Seattle 2013. My first extended trip without my better half. What happened? We were in a huge fight and…Not really. I had a work conference. I’ve been travelling more for work related reasons lately and that trend looks to continue increasing.
The COPRI Ports 2013 Conference was located in Seattle this year. It only happens once every three years, and the next one will be located in New Orleans. So no fun work related travel courtesy of the Ports Conference until 2019. But work agreed to send me and my coworker/supervisor to this conference, and I was in.
The conference itself was fine. It was kind of surprising in that some of the things I thought would be interesting were not…and some of the things I was least interested in ended up being the best topics.
Other than the conference, I tried to experience as much of Seattle as possible, but it was still very different than my ordinary vacation. There were conference things during most days and semi-work related stuff at night. Still here is my initial take on Seattle:
We flew Delta from Baton Rouge to Seattle via Atlanta in both directions. I stayed an additional day after the conference to just explore Seattle. Work only pays for economy class on domestic flights (which is fair), but my co-worker has an ungodly amount of Delta Skymiles and graciously sprung to upgrade both of us to first class.
The flights in both directions were pretty standard for domestic first class…You get fed decent food, free booze, and I think you get some additional in flight entertainment options. Nothing too extraordinary, but far better than sitting in the back of the plane.
The Grand Hyatt Seattle
The conference hotel was the Sheraton, but I had Hyatt Diamond status that I wanted to put to use. I was able to get about half off of the generally available rate with a best rate guarantee, bringing the costs in line with the group rate at the Sheraton.
In general, I liked the GH Seattle. I applied suite upgrade certificates to both mine and my coworker’s reservations, so we were in suites. Though, the hotel is supposed to be pretty good about upgrading diamond members to suites regardless of whether an upgrade instrument was used. I stayed there once since this trip and was upgraded to a suite on a regular reservation.
Our rooms had great views. Each suite had a wet bar and a living area with a half bath on one side and the bedroom bathroom on the other side (separated by a door that could be closed). I probably preferred it to the suite I received at the Park Hyatt Chicago a couple years ago.
The lounge had snacks and drinks available all day. The breakfast service was nothing to get too excited about: fruit, pastries, smoked salmon, and deli meat. The evening service had deli meat and usually one hot option (though one night it was sushi – a welcome treat). Drinks are paid and must be served to you according to state law, but they were reasonably priced and very generous pours – especially compared to the hotel bar downstairs in the Ruth’s Chris.
Locationwise, I though the hotel was in a great spot. The light rail to the airport is a 2 block walk away. The Pike’s Place market is a quick walk away, and you could get to most other places with a reasonable walk.
Someday I’d like to try the Olive8 Hyatt right next to the Grand Hyatt, but it would have to be at a lesser price.
I didn’t really get to eat too much of the stuff I’d like to try on this trip with the conference and other things. Though, that’s not to say that I didn’t get to eat good food.
The Hyatt has a Chris’s in it; we ate there twice. Some colleagues also took us to Morton’s one night, which was very good as well. The Hyatt has a sushi train styled restaurant on the first floor as well. We ate their twice and enjoyed it both times, but it was nothing spectacular by any means.
I did walk one day to Salumi, which is Mario Batalli’s dad’s restaurant. They are open from 11:00 until they sell out (or 3:30) Tuesday through Friday. There is apparently a line out the door all day. I got a sandwich and salami plate; both were excellent.
I did a lot of walking on this trip. Basically, every time I had free time during the day, I was out exploring. Seattle is a good walking city, and the temperature was very pleasant (although overcast most days – I did not see Mt. Ranier once in the 6 days I was in Seattle).
I spent one afternoon walking around the Washington campus and University district. The campus was beautiful, and the “U-District” had tons of little places to stop and eat.
I also ventured to the Seattle Center/Space Needle, which was worth the walk. On the way back, I walked down the waterfront and through the Olympic Sculpture Park. That looked like a great place to just hang out and relax.
Naturally, I made my way through the Pike’s Place market…nothing too exciting but a place you should definitely pass through if in Seattle.
Just NorthWestish of Pike’s Place is the Lost River Winery tasting room. I stopped there more than once. For $5, you get to taste 6 or so wines, and they’ll waive that fee if you buy a bottle (most of which were around $20). You could also purchase wine by the glass/flight to hang out and drink. Definitely a good stop if you like wine.
Also nearby is “The Tasting Room.” Not the most original name, but it is an accurate description…somewhat. It is really more of a bar, but they do have lots of wine you can taste for a reasonable fee – but it is not waived with purchase. When I was there, a local had stopped in with his Irish Wolfhound, which should tell you that it’s not some snooty wine bar.
The main tasting area for Washington wineries is Woodinville. Woodinville is just a quick 30-45 minute drive from Seattle. Once there, lots of tasting rooms are within walking distance of one another. But these are just tasting rooms…the wine is generally made elsewhere, and the grapes are definitely grown elsewhere (on the other side of the cascade mountain range).
I spent an afternoon in Woodinville and tasted at three wineries and did a tour. I tried some wines at DeLille Cellars, Januik, and Mark Ryan Winery. I enjoyed all three, and I chatted with some locals at one and they seemed to think I made some great selections – so that was good to hear.
I did a tour at Chateau Ste Michelle. They are a big producer; you probably have seen their wine in the grocery store. I’ve generally enjoyed their wine (especially their bottles around $20 – Cold Creek Vineyard, etc…they are a pretty good value) and thought it would be worth checking out. The tour – while not bad – was definitely nothing to get too excited about if you are familiar with winemaking/wineries in general. I was also hoping to get try some of their more boutique wines, but I had no such luck. The tasting room was pouring seemingly pretty standard fare.
I passed through Ballard on my way back to the hotel from Woodinville (I had rented a car for the day). Ballard is another neat district with plenty of shopping and restaurants. It also houses the locks that allow boats to go between Lake Washington and Puget Sound/the Pacific Ocean.
On the way to Woodinville, I took a detour to Snoqualmie Falls (it’s really not directly on the way to Woodinville at all). Apparently it was not flowing to hard, though I only knew that because I was told so. Some of the paths that got you closer to the waterfall were also closed for renovations, which was disappointing. Still, it was a neat stop overall.
Another day I had walked around Bellevue District. This seemed to be the more hipster/weird area of Seattle (though there was plenty of weird stuff all over Seattle).
One final stop I can think of at the moment was Kerry Park. I caught the buses to Kerry Park one night to take some pictures of the Seattle Skyline at night. It definitely had a great view, and there were plenty of other people also checking it out.
One thing I had planned on doing on my free day was catching a public ferry to one of the nearby island…but it was raining, so I passed. There are plenty of day trips and even several day trips in the Seattle area (San Juan Islands, Victoria, etc.).
Seattle is a cool place. The weather and scenery were generally beautiful when I was there. There did not appear to be a ton of very high-end dining spots, but I saw countless more casual joints that I would love to try.
Travelling without Alyce was different, and having work obligations was different as well. But, I still was able to see a good bit of Seattle. I think I got a pretty good feel for the area, and I’m sure I’ll be back with Alyce at some point.