leo irakliotis :: seattle

Seattle is one of the most beautiful cities in the US. While I am much in love with Chicago, Seattle would be my destination if we were ever to relocate in the US. Seattle is an ideal destination for short trips from Chicago. United has daily non-stop flights that will take you to Seattle in about 3-4 hours, making the city a great idea for 3-4 day weekends.

Seattle is also home to one of my most favourite restaurants, ever, Place Pigalle, tucked away at Pike's place market. I always have dinner there whenever I am in Seattle. This is a very elegant, but not pretentious, little bistro with amazing views of the Puget Sound. The decoration is spartan but tasteful. Black and white tiles on the floor, white walls with a few modern paintings that change frequently as the artwork gets sold, a table full of fruits and fresh vegetables. In the summer, the small patio can accomodate a few tables outside. The pan roasted halibut is very good, when in season.

So what to do in Seattle? Here's my notion of three perfect days in Seattle.

Day 1. You arrive at Seattle and settle at your hotel. We prefer the Mayflower or the Inn at the Market. As of our last stay the Mayflower still offers free wireless access throughout the building. It's almost time for dinner and, of course, you head out to Place Pigalle. Reservations are always a good idea, about a week in advance. After dinner you may want to strole down 2nd avenue (or take a cab if it rains) to Tula's for live jazz and a couple of drinks.

Day 2. Have a very lite breakfast, you'll be munching for the most of the day. First visit the Pike's place market. If you do so early in the morning you'll avoid the tourist crowds and mingle with the locals. The fishmongers and the flower sellers are fascinating. Near the newstand at the entrance of the market there is a small place that makes fresh donut holes. Grab a few to get you going for a while. Explore the market and the stores for a while. By 11:40 am be ready to have lunch at the Market Grill. This little stand in the middle of Pikes place market can set only 6-8 people on stools. It will be impossible to find a seat after 12 noon. This little gem serves chowder, salad, and grilled sea food sandwiches. Try the blackened halibut or the blackened salmon, but do ask the owner for his recommendation first and go with it. I suggest either the soup or the sandwich but not both because there is more food down your path.

Then head out for a stroll down on 1st avenue. Don't forget to stop by at Lark in the Morning, an eclectic store for musical instruments. Your destination, however, is Pioneer Square and then the Elliot Bay Book Company. Have some coffee at Torrefazione Italia, an upscale italian coffee chain, or at the basement of the bookstore. The bookstore is a magnificent place that will keep you busy for a while. If you are ready for another snack drive to Ivar's Salmon House. It's a bit tricky to locate but worth the effort. Don't go to the restaurant. Instead try the take out window. Order some fried oysters and some fried mussels, load a tray with tartar sauce and head toward the entrance of the restaurant and down the ramp to the lakeside dock. Enjoy and do not feed the birds! Then head out to the Gas Works Park for a stroll and breathtaking views of the city. You may want to head back to the hotel to rest a bit.

For dinner, consider sushi at ILoveSushi. Avoid their Lake Union location and try their Bellevue place. Their Lake Union restaurant is a bit more trendy but unless you get to sit at the bar and interact with a chef, your food can be hit-or-miss.

Day 3. Washington has an outstanding ferry system. Wake up early, if you can, have a quick breakfast and head down to the harbor, pier 52, and take the ferry out to Bainbridge Island. No need to take the car. The trip is short and offers great views of Seattle, the Cascades, and the Olympic peninsula. Wonder around the village for a while then head back to the city, on time for lunch (I would try the Market Grill again or one of the delis across the Pikes place market). Next it's time to explore, Fremont, the center of the Universe. You should have dinner at Ponti's and get a table outside.

Between lunch and dinner, here are a few things to do during your last day in Seattle.

    Visit the Aurora bridge troll. While in the area, stroll around Fremont, a truly remarkable artsy neighborhood, and have some coffee at Cafe Ladro.

    Visit the locks that separate the fresh waters of Lake Union and the sea waters of Puget Sound. The drop between the lake and the ocean is way over 15 ft.

    Visit the University of Washington bookstore, a phenomenal bookstore.

After your dinner at Ponti's you may want to return to Tula's or try the other outlet of superb jazz in Seattle, Dimitriou's.

During your next visit to Seattle you may want to consider a day trip up to Port-Townsend, especially in the spring time or summer. Make sure you include Port Gamble in your route. If you try this day trip, plan your return by ferry from Port Townsend to Keystone, then drive south on 525 to Clinton and take the ferry to Mukilteo. That will take you straight into Boeing's back yard and on your way to I-5 you'll see some of the brand new aircrafts as they are being rolled out of production.

Another spectacular day trip around Seattle is to Mt St Helens or Mt. Rainier.