Jim waiting at the airport for our visitors

Jim (also known as “The Thinker”) and I waited for over 1 hour until Florian and Kathi (henceforth referred to as “the kids”) were released from the bowels of airport immigration.

Playing Tourists in our own Backyard

Recently, we got to spend 12 days playing tourists with our nephew Florian and his girlfriend Kathi who were visiting from Austria. Florian came to visit when he was 15 years old and now as a 30-year-old, he wanted to show Kathi many places he’d experienced back then. This meant a full program with many fun mini-adventures in our backyard — Seattle, Edmonds, and Vancouver. 

Florian and Kathi (the Austrian "kids")

Florian and Kathi (the Austrian “kids”)

Our new iPhones came in handy for quickly documenting some of these adventures. Not that I would ditch my camera anytime soon but for good-enough snapshots, they worked pretty well.

We hope that you’ll enjoy these images and ideas and maybe find some inspiration for yourself and/or your own out-of-town visitors. 

Chihuly exhibit at the Seattle aquarium

The Seattle Aquarium is relatively small but charming with its anemone petting pools and a case with a few ethereal Chihuly sea shapes.

There are many attractions we had to leave for the next visit and some that just didn’t hold the same fascination 15 years later (we all ran past the famed Gum Wall that has now morphed into a pretty disgusting “Gum Alley”), others we had never experienced ourselves like the very interesting 1-hour Harbor Tour put on by Argosy Cruises.

The Wish List

The kids provided us with a list of things they wanted to see (and taste) to which Jim and I added a few items. We also removed a few. Taco Bell was “verboten” but the veggie soft tacos at Taco Time were a hit.

Once armed with our list, I checked out the Groupon site which offers price-reduced packages of tourist attractions. We went for the wonderful Woodland Park Zoo, the Harbor Tour, and the humble but fun Seattle Aquarium.

After the Harbor Tour and the Aquarium, we found ourselves in the vicinity of Ye Old Curiosity Shop – an admittedly creepy but fascinating store (shrunken heads and mummies anyone?) I much preferred lunch at Ivar’s Acres of Clams — a true Seattle institution (as are the Ballard Locks that were also on the program).

Amazon Spheres in Seattle, WAGroupon also offers a Space Needle/Chihuly Glass Garden package and so we did that as well a short visit to the Amazon Spheres (unfortunately closed that day).

I can be endlessly amused by things that “we don’t have at home” when I’m in a grocery store in Europe and it was fun to observe what the kids deemed fascinating in stores and restaurants here like unique energy drinks, an endless variety of exotic salty snack offerings, duck eggs, and black cod. This also included Poutine in Vancouver which even I as a very curious eater couldn’t bring myself to taste (but should have). It’s basically a heap of soggy French fries topped with gravy and all kinds of cheese, bacon, etc. It’s delicious, or so I’ve been told. And speaking of exotic food: We also had fun (and snacks) at Uwajimaya, Seattle’s delightful Asian foods market.

The Space Needle, Seattle Science Center, and Chihuly Garden at the Seattle Center are very fun places to photograph inside and out. Next time, I’ll bring my “real” camera.

Visiting the Seattle Space Needle while playing tourists in our own backyard

We combined the Space Needle with a visit to the Chihuly Garden

Seattle Science Center

Chihuly Garden exhibit at the Seattle Center

Chihuly Garden exhibit at the Seattle Center

Chihuly Garden exhibit at the Seattle Center

Chihuly Garden, Seattle, WA

Chihuly Garden, Seattle, WA

In Vancouver, we stayed at the Gage Suites at the University of BC for 2 nights. Highly recommended — nice, quiet, and affordable. While the kids spent one day at a tech Expo at the convention center, Jim and I went for a long walk along the Stanley Park Seawall and marveled yet again at the beauty of this city. Then the kids taught us a new word. If you don’t know the meaning of “merch”, give us a ring. There was plenty of merch to be had at the expo. ;-)

A few fun Impressions from Vancouver

Visiting Vancouver, BC while playing tourists in our own backyard

Vancouver, BC

Vancouver, BC

Vancouver, BC

The cruise ships leaving Vancouver for Alaska are mind-blowingly city-block huge.

Vancouver, BC

If you look closely, you can see Jim running from the geese in the background.

A croon croissants at the Little Cafe on Robson in Vancouver, BCWhile Florian got his Poutine, Kathi had researched something exquisitely delicious: “Croons” croissants. These little oversized hockey-puck-shaped croissants are flaky/crispy on the outside with creamy fillings on the inside (reminding me of the old Gary Larson cartoon where polar bears contemplate an igloo.)

window washer in Seattle, WAOf course, our visit also included a ride on the state ferry from Edmonds to Kingston and from there a visit to charming Port Townsend — the Pacific NW at its best. In our hometown of Edmonds, the kids decided to go for a quick in-and-out dip in the freezing-cold Pacific Ocean. The idea was to do the same on the Atlantic coast during the third leg of their trip. Jim and I watched, shivered, and cheered. 

Needless to say, we’re really looking forward to the next visit. There’s so much more to explore (food and otherwise) and to experience and look forward to, including lots more time with 2 of our favorite people.