Just like Kate mentioned in her most recent post from abroad, I was in the same boat when it came to vacation time. It simply had not happened in far too long.
The last time I was on a plane, was July 2010. The number of days I booked work off from June 2011 until now: one morning, one afternoon and one full day.
I am what you might call: a workaholic.
So much so that I was given an all-expense paid trip to Seattle from my family when I graduated university – TWO YEARS AGO – that I had yet to cash in on.
The reason for the destination? My brother lives there. In fact, my brother has lived there for six years. I am a bad sibling.
So, when I learned that my OTHER brother, who lives in Toronto, and his wife were planning a July visit to the rainy city, I said: enough is enough. Departing at 6 a.m. on July 2, after working till 4 a.m. on Canada Day, I was FINALLY taking a vacation for some MUCH needed relaxation and family time.
Here is the amount of facts I knew about Seattle before I left: my brother lives there, it rains a lot, Christian Grey, Meredith Grey and Fraser live there …. that’s about it.
The number of times I was pleasantly surprised, or even said out loud “I didn’t know that about Seattle” were many. Here’s what I learned:
-It’s a bigger city than I thought it was. The downtown core is not nearly as big as Toronto’s sprawling mass of skyscrapers, but when you’re walking around in it, it almost feels that way. It has a very noteworthy skyline and is made up of multiple neighbourhoods that all have their own personality and trademark.
– It’s extremely hilly. Think San Francisco. If I had to drive my standard car there I might die of coronary attack, but proved useful in working off some of our more delicious meals.
– It’s. BEAUTIFUL. One of the prettiest big cities I’ve ever visited, for very unique reasons. They call it The Emerald City (cue “I didn’t know that about Seattle”) because it is filled with gorgeous parks and lots of green space. Not to mention the sprawling waterfront of sparkling blue lake, ocean, sound, all dotted with everything from yachts to sailboats. Not to mention, on a clear day you can see Mount Rainier appear behind the skyline like a mirage. I was very lucky to only have two days out of my week-long stay actually be rainy and cold. The rest of the time the sun was shining and the temperature was “hot”. Not Ottawa hot, but a very comfortable 28 degrees (celsius). Practically the peak of the warm weather this coastal city experiences.
I may not be THE foodie of our nutshell clan, but I’m definitely A foodie – if not only because I’ve been able to tag along on Kate’s gastric adventures for so long. So naturally anytime I visit some place new, trying different places to eat is always a top priority. For the first few days we had kids in tow, but our savvy Seattlers did such a superb job of mixing kid friendly places with unique meals.
First night in the US of A, what did we eat? Fried chicken of course. But not just any old fried chicken… OPRAH’S favourite fried chicken. That’s right. A quick trip to Ezell’s left us with enough chicken tenders to last us a week.
A staple of Seattle (and of ALL the United States) is Mexican cuisine. And what child (/ adult / 24-year-old girl) doesn’t love a fajita? Cute places from tex-mex to authentic are peppered throughout every neighbourhood.
I scream, you scream? Molly Moon’s Ice Cream is apparently a must-get if you’re ever in the area. Flavours like “Strawberry Balsamic” and “Honey Lavender” are on rotation. I am the most boring person on the planet and got… chocolate. I was having a craving, sue me.
I would tell you that you MUST go get a “cuban sandwich” from one of the two locations that serves them in the rainy city, but the place looks SO much like it was picked up off a cuba city side street and dropped in Seattle, it didn’t even have a SIGN. Ask locals, they’ll know.
Fresh fish is in abundance. So whether you’re craving sushi, oysters or just an amazing bowl of clam chowder, you’re in the right place.
Nightlife – You won’t find many bumping bars with sprawling dance floors pumping out electro beats in Seattle. Instead, you’ll find boho-chic style places, where the drinks are hand mixed, the music is alternative and the vibe is casual. Ballard (one neighbourhood) was especially bustling on a Saturday night. We also really liked the vibe at Black Bottle – another spot across town.
King’s Hardware – best burgers in seattle
Top Pot Doughnuts – it’s no Tim Hortons, but they WERE pretty yummy
Belltown Pub – Trivial Pursuit cards at your table … unreal
Salish Lodge & Spa – a short drive away from the city in Sloqualmie and you feel like you’re on vacation in a whole new place. Our private dining table overlooking a waterfall at this resort made for one of the best brunches I’ve ever had.
Space Needle: This iconic tower can be seen from all points and angles in Seattle. While not standing half as tall as Toronto’s CN Tower, the Seattle landmark has it’s own unique charm. It made for an especially great backdrop for the city’s International beerfest, which I just so happened to be in town for… how perfect.
Pike Place Market: This was the ONE attraction I refused to leave the city before seeing. Fish flying through the air, delectable market fresh treats, vendors by the dozen, the first EVER Starbucks, not to mention the iconic pig statue that I just HAD to get a photo with (… I love pigs …), the market did not disappoint. And in fact, reignited a desire in me to spend more time in Ottawa’s own Byward market. I also ate the best peach I’ve ever had in my entire life, seriously.
And around the corner was Seattle’s famous “gum wall”. Yes, that’s right, an entire wall plastered with pieces of gum that passers by have chewed, spit and stuck. This of course seemed like the perfect spot to leave my own mark on Seattle. Fastened with a piece of Juicy Fruit’s bubblemint, Seattler’s will now know inanutshell was on the scene.
Black Hole Sun: … there is ACTUALLY a black hole sun. “I didn’t know that….” AND I sat in it. The black hollowed out structure that sits in one of Seattle’s most notable parks was the inspiration behind hometown band Soundgarden’s most famous hit. Another fun fact I missed about Seattle: Grunge actually originated there in the mid to late 80’s. Nirvana and Pearl Jam also recorded hit albums in Seattle studios.
FOURTH OF JULY…
It was by design that we happened to be in the United States to jump in on the Independence Day festivities. Coming straight from being in Ottawa on Canada Day, I was putting the US to the test, as any celebration would be hard to compete with the July 1 frenzy in the nation’s capital. I was expecting a sea of red, white and blue, but the US celebrations seemed a little more reserved. We made the most of it by going to an all-american baseball game. Unfortunately, the Mariners lost and poor Henry didn’t seem as excited as we were (see photo), but I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else for my first ever Fourth of July. We rounded off the day with an amazing fireworks display over the water. Most interesting part: They were set to a very eclectic playlist of songs. I belted out Florence and the Machine’s “Shake It Out”, while my brother & his wife’s swooned to their wedding song, Etta James’ “At Last” and the display rounded out to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing”.
ONE LAST THING…
I subscribe to the belief that in at any moment and in any situation, it truly doesn’t matter where you are, but who you’re with. As much as this trip was an escape, an opportunity to see a new city, and an excuse to go shopping, the vacation’s real purpose was spending time with my siblings who are separated by over a decade, stretched across two countries and distanced by many miles. Luckily Seattle was the perfect setting to do just that … in a nutshell.