Right to left: Mt St. Helens, Mt Rainier (in the foreground), Mt Hood (barely visible) and Mt Adams.
Taken from the window of an Alaska Airlines flight between Seattle and Walla Walla WA.
Right to left: Mt St. Helens, Mt Rainier (in the foreground), Mt Hood (barely visible) and Mt Adams.
Taken from the window of an Alaska Airlines flight between Seattle and Walla Walla WA.
I don’t think I’ve ever live-blogged before – this is my first attempt. The gurus says “Don’t live-blog while you’re away from your home, people will know you’re away”. Thankfully someone already broke into our house and stole the only stuff worth stealing so hey, that frees me up to pretend I’m feckless and fancy-free again
The map above shows today’s self-guided walking “tour” (hah “tour”!).
High points: Pottering at the Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market; People-watching at Washington Square Park; Really appreciating the differences in NYC neighborhoods (that’d be me – and maybe the Murphster – the children were more consumed with the ignominy of having to walk to far).
Low points: OMG! The need to line up at Empire State just to buy tickets!! And whew! I really like the Highline but To Be Avoided on a Sunday with Children. Seriously.
My children, believe it or not, hate traveling.
Their reaction to plans to visit NYC: “Hey, our phones will work! We’ll understand the language!”.
Yeah. Funny kids.
Today I remembered why:
1. Traveling with kids sucks (they complain continually).
2. I’m really, truly not meant to be a desk jockey: I felt better after walking ~8miles (add walking to Curry Hill and back to the map above) around New York than I have done in months.
3. Visiting anywhere pushes you to be a better person: either because your kids challenge your patience and tolerances OR because the mass of humanity around you makes you wish for a desert island OR because the people-watching prompts truly funny conversations OR because it takes a certain density of people to generate (or save) art and beauty and even if you can’t draw a straight line (like me) you appreciate the value of life, love and color.
I recently moved teams at work. This is the priceless view from my new desk. My team will likely move again, office shuffles being a common feature of any corporate environment, but for now every time I stare out the window, it’s a treat. I don’t think I’m daydreaming any more or less than when I didn’t have a picture window view but I do know that I value the view every time. It’s the strangest thing. The water is calming and peaceful and watching the ducks beats YouTube cat videos by a mile.
Fremont, the neighborhood where I’m located is north of Seattle’s downtown core (where most Seattle hotels are located) but for me, this is the quintessential Seattle ‘hood. There’s quirky street art, funky locally-owned stores and restaurants and my I see my city’s outdoorsy nature passing by my window all day every day.
Rowers from the various crew teams fly by all day long. The odd kayaker or even kayaking tour group paddles by on their way from Lake Union to the Puget Sound, people pass walking, running and cycling on the Burke Gilman trail and I’ve even spotted the odd paddle-boarder. There’s a continual stream of boats of all shapes and sizes and yesterday’s unusual sighting was two tugs escorting a houseboat (how very Sleepless in Seattle!).
But really the headline act on my window stage is the ducks. Definitely beats the cat-videos
This post was sponsored by Trivago.com.
I’ve driven past the Residence Inn by Lake Union in downtown Seattle a hundred times but it was only when Marriott invited me to come visit the hotel at a mom blogger’s event that I got a chance to explore this property. I’m happy to have done so because now I know that this hotel is a perfect choice for budget-conscious families visiting the Seattle area.
The hotel is north of the city’s downtown core but close to the Seattle Center. There’s also a small playground across the street. This area, South Lake Union, is currently undergoing an extensive redevelopment. A number of Seattle’s technology companies have moved in to new office buildings here bringing a ready market for the restaurants, bars and cafes that seem to have popped up like mushrooms where before there was literally nothing. The South Lake Union Trolley runs from SLU to Westlake Center in the heart of downtown from 6am to 11pm most days.
The Residence Inn is not a stylish luxury hotel but it is bright, open, clean and comfortable. The rooms are spacious. There are studio, one-bedroom (450sq ft) and two-bedroom (770sq ft) suites. All rooms have fully equipped kitchens, sofa beds and wifi.
I stayed in a one-bedroom suite with a view of the lake. My boys are now 12 and 16. They’re big. I am on my way to being the smallest person in our family. This room was one that I felt could easily accommodate all of us – not a mean feat for four adults who like a generous amount of personal space.
Three things make the Residence Inn a great choice for vacationing families: the full kitchens, the large rooms and the fact that buffet breakfast is included in the room rate. Food can be a hidden cost for families that can make or break a vacation budget. Eating out is expensive, eating all meals out for a number of days in a row adds up really quickly. I’ve found that having the option of self-catering is a fail-safe way to keep under budget and this hotel makes it easy to do so.
The other nice thing about the Residence Inn Seattle is the guest laundry. The washing machines and dryers are coin-operated. There’s also a small gym and an indoor pool. The pool is about 5m x 10m so not really suitable for laps but a fun place for kids to play in after a busy day’s sightseeing maybe?
Disclaimer: My stay at the Residence Inn was provided by Marriott Hotels however the views expressed above are all my own with no input from the hotel or Marriott.
Now that we’re home from our trip around the world with kids, back at school and work, we’re trying to keep the spirit of our travels alive by enjoying our city and state together on the weekends.
This past weekend we took a walk to Fremont, a quirky neighborhood in Seattle. On our way there, almost hidden by the leaves on the Burke-Gilman trail BigB found this Up sign on the ground. The Murphy boys voted and decided that legitimately found meant permission to keep. I wasn’t originally in favor of this decision but it did lead to some fun photo moments…
As I shopped for Christmas gifts at Theo’s Chocolate, BigB hammed for the camera. If chocolate, specifically Seattle chocolate is on your Christmas shopping list a visit to Theo’s to check out their selection of gift sets is definitely worthwhile. From $27 to $120, these boxed combinations of chocolate and coffee treats are a chocolate-lover’s dream holiday gift.
We took an alternate route home just so we could stop by the Fremont Troll because, y’know, when there’s a friendly troll under your nearby bridge, it is worth stopping by to say “hi” every once in a while
Photo captions provided by Murph.
BigB was not enthusiastic about the idea of snorkeling with Manta rays. I was surprised by his reluctance. We’ve been snorkeling before, albeit not for a couple of years. It only took a few moments for me to winkle out of him that he was scared because we haven’t been snorkeling since he’s been wearing glasses and that he was also nervous about the safety of a night-time snorkel. I told him that I he’d be fine in the water with me so he shouldn’t worry about the dark. I had no idea what I would do about his vision concerns but I bundled him into the car anyway.
Within minutes of arriving at the Fair Wind Big Island Ocean Cruises dock, BigB had made friends with four other kids who looked to be around the same age and was busy jumping of the dock and generally tom-fooling around. So much for fears and nervousness. As a scuba-diver, I was a little concerned about the size of the snorkeling boat. I’ve done enough diving to have a healthy disregard for large snorkel or dive operations which ferry way too many people to precious coral reefs with little regard for the impact of such traffic on the marine environment. I waited and watched as the team prepared the boat and the rest of the guests gathered.
My opinion of Fair Wind was bolstered once the team started to interact with the guests. The boat captain explained the timeline of activity before leaving the dock clearly and in a no-nonsense fashion. He mentioned that once on board, a naturalist would give brief talk about the Manta Rays and what to expect during the snorkel. They then proceeded to very speedily kit out our group of almost 30 people with wetsuits. One of the guys came around asking about vision issues and explained that they had some masks with lenses to help correct for minor levels of short-sightedness. BigB was thrilled.
On board, the crew quickly handed out masks and snorkels. Again, I was impressed by the organization and efficiency of the team. The naturalist talked briefly about Manta Rays, explaining how these beautiful creatures feed on tiny plankton and how shining lights in the water, accidentally discovered at what is now the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort, attracted plankton and thereby also attracted manta rays. (You can read more about the history and about manta rays here). We passed some other snorkel boats and I was alarmed and annoyed to see what looked like a mosh pit on the water’s surface. I hoped we wouldn’t be part of anything like that because I knew that although I would be fine, it would be darn difficult for me to keep BigB safe and comfortable in that environment.
As if on cue, one of the Fair Wind team called for silence and brought out a funky-looking, brightly-colored contraption. It took me a minute to realize that it was made from pool noodles cut into what looked like 2ft lengths and strapped together into rafts. The Fair Wind team, also wanting to avoid a snorkel mosh pit have come up with a novel and effective solution. Each section of the raft has three “bars” and sections are separated with lights. Each raft is about four sections long, allowing for eight people to hold on to the raft spaced about an arm’s length apart. Brilliant.
BigB had an other bout of nervousness just before getting in the water but now I could confidently tell him that he had nothing to worry about. We jumped in, grabbed a noodle and looked down just in time to see a manta swimming within inches of my nose! For the next 20-30 minutes, we were treated to an incredible show. There were two large manta rays feeding just below us, continually swimming up through the streams of light under us. A couple of times I thought that BigB was struggling with his mask and snorkel but it was only his excitement – even in water he was chattering away to me, not quite aware that all I heard were gurgling sounds. “That was just fantastic!” he exclaimed as he climbed back on the boat. “Next up, I need to learn how to scuba dive” he said as he handed over his gear. The Fair Wind guys smiled in agreement, “way to go buddy”.
Jet-lag is tough on the body but sometimes it’s worth it. Like when BigB and I traveled from Seattle to Hawaii and found ourselves awake with the birds and a perfect opportunity to explore Liliuokalani park in Hilo without a soul in sight. This park leads to Coconut Island (pictured above), a pretty peninsula with shady trees, small beaches and some structures dating from much earlier times. Although it was not quite 8am, it was already hot. So hot that that BigB was tempted by the gently lapping water. He insisted on paddling British-style. Looking at him I knew that in minutes he’d be wet to the waist – and so it was. We had to dash back to our hotel room to get a quick change of clothes for him before heading out for our day exploring.
You know your day is going to be a good one when it starts with a visit to a chocolate factory! We stopped by Big Island Candies on the recommendation of Warren of NativeGuideHawaii.co and it was a great call. The view into the factory is very industrial, but browsing the merchandise is chocolate-lover heaven. There’s all manner of goodies from milk and dark chocolates to shortbreads and Da-Kine treats . BigB chose a milk chocolate hibiscus flower as a souvenir. The artistic, colorful displays and packaging of the product are also worthy of a mention.
The Imiloa planetarium is on the University of Hawaii campus above Hilo in a beautiful building. We were met by Vincent Ricento for a guided tour. Calling Imiloa a planetarium is a meagre description for what you’ll find if you take the time to visit this attraction. Certainly it has an excellent planetarium which has the interesting twist of being able to teach about two sets of constellations: the usual Greek ones and also the Hawaiian ones. In some cases, these are different names for the same heavenly bodies but in others the Hawaiian constellations were entirely new to my Western mind. In addition, Imiloa is a cultural museum, teaching about Hawaiian cultural roots and also a science museum. Your path as a visitor teaches you about Hawaiian customs, starting with the Kumulipo, or creation chant, through explanations of how Polynesian cultures used astral navigation to travel across the Pacific and leading on to modern scientific displays relating to astronomy. As a mom who’s spent a lot of time in science museums, Imiloa definitely rates as worth a visit for a unique perspective, innovative presentations and an engaging thematic story. There’s also the 4D exhibit on the evolution of our galaxy and it’s placement within the larger known universe which BigB and I liked so much that, even though our visit was short, we sat through this display twice.
After lunch (with Jessica from BIVB) at the Hilo Coffee Mill (yum!) we hit the Hawaii Volcanos National Park . The park was busy, but we were lucky enough to be able to join a ranger-guided walk of the steam vents to Kiluaea overlook. Our guide, a volunteer from the Mid-West who was spending her second sojurn in Hawaii, was full of stories of the park’s early visitors (including Mark Twain) and the evolution of the park. She proudly explained how the location of the hula platform (facing the crater) was originally the site of an old tree. The story goes that Pele, the goddess of fire, struck the tree with lightning so that the platform could be placed where it currently stands – with an incredible view down to the Kiluaea crater.
On our walk I stopped to remark on the pungent flowery scent which filled the air – when we were not smelling the noxious sulphur-like fumes from the steam vents. The ranger disparagingly pointed out a beautiful orange flower and derided it as a plague. Apparently the park service struggles with invasive plant species. She also explained that non-native species of birds and animals are also a problem on the island. We were with another group including kids and the ranger took time to ask all the kids about how plants could possibly move across the ocean to Hawaii. Such impromptu natural science discussions make me a big fan of ranger-led walks at National Parks.
Our ranger was fascinated by Isabella Bird, an Englishwoman who visited the park and spent much time in Hawaii in the late 19th century. The idea of a woman coming from the strictures of proper English society to Hawaii alone at that time and becoming accepted and loved by the Hawaiian people obviously sparked her imagination. We learned all kinds of odd facts such as how difficult it was to get to the crater in those days and how Ms Bird had to learn to ride a horse astride – rather than using the English side-saddle – in order to satisfy her curiosity and get to the point where we were now standing. Interestingly, although I wasn’t expecting this little sociological discussion, it did not detract from our visit and in fact, provided a human interest angle to the story of the park.
My plan had been for us to visit the Jaggar Museum and the lava tubes at the park before returning to our hotel but after a chocolate factory, a planetarium and a hike, all BigB wanted to do was to hit the pool. We headed down the mountain with plans to return again in the morning (thankfully our park entrance fee was valid for a few more days) before heading across the island to Kona.
Our stay on the Big Island was organized by and paid for by Hawaii Tourism. Thanks folks!
BigB and I stopped for coffee in Kona on our way to the airport after three really fun days on the Big Island. The Lava Java cafe is perfectly situated on the Kona waterfront for a sun-soaked relaxing coffee stop and some people-watching. BigB, as you can see was more interested in the cafe’s excellent (and huge) cinnamon rolls.
Hop on over to WanderFood Wednesday for some more fun travel-themed foodie posts.
I’d totally forgotten that Hawaiian’s wear flowers in their hair – and how beautiful it is. This and many other memories from my last visit to Hawaii flooded back as we wandered through the terminal in Honolulu waiting for our connection to Hilo on the Big Island. I was excited. I’d been to Maui and Kauai before but never the Big Island and I was looking forward to exploring the Island of Adventure. BigB told everyone he spoke to “I’ve been to Hawaii before, but I don’t remember, I was an infant.” We were about to fulfill his long-held dream of visiting an active volcano – and more.
Banyans. These trees are fascinating to me. As we all know, you can tell the age of any tree by counting rings in the trunk. To me, banyans seem to wear their age on the outside as the intertwined exposed roots and many layers of draping moss give testament to the age of the tree on sight. The Hilo Hawaiian Hotel, where we stayed, is on Banyan Drive. I was a happy plant geek just driving into the hotel, already planning to take a walk and examine the trees as soon as I could. BigB was hungry and he’s a child who has never tolerated being hungry for long. We dumped our bags and headed over to the Hilo’s picturesque Old Town for dinner.
A hungry child and a travel-writer mom who wants to explore a new place in detail can be a nasty combination. To keep us both happy I parked a few blocks away from the restaurant so that we’d have to walk along part of the historic district before eating. The low-key charm of the area resonated with me. It’s easy to imagine these buildings, now housing shops and restaurants, as centers of local industry where goods were weighed and measured, bought and sold; as places where workers from many far-flung places signed on to work on the sugar plantations nearby. BigB ran ahead, and chose a little Mexican place for us to eat. Burritos are not exactly the a Hawaiian Island speciality, but being cheap, cheerful and quick we had plenty of time to wander a little more before dashing off for our first encounter with Kilauea.
Warren, our guide from NativeGuideHawaii.com was waiting for us at the hotel. The plan was to visit Kalapana so that we could see where the lava from Kilauea entered the ocean. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew that the lava traveled mostly underground through lava tubes to the seashore but that was it. As he drove, Warren shared information about his island. We learned how the constantly changing landscape has meant that, for example, he can’t bring his children to play at a favorite childhood beach of his because it’s no longer there! He stopped the car at a seemingly uninteresting spot and beckoned us to follow him into a “field” of cooled basalt where he showed us lichens starting to grow on the rocks. He explained how the ohia lehua, a native plant, comes after the lichens and helps to create humus as a first layer of soil in which other plants can grow. Now I was in plant geek heaven. B, off exploring the field, wasn’t listening. I noticed, thankfully, how B’s wandering off to follow the beat of his own drum didn’t seem to faze Warren a bit. When we got back in the car, I discovered that he has three similarly-active boys of his own something which became even more clear when BigB misheard my follow-up questions about how the humus develops – thinking I was talking about hummus the food. Within minutes, he and Warren were laughing about “pita and humus – with worms on the side”. Dad and boy humor is obviously alive and well in Hawaii.
The carpark at Kalapana was a zoo. Warren, stating that the crowds would be impossible, wheeled the car around and said he’d take us somewhere better. I love being guided by a local, they always know the secret best places to get around guidebook crowds. We drove instead to Black Sand beach. On the way Warren explained that there used to be a rich coconut grove at this beach, but that the lava flows after one eruption had altered the landscape covering the beach and the coconut grove. Now, there are many young coconut trees near the shoreline where there is a steep drop to the water. According to Warren these trees are all as a result of people bringing coconuts to the beach in an effort to replant the grove.
At the shore, we could clearly see the plume of steam from where the lava enters the sea. This was a more distant vantage-point than originally planned, but the impact of watching the island grow in front of our eyes was still breathtaking. As night fell, the plume was clearly visible against the star-studded sky at times glowing a vibrant, angry red. On our way back to the car, we stopped often just to look at the stars because, in the absence of much light pollution the vista was stunning. Less than a day into our visit and I was already in love with the Big Island of Hawaii.
Today’s guest post is by Allen Cox, a Seattle-based travel writer.
Writing a hiking guidebook is a great motivation to get out there and find some new trails. When I wrote Best Easy Day Hikes Seattle and Best Easy Day Hikes Tacoma for Globe Pequot Press, I already had a handful of favorite local trails I’d visit again and again. But I needed to discover more, and fast! The only criteria from the publisher was that they had to be no farther than roughly an hour from the base city and could not be a “death march” – perfect for kids or a multi-generational hike. That suited
me fine – close and easy. Little did I know that three of my new favorite trails were awaiting discovery.
Camp Long: This urban gem in West Seattle is a fun spot for a woodsy one-plus mile hike with enough elevation gain and loss to tire the little ones (in a good way). It’s also a perfect place to break out the binoculars and field guide to introduce the kids to birding. The park has enough bird activity for Audubon to stage an annual bird count at Camp Long. It also has an interesting history as a WPA project and a Boy Scout retreat and has the oldest man-made climbing rock in North America. The old lodge at the park entrance houses an environmental education center that’s worth a stop. Check their website for organized nature walks the whole family will enjoy: www.seattlegov.parks.
Tacoma Nature Center: Tacoma Metro Parks created an interpretive center and nature trails through nearly 60 acres of woods and wetlands known as Snake Lake in the heart of the city. This easy loop follows the long, narrow lake and climbs a wooded hillside, offering enough diversity of terrain to keeps kids wondering what’s around the next corner. The fun is discovering what critters are hiding in the 60 acres – you can hear them, but can you see them?
Federation Forest State Park: This trail-laden, interpretive old-growth forest follows the White River fresh from Mt. Rainier’s Emmons Glacier. The park is both an education and an adventure. Start your hike in the Visitor Center, checking out the interpretive exhibits before hitting the trail. In the park, you’ll walk where wagon trains once rolled on the historic Naches Trail and go deep into the forest to visit the tiny inhabitants of the “Hobbit House,” in recent years extended to an entire hobbit village (you’ll know it when you see it). Kids and imaginative adults like to bring miniature gifts to furnish Hobbit House with all the trappings to make life comfortable for the little creatures. To the Hobbit House and back, expect to cover about 4.5 miles of easy trail. Also be prepared to trail-blaze around some muddy patches, so trekking poles can come in handy.
I’ve got one copy of each of Allen’s books to give away.
Leave a comment below sharing your favorite hike or trail in your neighborhood. This giveaway ends on Sunday, August 15th at 11:59pm.