A Day At The Fair…

This time last week I was arriving at Heathrow Airport after a 9 day soujourn with Seattle-A and all of her boys.

You see, I’d managed to tack a few flights onto the end of a work trip so after about 7 hours flying (and a rather tight connection dash through Houston Airport en-route) I arrived at Seattle-Tacoma Airport on a warm evening in August to be hailed by a fond Coo-ee! and Seattle-A hug at the luggage belt.

It’d been about 6 months since my last visit so there was loads for us to catch up on over a burrito and a gin and tonic on the way home. There are so many changes happening in both of our lives – she as a second-nation expat and mother of twin boys and me as somewhat of a jetsetter in my new (since last October) job – but the feeling of picking up where we left off last time remained.

It was an unexpectedly busy first few days as a) Grandma-C was enjoying the last few days of her very own Seattle sojourn and b) I was invited to accompany Team-M on a long weekend in Walla Walla in Washington’s wine region under the auspices of celebrating a friend’s 40th birthday. Hmmm more travelling…but made palatable by wine and friends at the end of it. 

Returning from our weekend away, I was left with a few days to hang out at Chez-M, plenty of opportunity for a cuddle top-up with my favourite little dudes and to soak up some Seattle-A time to sustain me until my next visit. 

On my penultimate day, this included a trip to the Evergreen State Fair. 

There was some discussion between Seattle-A and I beforehand as to what format this would take compared with our Aussie experiences – pavilions, rides, shows or lots of livestock to stand around and ‘admire’ outside. As it turned out, it was a bit of everything plus some fair ‘fare’ so here’s a quick scoot around the fairground for your armchair touring pleasure.

There was not one but two ferris wheels…


…and there were rides and games and plenty of vittels…


…although the Snohomish Pie Company (above bottom right) sold only sweet pies much to our disappointment. This turned into an important cultural lesson as the locals in our group laughed at our ‘uniquely Australian’ expectation of a savoury Snohomish slice.

We soon got our own back.

                       

Seattle-A and I were rather curious about this apparently Australian delicacy, a large onion peeled, flowered and floured before being deep-fried. Upon interrogating the purveyor of said goods, we learnt that there was no Down Under connection at all. Nor did we find out who ‘Aussie’ was.

After a quick reconnaissance we were soon tucking in to some local vittels of our own…
                         

The top right photo shows bacon on a stick. Yes that’s right – bacon – on a stick. 

Those enormous deep fried things bottom right are onions rings (as distinct from the onion burst discovered earlier).

To the left is my lunch: a bottle of root beer (seriously I could not get enough of this stuff – anyone who can tell me where I can buy this in the UK will earn my eternal gratitude) and an all-American Russian piroshky. The lady was making these by hand when I approached the van so it was a salmon and cream cheese one for me and a meatier version for Seattle-A – delicious!

Soon it was time for a little more wandering and while we were searching for the petting zoo (the main agenda for our visit), our little group was waylaid, this time by ice-cream. Seattle-A was delighted with her Chocolate-Almond choice and was looking forward to devouring the whole lot…


…but the little dudes, particularly R,  had other ideas.

And I can’t say I blame them – the couple of bites I had were divine!

More meandering followed with the little dudes practicing their new-found walking skills…

…and before long we found ourselves near our destination, these wooden creatures greeting us as we approached the location of said petting zoo.


With bears in the Chez-M area – neighbours report ursine visitors ransacking garbage bins under cover of darkness – we thought the ones below would look great scattered through the trees surrounding Chez-M but were unsure as to whether they would attract, repel or even ‘upset’ the real thing.


Speaking of locals, we were also treated to a display of indigenous colour and rhythm here so the little ‘uns in our party did a bit of tribal foot-stamping to the beat of a native drum.


Finally, we made it to the zoo.

Hooray I hear you say.

O (left) was not entirely sure of the competition for Mum’s attention…


….but R (right) was fascinated by these real-life creatures previously only seen in picture books.

So that was our big day at the fair. A hot, blue-sky day filled with new experiences for the young…


…and the young at heart.

And so the following day I packed my Day at the Fair alongside my new stash of Seattle memories in my suitcase, said some emotional good-byes and flew home.

But I’m already thinking about the next trip. 

You see Seattle-A turns 40 next year…and you know how I love a birthday!

A Town Called Snohomish…

I have been travelling this week and with work taking me to the US of A for a few days of meetings, I decided to add a few days more and pay a visit to Team-M in Seattle

It’s been eight months since I last saw Seattle-A and all of her boys and while I turned up ready for an intensive cuddle top up, as far as the little dudes went, well young memories are not so long it seems and it’s taken few hours before screaming and suspicious looks were replaced by a cuddle (O) and cheeky grin or two (R).

Today was crisp, cold and clear so we bundled everyone into the car and headed off to the small historic township of Snohomish. Yes, it is a real town, founded in the mid-1800s with a population of less than 10,000 people (2010 census). 

Anyway I felt the afternoon was already looking promising when we crossed paths with this Waffle Wagon on the way there…

…so as soon as we arrived it was off to the Snohomish Bakery for a spot of lunch.


We then meandered down the main street, lined with antique shops and stores exhorting passersby to ‘buy local’. The flat-fronted buildings really gave it an old frontier town feel and I particularly liked these two.

A short stroll off the Main Street gave us a different perspective on the town, surrounded as it was by stark and beautifully pristine scenery…

...while this totem by the water presumably gave a nod to the local Native American tribe, sdoh-doh-hohsh, for whom the township was named.

And just as we were heading back to the car, we came across the Snohomish Pie Company. It would have been rude not to pop in, so we did emerging five minutes later with a bag of goodly vittels and some words of wisdom…

…and yes, yes it did. That chocolate pecan pie did indeed fix everything (including fixing a few more lifetimes on my hips!)

So that folks was my afternoon in Snohomish. Now, back to Operation Cuddles…

Seattle Sojourn…

Early in June on a hot sunny morn,
while Double-A and the little dudes (recently born)
had a date with the Doc
 map in my pocket and camera in hand,
eyes peeled for the quirky, the charming, the grand,
I ventured downtown to take stock.

And here’s what I found.

 
I found a Goliath who raises his arm
And brings it back down in a smooth arc of calm…
 
 
…while lightning strikes right by the bay.

A pioneer totem amid leaves green and fair
Stands strong, proud and tall in a cool shady square…
 

…while all the signs invite sweet surrender.

On this corner’s the site where the logs came to rest
And the wood turned to dust at the sawmill’s behest…

…while nearby beans are ground underfoot.

I popped out the back and turned away from the Sound.
An alternative side of an icon I found…

…yet cross-town, underground
this buried old boozer’s run dry…

 
…while this ceiling adds colour 35 stories high.

So with sightseeing done and the bus due anon
I wandered back up to the place I’d begun
My nose and cheeks pink from the warm Summer sun…
 
…my first sojourn done.

Salutations From Seattle…

Salutations from Seattle peeps!

While we’ve been managing to get out and about each day during my Seattle sojourn, this has been somewhat limited to shorter outings that we can manage with the babies in tow, who by the way, have been rather busy melting Aunty Kym’s heart. And needless to say blogging has taken a back seat while I soak up as much Seattle-A time as possible while I’m here. 

But as the boys had a hot date with the paediatrition last Thursday (and Mummy and Daddy had the whole deal covered more than adequately), I decided to make myself scarce and get into Seattle for a day of sightseeing and shopping.

Seattle is a relatively ‘new’ town having been founded in 1851. That’s more than 70 years after the First Fleet sailed into Australia’s Sydney Cove, so this is an unusual position for an Aussie, used to being the youngster in the global village, to be in. It is also reasonably compact and very walkable, the streets are wide and tree-lined and there are coffee shops absolutely everywhere where you can rejuvenate. And despite my general aversion to Starbucks, the coffee, service and free wi-fi were both excellent and eminently helpful.

All up I spent six hours and only covered the Downtown area. Arriving at Westlake on the express bus from Overlake Transit Centre (near Husband of Seattle-A’s work and a bargain at only $2.50 for a single 20min trip), I picked a few choice morsels from the guide book and just wandered around in between (more on that in another post). 

And the highlights? Well the weather was absolutely glorious but I have a feeling that was more good luck than good planning and quite frankly there’s not much anyone can do about that. But for spectacular views no matter the weather, take the express lift up to the Chinese Room on the 35th floor of the Smith Tower just around the corner from Pioneer Square.


The 36-42nd floors are occupied by a penthouse (yes, just one penthouse) but the 360 degree observation deck around the 35th floor is fantastic. Let me show you what I mean.

Here’s a shot of the ‘other’ observation deck, the Space Needle. According to my Frommer’s guide, you get to pay about $17.50 for the privilege of being rotated (versus walking around the 35th floor of the Smith Tower for $7.50).

The Mountain is out! Mt Rainier looms through the clouds, an apparently unusual occurrence so I was thrilled to get this ‘on film’.  

A glorious view over Elliott Bay to the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound.

After you’ve had your fill of amazing views, it’s just a couple of blocks down the hill to Pioneer Square and into Doc Maynard’s to take the 90 minute Underground Tour of Seattle ($17.50 per person). Filled with historic sound bites, this unique tour takes you beneath the streets of Downtown Seattle to explore this outpost of the Pacific Northwest’s seamy past. And me being, well me, I bought the book that forms the basis for the tour, Sons of the Profits by Bill Speidel. Absolutely fascinating stuff.

School buses lined up in Pioneer Square.
 
Doc Maynard’s: your underground tour starts here!
 
Heading underground…

 …to see the city from another perspective.


And a visit to Seattle wouldn’t be complete without a wander through Pike Place Market.

There’s plenty of fish to buy (among other things)…
 
 …but don’t forget to give a nod to the original Starbucks. These happy buskers were playing a few tunes when I wandered by.

Speaking of nods, being back in the States reminds me just how wonderful it is to be served. From the locals in the street to the staff in the stores and restaurants, people cannot do enough to help and want to make sure you have an amazing time in their city. Something that the rest of the world could take a few notes on.

And finally it was time for a spot of shopping at Macy’s who were having a sale – God Bless America I say!


And after finding some great bargains and nothing less than exceptional service, I only had a short block to walk to take my tired feet and satisfied smile back to the bus for the ride ‘home’.

ps…You may have noticed that I didn’t race around to try and squeeze everything in (as I am usually wont to do). Well I figure this might just be the first of many visits – presuming Team-M will have me – so I thought I’d leave some stuff for next time!

Atlantic Crossing…

I am travelling again. And again it’s personal but this time it combines old friends and new places.

Yesterday I arrived in the city of sleeplessness, Starbucks and sitcoms – Seattle. It’s a city I have never visited and while I’ve had nothing particularly against it, it’s never been high on my list of places to visit. Until September last year when Team-M moved across the Atlantic and A-down-the-hill became Seattle-A.

Recovering from jetlag a little today I’ve just mooched around, getting started on the ‘Aunty Kym induction’ into the world of their two-month-old twins (those of you who know me well can stop laughing now), getting acquainted with Gunnar the super-dog, and getting to know this whole new world. It’s been quite surreal. It’s a whole different world for Seattle-A and Team-M here but our ability to just hang out still remains despite the months apart and the added attentions of the newer, younger members of the supersized Team-M.

I’ve only been here 24 hours and already I’m stunned by the beauty of the scenery. As the plane flew over Seattle yesterday, Mount Rainier loomed crisp and clear against the blue sky and on the drive from the airport, I caught glimpses of lakes sparkling like dark blue crystal in the sunlight and travelled roads fringed by trees of deep deep green. The view around the new pad (which is surrounded by woodland) is equally sublime.

So in the spirit of easing my jetlagged self into the next week here, this afternoon we took a little excursion to Cottage Lake.

It was stunning.

No doubt there will be much more to discover and enjoy during my visit here so I’m looking forward to immersing myself in it all and sharing the choicest titbits with you along the way. So stay tuned…

Going global

Here we are at the last bank holiday in the UK before Christmas and I am ensconced at Gidday HQ catching up on a whole lot of the must dos after a few days of fun to-dos (and not a small amount of alcohol). The washing machine is whirring in the background, the ironing pile is lurking within eye-shot – which I must address one way or the other (i.e. iron or put away in the cupboard) – the UKHot40 is playing on the telly and my water bottle is within reach.

So let’s start with Saturday: a day of short sunny bursts and bouts of torrential rain under a largely grey sky. And an evening of cocktails and mighty fine cuisine as four work friends painted the heart of London’s Soho multicultural – at a Peruvian restaurant. This is what happens when a Turk, a German, a Frenchwoman and an Aussie, all obsessed with food, get their heads together for a girl’s night out.

After a flurry of emails late on Saturday afternoon, a plan was hatched and a few hours later, four happy expat ladies were sitting at the bar in Ceviche, watching the intermittent drizzle against the window with cocktails in hand. Ceviche is new to the London restaurant scene, having only opened in February this year, and has had some terrific reviews (including one by yours truly over on Weekend Notes after our super Saturday soiree). I won’t repeat here what you’ll find elsewhere – suffice to say we left four very happy ladies. And it wasn’t just the cocktails.

Sunday morning dawned and after a kick-start of croissants, coffee and copious amounts of water – how is it that so much drinking can be so dehydrating – I was off again, this time to the Edinboro’ Castle in Camden for a farewell do.

You see, in just under two weeks time, A-used-to-be-down-the-hill will become Seattle-A. Yes, she and hubster are moving state-side to the land of the free, the home of the brave and city of highest rate of sunglasses purchases per capita in the US. They’ve bought a fabulous new pad, booked the movers and are starting their own round robin of goodbyes to old London town.

And yesterday, under the canopy of trees in the sun-dappled beer garden at the Edinboro’ Castle, was a gathering of their wonderful circle of friends. Almost ten hours of repartee and reminiscing, of howls of laughter and a little just-between-friends political incorrectness, of re-connecting and fond farewells, to wish them well in this next exciting chapter…and to book our respective berths at Palazzo Seattle.

So this weekend has been a poignant reminder of the power of my expat friendships, both old and new, and the importance of trusting my instincts in reaching out amongst the myriad of connections I make each day, week, month, year.

Saturday night heralded the start of a ‘four girls from four nations’ friendship.

And while my own personal farewell with A is still to come, Sunday was a celebration of a friendship that began just two weeks into my expat journey. That’s more than eight years of life in the UK together. Opening the pages of this next chapter in our friendship has me feeling a little sad, but excited about the possibilities that will follow for both of us.

You see we, my friends, are going global.