Falling for Seattle

We packed up the car this morning, and as we were driving away from Vancouver for the US border, I knew I was going to miss the mountains, but I didn’t feel sad about leaving the city behind. Vancouver didn’t wow me in the least, possibly because we didn’t stay downtown, but more than that, it was a bunch of accumulated little things. The laid back west coast vibe doesn’t resonate with me, and this is the case when I am in California as well, a place that I do love. People are never in a rush to get anywhere. It’s too chill. Drivers in Vancouver are slow, pedestrians are even slower to the point that I developed pedestrian sidewalk rage. Don’t even talk to me about the cyclists here. They are bold enough to take up more lane than Toronto cyclists, yet I’ve never seen such slow riders. Hubs said that even the slowest commuter riders in Toronto are faster than Vancouver cyclists. Pace of life aside, another deal breaker is the lack of night life. It was a Friday night, 8:30 pm, and we decided to check out Gastown before our 9:30 pm dinner reservations at Hawkthorne. All shops except for the souvenir shops were closed! Restaurants were open, but I didn’t notice many bars. I did find a Spanish tapas restaurant, but they didn’t carry any vermut. Ok, that’s actually expecting too much. We started to walk up Granville Street, because we were told that that was the only street that stayed opened late. It reminded me of Yonge Street near the Eaton Centre.

Before leaving Vancouver, we did have a chance to meet friends for dinner on Granville Island, and we did climb Grouse Mountain.

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Our day in Seattle (25 miles north of Seattle to be exact) started at the Boeing factory, where we had pre-purchased tickets for the Boeing 90-minute tour of the gigantic factory. We got a glimpse of how the 747 & 787s are built, which was fascinating. They are quite secretive, thus I have no photos from the tour. Cellphones and cameras are not allowed on the tour, understandably, though their excuse is that they don’t want cameras and cell phones accidentally dropping on any of the workers. After the tour, we luckily snagged the only remaining reservations online at Altura restaurant before heading to our hotel.

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Hotels in Seattle are expensive, so we are staying out in Bellevue at the Marriott Residence Inn, and we’ve cut our Seattle stay from two nights to only one. Initially I was ok with this, and adding the extra day to Portland, but I’m now sad about this shortened stay. It started with the spacious suite hubs booked, but there’s more. Unlike in Vancouver, this city has real highways going in/out of the city centre! The bridge has at least 10 lanes, unlike Vancouver’s main bridge going into the city that is slow and narrow. I’ve never given highways much thought before, until we were in Vancouver and getting around was always so slow. Hubs aptly described driving in Vancouver to be similar to Bathurst & St. Clair in Toronto. Always stuck in traffic. Crossing the bridge here in Seattle was fast and I loved the views of the water. We parked near the restaurant in the neighbourhood of Capitol Hill. I immediately fell in like with the city as we killed time by walking around. Shops were still open and all the restaurants were packed. There are many coffee/tea shops.

I love the liveliness and vibrancy of Capitol Hill, and I’m very much excited to explore more of the city tomorrow. We are going to hit up Pike Place Market, and we’re signed up for a food tour. There are so many other items on my list to do, but we’ll have to save it for another trip. The other thing that is very different between Seattle and Vancouver is that Seattle is on a hill, and it’s a hilly city. Hubs told me that the city is shaped by the landscape here, whereas Vancouver is very flat. He’s right – it’s flat and surrounded by the amazing mountains. Vancouver is a great place for the outdoor enthusiast, but all the other things about the city that bother me doesn’t make it a good trade-off. What I’m saying is that I probably could not live in Vancouver, but only after a few hours of being in Seattle, I feel like I could live here.

Before dinner, we stopped in a cool grocery store and picked up fruit to go with our bottle of wine; however, it’s late now and we’re stuffed. The dinner at Altura, recommended by a good friend, was a fun and delicious experience. We scored seats at the kitchen bar, so we had a view of the dishes being put together. The restaurant is tasting menu only (US$137 per person). Many little plates come out, but don’t fret, there’s enough food.

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I loved all the savoury plates, except for the pre-dessert that had a piece of cheese and dehydrated honey and squash flower. The dish was a fail for me. I didn’t understand it, and the flavours didn’t work for my palate, but all the other dishes were executed well and plated beautifully. For this style of service, you need to have time and not be in a rush to be somewhere else. Dinner started at 9:00 pm and ended at 11:30 pm, hence my hesitation to open the bottle of wine now. I want to get up early and spend as much time as possible exploring Seattle before we have to head to Portland in the late afternoon.

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