As I’ve divulged before, I love surprises. And fortunately enough for me, Aaron loves to dole them out (when he can keep it secret long enough to actually surprise me). He particularly loves to plan surprise trips. So this year, for my birthday, he packed us into the car and just started driving north. And for me the destination was a mystery.
Three hours later, we obviously wound up in the Emerald City, our sister to the north, Seattle.
Now, we didn’t have a lot of time to spare – we only had the weekend available – but Aaron made sure we made the absolute most of it.
We left work early on Friday to drive north. That didn’t leave us a lot of room for exploring the city that evening, but we still managed a few activities.
After we checked in with our Airbnb (and got caught on the wrong side of the parking garage fence.. and then wound up in the wrong building.. and then couldn’t find the entrance to the correct building..), we headed into town. Aaron positioned us with a room on the north end of Seattle, a mere 10 minutes away from Pike Place Market and the main bustling center of town. And just a block off of the main strip sits the elegant Sushi Kashiba.
We were there right at opening, and a good thing too, as we silly tourists didn’t have a reservation for this very upscale restaurant. Now, disclaimer: this was a celebration weekend, so we were not exercising budget travel techniques. This restaurant is anything but budget, but it was worth. every. penny.
We started with a couple glasses of some of the best sake I’ve tasted. I actually preferred Aaron’s choice – Maboroshi (see? I wrote it down I was so impressed with it!), though I doubt there was a bad sake in the entire place.
We then indulged in 5-course sushi heaven. This included a light appetizer of tuna pate and salad, 13 varieties of sushi (each arranged in a very specific order for consumption), and a dessert of a sort of egg bread with fruit. Hungry yet?
But the birthday evening wasn’t through yet!
We popped into a bar for a quick drink to kill some time until our next activity. Aaron led me down the street, never the wiser as to where we were going. Then I glanced up, and motion caught the corner of my eye. I was standing next to a window, and on the other side…
Aaron knows me far too well. He had taken us to Seattle’s Meowtropolitan, an urban cat cafe. We have one locally as well – Purringtons – and we’ve visited several times. We also made a point to see America’s original inspiration in Tokyo – twice! But anyone who knows me knows I can never have too much of kitties.
We were in time for the last session of the day, so we got our delightfully adorable kitty-decorated lattes that came with our admission and headed into the fur paradise.
It was feeding time, so some of the cats were a bit distracted, and others were tired from the day, but there were still plenty to pet, play with, and photograph. Such beautiful cats! I especially liked the little grey one I only noticed on my way out. He was SO friendly.
Enough excitement for one day, so we called it a night to be fresh for the next day.
We took our time getting up on Saturday, but when we did, we were adequately hungry. Fortunately, food was always well within walking distance, so we made our way to Belltown.
Aaron had another classy restaurant picked out for breakfast. This time, we dined at the Biscuit Bitch (yes, its real name). Fortunately, they had plenty of gluten-free offerings for us, so we gorged ourselves on hearty, southern biscuits. We ordered a savory and a sweet so we could sample both sides of the spectrum, and we had trouble finishing them. Both were delicious, but they sure are hearty!
As the name is quite humorous, many passersby (and those stopping in for a bite), posed in front of the main sign on the glass for a photo. As it just so happens, Aaron and I ended up sitting at the table just on the other side of that glass. So when someone posed, I had to take the opportunity to photobomb their shot, flashing a peace sign and a goofy grin for the camera. The couple glanced at the photo and ok’d it, and I was mildly disappointed they didn’t notice as they got in line to order. However, a minute later, I noticed they were both laughing and pointing in my direction. Mission accomplished!
Now, this was a treat. We were at the gate for the Japanese Garden right at opening, and the lack of people had me seriously wondering if it would even open that day. When it did, we practically had the place to ourselves.
The early light was simply gorgeous; it really drew out the rich colors of the autumn leaves. And the reflections of the pool were mesmerizing. I had fun photographing, and Aaron got some video clips as well. I loved just wandering around the peaceful garden before it began to fill with other visitors.
While we were there, we met a fellow photographer, Jim. We got to talking, and he turned out to be a really cool guy (you never know with those photographer people… ;)). Up from Austin, he travels to cities all over the world and has recently started up with vlogging. You should check out his coverage of the garden; you might also see a couple of familiar faces 🙂
Of course, we have a Japanese Garden in Portland as well, and we’ve walked the real deal in Japan (both of which I think I prefer), but it was a very zenful way to start the day.
A fair chunk of the day was actually unscripted. There were a few highlights Aaron wanted to hit, but we took it slowly and just enjoyed the beautiful sunshine (rare for November).
Our first stop was to Volunteer Park. While half of it was under construction, we were able to pop our heads through the Black Sun (inspiration for Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun”) and loop the reservoir in search of shiny pokemon (yeah, we’re those kinds of people).
We also ascended the tower, almost by accident. Approaching it, I thought it was a bathroom; I didn’t expect to see stairs slowly curving all the way to the top. It afforded us a nice view of the city, and we just like to climb things (perhaps it’s that affinity for cats impressing some of their habits on us).
After a bite to eat (not really worth noting – just some run-of-the-mill Thai), we made our way back into the main city. We ditched the car (by now, we had figured out that silly gate) and headed down to the waterfront.
As a photographer, I was thrilled, because the afternoon lighting was perfect for pictures.
We walked down to the Ferris wheel before heading back inland, toward the market. And just as we were posing for some rustic street shots under the market sign, we bumped into Jim! We said a quick hi, and then continued to the famed gum wall. This is both fascinating and disgusting. I have no idea how this is a thing, but… to each their own?
We wended our way through the labyrinth of the market, sampling kombucha and marveling at the sheer size of it all. Through corridors and down more stairs, past throngs of people and tables and tables stuffed with wares. I glimpsed a sign for chocolate and was immediately drawn in. But then it was time to start heading to our next scheduled activity.
…But first we stopped by another bar to kill just a little more time.
This one was fancy. And sadly, it wasn’t really worth all the posh. We were surrounded by people well above our salary grades, and even the most basic drinks were in the double-digits. It really reminded me of being in Florida, though we were about as far from it as we could be. The views were lovely, but after the single drinks for each of us, we departed.
Now, here is where things got really interesting again. Almost on a whim, we decided earlier that day to book a tour with Seattle’s Underground Tours. The history imparted on this tour was incredibly fascinating. Merchants didn’t want to wait years for the city to be built up above flood levels, so they built off sidewalks they knew would be buried, planning for the second story to eventually become ground level. There’s a lot more to it, and I recommend you check out the tour for all the incredible details.
What I wasn’t expecting was the humor! Our guide, Leila, was an absolute riot! She was just so animated and expressive. Little side stories made us laugh, and her delivery just pushed it over the edge. I expected a tour; I didn’t expect a comedy show. Now, if only my history professors in school were so entertaining, I wouldn’t loathe the subjects so.
Evidently, they also do a 21+ “Underworld Tour.” That comes with alcohol and without censorship. We might just have to check that one out the next time we’re in town.
By this point, we were famished. So we popped into another place Aaron had starred on his map: a little hole in the wall called Tavern Law. Here, all of the drinks were literature-themed, and I had to poke fun at Aaron’s not knowing why the “Clockwork Orange” simply had to contain milk. I ordered the “Canterbury Tales” (a wide assortment of varying personalities and flavors), and it might have been one of the best drinks I’ve ever consumed. Light and refreshing, with just a hint of berry and spice – yum!
We also procured some food, and Aaron managed to get a candle in our dessert as the previous day was sans cake.
Unfortunately, we didn’t realize there was a secret bar upstairs that is quite popular on Saturday nights. Without a reservation, it was unlikely we’d get in. We still waited for a brief time, but it wasn’t worth sticking around. Had we known, we would have put our names on the list before we dined at Tavern Law so as to be admitted by the time we were done. We’ll know that for next time – definitely want to check it out!
Another day very well spent! We only had one more morning to spend up north.
After the lazy start to Saturday, we were (I was) very determined to get up bright and early Sunday to catch the sunrise. We packed everything up, took a quick shower to wake up, then checked out of our room.
We arrived at Kelly Park about a half hour before sunrise, and there was already a line of photographers at their tripods.
The sky was magic.
I was so excited at the colors and the fog! But by the time I got my tripod set up, the fog had completely engulfed the city. I thought perhaps it would clear momentarily, dissipate as quickly as it had thickened… but it only got worse. By the time the fog cleared, the sun was up and the colors were gone. Should have been there even ten minutes earlier. Oh well.
Space Needle Park
We were starving yet again, so we nommed at a pretty standard breakfast joint (no wild biscuits this time), then decided to poke around the Space Needle.
We wandered the many artistic installations around the Needle, and I played with the reflections off of the EMP (Experience Music Project). We then got a bit silly (as we sometimes are), and decided we needed to try to eat the Space Needle’s saucer. We’re easily entertained.
By this point, Aaron’s last stop was open, so we went to the ExOfficio store in downtown Seattle, where he gave me a little shopping spree for my birthday. These are great clothes for travel, as they’re generally lightweight, durable, and travel-savvy (equipped with passport-sized hidden pockets, bug repellant, or extra sun protection). Plus, they’re surprisingly fashionable. I still have a few more clothing items to pick up before our big departure next year, but this was a great step toward being ready!
Finally, we hit up a cidery to tide us over until dinner. Capitol Cider not only had a swath of gluten-free offerings for us, it had more than one drink option! We were overwhelmed with the alcoholic options, and I had to get a flight simply because I could! Aaron and I both agreed our favorite was that center one: the Kristin Cidre Cuvee XVII. Mmmm…
All items checked off the list, we were ready for the long drive back home. I had a lot of fun in Seattle, and I think the best part was it didn’t really include any of the “Top 10 Things Everyone Does in Seattle” items like going up the Space Needle or visiting the Fremont Troll. Possibly the Underground Tour, but that was a blast 🙂
Either way, it was a birthday weekend very well spent!
Have you been to Seattle? What was your favorite thing to do there?
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