Between the end of June and beginning of July I spent a week in Seattle with my wife and our great friend Lari and it was a blast. It had been almost 3 years since the last time I was up there and it honestly felt like going back home.
This time around, since this was Lari’s first time in the Emerald City, we did a few touristy things we hadn’t the last two times we visited, starting with going all the way up to the Space Needle. It had been overcast when we arrived but what do you know, a couple hours in, the sun started to shine and we got some wonderful views of Seattle and Puget Sound from 605 feet in the air.
Of course we also hit some places we had visited already, like Pike Place Market and Pioneer Square, where we did the Underground Tour once more and enjoyed it greatly again. We also hit our favorite bar, the Pike Brewery, as well as have that great Ovaltine Latte at Top Pot Doughnuts. We also found new favorites, like the Nutella Mocha at Bedlam Coffee in Belltown, where we were staying at the Seattle City Hostel. We visited Bamboo Garden quite a bit, given it is the only kosher place to eat in Downtown Seattle, but also made it out to Noah’s Bagels in U District and to Pabla Indian Cuisine in Issaquah. We even went to the Seattle International Beer Festival, my first, where we tried fantastic brews I would normally not get in the east coast!
July 4th we spent with our local friends John and Patricia (of CookLocal.com) and had amazing fried pizza and BBQ burgers cooked on their Big Green Egg, then watched the fireworks from a nearby I-5 overpass. We visited other great coffee houses like A Muddy Cup (their Red, White and Blue coffee was a-ma-zing!) and Bottleworks, a beer store with a small bar inside that I wanted to put in my pocket and take with me.
We also took a day-trip on the ferry (yay!) and visited Bainbridge Island, which was just so beautiful!
I missed seeing a lot of people in Seattle. A lot. It dawned on me as I kept getting queries over Twitter and Facebook how many people I know up there. I even ran into a fellow gamer at Bainbridge’s Fort Ward State Park who lives a couple streets away and came down to say hi when he saw my check-in on Foursquare (I love it when social media works as intended). In truth I would have needed at least another week just to be able to see all my friends up there.
It was a great trip, and it reminded me why is it that I wanna move up there. It is a beautiful city, with personality, chilled out yet modern, firmly places between urbanity and nature. It renewed my desire to move in the next few years for sure.
You can check out the pics on my Seattle 2011 Flickr set.
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As I write this it’s been a week since Gen Con Indy 2010 opened on Thursday, August 5. I’ve been back for a few days and have had time to process all that happened to me at the show, so here goes, my review of the best four days in gaming, 2010 edition.
I don’t cease to be amazed at the reception 30,000 + gamers get in this midwestern city every year. And every year I see it grow. Banners welcoming Gen Con line the streets, and about 90% of the local businesses roll out some sort of welcome for the con, be it a simple window cling to full-on embracing of the magnificent nerdery with themed menus and drinks or Gen Con-specific specials. It shouldn’t be a surprise, really, when you consider that the estimated Gen Con economic windfall for Indianapolis this year was $27 million. Still, the welcome feels honest, which is rather nice.
I heard last year was a subdued one due to the bad economy, but boy, was that not the case in 2010! The entire downtown area was busy from Wednesday till Monday when I flew back, and the convention center itself was rarely, if ever, a calm place. There was palpable excitement in the hallways and hotels and on the street. And when those Exhibit Hall doors opened on Thursday, what everyone saw was a flurry of activity that contributed to record-breaking sales for pretty much every vendor I spoke to. The Gen Con LLC team continue to improve their craft of running this massive pop-up city and keep making the experience a great one for us attendees. A special thanks goes out to the Press Room team, because we of the gaming media can be a tetchy and annoying bunch and you always found a way to help us out (my only suggestion: please enforce that the Press Room is a quiet-zone; I was recording an audio interview there at one point and we had to shush down others that were there ourselves). Also thanks to Rio Grande Games for the free Wi-Fi in the convention center (I found it annoying that the coverage excluded the Exhibit Hall, though I understand it).
My wife has been learning the Japanese language on her own for a while, which means an appreciation of Japanese culture has seeped into our household beyond pop-culture mainstays like anime, manga, sushi and ninjas! Part of understanding a language is understanding the culture that uses it, that shaped it, and we’ve both been enriched by what we’ve learned. For some time now we’ve known we have a couple of locations with a Japanese connection we could visit in our general vicinity, and last Sunday we were finally able to make it to the largest of them, the Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach.
I wrote a quick guide for the kosher traveler to Seattle, Washington for Yeah, That’s Kosher!, a kosher travel blog. The article is now up and you can go read it.
“Seattle seduces,” our friend Patricia said no more than three hours after we had landed at Sea/Tac Airport and had driven through the city on our way to a coffee shop in Queen Anne Hill. From this high vantage point, Seattle spread out in organized chaos, contained only by the shores of Elliot Bay and Lake Washington to the east and west respectively. The Space Needle pierced the sky, an unmoving sentinel guarding the northern end of the city, while to the south, snow-capped Mt. Rainier played peek-a-boo with its ward 70 miles away. “I could certainly get used to this,” was what I said, taking in this view, that prompted Patricia to speak her prophetic words.
[...] we found [in Seattle] a remarkable city with an abundance of personality, a multitude of activities for all kinds of visitors, and a very appealing destination for the kosher traveler.
Elation over my article aside, I love this website because it is dedicated to helping the kosher-observing Jew travel to more places beyond the New York/Miami worn-out route. I have a couple more ideas for articles, including Orlando, FL and even Miami (with a different twist), so expect to see more announcements like this from me.
Try as I might, I still have a problem keeping a journal while on a trip (with exceptions, those being when I’m in Europe) and I have not yet resolved the issue of internet connectivity well enough to say I’m going to blog nightly. Which is a shame, because so much gets lost when you try to come back to the memories but have little to act as mnemonics. Of course, there’s the issue of actually experiencing the place you’re visiting, and in that regard I am golden.
I had tons of fun this time around in Seattle, even if this wasn’t a touristy trip per se. Experiencing the city as a temporary local, driving around its streets (sorry Seattle, you have yet to convince me that you truly experience traffic that’s worse than I-95 in Miami), shopping in the farmers market and cooking a meal for our friends, spending a Shabbat with a local family in the Jewish community we now know we’d like to move into, these were all amazing experiences that I treasure precisely because they were out of the ordinary fare for a visitor to the city. I simply cannot wait to go back and become a permanent resident.
While the blogging/journaling was scarce, I did a lot of Twitter updates, precisely as a way to remind myself of what we did when. As a bonus, they allow me to show you a quick overview of our time in Seattle. Enjoy.
A TWITTERIZED VERSION OF SEATTLE REDUX
That’s me at Magnusson Park, at the Fin Project (Seattle Installation). I’ll talk more about that when I get back.
I don’t want to go back, and if I’m forced, then it’s only to get things straightened out so I can return to Seattle.
I’ll be writing more updates as I can. In the meantime, you can follow me (fairly close) over at my Twitter.
It’s our fourth day in Seattle and so far I’m loving it as much as before; maybe more. The cool weather, the (advanced) autumn season, all enhance the beauty of the city and surroundings, making it even more appealing. Fog has been a constant companion every day, especially today, when it hid the sound completely and then rolled onto the city, casting a shimmering veil over everything.
Thursday, Nov. 27
We arrived on Thursday after a whole day of flying. We left Miami at 11 am, flying to Chicago O’Hare then took a connecting flight on Air Alaska, landing in Seattle at 6 pm local time. After getting the car, a convertible electric blue PT Cruiser, we drove into the city through lightly foggy streets, reaching the Hotel Max less than an hour later. The Hotel Max was, well, nice but a bit too snobby for my taste, not to mention expensive (I mean, $30 per day for parking!). The room (807) was nice, I won’t take that away, and we had a fantastic view of the Space Needle. Extremely hungry after 10 hours of traveling, we hit the road again, heading for the one kosher restaurant in Downtown Seattle, Bamboo Garden. Thankfully it was open (thank heavens for Chinese restaurants) and we were able to have a hot meal (Yvette had an udon noodle dish, while I had their vegan Thanksgiving platter, which was actually quite good). We took a short drive around the downtown area, if only to refresh our memories, but turned in fairly early; by 11 pm we had turned off the lights and called our Thanksgiving Day a done deal, both of us ecstatic of being back in Seattle.
Friday, Nov. 28
Friday morning was a bit of a hectic one. After getting up quite early, taking a shower and praying, I went online to check the rates on the hotel we had stayed in on our last visit, the Sixth Avenue Inn, visible from our room at the Hotel Max. The price was exactly half of what we were paying at the Max, so after confirming they had rooms available and placing a reservation, I cancelled the remaining nights at the Hotel Max. We repacked everything in the suitcases and left the Max at around 11 am, checking into the Sixth Avenue Inn by noon. Though certainly the Hotel Max had a unique personality, especially when compared to the middle-of-the-road Sixth Avenue Inn, the reduced price and the immense amount of space we got on our second hotel more than made up the difference, tipping the scale firmly in our favor. With that secured, we headed out to have breakfast at the one place we knew we could get a fantastic and filling meal, Noah’s Bagels in the U District. An hour, two egg-and-cheese sandwiches on potato bagels and two cups of coffee later, we had full tummies and were ready to continue our day, in this case, heading out to get provisions for Shabbat at the Mercer Island Albertson’s.
This is a wonderful supermarket that truly leaves a lot of kosher stores at home in the dirt, not only in its selection but in its prices. Let’s start with the fact that we can get sushi, fresh-made sushi, at a fraction of the cost we pay in Miami at any restaurant, and a hundred times fresher than the pre-made packs we sometimes pick up at home. To that you can add a deli where we got not only a variety of salads, but also a sandwich as big as my head, with three different meats, for $7. And of course, then there was the selection of kosher artisan breads. Sigh. About an hour later we left with enough groceries to take us through the entire week, as well as food for Shabbat, now only a couple hours away.
On the way back we stopped at the REI store, not far from our hotel. Personally, I’d forgotten it was Black Friday, so I was initially taken aback by the amount of people in the store, though once I realized what day it was, the truth was that there weren’t nearly as many people as one would imagine. We only had an hour to wander the huge store, and most of it we spent in the bicycle department, marveling at the wide selection of bikes and accessories, especially a very nice Electra Townie “Rat Rod” bike painted with a flame motif that made me wish I could just buy it right then and there. I picked up a book called Biking Puget Sound that lists 50 different rides and trails around Seattle and the greater Puget Sound area. We’re hoping to be able to rent some bikes and hit the Burke-Gilman trail (the very first ride listed in the book), but even if we don’t, I see it as an investment for the future.
We only spent an hour at REI before we had to zip back to the hotel to get ready for Shabbat, which started at 4:13 pm! We both managed to take hot showers before candle lighting time and after prayers, we sat down to enjoy an excellent meal of challah from Noah’s Bagels, and salads and fresh sushi from Albertson’s. By the time midnight rolled around, we were already in bed sleeping soundly and happily.
Saturday, Nov. 29
We spent the whole day indoors, sleeping in late, waking up to have lunch, then lounging around the room. We read the newspaper, checked our maps and guides, made tentative plans for the rest of the week, then slept some more until after Shabbat ended at 5:12 pm. After that we took showers, got some food and headed over to see our friends John and Patricia, in Ballard. We just hung out at their home; they would be running the Seattle Half-Marathon in the morning, so they needed to rest and conserve their energies. At around 10-ish, we left their house and headed Downtown again, taking a detour down to the waterfront, and walking up to The Pike Brewery for some cold ales (the Kilt Lifter Scotch Ale was just as fantastic as I remembered it). Then it was back to the hotel. A quiet and very nice day to finally settle in and get our internal clocks aligned.
A report on Sunday’s activities is coming later.
Posted at Destination: Earth Travel Journal:
There is a banshee in Kilmainham Gaol; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It may be invisible to the eyes of the thousands of visitors to the historic site in the Irish capitol, but its wail, its unearthly and sorrow-filled wail, is inescapable and unforgettable.
I’ve had the Destination: Earth Travel name and idea for a while, shifting a few times what exactly I want to do with it, from a travel advice service to a travel referral site. None of those ideas worked, but I love the name and having that outlet for my travel interests. When it comes to those interests, one of the few applications I have not pursued, yet is one that appeals to me a lot, is travel writing. With that in mind, I have turned that website and brand into the Destination: Earth Travel Journal.
The site is now a place for me to practice my travel writing skills, an extension of the travel journal I always endeavor do keep whenever I go on the road. I have invited a couple of my travel companions to share if they do desire, but it is mainly my playground.
I won’t be syndicating that feed into my main website at DMPerez.com, but I will post a notice and a link whenever a new article goes up there, so that anyone who is interested can go check it out. I will also be looking for ways to tie together what I do with Destination: Earth Travel Journal and The Gamer Traveler (which, I swear, is not dead yet).
I invite you to drop by the travel journal site and check out the articles as they come up (maybe even subscribe to that feed) and to leave your feedback on the pieces, as it’s the only way I can improve my skills.
It’s official, my wife and I will be going back to Seattle for Thanksgiving break (last week of Nov/first week of Dec) and I am so excited it borders on the illegal.
This is the first time ever my wife and I have visited one location twice in one year (my visits to Puerto Rico to see family and friends not included). There were so many things that we couldn’t see when we went in June that it is amazing thinking we’ll have a chance so soon again. This trip, however, has an ulterior motive, as we intend to use the opportunity to take a look at neighborhoods, apt/houses, and generally look at Seattle through the eyes of people wanting to move up there as soon as (freakin’) possible. We’re hoping to line up some job interviews for that week as well, so wish us luck.
Seattle Redux – so awesome.