Thursday, May 2, 2013


A conversation then ensued, on not unfamiliar lines. Miss Bartlett was, after all, a wee bit tired, and thought they had better spend the morning settling in; unless Lucy would at all like to go out? Lucy would rather like to go out, as it was her first day in Florence, but, of course, she could go alone. Miss Bartlett could not allow this. Of course she would accompany Lucy everywhere. Oh, certainly not; Lucy would stop with her cousin. Oh, no! that would never do. Oh, yes! 
-E.M. Forster, A Room With A View

There was a moment, while I was unpacking my things in the hotel room that first night, that I had a twinge. Here we were, two related, unmarried spinster ladies brushing our teeth and folding our underwear; already tired at 8pm! I was holidaying with my mom: how un-cool! Would this trip be a disaster? Then I shook it off. My mom is no Cousin Charlotte and I am no Lucy Honeychurch (in more ways than one since I am far too old for one thing). This roadtrip was a chance to spend some time together before I vanished up north for the summer. I chose Seattle because it is in another country and therefore exotic, but it is less than 3 hours' drive away and therefore easy to get to.

Oh Seattle! Being there is like being in an alternate-universe Vancouver: there is a market, and an ocean view, and mountains, and delicious restaurants... they are so alike, and yet there are differences too. More brick buildings (a shame if The Big One hits Seattle, but so lovely in the meantime). More visible history. Less soul-destroyingly boring condos. Better liquor laws. Neighbourhoods that feel vibrant and funky and have managed to keep Big Business at bay. I was trying to quantify the different vibe but all I could come up with was that people in Seattle seem to have a true appreciation for the finer things in life: food is crafted with care, cafes are lovingly decorated, buildings are painted inside and out, communities are cherished and nurtured, the arts are supported. I know that I am seeing it through the rose-coloured lenses of a quick pleasure trip, but that's how it feels to me.

Anyway, the two spinster ladies got along famously, and if we did have an alarmingly uncool tendency to fall asleep around 10pm clutching English mystery novels... well, we had an excuse: we walked between four and six hours a day. And Seattle is not a flat city. I had a little guidebook which suggested various neighbourhoods we should visit, and every day we picked a few and trekked around them. I think we basically did a marathon, but we stretched it over 3-and-a-1/2 days with lots of food stops. My mom is the kind of person who looks as if a good wind might topple her, but I mapped one of our days of walking and it was over 10k. She is also totally game for trying out my vague suggestions: "I remember eating breakfast about 7 years ago at this great little Mexican place in Beacon Hill- I think it's the one that's mentioned in this newspaper. Can we try and find it?" "I think there's a park at the end of this road. Can we check it out?" "I read about this play that's about Scottish soldiers in Iraq. Shall we see it?" And she'd smile and nod, and off we'd head to Beacon Hill/Golden Gardens Park/the Paramount Theatre.

We also stopped in at Delancy and Essex, which I'd read about here. In fact, we bookended our trip with 2 visits there, because: succulent pizza! Seductive cocktails! Little cauliflour-and-pine nut-toasts! Lovely ambience! and the second time we met Molly Wizenberg, who owns both places with her husband. It's a little bit weird, meeting someone whose blog (and book) you've read, because you feel like I know all this stuff about you and yet of course, you don't really know them at all. But she was very sweet, and it's nice to know that down south in Alternate-Universe-Vancouver there is a little pizza place and cocktail bar that is just as lovely in real life as it sounds in print.
The elegant Essex.
My hands-down fave community in Seattle is Ballard, and I like to think there's an Alternate Universe Alison who's just opening a little bar or bookstore there (okay, enough with the alternate universe stuff, it's getting a bit creepy).
This? Oh, just one of the many reasons I didn't lose weight in Seattle.
I like to think I know a little bit more about Seattle now, and I certainly know enough to want to go back, and soon. 
Golden Gardens Park, Ballard.

It's funny, finishing this post now, because I'm back up north, have been since Saturday. When you travel very quickly from one place to another, totally different place, time has a funny way of playing tricks on you. I was still in Seattle this time last week, but it seems like a small lifetime ago. I got home from the States, finished packing and moving out, crashed with my long-suffering mom for 2 nights, got epically drunk with my brother, took the Greyhound early Saturday morning (still dizzy and nauseous from the cocktails), and... arrived. I'm cat-and house-sitting for friends this week, which means I have cushy digs all to myself for a while. I've been unpacking, catching up with friends, enjoying the unseasonal warmth, and getting more exercise in a few days than I ever get in Vancouver. Work starts tomorrow. I look out at the mountains and the bog, and marvel that I was somewhere so different just a week ago. 

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