• Seattle Summer West Coast Learning Moment 2019

    July 24, 2019 | Trip Recaps
  • Please select a day or scroll down to read entire post
  • Day 1 • July 18, 2019

    Interior photo of Amtrak's luxurious Metropolitan Lounge in South Station in Boston.

    West coast, here I come! This Learning Moment is brand-new, because this is the first time that I’ve been on the West Coast! Today, I left home at about 10:00 AM, enjoyed brunch at Beantown Pub, and arrived at South Station, where the Amtrak trains leave from, at 11:15 AM. I relaxed in the Metropolitan Lounge, which is formerly club Acela, and the Lake Shore Limited, the train that goes to Chicago, left at 12:50 PM. For the first segment, the train consisted of only two coaches and a café car. So, I enjoyed coach up until Albany, then I moved into my roomette! I’ve never traveled in a sleeper car on Amtrak; therefore, this was both a new and an awesome experience! The roomette, as expected, was very small, but surprisingly, worked out well. It reminded me of the cabin that I had when we had a boat many years ago. There were two bunks, and I slept on the lower one. I used the upper bunk for my luggage. It also had just one outlet, so the extension cord was very useful! I could only imagine if two passengers slept in here, it would be very tight. In this roomette, which is a viewliner roomette, a toilet was also in the room, and I had to put some of my stuff on top of it! To give you an idea, that’s how tight the space is. The doors slid open and closed, so that was easy. The dining car on this train is contemporary dining, which means that it is only for sleeper car passengers. The wine and the chicken alfredo were great, and I slept well.

  • Interior photo of Amtrak Viewliner Roomette

    Interior photo of Amtrak Viewliner Roomette
  • Interior photo of Amtrak Superliner Roomette

    Interior photo of Amtrak Superliner Roomette
  • Day 2 • July 19, 2019

    Exterior patio of Dylan's Tavern and Grill in Chicago, Illinois

    The next morning, we arrived into Chicago a bit late, at about 10:30 AM central time. I got a ride to the Metropolitan lounge on one of those special carts, and after dealing with agents who were not the nicest, used the AIRA service to eat at Dylan’s Tavern and Grill across the street from Union Station. Union Station closely resembles Washington DC’s Union Station, and it was difficult to navigate. It was very hot in Chicago, about 98 degrees, and on the way in, I listened to WBBM, Chicago’s all-news station via the radio.com app. After enjoying beer, onion rings, and a steak sandwich at Dylan’s, I relaxed at the Metropolitan lounge until the Empire Builder, my next train, left at 2:15 PM. Unlike the Lake Shore Limited, this train was a double decker train, and since they don’t use the superliner double decker equipment on the east coast, this was my first time traveling on this type of train. The roomette was almost the same as on the Lake Shore Limited, and the attendant’s name was George. He was extremely helpful, and they had both a dining and a café car on the train. After relaxing in the roomette, the steak dinner and the wine in the dining car was awesome, and every table is full, so even if you’re traveling by yourself, you get seated with three other random people. Additionally, in the dining car, you have to make a reservation, unlike in the café car.

  • Day 3 • July 20, 2019

    This morning, I was up at about 6:30, and showered on the train! That was both a new, as well as an interesting experience which, believe it or not, worked well. It reminded me of a hotel, because towels, soap, and everything was all there! It’s a one-person walk-in shower, so it was easy. After enjoying breakfast in the dining car, I went to the café car and listened to Speed, a movie in audio description that I used to enjoy when I was younger. Different from the café cars on the single level trains, on the upper level of this café car, it’s actually called an observation car. On this level, there are many seats, some that have tables, some that face the windows. In contrast, on the lower level, is the traditional café car with tables. Also, during this entire train ride, I had no WIFI, and very spotty phone service, so it was great to live in the moment, without having much outside technology. One of the passengers that I chatted with was traveling between home and work in Montana, and I’m not joking, had two Jack Daniels drinks, and it was only noon! I also demonstrated the AIRA system to some passengers, and had the agent describe how the café part of the observation car was laid out. I then had lunch, relaxed for the afternoon, had dinner, and went to bed at about 9:00.

  • Day 4 • July 21, 2019

    A photo of trees and park bench in Pioneer Square. Pioneer Square is a neighborhood in the southwest corner of Downtown Seattle, Washington, USA. It was once the heart of the city: Seattle's founders settled there in 1852, following a brief six-month settlement at Alki Point on the far side of Elliott Bay.

    Today, I found out that the train was running about two hours late, so I arrived into Seattle at about 12:30 PM. The Embassy Suites hotel is right next to the Amtrak Station in Pioneer Square, so it was super easy to get there. This embassy suites is much newer than the one that I’ve stayed at in DC, and the room was much smaller, but still comfortable. The main difference is that it’s just one room, not a bedroom and a living room. After relaxing, a friend Brittany, her boyfriend Rory, and I walked around the International District and enjoyed dumplings. I then attended the nightly happy hour, which is similar to the reception in Washington, DC. Unlike that one, there’s no real bar to actually sit at, so the drinks are at a little kiosk instead. I needed a lot of assistance, but it was still awesome to enjoy drinks, appetizers, and to chat with this couple from Tampa, Florida. I then met up with my friend Kayley, and an important thing to note is that both restaurants and food menus at bars close very early in Seattle, especially on Sundays! We went to the Owl N' Thistle, for what I was hoping were some awesome fish and chips, but the kitchen was closed! So, we enjoyed a drink there, then went to the Fado Irish Pub, thinking that at least appetizers would be available. Unfortunately, the kitchen was closed there as well! So, we enjoyed another local beer there, then to end the night, I had dinner at the hotel’s 24-hour restaurant, 13 coins. The Japanese style burger and fries were great, but they have the most inefficient system for communicating with the staff! Despite all that, I got to bed at 2:00 AM. Tomorrow, a friend, Lissa, that I met off of rentafriend.com, will be showing me around the city, so that will be awesome!

  • Day 5 • July 22, 2019

    A nightime aerial photo of beautiful T Mobile Park in Seattle, Washington.

    Today, I got up at about 8:00, and enjoyed the free breakfast, which was similar to Washington, DC. It was great to chat with Mack, one of the staff, about both the hotel and about Seattle. Then, unfortunately, something came up at work, so Lissa had to cancel. So, I hung around for most of the day, and walked around the neighborhood right by the hotel. At about 4:00, I enjoyed happy hour at Zeffer’s, one of the bars in the hotel. The Seattle local beer from Elysian Brewery, as well as the cider, were awesome. David, from the Couchsurfing web site, met me at the hotel and we went to T Mobile Park to hear the Seattle Mariners play the Texas Rangers. Because of his work, we had club seats, which reminded me of Gillette Stadium in Boston. The fish and chips from the popular Seattle chain Ivar’s, the beer, and the headset that provided play by play description were great, and one of David’s friends, Jeff is actually from Boston. I got back to the hotel at 11:00. Tomorrow, a great friend, Lacey, from the rentafriend web site, who didn’t cancel, will be showing me Pike Place Market, the Light Rail transit system, West Lake Center, Capitol Hill, and other great places!!

  • Day 6 • July 23, 2019

    A photo of the interior of the Victory Lounge in Seattle.

    Wow! What an awesome day exploring Seattle! After enjoying breakfast at the hotel, Lacey, from rentafriend.com, met me at the hotel and we started off our Seattle adventure. Lacey is a dance teacher and a model in Seattle, and has a variety of jobs. This was her first time hanging out with someone who is blind, as well as her first time meeting someone from the rentafriend.com web site. We enjoyed coffee at a local Seattle coffee shop called Zeitgeist, and the coffee was just like Starbuck’s. We then rode the Light Rail system from International District/Chinatown, which is the closest station to the hotel, up to West Lake Station, near Pike Place Market, one of the most famous attractions in Seattle. The light rail was newer than the T in Boston, and unfortunately, the audio on the fare vending machine didn’t work, but it was the same kind as in Boston. Additionally, unlike in Boston, there is only one line, and it runs from the University of Washington to the airport, with about 15 stops in between. The automated announcements worked, and the trains had only one step, making them accessible. Pike place is massive, and it was packed! It makes Faneuil Hall in Boston look tiny! There is both an outdoor and an indoor part, and walking was difficult. They had restaurants, shops, and live music. For lunch, we ended up at Pike Place chowder, and I enjoyed the sampler of New England clam, salmon, seafood bisque, and scallop, and interestingly enough, even though I’m on the west coast, the new England clam chowder was my favorite.

    After lunch, Lacey took me to the waterfront, which is right near Pike Place Market. It was great to walk around, to relax in a park, and to enjoy the fresh air. We then made our way to Capitol Hill, another hopping neighborhood. This neighborhood is the gay district of Seattle, but also has many bars, restaurants, and younger people. We went to the Blue Moon Bar, and one of Seattle’s most popular breweries, Elysian brewery. After enjoying a few local beers, Lacey brought me back to the hotel. That night, I met up with Kayley again, a friend from Sunday night. We enjoyed drinks at Victory Lounge, dinner at Big Mario’s Pizza, and more drinks at the Pine Box. I can’t believe that tomorrow, I head back home on Delta, but not before I have another day of exploring Seattle with a great friend Stephanie that I met off of the Couchsurfing web site a few years ago!

  • Day 7 • July 24, 2019

    A photo of Ian and friend Stephanie on the Seattle Light Rail train

    Today, after breakfast, I used AIRA to head over to Krispy Kreme, one of my favorite donut places. They don’t have any on the east coast, so I wanted to make sure that I got my fix on the last day! I then met up with Stephanie, who I met in Boston a few years ago. She now lives in Seattle. We went to the waterfront and enjoyed fish and chips from the original Ivar’s restaurant called Acres of Clams, which was much better than the Ivor’s food booth at T Mobile Park. We then rode the monorail to Seattle Center. They have many outdoor festivals throughout the year, and we stood outside of the Space Needle. I didn’t go up the Space Needle, because multiple people told me that it’s not worth the price for just an elevator ride, but it was great to stand outside of it. After walking around Seattle Center, Stephanie and I made our way back to Capitol Hill, enjoyed a few drinks at Optimism Brewery. Interestingly enough, they don’t take tips, and they only accept credit cards. The cider was great, and we met up with one of her friends. We then ate at a cheap pasta restaurant called Due' Cucina Italian. It’s similar to the pasta places back in Boston, where you pick your pasta, toppings, and sauce. The smoked salmon over rigatoni was awesome! After dinner, we took the light rail for one more ride back to the hotel, and I took Lyft to Seattle International Airport. For the first time, I used AIRA to navigate the airport, since it was a free access location. While the signal sometimes went out, it was easy to reconnect with an agent, and I used it to check-in they waived the baggage fee, to go through security, and to get almost to gate B7. The Delta flight was 100 percent full, and I was in the back. They only had drinks, and I got to Logan at 6:45 AM. Overall, it was an awesome first adventure out west, and I’m looking forward to the next one!