Seattle that Microsoft was based in during its glory years.
It was really easy to spend the whole afternoon in the Mall shopping and it was already sunset by the time we head back to downtown Seattle. One should remember it is still winter after all with shorter days and longer nights. Still feeling full from the food consumed during lunch, we headed back to the hotel for a break and to freshen up before heading out for dinner at a Japanese Izakaya joint along 2nd Avenue. We had passed by this particular restaurant a year ago but did not dine there and since it was our second time here, we decided to give it a try. It was suprisingly quiet for a Sunday night though the food was generally of good quality even if it did not manage the standards of Guu in Vancouver. I don’t know if I could ever find a Japanese Izakaya joint that have the same atmosphere and food quality as Guu with Garlic in Robson.
After our dinner of Kushis, sushi rolls, sashimi, ebi-mayo, karaage and short ribs, I took inspiration from the movie ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ to head towards Kerry Park. This particular park was singled out during my research into Seattle as a destination. Located in a vantage point on top of a hill, Kerry Park provides a nice view out towards the Space Needle and the downtown behind it. This particular night, I had the sense to bring along my tripod where I managed to capture a memorable shot of the city. It is worth noting I did return to this particular spot the next day on sunset before heading back to Vancouver to take a day shot where I could capture Mt Rainier beside the skyline.
With all the fabulous activities during the day, it was nice to retire back to the room and a great plus of staying in W Hotels is the availability of free wireless on the lobby or referred to as the ‘Living Room’. Set up with comfortable couches, tables and fireplace, it was nice for guests to spend time in with their laptops. Beside the Living Room is also a bar which wasn’t too noisy for a Sunday night and the right amount of crowds livened things up in the lobby of the otherwise deserted downtown of Seattle. In fact what I really liked about W Hotels was the vibe and modern decor of their hotels which makes it less formal and more casual. Think groovy bar rather than gentleman’s club.
On our last day in the city, we woke up late and headed out to check out before proceeding to Alki Beach Park proper where we feasted on Fish & Chips at a local joint which had long been established in the city. It was a nice little place with seats on the second floor overlooking the beach. And since it was a nice clear day again, we took some time to walk around the beach and discovered a mini version of the Statue of Liberty in the park.
From the beach, we drove back to downtown to head to Seattle Center where one can find several tourist attractions, including the Space Needle, the Experience Music Project (EMP) and the Science Fiction Museum. The latter 2 attractions could be visited in a single admission ticket and that was just what we did as I thought the reviews on the EMP attraction was good. For music fans, it is worth visiting as it traces the history of music including rock, punk and jazz, the various musical instruments from drums to guitars and even had interactive areas for visitors to try out these musical instruments in a studio-like setting. The science fiction museum, on the other hand, was rather unspectacular and really only for Science Fiction fanatics or geeks. Just located nearby the Center, I also noticed the construction of this huge complex belonging to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and it seems like the new HQ of sorts for this huge charitable foundation. Truly impressive to see the amount of urban revival the Gates have put into Seattle as well with their charity, as it could make this area more lively with the addition since the place was really quiet when we were there.
Overall, I enjoyed the second visit to Seattle more than my first time since I got to spend more time exploring the city rather than just the quiet downtown area. In addition I managed to enjoy more of the skyline view and even managed to capture memorable shots of the city. Best of all though was the time I managed to spend with my family during this trip!