On our second day in Seattle, we woke up early to the morning sun streaming through our little AirBNB’s skylights. A ten-minute drive later, we were standing on the starting line of the running path around Green Lake; the forested, immaculately-maintained loop around the sparkling water was an even 3.1 miles, making for the perfect celebration of the eight weeks of Couch to 5K training we were completing that morning. Other early-morning joggers shuffled along behind and ahead of us, and the sun was still hanging low in the sky; for the next thirty minutes, I almost forgot about the heat wave that would soon be settling in like a third wheel for the rest of our trip.
Soon, we were tucked in among the towering bookshelves at the flagship Top Pot Doughnuts downtown, tucking into a blueberry fritter, a chocolate doughnut slathered in salted caramel, and a maple-frosted cake doughnut. (The 1.5:1 pastry-to-human ratio is a theme that runs predictably through most vacations I take.) We washed it all down with gulps of coffee, rationalizing every sugary bite with memories of our earlier 5K victory.
Satiated, we took on the busy plaza surrounding the Space Needle, looking up briefly to admire the view before heading into Chihuly Garden and Glass, a museum built to showcase Dale Chihuly’s intricate and inventive blown-glass pieces. The museum was tiny but utterly worth a stop: I’d never seen anything like the backlit installation draped like a canopy across the ceiling, or the greenhouse bursting with floating glass flowers, or the canoes overflowing with Technicolor glass ornaments, or the garden filled with glass sculptures planted alongside lookalike flowers. We walked through once, then backtracked, then wandered through our favorite parts again, marveling at the years’ worth of projects that added up to a life’s work.
My brother met us downtown, where we detoured through the Olympic Sculpture Park before driving to Pioneer Square for lunch. I’d heard amazing things about Il Corvo, a weekday lunch spot that dished out three different plates of fresh pasta every day. Between the three of us, we ordered everything on the menu: maccheroni all’Arrabbiata for Jamie, squid ink gigli with salsa verde, sardines and bread crumbs for Dan, and pappardelle with pancetta, turnips and turnip greens for me. Everything was showered with mountains of Parmesan. And since each meal cost $9 apiece, it was a satisfying lunch on a couple of different levels.
Always thinking about the next meal, we stopped by Rain Shadow Meats and began to assemble the building blocks of dinner. The sandwich we bought there—spicy roast lamb leg held between slices of sourdough, slathered in pesto and topped with cucumbers and pickled fennel—was by far the fanciest thing we’d end up getting. After fighting tooth and nail for parking at Pike Place Market, the rest of the picnic came together in a matter of minutes: raspberries, Rainier cherries, sugar snap peas, Beecher’s cheese curds, and a potato and cheese hand pie from Piroshky Piroshky. Done and done.
We all grabbed blood orange ginger beer from Rachel’s Ginger Beer across the street, and fought tooth and nail for another parking spot on a steep hill near the Seattle Central Library. (Aside from “too many pastries,” the other theme of this trip was “fighting for parking.” Such is life!) I don’t often equate “library” with “must-see tourist attraction,” but this was the coolest, most modern take on a public reading space that I’ve ever seen, and completely worth the stop. We rode the elevator up to the 10th floor to gaze down through the atrium at the countless tiny, tiny readers below, and made our way back down a series of escalators, pausing to gaze over the railings at all the public art and architectural marvels.
As dusk settled in on the city, we checked out a potential picnic spot in Queen Anne; Kerry Park boasted gorgeous skyline views but was a bit too small to share with the high school cheerleaders practicing there. Parting ways with Jamie, we sat down in the grass at Gas Works Park instead, and it was just right. Plus, it was right by the Fremont Troll, whom we called on as the sun was setting. At Fremont Brewery, we finally—finally!—stopped moving, sipping our respective beers and marveling at how ridiculously full the day had been, but how glad we were that we’d made every stop: these were neighborhoods truly worth getting to know.
Camera: Mamiya 645AF
Film: Kodak Portra 400