Seattle is a terrific place to visit and probably to live, although the residents complain incessently about the weather (which is hard for me to understand, since I have never seen rain there in six or seven visits; but then again I feel the same about London). There is water everywhere (almost) and where there is no water, there are mountains (not only Mt. Ranier, but the Cascades and the Olympic Mountains, which in late June this year still have snow at the tops, and water runoffs into the valleys.
We did some things this time that were new to me. First, we stayed in Bellevue, not Seattle, because that is where our family bat mitzvah was, and that is where our family was staying. At a very nice, brand new hotel, the Sierra, very conveniently located (for car travel) off I-90, fifteen minutes (maybe thirty in rush hour) from downtown. But Bellevue is a suburb like other suburbs (well, you can see the mountains, and there is one large lake in addition to Lake Washington, which you cross when you drive to/from Seattle itself), so I can’t say it was an interesting place to stay. And we took the ferry from Seattle across the sound to Bainbridge Island (really, just for the ride, although the ice cream at Mora’s was worth the trip as well), but Bainbridge Island itself is pretty much like residential Bellevue, so did not seem like a destination. I have never been to the Olympic Peninsula itself.
Of course, Pike’s Market is always a highlight, but what have they done to the floors? No longer is it the dark, well worn, uneven wood floors that I think I remember; now, the floors have all been refinished and polished to a high red-tan shine. It detracts from the atmosphere. You want to scuff them up, but that’s probably impossible. And, although we did not have a lot of time at the market this year, my guess is that the stores are changing as well, going to more of the typical tourist stores than the individualistic places of the past. But that is just a guess.
Who are all these homeless people you see in Seattle? In Washington DC, they tend to be 30-50 and largely African American, some clearly mentally disturbed, and others probably just down on their luck (maybe the victims of family problems, drugs, criminal records, or post-traumatic syndromes of one or another kind). In Seattle, they tend to be white, 50-65, and look like they just escaped from being impressed on a prison ship with characters like Jean Valjean.
We had a very nice dinner at the Palace Kitchen on 4th and Virginia. Other meals not so memorable (although most were meals connected with our partying, which were quite good). Julia, the bat mitzvah girl, read the entire Torah portion (entire) flawlessly, and the six person combo of her guitar-playing rabbi father sounded quite professional.
Tourists were all over the town. Waterfront restaurants and shops were crowded, and the streets of the Capital Hill area were, as always, inviting.
We also saw our friends, Molly and Suresh (and son and parents) in their new townhouse, part of a co-housing development. Co-housing. A little of Denmark right in the heart of the city.
Several weeks ago, I told about the glories of Tel Aviv. Seattle has a lot going for it, too.