Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Zoo, U-District, and Capitol Hill

The actual weekend of Robb's birthday we had a Seattle extravaganza. On Saturday we headed first to Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo. It was a very nice zoo with some interesting exhibits. I thought it was strange that there was such a large area with farm animals. I guess city folk see farm animals as a little exotic. Robb was also excited to go into the aviary and feed the birds. We like the gorillas, the bears, and the various aviaries the best.
After the zoo, we headed to the University District. The U-District is where the University of Washington is based and is a hip, cool, young area. The first place we had to find was Cinema Books. Robb is a movie fanatic (we have well over 500 DVDs, not including TV shows), so we had to check out this bookstore that he had read about. This store was amazing. Every book that had ever been written about movies, movie-making, movie stars, directors, etc. could be found in this cute store. The store was literally filled to the brim and overflowing with books (first picture) We spent quite a bit of time in there and then headed to a video store that Robb had read about. Scarecrow Video (second picture) turned out to be the biggest video rental store in the Northwest. We walked around a bit and looked at the different genres and niche movies and imagined what it would be like to actually live in Seattle and have that type of coolness available to us on a daily basis.

We then walked around the U-district, popped into a few more book stores and music stores, and then went to the Neptune movie theater. This landmark theater is a one-screen, revitalized, gorgeous movie theater that tends to play independent films. We saw the documentary Religulous (which was very funny and very good) because we've been wanting to see this Bill Maher film, but of course they don't tend to show that type of movie in the suburbs. The movie ended around 9:30 and we still hadn't eaten dinner so we started walking the streets to find out what was still open. We decided to try a bar/restaurant called Flowers. You could tell that the restaurant used to be a flower shop and they kept the sign from decades ago. It was a really nice, mellow atmosphere with phenomenal food and great prices.

After a very long day of the zoo and the U-district, we finally headed home, only to get up the next morning and drive right back to Seattle. On Sunday we went downtown and walked around Pike Place Market for awhile. We got our favorite Pike Place Chowder for lunch and stopped at a used DVD store. Then we walked from downtown all the way up to the Capitol Hill District. This neighborhood is another one that we hadn't visited before. It's a very eclectic neighborhood and is known as the gay district. It had a neat little main drag and there is probably a lot of the neighborhood that we didn't get to see.

We finished the day with buying our favorite cheesecake down in Pike Place Market and stopping in a coffee shop for cappuccino and wine! We finally made it to the Seattle zoo and to two new neighborhoods for us! All in all, a good birthday weekend for Robb (and I didn't mind it either!)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Kayaking in Skagit Bay

Robb turned 29 this month. (Don't tell him I told you. He doesn't like that. It means he's even closer to 30. He's been worried about being 30 for like 7 years.) So this was the last birthday in his 20s and I wanted to make it extra special. I was trying to figure out what we could do and I thought I need to take him kayaking. All he's talked about since moving here (well actually he was anticipating this the day we decided to move to Washington) is going kayaking. And we've been here for a year and while I got to go kayaking with my Mom, Robb had never been. So I started looking up kayaking day trips close by. I found one that was scheduled for only a week before his birthday and it even included birding. For those of you that don't know, Robb has become quite the bird enthusiast. We have a book on Washington birds and several bird feeders in our yard. So this kayaking/birding trip looked perfect for Robb's birthday celebration!

So I only told Robb that I had a surprise for him and he needed to take that day off. The night before the trip I presented him with a waterproof camera and a synthetic quick-drying shirt to get prepared. He was very excited to go kayaking and we couldn't wait for the next day!
We got up early on Kayaking Day and drove north of Seattle to LaConner, Washington. This was the cutest little coastal town! It's definitly a tourist destination (in the spring the town is surrounded by tulips), but it still felt like a real town with its own local personality. After the kayking we were able to walk around town and pop into a few local shops. We'd like to go back one day around tulip time and also try some of the restaurants. (And notice the salmon shaped bridge that was in town -- super cute!)

We met for the kayaking trip under the Rainbow Bridge. (That's us in front of the Rainbow Bridge which was actually just orange.) It was a small group, 6 people total including our guide. The weather was cool in the upper 50s, but it was sunny and we had dressed appropriately.

The bad parts of the trip: There were not very many birds and the guide didn't seem interested in stopping to look at the birds we did spot. Additionally, while the guide was nice, he didn't seem interested in teaching us how to kayak or even basic safety skills. We often would be behind the rest of the group (or get stuck on a rock) and our guide never looked back to see if his group was with him.

The good parts of the trip: We stopped at an island for lunch and to wait for the tide and we got to explore. There was some type of predator on that island because we found interesting feather/bird remains. While kayaking we saw a few bald eagles flying overhead. We saw some herons and kingfishers (a type of bird for you non-bird-savvy types.) We spotted a raccoon along the edge of an island (aren't they supposed to be nocturnal?). And we saw tons of sea lions swimming in the water. It was fun to spot a sea lion's head bobbing along. We also kayaked along LaConner. It was fun to kayak along town and wave to people and go under footbridges and see town from a different perspective.

And Robb and I had a good time kayaking. He loved the sport as much as he imagined he would. We worked fairly well together as a team. And it was great, as always, to get out and try something new, do it together, and experience Washington in an athletic way.

Of course, kayaks cost like $3000. So I am now taking donations so that you can feel that you're part of the Robb and Katherine Kayak Washington team! We'll make up t-shirts to send to contributors.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Issaquah Salmon Days Festival 2008

The first weekend of October we went to the town of Issaquah (about 15 miles east of Seattle) for the Salmon Days Festival. In 2007 we had planned on attending the Festival because we were poor, jobless, and couldn't afford many other activities. So we thought that a free festival would be fun. However, after a serious discussion, we decided we didn't even want to pay the money for gas and parking to go to the Festival. (Yes we were that poor after we moved here.) So, now that we're gainfully employed, it's been a goal of mine to head to the Salmon Days Festival.

Salmon Days celebrates the salmon returning to the Issaquah salmon hatchery to spawn. During the course of the Festival, you can see the fish in the river trying to jump up the fish ladders. After they make it up the ladders, they end up in the hatchery tanks (where they were initially 'born' about 4 years ago) and spawn thousands of pink eggs. It was pretty neat to see the fish trying to jump the ladders. Although the ladders were "closed" at that time, because the hatchery was controlling how many fish could come into the tanks at a time, the fish obviously didn't know that and were making valiant attempts to make it "home." Hundreds of people were lining the river and bridge to see these fish jump. It was pretty mundane and spectacular at the same time.

And of course, a festival wouldn't be a festival without tons of food. For some odd reason, every fair and festival we've been to since moving to the Northwest has a very popular food item I've never noticed in other US festivals: corn on the cob, grilled in their husks. Robb and I haven't quite understood the popularity of this item. Everyone seems to buy it. The longest lines at the food areas are always for the corn booths. So I decided to try it. Let me tell was just corn on the cob. Very odd that so many people are "into it." If someone knows the secret, let me know. After the corn, I was on a mission to find salmon. Believe it or not, at the Salmon Days Festival we only found two areas that sold Salmon. We decided on the Kiwanis' Salmon Barbecue, even though we had to stand in line for a good 20 minutes. But let me tell you, it was phenomenal. Finally, I have to say that this is one of the best festivals I've ever been to. A few weeks ago I lamented about the lack of artisan crafts in today's fairs and festivals. Issaquah Salmon Days is apparently not in that "sell-out" category. There was booth after booth of truly unique crafts and art. We didn't actually buy anything, but it was nice to have the option. And just looking at the various booths is entertaining by itself. This is a festival that we will be attending again, maybe even annually. And it brought back my faith in festivals. I'll keep going to different festivals, I am reminded that not all are sell-outs!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Kelly's Triathlon and Portland

In September I went to Portland for the weekend to support a friend as she competed in an amazing test of endurance. Kelly a friend from my grad school days in sunny Florida started competing in triathlons just over two years ago. Actually, I'd like to take the credit for her jumping into a sport that she now loves. I said to her one day, "Kelly one day I'm going to do a triathlon." She says, "Wow, that sounds like fun, I want to try that too." Before I even competed in my first (and only) sprint triathlon, she had completed several and was placing in her age group. And she has kept going and training and traveling all over the US to compete. (And mind you, this is for fun. She trains after work and on the weekends.) So she recently won first place for her age bracket in a Florida triathlon , which qualified her to attend an Age Group National Triathlon which happened to be right outside Portland. So she flew up to the beautiful Pacific Northwest, along with her Mom for support, and I drove down to stay with them and cheer her on.

It was a pretty amazing experience. At the hotel where all the athletes were staying, we ate dinner in the restaurant and at the table next to us were Olympic triathletes. These professional athletes there to support the amateurs on race day and compete in an elite competition to demonstrate what Olympians can do. On race day we woke up before 4:00 am to get to the race site before dawn so Kelly could start setting up and getting prepared. The race itself was amazing. Thousands of athletes competed. The most famous athlete that everyone was talking about was Sister Madonna. Sister Madonna is a 70+ year old nun who has been competing in triathlons for years. It was fun to watch her finish. And Kelly did amazing; she hit all of her expected times for the 1.5K swim, the 40K bike ride, and the 10K run. It was great to watch her and cheer her on, "Kelly, you are a machine!" That evening, after a nap, we went out for sushi and celebrated. The next day I met up with another friend in Portland (also a former Floridian) and she showed me around the city. Angela and I walked around downtown, checked out the Pearl District and Nob Hill, and walked by some beautiful churches. Oh, and luckily in the City of Roses we found a rose garden so I could take a perfect picture to commemorate the day.