Seattle is the Chicago of the Northwest, the left shoulder of the continent. It’s a big city with all the pleasure/pain. Public transportation is easy, with a large free zone downtown. The light rail from the airport is the cheapest, easiest, fastest way into town.
Attractions are waiting to be opened like presents under the tree (Evergreens of course) Seattle Art Museum has a major presence and links with the Asian Art up the hill….a little out of the way but a pretty bucolic discovery. The Aquarium is not Monterey, but certainly a destination even without children or grandchildren. It is part of a tight downtown loop that can begin at Pikes Market, over to the aquarium, five more minutes and it is an Argosy tour of the harbor for an hour, then up to the Art Museum. Make sure you stop at Ye Old Curiosity shoppe,–a trashy souvenir shop, but embedded it is a traditional “cabinet of curiosities” A world of odd stuffed and carved and mummified object that have two heads and can tell fortunes. You have to look up at the vast array of objects collected over the period of the stores business tenure…since 1899.
But I am not going to mention the weather. Contrary to every native, who claims, “I don’t mind it” or “It’s not so bad” I will completely abstain. What I might do it mention my own quirk of leaving curtains in a bedroom open at night so I can awake with the morning light. With this alarm system here, it means you sleep late—even all day. The concept of a “ray” of light in a blue sky is somewhat limited to the Seattle Art Museum historic paintings or the occasional day in spring. Most of the light is a crepuscular lethargy that opens up the day not with a crack rather with an ooze of lightening dullness. But I am not going to mention the weather, in the same way that Southern Californians don’t mention it. They take it for granted in both places, no expectations from the norm. BUT—if I did mention it, there are days that are blue sky and clarity that are unrivaled in vision and appreciated by those that are subjected to the rain or overcast the OTHER 307 days/year.
On the north side of town are three oddities that are worth a mention and perhaps a visit. The monorail runs a limited distance into the Space Needle. Built for the 1962 worlds fair. These tired attractions are now a quaint example of what we thought the future would be. Wandering this part of town makes you consider your dreams and scale of what life was if you were a kid during this era. Seeing the Space Needle in all it’s 7th tallest glory in a city that is 30th in size in the US tells you “The future, it ain’t what it used to be.” It seems a little painful to pay $16 for a ticket to arise the 7th tallest building in the 19th largest city and look down upon the Key Arena that used to hold the Supersonics until they left for Oklahoma. The Arena, from the height of the space needle looks miniscule for most modern sport venues, and as one descends as watches the empty building, it remains small and almost pitiful in its loneliness. How can a team be happier in Oklahoma City? Look at the arena here and you would understand. If you are a sports fan Safeco field and the Mariners or Qwest and the Seahawks or the Soccer Sounders is a modern sports complex where all the accoutrements are present, including nine-dollar hot dogs.
Going from the Pikes Place Market….The Argosy cruise gives an hour-long overview of the city. An interesting alternative is walking up to the Washington State Ferries a few blocks north on the waterfront, past the aquarium– take the Bainbridge Island Ferry. Rather than $22 on the Argosy, the Bainbridge is only $6+ and walking around the island is a walk back in time. The 35 minute cruise over and same return is the equivalent of taking the Staten Island Ferry for a water cruise rather than the more expensive touristic Circle Line.
Seattle Underground is a wonder indeed. Imagine going down a flight of stairs to a bathroom area, squeezing in 50 people and showing a few old B&W photographs and 20 minutes of bad puns about dysfunctional toilets, sewers, water pressure and tides. Repeat this three times and you have an amusing but audaciously uneventful tourist attraction. You are paying $16 to hear scatological history in three vacant, abandoned spaces under Pioneer Square. Nothing is there except some small bits of history and worn sense of humor. You wonder why you spent the money.
A good restaurant in this part of town is The Café Paloma on Yesler is a hole in the wall, but great fresh food and a lovely neighborhood restaurant. Dinner for two is about $40 with a glass of wine. Hotel? Best Western is in a historic building, newly refurbished and prices around $125 a night if you shop it correctly.…..Not too bad…
A few restaurants varieties are worth noting The Seastar in the lovely Pan Pacific Hotel Offers a tony array of salmon, crab, halibut and scallops. Dinner for two with a glass or two of wine is a healthy $100+. The Pan Pacific is a well-appointed hotel, actually a Beautiful room with a Great bathtub—great place to stay if you are on the North side of town. Lola’s (Greek) is on the corner of 4th and Virgina within the Virginia hotel (four star). They offer donut holes for breakfast with cinnamon sugar a la Café Du Monde in New Orleans. Dinner is very vegan friendly with a kitchen that is begging to show you what they can do with chickpeas, beets and hot sauce. Dinner for two? $50+ with a carafe of wine.
If you want to treat yourself to carnivore land. Head for the Gaucho First Street and Wall–Pure meat and perfect. The black dining room has a mezzanine of triangular tables right out of the 50s Maracaibo club. The hushed conversation of the guests never overwhelms the bassa nova piano drifting from the bar. The old world elegance has Caesar Salad prepared at the table to open and Bananas Foster to close. In between these dramatic parenthesis is steak, lobster, shrimp and salad that make you sorry you had lunch, or breakfast, or any food the day before. If you are here on a quiet night and seem to be romantic with your partner, the server might suggest they can offer a significant discount on the hotel rooms above. This leads to the fantasy of saying “I’ll have the check……..and a room.”