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July 21, 2017

To Seattle and Beyond!

by Steve Winogradsky

After leaving Portland, we headed north to Seattle. We had been there a couple of times before, but only for short periods. We hoped to be able to spend more time and see more this trip.

One of the things about Seattle is that there is one main freeway that runs through the city, which means that everyone has to use it. Even though we passed through about 1 PM, you would have sworn it was rush hour.

Rushing to lunch?
We settled into our hotel in Shoreline at the northern end of Seattle and had dinner. The next day we went to the Seattle Center, home of the Space Needle, Museum of Pop Culture (MOPOP), which was formerly the Experience Music Project, and Chihuly Garden and Glass.

Dale Chihuly is a world renowned artist who creates incredibly colorful and wild glass sculptures and pieces of art. He has had installations all over the world and this is the largest collection of his works.


Looks like a plant but is made of glass.


Someone is having a bad hair day.

The Seattle Center is a large park-like facility that has many features in addition to the ones listed above, and serves as the city's cultural center. On the day we were there, it hosted a Polish Festival, the Sikh Youth Association's 4th Annual Turban Day, giving away free turbans, and a beer festival.

After cruising the park, we took the monorail downtown, avoiding the traffic and parking issues, and went to Pike Place, the marketplace for fresh fruits and vegetables, fish and meats of various kinds, and arts and crafts designed and made by local artists. Pike Place is right on Puget Sound and near the football and baseball stadiums for the Seattle teams. One of the sights you can see from many parts of Seattle and the surrounding areas is the peak of Mt. Rainier. Here is a picture taken from the edge of the Sound, with the frame of a stadium in the foreground.


Across the street from Pike Place is the original Starbucks, with lines of people waiting to get in and others having their pictures taken outside.

The next day we went to Discovery Park, the city's largest park with miles of walking trails and access to the beaches on Puget Sound. It's a steep climb down to the beach on trails and lots of wooden steps and, as you might expect, a steep climb back up. Rosemary's Fitbit gave her credit for 31 staircases, but I gave her more credit just for getting up and down the steep stairs.

When we were there, it was low tide, so a large portion of the beach was exposed, as were the shells for some sea life. And still more great views of Mt. Rainier looming in the distance.


This could have been someone's dinner. Or maybe it was!


We went to Mercer Island the next day and visited a couple of the parks there. All very beautiful and peaceful. Walking along the shore of Lake Washington, there were signs about the quality of the fish in the lake and how often they could be eaten. Yikes!


Who said fish is good for you?
Next: off to San Juan Island and a visit with good friends and our former cats!

 

July 14, 2017

Portland!

by Rosemary West

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When we tell people that traffic is as bad in Portland as in L.A., they are surprised -- unless they've been to Portland.

The river, the bridges, one-way streets, bike lanes, lack of parking, and overall congestion make it a difficult place to drive, especially for out-of-towners who wonder why the streets aren't simply north-south and east-west, instead of vaguely diagonal: northeast, northwest, southeast, southwest.

Despite all this, we found it easy to get around, thanks to a friendly public transportation system and walkable neighborhoods, including downtown.


"City Reflections" by Patti Warashina looks relaxed as a MAX train zooms by on 6th Ave.


The transit system combines light rail, streetcars, and buses. The routes make sense, and go places people actually want to go. We rented a house in Tigard, and took the bus downtown. We never had to wait more than ten minutes for a ride.

When I describe the transit system as "friendly" I mean it. Imagine someone trying to catch a bus in L.A., still half a block away from the stop as the bus's doors begin to close. The would-be passenger starts to run, waving and calling out, but the bus zooms away, and who knows how long it will be before another one comes along. Compare this to Portland, where on several occasions we saw the same scenario, except that when the bus drivers saw the person running and waving, they re-opened the door so the passenger could board. The drivers were always patient with people who had trouble finding exact change for the ticket, were willing to answer questions and give directions, and in general seemed like kind-hearted people happy to provide a useful service.

Friendliness appears to be a big part of the culture in Portland. Drivers stop for pedestrians, relax and wait their turn at four-way stops, and don't make it hard for others on the freeway to change lanes. Although traffic could be tough, we didn't often hear anyone honk a horn.


The Shemanski Fountain in the South Park area
offers water to both people and dogs.

The city's "Benson Bubblers" provide fresh drinking water throughout the downtown area.

People lining up at the store would stand aside for others rather than jockey for position. A few times when we paused to unfold a map or stare at the GPS app on our phone, a friendly local would stop and offer to help us find what we were looking for. One nice woman recommended the Portland Art Museum; we took her suggestion and had a great time.



Outside the art museum, an interactive exhibit invited visitors to play decorated pianos.

These solar-powered compactors represent a modern approach to the old-fashioned values of cleanliness and thrift.

Many people display these signs outside their homes to indicate that they take the directive to "love thy neighbor" seriously.

Coming from a city where public libraries are constantly cutting back on both hours and staff, I was amazed to learn that the Central Library is open seven days a week. It has several information desks, tall windows, free WiFi, clean restrooms, and - yes - books.



Nearby Forest Park has over 5,000 acres of beautiful woodland. We enjoyed an afternoon hike on a section of the Wildwood Trail.


Flowers were in bloom everywhere.
 

Signs at the Ira Keller Fountain warn that is is not meant for climbing and wading, but it's a tradition for families in swimsuits to cool off here on a hot day.
 

On July 4th, the city put on a huge fireworks display from a barge in the Willamette River. We had dinner with our friend Cheryl and then watched the show from her 19th-floor apartment.
 
Another way to see the city is from the aerial tram. It was built to transport commuters to the Oregon Health & Science University campus, but it has become a tourist attraction. A round-trip ticket costs $4.70, and the trip is about four minutes each way.

On a clear day, you can see Mount Hood and Mount Saint Helen's.