Category Archives: Seattle 2007

Snorkeling Through Glass

Chasing art exhibits is never a budget-friendly experience, but it is always worth it. My first true art chase happened in January 2011 when I convinced the family that it was worth the money to fly to Paris to see David Hockney’s ipad art exhibit “Fresh Flowers.” There was skepticism at first, of course, and then tickets were booked, planes were boarded, art was admired, and everyone came home thinking “Wow! Let’s do THAT again.”

So we did. This time without planes.

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I don’t even remember when or where I read that glass artist Dale Chihuly had an exhibit in Montreal, but it happened sometime when we were in California this summer. Surfers surfed the ocean; I surfed the web, and suddenly we’re back in Canada for a weekend wandering through another museum. Because that’s what we do.

The Chihuly exhibit at Musee Beaux Arts Montreal, which is fun to say (go ahead and say it with a French accent) and even more fun to visit, has now been extended to October 27. When I booked tickets, the exhibit was scheduled to end on October 20, but people keep coming, and when you’ve got a crowd-pleaser, keep on keeping on. My husband is now well-accustomed to my art-chasing shenanigans, but he walked away really impressed by the Chihuly exhibit, and noted that I had successfully pulled off another spontaneous, art-chasing weekend in which everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves and no one felt bad about the money we should not have been spending. Now that’s a win. Our kitchen may crumble, but, by God, our minds are enriched!

What’s so awesome about Chihuly anyway? Why does a seventy-something, frizzy-haired chunky dude wearing an eye patch and who doesn’t even really blow glass anymore still draw crowds? Chihuly is a controversial figure from Tacoma, Washington, a multimillionaire whose contributions to art are indelible, but beyond that, I don’t have an answer as to why I, and, apparently millions of other folks, find his work so mesmerizing. Maybe it’s the way he bends color and light. I feel the glass more than I see it. The Montreal exhibit features trademarked Chihuly classics: “Mille Fiori” (my favorite), “Persian Ceiling” (very trippy), and “The Boats,” (my other favorite). “Mille Fiori” or “A Thousand Flowers” was inspired by his family’s garden, but to me it felt like snorkeling through the Caribbean, finding secrets within a buried coral reef unharmed by modern life. “The Boats” gave me a similar feeling, like I was floating. Tentacled glass reaches for you, for the ceiling, for the floor. Colors twist. Light bounces. Curves of glass play hide-and-seek. Chihuly’s work is playful and serious. It’s technique and abandon. It’s jagged and smooth. I found a place to sit in these galleries, to absorb all these contrasts, and to look for a long time.

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So if you live in the Northeastern United States or Southeastern Canada, get to Montreal before October 27. The art museum is quite full on weekends, so weekdays may offer you more Chihuly to yourselves. After all that gawking and staring at masterfully-designed glass, you’ll be hungry, so read my poutine trail story for CheapOAir, and find out where to get some decent fries, gravy, and curd. Should you miss Chihuly in Montreal, he has a longer-running exhibit at the Seattle Center, where you’ll also find the iconic Space Needle and Experience Music Project. Friends keep inviting us back to Seattle, and it’s on our to-do list. We’ll also be catching Chihuly in the Southwest this winter; a new Chihuly exhibit debuts next month at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona, and I’m already planning on getting tickets since we’ll be in the ‘hood.

Speaking of neighborhoods, while visiting Montreal, it’s worth going a bit out of your way to stop at Point G, a cookie shop on Avenue Mont-Royal. This is off the tourist track, where buildings are shorter and streets are a mix of apartments, cafes, dry cleaners, artists’ studios, and bars. Point G, which specializes in Plaisirs Gourmands or Gourmet Pleasures, is a macaroon mecca, and as colorful as a Chihuly exhibit. Flavors come in 22 varieties, like lime-basil, orange blossom, and balsamic vinegar, in addition to traditional dessert flavors like chocolate, caramel and raspberry. All macaroons are gluten-free or “sans gluten” as they say up north. I’m eating a couple macaroons from my box of twenty as I write this. I have two left, and I know that international macaroon-chasing is just not in the cards.

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Under the Sea

The second most relaxing thing to do on the planet, after visiting a spa, of course, is visiting an aquarium. The silence and the shifting colors of an aquarium are hypnotic. I’ve never snorkeled or did any kind of water activity or sport other than water ballet, so the aquarium is my key to a world that’s very mysterious to me. So here–enjoy some soothing eye candy and think peaceful thoughts. And remember to take care of oceans, lakes, and rivers. Go chuck your garbage in a trash bin, not on Mother Earth.

Seattle, a City That’s Organic, Edgy, Fizzy and Free of Bacon Sculpture

Seattle is known for its Internet entrepreneurship, coffee, rain, Earthy-granola crunchy lifestyle preferences, and the great outdoors. Let’s be blunt here–there are no fat people in Seattle. There are about as many vegan restauarant choices as there are Starbucks, and after inhaling plates of organic tofu and sprouts, the Seattle residents don’t hesitate to go hike a mountain or kayak a lake. I remember I once bad-mouthed tent camping when I lived out here, word spread around the office that “Kate didn’t like camping,” and by the end of the work day, I was socially ostracized. Okay, maybe it wasn’t that bad, but at the office water cooler or vending machine, even the pasty pale tech geeks at my company were like “I heard you don’t like camping. Is that true?”

And how can you not love the outdoors when you’re surrounded by snow-capped mountains and lakes? The mountains have been hiding behind the clouds since we’ve been here, and today is our last chance to catch a view. But even so, the city skyline also offers a unique vista. Here’s the quintessential Queen Anne shot. People are always surprised to learn that the Space Needle doesn’t sit in downtown Seattle. That’s because all of the shots of Seattle are taking from this hilly neighborhood called Queen Anne, which makes it look like the Space Needle is jutting out from the center of the city.

Even the kids draw the city this way. This is a handpainted tile created by a neighborhood kid and is part of a wall along a Queen Anne playground we visited yesterday. Mount Rainier looms in the background.

The kids also get that coffee is central to Seattle culture. I found the spelling of this tile very charming.

And what goes better with coffee than donuts? Seattle has always been an intensely creative city, and this donut shop in Capitol Hill isn’t an ordinary pastry pit stop, but a soap store that happened to sit next to our favorite Japanese restaurant, Aoki. Anna paused to admire the sweets. I went nuts at this place and bought for everyone and every occasion I could think of, teachers, friends’ birthdays, future Christmas gifts. I also bought myself a bath donut, a bath fizz shaped like a glazed donut and covered with rainbow sprinkles. This trip has given birth to the new phrase “drop a donut,” which means to drop a decorative bath fizz into a hot bath. And that’s exactly what I did yesterday because I had a sore back after another day of sightseeing. Let me tell you, dropping a donut may turn your bath water an unappetizing shade of puse, but it feels awesome, so just keep your eyes closed and let this bath concoction do its mojo.

It’s our last full day here, and I know returning to the grind on Monday is going to feel brutal. While I’m stuck in traffic Monday morning, I’ll think of this image:

Or this one. This amusement park sits at the base of the Space Needle and it’s where we took Anna, Aidan, and Rowan yesterday and enjoyed a classic afternoon of childhood fun.

I like this next one too. Seattle features colorful hand-painted porcines that can be spotted throughout the city. The pigs celebrate the 100th anniversary of Pike’s Place Market, which features a giant brass pig sculpture near the famous fish-tossing fish mongers. This brass pig is an icon every visiting kid has sat on, every tourist has posed in front of. The pig art is quite cute, and Anna liked this one that sits in the Pacific Place Mall.

I liked this little piggy, who went to the market.

I’ve been on the lookout for sculptures shaped like bacon and sausage, but no such luck. I learned from reading Seattle magazine that in this city, you have to order dessert to find the bacon. Crushed candied bacon topping sorbets, ice creams, and tarts, are a hot new trend in this town of foodies. Tilth, a restaurant in Wallingford, offers a white corn creme brulee with this funky crumbled candied bacon on top. Not to be outdone, a downtown restaurant called Zoe features a peanut butter mousse torte served with huckleberry sorbet, caramel, and a cookielike bacon Florentine. These people know how to bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and throw it onto a bowl of mousse. Now that’s creative.

Sleepless in Seattle

Well, it’s not quite 6 am Pacific Time, and I can’t sleep because I’m still on East Coast time, so let me tell you a story. On January 10, 1998, I drove into a fog in a four-year-old Geo Metro full of stuff. I had been on the road all day, and my boyfriend at the time was expecting me that night. This was the final stop of a week-long road trip I had taken by myself. I had a cell phone that weighed about as much as a bowling ball and I called him because I was lost. It was raining and very, very dark out, and very little was visible except the lights from the Space Needle and surrounding city skyline. Eventually, I made my way to the right street. I pulled over to the curb in front of the address I had scribbled down and turned off the ignition. And there I was–in Seattle, about to begin a new chapter with a man I had met nine months ago. I unpacked the car and there we were–living together 2,700 miles from where we had first met.

Flash forward to August 9, 2007, and that same man and I are walking around the same Seattle neighborhoods, this time with our offspring. We haven’t done a Memory Lane trip in some time. We left Seattle for Washington, DC on November 11, 2000, and we returned for a visit five months after our departure. So it’s been a while. We were relieved to find that although Seattle keeps growing, much of it seems unchanged. And of course, we’re here in the summer. The Pacific Northwest doesn’t allow summer to exceed 75 degrees, a fact Mike always enjoyed.

We flew in on Wednesday afternoon, and have since crammed a lot in. Our first stop was to Pike’s Place Market, which had been Mike’s first stop when he had moved here in November 1997, and it was my first stop as well–Mike and I ate lunch at the Market the day after I had arrived. So it was fitting that on Anna’s first day on her first trip to Seattle, we took her to enjoy lunch and to feast upon the rainbow of sights as well.

Of course, salmon is synonymous with Seattle. As we were always told when we lived out here, the “fish are so fresh, they need to be slapped.”

And, thankfully, there are other sights and smells besides cold, dead salmon at Pike’s Place Market…

During our 36 hours here so far, we managed to cover a lot of ground. After some shopping at the market, we went to the park where we played Toss the Flying Pink Mermaid, which sounds like a local drinking game, but really isn’t (though maybe it should be). The Pink Mermaid is in Anna’s hand. Looking closer, she strongly resembles Cher during her glam phase.

We took Anna to the Motherland, the first Starbucks, which opened in Seattle in 1971. It looks nothing like the Starbuckses you see in every mall today. It’s smaller and narrower, and when you walk it, your olfactory system is overwhelmed by the perfume of roasting coffee. Mike inhaled deeply, as if to take the memory with him.

After a restful night at the home of friends, a home which is so cool and so funky and resembles a ski lodge from the 1970s (think Brady Bunch meets Vail), the family hit the town once more. First stop, the Seattle aquarium, equally as intoxicating as the first Starbucks. The Seattle Aquarium employees are very cagey and clearly understand the impact of fish placement. They placed a Blue Tang and a Clown Fish, aka “Dory” and “Nemo” alone in their own tank, and every passerby took the bait. Here’s Nemo being a little shy:

Memory Lane stops included lunch at our favorite Japanese restaurant, Aoki on Broadway in Seattle’s famous Capitol Hill neighborhood. It was here where I enjoyed my first taste of green tea ice cream. Anna lapped up a bowl of green tea ice cream too, and attempted to eat with chopsticks by repeatedly stabbing her bowl of rice, a new technique that produced mixed results.

I am a picky sushi eater, and a boring one too–I only eat the California roll. But when I lived two blocks from Aoki, I used to eat sushi there three times a week. It has something to do with how they prepared the crab. On the East Coast, I eat sushi barely three times a year.

You can’t visit Seattle and not ride the monorail. We explained to Anna that it’s a train in the sky. The monorail was built in 1961 to ferry folks from downtown to the World’s Fair, which took place in 1962 and featured the Space Needle.

Nothing caps a busy day of sightseeing better than curling up back at the retro ski lodge, home to Team Wasserman aka Wayland, Stephanie, seven-year-old Aidan, and soon to be three-year-old Rowan, who has been kind enough to share her Dora toys with our three-year-old. What’s also great about this retro ski lodge/family home is that it features a wine room about the size of my first apartment in New York, and while Rowan shares her Dora toys with Anna, Wayland and Stephanie have been sharing their wine with us. Now, that’s hospitality. Sometimes I sit here wondering with all this great wine and scenery, why don’t we come back. We should return in January, like that day when I first arrived over nine years ago, and we can walk around the cold, dark, wet fog and ask ourselves that question again.