Friday, April 5, 2013

Seattle

The third and final installment in my small series of pre-moving trips: Seattle.

While it was one of the three (and there were only three) cities I wanted to see, I never expected I'd be able to. Fortunately, Jarrod and his friends made plans to go for PAX right around the time we started dating, and I decided to blow half my moving money tagging along. 

I'm no gamer and didn't really have anything to do with PAX, but I've got to say, there was nothing bad about this trip at all; the whole time was a good time. The very first pleasant surprise was how epic Mt. Rainier looked on the flight in:





We stayed at the Red Lion Hotel in the centre of downtown. There were actually convention-related events, tabletop games, etc. going on there, so the elevator was extremely crowded most of the time. It was overpriced because of the enormous influx of of nerds, but spacious and nice. And you can't beat the location.

We shared the room with two of Jarrod's friends and had a view of skyscrapers and a little of the Sound. That's a submarine on the left.


The first meal we had was at Mae Phim Thai just down the street from the hotel, and damn, did it hit the spot. I had pad se-ew. The soda can-shaped glass made me smile, too.



Before setting off I'd Googled pretty extensively and found several places for cool kids like us, including a goth club only two or three blocks away called Noc Noc. The first night we found out there was a burlesque show on, which was one of the things I'd really wanted to see because of this port city's long history of entertaining sailors. The place was nice and we drank way too many house specialty cocktails that were $10+ apiece. Jarrod actually blew a pretty good chunk of his money on the Sinner Saint tickets and on things like habanero-infused tequila concoctions with muddled lime and salt rims, but it was totally worth it.






We weren't allowed to take pictures of the show itself and their website says that, if they find the show tagged in photos on Facebook, they'll murder your face. It's a shame, because while most of the girls were wire-thin and not especially beautiful, the show itself was really well put-together. It had a plot, and was told entirely from the perspective of a chair (/scantily-clad narrator).

The chair was old and broken and unwanted, but then one of the ladies who worked for the show picked it up on the side of the road, repaired it, slapped a fresh coat of paint on it and gave it a new life. Most of the acts revolved around it somehow, and at one point it was even dressed up as a unicorn, with all kinds of highly suggestive things being done with its horn and tail. There was even a brilliant rendition of "Mein Herr" from the Liza Minnelli classic Cabaret called "Mein Chair".

Afterward we went to Chop Suey, a kitschy Chinese-themed college alt-rock/punk club where a crappy garage band was playing with Gummo on in the background. There was supposed to have been another band there that I wanted to see, but they'd cancelled. It was late and there was only a $5 cover, though, so fair enough.




The next morning I took a leisurely stroll down to the quaint, picturesque waterfront after the boys scampered off to play. The views of the city were quite nice and there was a large Celebrity cruise ship docked.

I hit up the Seattle Antiques Market, which might be the largest in the city. It's not that great for little treasures or jewelry or anything, but if you're in the market for furniture or paper ephemera such as old postcards, maps, sci fi and fantasty magazines or 1950's Playboy back issues, you should check it out.







Late that afternoon Jarrod and I made it to happy hour at Boom Noodle, which I'd also been really excited about before leaving. It's hip, friendly, delicious and seems to have quite a few gay regulars. We sat on a little raised section of floor behind the bar, and part of it was lit from underneath.


They have a great selection of vegetarian and gluten-free options. I had miso rice cakes (which are a set of vegetarian maki), salt and pepper tofu (which was more impressive than it sounds thanks to the spiced seasoning) and edamame puree with cucumbers and thick sweet potato chips for dipping. I had a lemon ginger martini, too, and it was all cheaper during happy hour. We shared a petite but delicious key lime cheesecake for dessert, and I also tried their house-made pear-apple-ginger-vanilla drink, which was great but very foamy on top. Seattle has a lot of gourmet juice drink blends like this. I felt like a queen; it was all absolutely delicious.




Across the street from Boom Noodle is an amazing hipstery circus-themed bar called Unicorn with a sister bar / pinball arcade below it called Narwhal. We only stopped in briefly that night because I'd really wanted to see it, but ended up going back later. We had taken a taxi out to Boom Noodle and sort of bummed along all the cute shops on the way back, though walking there or to Chop Suey, for that matter, is a little tiring when you think they had looked a lot closer to the city centre on Google.

The next morning Jarrod and one of his friends decided they needed a fabulous eggs Benedict breakfast, and I went back to a very new (at the time) gluten-free bakery I had found right when I stepped off the elevator at the sea level of Pike Place to pick something up to take to the restaurant. You can read a little bit more about Coffee & here.




Very affordable gluten-free mini baguette, cranberry orange scone and madeleine (which seems to be their specialty).


We waited quite a while to get into Cafe Bacco and it is a bit pricey, but damn, the dungeness crab (and smoked salmon) Benedict looked way worth it:



After wandering around PAX all day, I felt reasonably satisfied about exposed myself to a massive pop culture phenom outside my comfort zone, having spotted a few Black Milk pieces, seen some really impressive cosplays and loaded up on random free LoL, MTG and even Metal Gear swag. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of it. :(

This was our last night at the Red Lion and Jarrod's friends were going home while we'd decided to extend our trip, so we went back to Unicorn so I could drink Unicorn Jizz (the slightly overpriced but lovely house specialty) and so the boys could play vintage vidya games. After that we hit the Elysian Brewing Company where I had a very strong, sophisticated gin cocktail, maybe one or two other bars, I don't remember, and then we went back to Noc Noc to dance and keep drinking because Jarrod's ridiculous amazing full-blown 80's goth cousin was also in town and we wanted to hang out with him.




I don't even know where I am in the Noc Noc cell phone picture.. I was so drunk I disappeared. And fell down. That I remember. 80's night is always glorious.

The hotel we moved to the next day was the Marriott Towneplace Suites in Kent, a suburb of Seattle. Interestingly, if Rainier ever blows on the same scale Mt. St. Helens did, that entire area will be razed :D 

Jarrod's mom gets an awesome discount as a Marriott employee, and I can't remember how much we ended up paying, but I think it was only 40 bucks a night or something. The place was adorable and made for extended stay, with very comfortable little rooms that are like houses. The staff was super nice and friendly and the place even has a completely free shuttle for anyone staying there that will take you wherever you want in the area. Not even joking. It mainly goes to and from SeaTac, but that's only its first priority. We used it to get to and from the Link stop at the airport, just calling up the hotel whenever we wanted to be picked up and catching it on the hour whenever we wanted to leave.


All around, it is easily the best hotel (/motel/hostel/whatever) I've ever stayed at. I honestly wish my apartment in Seoul was that room, even if it was only half of it. Oh, and did I mention that this place also has the best (free) continental breakfast I've ever come across?


(first morning)

(last morning)

We were pretty hungover and tired from moving all our stuff, so we just chilled in the super comfy hotel room that night, taking a nap, watching Iron Man 2 and walking down the street in the refreshingly cool Washington night air to Taco Time, a surprisingly nice and comparatively healthy fast food chain (with a touch-screen soda machine with about 30 different flavour options from the future), for dinner. 

The following morning, it was time to head back into the city to do the obligatory Pike Place Market and waterfront thing. I would love to do my daily shopping there, it's constantly abuzz and most everything is made fresh, even cheese. Before we got there, though, we accidentally took the monorail that only goes to and from the Space Needle because I fucked up and confused it with Link. So we did actually go, but it was too expensive to go up to the observation deck, so we just craned our necks for a few minutes and went back.



One of the other things I'd planned on was a trip to the aquarium, because I fucking love aquariums and assumed Seattle's would be one of the best I'd seen. Walking down the waterfront we ran into the comedian Brian Posehn, who was really cool and nice and let us bug him for a picture.

The aquarium actually wasn't as nice as I was expecting it to be. Jarrod really wanted to see sharks and they didn't have any, except for the small ones native to the Sound, which you could see in the glass dome they have situated about 40 feet below its surface. The dome is largely concrete supports, though, and the room is quite crowded. The density of flora and fauna immediately adjacent to the major port city is really impressive, though. Also, I look like fuck in these pics.





The otters were probably the best part; the outside exhibits were all really nice. I was glad they made up for the lack of sharks for Jarrod. I also got my face painted by a high school girl, and I was the only one around who both did so and was above the age of 7. The money was going to some kind of good cause for education or charity, so whatever. I requested an octopus and she made it enormous.



We'd decided to get the aquarium ticket package that included a boat tour around the Sound, because that bit only cost $25 when it normally costs $40, or some such thing. In retrospect we probably should have gotten the cheap ferry over to Bainbridge island instead, but whatever. It was still very fun, and quite informative.. 



Mt. Rainier's all like, "Soon, motherfuckers".



..For example, we learned that the pier juts out at strange zig-zagging angles in order to maximise its surface area, as the Sound has a very sudden and incredibly deep dropoff point very close to shore. Its average depth is over 200 feet, and its maximum 930! Also, at the historic Edgewater hotel, you used to be able to fish out your window. This was a little problematic because large fish would smack into the glass below you and it was obviously a bit of a safety hazard, but hey, the Beatles did it:


After the cruise, I had absolutely amazing delicious green curry (which I recently learned has a bit of shrimp in it, goddamnit) at Jasmine Thai in the Market.


The next day, determined to do it all and then some, I dragged Jarrod to Chinatown. We tried to visit a couple of Buddhist temples but they were closed, which happens to me a little too often for something that specific.

Even the lamp posts were all deco'd out.

There are a number of trendy boutiques and like things in this neighbourhood, and we stopped at one I'd found online called Momo. I looked at shiny and textilesy things for a really long time, but unfortunately couldn't really afford many of them. The shop owners were wonderfully nice and helpful, though, and told us a lot about the area, including where to find the historic alleyways your average scarcely-informed tourist would miss and about the oldest Japanese restaurant in Seattle, Maneki. Jarrod loves sushi and I was pretty disappointed when we couldn't get him some genuine stuff, but he didn't mind too much.


We stopped in a traditional-style tea shop and the wonderfully friendly Taiwanese lady there insisted we sit down and sample her recently-imported wares, namely a light, complex floral variety of oolong fresh from a mountaintop in Taiwan. She steeped it about 5 times, the flavour deepening with each round. I don't know how she sips her tea while it's literally almost boiling, but it is quite nice. I ended up buying a small packet of it along with miniature rose buds. We talked about the uses and benefits of rose hips before I left. She told me to come back, and that she'd order in anything I requested.



We stopped into a huge Japanese book, music, stationary and gift store chain called Kinokuniya, which was also connected to a huge Asian (but mostly Japanese supermarket), a very cute bakery, a model and anime/video game collectible shop and Pink Gorilla, which carries games for just about every console ever.  

OPPAN GUNDAM STYLE



The historic alleys I mentioned are Maynard and Canton, the latter of which houses a strange little hole-in-the-wall curio and antique shop called Sun May. It may or may not be the shop from the episode of Dexter's Lab where Dexter and Dee Dee have to quest for the old Chinese mystic so he can show them how to remove a Chinese finger trap.




After all this wandering I was initially disappointed when we couldn't find another Thai restaurant that was open (they have a habit of closing during the lull between lunch and dinner), but we ended up eating at a super cheap and freaking delicious little Taiwanese place. If I remember correctly, these were only about $7 a plate:


On our last day before we reluctantly flew back to the miserable, sweaty armpit of a city that is Phoenix, I decided we had to go back to Pike Place one more time, have coffee (which I hadn't done yet), walk the waterfront again and ride the Great Wheel, even though I was almost too broke to get the tickets and Jarrod had literally run out of money a while before. It was totally worth it.


 Decaf iced white chocolate mocha, nom.









Seattle's such a lovely, laid-back city, I'll be sure to visit it again one day. We were so sad to go, but at least Mt. St. Helens surprised us on the way out: