Last month, Tim and I added a new city and a new state to our lists: Seattle, Washington! Since Tim has been living in California, we’ve been exploring more of the west coast. Last summer, we drove from Las Vegas to Palo Alto and got to see central California (hello Bakersfield!). In the fall, we ventured down the coast to Monterey and Big Sur, and back north to the Napa Valley. And this spring, we headed up to the Pacific Northwest!
We had so much fun eating, drinking, hiking, and exploring Seattle. Here are some of the highlights:
Trying new restaurants is our favorite part of traveling, and Tim’s friend Christoph, who had lived in Seattle, gave us an epic spreadsheet of all the restaurants in the city he’d been to. Our first dinner was at Crow, a little restaurant not too far from the apartment we stayed at in Queen Anne. We sat at a cozy table in the back and I had a delicious Washington state red wine blend. Ever since I took a wine tasting course I’ve been wanting to try Washington wines, and this did not disappoint. Tim had swordfish and I had lasagna (one of my all time favorites).
An important part of our relationship is breakfast food. We share a Leslie Knope level love of breakfast food, and a lot of the time when we’re traveling, we have a big breakfast instead of lunch, which is exactly what we did Sunday (and Tuesday and Wednesday) morning! We walked to a little coffee shop/restaurant not too far from our apartment called Citizen and liked it so much that we went back a second time on Tuesday. Tim had the french toast and breakfast tacos; I had the house omelet and “Korexican” tacos. Side note: I am from Texas, so when I’m at a breakfast spot I expect all tacos to be breakfast tacos unless otherwise told. Well…I was not otherwise told and the Korexican tacos ended up being regular tacos from the lunch menu. I definitely felt silly when they arrived sans scrambled eggs. They were still delicious though! Our Airbnb host recommended 5spot, another place in Queen Anne, and we stopped in there for our last breakfast. Tim had biscuits and gravy, and I had the Sonoran scramble aka eggs with avocado and salsa verde and a tortilla. They had migas on the menu but I maintain a pretty heavy skepticism of Tex-Mex food outside Texas.
On Sunday night we made our way out to Ballard to try The Walrus and the Carpenter, an oyster bar that was a recommendation from Christoph. Tim loves oysters but I’ve only tried them once at a restaurant in Waco, TX, and did not enjoy that experience. I thought I’d give it another shot with oysters that are presumably fresher than the ones in Waco…I didn’t hate them, but I also don’t get the big deal! Luckily, there were plenty of other non-oyster items on the menu, including kale (my favorite) and scallops.
Our last fancy dinner in Seattle was at How to Cook a Wolf, another cozy restaurant in Queen Anne. This was another small plates restaurant, so we chose several to share: broccoli, beef carpaccio with brussels sprouts, bread, pork belly, and potato gnocchi. And cannoli for dessert! Definitely the best meal we had the entire trip. I hope we go back to Seattle again one day, if only to have a dinner like this again.
Local breweries are another one of our favorite things to do while traveling (you can read about the quaint brewery we found in Ireland here). The first night we were in Seattle, we stopped for drinks at Mollusk, a restaurant/brewery near our apartment. I tried a coconut wheat beer and Tim tried something much darker in color. We were there during March Madness, the only sporting event I actually pay attention to (Go Heels!) and before our dinner in Ballard, we stopped at Ballard Loft to watch the UNC/Notre Dame game and have a few beers.
On our last night, we went to the Fremont Brewing Company, which has the best slogan ever: Because Beer Matters. It was a beautiful sunny day and the brewery was packed-surprising for a Tuesday, but spring weather is a great motivator to get out and have a pint. Tim tried their stouts and I tried a wheat beer and a pineapple cider. We also ran into a group of people we’d met at the top of Mount Si! It was really random, and also fun, to have some new friends just for the night to enjoy beers with.
Each time we travel, I learn a major travel skill. This time it was how to best rent a car.We knew we wanted to go hiking outside the city but every time we’ve rented a car it’s been way more expensive and way more of a hassle than we thought it would be. Example: the car in Ireland was twice as expensive as it said it would be online (thanks Kayak) and in San Francisco, we had to drive all the way back to the airport to return the car. Before the trip, I called about 10 different car rental places and finally found an Enterprise agency downtown that had a good price, reimbursed us for the Uber we took to get there, and let us return the car after hours! So we took our little Nissan and headed east to Mount Si, a 4100 foot tall mountain in the northern edge of the Cascades.
I’d looked up info about the hike online (and wisely purchased a Washington state park pass ahead of time) so I knew what we were going into: a lot of switchbacks, mainly. Well, that’s what I thought. Driving in, we could see snow covering all the mountains, and I figured there would be some snow on our hike, but I had no idea how much. The answer is tons. Actual tons of snow. The first 2.5 miles, the trail was normal dry dirt. Just past the halfway point, we turned a corner and saw a little pile of snow. Snow, we said! How quaint. I wonder if we’ll see more. The trail started getting muddier and muddier until eventually it was covered with snow. We were both wearing hiking boots, but it was still super slippery and icy for the last mile up. Towards the end I was using the trees along the trail for support!
When we finally made it to the top, we were rewarded with spectacular views of Mount Rainier and the city of Seattle. The city looked so tiny off in the distance-it doesn’t really even show up in the pictures! We relaxed at the top for awhile and ate the spicy lentil wraps (my favorite hiking food) we’d packed, then carefully scrambled up a few rocks to take some pictures. The first mile down took a long time-we were doing an awkward combo of ice skating/hiking/rock hopping-but once we got past the snow, it was quick. I’ve done a lot of hikes (including the Grand Canyon) and can assuredly say that Mount Si has been the most challenging! Mount Si also had the most interesting trail people, including a random guy who had brought no water, a guy who was barefoot, and an old man using a pickax as a hiking stick.
On our way back, we stopped at the original REI, which was massive and fancy but also did not have the socks I wanted. Tim bought a travel pillow and I bought a magnet to add to our collection (we get a magnet in every new city we visit). We also explored a few of Seattle’s parks: Gas Works Park, and Kerry Park. Gas Works Park was super cool-old machinery and pipes that kind of looked like toys now that the area had been converted to a park. It was right on the water and reminded me of Houston’s Buffalo Bayou park (although the water in Lake Union is considerably less muddy than the bayou). Kerry Park is at the very top of Queen Anne Hill and the hike up to the park rivaled the hike up Mount Si. We went at night and saw the city lit up and twinkling.
North of the Border
One of my favorite days of the trip was when we took the ferry north through Puget Sound to Victoria, British Columbia. The ferry ride itself was stunning-beautiful coastline, the San Juan islands, and views of the Olympic Mountains and the Seattle skyline. I’d booked us tickets to ride a bus to the Butchart Gardens, a botanic garden about 40 minutes north of Victoria. We had some time to kill when we got there, so we walked around the Victoria harbor and the lawn of the Parliament building enjoying the warm, sunny, non-Canadian weather.
When it was time for our tour, we got on the bus and had a very informative ride out to the gardens. By that I mean our driver talked the entire time, pointing out every little thing. Some were interesting, like the neighborhood pubs and different architecture around Victoria. Some were not, like the petrol stations and the signs with the temperature in Celsius.
The gardens, however, were fantastic! We had a quick lunch at the cafe and took our time walking around the gardens. Everything was in full spring bloom and the weather was perfect. My favorite was the Italian garden and the sunken garden at the very end. I took about a million photographs, especially anytime I saw pink, purple, and white tulips together.
I’ve only traveled to Canada once and had a harrowing experience with border patrol, so I was really nervous this time. They asked us a bunch of questions, like what kind of work we did, where we were from, and what we were going to Canada for (okay, I guess these are pretty normal border crossing questions). On our way back into Washington, however, the US border patrol agent asked “what is the nature of your relationship?” !!! We both looked at each other and said “uh, dating?”, which was apparently the right answer, because they let us back in!
We spent most of Sunday exploring the city on foot (and in many, many Ubers). One of our Uber drivers had recommended Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour, which is a walking tour of Seattle’s tunnels. Did you know Seattle had tunnels? I didn’t! In the late 1800s, much of downtown Seattle was destroyed in a fire. This combined with tidal floods prompted the city to rebuild everything one level higher-so the second floor of all the buildings became street level. The tour took us around Pioneer Square and into the actual tunnels, which are mostly in ruins now. It was a great way to learn about the history of the city, both how the city started, and how parts of it were revived in the 1950s. Neither of us knew much about the history of Seattle, or the Pacific Northwest, and we were surprised to learn how much influence the Alaskan gold rush had on the development of the city. Afterwards we checked out Pike Place Market and (of course) had coffee at the original Starbucks. I also bought some artsy postcards at Pike Street Press-postcards are my favorite!
It was rather rainy and cloudy on Sunday, so we decided to skip the Space Needle. I know, I know-the icon of the city! Instead, we checked out the Chihuly Garden and Glass, which was AWESOME. Rooms full of beautiful, intricate, colorful glass blown art. I took another million photographs to go with all the ones from the Butchart Gardens-I guess I’m drawn to colorful art!
Leaving Seattle was hard, partially because I wanted to stay and see more of the city, but mainly because Tim and I had to get on separate planes to go back to our separate cities. I knew the journey home was going to be glum, so I brought a new book just to read on the plane. On our way back south, we had a crystal clear view of Mount St. Helens and the Cascades volcanoes, so I got to do a little airplane geology! Seattle was the perfect spring break trip, and I can’t wait for our next trip west.