Marijuana and fried fish intermingled with the gentle breeze. Aggressive construction in the growing city was outmatched by rhythmic waves and the soft creaking of the delightful ferris wheel.
Gulls soared lazily above the pier, occasionally taking a dive to retrieve a salty snack. People decked out in their summer duds crowded around the white-aproned fish mongers launching fish across the stalls. The healing flavors of raw oysters and cold beer tasted like the best parts of earth.
We were somewhere else. Seattle.
Mr. H and I hadn’t gone out of town since we moved to Portland at the end of March. Truthfully, we hadn’t been on vacation in almost a year, since our awesome road trip to Montreal last September.
For me this year has been an eventful one with my mom’s breast cancer recovery, a cross-country move, a touch of unemployment, and my third book release. When I say that we needed this little getaway, good grief do I mean it!
An easy three-hour drive listening to the genius of Pearl Jam with the windows down made for a solid start to our weekend as we finally traveled together to a city we had always wanted to, our Mecca of grunge.
Mr. H and I were fortunate enough to spend our adolescent years during a renaissance of rock, a time when Seattle birthed grunge music. Though we grew up in completely different parts of the country, our love for music traveled parallel paths.
Naturally, Seattle was a no-brainer decision for a getaway.
As mentioned in the intro, we headed to Pike Place Market along with many other eager tourists. We ignored the frivolous, mile-long line at the original Starbucks in search of oysters and beer, which we happily discovered in a tucked away courtyard with a bird sanctuary.
Crowds aren’t our favorite but it was worth it to catch the waterfront vibe, a peaceful retreat from the rapid construction all around the city as it tries to keep up with the Pacific Northwest population boom.
We stayed in the artsy neighborhood of Fremont, which was way more our speed and reminiscent of our homey neighborhood in Portland. However, we waltzed into our AirBnB flat as planned to find the place still disheveled from the previous guests. We shrugged, unpacked, then sipped on exceptional local beers on the deck.
Our host rounded the corner with his dog and gawked at us. He thought we were scheduled to arrive the next day and spewed a series of apologies while pacing nervously. Being the easy-going couple that we are, we told him not to sweat it and our host tidied up as we continued relaxing outside.
When he bounced back out, he calmly said: “You have an elegant attitude. That spirit will take you far.”
That was perhaps the best compliment I’d ever heard and it made me smile.
The next day we ventured to Ballard Locks, another touristy spot, but an educational one that is very free and very fun. Here curious bystanders get to watch millions of dollars of boats get squeezed into a concrete alley, which then turns into a fascinating elevator.
A complex intersection between the salt water beyond and the fresh water of the canal, the lock waters are manipulated to allow the boats to travel back and forth. We watched this grouping of boats start at our level, then slowly drop down 26 feet.
See the shadowy characters on the bottom right of the pic below? That’s us and a bunch of other grinning tourists staring and taking pictures on the sidelines.
Being on display for the tourists while being in the hands of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must be quite the sobering half-hour for these summertime boaters. I imagine they’re pretty damn happy when that bridge door opens and they are free to go.
After the locks we went in search of more oysters and decided to splurge at a restaurant that Bon Appetit included in their Top 20 Most Important Restaurants in America. We accidentally scored the best seats at the Walrus and the Carpenter, right at the oyster bar with the patio doors wide open behind us.
Between our sensational Moscow Mules, oysters, and small plates, we talked about nothing and everything. We reminisced about our late afternoon at Ballard Locks and discussed the incredible salmon ladder.
Besides the boats, the locks provide a critical passage for the salmon heading upstream. A fish ladder with 21 steps allows the salmon to climb to the freshwater side.
We lucked out with our August visit, the best time to catch King Salmon, and had the honor of watching these beefy, stoic fellows passing through in the underground viewing room. It was very awesome to witness these prehistoric-like creatures floating by us before they continued their long journey upstream, up a watery ladder of all things.
We stood there and marveled at the beautiful perseverance of the mighty salmon. To think, they go through all of that trouble to do one thing…spawn.