Last week the focus was on Seattle – the man, the chief. This week the focus is on
the city, its people, and what I found there just days ago.
What a town! I lived in Atlanta for 33 years and really loved it for most of that time. It’s a land-locked city, of course, with only the Chattahoochee River running through it. But it is diverse, multi-cultural and is conveniently located 4 hours from the Atlantic Ocean, 4 hours from Nashville and 9 hours from Disney World.
Seattle, on the other hand, is spread around a watery world of Pacific Ocean and lakes, all in view of the Cascade Mountains, only a few hours away. What a fantastic location! The San Juan Islands just north of town, Vancouver, just across the Canadian border… Seattle felt, to me, more like a series of small communities all scattered on Puget Sound, Lake Union and Lake Washington.
Now I’m not a big city-lover any more. Which is why I live up here in the sagebrush, on the eastern slope of the Rockies. But I found Seattle to be one hell of a good town. It’s way more laid-back than Atlanta, for instance. There seems to be an easy-going friendliness coupled with an awareness of their considerable natural resources which gives it, at least to me, a feeling of well, a vigilant contentment. So many of Seattle’s residents are able to live either on the water, near it, or at least able to see it, whether around Puget Sound and the San Juans or along Lake Union and Lake Washington, both of which are in the city limits.
There is access to the Pacific from the far end of Lake Washington, under bridges
and through the Ballard locks at Lake Union. I saw more boats in Seattle in two hours than I ever saw along the whole coast of Georgia. There are houseboats along the lake shores, remember “Sleepless In Seattle?” There are huge yachts, sail boats of every size, right down to kayaks and rubber rafts.
Granted, I had a great hostess for my visit… my dear Betty, who knew where to go, what to see, and the easiest way to get there. It was fairly action-packed for a slow-moving Montana boy, as Seattle’s diverse natural beauty and B’s knowledge of the area kept us hopping. There were many memorable moments, I’ll only share a few with you here.
Naturally, The Public Market was a highlight. We had lunch there at Lowell’s, looking out over Elliott Bay to West Seattle.
After lunch B bought some wonderful tea for me and a bottle of special balsamic vinegar with garlic & peppers at Sotto Voce for Darren, the most excellent chef in Bozeman, MT.
And fresh FISH!!! Oh, my heart… see, that’s an especially big deal when you live in Montana. Don’t we have fresh trout, well sure… but fresh shrimp, scallops, lobster & crab, oh my….
We checked out the Ballard Locks, which function like the locks in the Panama Canal. The locks allow public cruises and private boats of many sizes to access Lake Union and Lake Washington from the open sea beyond Puget Sound. But why locks?? The ocean’s tides, silly. Lakes Union & Washington don’t have tides.
The shipping industry is very present near downtown Seattle. Passenger ships and large freighters can dock at many locations in and around Seattle. The rail and trucking services are built in right next to the docks. The rail system appears to work beautifully, but the trucking causes some bottlenecks in the Harbor Island/highway 99 area. And now they’ve torn part of that viaduct out that connects the West Seattle bridge with highway 99, and The Alaskan Way.
We took the West Seattle water taxi (a medium-sized ferry, no cars) over to Seattle across Elliott Bay and enjoyed a fantastic dinner at (where else??) Elliott’s, after a nice walk up and down the docks around pier 50. While in Elliott’s, B suggested we try a drink she’d seen on their menu called the Dark and Stormy. Well, it turned out to be delicious and very different, and we hurried home to get the ingredients and try making it for ourselves. As I write this I’m happy to report that both B and I can now make a mean Dark and Stormy. How? Thought you’d never ask… two (or so) shots of dark rum in a tall, narrow glass over ice, fill mostly up with ginger beer and a touch of lime, with a wedge on the edge and a long straw. Yum… it’s almost like being back in Elliott’s with my B.
And no, you don’t need a copper mug for this drink… tastes fabulous in a tall glass.
B and I were honored to be invited By Brent and Jill as guests aboard their 60′ sailboat S V Ambition, owned by Brent Huntington, which was moored at a marina in Ballard. A gorgeous craft, well-maintained and so cozy inside.
Jill told us that Brent has raced it before, from Hawaii to our mainland. They live on it full-time. Pretty cool, huh? Brent installed all the systems in the boat himself. He showed us how he can set a course on his laptop’s sailing software, which in turn sends that info to the GPS up on top, and the boat will maintain that course. With a little help from Brent, of course. During the Christmas holidays Brent & Jill have been known to host several parties on the Ambition, sailing out to enjoy the Christmas ships and their lights on Puget Sound. Am secretly hoping to get in on that this Christmas and take some pictures.
We drove down to Gig Harbor and spent two days with B’s son Steven and his two boys. I loved it down there… so relaxed, tons of boats in the marinas, green hills and blue water all around. We enjoyed a bloody mary-soaked lunch at… well, I don’t remember. Heh… a cute little harbor-side bar and restaurant, loaded with ambiance and a great view of the boats. The place was full on a Friday at lunch, and it seemed that everyone, including us, was enjoying where they were and taking their time… no one in the place, that I saw, ate and ran. Damn, it was so refreshing. That’s what we do in Montana, you know… we eat slow, talk a bunch, then have one for the road.
We spent part of my last day there on a walk along the shore at Alki, which is the community along the beach of West Seattle. You can see some of its buildings over on the shore line in the distance on the right. Little sea food eateries and bars are scattered along the drive, reminding me of some of the more funky, laid-back parts of Cape Cod. I think Seattle might have helped me break my city-phobia last week. My cowboy’s impression of it is that it’s big, easy, accessible, friendly, beautiful, nature-aware, artistic, sophisticated, alive and firing on all cylinders. Thank you, Betty Ann, and your great family and fine friends for introducing me to your beautiful part of the world. I finally had to go, but don’t let your guard down, Seattle… this cowboy’s coming back.