From Washington DC to Washington State

Posted November 23rd, 2009 by Deepa and filed in Food, Travel
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PHOTOS: Seattle, Washington

SeattleRarely do Seejo and I have impromptu trips. So it was a unique experience when we decided to fly across the country to Seattle, Washington for the Memorial Day weekend.  The idea popped into our heads on Tuesday morning & before we knew it we were landing in Seattle on Friday evening. After completing the formalities required in renting a car, we headed off to straight to Kerry Park in downtown Seattle city to see what everyone was calling the “best view of the city”.

The park itself is a fairly small square of grass— hardly worthy of being called a “park”. However, it was clearly where some of the rich families of Seattle live: the houses were beautiful & built on a hill slope so that they all had a view of the Seattle skyline & the Elliott bay.  It was late evening when we reached there: many people were walking their dogs, children were scrambling up and down the stairs that led from the square of grass in the actual park area below to the view point above on the top.  At the view point, several photographers had mounted their tripods & were tinkering with their cameras and lenses while waiting for dusk to set in so that they could photograph the city lights.  As Seejo joined the group of photographers, I tried to forget my growling stomach by feasting my eyes on the city. The skyline is dominated by the Seattle space-needle which towers over the rest of the buildings in Seattle’s business district.  Far beyond the city and the blue bay, I could also see the outline of Mt. Rainier.

When Seejo had exhausted all possible angles for shooting the city, we headed towards the Seattle space needle.  The night was getting chilly, I was hungry and finding nearby parking was aSpace Needle and Experience Music challenge. That might be one reason to explain why I was not impressed with the space needle. However we claimed our pre-booked tickets at the window and went up to see a 360 degree panoramic view of the city.  The Space-Needle seems to be one of those structures built solely for the reason that the city decides it needs a distinguishing landmark and commissions architects to build something that will be “different”.  We completed an obligatory circle atop the tower’s viewing area and having checked off the Space Needle from our to-do lists, proceeded downstairs.  The oddly shaped & brilliantly colored Experience Music buildings nearby looked a whole lot more interesting, but we decided to leave it for daylight and to go and find our hotel rooms.  I learnt later that the buildings house a collection of the popular music exhibits from the Pacific Northwest including Nirvana and Pearl Jam.

Seejo wanted to capture some sunrise shots the next day.  In the Northwest America, the sun rises early and sets late during the summer.  I was not looking forward to getting up at  4am but I was guilt tripped into accompanying Seejo back to Kerry Park early next morning. We again joined the other crazy photographers who had queued up there for getting the sunrise shots.  The sunrise was not spectacular, it was bright before we knew it  and so we gave it up as a lost cause and turned back. Seejo dropped me at the hotel (all I wanted was to do was catch up on my sleep) to go and take pictures of the Experience Music Project buildings.  I didn’t have much time to sleep, though, for we had a full day ahead of us.

PiroshkyAt 10 am, we were going to tour Seattle’s Pike place market as a party in a guided food tour. Seattle’s Pike Place market is one of the oldest farmer’s markets in the country—consisted of tiny shops selling produce, meat, fish, cheese , bakery items, flowers, sweets, local handicrafts, and many more such items. Some have a shop front, some are roadside vendors but it is all very colorful and noisy and very much reminiscent of the vegetable markets in India –only it was a bit more clean.  Almost all shops are owned by individuals, large chains are not allowed in Pike Place. The only exception to that rule are those stores that first started operations at Pike place and then branched out.  One example of such a shopfront is the Starbucks chain—which apparently originated in Pike place (We later learnt that the first Starbucks shop as we were referring to was actually the third one and that the original place was in a hotel a few blocks away, now torn down).

The folks at Savor Seattle took us on a short waking tour, telling us about the history of the place, and stopping at various pre-designated shops to taste the food.  Given how much we love travelling and how much we enjoy food, I was surprised we had never had a guided food tour before. I thought this was a great idea and strongly recommend it.  We started off with some delicious mini-donuts from a local bakery and followed it with some cardamom/clove flavored spiced tea from a spice store.  One of the highlights of this tour included some awesome smoked salmon from the fish-experts at Pike Place Fish –home of the flying fish. They are called so because when somebody orders a fish, theDSC_7593 sales guys throw the fish to each other before weighing and packing it— thus making them the guys who make the fish fly. The sales folks were full of witty banter and theatrics— one of them pretended to be a dwarf for the whole time we were there. It was food and entertainment all at once.  We also had locally grown fresh Washington apples and grapes from a produce store,  Penne pasta and cheese from a local artisan cheese shop, Beechers,  touted as the world’s best mac and cheese, chocolate covered cherries from Chukar Cherries .  The other stops on this food tour were : one of the  best clam chowder we have ever  tasted from Pike Place chowder ( my personal food favorite from this trip), smoked salmon & beef  piroshkies  from Piroshky Piroshky (Seejo’s favourite) and mini crab cakes from Seattle chef Tom Douglas’s Etta’ restaurant.

Apart from just tasting the food, we were told certain vignettes of how the recipe idea originated the history of the shop and the history of Pike Place.  Pike place was busy that weekend, lots of locals and tourists alike— I assume it is the same every weekend! Artists were performing live in front of designated store fronts.   It was nice and I could have spent the entire day browsing the shops there but we were getting late for meeting Priyanka & Manhar and their little one, Nikav, for a late lunch at Thai Ginger (most varieties of satay I have ever seen!).  Priyanka & I were pretty much inseparable through our school years, but we hadn’t met for the past 12 years – so I was looking forward to catching up and reminiscing about the “good old days”.  It is always fun to catch up with old friends—and this was no different. We talked a lot about the past, caught up on where we are at the present, discussed a few future plans and parted with promises to meet up again— hopefully on the other coast.

Chuckanut DriveThat evening, we drove through one of Northwest’s scenic drives the Chuckanut Drive—a narrow curvy road that hugs the Chuckanut mountain cliffs offering several beautiful view points of Bellingham Bay on the way. A lot of people had recommended this drive online but I was largely underwhelmed by the scenery. We stopped at a few of the vista points but it had been a long day so far.  We had to catch the 8pm ferry from Keystone, WA to Port Townsend, WA and then drive the 30 or 40 miles to Port Angeles, WA.  We stopped for dinner at Fraser’s Gourmet Hideaway.  It was weird to see this upscale gourmet restaurant with an eclectic menu near a Ferry harbor in a non descript little town but the food was outstanding.  If any of you are in the area, you must certainly stop by at this restaurant and try their sablefish with sweet pea risotto or the duck liver pate or the lamb. All Yum!. By the time we reached the Port Angeles we were tired and ready to collapse into our bed.

The next day, after a breakfast at Cock a Doodle Doughnuts next door,  we started off on our drive to the Olympic mountains. We had now reached what I call the Twilight zone of our trip. As we drove from Port Angeles into the Olympic Mountains, it was like travelling into the book written by Stephanie Meyer. Many locations seemed vaguely familiar to me till I realized that these were all described in the books.  We drove by a restaurant in Port Angeles which is the site for the first date of the protagonists of the books.  Next we stopped at for lunch in the town of Forks (the books are mostly based in Forks—the rainiest town in USA the location chosen because the author needed a place with least sunlight –the hero is a vampire who cannot come out in sunlight) and by this time every shop, billboard, establishment had some sort of Twilight identification.Forks It was easy to see that this was a dying town before it was revived literally (no pun intended) by the book.  Each and every motel boasted that this was the hometown of the Cullens and/or Bella. Shops selling Twilight memorabilia were present in both Forks and Port Angeles— one of the bigger ones called “Dazzled by Twilight”.  As we waited for lunch at a small diner in Forks, local teenagers were working on some kind of town project— trying to maximize how they can spread the word. Tour companies that promised excited teenagers a guided tour to all the spots mentioned in the books –one of them even promised a visit to the Forks Police Station— the workplace of the heroine’s father.   Although I was initially amused by the hysteria generated by the book, even I was excited when we finally turned off the main road into a smaller lane at the sign of “La Push beach”. I had not realized that the Quileute tribe , which plays a big part in the books are based on an actual tribe and there was really a beach at La Push ,complete with sun bleached logs.  I started pointing out familiar landmarks to a bemused Seejo. I think I totally lost him when I excitedly reported that this is the location where Bella finds out from Jacob that Edward is a “vegetarian” vampire….

Hoh RainforestWe briefly drove through the Olympic Mountains National Park — the forest is huge, beautiful and majestic. We stopped at the Hurricane Ridge Visitors Center. I was looking forward to a hike along the trail to see the wildflowers – but the meadows had a layer of light snow and the season wasn’t quire right.  So we went on towards our next attraction— another one which I was really excited about:  the Hoh Rainforest .  As I said before, due to the amount of rain that this area receives, it is home to the only rainforest in North America. Seejo & I walked along the Hall of Mosses trail – it was like disappearing into a different world. Moss & lichen covered most of the trees, mushrooms provided a bright contrast to the green lichen & we were suddenly surrounded by a green canopy formed by tall spruce trees. We could hear the sound of water as it dripped continuously from the trees, and we even spotted a lone elk covered by the dense foliage.

We hadn’t decided where we had to stop for the night.  Like I said before, this was indeed an impromptu trip.  Seejo wanted to go down the Oregon coast.  During our last visit, we hadn’t made it to the town on the northern side of Oregon coast and Seejo very much wanted to go there.  So as Seejo was driving along route 101 towards the coast, I booked us a motel in Astoria, Oregon .    It was a quiet drive; punctuated by murmurs of “look at that view” or “isn’t that beautiful”. There were bright yellow wildflowers dotting the roads all along the way. We passed several small towns on the way like Kalaloch, Aberdeen, South Bed & Ilwaco : all of them seemed rather run down & past their glory days.

Early next morning we stopped at the Astoria Column. Although the column was impressive, what I was awed by was the majestic views off the pacific coast. On the column there isEcola State Parkan elaborate mural describing Oregon’s history. Next we drove down to Ecola State Park.  Despite all the beautiful views that we had seen of the Pacific Coast, in this trip and during our last trip to Oregon, the view from the Ecola State  Park was undoubtedly the most magnificent view of the coast that I had seen. Ecola State Park had a small trail that offered a 360 degree view  of the Cannon Beach below to the azure waters of the Pacific with the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse. We spent a good part of the morning simply gazing the view. We had meant to stop at Cannon Beach before driving back to Seattle area but we were running short of time. In addition, the beach was extremely crowded: the beautiful weather had prompted many of the locals to drive down there. Most of the locals at Seattle we met seemed almost astonished at the prospect of having 4 days of sunshine, we were always greeted with people saying “Isn’t the weather lovely?” almost as though they couldn’t believe that there could be four days without rain. We stopped for a picture of the popular Haystack Rock & then we walked a little in the artsy town of Cannon Beach. We stopped to see the glassmaking at the local shop & peeked into some of the local artist’s shops before having a wonderful sushi lunch at Tora Sushi in the neighboring town of Seaside.

Mt. St. Helens

Our intention was to drive back to Seattle after lunch but we found that we had some time so we took a detour to see Mt. Rainier. While driving we caught glimpses of the snow covered Mt. Helens — the volcano that had erupted as recently as 1980.  The drive back was slower than we expected— most people in the Northwest seemed content to drive AT speed limit, something that irked Seejo no end for he is used to driving at 10 above speed limit, the normal style of driving here in the east coast. I am sure those people were equally surprised at Seejo’s speed and we got a few surprised looks as Seejo overtook them.  We had decided not to go to see Mt. Helens but we could see it pop up several times as week drove towards Seattle & Mt. Rainier.  The roads for Mt. Rainier were not yet open for summer but we did manage to take a drive towards the top — covered by snow walls on both sides. There were almost no other vehicles on the road— it was an eerie feeling but we cold see snow covered mountain tops all around us — which was a very beautiful sight.  We did not linger for long but started on our way to Alki beach in Seattle.

After all of this time in Seattle, I still had not had the halibut which Seattle and the Pacific Northwest is famous for. Seejo therefore took me to Alki beach to have dinner at Salty’s by Alki. He had come there on a previous visit and really liked it. So we drove to Alki beach and sat on a table in Salty’s enjoying halibut and Pacific salmon watching the evening slowly turn into night and the lights of Seattle downtown become brighter.

One Response to “From Washington DC to Washington State”

  1. rajeev varma says:

    Awesome …. !!!!!

    Seattle is the city that gave birth to the ‘Grunge’ genre of music .. you didnt click any pics from the Space needle ???

    “to a bemused Seejo”
    hahaha :-D