On Foot In Downtown Seattle

The night before Monday’s walking extravaganza, we sat down for dinner in a cool Capitol Hill neighborhood establishment called Quinn’s Pub. Don’t let the name or the four pages (out of five) of drinks on the menu fool you, though. What’s on offer goes way beyond typical fried pub food. Even the marinated olives we started with were over the top good. Trish enjoyed her risotto, while I couldn’t get enough of my grilled Kobe beef over Yukon Gold potatoes, oyster mushrooms and fresh green beans. The beef was grilled expertly and, while it didn’t have enough fat to melt in my mouth, it tasted just fine, and went well with a nice glass of Two Tone Cabernet. Not exactly a Washington State wine, but it did the trick.

Suspended crew boats remind patrons to work off their meals.
Suspended crew boats remind patrons to work off their meals.

As I said, Monday was to be filled with lots of walking, so we first stopped at the Portage Bay Cafe to fuel up. Everything on the menu is organic, locally sourced, sustainable. You get the drill. Breakfast was both delicious and smugly self-satisfying.

We struck out toward Pioneer Square with Elliott Bay Book Company our ultimate destination. We meandered along the downtown streets reveling in the gorgeous, sunny weather, (I thought it rained all the time up here) and stopped in to look at some artwork featured in the Foster/White Gallery. A little out of our price range, but some beautiful, moody pieces along with one painting riffing on Lyle Lovett’s If I Had A Boat song.

Before we got to the bookstore we passed an absolutely breathtaking building, the Seattle Central Library.

Kind of like the Luxor, except with books.
Kind of like the Luxor, except with books.

Much of contemporary architecture leaves me cold, since I get the impression much of it is for the aggrandizement of the architect and not designed for practical public use. This is not the case with this Rem Koolhaas designed gem. The building is hard to describe, and I recommend you do a Google or Flickr search for images, or better yet, visit Seattle and see it for yourself. The glass skin is criss-crossed by pale blue steel beams sloped in such a way to make you feel you’re inside a glass pyramid when you’re in the library’s lobby. Inside, many of the building details like escalators and furniture are presented in funky colors which promote a retro-future vibe with art installations cropping up in an unforseen locations. My favorite part of the whole library, though, is the book spiral. Starting on the 10th floor, I was able to walk among the stacks all the way to the sixth floor along one continuous path which hugged the inside edge of three sides of the building. On the fourth side, room was set aside for elevators, performance spaces and other types of rooms. And as if a four story sloping path among the stacks wasn’t enough in itself, each set of shelves’ Dewey Decimal group was represented by a rubber sign embedded into the floor.

The Book Spiral
The Book Spiral

Hard to describe, but I think this picture captures it well.

We finally reached Elliot Bay Book Company, and, while it wasn’t as architecturally interesting as the library, it is a beautiful book store. Well stocked and staffed, there’s lots of room to peruse the stacks and different levels to browse or sit down and pore over a potential purchase.

A clean well-lighted place for books.
A clean well-lighted place for books.

While Trish wandered around, I sat down with a digital photography book whose tips I’m hoping may help improve my photo-taking skills. And when we left, Trish had a little surprise for me. She’d picked up a copy of Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running for me.

The remainder of the afternoon was filled with a slow stroll in and out of various galleries along with a stop for what we thought would be a light snack, but turned out to be a couple of salads which would lose out to a Big Mac for nutrition value. Who knew bacon, bleu cheese, and dressing could be that heart-stoppingly delicious? Back to the room; a little rest; a little run; and then out to Etta’s for dinner. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail here because I was not impressed by this Tom Douglas restaurant. The ambience was non-existent, our service was poor, and my salmon was cold and barely cooked. That coupled with the dour plate presentation was enough for me to remove Etta’s from my list of places to come back to.

So, a bit of our sour note to end the day, but all in all we had a terrific time, and the next day beckoned with more possibilities.

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