Sunday, April 16, 2017

Seattle Recap

Hoppy Easter, every bunny! I bet you’ve never heard that one before, huh? I hope you have enjoyed a wonderful day with family and friends, celebrating our risen King. I attended a church service last night, so because my pastor said so, I stayed in bed a few minutes longer this morning and didn’t feel one bit guilty.

Anyway, it’s been almost a month since I arrived home from my first trip to the Pacific Northwest, and I’m just now sitting down to write this recap. While I would have loved to take you through a day-by-day of my time there, that’s probably not what you want to read, and that’s something I’ve kind of gotten away from with this blog. Hence, the ‘recap’ in the title. But long live my Barcelona play-by-plays. Anyway, I’ll take you through some of the highlights (and lowlights…) as I relive my time in this beautiful part of the country.

First up, Seattle.

I managed to score a direct flight from Houston to Seattle on the first Monday of spring break. My uncle so generously offered to take me to the airport, and my only complaint is the fact that I had both a window seat and a 40 oz. water bottle on a five-hour flight. I tried not to bother my seatmates too much, but they tell you to stay hydrated while flying, right?

I got to Seattle around 6:30 PST, and it took me a little while to get from the airport to where I was staying in Northern Seattle, but it allowed me a fantastic sneak peak of the city in which I would be staying for a few days. I think my Lyft driver was secretly laughing at me as I made comments about the beauty of my surroundings every few minutes. It’s truly such a beautiful part of the country, though, and so unlike Texas in so many ways. Mountains and greenery and fresh mountain air all greeted me as I walked around exploring the quaint little neighborhood in which I was staying.

Which brings me to my next point. I was staying a little bit north of Downtown Seattle, but I cannot say enough good things about public transportation in Seattle. As someone who is so intrigued by and such a proponent of public transportation, you would think I would use it in my own city. But, because public transportation typically takes longer than driving from Point A to Point B, I usually reserve figuring out the bus or subway system for when I’m on vacation. When I don’t feel like I have to be somewhere at any certain time. I didn’t love the bus system in Portland, but we’ll get there. Anyway, it was a quick 20ish-minute bus ride to Downtown, and I used that time to whip out my Kindle and get through one of my three-and-a-half books of the trip.

Downtown Seattle is where I spent much of my time, and one of the first stops on my list was Pike Place Market. Pike Place Market is all that you have heard it is and more. It is a four floor farmer’s market, and it is absolutely unreal. It’s one of those places in which you can spend hours, and that’s just what I did one day during one of Seattle’s infamous torrential downpours. There’s produce and seafood and restaurants galore. There’s booths filled with handmade crafts, shops specializing in books, comics, art, and so much more. There’s flowers and fish-flipping, ice cream and chocolate, and fantastic views across Puget Sound. It’s crowded much of the time, but you would be missing out bigtime if you passed this place by.

One of my favorite things about Seattle was the walkability. I love Houston, but walking is not a big part of our city life. And though I was huffing and puffing one more than one occasion after tackling some of those Seattle hills, at least I got myself a fantastic butt workout. From Pike Place, I was able to easily visit the famous Gum Wall – no, I did not contribute – caught a glimpse of the Seattle Great Wheel, and spent some time just walking along the waterfront. It rained much of my first two days in the city, and while that was kind of a bummer, I feel as though I got the authentic Pacific Northwest experience. And I listened to my uncle who advised me against bringing an umbrella. Only tourists do that. So, it rained on my parade a bit, but I enjoyed having many of the cobblestone streets to myself for the afternoon.

Other downtown hotspots? Well, of course you have heard of the Space Needle. What is Seattle without it, after all? But I was told that the Space Needle is a bit on the overpriced side, and it’s another one of those touristy things to do. I’m certainly not opposed to being called a tourist, because that’s 100% what I was, but a little birdie told me that the view from the Smith Tower beats out the view from the Space Needle seven days out of the week. So, I made my way over to Pioneer Square and started the self-led tour. Right away I knew I had made the right choice. It had a very 1920’s feel to it, which happens to be my favorite decade, and the elevator up to the Observatory flooded back all the memories of my time spent riding the SRD elevator on move-in day. And while I can’t speak for the views from the Space Needle, the views from Smith Tower were unreal. It was one of those rare sunshine-filled days, and I could see for miles. I was trying so hard to catch a glimpse of Mt. Rainier – and the men at the bar inside couldn’t help but chuckle – but the clouds just wouldn’t lift. Other than that, I highly recommend checking out the Smith Tower Observatory. Stay for a while and have a drink or two – there are some truly fascinating people who live in Seattle.

From Smith Tower, I just had to swing by the Seattle Public Library. Hands down one of the coolest buildings I have ever been inside, and it was some of the very best people-watching I have ever done.  Each floor offered something different – I saw endless colors, interesting art, unique architecture, and of course, books on books on books. An afternoon well-spent for this bookworm English teacher.

And I didn’t just stay in Seattle. I took a ferry ride – sidenote: travel by ferry is the coolest – over to Bainbridge Island one morning, and spent a couple of hours walking around and exploring the quaint little island. On the way back, I braved the cold for some incredible views of the skyline approaching downtown Seattle. My fingers were frozen, but my photographer heart was happy.

One dreary afternoon took me to the beautiful University of Washington campus. For whatever reason, I absolutely love walking through college campuses, and this one did not disappoint. I can’t even imagine going to school on a campus as beautiful as that one. I was a little too early to see the cherry blossoms lining campus, but the architecture, greenery, and views blew me away. The star of the show was the Suzzallo Library Reading Room, which was something straight out of Hogwarts. I feel pretty confident that I would have spent far more time in the library if something that looks like this had been available to me.

And though it was a bit of a trek, I couldn’t help but make the trip out to Tacoma to see for my own eyes the high school and stadium used in one of my all-time favorite movies – 10 Things I Hate About You. I had zero shame in asking a student to take a picture of me in front of the absolutely stunning high school, and though I didn’t walk inside, I can’t even imagine what it would be like to attend and/or teach at Stadium High School. And Heath Ledger, you are forever in my teenage heart.

Finally, I can’t end this post without touching on what I came to the PNW to do: run. Seattle always tops the list of fittest cities, and I certainly understand why. Obviously the walkability factor has a lot to do with that, but there is a plethora of parks, and there was no shortage of people running, biking, or simply taking an exercise class. And I felt right at home, as one of my favorite things about traveling to a new city is exploring the city while on the run. I find some of the most hidden gems while running, and though it may take me a little bit longer to find my way back home, I consider it time well-spent. Tuesday’s wet sock-filled run took me to Carkeek Park – a quiet park filled with hiking trails, side streams and creeks, and even a beachfront. The hills were plentiful, but they offered me the time to stop and take in the beauty of my surroundings. And it was a hop, skip, and a jump away from where I was staying. 

Thursday took me to the highly recommended Green Lake Park, and you guys, I am green with envy toward those who get to start their days there each morning. This three-mile loop afforded me some of the most magical views, and on that first mile I probably stopped every 50 feet to take yet another picture. It was the happiest, most joy-filled run I had taken in a while, and it left me feeling great about Sunday’s half marathon. Stay tuned for more on that.

I absolutely fell in love with the Emerald City, and I was so bummed to bid it farewell on a perfect sunshine-y day. But because this post is already long enough, I’ll save Portland for a post of its own. Have a great rest of your Easter Sunday – He is Risen, indeed!

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