This was a work trip, but I was able to squeeze out exploration time by embracing the extra three hours Pacific Time offers and waking in the wee hours.
We here at Next Exit Travel have absolutely no corporate sponsorship, but one of us would sell-out to Timbuk2 in a heartbeat. I’m not sure when my obsession with their bags began, but it started with an innocent yard sale purchase some years ago. For the longest time they only had one retail store (in SF) and I made that pilgrimage in 2012. They now have a store in Seattle and I wanted to take a look (yearn longingly) at some of their new luggage. Their bags are waterproof and have lots of compartments. I’ve used one as my camera bag for years. I fondled just about every bag in the store and decided on my future suitcase (it has wheels and works as a backpack) and bought two bags on clearance.
Seattle is home to several locations of Veggie Grill, an all-vegan West Coast fast-food chain. I have spent the last year yearning for their creamy gluten-free mac and cheese and tempeh “fish” tacos. During my time in Seattle I had the mac and cheese, tempeh “fish” tacos, asparagus soup, and grilled corn on the cob. I wish we had these on the East Coast.
Near the Underground Tour (which will be covered in its own post) is Seattle Mystery Bookshop, which offers the mystery and thriller reader a convenient place to go bankrupt. New books, old books, imports, signed books, first editions, they have it all. The store is well-organized and the gentleman I spoke with was helpful and friendly. I left with some Icelandic mysteries and a signed James Lee Burke. I was almost afraid to keep looking because I knew I would find more and more. Great store, great staff, great selection.
Another great place to drop some cash is the Archie McPhee headquarters. I remember mail ordering ridiculous things items in the epoch before .com. Who needs wasabi toothpaste? I thought of two people, actually. Horror movie victims? A perfect gift. Hula coasters, schadenfreude mints, a patron saint of dogs, and other items all made it into my basket. I was tempted by the Bigfoot luggage tag, but somehow showed restraint. I would have bought the coffee can urn, but I already have one friends gave me years ago.
I had a breakfast meeting at Portage Café one morning and the coffee and “farmer’s hash” (vegetables, potatoes, tofu) was quite good, but I was curious about their pancakes. I was up early on my last day and went for a walk that took me past another location. They make gluten-free, vegan banana pancakes. Normally I am anti-banana, but in this case they were absolutely perfect. A lot of gluten-free foods taste like particleboard and despair, but these were moist and somehow light (I mean, aside from the fresh maple syrup I drowned them in). The breakfast bar offers all sorts of toppings, including coconut shreds and berries. The home fries were every bit as good as the pancakes. This meal will haunt me.
Before I make Seattle sound too sunshiny, the city has a weird vibe and crazy amounts of construction and these are connected. I was mostly in the downtown area this time and the demographics seem to have changed in the last few years. This is a major tech job/internet commerce area and because of that you see huge flocks of young, awkward, stressed out people. Amazon, Microsoft, and others are bringing thousands of jobs to the area and building new facilities left and right. Cranes fill the skyline. In a way, it looks like Seattle is having another boomtown period, only this time the frontier is the internet. This means that more and more people are being squeezed out due to rents increasing and the disparity between the entitled and the vulnerable is evident walking around downtown. It made me wonder what things were like outside of the downtown areas.
In line at security at Sea-Tac Airport my co-worker and I were fortunate enough to witness one of those travel moments where you wonder if you are watching a some form of performance art. These two middle-aged women were enacting a version of the airport security scene from High Anxiety, but with a personal shopping cart and unspecified large display. I started hoping they were genius terrorists.
Also at the airport is Metskers, a map store that offers travel books, maps, prints, ephemera, compasses. It you are passing through the airport, check it out at the end of concourse B. Should you need Bigfoot memorabilia, Sea-Tac Airport also has you covered.
More scenes from Seattle: