The Traveling Steve's

Touring Around Seattle Before Taking The Amtrak Empire Builder Train Home!

After a long and eventful trip to Seattle (previous post), Steve DOS and I slept well the first night at the Hyatt Olive 8 Hotel in Seattle.

This hotel is part of the Hyatt Chain and directly across the street from the Hyatt Regency DOS stayed at for two months last September to November while I was in Swedish Hospital for a month, joining him for the last month there of our two month Seattle medical stay.. Here is a photo of last year (on left) vs this year (on the right) at the same Hyatt Regency sign, although this year I’m not in a wheelchair!

The weather our first full day in Seattle was rather overcast and a bit misty, so we delayed our touring by one day and walked around the city a bit. Seattle is very hilly compared to “flat Florida” in general, so we didn’t walk down (nor back up) the steep incline to Pike’s Place Market this trip, nor last year’s, although we’ve been there a couple times prior. We did walk over to the Pacific Place indoor mall we went to last year. The trip last Sept 2022 was then a major progress point for me; just getting outside the hotel for a while, even though I was still in a wheelchair at that point. This time, I was able to walk, and we used the multiple levels of escalators to get to the top floor, vs last year via the elevators in my wheelchair.

Going up one of several escalators by foot, at the Pacific Place Mall. A major milestone compared to this time last year (Sept 2022) when I was in a wheelchair.

We had lunch at Johnny Rocket’s inside the mall which was fun and sure beats fast food, although we didn’t really see any fast food places in downtown Seattle. Unlike the Johnny Rocket’s on the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line ships, the wait staff don’t sing and dance for you, although they do have the same type design with booths featuring a faux coin Juke Box Player.

Johnny Rocket’s did provide us with the familiar smily face ketchup logo, drawn in ketchup like they do at the other locations. The burger, fries, onion rings, and DOS’s salad were all very good, and while we didn’t get a milkshake, the diet sodas made for a fun lunch.

After lunch, we walked down to another restaurant, Din Tai Fung, not to eat again (LOL!), but to have our photo taken there once again. We had our photo taken there last year (in front of their mascot) by a group of friendly young professionals who had just eaten there. While I was in the hospital last year, DOS ate here several times for their delicious dumplings, but I have not eaten here myself, I just thought it was a cool mascot for a restaurant.

As I was looking up a link for the restaurant on Google, I noticed several articles on this restaurant, which is actually a Taiwanese restaurant chain. In fact in Hong Kong, it’s actually a one star Michelin restaurant! The founder of Din Tai Fung just passed away this year, per this Google quick fact:

HONG KONG — Yang Bing-yi, the founder of Din Tai Fung, the Michelin-starred Taiwanese restaurant chain whose signature soup dumplings have attracted crowds around the world, has died at 96.Mar 31, 2023

Here is a photo of the downtown Seattle location Din Tai Fung, then (last September 2022 where I’m in a wheelchair) vs now (September 2023 standing upright).

My memory must be fading a bit, but I thought the Din Tai Fung Restaurant’s mascot looked liked one of the happy mascot sculptures we saw in China back in 2017, which were staged there in the parking lot and entrance, leftover from the Beijing Summer Olympics in 2008. I thought maybe it’s an Asian food mascot thing, similar to Ronald McDonald (cool link from Thrillist.com I saw on fast food mascots!) and others in the US. I went back thru my China photos, and while similarities, perhaps the smile exist, I guess that was a stretch of my memory. The smiley theme though still brings a smile to my face, so perhaps that’s what the artists had in mind.

Smiley structures at entrance to the Beijing Summer Olympics of 2008.

Feeling smiley happy at the entrance to the Beijing Summer Olympics, 2008

For dinner we Uber’d to the Yard House, an upscale sports bar/restaurant with dozens of beers on tap, including various sizes of glasses, including the traditional “Yard”. I’ve had “Yards” before, but as cool as it looks, it’s really not practical as the beer warms up fairly quickly, and also if you’re not careful the beer can splash in your nose and face!

The Yard House as seen from our Uber drop off point, a short 5 minute ride
from our downtown hotel.

Huge wrap-around bar area with Yard glasses (in the center) and various other sizes on the left, with dozens of brews on tap.
Bar area at The Yard House. We sat at a a table across from the bar section.

High ceilings in The Yard, with lots of large screen TV’s and not super noisy like most sports bars.

While we would normally get a beer sampler at a place such as this with so many brewskis available, DOS and I each had a pint of one of the local brewskis as suggested by our server. I had a Hazy IPA, while DOS had a Pilsner; both locally crafted. We also started with a shared appetizer of Ahi Tuna.

Shared AHI Tuna appetizer at The Yard House. Liked the AHI, but didn’t care for the added sauce.

The Yard House had large screen TV’s everywhere, but it wasn’t overly noisy in spite of that, and the seating in booths or large tables for groups was quite comfortable, with high ceilings throughout the restaurant. While we just had a burger and sandwich, the menu was quite extensive with steaks, seafood, and many other items from small plates to huge meals.

Turkey Club and Fries for me. I get a bar food splurge every now and then, but did ask
for no salt added to the fries!?

Sesame shrimp noddle dish for DOS.

We enjoyed the Yard House so much we went back again the next evening after our full day tour around Seattle. Many of the downtown restaurants in the Convention Area where we are staying are either high end (i.e. Ruth Chris’ Steakhouse), or eclectic and/or ethnic restaurants for foodies catering to the younger Seattle downtown crowd with fancy jobs. While we love Ruth Chris’s, this was a casual trip for us, and we didn’t bring anything other than jeans, polo shirts and sweatshirts to wear, plus just some simple American type food was fine with us for the couple days we were there, and the Yard House was a perfect fit for us this trip.

On Thursday we took an all day tour, which we booked at the Hyatt Regency Concierge desk, located across the street from the Hyatt Olive 8 hotel, which handled tour requests for both hotels.

The 44 floor Hyatt Regency Downtown Seattle, right across the street from the Hyatt Olive 8 Hotel.

Alex, the Concierge at the Hyatt Regency, actually remembered us from last year when we stayed there for 2 months (DOS for 2 months, myself for one month in the hospital and one month at the hotel after being discharged). Just a year ago, Sept 2022, when we stayed there, I was still very weak and unable to walk or get around on my own, and I pretty much just stayed the month at the hotel where I got therapy, nursing assistance, and testing/antibiotic treatments etc. I couldn’t even go down to the desk at that point, and called Alex to order a birthday cake for Steve (DOS) and some balloons for his birthday on October 26. Alex personally took care of my request and even went to a local bakery shop to get the cake as it was such short notice; truly Hyatt exceptional service!

Happy Birthday DOS, October 2022 when we were staying at the Hyatt Regency Seattle.

DOS was surprised to get balloons along with his birthday cake delivered to the Hyatt Hotel room, in October 2022.

Anyway, on this visit to Seattle, we ordered a day trip thru Alex at his suggestion, tailored to what we wanted to do: a visit to some of the wineries, and some of the local attractions or tour along the way. We were then booked for our all day tour with a pickup from the Hyatt Regency Hotel across the street from the Hyatt Olive Eight at 9:55am. This was a very convenient pickup point, as we had the nice buffet breakfast at the Hyatt Regency each morning, compliments of being a Hyatt Globalist Member, and a shared benefit with the Hyatt Olive 8 Hotel where we were staying. We had only a short wait after breakfast for our pickup from the hotel, while we waited in the adjacent and empty bar/lounge which was not open yet. From the windows there, we could see when the tour bus pulled up to the hotel, which loaded just outside on the side entrance.

The tour bus mini-shuttle van arrived right on schedule at the Hyatt, and DOS and I met Mark who would be our driver and tour guide for the day. We had read reviews for this tour, and we were hoping to get Mark as he had such outstanding reviews by nearly everyone on Trip Advisor. Mark did not disappoint, and really made sure we and the other four passengers had a wonderful day! It was a congenial group with the six of us as we toured around the Seattle area for the day. It was nice for us, since the midweek tour was not full, and we each had a row of two seats to ourselves.

Our tour guide and driver for the day, Mark.

Mark first drove us around downtown Seattle, giving us a quick overview of the area, and pointed out some of the important corporate sites such as Amazon’s Headquarters campus, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Komo Plaza Building Complex (site of Grey’s Anatomy TV series external shots, although it’s not a hospital and the show was filmed in Los Angeles), various building’s unique architecture, and of course the Space Needle, while playing games of local trivia with us passengers along the way.

Amazon’s Headquarters Campus, with the two sphere shaped domes.

The Komo Plaza Building Complex. Although not a hospital, it was used as the external filming shots for the TV show Grey’s Anatomy.

The iconic Seattle Space Needle. Built for the 1962 World’s Fair, it is 605 feet tall.

The drive to the wine region was actually closer than I thought, and while there were loads of wineries and tasting rooms, unlike Napa Valley, many of the grapes and vineyards were grown in Eastern Washington, which has a climate and weather better suited for wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon. On the way to the wine region, we crossed over Lake Washington via a long “floating bridge”, so designed as the depth of the water was quite deep, ranging in parts up to 200 feet deep. According to this Wikipedia article, the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge is the longest and widest floating bridge in the world at 7,710 feet long and 116 feet wide.

Crossing over the 7,710 foot long Evergreen Point Floating Bridge.

The wine region we toured was in Woodinville, WA. The Woodinville area is an up and coming wine region (although already quite popular with the Chateau St. Michell Winery being the best known), as evidenced by the many local tasting rooms and wineries, and tall construction cranes in the middle of the downtown wine area of Woodinville, no doubt expanding the area to accommodate more infrastructure for the wine region.

The first winery we went to was called Goose Ridge at Woodinville, WA. There are several locations for Goose Ridge, but Woodinville is the closest to downtown Seattle, and is in this up and coming wine area. Mark called this the “breakfast winery” as it was first on the list, and around 10:45am when we arrived there.

The tasting room had a private table setup for our group, and a wine specialist poured each of the wines in sequence for us. The wines ranged from the white wines of Riesling to Chardonnay, while the reds ranged from Malbec to Merlot to Cabernet Sauvignon.

Map showing wine regions of Washington state, with Goosehead winery locations marked by circles.

We enjoyed all of the wines, but are partial to the reds of Malbec and Cabernet. As we were going on the train the next day and you’re allowed to bring wine on for in your cabin personal use, we bought a bottle of Malbec, and 3 others (1 other Malbec, and 2 Cabernets) to take back to Florida. I liked the stemware the wines were served in, and Steve begrudgingly agreed (“How are we going to carry all this stuff home?”), so we bought a couple glasses as well, with me agreeing to carry them in the nice bag they gave us, after wrapping the glasses and bubble-wrapping the long stems. Hope they make it home ok! Oh, and also a wine opener with the name and logo of the vineyard; one to add to our collection, and two because we forgot to bring a wine opener from home and would soon need it for the train!

Our next stop was, literally a short drive across the street! Here at Marshall Winery Tasting Room and Bistro, we also had a reserved table, and while not a hosted wine tasting as the one at Goosehead was, we ordered wine flights and were given a menu that described each wine. We also ordered lunch here, which we had with the wines. This tasting room/restaurant was larger, with a cozy fireplace decorating the corner of the room.

Here we bought 2 Cabernet Franc wines to take with us back to Orlando, and also a wine cap with their name and logo. We really hadn’t planned on buying any wine except a bottle for the train, as it’s heavy to transport, and we have at home a couple wine carriers we would normally use if purchasing bottles of wine, which we didn’t bring with us. A tip our driver Mark told us, not that it would help us this trip: If you fly Alaska Airlines from one of the three west coast wine region states: Washington, Oregon, or California, they will allow you to check one case of wine for free on your flight home, even across the country! Now that’s good to know for the future! Cheers to Alaska Airlines! ?

After lunch, we went to our last winery stop, (which was actually a “bonus” stop as it was not on the tour but we were doing well on the touring time) which was Chateau-Ste-Michelle. While we only had a half hour here, and not enough time for a tasting, Mark said we could buy a glass of wine and walk around the tasting room, or anywhere on the expansive grounds with it. They had another tour more comprehensive tour which stopped at Chateau-Ste-Michelle for lunch, tastings, and exploring the grounds, but this “bonus” excursion was enough to see it, and go back for a longer visit in the future.

Unfortunately, the Seattle weather didn’t cooperate, and it started pouring down rain once we were inside the tasting room, so while I did have a glass of 2018 Cabernet, it wasn’t practical to walk around in the rain with an open glass of vino!

No worries with the rain indoors though, the tasting room was HUGE and very modern, with lots of sectional displays, and what looked like mini-tasting rooms, and of course a couple huge tasting bar areas and gift shops. We didn’t buy any wine there as much of their wine (except the reserve and some other selections) we can buy at home, but we did buy some souvenirs such as a hat and a set of small cheese/charcuterie boards.

After our purchases, we and the rest of the group braved the pouring rain and headed a block or so back to the mini-van, all soaking wet by the time we got onboard. Everyone had left their umbrellas on the bus as it was sunny just moments before we got to Chateau Ste. Michelle. Sounds like Florida weather that changes so fast!

From Chateau Ste. Michelle, we then went to Snoqualmie Falls, about a 40 minute drive away, which gave us all time to “dry out” in the tour bus. We passed a few sites as our Tour Guide Brain pointed out as we drove along the more rural and country-side roads to reach the Falls. We passed thru the small town of Carnation”, complete with a road-side self-service, honor system pay stall, as well as Carnation Farms, and a quaint Main Street with businesses such as Red Pepper Pizzeria (which was a former gas station with antique pumps and props on display outdoors), Ace hardware store, Miller’s (a community Music and Event venue), a beautiful Tolt Church of Christ, and even a dilapidated red barn.

By the time we dried off from the rain showers at Chateau-Ste-Michelle, we had reached Snoqualmie Falls Park. Snoqualmie Falls is the largest and highest waterfall at 270 feet high in Washington State, and it really is a beautiful nature stop worth seeing.

We took several photos here as although it had stopped raining by this point, it was on and off quite foggy and misty from the water droplets bouncing up from the falls down below, and everyone was trying to get the perfect picture.

The Steve’s with our tour guide and driver, Mark at Snoqualamie Falls, Washington.

A short video of the Snoqualamie Falls

Back on the tour bus, we journeyed on to our final stop, passing the upscale and deluxe Sailish Hotel and Spa and the small and historic city of Snoqualamie (link per the city’s official web site). I also took a couple exterior photos of the Train Depot Museum, and Our Lady of Sorrows Church.

Finally for our last stop of the day, we went to Boehm’s Candies, a family-owned chocolate factory that resembles an Austrian Village. The Boehm’s family and business has quite a bit of history (including the chapel further down below) you can read about here on their website.

We arrived at Boehm’s around 4pm, and while the gift shop was still open, all but a couple of the factory workers had left for the day as they start work early. The owner’s daughter, Narissa, gave us a tour of the factory area, and explained how they create various types of chocolate and candies, even giving us yummy samples as we walked thru!

Our tour thru Boehm’s Candies; the old machine on the right is from the early 1900’s and was used until recently, still on display in the factory.

This equipment was used until recently, until it became too costly to maintain, and hard to get replacement parts.

Huge slab of chocolate waiting to be sliced up not bite size pieces.

R2-D2 looking mixing machine!

TV monitor showing how the hand dipping art of chocolate truffles is done in this room.

In addition to the hand dipping chocolate truffles are, I thought the “molding room”, was also very interesting. In the “molding room” were various sets of molds for forming everything from the Easter Bunny to Santa Claus, and other things in between, such as flowers, leaves, easter eggs, orange flavors dipped in chocolate, crunchy toppings; basically a chocolate-lovers paradise! The molded chocolates came in all different weights and sizes, as does the chocolate assortment boxes they were already preparing for the holidays.

Willy Wonka would be so proud!

We stopped by the gift shop on the way out, and bought a couple bags of assorted dark chocolate for our train ride home tomorrow on the Empire Builder.

We had a few minutes left while others shopped before departing Boehm’s for our ride back to Downtown Seattle, so I walked around the property a bit, heading first to the men’s room. As I walked toward the side of the property, I noticed there was a garden and small chapel (the interior of the chapel was closed while we were there and is used for weddings and scheduled tours), and a life size sculpture of Jesus carrying the cross. The eyes on the Jesus figure seemed to stare straight into your heart and soul; quite a moving sculpture.

Before leaving Boehm’s, we had a group photo taken of the six of us in the parking lot, and another with our tour guide Mark as well. Mark had definitely lived up to his reputation as an awesome tour guide (he did the College Program at Disney World in his younger days one semester, so you know he had to be fun and customer service oriented!). Mark dropped us off at our hotel around 5:30pm, and we carried all our purchases back to our hotel across the street at Olive 8. It was quite a fun-filled and long day, but it went by quickly and we had such a fun group of people to share it with!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *