Month: August 2011

Washington Summer Frenzy 2011, Day 1: Travel to Seattle

Yesterday I woke up at 4am.
I went downstairs to use the toilet, back upstairs to change the sheets for my renter, called a cab for 5am (the bus was too complicated until a bit later), took a shower, finished packing, cut up the last of the watermelon, and headed out.

At the no-longer-so-new Starbucks at Schiphol they have attempted to streamline the overlong order line by having a guy take orders to the baristas. It was too early for me to notice that I was carrying a name tag in the form of an espresso cup with my Americano in it around the airport. My name, written in a clear hand, large, on the side of my cup. Come to think of it, I could have turned my lid so the drinking hole was on the same side. At 5:30, however, I only thought it was pretty funny they’d put it on the opposite side.

I flew to Paris, where I switched languages in my handy bank of food-ordering vocabulary from Dutch to French in order to buy a pain au chocolat and a noisette. In the gift shop I realized it’s been a while since I’ve been in Paris, and couldn’t bring myself to buy any last-minute presents for family.

Then we had a very disorganized boarding procedure for the trip to Seattle.

For this leg, I had to fly economy comfort, because there were no economy tickets available with frequent flyer points. I was very skeptical about it’s benefits, but I was wrong to be. You get:
A noticeably bigger seat, with way more legroom and a deeper incline, with adjustable leg rest.
One of those little in-flight goodie bags, with earplugs, warm socks, sleeping mask, toothbrush, comb, and a couple of other things.
Better food, drinks, and lots of mini bottles of water.
Privileged boarding and exiting.

I don’t know how much it would have cost if this was a paid ticket, but it was really much better.

I ate every scrap of the food! And I slept, a lot.

We landed at noon in Seattle, so I had somehow really screwed up my flight details, telling people I’d be in around 10:30, when that was actually the departure time. Hmmm… That doesn’t make sense. It’s a 12hour flight and a 9hour timezone difference. Do I have something wrong? I’m too lazy to work it out now.

I had some minor delays in the airport, so didn’t manage to pick up my completely adorable rental car until about 2, which is also when I called Michi, who had started a mural in Edmonds that day. So I drove there to meet her, and she, meanwhile, cleaned up for the day.

Michiko, in her muraling overalls, next to my adorable rental car, with a view of the Sound:

The beach at Edmonds looks and smells like the Puget Sound. It was wonderful. There’s an underwater park for divers, with various installations and a lot of marine life. Obviously we didn’t go in, but we lounged on the beach for a while. It was a nice return to Washington.

After the beach, we headed back to her place via Aurora Ave, which if you don’t know Seattle is kind of a main artery of both traffic and existence here. It is also Old Highway 99, which we could take all the way down to Centralia if we liked (we didn’t), and it’s both seedy and perfectly normal.

On the way we passed lots of greasy spoons, which got both of us craving greasy American food, and me reminiscing about Beth’s Cafe, home of the 12-egg omelet. So we decided that after going back to her place, showering, and taking a walk, we’d go to Beth’s.

Michi lives just up the hill from the Seattle Center and the Space Needle (an easy walk), and uphill from her place is a really rich neighborhood with gigantic houses and a great view. We walked around up there, admiring hidden parks, Italian villas, and views over the Sound. Then we got back in the car, headed back north on Aurora, and went to Beth’s.

Beth’s is exactly as I remember it, except that it was still light out and I think I only ever went there in the wee hours. Also I’m pretty sure in my memory it was always smoky. There were tons of crayon drawings all over the walls, and the greasy food was delicious. I ordered a root beer (and got Henry’s, my favorite, although the menu said a different brand), a chicken/ham/swiss sandwich, sweet potato fries, and onion rings (to share!!!). Michi ordered pancakes, sausage, and eggs. It was way more food even than I had anticipated! I ate the sandwich and we together dented about a third each of the fries and rings. The ranch dip here is excellent!

After dinner, we went back to her place, then walked downhill to Safeway (oh my god it’s an expanse of grocery heaven) and bought the first silly and delicious-looking beverage that caught our eyes: Mike’s Original Margarita, which did not taste like margarita at all, but was still a pretty delicious lime-flavored alcoholic pop. We took our purchase back to Michi’s roof, which has the perfect view of iconic Seattle, and enjoyed the evening.

And then I passed out. After a really long day, a full tummy, and that one bottle of marga-pop. It was 9pm.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:W. 2nd Ave, Seattle

Interesting new ways to subsidize travel!

Ok, as the next travel adventure is coming up, I was getting stressed out about how much money everything costs. I was also stressing about getting someone to feed my cat and water the plants. Last year, we let a friend of a friend stay here for the cost of a cleaner. The years before we had the sister of a friend. The friend of a friend was terrible, and made our emergency contacts pretty irritated. I thought this year maybe it would be best to rent it out… for a reasonable price. Paying might make people more aware of what they’re spending. We’ll see.

I put an ad on for the whole period, and got a lecturer from Istanbul who would need it only half the time while she finishes a followup course here in town, then her husband joins her for a couple of days. Fine, good. Arranged. She sounds a bit like me, anxiety-wise, so that should be fine. 🙂

Then I put it up on AirB& for the remainder of the dates. Got someone right away, a stage hand from Toronto, who is coming with his fiance and their 2 friends, who have a farm; all are animal-lovers, and are happy to care for the cat and plants. They sound perfect, but he needed to confirm some details before they could make a formal bid for the place, and could I hold off on accepting another one for one day? Ok, because they sounded good.

Right I was! The next bid was a family of 4, driving through on an antique-collection trip. 2 teenage boys (ack!) and a station wagon w/ trailer that they would need parking for. No mention of my cat or plants. Hmmm… I think not. The one after that was in French, requesting the house for dates that are not available. Nope. The one after that was in English, but a young student and his pals from Spain, also for unavailable dates. The first line of my property description reads:

This is a one-time offer while we are on vacation 17-22 August.

Is there something unclear about this? Anyway, we’re all set now. The 2 Canadian couples are reserved, and the next step was to sort out how to get the place cleaned in between renters. I can clean it before and after, but I no longer have a cleaner, so I’d have to ask around.

The neighbor’s cleaner is available, but she’s a bit weird, and the neighbors don’t recommend her. A friend’s cleaner was just fired, and they thought maybe an unemployed friend might be interested. No answer there. Then, lucky lucky… I thought to put it up on Facebook. Now I’ve got 2 friends taking responsibility for it. Fantastic. I trust them, whether they’re less efficient at it or not.

So, is this helping our travel plans? YES. Together they subsidize both the car rental and the brief hotel stay in Seattle (actually a home also booked through AirB&B), plus a good amount of gas. Yay! If it goes well, I think we will do this every time we’ll be out of town a few days. Or even a long weekend. We live in the center of Amsterdam. There are always tourists!!

This is all very good. 🙂

Here we come, Colorado (Matt only), Seattle, Centralia, Shelton, Portland, Seattle, and Olympia! 🙂