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Preparations and Off to Seattle

Somewhat impulsive, at least for me, I’d booked an Alaskan cruise less than two weeks before I set off to the Pacific Northwest. There was a promotion at Norwegian Cruise Lines with one-week cruises to destinations I wanted to visit, so I grabbed the horns and called my booking agent.

Once booked on the NCL Bliss for a departure from Seattle for 7 May, I went into my American Airlines frequent flyer account and booked a round trip from Sarasota (through Charlotte) to SeaTac for Wednesday, 4 May and returning Tuesday, 17 May. Adding in an upgrade for the two longer legs for more legroom, the whole ticket cost me less than $100. I sent my flight itinerary to my friend/driver Nancy and transport to and from the airport was set.

After using Google Maps, I searched for the pier location in Seattle where I’d board the Bliss. Then I sought an affordable hotel, settling on The Moore on Second Avenue. Three nights there prior to boarding took care of my pre-cruise land needs, so I then looked at the three nights following. As I’d been to Seattle twice before, the last being 6 years ago while my Pleasanton, California house was on the market, I’d only found one more cathedral there I’d missed. However, there were 3 more in the state, with two in Spokane off to the far east. Delta offered the best schedule for me, and I booked a one-night round trip with a lodging booked at Ruby 2, which was near to the Roman Catholic cathedral.

Next I rented a Budget car for Monday, 16 May so I could visit Yakima. Since I would be walking to the rental counter at the pickup location, I booked two nights at the closest hotel, a Super 8 Wyndham. Then it was time to look at the excursions that NCL offered. I’d learned on the Eastern Caribbean trip that I needed to do more in port than just hoof it to see the local cathedrals in each port. With this trip, there would only be 2 cathedrals to visit in southeast Alaska, and we had 5 ports. After checking with my friend Mandra, who had previously lived in Alaska, I selected excursions in each so that I could see a bit of each. I also added the post-cruise bus tour of Seattle which would also delivered my luggage with me at the airport. All the while, I was updating an itinerary on my spreadsheet. I reached out to friends and a family member to try too hook up, and checked the Mariners schedule, please to find that the Tampa Bay Rays would be visiting when I got there.

Wednesday, 4 May

Because Nancy had another client, her neighbor Joyce arrived to take me to Sarasota-Bradenton Airport. As we headed north, I rambled on about why Alaska now, my obsession with cathedrals, and how to get a book printed/published. The time sped by, traffic was calm (and lighter as the seasonal residents had been heading back north,) so I was in and checking in for my flight much too early. To avoid overweight charges, I moved the 7 pounds of my copies of Cathedrals to the Glory of God out and put it into the roll-on bag. I’d decided that I didn’t want to haul all my electronics, emergency clothes and toiletries, and camera on my back in a backpack. I pulled one of the 3 small roller bags out the garage and used a “daypack” to hold my journal, passport, phone and reader, with everything else in the bag. My back was much happier, albeit my still-recovering right hand did get sore.

Initially it looked like delayed equipment would cause me to miss my connection, but American somehow juggled planes and we were off maybe 30 minutes late and had priority in getting to the gate in North Carolina. Charlotte was an easy layover – once the 20 rows in front of me cleared the plane, I headed out, around the core and to my gate in the next concourse, arriving as my group was called. Extra legroom and an aisle seat were blessings. I handed the attendant a box of Trader Joes pistachio and dark chocolate coated caramel bites, getting a smile. (I’d been trained by former attendant neighbors to always bring treats for the crew.) While she was effusive with thanks, the rest of the American crew never acknowledged, which was unusual to my prior experiences. The flight was smooth, on time, and uneventful. Across the aisle was a woman with a 5-month old. The baby and mother were wonderful. My row companions were two college-aged tall young men who basically kept to themselves. I asked for red wine which wasn’t available, so I opted for Scotch. A broken card reader meant that my drinks were complimentary. On arrival in Seattle-Tacoma, it was a long walk and even longer wait for luggage, but eventually I was pulling the two roller bags along as I walked to the transit system entry.

After purchasing an Orca card and loading it with cash, I rode the escalator to the platform and boarded the northbound train. (There is only one line at present in this system.) About 40 minutes later, after passing many stops including the Stadium stop where about two-thirds of the passengers left to head to the Lumens Stadium (Sounders were playing the Mexican Pumas), the train arrived at Westlake where I pulled my bags off and began searching for the working escalators heading up. There was only one stretch, of about 6 steps, where I had to carry both bags (separately.) Once on Pine Street, I stepped my way west and then north as I headed to the hotel. At the far corner was a Catholic mission, where homeless were gathered looking for meals and beds for the night. Fortunately, I wasn’t too uncomfortable and was able to continue my way unaccosted to The Moore.

Sitting at the corner, this brick block is ornamented with Art Deco flourishes, and has a coffee shop on the ground floor. The lobby itself was a bit underlit, staffed by a single attendant who remotely controlled the door lock. A pleasant woman, we chatted a bit before I left for my room on the seventh floor. A single lift, yielded long, underlit carpeted floors with walls in rich autumnal tones and wooden wainscotting. The room itself was no-frills, a large near square footprint with plenty of space to leave the suitcase open. The windows faced out over Virginia Street, their single panes breathing in a slight cool draft as I looked into another tall brick building. The bathroom was double the size of mine in Florida, and had a claw-footed tub (with no grip bars!) and added pipe shower. Enough surface space to accommodate the needed toiletries.

Grabbing the book, I headed back to the lobby with my journal in the daypack, my folded umbrella in the other hand. I left Cathedrals with the desk clerk, as she’d indicated an interest, and left after getting a restaurant recommendation. Four plus blocks down Second Avenue, passing a good number of closed establishments, I crossed to enter La Vita á Bella. Seated in the front window, I ordered a glass of Sangiovese to accompany my Braccio Di Ferro (fresh spinach salad with gorgonzola and walnuts) and Gnocchi Pepirosso (roasted red bell pepper puree, pancetta, herbs, a touch of cream.) The salad was huge and very fresh and tasty; I liked the bell pepper sauce and should try to learn to make it. None of the dessert offerings appealed, so I paid up and walked back to hotel under my umbrella, as it was drizzling steadily. I retrieved my books as the desk attendant had changed.

The radiator had warmed up the room in my absence, and the curtains blocked most of the draft and some of the street noise. Putting two of the four foam pillows aside, I settled into the comfortable bed after completing my nightly ablutions. The night passed without incident.

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