I’ve always had mixed feelings about Seattle.
And by “always” I mean for the past four years, since one of my best friends moved there. I had nothing against the city before, but ever since it has been The City That Stole Anna. (Though to be fair, it really wasn’t the city’s fault. It was the fault of The Man Who Stole Anna.)
For four years she has been singing Seattle’s praises and urging me to visit her, but every time I had time and money for a big trip, I wanted to go out of the country, and since she usually returned to the East Coast at least once a year, I got to see her anyway. But when I got back from Asia and found myself with more free time than I was likely to have for a long, long time, I decided it was time.
The trip got off to an auspicious start. When I got to the self check-in monitor at Boston Logan, it asked if I would be willing to volunteer for a later flight in exchange for some Delta credit. Since it emphasized that I would get to make my final decision at the gate and I didn’t think Anna would mind picking me up at a different time, I thought I might as well find out the details. It asked how much I would want for the inconvenience, and it offered several choices (something like $50, $75, $100, and $125), along with a keypad. $125 didn’t seem like nearly enough to me, so I put in $250. But then when they actually asked me to volunteer (to switch to a flight that would get me to Seattle 30 minutes later than originally scheduled) they told me they would give me $300 since they couldn’t issue credits in increments of $50! And that is the story of how I got a free plane ticket for basically nothing. (You could also say that I made $300 for half an hour of my time. Maybe that should be my new freelancing rate…)
So that was awesome—what happened next, not so much.
When I got to Seattle I grabbed my suitcase at the baggage claim and waited for half an hour or so for Anna, her husband, Jesse, and their two-year-old to pick me up at the airport. When we were driving past downtown Seattle and admiring the view of Puget Sound I got a phone call from a number I didn’t recognize. I don’t usually pick those up but this time I decided to. (Thank God!) It was a woman from Delta, calling to tell me that I hadn’t picked up my suitcase! “No, I did,” I told her, looking right at it. “I have a suitcase with your name on it right here,” she told me gently. At first I didn’t believe her—it is such a distinctive suitcase (bright blue with a lace-up front) that I couldn’t believe there were two of them on the same airplane. But then I unzipped a pocket and found a hairdryer that wasn’t mine. Waves of mortification washed over me as I realized that my carelessness had caused some poor woman to wait and worry for almost an hour, and would now force my friends to turn around and drive back to a place that nobody enjoys driving to. Fortunately, we made good time and my victim took her suitcase back without any recriminations. But I still felt (feel) bad about it.
The highlight of my trip was definitely our day trip to the peninsula. We left the house at 7am and took a ferry across the Sound. (I looked and looked, but did not see any seals on the way.) We drove through cute towns with wooden houses that wouldn’t seem terribly out of place in Vermont—except for their views of working ports, complete with cranes. We had breakfast in Port Angeles, which seems to be the biggest town in the area. It has a surprisingly healthy downtown with several nice restaurants (and several that you can take a toddler to without feeling guilty). Then we drove to Hurricane Ridge, an appropriately windy hike in the Olympic Mountains. I had never heard of the Olympic Mountains, but they were stunning. The views made me I feel like I was back in the Alps, but the hike itself was easy enough that bringing a toddler was not a problem. But be warned: despite the fact that it was a hot day in Seattle, it was so chilly on Hurricane Ridge that Anna bought a sweatshirt to wear over her summer dress, and she was not the only one with that idea.
After Hurricane Ridge we drove another 50 miles to one of the world’s only two temperate rainforests. (It is a rainforest because of the number of inches of rain it gets annually.) It is right next to the town of Forks, which I had never heard of, but which is apparently the setting for Twilight. (Because vampires hate the sun.) Except for about five Twilight-themed tours and businesses (Twilight firewood, anyone?), Forks reminded me of the towns in western New Hampshire near where my grandparents used to live—struggling downtown, trailer park, a field that was hosting a car show. It seemed to be a lumber town that had fallen on hard times. So that was kind of sad, but the rainforest itself was amazing. Alas, there were no monkeys, but there were other-worldly moss-covered trees.
It was mercifully sunny, and we hiked for about a mile. The trees were spectacular–my camera does not do them justice–and I would love to go back someday.
In the city, my favorite sights were the library (a really cool modern building worth exploring), the Panama Hotel (where dozens of Japanese families stored their belongings while they were interred), the mansions around Lake Washington, and, of course, Pike Place Market. Yes, it’s a little cheesy, but seeing fish fly through the air is one of those things that you will imagine wistfully on your deathbed if you haven’t experienced it in real life.
If you enjoy shopping, I highly recommend Fremont (a funky neighborhood known for its independent stores and its non sequitorial statue of Lenin) and Ballard (which has endless clothes, jewelry, and gift shopping). Capitol Hill proved a surprising bust shopping-wise—with the exception of the fabulous Elliott Bay Book Co, an enormous independent book store/nerd paradise.
Our best meal was at Marination Station, a Hawaiian restaurant across the harbor from downtown. The views are incomparable, and the pork sliders were delicious. (And I wasn’t the only one who thought so—the lines were out the door.)
To sum up, Seattle may be a friend-stealing bastard, but it’s a pretty fun place to visit.