By Gerrie Summers
I probably should not admit this, but the only thing I really knew about Seattle (other than it is in Washington state) had to do with a coffee place that can now be found in every nook and cranny in New York City, including my kitchen. OK, there are a lot of things in my kitchen; a Starbucks café with unlimited Café Mochas isn’t one of them, but you get the point.
Oh, and there was that grunge thing.
Turning on the flat screen TV in my room at the Vintage Park Hotel, I was reminded once again of the well-known coffee venue, from a documentary that seemed to be on forever like one of those on-board cruise ship channels. I wasn’t in town to find the original Starbucks, although, yes, I did think about it. I was here to check out the Kimpton Hotels, which is another establishment that seems to be trying to take over Seattle.
There are three Kimpton boutique hotels in close proximity. Vintage Park on Fifth Avenue showcases the wines and winemakers of Washington State. Each guest room is named after a Washington winery and has artwork or photography donated by the winery. Hotel Monaco on Fourth Avenue is described as a “playful escape.” On Fridays, guests can play Guitar Hero (players of the video game score points by simulating playing a guitar) among other things. Later in the evening I walked the short block over to the Monaco for the wine hour and participated in a fun reading by the resident fortune teller Sheila Lyon before heading into the hotel’s restaurant Sazerac, inside the bustling happy hour in the restaurant’s Bistro section. You can snack on wood fired pizza or try a serious Crispy Idaho Catfish.
Over on First Avenue, the Alexis Hotel is just one block from the waterfront and within close walking distance of Pike Place Market and historic Pioneer Square. This hotel showcases original artwork. The “Gallery Art Walk” features a rotating collection of art by Pacific Northwest artists.
In the morning I wandered over to Pike Place Market, walking down the steepest street I’ve ever seen. The original Starbucks is in the Pike Market, which I would have missed entirely had I not stopped to take a photo of a street musician playing guitar in front of it. Scaffolding blocks the iconic little building.
One popular “attraction” in the market place is the “flying fish,” mentioned to me by a passenger on the flight into the city. I assumed this had something to do with real flying fish in Puget Sound, but after wandering around for an hour or so, I heard a loud commotion and turned in time to see a huge raw fish being tossed through the air. (I assume that the merchant was tossing the fish to an employee to be cleaned.) One could spend the entire day roaming past various stands with flowers, fruit and vegetables, and stands that feature the work of various artisans, as well as galleries, boutiques and restaurants.
Next stop was the Seattle Art Museum (SAM), to view the special exhibit, Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musee National Picasso, Paris. Seattle was the first of three cities in the US to host the 150 plus pieces from the Musee (which is currently going through renovations).
Seafood lovers have to make a stop at Ivar’s. The late Ivar Haglund, Seattle icon, restaurateur and apparently quite the entertaining character, opened Seattle’s first aquarium in 1938 on Pier 54. He soon began to sell chowders, fish ‘n chips and seafood cocktails on site and would later open Ivar’s Pier 54 Fish Bar. There is now a full-service restaurant next door (Acres of Clams where I had lunch) and now the franchise operates a number of restaurants and food-based businesses. Ivar’s Salmon House was actually the venue recommended by the helpful woman on the plane, but I was quite happy with the seafood here.
Back at the Vintage Park, Kestrel Vintners hosted the complimentary wine hour. Regional sales manager Erich Sullivan was on hand to discuss the wines from the Kestrel View Estate Vineyard, home to some of the oldest Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet vines in the state. This was followed by a four-course dinner at Tulio Ristorante, which features contemporary Northern Italian cuisine by Executive Chef Walter Pisano.
The following morning I took the Bremerton Ferry to Alderbrook Resort & Spa, which is two hours west of Seattle and located on the Hood Canal. Nestled on 88 acres, with views of the Olympic Mountains, guests walk into a cozy lobby with a large fireplace, patrolled by a fat, and obviously pampered and content watch cat named Brook.
My room, with a comfortable duvet, a window daybed with a view of the dock and oversized soaking tub was difficult to leave. I managed to pry myself away to take a walk on one of the nature trails before going to the spa. At the spa, which overlooks the Hood Canal, I opted for the signature massage, which utilizes hot stones, particularly comforting in crisp, rather chilly weather, and there is something quite soothing about a spa in the middle of forest.
The Alderbrook Resort has 77 guest rooms, 14 two-bedroom cottages and one one-bedroom cottage, and is a perfect place for families and wedding parties. There are outdoor fire pits on property, for a relaxing fireside chat or romantic stargazing on a clear night. The restaurant features local seafood from Puget Sound and Hood Canal. Signature dishes include Grand Marnier Prawns and Oven Roasted Pacific Halibut and the bar has a wide selection of specialty cocktails, including homemade infused vodkas made from some rather strange ingredients like bacon and skittles. That just didn’t sound appealing to me, but the dinner was great.
Gerrie Summers has been writing professionally for over 31 years in the areas of entertainment, beauty, lifestyle, travel and wellness. A New York-based writer, she has been the Travel Adventures columnist for
Today’s Black Woman and now writes the blogs Summers Retreat and The Tranquil Traveler.