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Three Perfect Days: Seattle

With its seamless blend of shrewd commerce, uncompromising luxury and countercultural abandon, all set against a dramatic mountain backdrop, Washington's capital of cool is a study in complementary contrasts

Author Michael Kaplan Photography Nick Hall

The Seattle skyline at dusk, with Mount Rainier looming behind, viewed from Kerry Park in the Queen Anne neighborhood

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DAY THREE | You’ll be hitting the water again today, albeit in a much smaller craft. You’ve recruited the Evergreen Escapes guys to drive you to chilly Lake Union, where you spend the morning flailing around in a kayak. The lake is known for its stunning natural scenery, but you mostly ignore this, focusing instead on a game you’ve invented called “Stay Afloat,” and then, “Ooh, I’d Like to Live There.” A particular joy is spotting the houseboat Tom Hanks occupied in Sleepless in Seattle. You’d like to live there.

The combination of fresh air and flailing has left you with an appetite. So, having waved goodbye to your guide back at Hotel 1000, you stroll up to Pike Place Market. Zigzagging through the clutter of tea and fish and cheese and fruit, you sample crushingly good clam chowder, warm sugar doughnuts and some of the alder-smoked salmon for which Seattle is famous. Close at hand is the original Starbucks, which you decide is a must-see. A quick latte later, you cab it to leafy Pioneer Square, the hub of the city’s thriving art scene.

It’s easy to get lost in Seattle’s gallery district, and not only in terms of geography. You spend a very contented hour or two immersed in a world of abstract landscapes and surrealist portraits, emerging from your reverie only when you stumble across Salumi Artisan Cured Meats, a no-frills deli with tables inside and a line out front. The roast pork sandwich is a work of art in its own right, as is the chocolatey mole salami.

You’ve booked a session at the Hotel 1000’s spa this afternoon, but there’s no rush. Seattle is a city that lends itself to drawn-out journeys, and your trip to the hotel requires that you first visit the un-Starbucksy coffee shop Zeitgeist, where you sip a well-rendered espresso while regarding the array of jazzy collages adorning the walls. From here, you mosey up to South Washington Street, home of Laguna Vintage Pottery, whose main aim seems to be exploring how many different colored glazes a single shop can accommodate; it’s like a potter’s psychedelic dream. Finally, you arrive at the hotel, where you enjoy a sweaty but relaxing hour in the aptly named Spaahh.

Dinner tonight is at Tavolàta, a studiously rustic restaurant in Belltown. Seated at a communal table, you order a salad heaped with anchovies, parmesan and fried capers. You notice that the folks next to you are munching on smoked albacore bruschetta, and you can’t resist ordering one of those, too. Given that this place specializes in house-made pasta, you go with a classic for the main: pappardelle with beef ragu and mascarpone. Rarely a bad bet, it’s a particularly good one here.

Next, you’re off to The Funhouse, a punk-rock club located just below the Space Needle that has scary-clown décor, a leather-clad crowd and very loud music. Headlining tonight is The Cry, a group of Ramones-influenced kids from Portland. Near the bar, you spot a staid-looking businessman nodding in time to the music, which strikes you as a fine example of the city’s democratic social scene. You leave the club thinking of a quote you saw earlier, from Chief Seattle, for whom the city was named. “All things share the same breath,” he said, “the beast, the tree, the man.” Which says a lot about the spirit of this place, even now.

MICHAEL KAPLAN is currently working on ways to get Dr. John out of his head.

4 Responses to “Three Perfect Days: Seattle”

  1. Herbert L.Axelrod Says:
    September 2nd, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    What a wonderful article! Well written and captures the true essence of the Emerald City. Last month we embarked on a one-day “down to earth” tour of Seattle that included the famous Farmers Market, the flagship Starbucks on Pike Street, the Seattle Monorail, the nostalgic Space Needle, and the scenic Bainbridge Island Ferry. I highly recommend the Boeing Factory tour, a short drive from Seattle in Everett. On this tour you will experience the excitement of watching the 787 production assembly line, certainly a thrill. Maybe you will catch a glimpse of United’s new 787 fleet.

  2. Sk Says:
    December 20th, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    You are a very good writer and capture the mood of this city so well :-)
    I already live here but you made me want to want to visit for a holiday ;-)

  3. Rachel Says:
    April 6th, 2014 at 11:45 am

    Having lived in the Seattle area for a few years now, I agree with what a lot of this little article has to say. Great photograph too. There’s one small problem and it’s in the blurp underneath the title. As wonderful as Seattle is, it’s just like Anchorage – while being the largest city, it’s not the capital of the state. Washington state’s capital is Olympia. :)

  4. Kiki Says:
    March 25th, 2015 at 10:14 pm

    @Rachel – It says “capital of cool” not the actual capital. Easy mistake. Gave me a laugh.

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