Tuesday, January 01, 2013

grand adventure, part 1

Home. It is good.

Over the next several days, I'll be writing some long posts about our grand adventure celebrating 25 years of being married to the Man. Our actual anniversary isn't until January 9th, but this is when we both had opportunity to have vacation together. A little extended celebrating of a big event never hurt anyone, eh?

Planning this trip over the last year has been such fun for us. When it all came down to it, all we really wanted was to spend the time together, taking a cool train trip.

Our original plan was to take the Amtrak Cascades train down to Seattle, but with over 30 mudslides in a very short time, all in one section of track, service was disrupted. While Amtrak would have used a bus to get us there, I really didn't want to start our big trip on a bus instead of a train.

My friend, Kim, gladly offered to drive us down to our hotel that Saturday morning. Gotta say how much I love her! We picked her up and, after a drive through to get peppermint mochas, were on off!

Laughing and talking all the way, the hour drive into Seattle flew. I think Kim was as excited for us as we were to be going.

Hugging and kissing goodbye, we got our luggage and walked into the Mayflower Park Hotel. If you are ever in Seattle, stay here. Just trust me on this one and do it. They have amazing customer service, not to mention an all around lovely hotel.

Earlier in the week, I'd talked with the Reservations Manager, Craig. Letting him know that our stay would mark the beginning of this celebratory trip, we talked about the room the travel agent had booked for us. Just a room, no fun package with martinis or breakfast or a show or dinner or something, which is what I'd really wanted for the first night. Just something a little fun to make it special. I was clear that we were perfectly willing to pay for the extras, but they had not been set up. Craig's response was, "I love surprises. See you Saturday."

Walking up to the front desk, we wondered what might be our surprise. We never expected to be knocked off our feet with the level of "wow!" that we received!

  • upgraded room
  • a gift package that included the most adorable little cocktail shaker and the award winning recipe for their classic martini
  • a lovely congratulations card from Craig, which included a voucher for martinis in their bar, Oliver's, and breakfast in their restaurant, Andaluca.
Being a bit early to arrive, our room was not quite ready. So we spent the afternoon enjoying the sights and sounds of Christmas in Downtown Seattle. People watching, wandering through stores, listening to carolers and checking out the annual Holiday Carousel. Simple fun, holding hands, laughing together.

When we got tired, we decided to sit in the beautiful upper lobby of the hotel and watch folks from there. Maybe get a coffee in the bar while we waited. Instead, the staff had just put out freshly made cookies and hot chocolate for us. After helping ourselves to this treat, we watched folks and just enjoyed the quiet corner we had found.

Once we actually checked into our room and got things settled, we decided that we didn't feel the need to wander around anymore, so we set up a reservation for dinner at Andaluca and spent a couple hours just reading in our room, enjoying the place.

Dinner... oh, added loveliness to our day. The waiter, Tim, recognized us from a previous visit wherein we had only had dessert late in an evening. He welcomed us back, asking if we were there for Christmas. When we told him how wonderful the hotel was already being about our anniversary, he stepped away saying, "let me add some wonderful here." In seconds, he was back with a complimentary glass of champagne for us. So nice!

After perusing the menu, and deciding that I'd order something interesting to me that was not on my regular rotation - Roasted Beet Risotto for me and Grilled Mahi Mahi for the Man. Delicious! Topped off with their Liquid Chocolate Cake for dessert and our tummies had started the celebration quite well.

Of course we topped off the evening with martinis at Oliver's. The place was packed, but we found an empty table in what seemed to be a quiet corner. Just as we ordered, a couple guys sat at the next table, blowing any sense of quiet out the proverbial window. They were drunk and pretending to be foreign, but the so-called accents they had kept reverting to a solid midwest American sound. Watching them was somewhat amusing, but lost any appeal when they began to work on getting a free drink by telling the waitress she had not brought the correct first round. Which they had half drunk already. And which was exactly what they had ordered. Enough people watching for one day. We finished our martinis, heading up to the quiet of our lovely room.

Once there, I noticed on the desk was a new envelope with our names on it, and a small box. Another lovely card, this time signed by all the front desk staff and the box was candy from them, for us to enjoy.

At breakfast, both of the waitstaff recognized us from our previous stay. This was not as surprising since we had eaten breakfast there each day, chatting with them over our coffee, but pleasing nonetheless.

Oh, yes, I am so writing a letter to the General Manager of the Mayflower Park, congratulating him on a team who gives spectacular service and knows how to make guests feel like royalty.

Next... a quick taxi ride to King Street Station to board the Coast Starlight!

King Street Station is currently undergoing a major renovation. So it isn't very pretty with all the construction stuff, but they do have a large waiting room. They also have separate lines for Coach vs. Sleeper Car passengers. Sleeper Cars are the first class tickets... and for this big of an event, we certainly were going first class!

As they called for boarding the train, we headed toward the front where the sleeper cars were. Passing the coach section, the cars looked nice. Then we see the cafe car, the dining car, the parlour car and finally, the sleeper cars. Baggage and crew cars are right behind the engine, giving a buffer for the loudest of the noise from the sleeper cars.

At the door of our sleeper car, we are met by Gregory, the car attendant. His job is to make sure that we have a wonderful time on the train. He takes care of turning down the beds and making them up after use, but he also provides beverages and snacks for us, not to mention a welcome gift of toiletries in an Amtrak bag and champagne. Anything else we need, he does his best to ensure we get. He was very good at his job!

As the train got underway and we got settled, announcements about the train were made, making sure everyone knew where they could get food, what additional events happen for sleeper car passengers, etc. Immediately the dining car attendant came by our room to get lunch reservations for us set up. Once that was handled, I grabbed my knitting and we headed to the parlour car.

The disappointment of a real parlour car being unavailable to this train due to repairs was bigger for the Man than for me. Instead of the normal parlour car, we had a lounge car that is normally only used in the coach section. (they had their own lounge car separate from 1st class)  It was a nice enough place to hang out, but the Man was disappointed as the normal parlour car is so much nicer and richer feeling. We decided to enjoy it and hope for the return trip train to have the actual parlour car.

Knitting, chatting with other passengers, and enjoying a glass of iced tea, we watched the scenery pass by. So much beauty that one simply can't see when driving down Interstate 5! Yes, we passed through some very depressed areas of cities and towns along the way. But there were areas that took our breath away with the loveliness.

Time is running out today, so I will stop for now. Next post soon.

...may there be mercy and joy in the memories of our journey.

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