Photo Friday: Pike Place Market

One of the best things about living in Seattle is watching travelers enthuse over the Pike Place Market. Visitor linger over fresh blackberries, laugh at the salmon-slinger’s antics, clap along with the buskers and marvel at the hand-made goods. Kids try fruit samples, while parents give in and buy a wind-up toy. Or three.

I took this photo about a year ago. The market, for some reason, was awash in the prairie-print dresses, somber black stockings and head-coverings of a religious community, probably Amish. In predominantly liberal, agnostic Seattle, the conservative clothing choice was more unusual than piercings and tattoos (which function as everyday work accessories here).

Vendors looked mildly surprised, then welcomed the newcomers with smiles and samples.  Although the visitors’ dress was of an era long ago — and you’d expect some gravitas to go with that style — the younger women could hardly contain their excitement over the market’s goods, as they buzzed from one stall to the next.

The market has historically been a village’s collective space, a place where populations can share ideas, food and merchandise on common ground. Shots like this remind me how lucky I am to live in a city with a thriving market culture.

This photo and post is a proud participant in DeliciousBaby’s Photo Friday.

Seattle Things To Do

What to do in Westport, Washington with kids

When you enter Westport, Washington, you’re greeted with this sign:

And that may sum it up. There’s a lighthouse, but kids under 40 inches tall aren’t allowed to climb the narrow, steep stairs. The under-construction aquarium offers only two tanks. The whale watching options can’t compete with well-developed tourism in Washington State’s San Juan Islands. The museum is OK (the fresnel light is impressive) but needs an infusion of funding for the kids’ area. The town’s streets don’t boast cute bookstores or toy shops. Most restaurants are iffy — lots of grease and meat for high prices.

But still, if you wrote it off, you’d miss moments like this:

When the sun cleans out the grey Washington skies and lays out a blue blanket above you.

You’d miss the chance to run through dunes of sand-colored grass.

You’d miss meeting the gregarious owner at Little Richard’s Doughnuts (2557 Westhaven Dr.), who handed off a bag of free doughnuts to us at the end of the day (We tipped very well). You’d miss eating coconut-topped, chocolate and old-fashioned o’s.

Westport may require you to bring your own food and find your own fun. But for creative visitors, that’s not too difficult to do. Westport is full of promise and potential — I’d love to see the empty storefronts full once more.

Where we stayed: This part is important, because you may find yourself hunkering down. We stayed in a very clean and up-to-date, kid-friendly condo at Vacations By the Sea — at a prime location right on the beach dunes. The two-bedroom condo offered a large kitchen, two bathrooms and two sets of bunkbeds. Outside, there’s a pool, hot tub, small playground and mini putt-putt. Highly recommended.

Find more secret spots and stops at DeliciousBaby’s Photo Friday. Read more about Westport at this post on Wandermom’s blog — Family Weekend Getaways: Westport Washington.

Westport Family Vacation

Photo Friday: The Star Wars Shop

Driving into Aberdeen, Wash., we’re greeted with the sign, “Come As You Are,” from a song by the marine town’s local boy, Kurt Cobain.

The verses that follow? As you were/As I want you to be.

Aberdeen has always struggled with being, in any sense. The town now appears to be well-sunk, pulled down by the weight of dead logging and fishing industries. The downtown core’s empty storefronts offer “for lease” placards. Rotating signs spin half-heartedly in the wind, missing letters and customers. It’s enough to break a city girl’s heart.

So what do you when Abderdeen’s grey skies and grey streets part and reveal the Sucher & Sons Star Wars Shop? Even if you’re not a Star Wars fanatic, you stop the car, amazed at the resilience of a desert flower.

We walked in the door and found thousands of memorabilia laid out on tables, hanging from the ceiling, perched on sills. Some pieces with price tags, some tagless. It was like walking into a Star Wars hoarder’s home. A grey-haired man hurried to greet us.

“Is this like, a private collection?” I ask. The kids dart off into the jumble corners of Star Wars hand-sized figurines and human-sized figures, Legos and Leias, model kits and magazine kitsch.

“No, it’s all for sale. And this month, it’s all half off!” Don Sucher said, with a contagious smile.

Of course, after poking around on the Internet later, I discover that the store is often half-off, and sometimes more. Sucher is a dealer in every sense of the word.

Sucher, a nervous, fast-talking guy, followed us around, demonstrating how everything worked and bringing out items at my son’s request (“Do you have a light saber? A red light saber?”)

My son fell in love with a good amount of stuff – a Darth Vader Mask ($2), a Darth Vader figurine ($4) and a Darth Vader Light Saber ($20). “It’s the right color!” my son shouted as the red-lit plastic saber growled and hummed.

Sucher seemed inordinately excited over out-of-town customers. I wondered at how he could possibly keep such an enterprise going, even with Aberdeen’s low rents. Did he sell on eBay? No, he said, too much work. Ongoing media attention – and the fan visits that resulted — kept him in business.

Newspaper clippings on the walls, from Japan and the U.S., seemed to support his statement, but I wondered at how I’d never heard of the store. It’s been here for 15 years.

While Sucher may keep a $5,000 Millenium Falcon on display, his dearest possession is his tattoo. Carrie Fisher autographed his arm, years ago – and he promptly ran to the tattoo shop to get it permanently inked into his skin. Photos of The Arm decorate the store, and he loves any and every opportunity to pull up his shirt sleeve and show it off.

My daughter dug through the back room of general collectibles and found a few Pokemon items. The back room also held Lilo and Stitch, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, He-Man and My Little Pony items, along with dozens of old movie videotapes.

After we finished up our oohing and ahhing and amazement over what-the-heck-it’s-an-Ewok-phone pieces, we went out to the car, where my husband was waiting.

“You gotta go inside,” I insisted.

“Why, is it cool?” he said.

“You just – you just gotta go see it for yourself.”

How to get there: 413 East Wishkah St., Aberdeen, Wash, about two hours from Seattle and 2 1/2 hours from Portland, Ore.

Hours: Generally 12-5, but call him anytime (Phone: 360-970-7080s) and he’ll open the door. Come as you are.

This post is happy to be part of DeliciousBaby’s Photo Friday. Visit Debbie’s site to find more deliciously different travel posts.

Spotlight: Seattle Whirligig!

For the next month, the circus-themed Whirligig event offers a dry escape on rainy Seattle days. The Center is now full of 10 bounce houses – a few gentle ones for children under age 3, many enormous houses for older kids.

Face painters turn regular children into princesses and Spider-Men, cartoonists create pics of mom-and-kid duos and live entertainment lights up the Center House’s stage.

Seattle Center Whirligig with kids

Human gumballs?

Here are a few tips we gleaned from the staff:

  1. Stash cash. Tickets or passes can only be bought with cash. There is an ATM machine available, but it might be best to bring cash with you.
  2. Buy passes ($7.50). The tickets just go too quickly – each trip through a bounce house requires a ticket, and a trip only takes about a minute or two.
  3. Bring a bag to put your kids’ shoes in. Shoes aren’t allowed on the bounce houses, and mom has to schlep them around. Parents sit outside of the bounce houses, so pack a book for yourself in that bag.
  4. Tote water and snacks. Kids get sweaty and thirsty in a hurry. The Seattle Center food court is yucky and expensive, with the exception of Starbucks (the kids’ snack pack saved our day). Wish we’d brought our own.
  5. Go early, when the Whirligig first opens, or go late, when it’s about to close. We went at 4:30 p.m., and it was perfect for the next hour and a half, until we were bounced out of the place.

Whirligig at Seattle Center

That night, they slept. Hard. A+ for Whirligig.

Find more travel fun at DeliciousBaby’s weekly Photo Friday.

Seattle Family Vacation

Spotlight: Fort Worden — Got a flashlight?

Did you bring your flashlight? A headlamp, maybe?

Good.

In Port Townsend, Wash., Fort Worden’s grey-concrete gun batteries once provided shelter to soldiers on the lookout for saboteurs, spies and submarines trying to enter the Puget Sound. Today, the batteries provide shriek-filled echo chambers full of childish delight.

Play flashlight tag through windowless, unlit corridors and the barren, pitch-black rooms. Wear sturdy shoes and make sure your tetanus shots are up to date – broken glass and water are everywhere.

The dank walls seem to reach out and touch you first, urging you to keep your coat on.

Pick up a map at the visitors’ center, right inside the fort’s gates. If you have older children, you’ll want to make your way to the main cluster of bunkers, about a two-mile walk round-trip from a parking lot. It’s a 45-minute sojourn (without stopping), but you’ll be in the center of eight eeky batteries.

With younger kids, go to Battery Kinzie, near the lighthouse. This set of spooky rooms only requires a one-minute walk from the car.

Battery Kinzie, built in 1910, provides great views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Hold the kids’ hands and walk up the no-railing stairs; watch out for the thorny bushes that once prevented spies from sneaking in under the fog cover. Their prickly spines sprout from the ground, threatening pain.

Does this all sound a little dangerous? It could be. But it’s not, not really. Just set some ground rules – don’t eat glass, don’t poke your brother in the eye with the thorn bush, and no, you cannot slide down the concrete slab. You’ll tear your pants and the enemy spies will see your underwear.

If you can’t get enough of the freakishly cool fun, check out the gun batteries in Fort Casey, on Whidbey Island, Wash.

And don’t forget your flashlight.

Find more family travel excitement over at DeliciousBaby’s Photo Friday.

Who’s Petrified Now? Washington’s Gingko Forest

The forest wasn’t petrified. I was petrified. You know you’re not in Western Washington any more when you see this sign like this one…

Gingko Petrified Forest

Today (March 19, 2010), the Gingko Petrified Forest State Park in Vantage, Washington reopens after a winter hiatus. In contrast to Western Washington’s rainy, temperate climate, Vantage’s climate reflects its Central Washington location, just east of the towering Cascade Mountain Range. It’s darn dry here.

Millions of years ago, this area was lush and damp, a swamp-filled rainforest dripping with tropical-looking plants and giant gingko trees. Then volcanic eruptions and massive floods tore through the region, burying artifacts in soil and stone. Today, the Gingko Petrified Forest’s Interpretive Center stands on top of a violent-looking gorge, where Earth-mama drama once ripped through the land.

On the day we were there, we didn’t see any of the bobcats, rabbits or skunks that live among the 7,470-acre park’s sagebrush and Ponderosa pine. So we walked among petrified logs and tried to decipher petroglyphs.

Petrified Wood

petroglyphs at the Gingko Petrified Forest, Washington State

Petroglyphs

Inside the fascinating interpretive center, we saw fossils that staff had labeled with “looks like” signs (an angel? a coyote? a deep sea fish). We pretended like we could shop from the museum’s displays of gems and semi-precious stones.

Petrified Wood-Fish

We watched tiny speedboats power down the river, looking rather insignificant when up against the giant basalt cliffs and millenniums of history.

A speedboat on the Columbia River

Find more photos and stories at DeliciousBaby’s Photo Friday.

Spotlight: Boats & Bikes in Bellingham

Fairhaven, Wash., August 2009.

I love looking at this photo on grey Northwest days. It reminds me that summer — my favorite time of year — is just around the corner. Summer means bike and boat season, endless daylight hours and sunsets that drip with color (instead of noses that drip with…well, you know).

I cannot wait.

Find more inspirational photos at Delicious Baby.

Whistler’s Peak 2 Peak with Kids

Whistler with kids

Our launch pad, at the base of Whistler Mountain. We wanted to try out the the Peak 2 Peak gondola, which travels the longest unsupported span in the world.

Whistler with kids

In the gondola, en route to Whistler Mountain’s lodge, where skiiers, snowboarders and families catch the Peak 2 Peak.

Whistler with kids

At Whistler’s main gondola station, right outside of The Roundhouse Lodge. The lodge hosts a gift shop, a speedy self-serve deli (with piping-hot chili),  and a dining room with breathtaking views.

Peak 2 Peak

The Peak 2 Peak whisks travelers 1.88 miles across the gap between Whistler and Blackcomb.

Peak 2 Peak

Did I mention that the gondolas dangle 1,427 feet (426 metres) over Fitzsimmons Creek? The Peak 2 Peak cherry-red gondolas are on the highest run in the world.

Peak 2 Peak

Those afraid of heights can choose to look at the cabin interior. Unless you’re in a glass-bottom cabin (which we were). In that case, you’ll just want to close your eyes.

Peak 2 Peak

And then, our gondola glided into a mist. The cabin fell silent until we popped back out on the other side, arriving at Blackcomb Mountain.

Blackcomb skiiers

On Blackcomb, we watched skiers swoop down the slopes, and the kids threw snowballs at dad.

whistler with kids

Kids always make quick friends, even at 6,000 feet. Here, Emmett sits steely-eyed in his snow fort, prepared for an attack from a new pal.

Whistler Mountain

We took the gondola back to Whistler Mountain for hot chocolate and more photos.

Whistler with kids

Then, back down the mountain again.

I thank Debbie of DeliciousBaby for hosting Photo Friday this week — and every week. Visit her site to check out fantastic travel memories, tips and photos!

MORE —-

To ride the Peak 2 Peak, I paid for the “sightseeing day pass” for myself and my family. Washington State and Canadian residents can benefit from the EDGE card.

Photo Friday: Vancouver 2010

These brilliant Chinese lanterns competed against Olympic mascots, trinket booths, singers, food vendors, ticket seekers and ticket scalpers, wandering performers and everything else going on at Vancouver 2010’s Plaza of Nations.

But the crimson beacons held their own, as they swayed in front of the twilight-touched mountains surrounding the city.

The photo demonstrates why I love this city so much: Vancouver’s rich cultural diversity and all-seasons natural playground. I’m thankful I’m only a three-hour drive away.

This is my first Photo Friday. Thanks for all that you do, Debbie at DeliciousBaby.