As happens frequently in slow travel, our scheduled 5-week stay in Seattle increased to over 2 months. We extended our time to include extra house sits and visits with friends in the many cool and interesting areas surrounding the Emerald City. We still didn’t cover even half of what we would have liked, especially more time in the San Juan Islands and other coastal destinations. But that’s the beauty of what we call the “Next Time We’re Here” list.
What we’ve also come to realize is that slow travel allows a deeper immersion into a city or region’s neighborhoods, culture, vibe and energy. Sometimes we want to stay longer, sometimes we need to leave asap. But being able to experience each place as locals, not visitors, makes a huge difference in the overall adventure.
Our initial 5-week booking in Seattle was scheduled to begin April 25, but our Peninsula sit ended April 4. Oops and hurray! We filled in those 21 days with house sits in Issaquah and Des Moines (two Seattle suburbs) and a visit to friends who have the incredible good fortune to live in Anacortes.
Once we turned onto the exit for this eastern Seattle suburb nestled at the base of Tiger Mountain National Forest, the city traffic, noise, and frenetic energy ceased to exist. It was quiet, peaceful, and remarkably green. I mean, GREEN. Many of the trees were covered in a vibrant green moss that shone like jewels against the bark and branches deepened to almost black due to the seemingly ever-present rain.
Our excitement grew as our GPS led us down a 2-lane double line road, to a no-line street, to a single-lane bridge over a creek, to gravel, and finally the driveway of our new home for the next few weeks.
The house was located only steps away from a trail that led to what I can only describe as an enchanted forest. To add to our delight, a daily one-hour walk on the trail or road was part of the “requirements” of taking care of the lovely-spirited yellow lab, Maya, during our stay.
Truth be told, having to take Maya for the daily walk was what got us out of the house many mornings. It rained so much and so hard, we would have stayed in if not for Maya’s big, dark eyes and insistent presence following us around about an hour after we got up. She didn’t care about the weather, only the highlight of her day—a good, long walk down the trail or in the wooded neighborhood.
And I was always glad once we got out. For every time Maya stopped to smell or you-know, my eyes were drawn to some incredible foliage or rock/tree formation that would have been otherwise overlooked. If you want to learn to get present or be in the moment, walk a dog.
As long as I’m being truthful, Joe was as excited to get out as Maya. In fact, he often stayed out in the forest long after Maya and I returned home. It seemed every time he turned one way or another, he saw something else. It was a photographer’s dream, and he’s grateful for the experience.
Our time in Issaquah passed too quickly and we were truly sad when we had to leave our canine companion and the beautiful home on the creek surrounded by the enchanted forest. But instinct assured me that this was not the last time I’d enjoy time spent here.
Our next destination was less magical, but also less wet and much warmer, which were welcome changes. We spent 5 days in a condo on Puget Sound with an inner zen-environment, a fortunate contrast to the overall aura of Des Moines. Aside from the lovely apartment and sweet elderly kitty in our charge, the best I can say about our stay there is that Des Moines was close to an outlet mall in Auburn, where we spent an afternoon replacing the clothing items we had worn out. We also had a remarkably good Mediterranean lunch in the food court…a nice surprise!
Des Moines is not a bad place, just a typical suburb, with typical surroundings—a place that did not inspire us to explore. So we hung with the cat, cooked and dined in the well-equipped kitchen, and looked forward to the next stop…Anacortes!
It pays to have friends in awesome places
Two of the benefits of our extensive road trip is that we make many new friends and have the opportunity to visit old ones. (Not physically old, just friends for a long time ?) Such was the case when we landed in Anacortes to visit with photographer friends that Joe had met on a trip to China back in the ’80s. Not only was it amazing to be hosted by this warm couple in their home with breathtaking views, it was as if no time had passed for Joe, and like I also knew them for over 30 years.
Anacortes is a charming city on Fidalgo Island, located about halfway between Seattle and Vancouver BC. Our friends had relocated here from California after visiting another photographer friend from the same China trip. Prior to our visit, Vince sent Joe an email with directions and a list of things we could do during our short 4-day visit. The list was long, and ended with “…or we could just sit in the backyard and enjoy the view.” Although we had a pretty busy schedule and Vince and Carol were excellent tour guides, I chose that last option for our final day. I think you would, too. Imagine waking up here every day!
Our whirlwind tour of Anacortes included a morning photo shoot of the Tulip Festival, a guided tour that encompassed downtown and the many beautiful scenic views of the island, and a trip to Port Townsend by ferry. The Port Townsend excursion was a default trip after our planned ferry ride to the San Juan Islands was sidetracked when we arrived to learn the ferry wasn’t running that day, sorry! But all was well. Change happens, and we had a fabulous day anyway. Plus the drive from one ferry location to the other gave us a chance to see some of Whidbey Island.
We left Anacortes feeling we had only scratched the surface of this water-surrounded wonderland. Definitely added to the “Next Time We’re Here” list.
More House Sits
Next stop was Seattle and our 5-week house sit on Lake Washington, the state’s largest lake. We walked into the authentic midcentury home to find expansive lake views and two beautiful Siamese cats.
After 3 weeks of circling around the city, we were ready to go downtown for our first look-see and true taste of what Seattle is all about. Going full-out tourist, we headed for the famous Pike Place Market, where we spent a beautiful sunny morning looking at flowers, art, crafts, lots of food vendors, and great waterfront views overlooking Elliot Bay.
Seattle is a city of many neighborhoods. We met my cousin Carole for lunch at Long Provincial Vietnamese restaurant in Belltown. We hadn’t seen each other since 1981, so we had a bit of catching up to do! Regrettably, we were so busy talking we forgot to get a picture together. The company and pho were both great, and Carole also gave us a tip for how to end our day…visit the nearby free sculpture park operated by the Seattle Art Museum before heading back to our home in south Seattle.
The afternoon was too warm to walk from the market, so we drove the short distance to the park. Carole was right. It was a not-to-missed sight to catch while we were in the neighborhood, and a great way to the end the day!
We’re really fond of short day trips to explore the area around the cities we’re visiting. Another great Seattle neighborhood just outside downtown is Columbia City. We had a great afternoon strolling the main street visiting local shops, Green Eileen (an Eileen Fisher resale store, who knew? I got a top for $9!), and a fab bakery. A colorful, interesting afternoon!
One morning we decided to visit the nearby Kabutu Gardens. When I researched directions, I saw some comments on the website about recent car break-ins in the parking lot. The site admins had responded by saying that there had been a few incidents but they had increased security. So we went and enjoyed a long stroll through the peaceful Japanese gardens. When we came back to the parking lot, two young women approached us and asked if we’d seen a black Honda drive past. We didn’t, but the alert duo had witnessed two men breaking the window of a car in the lot and wrote down the license plate as the car sped away. There was no office or employee on the grounds, so they left the information for the owners on the windshield of the vandalized car, and we went on our way. It was an unfortunate way to end an otherwise pleasant outing. I think I’ll pay more attention to feedback on sites from now on!
We explored more neighborhoods in the downtown area: Capital Hill, Queen Anne, and more. One Sunday, we attended a presentation on zero waste at The Riveter, a really cool co-working space in Capital Hill. We were so inspired by the information and environment, I’ve made it a separate post.
Just when we were gearing up to leave Seattle on May 31, we saw that Maya’s family needed a housesitter in Issaquah again, so we agreed to sit from June 3-7. As fortune would have it, we secured an in-between weekend sit for June 1-3 in the cool Seattle neighborhood of Ballard. The best way I can describe this awesome area is to say it’s like Brooklyn Heights to Manhattan…a residential urban setting just outside the city. We were fortunate to be able to park in the condo’s garage, because street parking in this neighborhood, like most of Seattle’s city areas, is difficult and garage parking is expensive.
So we walked and walked for three days. Restaurants, shops, more restaurants, more shops, the Ballard Locks (drove here), and an awesome Sunday Farmer’s Market. Seen around town:
Last Stop: Issaquah
We spent our final days in Seattle where we began. The weather had improved, but the beautiful moss that had thrived in the humid rainfall had lost its luster. Still a beautiful, peaceful place, but different. We spend as much time outdoors as possible (because we could), and walked Maya to her heart’s content before leaving for Portland.