Friday, August 26, 2005

I heart Seattle

Have you ever been to Seattle? Let me tell you something: You need to go to Seattle. Now. I’ll wait. (Okay, I keep seeing that on other blogs. I suppose it works better when you’re sending someone off to another website, rather than an entire city.)

I went to Seattle for work last week. Why did no one tell me how wonderful Seattle is in the summer? Nobody ever mentioned to me this business of warm, sunny, non-humid days in the Pacific Northwest. No wonder Washington and Oregon are being invaded by Californians. Where else are Californians supposed to go? Washington, DC? Let me tell you something: Californians don’t necessarily cope with DC summers. (I promise to stop whining about DC summer in October.) Seattle seems like a much better option.

On Wednesday my boss and I finished work around 3 and headed down to Pike Place Market. As we approached, I admired the view of Puget Sound beyond the buildings. But then I was caught up in the market itself—the rows and rows of flowers, the brightly colored produce, the stink of the fish counters. My boss tried to show me the fish stand where the guys throw the fish, but no one was buying, so there was no need to throw any fish. My favorite thing to look at was a large fish lying on the ice with a sign that said, “Hello! I’m a sturgeon.” My favorite thing to do was taste the free samples—peach-chipotle jam, cherry butter, blueberry syrup, a sweet blackberry. We wandered through the market, looking at the arts and crafts, until it was time to go back and get ready for dinner.

Approaching Pike's Place Market
Boat in Puget Sound behind Pike's Place
Fish market
I'm a sturgeon

I went back to the market the next morning. I was meeting my coworkers for breakfast at 7:30. I woke up at 5:30 easily, thanks to the time change. After I got ready, I headed down to the market. There was still no one throwing any fish. I stood for awhile and watched the men shovel ice and lay crabs and fish out on it. They smiled and said hello to me, and went about their work. I wandered through the nearly deserted market, watching people open their produce stands and unload flowers from trucks. When I reached the end of the market, I walked into the original Starbucks and ordered a cup of the thick hot chocolate that reminds me of the month The Husband and I spent traveling in Spain. I took it out to the same place I had been the day before, looking out over the water, and called The Husband at home to tell him what I was up to. A few years before, I called him from San Diego to brag that I was at the beach having fish tacos and margaritas for lunch while he was working. This wasn’t too different.

I went back to the market every day. On Friday we finished work early again. I found a sandwich place at the market for lunch, bought some treats to take home, and went back to my hotel to drop off my purchases and ask how far to Pioneer Square. The concierge gave me a map and assured me that I ought to take a cab. “It’s much too far to walk—at least half an hour.” So, I set out on foot, looking into cute restaurants and shops on my way, and was at Pioneer Square in about 20 minutes. I wandered through Elliott Bay Book Company, enjoying being around books and out of the sun for a few minutes. I bought a lemonade and sat at a shady table on the square reading my book (one I had with me—I was good and didn’t purchase anything new) for awhile before heading back to meet everyone for dinner.

On Saturday my friend Rachel arrived, and we continued to do tourist things. I think she was startled by how early I woke up. I should have prepared her for my East Coast time schedule. We ate lunch at a bagel shop down near the market, then walked to Seattle Center to go to the Experience Music Project. I enjoyed the EMP, although I’m not sure it was worth the $20 cost of admission (I am apparently used to all the free museums in Washington). The Bob Dylan exhibit was excellent—lots of music to listen to, with some context. It was sort of amusing to see letters from Joan Baez and Dylan’s high school yearbook. An old guitar and harmonica belonging to Dylan were displayed, and I thought briefly that it was sad for an instrument to be locked up and not played—probably one of my sillier thoughts for the day. A lot of the exhibit was made up of brief videos, which were fun to watch—I learned a thing or two, heard some good music, and got to see other folk singers that I like. The other exhibits—hip-hop and songwriting—didn’t draw me in in the same way, although some of the interactive stuff in the Sound Lab was fun. I should had here that I was almost disappointed in the ugliness of the building itself. My friend Sara, a native of Washingtonstate, had declared it the ugliest building ever. While it’s certainly not the most attractive building ever, I didn’t find it astoundingly ugly. It was shiny and weirdly shaped and brightly colored. It was not an attractive building, but it was just bizarre. I think there are lots uglier sky scrapers. Here is a view of the EMP from above, taken from the Space Needle, and a close up of one side of the building.

Experience Music Project from above

Close up of one side of the EMP

After the museum, Rachel and I rode the monorail back to the hotel, and learned that the concierge at the hotel is not particularly good at knowing useful information about buses. She was interesting to look at though, with her wrinkly face, dyed blonde hair, animal print glasses frames, and lots of hot pink clothing, lipstick, and nail polish. We figured out the buses ourselves and headed off to see the troll under the bridge and the statue of Lenin. We bought gelato and sorbet and ate on a bench to Lenin’s left.

Troll under a bridge

The largest stature of Lenin in the US
For our last activity of the afternoon, we took advantage of the beautiful, clear day to see the view from the top of the Space Needle. We had beautiful views of Puget Sound and Mt. Rainier. You sort of have to squint at the second photo below to see Mt. Rainier. It was much clearer in real life. I wish I had been able to go up on Thursday, which was even clearer—as we drove along the freeway from interview to interview, I had drooled over the sparkling, sapphire blue of the water. Still, I think we were pretty lucky with the views we got.

View of the Space Needle from Below

View of Puget Sound and Seattle from the Space Needle

View from the Space Needle

I am so totally going back.


Jeff said...

I'm glad you enjoyed the trip. Frank Gehry sure does like the swoopy metal buildings. And I just found out about the troll statue, because there was a photo in a city planning book, but I had no idea there was a statue of Lenin in Seattle! One of my friends from my old company lives up there now--I'll have to visit sometime.

The next time I need to wear one of those "Hello, My Name Is" name tags, I'm totally going to write "A Sturgeon" in the box.

ann said...

Sounds like you were there during a non-rainy time, which is excellent.

Seattle isn't far from me, if you and "the Husbland: want to meet there for a mini-vacation.

Elizabeth said...

Jeff: It's apparently the largest statue of Lenin in the US. Honestly, I didn't know we had others, but I guess there's one in Dallas, and a beheaded one practically in my own backyard. Of course, if I really had one in my own backyard, I might be considered a suspicious character. And the condo association might get ticked off. I don't think Lenin statues are approved.

Ann: That sounds awesome. Except I think I'd rather just come see you in your natural habitat. I would love to visit Alaska one of these days.

ann said...

Umm... so... "husbland" was a typo, in case you were wondering.

And you are welcome to come see me any time. May, June and July are the best months to visit, weather-wise.

Elizabeth said...

Someone recently told me that August and September are actually pretty good too, because there are fewer tourists and mosquitos, but the weather's still good and the days are still a decent length.

ann said...

That's probably true in Anchorage or other places farther north, but not for Southeast Alaska (including Juneau). Here, September is probably too rainy to see the good stuff... and August may be, too. May and June are your best bets, followed closely by July.