By Roberta Lasky
As our cross-country flight banked slowly on its final approach into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, we thought it was a mirage rising slowly out of the blue sky. In reality, it was the magnificent snow-capped Mt. Rainier, towering impossibly high above the verdant Washington coastline.
We arrived in Seattle this past July for the first leg of our 12-day Northwest adventure. A quick ride from the airport dropped us at the Westin Seattle in the heart of the city. Our room on the 42nd floor afforded majestic views over the Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains beyond. We highly recommend this hotel for its central location near both the monorail and trolley lines, and within walking distance of many museums, restaurants and shopping areas.
After checking in, we headed straight over to the famous Pike Place Market for some obligatory sightseeing. Iced cappuccinos (with their trademark handmade designs) to go at Moore Coffee, one of Seattle’s seemingly ubiquitous coffee shops, fortified us as we plunged into the world-famous indoor market and its surrounding cobblestoned alleys. We could have spent an entire day eating and shopping our way through the vendor stalls, people watching and perusing all manner of crafts, clothing, flowers, novelties and, of course, endless varieties of fresh and prepared foods!
We took advantage of every sample offered – BBQ, fresh peaches, salmon jerky, pastries, candied fruit – as we slowly made our way to Pike Place Fish Market to watch chanting fishmongers toss salmon and halibut past the heads of fascinated on-lookers. Certainly one of Seattle’s more head-scratching traditions. After dropping some loose change into Rachel the Piggy Bank, we walked further down the street joining the throngs snapping photos across the street. We managed to settle a “brewing” controversy – while considered by many to be the original, the Pike Place Starbucks is actually the second home of Seattle’s most-famous export. Who knew?
After a delicious lunch of fresh seafood at Matt’s In The Market, we strolled north along the waterfront to the Olympic Sculpture Park to view the interesting and imaginative outdoor works of artists such as Alexander Calder, Jaume Plensa, Mark di Suvero and Ellsworth Kelly. The impressive Space Needle loomed overhead, as we made our way over to the Seattle Center, home of several of Seattle’s most popular tourist attractions.
At the Museum of Popular Culture (MoPOP), a fascinating photo-retrospective on the fashion and faces of David Bowie, as well as the permanent Jimi Hendrix and Science Fiction exhibits kept us engaged for hours. We also managed to squeeze in some quality time at the very entertaining and informative Star Trek Experience. On the way back to the hotel, we hit the jackpot when we stumbled upon Top Pot Doughnuts for an afternoon treat and another excuse to sip another bottomless cup of strong coffee.
For dinner, we took a short ride past the geodesic glass domes gracing Amazon’s ever-expanding urban campus to Chandler’s Crab House, on the shore of Lake Union. Watching the sea planes take off and land every few minutes provided the entertainment, while we enjoyed cocktails and oysters as the sun set over the West Lake hills. After a short trolley ride back to the hotel, we caught a second wind and decided to explore nearby Bell Town, a lively district of outdoor cafes, bars and live music. Channeling our inner-Vedder, we popped into Shorty’s, a clown-themed grunge bar, for a cold beer, its killer jukebox and some pinball. This Seattle classic is famous for its back-room arcade called The Cove.
The next morning, we braved the Brezhnev-era lines at the famous Piroshky Piroshky Bakery to sample their sweet and savory “Moscow-on-the-Puget” hand-held pies. We chose a White Chocolate Cherry and a Smoked Salmon Pate to go, before making our way to the 35-minute ferry to Bainbridge Island, a bedroom community of over 23,000 residents across the Puget Sound. From the terminal, we took an Uber to Bainbridge Vineyards to sample the local vintages unique to that part of Washington state. The wine was delicious and we had some bottles shipped home. Back in town, we strolled down the charming main street filled with galleries, stores and cafes. For lunch, we had grilled fish tacos and sampled local brews on the bright waterfront deck of the Harbour Public House. After, we strolled back to the ferry for the scenic return trip, and were rewarded with panoramic views of the Seattle skyline and Mt. Rainier to the south.
Dinner that night was at Capital Hill’s Ba Bar Restaurant, near Seattle University, at the recommendation of an SU graduate and native-born Seattleite. With an upscale take on classic Vietnamese street food (dumplings, pho, Viet-“tamales”) and a potion-master’s registry of signature craft cocktails (try the Señor Fluffy Pants, a mescal and fresh pear concoction), the lively atmosphere and funky ‘60’s-era Viet-pop soundtrack of this former industrial garage was certainly out of the ordinary.
We got an early start to our third day in Seattle, grabbed coffee at Moore’s (yes, please) and queued up at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) to see the special touring art exhibit Kusama: Infinity Mirrors. Before our timed entry, we wandered the varied works and genres of the SAM’s permanent collection, which includes several works by Impressionist masters, as well as a “Double Elvis” print by Andy Warhol.
Sated with art and culture, we relaxed over a late lunch at the funky Pink Door restaurant, just north of Pike Place. The restaurant’s official address is 1919 Post Alley, but can only be found by its unmarked pink door in an otherwise non-descript walkway. The trellised outdoor patio overlooking the harbor convinced us that we were definitely on vacation. We shared a delicious cold antipasto salad and fresh seafood pasta, and mapped out the rest of the day.
After some down time back at the hotel, we rallied for some final sightseeing. We hopped on the Seattle Center Monorail for a smooth 10-minute ride to the glass art masterpieces at the Chihuly Garden and Glass Center. Next, we took the 41-second elevator ride 520 feet up to the observation deck of Seattle’s iconic Space Needle. The 360-degree views of the city below and its surrounding mountains, ocean and forests will remain forever in our fond memories.
We capped our Seattle sojourn with dinner that evening at Canlis, a stunning wood and glass gem cantilevered over the hills above Lake Union. This jacket-required Seattle landmark reminded us of our own Stone Barns, and the 4-course tasting menu sampling the Seattle area sea-and-farm-to-table bounty was the highlight of the night. The service and food were exquisite. After dessert, the maître d’ gave us a personal tour of the restaurant’s kitchens and its rich history.
The next morning, we checked-out of the Westin and caught a cab to the nearby Amtrak station for the next leg of our journey. Destination: Vancouver.
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