Sleepless to Seattle

We were up and moving soon after 4:00 am, showered, ate breakfast, tossed the sheets in the washer to be retrieved by our house sitters, and headed out. Soon after 5:00 am we were on the road to Jane’s.

Majella knitted while I drove but was nervous about arriving too early at Jane’s so we took a short detour to delay our arrival until about 6:40 am. Majella need not have worried. Jane came out to greet us as we arrived but had not had time for her morning coffee.

We waited while Jane made and drank her coffee. Lea was already gone to work and we assumed Emily was sound asleep but Joel wandered out to say hello. After coffee Jane drove us to the airport in our car, learning its peculiarities as she drove. It will be parked at Bathams’ and we are hoping she might take it out occasionally to ensure it is ready for our return.

Jane dropped us at the airport and headed home. Check-in was simple and we cleared security and passport control easily. There was plenty of time for coffee before going to the gate to board.

As we approached the gate Majella noticed balloons and the crew lined up for photos. As we passed through to board she asked and was told the celebration was for the first flight of the new Dreamliner from Brisbane to Los Angeles. It was special enough for the fire crews to line up and spray the plane with water cannon as we taxied out to take off.

The Dreamliner configuration seems a bit more spacious than older aircraft. Seats are in a 3-3-3 rather than 3-4-3 arrangement and may have a little more space between rows. They are more comfortable and the entertainment displays are much clearer.

The clearer displays were welcome because neither of us got much sleep and watched movies or other material through most of the journey. I tried to sleep for 4 hours or so in the middle of the flight but Majella claimed not to have slept at all on that flight.

Our flight arrived early in LA and had to wait at the gate until the airport opened at 6:00 am putting us near the head of the line for immigration. We passed through formalities easily, picked up our bags, cleared customs with no fuss, and dropped our bags for forwarding. Then we headed for the long walk to Terminal 6 for our flight to Seattle. That required another security check, USA style with belts and shoes off for a full body scan. Oddly that check is just beyond the point where we left the secure area after collecting our bags and it would surely take little rearrangement to keep cleared travellers within a secure path. At 2 hours our time at LAX was short but given the early arrival it was plenty to make the connection.

Majella managed a power nap on the way from LA to Seattle so she arrived a little more refreshed. I rested but did not attempt to snooze. At Seattle Majella’s suitcase appeared promptly on the conveyor but mine did not. We looked around but had no luck and joined the lost baggage queue. It moved slowly and Majella continued to wander about looking while I queued. Just as I reached the head of the queue my bag appeared from out back. We grabbed it and headed out.

On the way we paused to talk with a Cruise representative who was gathering cruisers and confirm where we needed to meet tomorrow. Then it was off to catch the shuttle to the Marriott which arrived about 10 minutes later.

We were lucky at the hotel to find they had a room ready and checked us in early. We dropped our bags in the room, sorted what we needed for the afternoon and walked down the hill to the light rail station. $6 each bought tickets that would allow us to ride all day between the airport and downtown. The service runs at 10 minute intervals through the main part of the day so we were soon on our 30 minute ride to town.

I had checked prepaid SIMs while planning and found AT&T plans that seemed best suited. I had also located AT&T stores in the downtown so that was our first stop. A couple of quick transactions and SIM changes had us on our way with phone and data on both phones and our Australian services offline for now.

We headed up the street toward the Space Needle, pausing at a Subway for a quick lunch. By then it was close to 2 pm and our 4am breakfast was wearing thin.

As we reached the Space Needle we found that Chihuly Garden and Glass, which had been recommended to Majella by a friend, was next door. When we checked the ticket machine for the Needle we found there was a wait time of at least 30 minutes to join a long queue for access. That put me off because time was marching on, I had planned to do the Needle and an hour harbour cruise, and Majella had added the Chihuly Gardens and Pike Place Market. With time to move between locations I was wondering how much of that we could manage before daylight and/or or reserves of energy ran out.

We decided to abandon the Needle at that point and opted for the Chihuly Gardens instead. The glass work was spectacular in form and colour but not what I was expecting in a ‘garden’. Majella was delighted by it as is evident from her Facebook post.

While we wandered among the glass I did some more digging around cruise times. They ran into the evening which would leave us time for the Needle and then a cruise if we could find the stamina. We headed back to the Needle and bought tickets for the 4:30 pm slot. That left us almost an hour to wait so we found a nearby coffee shop where I had coffee and Majella had hot chocolate – too late by then for coffee.

We wandered around a little more and then lined up a few minutes early for the Needle queue. We enjoyed the spectacular views over Seattle and the surrounding areas. While at the top we called Majella’s father for Fathers Day. We also called Hannah to continue a tradition she started as an homage to Sleepless in Seattle when visiting the Empire State building in 1999. It seemed fair to call from the Seattle end of that connection. In addition to the 360 degree view the Needle has a rotating glass floor and we spent some time experiencing the weird sensation of watching the world go by hundreds of feet below. The image generated by the professional photographer at the Needle used ‘green screen’ to blend us onto a background that may exist some days but was nowhere that we were.

By the time we got down from the Needle it was almost 5:15 pm. There was a cruise scheduled for 5:25 pm so we grabbed a cab to attempt to cover the 2 km in time. We were thwarted by a long train but booked in for the 6:45 pm cruise.

That allowed us time to visit Pike Place Markets. They were closing for the day but we were still able to get a sense of what they offered. Majella could not resist a plump nectarine. At $3.60 for the single piece it was an echo of some strawberries she once bought on the pier in San Francisco. It was a good nectarine but needed to be at that price.

We walked back from the markets to the wharf where Majella ordered a cup of chowder for dinner. She pronounced that excellent. I had a hotdog which I ate as we lined up to board the cruise which ran to schedule for an hour around the harbour. Mount Rainier cooperated and we saw it looming above the bay with the setting sun on its western ridges.

Cruise done it was time to take the light rail back to our airport hotel. We were back by 9:00 pm and tucked up tight not long after. Tomorrow we begin our cruise.