Sunday, October 16, 2016

Seattle Travelogue - One More Day

Our last full day in Seattle began much like our first full day in Seattle. It also happened to be Chad's birthday!  We tend to travel often on or around Chad's birthday. One year we visited friends in Chicago. (Hi Jenny and Rob! Thanks again!) Among other fun activities, our friends thoughtfully made reservations for brunch on the 95th floor of the John Hancock Center. Wow, the view from up there! One year we celebrated Chad's birthday in London, where we rode the London Eye and went to proper sugar-overload afternoon tea. This year we celebrated in Seattle.

Since we needed to check out a few more silly tourist traps, after breakfast we hightailed it via Uber carpool to the Seattle Great Wheel.  The Seattle Great Wheel is a giant Ferris wheel with enclosed pods. This Ferris wheel rises to a height of 175 feet and extends out over the Seattle waterfront at Elliott Bay. We got four full rotations on the wheel before stopping for unloading. We visited on a clear day, and ogled downtown balconies of the wealthy, the lovely waterfront, some rooftops, hills in the distance and the Olympic Mountains. I preferred this closer view from above of Seattle to the higher view from the Space Needle. Luckily, on a not-so-busy Monday, we had the pod to ourselves. No small talk with strangers necessary! The Seattle Great Wheel delivered silly tourist fun with great views. We didn't spend long in line, less than five minutes on a not-so-busy Monday. Not waiting long and scoring a private pod definitely improved the experience.

Photo credit: Hotspots Seattle

After exiting through the gift shop and restaurant for the waterfront tourist trap area, we navigated through some dusty roadwork to the Public Market. On our past trip to Seattle together, we spent a half day perusing the Public Market, watching the fishmongers throw treasures of the sea though the air with the greatest of ease, sniffing flowers at the farmers' market stands, squeezing locally grown produce and looking at "Made in China" kitschy, plastic mess in the shop stalls. On this trip to Seattle, we made a fifteen minute perfunctory pass through the Public Market. Yes, it's all still there. Moving on...

exterior light fixtures at Seattle Public Market

We wanted to get away from the aimless hordes of tourists near the Public Market post haste. I react to large crowds in one of three ways: I get tunnel vision, going about my business with a selective view of my objective; I get all kinds of anxious and have to consciously regulate my breathing; or my fight or flight response opts for flight. We traveled uphill several blocks away from the crowds to the flagship Nordstrom department store at 500 Pine Street. This is the nicest, most luxurious Nordstrom store. Anywhere. Ever. Which is why we had to go.

Carl F. Wallin, a Seattle shoemaker, met John W. Nordstrom in Alaska and offered him a partnership in a shoe store. In 1901 they opened their first store in Seattle at Fourth and Pike. That store eventually became the largest shoe store in the country. In the mid 1920s John W. Nordstrom's three sons bought out their father's and Mr. Wallin's shares in the store. The younger Nordstrom generation added clothing for the entire family to the shoe offerings. By 1960 they opened the department store renamed "Nordstrom Best" very near the current flagship store in downtown Seattle. 

The Nordstrom flagship store in downtown Seattle reminds me of Selfridges department store in London. Both physical locations are housed in grand structures with a sense of history near bustling city centers. Both stores employ plenty of staff (mostly) eager to help in a non-pushy manner. Both stores offer examples of some of the most exclusive, expensive and creative fashion designs, which I was able to paw through and examine up close and personal. Some of the fashions are downright wacky, some are made of scratchy fabrics, but some are too lovely and wonderful for words. Of course, there are multiple shoe departments strategically placed all over the spacious department store. We didn't purchase anything, but we greatly enjoyed looking. And pawing.

Chad and I walked across a skybridge to the neighboring and moderately posh Pacific Place shopping center in search of lunch. We both wanted a fresh salad real bad. Eureka! The Il Fornaio Bakery Cafe serves choose-your-own-adventure hand-tossed salads in a casual counter service bistro setting. This super-cute bakery cafe runs daily specials. Mondays are free cookie day. Yes, please! (Readers, you may be wondering to yourselves, "I thought these dorks were vegan. What's with all the not-vegan food on this trip?" Our salads were vegan. The cookies were not. We chose to exercise our travel and/or birthday cheat options throughout much of this trip as we are still quite new to going vegan. Thanks for the eggs, chickens. I'm sorry. Thanks for the milk, cows. I'm sorry. We did keep it strictly vegetarian at least.) The salads and the perfect chocolate chip cookies were so good. 

After yummy lunch, we took an Uber back to our hotel for Chad's afternoon nap and my stare-at-my-phone and reading time. After 90 minutes, both rejuvenated, we took the elevator down to the Pineapple Bar in the lobby of the Maxwell Hotel for Chad's birthday libations. And, yes, we were both still in the throws of head colds. I hear that alcohol kills germs. (I know that's not how that works, but it was Chad's birthday.) We each had one drink heavy with pineapple juice, which packs some vitamin C punch. It was kind of like cough syrup. 

For dinner we ambled a few blocks down Roy Street from our hotel to The Masonry for amazingly good Neapolitan style pizza baked in a wood fired oven. This is not a fancy, fine dining place. The Masonry occupies a small space with humble seating. Watching and smelling the wood fired oven over the bar was a treat. The well curated craft beer offerings were a delight. All the food was excellent. We had house-pickled vegetables served in a small jar. These were great with just the right balance of spice and crunch. Upon recommendation from our server, we also had the wood fired oven roasted cauliflower with tomatoes and olives. The dish was perfect with a bit of roasted char on the well seasoned veggies. We shared a Margherita pizza that was everything we expected and more: from the chewy crust to the fresh mozzarella and basil leaves. Dinner at The Masonry was my favorite meal on this trip, hands down.

Our tummies full, we walked around the Queen Anne neighborhood seeing what was what. I love this area of Seattle, because it is close to downtown without being downtown. I like that real people live in this neighborhood. It's not overrun with other tourists.

The bartender at the Pineapple Bar advised us to go for dessert at Toulouse Petit a few blocks from the hotel. She described as having "like 500 candles on the walls, so romantic" with "the most amazing desserts." The front wall of the restaurant shows influences of a French cathedral meets a cozy bar. The side walls are indeed lined with a multitude of votive candles. The light fixtures are Art Nouveau style and lovely. The tables are crafted with beautiful woodwork. The floor tiles are patterned with craftsmanship and care. This place is a feast for the eyes. We ordered a brownie sundae which arrived with expertly caramelized banana slices atop an ideal brownie. Caramel and hot fudge sauces accompanied the sundae for DIY drizzling. The brownie sundae was amazingly good. We also had the trio of small creme brulee. Sadly the tops of the creme brulee were overly torched, and the flavor suffered for it. The vanilla creme brulee was identifiable, but we couldn't tell the strawberry from the pistachio of the other two creme brulee due to the overwhelming burnt sugar taste. Overall Toulouse Petit was lovely. 

Toulouse Petit with its many candles

With a busy travel itinerary the next day, we didn't stay out too late. Chad reports that he greatly enjoyed his birthday in Seattle. I also enjoyed our limited time in Seattle. It was just the right amount of time in the bustling city, before we slowed it down on San Juan Island.

Tune in sometime in the near future for our San Juan Island, Washington travelogue. 

Currently back at home, I sprained my ankle on Wednesday night. My ankle feels almost better, but Nurse Chad has ordered me to stay off my feet for one more day. Otherwise, this blog post would have been delayed by my search for a new gym to join. Send my ankle happy, healing thoughts. Take it from me, don't walk your dog after dark in three-inch wedge heels amidst torn-up roadways.  Learn from my silly mistake. Ouch!