Monday, August 29, 2016

Joe Metro

"The Northwest fills the lungs, heals the pain in my chest…"

When I first heard Joe Metro it made me really appreciate riding the buses.  Seattle is such a green city…or tries to be one.  It's great to be able to rent out bikes for the day and ride around the city.  It's also pretty cool to be able to use all the forms of public transportation available in the city-- from buses to water taxies, the light rail to the sounder train.

Though it's more convenient to drive around the suburbs of Seattle, within the city, it's pretty manageable to live life without a car.

Fun Fact:  Since moving to Seattle, I've learned that our public transport has often been referred to as Joe Metro, hence the title of today's blog post!

For a few years now, Seattle has been moving from a cash-based tendering fare system to a debit-based one.

Hong Kong has the Octopus Card, which is a debit card that can be used to make purchases (at the post office, convenience stories, fast food restaurants, etc…) and also to pay the fare of public transport (like the ferries, buses, light rail and the MTR).

Seattle's Orca card is similar, but for public transport mainly.

Today, we caught the bus out to Burien (where I blogged about the Thursday farmers market).  The bus dropped us off at the Burien Transit Station, which is your basic Park and Ride.  Here is where we caught the Rapid Ride down to the Tukwila Light Rail station and rode the light rail into Seattle.

How to get an Orca Card?
You can get an Orca card at any of the Ticket Vending Machines at the Light Rail stations, which is what we did.  Online says that you can also get them at Transit Centers, like the Burien Transit Center, Park and Rides and Sounder Commuter Rail Stations.  Besides transit stations, you can also purchase Orca cards at a number of retail locations.

Orca Cards cost $5 initially.  You can always add value to the card at the Ticket Vending Machines.

What's the Rapid Ride?
We took the Rapid Ride over to our nearest Light Rail station. The Rapid Rides are supposed to come the most frequent of all other bus lines…ten minutes during peak hours.  The really cool thing about the Rapid Rides is that they send signals to traffic lights so they stay green.  So, they stop less and go more!

All Rapid Ride lines also have wifi, which is what I always need when I'm in Seattle because I don't have phone service.

How do you use the Orca Card?
The buses that we've been riding all state that you have to pay before entering the bus.  So, you can tap your Orca Card as you enter the bus.  The Orca Card machine is right at the fare tendering box at the side of the driver.

For the light rail, you have Orca Card reading machines at the entrances of the light rail stations and also on the platforms.

The Orca reader at the Burien Transit Center was down at the time, but you can normally tap it before boarding the Rapid Rides.  Because it was down, we just tapped our card on the bus.

The Burien Transit Center sits right along side a huge parking complex, which is where you can Park and RIDE into town…hence the name Park and Ride!  Back when I was going to UW, we would park here and catch the bus up to campus.  It's been mightily improved since those days, though.

How to fill up the Orca Card:
You can always check how much you have on your Orca Card at the Ticket Vending Machines.  If you need to add more cash to the card, you can just look for one of these Vending Machines and reload.

At most transit stations you can find a machine to add value and also check the value of your Orca card.    You can definitely find these machines at every light rail station.  There is one machine in Burien's Transit Station…pretty beaten up, but functioning.

Here's a view of the Rapid Ride.  We were traveling on the weekday…before noon, so it wasn't so busy.  I have been on the Rapid Rides a few times during non-peak hours and they always seem quite empty, which is nice.

Actually, all the trips we've been on with the Seattle public transport has been pretty empty.  I think that the only times it is crowded is during game day…when everyone is catching the light rail into town and popping off at the Stadium Station.

From the Burien Transit Station to the Tukwila Light Rail Station is about 10 - 15 minutes.  I feel like it was quite fast because I just used the time to check some emails and we had reached our destination already.

After hopping off the Rapid Ride, we tapped our Orca cards and entered the Tukwila Light Rail Station.  The trains are also quite frequent, which is pretty nice.  We weren't in any rush anyhow, but it was nice to know that we never had to wait too long for the next train.

The light rail is always expanding, but this summer, the stops are:

The UW area station-->

1. University of Washington Station

The downtown Seattle stations--> 

2.  Capitol Hill Station
3.  Westlake Station
4.  University Street Station
5.  Pioneer Square Station
6.  International District Station
The Century Link and Safeco Field stations (South of downtown stations)-->
7.  Stadium Station
8.  Sodo Station

All other stations, mostly around residential areas of the city-->

9.  Beacon Hill Station
10.  Mount Baker Station
11.  Columbia City Station
12.  Othello Station
13.  Rainier Beach Station
14.  Tukwila International Boulevard Station

The current terminal south of Seattle city-->

15.  SeaTac/Airport Station

The Angle Lake station is opening soon…as the light rail extends south of Seattle!

This day, we mainly just went down to Pike's Place to do some souvenir shopping, but here are some other things you can do in Seattle town:

1.  Check out Seattle Center, where you can find the Pacific Science Center, Children's Museum and take a run through the International Fountain…the Chihuly Glass Museum!

2.  You can get out at the Capitol Hill Light Rail Station and explore Broadway, stroll around Volunteer Park...walk over to First Hill and visit the Frye Museum...

3.  The International District, AKA CHINATOWN, is always fun to have lunch/dim sum in…

Everything is totally easy to get to via riding public transport…touristy things, for sure!

Hope this blog proves a bit useful to some who want to find links on how to get Orca Cards, know a bit about the public transport…and also want to know what you can do in Seattle.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Seattle Chocolates

For a few weeks, I have been thinking of some things that would be nice to bring back to my Hong Kong family.  I thought that t-shirts that had SEATTLE blazing on the front would be an easy gift.  For our wedding, we gave out I HEART HK t-shirts as grab bag gifts for winners of the reception games…so it seemed to be a fun idea.  

Magnets also seem like good gifts.  Who doesn't love a good magnet with the Space Needle on it to hold up a shopping list?  When I went to Ocean Park for the first time, I bought photo frame magnets to put our photos in and gave it to my family as Christmas gifts one year.  They still have the photo frame magnets on their fridges…and they are still topics of conversation.  So…that would have also made a great gift…

But, then I came across the idea of treats!  

A fabulous souvenir to bring back to Hong Kong for the friends and in laws (especially) is probably chocolate!  Chocolate is always a nice little treat, they come in some pretty nice pre-wrapped packaging and you can also find some awesome unique flavors (dark chocolate and sea salt, wild berry chocolates, quinoa noir!)

Down in Southcenter, is a chocolate factory called Seattle Chocolates.  They have a shop attached to the factory where you can find all of the chocolates that the factory produces.

***A view of the lobby and a glance around the shop***

The shop behind the lobby and is manned by a really nice woman from Kazakhstan.  She was really nice in explaining to us what SECONDS were, about the different flavors of truffles that we could put into a mixed bag…and also about the samples that were splayed out on the sample bar.

It was really nice to have that mixed-bag truffle option.  It's really great to give samples of chocolates to people, so we picked up a few of the most unique flavors (champagne) for our adventurous friends and a few classic flavors (dark chocolate) for our more conservative friends.

Apologies for the blurriness!!!!
We also picked up a few bags of Seconds because they had some really awesome flavors and also came in bigger chunks for some friends we thought would be really BIG FANS of chocolates.

My favorite part…besides the awesomely Seattle-focused packaging is the sample bar.  There are some really amazing flavors to test out at the bar…in large chunks too!  My favorite flavor of the day was probably the Bali Sea Salt Toffee.  

Chocolate never fails as being a great gift…especially ones made in Seattle!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Des Moines Waterfront Farmers Market

The first time I ever went to a Farmers Market was when I lived up in the U-District.  Being a girl from the suburbs, I used to think that it was a uniquely Seattle CITY thing to have a Market on a Sunday.  We didn't really buy anything, but we did go a few times to just check out the handicrafts.  

The best Farmers Market that I'd ever been to in Seattle is probably the Fremont Sunday Market.  It's huge and has a lot of great antique things to checkout.  

We've been going down to the Des Moines Waterfront Farmers Market every Saturday to restock on fresh produce to make baby food.  The Farmers Market is located right in the parking lot of the Des Moines Marina.  

The Saturday Farmers Market is a lot better than the Wednesday one because there are more vendors out…probably because a lot more people are free on the weekends.  The Market opens from 10 am - 2 pm from June to September.  

***Views of the Des Moines Farmers Market!***

It's a really great way to spend part of a Saturday.  There is food, music and a lot of fun for the kids (face painting…running around catching Pokemon…the usual).

Fun Fact:  Another Farmers Market, which is pretty nearby to Des Moines is the Burien Farmers Market.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Des Moines Museum

I'm all for visiting a museum when I'm in a new place.  When my sister and I went to Washington DC for the first time, we tried to hit up all the museums that weekend.  The most impressive museum I'd ever visited, besides the Smithsonian!, was the Holocaust Memorial Museum.  

In high school, we spent most of Junior year Lit reading fiction based in the WWII-era and discussing in detail anti-Semitic themes (Elie Vesel's Night, Joseph Heller's Catch-22, Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice), so reading up on the experiences of the Holocaust in the Memorial Museum was an amazing experience.  Also, walking around and visiting the memorials (which was like visiting a huge outdoor museum) was just something that was on my bucket list for ages.  

When we went to Tokyo for the first time, my sister and I also tried to visit all the museums in the Ueno district (…zoo included as an animal museum!).  It was our trek to the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum that reignited my interest in visiting art museums, actually.  The museum was exhibiting works of art from Alphonse Mucha at the time…I think, before going here, I hadn't been into any art museum for over 10 years!

There is so much to be learned about through visiting museums, no matter how large or small they are!

While on one of our walks down to the Des Moines Marina and around the Des Moines Marina District, we discovered that there was a museum a block away from the abandoned Des Moines Theater.  The Des Moines Museum is maintained by the Des Moines Historical Society.  

Des Moines Museum Info:
730 South 225th St.
Des Moines, Washington

The museum starts running after Memorial Day and before Labor Day on Saturdays from 1 - 4 pm.

Free Admission (Donations welcomed)

***Views of the Des Moines Museum's Collection***

It was pretty neat to see all these ANCIENT artifacts of the Des Moines town!!!, which our guide said was mostly donated.  It was also quite nice to have someone who grew up in the area give us a personal tour of the museum.

Hearing stories from the past and also about how the community changed made me think about how so much has changed from my own life since I moved out of Washington.  It made me think about starting scrapbooking again, actually!

It was a great few hours at the museum!