Friday, 21 December 2007


The air is cold and I’m rugged up in an overcoat, scarf and beanie, sitting at a deserted graffitied bench at Pike Place Market looking out over a rain swept Puget Sound reading the New York Times Review of Books with a momentarily peaceful sleeping toddler snuggled into my lap whilst drinking a Starbucks Peppermint Mocha and eating fresh mozzarella and dolmades from the deli. A defining moment for our Seattle visit.

If I was to describe Seattle in winter in one word it would be bleak. I think it sums up the place well - the grey rainy days, the bone chilling cold, the dark, chilly, damp nights. It is not the rain or the cold that is depressing per se, it is the absence of the sun that breaks the spirit. And we did not see the sun for 7 days. Upon landing at an even colder-than-Seattle Wilmington we were still greeted with blue skies and sunshine requiring sunglasses that made everything seem ok again.

Now I’m not saying that Seattle isn’t a great city, because I think in fairer weather it would be an interesting place to be but I am railing against winter traveling (except for the purpose of skiing). Here are my top three reasons for not traveling in winter:

  1. Excess baggage. Traveling with children requires a lot of extra luggage. Throw in a few jackets, jumpers, and blankets it is nigh impossible to keep under the baggage weight limit. Also hand luggage becomes unwieldly.
  2. Helicopter rides are closed. Most tourist attractions shut down with snow. I know lots of people claim to be ‘travelers’ not tourists but at the end of the day we’re all tourists and if the sites are closed there’s not much to do.
  3. It’s dark when you set out at 8am and it gets dark again at 4:30pm. Also the daily temperature range is 35 - 43 F.

As you can probably tell this is the first travel we have undertaken in winter. Usually we escape southern winters and enjoy the extra sunshine of a European summer – long days filled with art, photo ops and gelato. We have enjoyed many more summer days than winter ones in recent years and I tell you it improves your quality of life, health, and happiness but does drain wealth. I am at loss to understand winter travel and I don’t recommend it.

I also don’t recommend traveling with a toddler who has reached the life stage of recognizing that they are their own person and would like to make their own decisions (compounded with a double ear infection). The old wives tale of not traveling with infants between 6 -18 months is a fallacy but I will save this rant for Lucy’s next blog.

So with that introduction did we do anything interesting on our trip to Washington state? Yes but just a few things so here they are.

Seattle Center. We caught the monorail to the Center to visit the Sci-Fi museum (next to the architecturally amazing Experience Music Project) so that Andrew could get his fill of all things trekkie. We ate lunch in the revolving restaurant in the Space Needle for a better view of the city (so now we’ve eaten at three revolving restaurants – Sydney, Berlin and Seattle).

Seattle Aquarium. We arrived in time to see the daily feeding of Omar, the seven legged Giant Pacific Octopus. We also saw lots of fish and the feeding of the otters and seals. Lucy’s favourite ‘shish’ was a bright yellow box fish and she loved watching the wave machine blow around a school of fish!

Olympic Sculpture Park (part of the Seattle Art Museum) is located along the water. It is a sparse desolate park interspersed with modern sculptures. Would be awesome to visit in summer with a jazz band, red wine and some sunshine.

Pike Place Market. Great range of fresh fruit and veggies, pastas, oil and fish. We visited the first ever Starbucks café which has been kept just so. The Starbucks logo has been changed into a more modest mermaid for franchising purposes but the Pike St store still bears the original trademark. Lucy loved her babyccino even if she did manage to spill it all over herself. Back in the market we saw the famous Pike Place fish company where the staff throw the fish around, sing, chant and have fun (remember applying these principles to CBA from the book these guys wrote??) We found a donut place that had great fresh cinnamon doughnuts to rival the Berry donut van and they were even packaged with flourish.

Mount St. Helens. After weeks of clouds blocking the view, the day we visited the clouds parted and we had a clear view of Mount St.Helens. We stopped in at the Silver Lake visitors centre and Mt Hoffsbladt centre but given the time of year not much was happening. We drove up to about 3500 ft before we encountered quite a lot of snow and ice on the road. Andrew frolicked in the snow and threw snowballs at the car until Lucy woke up screaming. She then refused to get out of the car to touch the snow! So Andrew and I had a walk around before heading down the mountain again.

Kirk & Bethany’s Wedding
. We had a great time catching up with the Meller extended clan and Auntie Lynda. On the Friday night we enjoyed a rehearsal dinner at the Monticello Hotel and Saturday we attended the wedding. There were a number of differences to what we’ve come to expect at Aussie weddings: special candle lighters entered the service before the bridal party, there was no singing, and the reception was more informal. But the bride and groom still said ‘I will’ and they looked enormously happy. Lucy refused to wear her beautiful shoes to the wedding and insisted on wearing her nike sneakers. After quite a bit of wedding cake (I think her first taste of cake ever) she was running around hysterically happy. We kicked on at the Aussie ‘after party’ at our hotel drinking Moet in plastic cups and having a great chat. It was a real highlight of the trip (and Lucy was tucked up in bed asleep with the baby monitor on)

Other interesting facts:

  • Lucy loved the plane landings (we had 5 in total this time). After the first one she said and signed ‘more’.
  • Lucy has decided that the way to say plane is ‘bobo’ and will not listen to any correction
  • 3 hour time difference is much harder to deal with than the Sydney-US or Sydney–Europe time differences. Waking at 4am is not fun.
  • Along I5 there are many signs saying ‘Do not pick up hitch hikers’. Why I do not know.
  • Inner city Seattle is truly a maze of asphalt. At one point we were on a 5 lane highway (each way!) with extra roads above and to the right. We had to cross 4 lanes of traffic to keep going straight ahead. Truly amazing!

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