Tuesday, January 3, 2017

a seattle september

Well this is obviously a post rather late in the writing (as the title would suggest) - but last September (2016), we had the lovely opportunity to get back out west - the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. specifically - for our first ever visit to that storied city of mountains, coffee, and music - beautiful Seattle. (Our trip also took us northeast of Seattle into the Cascade Mountains and  further south along the Pacific Coast into Oregon, but I'll save those beautiful treasures for an upcoming post).  

Before I get into the details of our visit however, let me ask you this - what comes to YOUR mind when you think of Seattle?  For me, apparently, it was TV theme songs - I'm really going to date myself here, but who remembers this little gem?

Oh, Bobby Sherman.... (insert heart eye emoji here) :)

And then quite a few years later,  there was this: 

How I LOVED that show - and Eddie. :) 

And then, a few years after that, came this.....

Ok, so that's a bit of a stretch - this one was more like the theme song of an entire generation.  (I'll circle back to Nirvana and Kurt a little later). 

Soooo....all that to illustrate that my pre-conceptions of Seattle were all based on some sort of music - which I believe to be absolutely fitting, considering that Seattle is, indeed, a city that is music not only to the ears, but to the eyes as well:  

The Seattle skyline from the Water Taxi to West Seattle
Literally the first thing we did after arriving in the city and dropping our bags at the awesome Moore Hotel was to walk a few blocks down to the city's waterfront, and grab a water taxi ride across Elliott Bay to West Seattle.  This is a wonderfully inexpensive way to get a fantastic panoramic view of the entire skyline - and as luck would have it, you can see we were blessed with simply outstanding weather - not only on our first day there, but for almost our entire trip.

(Side note:  I have travelled several times to Vancouver B.C., and now to Seattle - both cities which have a notoriously bad reputation for ceaseless dreary, grey and rainy weather - and have been blessed with nothing but sunshine EVERY time I've been there.  I'm beginning to think it's all a ruse to keep these beautiful places to yourselves, west coast residents??????) :)

We had a lovely time exploring West Seattle, specifically the Alki Beach area, where we enjoyed a wonderful Mexican lunch at Cactus - just what we were craving after a long morning of travel.  The food was to die for, the Margaritas sublime:

Not the best shot - I think I was too anxious to just dive into it...but you get the idea :)
So we ate.  A LOT.  Naturally, it was time for a walk along the beach after lunch:

Alki Beach 

A walk along Alki Beach
After a crash-course in all things West Seattle, we ferried back to the city proper and took in the sights,sounds and smells of its world famous Pike Place Market (as the sun sank slowly in the west)...

...and took a selfie in front of the famous gum-wall (yes,it was gross, but also strangely...beautiful?)

Have you ever seen two people look more thrilled to pose in front of a wall of discarded ABC gum?
In short, we walked until we could walk no more, and finally retired back to our room at the Moore to plan the rest of our visit.  A word about the Moore - if you're seeking budget-friendly, smack-dab-in-the-city-within-walking-distance-to-everything, fun and funky accomodations while in Seattle, look no further than this family-owned, historic hotel. The staff was nothing short of fantastic - accommodating, informative, helpful, pleasant...you get the picture. :) And as if that wasn't enough, the adjoining Moore Coffee Shop served what I SWEAR was the best cup of coffee I've EVER had - and THE most amazing homemade waffles ever to pass these lips! It's not a big place, but even if you're not staying at the Moore, do try to visit the coffee shop when in Seattle - dare I say, that OTHER Seattle coffee shop pales in comparison!

So what else did we get up to during our Seattle soujourn, you ask?  Well, like the good little tourists we were, we spent as much time as was allowed at the Seattle Center complex - an area that is home to a HUGE number of Seattle attractions - most notably, the Space Needle, the Frank Gehry designed MoPOP (Museum of Pop Culture, formerly EMP Museum), and the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum. These three attractions alone would be enough - but there is so much more to experience here - you could honestly spend days in this area alone.  We also took a morning to explore the early history of Seattle at the Seattle Underground Tour - a fascinating AND humorous experience which literally takes you beneath the streets of the city to explore what is left of the remains of the early Seattle, upon which the current city is built.

The Space Needle as seen from the Chihuly Gardens

On top of the Space Needle
The MoPOP (Museum of Pop Culture)
Inside Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum
Seattle Underground Tour
Each of these experiences deserves its own blog post - and perhaps one day I will take the time to write individually about them - but for now, suffice it to say that we weren't disappointed at all by any of them. The Space Needle was delightfully Jetson-like, and provided beautiful views of the surrounding area; the MoPOP was AWESOME, (we even got to create and play in our own band!), and the colour and creativity of the Chihuly museum was at once both breathtaking and beautiful. At the end of our week we also took the Victoria Clipper out of Seattle on a whale-watching expedition - but again - that's a whole other story for another time!

I must also mention that we ate a lot of wonderful meals while in Seattle - it is a city of MANY fantastic and world class restaurants - but in particular, we LOVED our evening spent on the outdoor terrace of The Pink Door (where we happened to celebrate my birthday).  We  were served a spectacular meal, and very much enjoyed the company of some fellow travellers from Australia, seated next to us.  Another one of the many perks of travel - meeting new and interesting people along the way! (Should you happen to be reading this, hello from Canada!) :)
Dinner at the Pink Door, Seattle
To finish off however, I'd like to return to the subject of Kurt Cobain.  I find that usually when we travel, I'm introduced to something - and it may be the most obscure and surprising thing that we encounter along the way, that captures my imagination and piques my interest, and I return home wanting to delve more deeply into said subject.  As mentioned above, besides Seattle, our PNW trip included a visit to coastal Oregon.  Upon our return road trip to Seattle from Oregon, we noted on a map that we could take a route that would take us through Aberdeen, Washington, past the "childhood home" of Kurt Cobain.  As big music fans, (but admittedly casual Nirvana fans, at best), we said why not - and I'm so very glad we did, as this stop became, for me anyway, probably the most memorable and moving experience of the entire trip.

Of course I was familiar with his story - his seemingly meteoric rise from obscure PNW musician to worldwide fame and adulation as a founding father of the Seattle "grunge" scene, his legendary drug abuse, his tumultuous relationship with Courtney Love and the birth of their daughter Frances Bean, and of course, his untimely and tragic death.  But what I had known of him was just that - the pop culture icon that created and fronted Nirvana, who went on to become one of the most successful bands of all time. Our side trip to his home town, however, moved me to research his past more deeply, and look for the person behind the iconic image.  Without getting all woo woo about it, our visit to "Kurt Cobain Landing" became more than just a tourist stop along the way.

I can't explain it exactly, but there was an aura of such sadness in the air during our visit there. Although the day itself was blue-sky beautiful, and the sun was warm, sitting on a bench in this little parkette dedicated to Kurt's memory had me feeling extremely contemplative.

"Underneath the bridge..."

Our subsequent trip to the MoPOP and its Nirvana retrospective exhibit only served to further whet my appetite for knowledge about Aberdeen's most famous son (or infamous, depending upon the point of view of some Aberdeen residents).

Exhibit at the MoPOP
I found myself listening to a LOT of Nirvana music upon our return home, paying much closer attention to their lyrics, watching a lot of Kurt/Nirvana docs, and reading a most enlightening (though at times disturbing), and very honest account of his life by Charles R. Cross, entitled Heavier Than Heaven.  I would highly recommend it - it's one of those reads that stays with you for a very, very long time.  I know there has been a LOT documented and speculated about KC's life (and death), but above all, despite a lifelong battle with a myriad of personal demons, he was a person, and a compulsively creative and fascinating one at that. Should you find yourself in the area, I'd encourage anyone to visit Aberdeen, and the "Muddy Banks of the Wishkah".

The Wishkah River, Aberdeen, Washington
On that note (no pun intended), I'll conclude my recollections of the Seattle leg of our trip.  I'm hopeful I'll soon also document the Cascade Loop portion, as well as our visit to beautiful Cannon Beach, Oregon.  I thought I'd seen some spectacular Pacific beaches during our California trips - but the wild and expansive beaches of Oregon may just have them beat.  A sneak peek:

Beautiful Cannon Beach, Oregon
Happy travels, and Happy 2017 all!

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