Always sunny in Seattle!

Karen, me, Will, Ian, standing atop the Graduate Seattle Hotel, at The Mountaineering Club.

In the weeks before his visit from Rhode Island, I told Will what weather to expect over here in March: rain every day, temps in the 40s and 50s. This is what happened instead: the first three days it was in the 20s and snowed, and from then on skies were sunny as it slowly warmed up day after day till it was in the 70s under blue skies the day he left. Will still has no experience of a typical Pacific Northwest day.

But all the sun made for some spectacular touristing! Will and I went to Seattle for a weekend, to visit my brother, Ian, and his girlfriend, Karen.

Space Needle rises above the tracks of the monorail.
Kitties agree that they do not want to visit the Space Needle.

The first thing we had to do was visit the Space Needle. Last spring the whole top was encased in plywood, making it bulky and ugly. Ian told me that they were planning upgrades to include a glass floor. I had to see that, and Will was game. It took 45 minutes from the moment we first got in line to purchase a ticket, till the moment we entered an elevator – and this is in March!! Just imagine how crazy this place must be in the summertime. The good news is: On your ticket there is a time for when you must return to get into the elevator line. Just go do more touristing if the wait is going to be long.

More important than the glass floor are the new glass walls. Compare the photo of my friend Mads from our trip up the Needle in 2015, to the one of Will and me this month:

Mads in Seattle, March 2015
Will and me in Seattle, March 2019. Glass walls and glass benches!

So yes, those of you with the jitters just looking at the photos…those are valid feelings. Wow! It’s woozy-making to look out through the glass at a 520-foot drop to concrete below. But get a load of the width of the glass (which I’m sure is not merely glass, but a reinforced material of some kind). You can see the edges to the left of Will in the photo above. Up close it looked a couple inches thick and could hold us up easily. It was designed to withstand storms as much as people.

We looped the upper observation deck and got photos in every direction, even scrutinizing the nearby neighborhoods till we picked out Ian and Karen’s house! We went downstairs to the rotating restaurant, and there we found the glass floors. That is when my stomach really began doing flip flops.

Me on the new glass floors in the Space Needle.
Eeeeeyikes!! Will’s feet and my feet as we look directly below at the base of the tower holding us up.
Someone has a sense of humour: this daddy long legs mural is painted on the roof.
Termination point of the monorail is just outside, after passing through the Museum of Pop Culture.

We rode the monorail to the Pike Place Market and then returned early to meet Ian and Karen and go have dinner and drinks at a bar atop the Graduate Hotel, called The Mountaineering Club. A friend of theirs is the kitchen manager and gave them the heads up that it’s now open. On such a spectacular day, it was a perfect place for even more amazing views without buying a ticket or waiting 45 minutes. We chose the outdoor seating at first, and were provided with blankets to stay warm out there while we watched the sunset. Then we moved inside to eat our meal at themed tables holding old mountaineering equipment. I had the most delicious drink of my life called “We Put Nettles In This,” with Bolivian Brandy, Aloe Vera, Grapefruit Cordial, Suze, Lime, Celery Bitters, and Nettle Fizz.

After returning home, we met an old school friend of mine from Brandeis who recently moved to Seattle. We walked up to Kerry Park to gaze at the spectacular city lights, then we walked back down the hill to share coffee and a pastry and catch up on each other’s lives. It has been 12 years since I saw her last. Wow!

Looking toward the Space Needle from The Mountaineering Club.
The view from the 16th floor of the Graduate Hotel, at the Mountaineering Club.
Waiting for my friend at Caffe Vita, my fave Seattle coffee shop.
Brandeis Anthropology kids
Lamps decorate a restaurant front in Seattle.

The next day Ian took us to the Ballard Locks, which dates from 1917. While we waited for the boats to fill the lock between Puget Sound and Lake Union (and Lake Washington, on the other side of Lake Union), we spotted wildlife. We saw Seattle’s official city bird, the Great Blue Heron. Their most serious predator in the area is Bald Eagles, and the eagles do not like all the noise of the locks, the train, and the people, so they stay away and allow the herons to raise their young.

Kingfisher inside the empty lock.

We got tired of waiting and walked over to the fish ladders. This is an important route for salmon migrations, so the locks are designed to make it easy for fish to climb or descend the 26 feet between the fresh water lakes and salt water sound. There is a educational center that has been closed for a long time and not yet made ready for the public, so we were able to get up close to the glass viewing windows, but as you can see from the photo, we did not see any migrating salmon.

Great Blue Herons in a tree near Ballard Locks.
Seagulls at the locks, making their own racket.
Educational facility at the salmon ladder is not quite ready for the public until the glass is cleaned. The window on the right is opaque with green slime.

While we were viewing the fish ladder, the lock sent a load of boats out and we missed it! This time we stayed put until a group of small boats collected inside the lock and then we watched the water fill it up. When the gate opened and the boats were free to go, we left too.

Standing at the fish ladder site, looking back toward the main building of the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, better known as the Ballard Locks.
Looking toward the train bridge.
We stood with 100 other people, watching the locks operate.

Next Ian took us to Gas Works Park. It is the site of a coal gasification plant that operated in the first half of the 20th century. Contaminated soil and groundwater were cleaned up when the former Seattle Gas Light Company site was made into a park. I absolutely love the look of the abandoned natural gas generator towers, and the other structures remaining. Much of the pump house and boiler house still contain original pumps, compressors, and piping and are open to children or adults who want to climb around or picnic, but the highest structures are fenced off.

Remnants of natural gas generator towers at Gas Works Park.
Will and Ian walk beside the generator towers.
Looking down onto the towers from the kite flying hill.
The view from Gas Works Park is outstanding.

To wrap up our wonderful weekend, Ian took us into the Queen Anne neighborhood to look at expensive houses and see the fabulous views their owners purchased. Lucky for us, the common people can come up and look any time we want, for free.

A gorgeous March day in Seattle.

20 thoughts on “Always sunny in Seattle!

  1. Yeah! I’m so glad you had a great time in Seattle with loved ones. There were times when I’d kill to be there. 😀 And then I’d look into all the places Pearl Jam-related. And look for Tom Robbins. Great to see atypical weather. There’s always time for the typical. 😉

    1. Those dudes might still hang around here, who knows? You reminded me of a time when I was living in Alaska and my best friend was going to school at University of Washington in Seattle. She wrote me a letter and said that she and some friends were downtown when one of their local bands set up a free concert in the street and they stayed to watch. It was just a Seattle band, she said, so I wouldn’t know them, but they are called Pearl Jam. I was all “WHAT?! You saw Pearl Jam while randomly walking in town?!” I was so jealous. She had been living there and didn’t realize that the rest of the world knew who they were too. Gas Works Park is in Singles….if you saw the movie….which you should, because the guys in the band have a funny scene while watching a documentary on bees.

      1. Oh yes. 🙂 I watched it a bunch of times. And I heard Pearl Jam live ten times, the last time last year in Rome and it was glorious. Cool story! 🙂

  2. For forever, I’ve wanted to go up the Space Needle; I think I will pass now. I do like the daddy long legs roof mural, nice frightening touch — what a delightful weekend. As always, Ian never disappoints.

    1. The main viewing deck has a solid floor, which is good because that’s the scariest part. But the main viewing deck now has those glass walls. So yeah, caution to anyone with heights issues – stay close to the center so your belly doesn’t do loop-de-loops!

      I adore Ian, and you are right that he never disappoints. He is warm and friendly and generous to everyone – even strangers – and always makes me feel appreciated.

  3. Well that sounds like a fun trip with typical weather. Wait a few minutes and it changes. I did not do the space needle. Claustrophobic. Forget the glass floors. Had a hard time with them over the Grand Canyon too but I tried. It’s a good way to get to know someone by traveling with them. I think I have a brother in that area somewhere, maybe. ;( You are quite the adventurer. I would love to see the Queen Anne area. Read a novel that was set there. I would love it. Glad you had such a good time.

    1. Wow! Good for you on trying out the glass floor at the Grand Canyon. I have not yet been to that spot in the Grand Canyon, so I haven’t even seen the glass pathway. It seems super scary.

      I love the Queen Anne neighborhood partly because it’s hilly, forcing the streets to wind and drop, and partly because the beautiful homes are old and each one is unlike its neighbor. Old, curious neighborhoods are my favourites. Ian and Karen live in Lower Queen Anne, an area mostly filled with apartments and townhouses, but still filled with character because it is also an old neighborhood, and it’s walking distance to downtown Seattle.

  4. Laughed about the weather, Crystal. The same thing happened with us. Our son and his family came to visit and we took them up to Mt. Ashland where they wanted to ski. It was probably the best weather of the year, or several years. 🙂 Now they are all excited about coming back the same time next year. I warned them…. –Curt

    1. I noticed your photos – sunshine in abundance! In March!! Yeah 1) tell them to go home and report that it rained the whole time, so we can keep our reputation, and 2) warn them that sunshine in March is miracle.

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