The Mountaineering Club

You might not realize that you have arrived from the outside, it’s a hotel, and it doesn’t look like the place I’m about to describe below. So give yourself a chance and trust me, go around the block and park in the public parking lot, or drive to the side of the hotel and let the valet service park your car for you.

You have arrived; you are at the Graduate Hotel in Seattle. The name is perfect due to its location. It’s just a few blocks from the University of Washington campus. Once you enter the hotel and walk towards the lobby, you’d be surprised by the tasteful decoration of this place. Its atmosphere is warm and welcoming.

There is a long hallway with a large coffee table across it. There is an oversized couch on both sides with tall bookcases behind it. These bookcases go from floor to ceiling, really. There is a fireplace with chairs for those cold and dark winter days. In the back there are some tables, chairs, and other seating areas for people to study, read, write, or hang out. It’s a beautiful place, and this is the lobby of the Graduate Hotel in Seattle.

Let’s go back to the main topic of this post, the brunch place. You hike up to the 16th floor from the lobby using the elevator, of course. Once you arrive on the 16th floor, the hostess welcomes you, and then all around you, it’s a fantastic panoramic view of the mountain ranges surrounding Seattle. The decoration at this place is lovely. It feels as if you are in a movie about explorers from the 1800s – or perhaps, Indiana Jones.

The decoration of this place is elegant and casual at the same time. There’s lots of leather furniture, a dark color palette, and lots of wood. It’s charming and warm. This place has been open as a club/bar for a while, and serving brunch is a newer offering, and I am so glad for this.

We walked outside to our table, it’s on the patio, with views all around us. Each table has a small heater lamp on top of it, so don’t worry, even when you are outside, you’d feel warm and cozy. Not all the seating arrangements are tables and chairs. I saw a few couches and coffee tables, and there were people having brunch there too.

The brunch menu is simple and short. I like that. The less I have to think about my choices, the better. I like the Cheesecake Factory, but their menu is almost as extensive as the War and Peace book. Yes, it’s an exaggeration.

Inside, they have a self-serving area where you can get coffee and tea. I like this; you can get your coffee whenever you want, and as much as you want. It makes me feel independent because I can serve my own cup of coffee.

We ordered our food, it was skillet-baked eggs for me, and it was delicious. We enjoyed our brunch, the coffee was great, the decoration was lovely, and the views were fantastic. Brunch at this place was a pleasant experience, and we are coming back. At The Graduate Hotel, The Mountaineering Club is a new favorite brunch place in Seattle.

A winter wonderland holiday in Whistler, BC

Last Christmas, we went to Whistler, BC. This is a beautiful place north of Vancouver, popular for skiing, snowboarding, and mountain biking during the summer. It was our first time there, and we loved it.

Last November, my family and I spent Thanksgiving in NYC. This is where my two older kids live now. We took a plane from Seattle, WA, and after six hours and 3 mediocre movies, we arrived in New York’s John F Kennedy airport. During our time in NYC, my family and I talked about the idea of spending Christmas in Germany. My wife and I had been exposed to a few YouTube videos showing the Christmas markets in Germany, and we were enthusiastic about going there.

Thanksgiving parade balloon

Unfortunately, COVID happened, and as with many plans in the past two years, we decided to avoid air travel. The news about the Omicron variant and how some European countries had started to impose rules for travelers again is why we chose to avoid going there.

Whistler was not the first place we thought of. We toyed with the idea of visiting Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, or staying home in Seattle. But after looking at the cost of plane tickets to go to eastern Canada and the possibility that COVID travel restrictions could arise again, we decided to stay on the West coast and avoid air travel, but for real this time.

After looking at a few places, I ran into some travel videos about Banff in Alberta, Canada. But then again, the distance is the reason we didn’t go there. A bit too far for winter driving. What else could we do? We liked the idea of going to Canada, just not driving for too many hours, and we definitely wanted to avoid air travel. This is where Vancouver comes into the picture.

Since we live in Seattle, WA, visiting Vancouver is a must. It’s a great city, they have great food, and it’s very close to us. Vancouver is a 2.5-3 hours drive from Seattle. That’s close enough for a weekend or even a day trip. We have been to Vancouver many times, so we looked around this city to find out what else we could visit in the area. As soon as I started looking for places to visit near Vancouver in winter, Whistler came up.

Whistler is a town north of Vancouver, home to Whistler Blackcomb, one of the largest ski resorts in North America. I did some research, and after a few days, decided to make a reservation at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler hotel. After reading online reviews and viewing photos of this place, the decision was easy. It looked magical and almost perfect for a Christmas holiday.

View from hotel window in Whistler

Two of my kids had skied before, and the rest of us had not. So I booked a ski lesson for the family… when in Rome. To be honest, not all of us were excited about the idea. In fact, I almost canceled the ski lesson just minutes before it began. The weather wasn’t great that morning, and it felt like a good excuse to cancel the whole thing and instead do something “easier.” Oh, boy, am I glad I didn’t cancel it.

We got to the Fairmont Hotel in Whistler the day before Christmas Eve. Before that, we spent a few days in Vancouver, just eating and doing some last-minute shopping. When we arrived at Whistler, the mountains, the snow, the hotel, everything was exactly how we had imagined it. It is a winter wonderland.

View from hotel window in Whistler

The hotel was tastefully decorated, it felt warm, and everything around it was beautiful. Our rooms were perfect, and the ambiance was what we were looking for. It felt like a Christmas holiday from a movie, but it was real, and we were living it.

After our first day there, we found out about the village. The hub of Whistler is a compact, chalet-style pedestrian village at the base of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. This place is full of shops, restaurants, and amazing views all around since it’s at the base of two beautiful mountains.

We had a great time, and I think we’ll be back there again. Perhaps in the summer to check out the area without snow. In Whistler, there are many places to stay like hotels, cabins, chalets, etc. But you have to book them with time in the winter season. It’s a popular place for skiers and snowboarders.

If you go there during the winter, I recommend the ski lessons if you are not familiar with this activity. For us, it was a great way to spend the day together, at the mountain, and learning to ski. It was a lot of fun. Also, our instructor was great. He was patient, very present, and a great teacher. It was an enjoyable day.

table inside bubble in Whistler hotel

The cost of staying in Whistler varies, and while it is expensive in general, some places are affordable if you don’t want to spend too much. There’s also the option to make a day trip to Whistler from Vancouver without staying overnight. You can either drive to take a bus from Vancouver. There are many buses between Vancouver to Whistler every day. You can get the bus schedule from here.

We had a great time, got to visit a new place, learned to ski (beginner level), took many photos, and, more importantly, generated new memories. Whenever we travel somewhere, I remember the phrase “collect moments, not things,” and I cannot agree more.

Cannon Beach in Oregon, a must see when visiting Portland.

My family and I moved to Seattle back in January of this year, and about a month ago we made our first visit to this beautiful place called Cannon Beach. This is a lovely beach, there are plenty of places to park and walk around the long strip of sand. Cannon Beach is also the place for Haystack Rock, an unusual rock formation just feet away from the beach. Haystack Rock is a seasonal haven for tufted puffins. On a headland to the north, trails in Ecola State Park offer sweeping views of the ocean, coves, and a lighthouse.

The photos above were taken with a Sony A7III, and a Samyang 35mm, f/2.8 lens.

Gas Works Park in Seattle, what a gem!

Gas Works Park in Seattle is a great place to see Seattle’s skyline and South Lake Union. Gas Works Park is a public park on the site of the former Seattle Gas Light Company gasification plant, located on the north shore of Lake Union at the south end of the Wallingford neighborhood.

Last weekend my son suggested going to this park, since our move to Seattle a few months ago, we’ve been trying to visit popular places. Seattle has a lot of awesome places, and it is close to many amazing mountains and other beautiful areas full of outdoor activities.

During our visit to Gas Works Park, the sky had amazing clouds, but it was still bright enough to enjoy the view. Below are some photos I shot during our visit to this park.

The photos above were taken with a MavicPro drone and a Sony AIII with a Samyang 35mm lens.

Visiting Paradise Mt. Rainier for the first time

Paradise in Mt. Reinier. This place is called, Paradise, because it is. Paradise is an area located on the south slopes of the glacier-shrouded volcano at an elevation of 5,400-feet.

We found out about Paradise a few weeks ago after visiting Stevens Pass. A person working at Stevens suggested that we go to Paradise, he said that we wouldn’t regret it and he was right.

Stevens Pass is a place for skiing and snowboarding, and Paradise seems to be the place for hiking, snowshoeing, and just a place to admire the views of nature.

Below are some photos of our day at Paradise in Mt. Rainier, and just like the other places we’ve visited so far, this has been added to our lists of favorite places to visit again in the Seattle area.

Paradise in Mt. Rainier is definitely a place to visit, and I’m told it is just as beautiful and full of activities throughout the year; if you are in the Seattle area, there aren’t exceptions to visit this beautiful place!

If you do visit during November – May, there is a requirement to carry tire chains when traveling in the park. We rented it from one of the lodges in Ashford, a town you’ll drive by a few miles before arriving at the park’s southwest entrance (Nisqually Entrance). Make sure to check the park’s weather and road conditions before you start your trip.