Northwest Vacation Recap: Seattle

Welcome to our second post from our Northwest Adventure in Portland and Seattle. You can read our Portland recap here. We already posted a sneak-peak of our Seattle adventure with our review of JuneBaby, the fantastic Southern restaurant in Seattle’s Ravenna neighborhood. It wasn’t just JuneBaby that excelled, however. We ate well and had fun our entire time in Seattle.

Thursday

Our favorite activity in Seattle was walking up the giant hills! We got started right away, since the bus from King Street station dropped us off at the bottom of the Fremont neighborhood. Our Airbnb was at the top of the hill, so we had to walk with all our suitcases on what felt like a vertical sidewalk. I do not think we will ever forget the hills of Seattle!

On Thursday night, we stayed in Fremont and went to Revel, from acclaimed Seattle chef Rachel Yang. We sat on the outdoor patio and enjoyed our dumplings and noodles, particularly the handmade noodles with Dungeness crab. So good! Afterwards, we had a nightcap at Barrel Thief, a local bar with a great whiskey selection.

Revel handmade noodles with Dungeness crab

Friday

I think now would be a good time to mention that our Airbnb hosts raise hens in their backyard! We could see their pen from our kitchen window. When we woke up on Friday, we spent some time just watching the hens and all their funny, herky-jerky movements.

Seattle Airbnb hens

Friday was ferry day! When we think about Seattle, I think the thing we will remember most is taking the ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island. The ferry ride was magical! The deep water and foggy skies felt very true to the Northwest. We started out standing near the front of the boat but it got really windy. We then made our way to the back and got some amazing views of Seattle as we drifted further and further away.

Marnay and Paul on the ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island

The ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island

We did not spend too much time on Bainbridge Island but we did walk around the main street and explore the shops. The town was very quaint and had that maritime charm. Lunch was at Bruciato, a place on the main street that specializes in Neapolitan pizza. We would have been fine with just a solid lunch, but we were both extremely impressed with Bruciato. The plate of gorgeous local tomatoes with basil and a little bit of salt was excellent and our prosciutto cotto pizza hit the spot.

Bruciato prosciutto cotto pizza in Bainbridge Island

Friday night was when we had our dinner at JuneBaby. Afterwards, we walked around the Ravenna and Roosevelt neighborhoods for a while. Although we had plenty of Oregon wine during the trip, we hadn’t actually had any wine from Washington. We found a Whole Foods, picked up a bottle of Yakima Valley Riesling and some snacks and drank it back in the apartment!

Saturday

Our last full day of vacation. I made some coffee in the kitchen and took some time to watch the hens. They’re just so entertaining! We still hadn’t done any “touristy” activities in Seattle, so we got that out of the way by going to the Chihully Museum, home of the works from the famous glassmaking artist Dale Chihully.

Chihully Museum

Marnay and Paul at the Chihully Museum

The other ultimate touristy thing we did was go to Pike Place Market. We are really glad that we went, but the market was OVERWHELMING. We did get to witness the fish toss, at least. We walked up and down some more hills and then took the bus home for some much needed relaxation.

Pike Place Market famous fish toss

Prior to dinner, we walked around Fremont and finally got up close and personal with the famous Fremont Troll. It’s a sculpture of a troll located underneath the Fremont Bridge. This was just so quirky and unique.

Fremont Troll underneath the Fremont Bridge

For the last meal of our Northwest Adventure, we headed to Sitka and Spruce in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Tom Sietsema has been recommending Sitka and Spruce for years, so we were excited to go. Its focus is on Northwestern cuisine, and it did not disappoint. Our best bites: West Coast oysters and local Ling Cod in a tomato béarnaise sauce. Yum!

Sitka and Spruce West Coast oysters

Sitka and Spruce local Ling Cod in a tomato béarnaise sauce

We had an absolutely epic time in Portland and Seattle. I do not think we could have gone much longer, we just had so much fun and did so much! While we unfortunately had to leave Seattle on Sunday morning, we will always have our memories!

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Ultimate Greenville Weekend: Part 2

Note: We divided our Ultimate Greenville Weekend into two posts. Click here to read Part 1.

Saturday

Because we were so tired on Friday, we went to sleep early but also woke up early. We left the house and walked to Methodical Coffee, a third-wave coffee shop located in an office building downtown. We sat upstairs, listened to tunes on their record player and ate one of the best almond croissants we had ever had. Afterwards we checked out the farmers market on Main Street and purchased a drawing of the Swamp Rabbit Railroad, which is now the location of the Swamp Rabbit Trail. We talked to the artist for a while and she said that it took her 40 hours to draw, using only dots!

Methodical Coffee with an almond croissant in Greenville, SC

We had been carrying helmets around all morning so that we could try out Greenville’s bikeshare system, B-Cycle. Greenville has a good amount of bike lanes and a tremendous amount of bike shops, which reflects a healthy biking culture. We rode east from downtown, down a large hill on Washington Street and then into Cleveland Park, home of the Greenville zoo. We dropped off the bikes and walked around but then headed uphill back into town. It was time for lunch!

Paul biking with B-Cycle in Greenville, SC

We met my parents at their hotel and then drove to Swamp Rabbit Café. Unlike Friday morning, when we made a very brief stop there, now we had time to check the place out. The outdoor pizza oven was open so my Dad and grandfather shared a nice thin-crust pie. Marnay and I ate picnic-style, choosing from the selection of mostly local products in the market: La Quercia prosciutto (delicious but not local), housemade stecca, a focaccia-like bread, local salami, local mozzarella and local strawberries. It was truly a feast! The mozzarella, made just up the road in Travelers Rest, was the star of the show. That and the bread!

Swamp Rabbit Cafe picnic in Greenville, SC

My parents dropped us off at our Airbnb, but we were not ready to rest. We walked about two miles through some interesting areas to the Birds Fly South Ale Project, which when we looked at the map later was actually very close to Swamp Rabbit Café. The brewery had garage-style doors that looked out onto a grassy lawn and it was a great place to spend the afternoon hanging out, drinking some brews.

Our dinner reservation that night was Jianna, the much-anticipated new Italian restaurant from Chef Michael Kramer. The second-story views overlooking Falls Park could not be beat, but our server was not well trained and had no idea what he was doing. The food wasn’t bad, but what will remember the most was server, especially compared to the incredible service at Anchorage the night before.

Jianna

Post-dinner, we walked to Falls Park on the Reedy, the beautiful park that is the centerpiece of Greenville. The only other place that we’ve been to where it seems as though the town was built around the waterfall is Niagara Falls. The best way to view the waterfall is from the pedestrian-only suspension bridge.

Falls Park on the Reedy waterfall in Greenville, SC

Sunday

Sunday was unfortunately our last day in Greenville. It was only a partial day, as we had a 3:00pm flight home. We woke up early (6:30am) in order to make the most of our time. It was lightly raining, the first non-sunny day since we arrived, but we still set out on foot and headed towards Methodical Coffee. We enjoyed their coffee but unfortunately they did not get their delivery of pastries until after we left.

Marnay at Falls Park on the Reedy in Greenville, SC

After having a snack on the go, we spent more time walking through Falls Park. It’s clear that the city put a serious investment into the park, and boy did it pay off. You could say that the entire town is built around the park, much in the way towns are built around transit. We capped things off by sitting on a wooden swinging-bench and took in the sights for one last time. Until next time, Greenville! If you are interested in visiting Greenville, I strongly suggest taking the train at least one way. It is a unique experience and while it takes longer than flying, it is much more comfortable.

Places we visited
Amtrak Crescent

Swamp Rabbit Café 205 Cedar Lane Road Greenville, SC 29611

Swamp Rabbit Trail

OJ’s Diner 907 Pendleton Street Greenville, SC 29601

Anchorage 586 Perry Avenue Greenville, SC 29611

Methodical Coffee 101 N. Main Street Greenville, SC 29601

B-Cycle Greenville

Birds Fly South Ale Project 1320 Hampton Avenue Ext Greenville, SC 29601

Falls Park on the Reedy 601 S Main Street Greenville, SC 29601

Jianna 600 S Main Street Greenville, SC 29601

Ultimate Greenville Weekend: Part 1

Thursday

This Memorial Day Weekend, we took Amtrak’s Crescent from Washington, DC to Greenville, SC. That’s right, we took at 10 hour, overnight train to South Carolina! We stayed in a sleeper car, which included our own bedroom and own bathroom. When we boarded the train, we met our extremely helpful sleeping car attendant who showed us around our room, gave us bottles of water and then made a dinner reservation for us.

Paul boarding the Amtrak Crescent train at Union Station

The room was nicer and more spacious than we imagined. We had bunk beds, although they were folded up at this time. The bottom bunk folded into a couch and we also had a fold-out chair along the window. There was a sink next to the couch, which was a minor inconvenience but not a big deal.

Amtrak Crescent train sleeper car room

We boarded the train at 6:15pm and at 6:45pm, it was time for dinner in the adjacent dining car. The dining car is community seating, so the attendant matched us up at a four seat table with our new friends, Al and Sheila (names changed), a retired couple from southwest Virginia. Our tablemates were great and very interesting—they were on their way back from Seattle so we got to hear what it’s like to ride the rails cross-country. We talked a lot about beer, one of our areas of expertise, and I let Al know about the soon-to-open east coast location of Deschutes, which will be in Roanoke. Al is a stout fan so I told him about the Abyss, Deschutes famous Imperial Stout, and he made sure to write the name down for future reference.

The décor of the dining car reminded me of a classic Jersey diner, although believe it or not, the Amtrak menu had more interesting options than traditional Jersey diner food. Plus, all of our food was cooked in a real kitchen located in the dining car. None of it was like the café car food in Northeast Regional trains, which gets “cooked” in the microwave. I ordered the Amtrak signature steak cooked to medium, which came with a side of succotash. The steak was a tad overcooked but still tasted good and the succotash tasted fresh. The best bite of the meal, in my opinion, was Marnay’s seared shrimp, served jambalaya-style. Marnay’s meal had some serious kick to it.

Amtrak Crescent train dining car dinner

After dinner, we went back to our room to relax, listen to Spotify and watch the Virginia scenery fly by through our huge windows. When it was time for sleep, our sleeping car attendant made our beds and gave us bottles of water. The last thing I remember before falling asleep was arriving in Danville, VA around 11:30pm. We had a short night of sleep ahead of us, since we were going to arrive in Greenville at 5:00am on Friday.

Amtrak Crescent train sleeper car beds

Friday

We got off the train in Greenville very early Friday morning and made our way to downtown. Of course, it was before 6am so there was not much that we could do. We were able to at least get some coffee at a hotel Starbucks to keep us awake and energized because we had a full day of exploring ahead. Fortified by coffee, we took a local Greenlink bus to Swamp Rabbit Café.

Marnay and Paul at Greenville station with the Amtrak Crescent train

Swamp Rabbit Café is a local produce market plus has prepared sandwiches and coffee and is located along the Swamp Rabbit Trail, a transformative rail trail that runs through the region. The Swamp Rabbit Trail has spurred a lot of development in the area, particularly in Greenville and the nearby community of Travelers Rest. The café is an extremely popular stop for bikers along the trail, as it also hosts a bike shop. We sat outside at the café’s outdoor tables and relaxed for a while, then put on sunscreen and went for a walk!

Swamp Rabbit Cafe in Greenville, SC

The Swamp Rabbit Trail follows the Reedy River, and it was pleasant to walk along the shaded trail and watch as the water goes by. There is something about moving water that is just so relaxing. From the café to downtown Greenville, it is a little under 3 miles.

walking

However, we were not headed back to our Airbnb, located in a residential neighbor just north of downtown. No, we were headed for OJ’s Diner, a classic Southern meat-and-three. A meat-and-three is usually a buffet-style restaurant where a person chooses a meat option, usually fried chicken, pork chops, ribs, etc. and then three sides. Everything is scratch made and very inexpensive. To be honest, we were a bit intimidated because it was our first time and we didn’t even know how to order.

OJ's Diner in Greenville, SC

As it turned out, the staff at OJ’s could not possibly have been any friendlier. Our sweet teas were never empty for more than 30 seconds, as a server kept making her rounds. At the cafeteria-style line, I ordered fried chicken with turnip greens, pinto beans and a biscuit. Marnay ordered fried croaker along with turnip greens, rice and gravy and cornbread. From now on, when we think about fried fish, this is what we will think about. OJ’s is a place we would HAPPILY go back to.

fish

After some much needed sleep at our Airbnb, we made our way to dinner at Anchorage in West Greenville with my parents and grandfather. (Read our full review for Anchorage here.) Anchorage is a modern American restaurant that serves whatever is available and in-season from local farms. The restaurant is helmed by Greg McPhee, a Husk-alum. The outside of the restaurant is one large farm-themed mural, full of fruits and vegetables, and it is really quite beautiful.

Anchorage large farm-themed mural in Greenville, SC

The menu is mainly made up of small plates, and I believe that we got every single one to share among the 5 of us. The best bite of the meal was the Bahamian Salted Fish Fritters, which we liked so much we go two orders!

Note: We divided our Ultimate Greenville Weekend into two posts. Click here to read Part 2.

Ultimate Staunton Weekend

Friday

Staunton weekend was birthday weekend for me. We picked out Staunton because of the fact that we could take Amtrak there and because there was a restaurant that we wanted to try. Of course, we have taken Amtrak many times. However, we had never taken this line or been on these tracks before. I was SO excited!

On Friday morning, we got Shake Shack breakfast at Union Station. We enjoyed our greasy (in a good way) sausage and egg sandwiches and before we knew it, we were boarding Amtrak Cardinal train 52 en route to Chicago. The trip took a little over four hours and it brought us through the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwestern Virginia. We got some picturesque views of the Shenandoah Valley after we left Charlottesville.

Once we arrived in Staunton, we walked from the station to our Airbnb. I would describe it as a fancy treehouse located on the fourth floor of a 19th century mansion, with a scenic rooftop deck.

Staunton Virginia Airbnb

We started our tour of Staunton by scaling the steep streets to the highest point, Mary Baldwin College. The main building of the college is a great example of Greek-revival architecture, slightly resembling the White House.

Mary Baldwin College

Hungry from our journey, we had an early dinner at Taste of India where we enjoyed two different types of naan, Lamb Rogan Josh and Aloo Tikka.

Taste of India

We happened to go to Staunton during their annual holiday event, known as Sparkles & Sweets. All of the stores on Beverley Street are open later than usual and they give out cookies and refreshments. Many have live music and events. Our Airbnb host owns an antique store, which was having an art show that night in their “Artisans Loft.”

Later on in the night, we checked out Yelping Dog Wine, a retail store which also served wine by the glass. Each of us had two glasses of Virginia wine. After that, we were tired and ready to call it a night.

Yelping Dog Wine

Saturday

We woke up early to go to the Staunton Farmers Market. There were a lot of vendors selling root vegetables, as you would expect this time of year. More surprising was a food truck serving Salvadoran food, which I would not expect in this corner of Appalachia.

Next, we took a self-guided tour of the 19th century homes in the Gospel Hill neighborhood. There is some truly stunning architecture in this area.

Staunton Virginia architecture

Staunton Virginia architecture

After traipsing around Gospel Hill, we walked north and checked out Gypsy Hill Park and sat around the duck pond. We watched the birds and the children trying to play with them.

Paul standing at Gypsy Hill Park

On the walk back, we shared a maple bacon doughnut from Rolling Pin Pastries. Rolling Pin is only open 3 hours a day, 3 days a week and the doughnut was one of my best bites of the weekend.

Rolling Pin Pastries: maple bacon doughnut

Still hungry, we shared a bratwurst sandwich with local sausage from By & By. At this point, we had done a lot of walking and a lot of snacking, so we headed back to the treehouse to nap. The big activity of the day, anyway, was dinner at The Shack.

The Shack lives up to its name; it really is a shack, and in a less than desirable location at that. These factors allow the chef, Ian Boden, to focus on food rather than trying to make rent. By the way, our Airbnb hosts were actually the chef’s parents! They were very nice and welcoming to us.

We went with the four course pre-fixe meal at The Shack. Both the food and the hospitality met our high expectations. Some highlights included crispy sunchokes and sweet potatoes with black garlic and chile dressing, squid ink rigatoni with pesto, crispy garlic chips and bottarga and an apple fry pie.

The Shack: Squid Ink Rigatoni

The Shack: Farro Pappardelle

The Shack: Lambchette

The Shack: Wild Black Bass

Sunday

On Sunday morning, we made coffee and enjoyed the mountain views from our Airbnb’s rooftop deck one last time. Next, we walked down the hill on Beverley Street for bagel sandwiches at the By & By.

By & By bagels

Fortified by breakfast, we walked up a very steep hill in the Sears Hill neighborhood. Our reward was the overlook at Wilson Park, where we got a view of the entire town. We stopped in Gospel Hill to see the homes and then got a quick lunch to go at Cranberry’s Grocery & Eatery, a natural foods store.

Wilson Park

At 2:03pm, exactly on time, Amtrak Train 50 stopped at Staunton and we started our journey home. I am emphasizing the fact that it was on time because the train left Chicago at 5:45pm Saturday!

Staunton makes a great weekend trip from the DC area and is accessible by public transportation. It has a perfect combination of history, nature and food. We highly recommend it!

Ultimate Staunton Weekend: Marnay and Paul

Where we went
Taste of India: 105 West Beverley Street Staunton, VA 24401
Yelping Dog Wine: 9 East Beverley Street Staunton, VA 24401
Gypsy Hill Park: 600 Churchville Avenue Staunton, VA 24401
Rolling Pin Pastries: 302 N Central Ave Staunton, VA 24401
By & By: 140 East Beverley Street Staunton, VA 24401
The Shack: 105 S Coalter Street Staunton, VA 24401
Cranberry’s Grocery & Eatery: 7 S New Street Staunton, VA 24401