This is where our Great Northwestern Road Trip began. We packed our little VW bug full with everything we thought we could need and set out for Seattle in the early morning . In just a few hours we made it to Idaho, with it’s jagged peaks and pristine lakes. The smoke from area wildfires was thick, but I caught some glimpses. We passed through eastern Washington and Spokane. This is apple country and home of other fruits too, evident by the countless stands alongside the interstate. The sun shone down on us, and we picked up the only radio station we could for the rest of this area of the state, a public radio folk station that seemed about right. At last we hit the mountains of western Washington. Through some sort of luck our run in with bumper-to-bumper traffic led us to follow a truck with Washington plates that took us through winding state forest roads. We were tossed out onto the highway at last, which landed us in the big city.
Seattle is everything I hoped it would be: lively neighborhoods, markets, and restaurants, all hugely influenced by its home on the coast. It felt so good to be there. The bustling walkways were so familiar and more my territory than our new home to be honest. What made it most enjoyable I think is the fact that we had no agenda really. My request was simply to be in the city and wander like old times. And that’s exactly what we did.
We spent our first day in town exploring the city center. Perhaps no surprise, our first and favorite stop was Pike Place. Oh, this place is my heaven. The first stretch is filled with Washington-grown blooms, and I walked back and forth between them. Coming from Montana, the abundant flowers and produce and fish in these parts, at this time of year, made me ache with envy. Farther on are the fish stands with all sorts of varieties of fish and shellfish, many from nearby waters. I was in awe over it all.
At one point one seller called over, “You look so happy!”
I smiled bigger. “That’s because I am,” I replied.
At the center of the market is the iconic fish stand that puts on the iconic fish-throwing spectacle. And beyond all the excitement there’s more: prepared food stands and spice shops and a whole gauntlet of shops beneath the main market. Until next time.
Before continuing on we found ourselves across the street at many prepared food stands there: donuts, piroshki (piroshki), kitchen wares, oysters, you name it, though we ended up at the flagship Starbucks shop and ordered an only-at-this-location brew that was indeed a treat that leaned more toward hot chocolate than coffee. We enjoyed it on a bench across the street as we watched the ferries shuttle folks to the nearby islands.
From there we walked to Pioneer Square and the International District. We spent some time at the Gold Rush Museum which was a treat and a nice reprieve from the surprisingly blazing sun. We ate lunch at the acclaimed
Pho Ba, a hole-in-the-wall of the best kind. It doesn’t take much for me. Next stop was Uwajimaya, the Asian supermarket of my dreams (especially since leaving the city). For dessert we grabbed my favorite: little rice balls with red bean paste on the inside and walked until we found another bench to rest and enjoy.
Once we received ourselves we walked over to Capitol Hill. This too-hip-for-us area (reminded me of Fishtown in Philly in many ways) was a fun one to people watch and wander. There was a Seahawks game going on at the time so the bars were packed and the streets relatively empty. Alas, our marathon day was catching up to us, so we ducked into the Elliott Bay Book Company, rested a while, and wandered the perfectly curated books around the store (tip: there is a cute little outpost of Oddfellows cafe in the back to get your caffeine fix, but the main branch around the corner is gorgeous).
From Capitol Hill we walked towards the museum area, stopping in a couple of thrift stores along the way–there are a lot perhaps as can be expected. Too tired to pay attention to any exhibits, we just enjoyed the architecture around the Museum of Pop Culture and the Space Needle. We spotted a large gathering in a green area nearby and I swore I heard Hawaiian music. Sure enough it was a huge festival celebrating the Pacific Islands. Damn, I love the city.
Ready for dinner we considered our options; too many to count. But, true to form, we passed a Whole Foods and were wooed by the flamenco music blaring from the patio and the massive paella pan filled to the brim with all the good stuff. I was tired and hungry and so I was sold. I ordered a sangria from the bar and we sat down to our overflowing bowls of some pretty delicious fare. The city noise served as the soundtrack, just like old times, as we talked excitedly about our full day and looking forward toward the next.