Thursday, June 25, 2009

Seattle....As Expected



Clockwise: Seattle Art Museum; Monorail at 6th and Pike: Pike Place Market Pig Clock...whoever came up with that one?; Fresh Flowers in the market.

Last week I re-visited a city which had been my home for several years. It had been atleast 10 years, but all that I knew and loved about the place was still in tact. Almost all, save for two favorite downtown restaurants...one, GRAVITY BAR, moved and then closed, and the other was rumored by my trusted locals to have disappeared, closed, changed hands, or something. But alas, on my final day, I spotted it - same place, same sign, and open for business. I won't know for sure til I get back there next month and see for myself with my own two eyes if the CYCLOPS I spotted was indeed an illusion or the real deal whose salads and hummus I so fondly remember. I'll report back on that one in a future post.

Meanwhile, when I arrived downtown midday, I had one thing on my mind to sooth my savage beast of an appetite that the mere mention of Seattle invokes. Cabbage Onion Piroshky. Well, tourists and locals alike will understand if they have withstood the second longest line (first belonging to the original Starbucks) in the Pike Place Market.

Left to right: lined up at Piroshky Piroshky; my self-portrait gazing at the pastries in the window; the makings of really yummy smells and taste!

Once I had satisfied the craving for melt-in-your-mouth fresh piroshky, there's really only one suitable follow-up conveniently situated right there at the market. Cherries. We're talking Bing, locally grown and freshly picked. Grab a bagful - you won't regret. If cherries aren't your thing, you can always find someone with oddly colored hair and a knife to offer you another local fruit to sample (in this case, pear)



Before I head away from the market, I'll share a few more photos to give those who haven't been a taste of what to expect....essentially, what you'd never expect: locally harvested Sea Beans from Puget Sound at $9.99 a pound, and, well, hugs at $0.00 a pound. I opted for the hug.



I left the market and headed up Pike Street to my old stomping grounds - the office building where I worked at 5th & Pike. Conveniently located nearby - the original Nordstrom's Department Store, where I often blew my paycheck during lunch.



Simply being here watching the bike messengers delivering their packages made me reminisce another delight of Seattle. Coffee. Let it be known that during my 4 days in Seattle not once did I venture into a Starbucks. Not a chance. Not when there are so many incredible local places to get incredible lattes. Everywhere I looked, it seemed the preferred blend du jour was "Obama".




That photo there with the poster which looks over the cafe belongs to Monorail Espresso. 15 years ago this was an espresso cart located right outside the entrance to my office building. Now it is a storefront next to Banana Republic. Thus, the appropriateness of Obama's "Progress" poster. Still, the best damn latte in Seattle hands down, as any bike messenger on the street (who know the city better than most) will attest. Plus, they still sell the original Uncle Seth's Pink Cookie, which has since become available in bulk quantity at Costcos across the country, but it just doesn't taste the same without a Monorail Espresso Latte.

Here are some snaps I grabbed as I enjoyed my various coffees at various sidewalk tables and benches downtown - great spots for people, and bird, watching.



(1. be loved; 2. be fed; 3. be ready. It's one of those shots you could never set up or seek out. Two one-legged individuals at the same corner - one in a wheelchair with a sign reading "lost leg - please help", and the other crossing the street needing no help at all.)

Yelp! was my second most useful iphone app during my stay in Seattle, after maps. With or without an iphone, Seattle is the place to leave the rental car costs behind and foot it. The public transport system is really quite efficient (this being the opinion of a San Diego native, where everyone drives to get their morning lattes and a rental car is a must for visitors to our fine city). But seriously, you'll save the expense in parking fees (which can be higher than the car rental fee itself), and walking around will help burn off the calories from all the great food you've been indulging in during your visit. If you absolutely must get yourself some wheels while there, check out ZIP CAR, my new favorite form of transportation - and of course, Seattle's got a branch.

There are a gazillion great options for where to stay in Seattle, and anything downtown will put you easy walking distance to all the sights (and the monorail station to take you to the Space Needle). I had a most incredibly spacious room with free wi-fi and a wine tasting every evening at the Alexis Hotel, one of the three Kimpton properties in Seattle, all of which are dog-friendly, and all of which hold rank in the "Best" Lists of Travel & Leisure and Conde Nast publications. Deservedly so.




Finally, one can't mention Seattle without addressing the weather. I remember I had lived there almost 6 months before I ever saw a clear sky and Mount Rainier looming over the city (usually hidden in clouds). Well, here I just spent 4 gorgeous days in Seattle without a drop of rain and only a few light clouds. I almost didn't recognize the place. Fortunately, for summer visitors who come to Seattle expecting rain and instead get sunny days like I had, there's a spot you can go where you can experience what the rest of the year is like. They've put a walk through fountain right at 4th and Pine across from Westlake Center. While tourists enjoy walking through the falling water, I personally suspect it benefits the locals who may get withdrawls if they go too long without a downpour.



Seriously, the locals do love their sun when they get it, and there are too many parks to mention when it comes to finding the perfect spot to just get away and be in nature without leaving the city.



I love Seattle. My long-awaited excuse for this visit came in the form of an ASPP Photography event, which Mark Ippolito has already blogged about over at Shabu Station. Plus, I got to spend some good quality time with a great quality woman (Danita Delimont), who happens to represent a good many of my great quality travel and culture images. Throw in some nostalgic memories, a few old familiar faces, some new ones, and Seattle has produced it's own "perfect blend" that leaves me jittery and craving another cup. It's like a big giant perfect tall double latte, deeply rich with perfect froth. Mmmmm. Everyone I know who has been to Seattle or spent any part of their life there, loves Seattle. It's one of those places you can never leave for good. I already can't wait to go back.

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