Archive for the ‘tourist’ Category

PAX 2008: Saturday


Gaming Squad, courtesy of Sparky

Lessons Learned at PAX 2008:

1. The lines are long. Really long. (Unless you’re trying to use the women’s restroom). Know what you want to do ahead of time, and don’t try to get into Gabe and Tycho’s Make-A-Strip Panel 10 minutes before it’s scheduled to start.
2. The Console Freeplay rooms aren’t nearly as cool as the PC Freeplay rooms (pictured above) and take about twice as long to get into.
3. Don’t skip the Omeganaut competition, because you might get to see Gabe, Tycho, Khoo and Kara from Penny Arcade playing Journey songs on Rock Band.
4. Make sure to get bacon salt, among all the other swag.
5. I really suck at video games, unlike certain other bloggers.
6. If you’re riding the bus home, get on at 3rd and Virginia, before all the Bumbershoot people flood in!
7. The sumo beanbag mats are the best idea anyone’s ever come up with for PAX.

PAX 2008: Friday


Jonathan Coulton, courtesy of Takomabibelot

My first night at PAX was full of surprises, not the least of which was getting to meet the brilliant Jonathan Coulton while having dinner at Six Arms. I made an idiot of myself, of course, but that didn’t negate the fact that I actually got to shake hands with the man responsible for the Portal theme song that never fails to get stuck in my head. Of course, his brilliant “Code Monkey” song is great, too (#).

Beyond that, and the shock at finding a 30,000 person convention where there was no line at the women’s restroom, I was also surprised by Ken Levine’s keynote speech. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but Levine started by describing his descent into comics (a “geeky gateway drug”) during his childhood, and subsequent involvement in D&D.

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PAX 2008


Wil Wheaton was at PAX, courtesy of Jake of 8bitjoystick.com

So, PAX 2008 is already upon us. I’m getting texts from friends in line, who are writing haikus and getting early concert wristbands down at the Convention Center.

I’ve never been to PAX before, but I like Penny Arcade and enjoy a good video game, and scads of my friends are going, so I thought I’d join them this year, particularly after finding out Wil Wheaton was coming again. I loved Stand By Me, what can I say?

Anyway, because I’ve never been before, and I’m a little freaked out by the thought of doing PAX for the whole geekend, I was hoping you Metblogs readers could help a girl out with some tips and tricks of your own for enjoying myself. I’ll be sure to report back on how things go!

Pollwatch: Inn at the Market

Another week, another poll–this time, Seattle’s Inn at the Market is the only Seattle hotel to make it on any of Travel + Leisure’s world’s best lists. It made it to #4 on the “Best Under $250/night” list and #44 on the best in the Continental US and Canada list [T+L].

Inn at the Market is located, clearly, in the market, with a rooftop deck and room service from Campagne. They’ve been in the Travel + Leisure lists a handful of times before, and it certainly looks pretty, although I’ve never stayed there. (Or in any other hotels in Seattle, for that matter…) It got 85.60 points out of a possible 100, although it’s a little unclear exactly what people were voting on.

The San Juan Islands also made it on the list, at #4 in the best islands in the Continental US and Canada, losing to Nova Scotia, BC, and Maine. We didn’t make it on to any list at all as a city, though. Maybe next year, Seattle, we’ll finally beat Vancouver, which was #7 on the US and Canada cities list.

Savor Seattle with a Food Tour

Serious PieSo what do you do when you’re new in town, have a background in the food industry, and are passionate about extraordinary dining experiences? You make it a point to try as many local restaurants as you can so that eventually, you can share those restaurants with as many people as possible.

That’s exactly what Angela Shen did when she moved to Seattle. In July 2007, she started Savor Seattle Food Tours with the Pike Place Market tour. Just a few weeks ago, she opened a new tour – the Downtown Seattle tour. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a Downtown Seattle Mini-Tour just the other day and I have to say that those two hours were among the happiest my taste buds have spent recently.

Full details after the jump, but for now, I’ll tease you with a shot of the delicious pizza our group shared at Serious Pie.
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Breaking Dawn Releases Near Forks


Lines for Breaking Dawn at Issaquah Barnes and Noble, courtesy of Jenny Griffee

Okay, so Forks is a pretty long drive (and ferry ride) from Seattle, but the young adult book series by Stephenie Meyer, including Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, and now Breaking Dawn is still a pretty big deal in Seattle.

Like a literary version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or a less mature version of the Anita Blake novels, the Twilight series throw together Bella Swan, a rather ordinary, clumsy teenager, and Edward Cullen, a thrillingly gorgeous “teenage” vampire. Toss in Bella’s friend Jacob, a member of the Quileute Tribe, who might just have hidden feelings for Bella, and you’ve got a full-fledged literary phenomena, set in the Pacific Northwest.

Both the U-Village Barnes and Noble and the University Bookstore were holding release parties tonight for the final installment in the Twilight series. At U-Village, hordes of pre-teen girls wearing “Team Edward” or “Team Jacob” shirts were drawing their favorite characters, while older fans came bedecked in velvet cloaks, fishnets and combat boots. U-Village hired a band to play at a “prom,” which fits the demographic fairly well. At the University Bookstore, lines were forming to pick up the books, while similarly styled teens played Twilight trivia and got to take a ‘tour’ of the book’s landmarks.

Which brings us back to Forks. Meyer’s book allows vampires to roam in the daylight, as long as it is overcast, so Meyer had to choose somewhere with lots of cloudy, rainy days. According to her website, Forks was smack in the middle of the rainiest area of the country, so Forks it was. The small town on the Olympic Peninsula has slowly been catching up to the teen tourism boom that has accompanied the books- in fact, the city has even launched a “Twilight Points of Interest” page on their site, and former Olympic National Park rangers are now loading up vans for tours, according to the Seattle Times.

In fact, the books were interesting enough, that on my own whirlwind tour of the Peninsula, I made sure to stop and eat in Forks earlier this summer. Having seen how many of my friends (and their kids) were into the books, I expected Forks to have latched onto the vampiric books, and was prepared to see something like Salem, Massachusetts, which has someone selling witch paraphernalia on nearly every corner. Forks, though, was shockingly free of vampire gear; and in fact, seemed not to have noticed that the books even existed. Breaking Dawn may change that, and I suspect that the upcoming Twilight movie (December 12 release date, according to the video running at Barnes and Noble) will spike the tourism traffic in Forks significantly. If nothing else, at least the eateries now have Bella Burgers and Bellasagna. I look forward to visiting Forks again sometime in the future, and hope next time I’ll get something a little more vampiric for my time!

Exploring Seattle: Sky City Restaurant


Seattle Space Needle Restaurant, courtesy of Bonacheladas

I know, I know. No Seattleite worth their salt ever goes to the Space Needle. It’s $16 for an adult one-way ticket on the elevators to the observation deck. And it’s crowded. With tourists. Tons of tourists. I was warned about it almost as soon as I arrived in Seattle- “too expensive,” “the food is terrible,” “only for tourists,” “don’t waste your money.”

But this week, my parents were visiting, and they wanted to go to the top of the Space Needle. Of course, at $16 a pop just to ride the elevator, I thought it might be a better deal to check out Sky City Restaurant, which rotates 360 degrees every 47 minutes.

In reality, despite the minimum $35 charge per person for dinner (meaning that you can’t get away with ordering a $10 salad), it was probably the highlight of their visit. The food was really good- it wasn’t amazing, but it was well prepared, artfully arranged, and tasty. Many of the meat dishes are local to Washington, and a good deal of the rest of the food is from the Pacific Northwest, which I certainly wasn’t expecting. And really, if you’re technically paying $16 just for the view anyway, the food is somewhat reasonably priced. It was much higher quality than I’d expected as well.

Towards the end of our meal, the people at the table next to us ordered the Lunar Orbiter dessert, a sundae that sits atop a dish full of dry ice made to smoke when waiters pour a bit of water on it as it’s served. Even though we didn’t get one ourselves (those meals are pretty big, which I don’t expect when it comes with a high price tag), my dad loved the entertainment provided by the dessert. And the views were phenomenal, even though we had been to the viewing deck at the top of the Columbia Tower- the tallest building in Seattle- earlier in the day.

The observation deck, of course, was a totally different story- completely packed, and super touristy. Some of the interactive exhibits on the observation deck were nice, but the sheer amount of people around didn’t make me want to stick around any longer than necessary.

So, I guess my semi-Seattleite take on the Space Needle is this- paying $16 to get to a crowded observation deck is not worth it. But paying $35 a plate for an hour long meal with beautiful views of the city? Definitely worth considering, particularly if you’ve got friends or family in town that you want to show off Seattle to.

More guests and an etiquette question.

More guests arrived on Saturday. It was confusing to say the least, as I thought they were only coming Monday and Tuesday and then suddenly, on Friday they called to say, oh no, it was Saturday-Tuesday, maybe even Wednesday but we’re not sure. This being my 3rd week of hosting people, here’s what we did. You’ll notice how much I slacked, or really how much I enjoyed the more independent guests this time around:

Saturday: They arrived late. I was already sleeping through The Grudge. We talked. I showed them how to turn on the broken faucet. I fell asleep.

Sunday: I took them to Discovery Park. We picked blackberries on the way, but there aren’t many yet so don’t get your BPA free water bottles out just yet. I say in 2 weeks time you’ll be in pure jam-making bliss.

Then it was off to the Taco Truck for the rice bowl. It’s my new favorite thing at Rancho Bravo because it’s just as filling as the Rancho Burrito, but I get a fork and I don’t have to deal with any wrap falling apart business.

They left for a wedding, and I took the boyfriend to Portage. We were going to try How To Cook A Wolf, but after hearing by numerous people how shitty and snooty the staff is there I decided that even though the food is probably great, we wanted to go somewhere comfortable and not high and mighty just because they’re the hot new thing in town.  That said, Portage was the perfect place. It was quiet and the meals were light and the staff was oh so kind without having to fake it. But please do go for desert. The flour-less chocolate cake is more like fudge and it’s just the right amount for sharing. Be prepared to spend $100 for two. Or about $20 if you just do desert. I suggest the latter, although there wasn’t really anything wrong with dinner. I just didn’t think it was worth the money.  

Monday: I went to work and suggested loads of places. They ended up at Agua Verde and said it was wonderful. Especially the catfish tacos.

Tuesday: I left work early and we all headed to Georgetown for some Frito Pie at Smartypants. I’ve had this dish plenty of times before, but sitting outside with the planes overhead and the chill in air, this warm beany, fritoy goodness definitely hit the spot. Even when I asked for it without jalepenos, there was still a kick to it that I actually thought added something. After a few beers, we hit up Fantagraphics where I found out that Daniel Clowes will be making an appearance August 29! With more time to spare, we played Euchre at All City Coffee and then we kissed good-bye, patted the cab’s trunk and jetted home to start preparing for our much needed camping trip (t-minus one day)!

So, here’s the etiquette question. Do you treat your host to a meal or a gift card or something, to show your gratitude for everything they’ve done to make your trip a little easier, and freer? Usually, that’s how I roll. If I’m taking up someone’s space, eating their food and having them show me around, I figure the least I could do is take them out for a dinner or give them some flowers or something. And while, these guests did give us chocolates and flowers, they were from the wedding that they came here for. Thus, these tokens of appreciation, seemed more like hand me downs, rather than appreciations.

I want it to be known that I’m not complaining. I don’t care either way, as it was still very nice to see my friends again and I wasn’t expecting a free meal out of them (and the chocolates will be used for our smores this weekend). But I was just wondering what you guys think or do. Was this rude of my guests or was it more of an understanding that, “hey, whenever you’re in NYC come crash at our place” kinda thing? Or am I overthinking it altogether?

Playing hostess in Seattle.

I’m not particularly a good hostess. I like my space. I don’t like to be around people all the time. And I like to sleep or go at my own pace without someone saying, “Now what?”. That said, here’s what I did when a friend I’ve had for 15 years came to Seattle for the first time for a visit.

Wednesday:

-Plane Delayed till 2am. The “weather” was to blame.

Thursday:

-Took lots of pictures at Kerry Park and Parson’s Garden.

-Went back to my apartment because my Atlantan guest wasn’t used to our cool mornings.

-Went to Pike Place Market for more picture taking. She had a yummy crumpet with jam and nutella at the Crumpet Shop, while I “ate lunch” at my all-time favortie smoothie place, Shy Giant.

-Took the ferry to Bainbridge Island. Walked around. She got fudge. I petted the yarn at Churchmouse Yarns and Teas.

-Then it was time to introduce my guest to some of my friends. So we all went to Rancho Bravo, had some drinks and played Rock Band until the wee hours of the morn.

Friday:

-I slept at Alki Beach, while she took pictures of kids being buried in sand.

-Then it was time to show her my old place and the bums that come along with it. Thus, to Capitol Hill we went. We split a small CrazyCherry concoction, where I now always ask them to put the toppings on the bottom as it is way more eatable this way, and then we threw the frisbee around at Volunteer Park. Actually, I take that back. The boyfriend, a friend and I threw the frisbee around. I guess in Atlanta they don’t play frisbee. Luckily my friend – a boy – was more than happy to teach my guest how to be a true Seattleite. Cue in a romantic comedy montage and suddenly a vacation couple is born.

-She’s never had Ethopian food before, so the boyfriend and I prayed for fast service at Queen Sheba, and miraculously our wishes were granted. I opted not to get too drunk on Tej because I knew I still had the night to entertain.

-With that said, I needed caffeine. Fast! We took her to Vivace so she can see the pretty picture in the cup. She took a picture and I drank it fast. Then said good-bye because they closed their doors on Sunday and will become yet another store that sits under a condo (am I the only one who really fucking hates this new trend). Rumor has it, the new Vivace will reopen near the new Dilletante.

-We went to Hot House. Ahhhhhh, I can sleep. I can read. I can be in a whisper zone. We both needed some relaxing and this was the place. We spent a good 3 hours sweating our tits off in the jacuzzi, in the steam room and in the sauna.

-THEN, we had drinks at Bleu. I used to actually like this place, but the more I come here the more I realize it just sucks. The service that is. The guy was more like friends with everyone than an actual server. He berated the boyfriend for ordering something non-alcoholic (note to all servers, DO NOT DO THIS, you will get a shit tip from me if you do) and when we asked for the bill and saw that he was having a cigarette and then went inside and delivered some food and then went back outside for another cigarette and then bumped into a friend and talked to him for 5 minutes we just left without ever getting the bill. If I was in Spain, this would be considered normal. But we’re no where near Spain, and this douche got what he deserved.

Okay, where was I? Oh right, SATURDAY:

-We started the morning a little late and went directly to the ID for the Chinese Festival (brought to you by the one brand I always think of when I see anything Chinese, McDonalds).

-We meandered toward Occidental Park and bumped the Fire Festival which was actually pretty cool. It was a little kid’s wet dream, what with old fire trucks and police cars and fire drills.

-And off to Ballard we go. We had dinner at Lunchbox Laboratory, where I finally got to try the Dork. I was actually a little underwhelmed, but the chocolate cherry milkshake saved the experience so all is forgotten and I’ll happily go back to eating the meat I’m used to over here.

-It happened to be Art Walk in Ballard so we checked out some “art” and then bought some clothes at Twenty20.

-Then, it was drinks and skeeball at Kings.

Sunday:

-Made blueberry/chocolate/walnut waffles and an egg scramble for 5 to prepare for our day trip to Vancouver!

-Immediately got one speeding ticket. We made the officer laugh so he gave us a little bit of a break. Note to self. Make them laugh.  

-Stopped in Richmond for Dim Sum.

-Walked the shit out of Stanley Park. Learned a little about Totem Poles. Walked around some more.

-Slept in the car on the way back.

Monday:

-Yay! Hiking! We went to Denny Creek Trail and Franklin Falls. What a great short, easy hike. At the Denny Creek Trail, after an hour or so of a steady incline (500 ft?), at the end you are greeted by large flat rocks and kids sliding along them into the river. I passed out on the rocks while the friends and guest played. After I properly drooled everywhere, we did the even shorter hike to Franklin Falls, where once again the treat was at the end. A beautiful fall that splashes in your face and is just so refreshing, we were all happy to have gotten out of the city for the day.

-Then we took the guest to Gas Works so she could take pictures of kites, seaplanes and defunct gas plant site.

-And as a proper goodbye, we tried to go to Paseo but of course they are closed on Mondays. So we did the second best thing and had great beer and eats at Brouwer’s. My seitan BBQ sandwich wasn’t quite as meaty as other seitan I’ve had, but still good nonetheless. And I highly recommend the Apple Wit (I forget the name of the actual beer, but it’s the only Apple Wit on the menu). If you like Hoegardden (which I just learned is pronouced Who Garden and not Hoe garden, like I’ve been saying for years) then you’ll like this citrusy beer with an apple infused twist.

Tuesday:

-She left. And I went to a place I really wanted to take her, but just didn’t have the time: the Arboretum.

Anyone else have guests this summer? Where are you going? How are you coping? Do you feel totally run down when they leave, or am I just getting old at the ripe age of 29?

Seattle From a Visitor’s Perspective

About 10 days ago, two dear friends came to visit for the weekend. Both avid photographers, they ended up with well over 300 shots apiece of our fair city. I thought it would be interesting to share some of the photos they took to give you a perspective on what visitors to Seattle (at least two of them) find interesting. Most of the photos are after the jump, but here’s one of two bald eagles perched on an anchored ship.

Bald Eagles

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