Seattle, you do summer right

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I spent a long weekend in Seattle with a girlfriend, a fellow single woman in her 30s. We went to visit friends and celebrate Independence Day.  We did practically nothing related to celebrating our nation’s independence, but we savored every morsel of our own personal independence.

The weekend was wonderful. These are some of the highlights.

Flying in over Mt. Rainier. We flew in broad daylight and enjoyed “happy hour” on the plane. On Frontier Airlines, that means 4 mimosas, a bag of Chex Mix, and a giant Rice Krispies treat for $30. As we were licking salt from our fingertips and guzzling sugary booze, we caught a breathtaking view of Mt. Rainier, an active volcano just outside of Seattle.

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Mt. Rainier, seen from the plane

Staying at the Hotel Max. Our boutique hotel downtown was every bit as hipster as we like to think we are. The decor was weird and artsy — modern touches everywhere in an old historic building. The personnel were friendly, attentive, attractive and tattooed. At check-in, they told us to “text the front desk” if we needed anything. And everything in print was terse as hell; even the door signs for housekeeping read “Please” on one side and “Nope” on the other.

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A hallway in the Hotel Max, with quirky black and white photographs on every door.
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Original stained glass above the lobby of the historic building

Eating whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted it. In real life, my girlfriend and I both try to be somewhat responsible about what we consume. But on our weekend getaway, we decided that those rules could just go sit in a corner and be quiet.

Beecher’s famous Mac and Cheese with Ginger Beer and a Breadzel for breakfast? Sure.

IMG_20150704_103908  Burgers, onion rings, and champagne at the Westin at 2:00 p.m. on a Saturday? Obviously.  IMG_20150706_093639

Mimosas, snow crab, and clam chowder at Anthony’s Pier 66 for brunch/lunch/pre-flight day-drinking? Of course.

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Space Needle by night.  Even if you’re visiting a city for the fourth or fifth time, there is no rule that says you can’t still be a tourist and do all the things tourists do. The trick is to do them differently each time. I’ve been on the Space Needle before, but this time, I convinced my friend to come with me to see it at night.

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We took a stomach-dropping ride in a glass elevator to the top. From the observation deck, we each enjoyed a glass of wine and took in a dazzling view of the city lights, reflected on the waters.

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A view of the city from the observation deck on the Space Needle

Celebrating the 4th of July at Lake Union. To celebrate the 4th of July, we joined a group of friends for a picnic at Lake Union. There were probably thousands of revelers there, each having staked a small claim on the grass or the water. Some were in bathing suits and shorts, some were dancing, and some were waving flags.

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Revelers celebrate the 4th of July on the shore of Lake Union

A fireworks show began after the sun went down. I got into a lengthy and engaging personal conversation with one of the guys in our group, whom I’d just met that day. I more or less missed the fireworks with all of my chatting, but it was still a lovely way to sip mimosas and spend an evening.  What can I say?  I love talking to strangers.IMG_20150706_094052

Staying up to see the sunrise.  After the festivities on the 4th, the lengthy personal conversation I’d gotten into on the lake kept going. Seriously, I love talking to strangers.

The guy we’d met through our other friends joined us after the lake for a period of bar-hopping downtown, and then stayed out with me for another round after my girlfriend called it a night. He walked me back to my hotel and we sat outside and continued chatting and chatting and chatting. Some time after 4 a.m., I noticed that the sun was beginning to come out.  I did a quick Google search and realized I only needed to stay awake another hour to be able to watch the sunrise, which was due to happen at 5:18 a.m. that day.

I asked my new friend if he was up for finding the best sunrise in downtown. He agreed and more Google searching ensued. The internet told us to take a 15-minute walk to nearby Olympic Sculpture Park to see what was purportedly Seattle’s best sunrise view.  To get there, we walked down toward the water by way of the Public Market.

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It was so early that nothing was open yet. The city was quiet except for the occasional transient and a few employees at the Public Market.

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The Public Market at Pike’s Place, in the wee hours of the morning

I love cities during that time of day.  It’s quiet, but you can already sense the energy of the coming day. And in Seattle, that electric feeling is amplified by the scenery — the city buildings, the marina, the water, and the mountains in the distance.

We reached the park around 5:20. Although the views were spectacular, they weren’t exactly what we were expecting.

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Presumably, the park’s namesake

Facing east from there, we had a clear view of the Space Needle and several surrounding apartment buildings, but it wasn’t until nearly 6:00 that we saw much of the sunrise.

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Sunrise behind the Space Needle, seen from Olympic Sculpture Park

Facing west, we had a view of the calm waters of the Puget Sound, dotted with the occasional barge and a large cruise ship, all set in front of the towering Olympic Mountains. My sense is that Olympic Sculpture Park has one of Seattle’s best sunset views.

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Escaping the heat on a ferryboat to Bainbridge. I think of Seattle as being cool and cloudy most of the time, but we managed to be there during a record-breaking heat spell.  The temperature was in the 90s most of the time and too humid to even bother wearing make-up.  To get away from the heat, we met up with a friend by the marina one afternoon and the three of us jumped on a ferryboat for a 45-minute ride out to the island of Bainbridge.

On the boat, we stood on the sun deck and each enjoyed a local craft beer as we watched the city skyline shrink away. With an ocean breeze finally cooling us off, a cold beer in hand was icing on the cake.

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From the boat, we also had a haunting view of Mt. Rainier, with its snow-capped peak hovering in the distance.

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The dancing dude. While out bar-hopping on the 4th of July, we stopped in at Therapy, a dance club located in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. We grabbed drinks and went out to the patio to enjoy the night air. The music from the club was blaring, even outside.

From the patio, we watched for several minutes as a man gyrated — or as some might say, “danced” — on the sidewalk. It wasn’t clear if he was looking to receive tips or if he was just enjoying the music immensely, but I didn’t see anyone tip him while we were there. It also wasn’t clear exactly which substance he was on, but it was reasonably clear that he was on something.

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Although the fireworks earlier in the day didn’t manage to deter me from chatting, this gentleman’s show did get me to stop talking, at least for a few minutes, while my mouth hung open in silence.

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As much as I love talking to strangers, there are some people even I won’t disrupt.

The speakeasy at Tavern Law. We met up with an old high school friend of mine and her husband one night, and made our way to Tavern Law, another bar in Capitol Hill. Inside of Tavern Law, an old rotary phone hangs on the wall. We picked it up and were connected with the host of a speakeasy upstairs, who told us to wait a few minutes and then come on up.

There are a lot of places in Seattle that don’t have air conditioning and it seems the speakeasy is one of them. It’s unfortunate, because it was over 90 degrees outside and the room has exactly zero ventilation. My girlfriend and I were in dresses and heels, and we were sweating like a couple of Italian sausages in a frying pan. Determined not to let the heat defeat us, we made a few trips to the bathroom to drape ourselves in cold towels and blot the sweat from our faces.

Although the bar was too warm for my taste, everything else about it was perfect.  The lighting was dim and the furnishings were all antiques (or maybe just picked to look that way in the low lighting). We sat in elegant Victorian armchairs and one couple in our group shared a leather chaise.

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A forbidden photograph from inside the speakeasy above Tavern Law

A bartender came over and spoke with us about what we each liked to drink, and then disappeared for several minutes.  When he returned, he brought each of us a unique hand-crafted cocktail, specifically incorporating the preferences we’d mentioned. Mine had some gin, muddled watermelon, and basil and it was the perfect refreshment to combat the sizzling heat.

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It’s no secret that I love my home city of Denver in the summertime, but it was a treat to spend a girlfriends’ weekend getaway, enjoying some of the special things Seattle offers — fresh seafood, ferryboats, an ocean breeze, and the Space Needle, to name just a few. I really can’t wait to go back.  Seattle sure knows how to do summer.

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