Oh Seattle! Where the wind and rain sweep across a landscape of grey and green. City of Seahawks and Mariners, Amazonians and Starbuckers, fish flingers and coffee connoisseurs.
We kick off our nearly two weeks in Seattle with a quick stop by our good friends Jeff and Daneah’s condo in Belltown to drop our 150 lbs of luggage (how did we ever make it through SE Asia with only one bag each?), then head to the airport to pick up my parents, Bruce and Chris. They will be with us for the next four nights. My mom has wanted to see Seattle for years, so for Christmas this year, my Dad gave her a trip here (good idea, Dad – much better than a set of goose-emblazoned kitchenware!). Mark and I are excited to show Seattle to my parents, as outside of San Francisco, it is the city we know best.
After hugs and handshakes at the airport, we head back to the condo to enjoy our first dinner together of seafood chowder and sourdough bread. From our 15th floor perch and windows on two sides, we nearly forget to eat as we watch the ferries cross Puget Sound beneath a backdrop of the Olympic range, their twinkling lights reflecting on the water.
On Mother’s Day, we introduce my parents to another tasty Northwest food: smoked fish. Bagels and lox is a familiar Sunday morning treat for Mark and me, but this is a new treat for my dad, who declares it “interesting” but somehow manages to stomach a variety of bagels, cream cheese, fruit salad, fresh crab (Mom’s special request) and four types of smoked fish. The meal is decadent and delicious, and we decide to burn it off with an afternoon walking through the Washington Park arboretum and the Japanese Garden. Mark’s ankle is slowly healing after his stumble the night before we began our journey, so he hobbles a bit behind as we navigate the park’s numerous trails and enjoy rhododendrons and dogwood in full bloom. We also stumble across a sweet Seattle tradition: on Mother’s Day, the park sponsors a free Polaroid of mom with her family. How nice is that? We get lucky with the weather too, as it is only slightly cloudy, and most importantly – no rain!
A few words on Seattle weather. Grey. Overcast. Chilly. Writer Tom Robbins describes Seattle’s sky in Jitterbug Perfume as resembling “…cottage cheese that had been dragged nine miles behind a cement truck…” Usually, this description of Seattle weather is spot-on. If Seattle had a weather-related marketing slogan, it would probably be something like: “Seattle, where grey is the new black!” Or “Seattle – 365 hours of sunshine!”
A friend here told us that it had been 194 days since the temperature in Seattle had broken 70 degrees.
This is not to say that Seattle doesn’t have its good days – we enjoyed three days of glorious sunny weather, which we appreciated all the more as a welcome respite from the damp grey doldrums. When I lived in New Zealand, they had a term for the damp mistiness that is common to the weather there, and it is apt for Seattle as well: spitting.
Spitting is definitely not rain, and not quite a sprinkle, and evokes none of the romantic connotations associated with mist. Nope, the sky is spitting on you. Not quite enough to require an umbrella, but enough that your clothes will mildew if you don’t dry them out.
But enough about the weather. Seattle has so many beautiful spots and interesting things to do that you can almost forget about being perpetually spit upon. Almost.
As far as cities go, Seattle is a looker. It is abundantly trimmed with green space and has outdoor art on almost every block. On a tour, my parents learned Seattle requires all building development projects to contribute 1% of the project cost to a fund for public art. What a great idea, and a way to transform empty space into something engaging and appealing.
After a day exploring Seattle as a foursome, my Uncle Tim and Aunt Lori arrive from Portland to join us for a couple of days. We decide to take a trip to Bainbridge Island, a dozen miles across Puget Sound by relaxing ferry. A trip to Bainbridge is one of the best and cheapest ways to get out on the water and enjoy views of the city skyline and Mt. Rainier (appropriate its heteronym aptly describes Seattle’s weather – rainier). We had a great time walking around the ferry port town of Winslow, and devour delicious fish and chips and poutine (ah, memories of Ottawa!) at Harbour Public House.
After a wonderful three days with family, we drop my parents at the airport immediately set off to the small town of Quilcene, two hours west of Seattle on the Olympic peninsula, but culturally a million miles away. Mark’s boss, Martin, has a stunning home in Quilcene, and a few of Mark’s other coworkers are visiting too. Martin’s place is on the bay, and we arrive just in time to see Mark’s coworkers cleaning and preparing the last of the results of a successful day of shrimping.
Shrimping, we learn, is a highly regulated activity, and there are only four shrimping days a year around Qulicene. As such, the normally sleepy town comes alive with activity on shrimping days, leading to spectacular smashups at the boat ramps as infrequently experienced boaters all vie to be the first to get their boat in the water. We are regaled with stories of the day’s expedition, filled with tins of wet cat food to attract the shrimp, and the lugging of heavy cages in and out of the water amidst a deluge. It sounds perfectly miserable and perfectly wonderful, and no doubt new stories were born that will be embellished in the years to come.
Another Quilcene treat: fresh oysters! We gather fresh oysters right off the beach in front of Martin’s house, then eat them raw with a dab of Tabasco sauce. It doesn’t get fresher than this!
Our night in Quilcene is also Mark’s birthday, so in addition to feasting on shrimp, oysters, and steak, we enjoy German chocolate cupcakes for dessert.
Returning back to Seattle the next morning, we enjoy a final round of gatherings with Seattle friends. Matt and Heather host a “Come drink our wine” gathering, giving us a chance to catch up with a number of friends from the days when Mark called on accounts in Seattle.
It is truly wonderful to spend better than a week spending time with friends and family in this engaging city. Thanks again Jeff and Daneah, Martin and Lynn, Matt and Heather!
And now it is time to continue our explorations and turn east. Next stop: visiting two sets of aunts and uncles in eastern Washington and Idaho. With a stop to taste some wine in Walla Walla on the way :^)