This pas weekend I had the opportunity to discover The Great Northwest. Well... part of it! Less the mountainous forested grandeur - thought we did admire it from afar - than the upbeat, yet quaint cityscapes offered by Seattle's polished (but still "hipster") neighborhoods, our experience wound up being a 30-something young professional's perspective of The Emerald City. We spent the majority of our time in the Northern neighborhoods of Seattle, Ballard and Fremont, which were both in their own way reminiscent of our neighborhood at home Silver Lake, Los Angeles. Though the overall sensation of the neighborhood is that of a more polished version of our Silver Lake sister-neighborhood, Ballard gets its character from the remainder of the fisherman's community it once was.
One of the first things I noticed about Seattle was also one of my favorites: There's water everywhere! From freshwater lakes, to rivers, to the mighty Pacific they're all connected and a great place for water activities (paddle boarding, taking a ride in a sea-plane) and viewing the migration and spawning of Salmon!
While in town we caught the Fremont Naked Bike Ride as we enjoyed some suds at the Fremont Brewery (excellent summer IPAs!). The bike ride, which was followed by a far less-memorable parade (a naked guy body-painted like Santa just rode by, what parade?) was a spectacle to say the least. Men and women, who to my surprise were not all aging hippies, of all ages and shapes - yet surprisingly young and in shape on the whole - rode decorated in body paint, costumes that unnecessarily covered the rider's backs, legs, but rarely genitals and many people who had no intention of decorating themselves rode freely if sometimes self-consciously in droves to the end of the route, Gas Works Park. If the Naked Bike Ride was something I'd never seen before the after-party was something I'd never thought could actually be "for real."
The park was as filled with merriment and festivities as it was with individuals who had no plans of riding a bike that day. In the park all context for 'Why are you naked?' disappeared. There was no more riding bicycles in hoards yelling out "Happy Solstice!" it was just you, yourself and your little version of yourself out in public and hanging out with your friends - hopefully you've got good ones! While we were there we saw a fellow who clearly just showed up to get an all-over tan, a nude photo shoot with a very amateur photographer, and some creepers going around with their long lenses trying to get some photos of the one-day nudists.
The rest of our trip was filled with trying a lot of craft beer at the local breweries - there are many in Ballard and Fremont alone - and trying the local specialty coffee, another passion of mine. We visited many of the local parks and areas of town, for the most part avoiding the tourist traps. The two we did, however, decide against skipping were Pike Place Market and Kerry Park.
The Pike Place Market is home to the "first Starbucks store," although I hear that this location is more of a symbol than the actual first location, but it was nonetheless interesting to visit the mecca of specialty coffee that got America started on artisanal coffees and improved roasting practices from the company that got me started on my personal coffee journey. We decided to paid some fresh maple bacon donuts with some coffee from the little Ghost Alley Espresso shop underneath the market and look out across the Pudget sound as we sipped down the first stop on our food tour of the market.
Other stops on our food tour included mac and cheese from Beecher's, artisan ginger beer from Rachel's, and clam chowder from Pike Place Chowder, my favorites were a toss-up between the chowder and the donuts. We also took the time to sample some fresh seafood and the incredible smoked salmon from the ever-famous fish market where 10lb fish are hurled yards through the air to enthusiastic fish market clerks.
After much beer-drinking, walking, seeing and soccer watching we made our way (after watching the Men's National Soccer Team heart-breakingly tie with Portugal in the World Cup) to Kerry Park, which has the most postcard-like views of Seattle in the city. We saw a woman fall off the wall she'd been standing on and 'blame it on the alcohol' and many families enjoying the view and hopefully each other's company. We took in the sights and then went by my girlfriend's brother's new home which was being worked on.
Although I don't have any photos of the experience, we also went stand-up paddle boarding on Lake Union, I almost got run over by a sea-plane. It was awesome, not the nearly being chopped up by a propeller, but paddling around in astonishingly not cold fresh water. In all, it was an amazing trip I will never forget, full of fresh beer, seafood and coffee from the place where even the homeless know what exceptional coffee tastes like and they don't want anything less. If I were to visit Seattle again, and I will. I'd catch a Sounders/Mariners/Seahawks game, go sailing, spend more time in Discovery Park, make it up to Golden Gardens and maybe go out in Capitol Hill at night.
The most photographable places were Green Lake, although I hear there are other small lakes that are prettier, Kerry Park, Discovery Park, Phinny Hill, Queen Anne and Capitol Hill. For those of you planning a trip I'd highly recommend staying in Ballard, especially if you're like me and live in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles, you'll feel right at home.