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Friday, August 9, 2013

Emerald City

In January Leslie and I went to Seattle for a weekend, it was my first visit there and we had a great time.  It was cold (low thirty degrees, high forty), foggy (we had dinner at the top of the Space Needle and the only thing we could see was the bright pink neon elephant sign for the car wash right below the needle) and windy.  I loved it and told her that if we ever win the lottery (make that when we win the lottery) we are buying a condo in the Emerald City for when we visit frequently.

After our visit the past two days my plan for lottery money has not changed.

The drive from Bonner's Ferry to Seattle was another great drive with interesting contrasts as we put several hundred miles on our odometer.  We dropped through the wooded mountains and foothills into Spokane and Eastern Washington.  Not long after that the trees melted away and we were once again in the midst of a wheat belt.  Eastern Washington mirrored Western Montana with plains type terrain and fields becoming lush forested mountains--no duh since the northern Rockies separate the two regions.

Slowly the flatlands become more hilly and after lunch we crossed the Columbia River.  We slowly and windily climbed from the river and after cresting one hill I almost jammed on the brakes as looming in the distance was the massive Mount Rainer, covered in snow and visible from more than 150 miles outside Seattle.  It was stunning to have it just appear out of the horizon so suddenly.

The drive into Seattle was slowed by road repair and then traffic into the city but we finally arrived at our Best Western Loyal Inn around 4:00.  The weather was quite different than our trip in January, about 50 degrees different as it was 85 degrees when we arrived, as well it was very clear.  Our hotel was perfectly located and after unloading the Honda Odyssey we walked to the Space Needle, it was about a ten minute walk.

The 360 degree view from the Space Needle on a day like we had on Wednesday afternoon is indescribable.  Seattle's location on the Puget Sound, Lake Union with the islands and mountains plus the city itself make it a very unique setting and the Space Needle maximizes that setting for visitors.  We spent about an hour walking around the outside platform and snapping photos.  One event that was very neat was the helicopter for one of the local television stations taking off from its roof-top landing pad that was several hundred feet below us.

After the Space Needle we went to a sports bar and restaurant nearby for dinner and then walked around a bit, getting the obligatory Starbucks and then headed back to our hotel.

Thursday morning we were up and eschewed the free Best Western breakfast for Top Pot donuts, "hand forged" donuts and a place Leslie and I discovered in January.  The donuts are fantastic and naturally for Seattle the coffee is better than we are used to.  We were meeting Leslie's cousins for lunch around noon by the Pike Place Market so we walked down to the market.  The fish throwers get most of the attention for the market but the totality of the shops and what they have to offer is what makes the place special--and a primary reason for my declaration that lottery money would buy a condo nearby.  The variety and freshness of the fruits, vegetables, fish and meat makes it a must go to place if you like to cook.  Add in the crafty stuff and all the different food purveyors and you have a place that can take your whole day from breakfast to dinner.

We spent quite a while watching the cheese curds being stirred at Beecher's Cheese and even longer watching a woman who I do not think speaks English making piroshkys at Piroshky, Piroshky.  When noon rolled around we met Leslie's cousins Mary and Melinda at Steelhead Diner (I had the manila clams with sofrito and broth--yes they were delicious).

After a very good lunch and the cousins catching up on each other and other members of the family we walked down to the waterfront.  Jenna really wanted to ride the ferris wheel, dad did not.  Dad won.

We went down a few piers and purchased tickets for the ferry to Bainbridge Island. The tickets were cheap ($7.70 for Leslie and I and $6.20 for the girls) and you only pay one-way---the ride back to Seattle is free. Perfect timing as they started boarding the ship right when we showed up.  It was a beautiful day, we stayed out on the deck,  hanging out on the bow, in shorts and shirt sleeves, I imagine that is not something that you can do to many days a year.  The ride is fun and not much more than half an hour.  Once we got to the island we walked about ten minutes into the town and headed right to Mora Iced Creamery.  Yet more delicious food in the Seattle area, some of the best ice cream anywhere.

Looking around we saw there was not much else we wanted to see so we headed back to the ferry and once again had perfect timing as boarding started as soon as we got in line.  We had a fun time watching all the cars load into the hold.

Once we landed in Seattle I took leave of the girls to go back to the hotel room to do some work, a good opportunity as well to avoid the ferris wheel ride they were headed to.

Leslie and the girls walked back to the hotel from the ferris wheel, stopping for some shopping and browsing on the way. After we all gathered in the room we headed out on foot for dinner.  Leslie found an Italian restaurant in one of the guides, La Vita E Bella.  We walked up and there was an elderly gentleman sitting on a stool playing an accordion on the sidewalk where they had tables set up. We sat outside and enjoyed a very good dinner, ambiance with the accordion player next to our table and the incredible summer weather.  After dinner we walked to the Icon Grill, which is across from the Westin where we stayed in January and they have "dessert happy hour" after 9:00 every evening.

A first in Smith Family history, we ordered three desserts to share and none were finished--we were quite full.  On our full stomachs we walked back to our room and I collapsed.  The best day of our trip, long walks, good food and a wonderful city as the setting.

Today we drove to Medford, Oregon.  The drive down I-5 was horrible, after 4100 miles the drivers in Oregon are the worst of anywhere we have been.  No one respects the "Slower Drivers Stay In Right Lane," cut you off when passing a truck and generally made for a very stressful drive for the first two hundred miles.

The last hundred plus miles was gorgeous, even with a huge down pour as we wound through the mountains that had us down to below forty miles an hour and greatly reduce visibility.  We pulled into our hotel about 6:00 and headed across the parking lot to the local diner for a passable and forgettable dinner.  Now we sit in the room having a cocktail, reading, blogging, texting and watching "Shark Tank."

Tomorrow we return to California, Leslie and I for the first time since July 30th, Blaire since July 22nd and Jenna since July 8th.  We plan on pulling into sister/aunt Sharon and Uncle Bob's place in Marin County sometime in the late afternoon.  Sunday we will stop by my folk's place in San Francisco for a brief visit and then head home to Long Beach via Highway 99 down the valley and gut of California.

Here are the Seattle pics in random order as I'm having some issues with loading pics tonight:

Top Pot donut case--the lemon old fashioneds, mmmmmm......

Mount Rainier looming over the Pugent Sound as seen from the ferry to Bainbridge Island

How close was our hotel to the Space Needle?

Our hotel/room from the Space Needle

Obligatory Space Needle shot--look how beautiful the sky is

Downtown Seattle with Mount Rainier ever present

One of the many flower stalls at Pike Place Market

One of many fresh produce stalls at the market

My beautiful travel companions on the ferry to Bainbridge Island

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