Monday, April 30, 2018

The Blue Lady Travels to a Blue Land: Seattle, Washington

On a clear day, you CAN see Mt. Baker

I'm starting with this photo which my friend sent to me a day ago in order to say, 'See, the sun actually DOES shine least sometime." I'm sure that is true. I did see a bit of the sun and the blue sky while I was in the greater Seattle area recently. But mostly it looked like this:
View of downtown Seattle from the Bainbridge Island Ferry

Most of the time I was there it was gray, gray, gray or gray, and it rained. And rained some more. And rained again. I was constantly stepping into puddles or worse, mud. Even though Seattlites said there wasn't enough rain to actually warrant umbrella use, I used an umbrella a lot, which meant I always had this wet umbrella. And a damp jacket. And damp, if not, wet shoes.
This IS a very fine and stylish rain hat,
don't you think?

My main souvenir a really great new rain hat. Actually made in Seattle. Not cheap, but worth every penny.

I had to go there for business reasons, and this was one of several trips which I have taken there, so I did not do much in the way of first time tourist stuff. I have been to the Pike's Place Market several times in the past. I have a photo of myself at the foot of the Space Needle. I had taken a sail boat (aka yacht) trip around Lake Seattle in the evening so we could look at the back sides of large beautiful properties, such as the one owned by Mr. and Mrs. Gates. Using a ferry boat I had been to the far northeast to Olympic National Park and nearby towns. I've been to the botanic garden near the university, the botanic garden in Bellevue and to Kubota Garden, a lovely Japanese garden.

I haven't yet been down to Mt. Rainier, and I have not been to many museums. I'm told there are several world class ones. I haven't been to cultural activities like the symphony, opera or ballet, or to any of the professional sports events either. But then I need reasons to return some other time, right?

Because I would never even consider the idea of living there. But I will return for more visiting someday. not too long, I hope.

Rain, damp, mold, chill, mud. My joints all ached all the time. I had a constant, mild headache. I did not want to go outside. I felt vaguely crummy most of the time which made it hard to enjoy myself.

Housing prices are out of this world now. It's one of the most expensive markets in the US. And it's a really, really big city. So much bigger than Salt Lake, or even Denver,  which I can handle without a thought.

Driving is rather difficult especially with all the hills. Parking is virtually impossible (and expensive when you do find it.) In the rain and fog there is very low visibility. And the locals are REALLY RUDE fellow drivers who are all in too much of a hurry and who do REALLY DANGEROUS acts of driving OFTEN.

You need skills like being able to parallel park into a space that is just precisely the right size while going up or down a steep hill. I can do it. I was taught how to parallel park in my younger days and still retain the skill. But when you are used to living in places where that is a vestigial skill, you get rusty, you know?

And because the topography is all mixed up with things like rivers, bays, sounds, passages, narrows, inlets and lakes (aka water), you just don't have those straightforward street numbers and addresses. Maybe the early builders got in two or three square blocks before they ran up against some kind of body of water, and therefore had to change the road from straight to meander. More than once, it was clear to me that the building numbers made no sense at all, and you could not anticipate where a street or road would actually go.

My friend who was looking for an address which sounded pretty straightforward but was not in the least, said these days everyone just uses one or another of those navigator ladies and trusts she knows of what she speaks. Well, this is the land where the most of the navigator ladies were born, after all. They grew up learning Seattle navigation while in their equivalent of kindergarten.

You get these bottlenecks caused by bridges. They need a lot of bridges out there, but do not actually have that many of them. And the bridges are not all large and high. A single accident can take one out for a long time which means standing in dead traffic with a lot of other people being mystified,  plus a long detour to get to the next bridge which is miles and miles out of your way. (I speak from experience.) Or even worse, a given bridge might get flooded out for days, especially at this time of year.

Evidence of social problems are easy to see, especially encampments for homeless people even though Seattle is a true liberal enclave. A very blue city in a pretty blue state. They have legalized marijuana and assisted suicide for the dying. They city has a livable wage law. The Toyota Prius is the "official" car. Everyone values  the environment, education, the arts, multi-culturalism, philanthropy, and of course, politically correct diets. All kinds of famous new economy companies were born here and thrive (in case you can't quite recall, think Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Costco.) Of course jobs can be found, and people want to move to hear from all over the world.

But not me. I do not want to live in Seattle. Not ever.

So what did I do there that was interesting and fun? Just a few things, but worth the time, all of them.

Starbucks Reserve, a new concept store

This is a new store in the neighborhood where I was doing the work I was sent to do. It's the one with the address that sounded simple, and seemed to be quite close by, but which actually took some doing to find. If you lived in the neighborhood, it would be easy to find, but my friend was a suburbs lady. Even though this place was less than a mile from where we were working, it was a chore to find. And a &^$##! to park near, but that's Seattle for you. 

Well, it is beautiful and worth the effort to find. The centerpiece is a huge actually coffee roasting machine which features a lot of copper. A heck of a lot of copper. For an industrial machine, it's actually beautiful. And, of course makes the whole place smell heavenly.
Sock Monkey would have liked some fancy coffee, but we
did not have enough time

This building was beautifully designed. The store has greeters and tour guides. There are several sections, the big roaster being the centerpiece. There is a huge horseshoe coffee bar, (that also served alcohol)  an in house bakery, pizzeria and cafe were the food looked delicious, a large merchandise section with unique items ... none of your usual Starbucks mugs that can be found anyplace. And then tons and tons of space for customers to just sit around in, solo or in groups, having coffee and delectables, and, of course, working always on their laptops. 

We only spent a short time there, and did not order any actual food or drink because we needed to get on the road to the next destination. But I certainly would like to come back and spend some time, drinking eating, and maybe writing my blog. (Or visit in another city which I hear is upcoming)

Bainbridge Island Excursion

Bainbridge Island is a small island right across Eliot Bay from downtown Seattle. You can get there in a car in a roundabout way that begins down in Tacoma, but taking the short ferry ride seems to be what most people do. By reports most people who live there do commute to Seattle for work. It's a charming little place with a sense of it's own self separate from Seattle. Real estate is expensive there, more expensive than other enclaves or cities, but they do seem to welcome visitors. My friends and I all felt a bit like we were back east in New England, in those lovely picture perfect villages on the coast where people do live but where tourism is also a big part of the economy. 
Here's we were going on the big ferry boat

We took our car in the ferry and then drove ashore distance to the business district where we parked and mostly walked around. One of my friends really enjoyed shopping in several different women's clothing and accessories shops where the clerks were very very helpful. She bought several different things in different places. I found that rain hat in an excellent travel store. They had a lovely local bookstore and several galleries for both fine art and less expensive items made by artists and artisans. 

The highlight for me was the destination yarn shop, Churchmouse Yarns and Teas. I knew about this place for years and years because the store appears in knitting magazines with some regularly. They have a line of their own self published patterns which are popular. 
The exterior sets the tone.

This is one of the most elegant yarn stores I have visited. It has this classic east coast style to it, I have to say, which is lovely but not homey. This is not to say the shop and people were not welcoming ... they certainly were. There was a table for just sitting and knitting, but when we were there no one was using it. The shop stocked all kinds of what I call "fashion" yarn. Lovely, lovely yarn made by small high end companies. High end fibers and blends (aka things like cashmere and silk and linen, not just plain merino). ( And I don't recall if I saw any acrylic at all, but there might have been some baby yarn which I normally don't shop for.) 
And plenty of tempting yarns on the inside. Sock Monkey was a bit underdressed.

And there was a nice tea section. I don't know why, but obviously the owner / founder likes both yarn and tea, so why not?

This time I did not buy any souvenir yarn because in my mind most of the yarn was best to go to making garments like sweaters, not just socks or a scarf. I could not find any yarn that I wanted to buy in a small amount while I was there. So I bought a book and a scarf pin and called it good. But if and when I decide I do want to make a sweater in a modern yarn to die for, I know one place where I'll go to check out first.

And finally, we did take to car to go to lunch at a place suggested by the yarn store folks, the Harbour Public House. It's right on the water, a bit tricky to find outside the main shopping area. Again, it looks like am old New England fish shack, and that's kind of what it was, but the menu was more expansive and actually did feature fish. But there was plenty of your classic pub food but with plenty of vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options, this being the Seattle area on the west coast, after all. I had their handmade burger, which was handmade with actual beef and a local brew which were both delicious. A good lunch was had by all.
You can pull up in your boat and go inside for a delicious meal right off the dock.

Tolt Yarns and Wool - destination yarn shop #2

This place is on the opposite side from Bainbridge Island in the little town of Carnation, east of Seattle is another rather famous yarn shop, Tolt Yarn and Wool."Tolt" was the name of the town of Carnation until the Carnation Milk Company came in and started putting their milk into cans. The milk company became the dominant employer, and, you know, money talks, so Tolt became Carnation. But the river beside the town is called Tolt, and plenty of people still like the name, thus you see a variety of different places named in and around the village named Tolt. 
The commissioned Iceland sweater of 2018

Th yarn shops only about 5 years old, but the owners sure are great at marketing. The place is in magazines and web stories all the time. They produce a line of their own products, especially patterns. They carry yarns totally or almost exclusive to them. 

The place is on the elegant side, but a bit more homey compared to Churchmouse. For example, there were big armchairs for sitting and knitting around a small fireplace. I asked to be shown things that I could only or mostly find only there, and the clerk kept taking me to here and here and here and here. They had more stock made by small indie artisans as well as yarn from Japan (never seen that anyplace else) and Finland (same) and but artisans from Canada. I told my friend it would take me awhile to make my selection, and she was ok with the because she felt the same way. In the end I got some swag (a bag with one of their logos), one of their self published books and small amounts of yarn from the Canada, Finland and Japan, to make a hat and two pair of socks. 

The pattern book had a shawl pattern I would love to make, and my book from Churchmouse had a beautiful sweater that would be just the thing. I know I'll be able to get the yarn from either store when the time comes. And meanwhile I'm sending other people I know there when they happen to visit Seattle. And I have more reasons to go back for another trip at another time.

But not to live. No, not to live. I'm far too addicted to the sun and sky. 

Going, going, soon gone.
Starbucks has a new line of souvenir mugs now.
And these did NOT come from the new concept store.
They have their own separate lines of souvenirs.

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