As I’ve been mentioning in my last few posts, Drew and I traveled to Washington state last week. Neither of us had been to Washington before, and with the Beat the Blerch race as a wonderful excuse to go, we stretched the trip out a few days into an anniversary adventure. Please indulge me as I share some highlights!
We hopped on a plane after work and chased the sunset ~3000 miles to the west coast. We landed around 10pm Pacific Time (1am to my tired, east coast brain), rented a car, and drove to downtown Seattle (technically Belltown) to our home for three nights, Hotel Five. We loved how conveniently located the hotel was – within walking distance of Pike Place Market, the Space Needle, Puget Sound, and a bunch of other fun touristy things. In fact, as we approached the hotel on Wednesday night, we were greeted with this view:
Less than a block away from our hotel was an amazing doughnut shop called Top Pot. It’s a chain, and this particular location was decorated a bit like a library (a win in my book!) and had floor-to-ceiling windows behind the counter that gave a great view of the doughnuts being made. Drew and I couldn’t decide which flavors to try, so we got a half-dozen:
After munching some yummy doughnuts and sipping caffeinated beverages, we set off to a pub in the neighborhood of Fremont to watch Spurs play a Europa League match. Drew and I really enjoyed visiting some of Seattle’s neighborhoods; downtown was nice enough, but the various neighborhoods were vibrant and fascinating. We quickly guessed that Fremont is one of Seattle’s more alternative ‘hoods, as we were greeted with a statue of Lenin and later chatted up by a pot-smoking gentleman clad only in underpants. We also encountered my first-ever Steller’s Jay! (I’m a bit of a bird nerd.)
We watched the match at the George and Dragon, home pub of the Seattle Spurs supporters club. The match left a bit to be desired, but I loved the pub itself! It had a cozy, homey feel and even had a mini-library along a shelf near where we were sitting:
They also had one of my favorite ciders on tap, and Drew was chuffed that they also had Boddington’s. 0-0 draw aside, we were happy campers. I wish we had a pub like the G&D near where we live!
To be honest, I was a little torn about the library. As both a librarian and a library nerd, I loved it for what it was. I loved their fancy automated bookdrop, their lovely auditorium, the helpful signage, the special collections area, and their shop. However, I’m really not a fan of extreme modern architecture (this and this are two of my favorite libraries… and this of course!) and while I appreciated the “coolness” of the building, I found it cold and uninviting. I also did not like the tiny stall doors in the ladies’ room! Anyone of average height, if they so desired, could peer into any occupied stall, and that really skeeved me out. I understand that public libraries come with patron issues, and the stall design “has” to be like that for a reason, but… no.
We ended the afternoon by wandering leisurely down the hill toward Puget Sound:
…and had a late lunch at Mama’s Mexican Kitchen, also a short walk from our hotel. The food was delicious and the service was great. At that point, I was still shocked at how nice everyone in Seattle was… people actually smiled when you made eye contact! That doesn’t usually happen where I’m from! It was weird, but you know… I didn’t hate it. After a late lunch, we just sort of crashed at our hotel and read for hours, wiped out from traveling and jet lag and all that fun stuff.
I did not sleep Thursday night. At all. Not a wink. (Sudafed has turned on me!!) It was not fun, nor did it make for a very coherent Dana on Friday morning. Luckily Drew had spotted a tiny, hole-in-the-wall coffee/breakfast shop across the street from our hotel and we decided to give it a try. I’m so glad we did! Midtown Espresso is family-owned and operated – the owner makes elaborate and delicious coffee beverages and his wife (I think!) makes breakfast sandwiches and other nibbles. They had some pre-packaged muffins and pastries as well, but I got an egg and cheese breakfast sandwich with avocado and tomato and it was ridiculously good. The giant mocha I got was the best I’ve ever had, and was artfully made!
After breakfast we made a bee-line to Green Lake (another lovely neighborhood of Seattle… this would be where I’d want to live if I moved there!) for Beat the Blerch packet pickup (you can read about that here if you’d like). After pickup it was right back to touristy business. First stop: the Space Needle:
After that we hopped on the monorail, which had fascinated us since our arrival at our hotel. Only one mile long, the monorail was built for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair as a way to ferry people from downtown to the fairgrounds. The monorail track runs down the middle of Fifth Avenue and we had a clear view of it from our hotel window:
It was fun to ride a piece of Seattle history, and also fun to get a prime viewing of our hotel:
…but I was surprised and disappointed at how quickly the ride was over (2 minutes!) especially for a one-way fare of $2.25. Eh, it was a cool experience anyway, especially for a history nerd like me.
From downtown we walked down to Pike Place Market:
We saw the requisite fish being thrown (well, crabs, but the throwing still happened), poked around in an awesome used bookstore, and got slightly overwhelmed by the sheer amount of people and stalls and food and flowers and it all seemed like a bit of a maze, especially to my sleep-deprived brain. The one thing I was determined to find was Pocket Coffee, which a friend had brought back from a recent Seattle trip – chocolate-covered liquid espresso, just the ticket for my exhaustion! Alas, the store was out, so I was forced to make do with other forms of caffeine.
Speaking of caffeine, being so close to the original Starbucks, I felt the need to get photographic evidence of me gurning in front of it:
(Fun fact: while in Washington, neither Drew nor I set foot in a Starbucks.)
For dinner on Friday, we were treated to Ponti Seafood Grill, courtesy of a client/coworker/some work connection of Drew’s. We ate outside and had a great view of the Ship Canal and the Fremont Bridge. I had pan-seared Alaskan Weathervane scallops, and they were quite yummy. (The accompanying dark and stormy wasn’t as yummy, but I won’t hold that against them.)
We wanted to return to Midtown Espresso for breakfast, but sadly it’s only open on weekdays. A bit cramped for time as we were checking out of the hotel that morning, we opted for the hotel’s own restaurant, Max’s Cafe. It was small and we had to wait a bit for a table, but the servers were quick, friendly, and helpful, and the food was pretty good! I got the waffle sliders – two quarter-waffles per slider, sandwiching yummy fillings. One was filled with berry cream cheese, strawberries, and blueberries, and the other had peanut butter, bacon, and a banana (called the “Piggy Fried Elvis”). They were way more filling than expected, and the Piggy Fried Elvis had way more peanut butter and way less banana than I was hoping for, but the coffee was free and delicious and the location couldn’t have been more convenient.
After we checked out, we drove downtown with the express intent of going on the Underground Tour, which had been recommended highly to us by a few different friends. Readers, if you do one thing in Seattle, do this tour! For less than the cost of a ticket to the Space Needle’s observation deck, you get a fascinating, hour-plus tour of part of old Seattle, which still exists 15-30 feet below the current city. We had a 15-20 minute introduction by one of the funniest tour guides I’ve ever come across, and then were split into groups for the tour.
After Seattle burned in 1889, the city planners wanted to elevate the city when they rebuilt (the city had some disgusting flooding/sewerage issues before the fire), but business owners didn’t want to wait for that elevating process to happen before reopening their shops. So, the shops were rebuilt first, and the elevated roads were installed around them. Before sidewalks were put in place, people had to climb down ladders to the old sidewalks, and could wander around a city block before having to go back up. The tour takes you along some of those old sidewalks and into basements that used to be street-level. I never knew about this part of Seattle’s history and – maybe I’m biased because I’m a giant history nerd – it was fascinating and highly entertaining.
After a quick lunch at Seattle’s oldest saloon (my food was tasteless and the whole experience left a lot to be desired… though the saloon itself had some fun historical touches) we set off for Redmond, where our B&B was waiting.
We stayed the weekend at the Meritage Meadows Inn, and wow, what a great place! It’s tucked into some woods along a windy, mountain (mountain to me, anyway) road, has a winery on-site and includes free wine tastings for guests every evening, and had a giant, quiet back yard with a gazebo that was a perfect place to spend the afternoon reading:
The owners were a lovely, friendly couple who clearly enjoy their little piece of paradise just outside the bustle of Redmond. They made us delicious breakfasts each morning, and were very good about catering to people’s dietary restrictions (Karen even made gluten-free muffins for one guest and gave her a baggie of extras to take with her on the plane – so sweet!). They also found it quite amusing that all 5 rooms of the inn were occupied by “Blerchers” – every room had at least one person running the race! Clearly we were in a choice spot, only about 20 minutes from the Beat the Blerch course.
After the busy, urban Hotel Five, falling asleep in a cushy bed in a quiet B&B was a delight, which was good because I was nervous about my upcoming race!
After the race, a pit stop for some chocolate milk, and a shower, Drew and I drove into Redmond for lunch at the Three Lions Pub. The location we went to was in a strip mall, which was unexpected:
The interior was decorated nicely, like a typical British pub. I really, really wanted to partake in a blackcurrent Strongbow, but I had a bit of a headache after the race and was trying to drown it with Coke (caffeine) and water (hydration!). I don’t know if it was just an off day or what, but the service was pretty lousy and my lunch was really disappointing. I ordered a ploughman’s, which at this pub consisted of a “cold pork pie with a slice of British cheese, chutney, apple slices, grapes, salad with bread & butter.” There was no cheese to be seen, nor any bread and butter, and the plate was dominated by a limp salad, a few slices of browned apple, some grapes, and an oily pork pie made palatable by spreading chutney on it. I was ravenous so I devoured it anyway, but it wasn’t too enjoyable. Drew got a Lancashire pasty and seemed happy enough with it, so not all was lost.
After lunch came my traditional post-race nap, followed by a wine tasting. The B&B owners also own the on-site winery, and man, their wines were lovely! It was fun getting to chat with the owners and hear their story, and another couple joined us halfway through and we swapped Blerchy tales.
For dinner, Drew and I were determined to try some Pacific Northwest sushi (ALL the salmon!) and our host recommended a place called Izumi. The staff were lovely, but the menu was a bit sparse, and full of Atlantic salmon (why?!) and other non-local fish. I’m a sucker for fancy maki rolls, and the ones at Izumi were very spartan. I had avocado rolls and salmon rolls (whyyyy with the Atlantic salmon?!) which were both decent if plain, but I also had sockeye salmon sashimi which was amazing. Unfortunately, my headache was still kicking around, so that might have colored my slightly disappointing experience as well. Straight to bed when I got back to the B&B!
Monday was the only day it rained while we were in Seattle! The weather had been gorgeous and we considered ourselves quite lucky. Sadly we only had a few hours left in the PNW, because we had a late-morning flight home.
All in all it was a really fun trip! I liked Seattle a lot, and especially loved the more rural areas outside the city. There is still so much there I’d love to see… hopefully we’ll get to go back someday soon!
Have you ever been to Seattle? What are your favorite sights or parts of the city? Anything we missed that you’d recommend?
What is your favorite city to visit?