A Grande Trip That Should Have Been Venti
Standing outside the terminal of Seattle-Tacoma Airport, I could feel the cool, moist air on my skin. I was waiting for my ride to take me to my hotel in downtown Seattle, and without seeing anything of the area, I could tell the land was defined by the surrounding water. A big sound, lakes, a mixture of rivers, streams, and canals. I wouldn’t get to explore these waterways – nor would I get to see as much of the Pacific Northwest as I had hoped – but I had a pleasant introduction that’s bound to take me back.
I had the chance to travel to Seattle for a conference at the end of October. The Pacific Northwest has long had a hold of my interest for whatever reason, but I had never visited before. I knew some of the basics – rain, coffee, Space Needle – but didn’t know the history or tourist highlights. I had about two weeks notice so I scanned the guidebooks at the local Borders and settled on the 4th Edition of Fodor’s Seattle guide, which I figured would be thoroughly thumbed through on the six hour flight from Philadelphia. I took the book home, cracked it open, circled my hotel (Grand Hyatt – conferences mean a big upgrade on the accommodations) on a map, and stuck a paperclip as a marker at the top of the page.
The flight from Scranton was late, and I missed my Philadelphia connection. I started a few projects on my laptop and napped on the evening flight. The guidebook was not dog-eared – merely occasionally consulted – each night from my room with the giant neon sign for The Roosevelt Hotel blocking Puget Sound. That’s how deeply I got into the guidebook, and – with this being a business trip – how deeply I got into the city. Since returning, however, I’ve opened up the guidebook to learn more about the city, and I’m sure I’ll return to the city in the same way.
My cousin and her two daughters came into the city after the first day of the conference. We drove to Pike Place Market – a Farmers Market open early every morning and closing at 6 p.m. each night as we found. We had about an hour to wander through the stalls, examining fresh fish, fresh flowers, and fresh coffee. This trip was only going to capture basic Seattle tourism so I got a few standard shots. That’s when my cousin’s daughter spotted the totem poles at the edge of the market. We got a 20-minute second grade lesson on the Native American tribes of the Pacific Northwest before leaving for dinner.
Later that night I left the hotel and crossed the street to Von’s. Some of my friends have dreamed of this bar without ever setting foot in the Pacific time zone. I tried to count the number of bottles lined up behind the bar. I skimmed through old clippings and signs hung on the walls. It isn’t a dive, but an interesting slice of downtown city life.
The next day, we swung by the Space Needle and Lake Washington on the way to my cousin’s house. I went trick-or-treating with their family (yeah, dated post, huh?) for the first time in years and spent the night swapping family stories. My flight was scheduled for early the next morning.
The conference never let me get out to see the city. I ended up parked in the hotel for nearly the entire trip. But the visit was just enough to whet my appetite. (And avoid getting wet – just sprinkles one afternoon. The rain, for that week at least, was overhyped.) I’m checking flight costs to the Northwest again – this time for personal and not professional exploration.