At twenty-five, I went West. West out of my Philadelphia comfort zone where I’d lived for eight years. West into Seattle, a city I had never seen before, in a state I’d never stepped foot in.
Acclimating was hard, not gonna lie. My boyfriend Carl and I arrived in early November, a month which seldom sees the sun and an even more seldom dry day. Winters stretch from October to May, and the stereotype of a rainy Seattle exists for a reason; it is not an exaggeration. Moving into a dark and dreary foreign city was a bit unsettling, but after a near four years, it’s become home.
Each time I step outside and see the Olympic mountains come into view (which happens a few times a day on average) I’ve never not thought “oh how beautiful” and even on my worst days, each time I see the Space Needle popping its head between buildings I think “you know what, I am lucky”. And for this, I’ve been endlessly grateful.
Each day that the city happens to me, it happens all over again.
And now at twenty-nine, I’m going East. East to Pittsburgh to lay down some roots. East to be closer to family. East to begin another adventure. These four years in Seattle have been a wonderland which I’m sure I’ll always miss, so as I leave I want to salute my favorite memories and experiences which I’ll take with me to whatever home I happen to find next.
Post Alley’s gum-wall behind Pike Place Market. Power washed and destroyed in 2015 due to the sanitary conditions thousands of pieces of old chewed up gum in a downtown alley bring up. You were weird and beautiful and a mirage of color to stumble upon. Fear not though, the citizens have slowly been rebuilding this gumstrocity since day one.
Kerry Park for the iconic view of Seattle. Those pictures you see that include Mount Rainier, the Space Needle and downtown all in one shot? They’re all taken from Kerry Park. If Frasier’s loft view were to actually exist (it doesn’t, the sitcoms city views are total bullshit and no location in the city can actually recreate what he sees from his multi-million dollar balcony), it would be here.
Summer block parties which turn the Capitol Hill neighborhood into a mess of music, outdoor beer gardens and jam packed bars. Love it or loathe it, you need to go at least once.
Taylor Shellfish Farm for the freshest oysters you can find within Seattle. I didn’t know these cold little suckers could range in flavors from salted butter to refreshing cantaloupe, but it’s always a treat and a learning experience.
The Seattle Seahawks. Russell and co, thank you for two Super Bowl visits and one win. To Richard Sherman for dressing up like a wizard during press appearances, but mostly though, thank you for being a major league sports team full of good and kind humans. I refuse to be a Steelers fan until their shit-bag human of a quarterback is replaced, so I’ll take my Seahawks love east with me. As they sing in unison on game day, Go Hawks!
The downtown waterfront resting on the Puget Sound and its ever-changing-in-color ferris wheel.
The coffee scene. I don’t know how they all stay in business; in our neighborhood of Capitol Hill you’re always within walking distance of fifteen cafes. There’s Analog where all the baristas are beautiful, Victrola which offers up cupping sessions (similar to a wine tastings, during these you’ll become educated on bean varietals) and my personal favorite, the Vivace walk-up window on Broadway. At 10:00pm you can order an espresso on the sidewalk while you’re making your way to the next bar. They also have the best iced americano the city has to offer. (I spent a summer hopping from cafe to cafe in search of the best rendition of the beverage, so trust me on this one).
Watching trains pass outside the rolled-up garage door in Holy Mountain brewery and hearing the soft chugga chugga noises while sipping on a perfectly sour farmhouse beer.
Pike Place Market with its iconic fish throwing, row upon row of fresh flowers in the Spring, and corridors illuminated with neon signs.
There being more dogs registered in Seattle than children in public school. Hit up a coffee shop, brewery, or the downtown Nordstrom and you’re guaranteed to spot at least one four-legged friend lounging about. Dogs in the city are exceptionally well behaved too, and are happy to sit at their owner’s feet for hours without making a peep.
Ferry rides back and forth from Bainbridge island and water taxis to West Seattle. They provide one of the best views of downtown and the quickest way to visit the beach. For a weekend venture, ferry to the San Juan islands for peaceful camping and hiking.
Stumbling Monk, the absolute greatest bar in the world. There’s no tv and only beer. But my what beer! Rob the owner stacks his drafts with imported sours from Belgium, Switzerland and Germany, and always reserves a few taps for local domestics. Plop into a window table in the Summer for stunning sunset views of the Olympics and during winter to watch the glassy exterior become completely fogged up and snuggly as can be.
The Japanese Garden for the most ommmmm experience you can get in a city.
Hillside Bar which introduced us to the Big Buck Hunt arcade game, which we’ve since become addicted to. (Carl even has his very own BBH member card proudly stashed in his wallet) Pittsburgh, sadly, is completely lacking in Buck Hunt machines and we’re seriously debating funding a machine for a local bar. Though laughable, we have several interested investors (aka fellow BBH players).
Paseo for the best Cuban sandwiches you can find in the States. They weigh roughly the same as a newborn baby and you can cart them just a few blocks to Fremont brewing where you can chow them down alongside a beer while overlooking the water (seriously there’s a water view everywhere). You’ll go into a complete food coma and will wind up covered in meat juices but will be totally fine with it.
Mount Rainier views. On a clear day Rainier’s snow-capped peaks are visible across the city, and when flying out from Seatac airport in the morning the sunrise views of this mountain behemoth are breathtaking.
Discovery Park for a quick and amazingly beautiful hike to the sound. There’s lighthouses and boat views and everything.
Cycle Salon’s Ballard brewery tours. The concept is simple: you and a dozen friends peddle your way from brewery to brewery, taking in a beer at each stop. You look like an idiot, sure, but you can also drink while pedaling so you mind a whole lot less.
Clamming and oystering in nearby Penrose Point State Park. Sure, it’s not actually in the city, but drive a little over an hour and you can pull oysters from the bay and shuck them standing in the water. Bring a shovel and you can dig for clams then cart them back with you. We dined on self-caught clammies for a week and have now mastered the art of the steamer.
Chihuly Garden and Glass. Sitting in the shadow of the Space Needle, Dale Chihuly’s glass sculptures dot the East Coast and are highly instagrammable, but stop off in his eponymous hometown museum and you’ll be surrounded by his twisting and whimsical creations. It’s as if Willy Wonka’s Oompa Loompas were glass blowers instead of creepy chocolatiers.
Thrifting: This city is filled with amazing thrift stores full of designer duds; in Seattle I’ve turned down five dollar Fendi bags because they “weren’t my style” and I’ve done this with frequency. Since the city is so abundantly wealthy (hello Microsoft money!) the donations are staggering. I’ve filled my closet primarily from consignment shops and will be leaving the city with heaps of Rag & Bone and Vince in my wardrobe.
Olympic National Park and the Washington coast: Okay, so this is definitely not in Seattle’s city limits but for Jurassic park ferny kinda landscapes and rocky beaches shrouded in fog there’s no equivalent.
Cal Anderson Park where all the trendy twenty-something’s go to drink beer from brown paper bags, play frisbee and lounge in the sun during summer months. Just minutes away from the always bustling Pike and Pine streets, think of it as a scenic pre-game spot.
Twice Sold Tales bookstore: A more “unconventional” bookstore, here a half dozen or so cats live among the paperback stacks. The owner has accumulated first additions of Kerouac and Salinger and even has a smut section in the back. Even if you’re not looking to make any additions to your home library I’d still recommend you check it out. I’ve been there dozens of times and I still get lost (it’s not massive, just more of a labyrinth). Plus, you never know when a cat is going to run between your legs or jump out from the shelf you’re perusing.
I’ll admit, I became indifferent to Philadelphia towards the end. Not because it’s not a great city (the place is all heart, believe me), but because other than leaving my hometown of Enola PA for college, I’d never left a place before.
I would pass Independence Hall never looking up from my cell phone, get too annoyed at the traffic on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to take in the Art Museum views ahead of me , or eat at my favorite restaurant assuming I’d always be eating there, and there’d never be a “last”. These are silly things to do for sure, but at 23 everything seems made of beginnings; and it doesn’t seem impossible to become a wise and worldly traveler without leaving any place, or anyone, behind.
I’ve never taken for granted my time in Seattle though. I never thought that when I moved out here it was a forever ever type of deal, and always saw myself coming back east. So in my final days I’ll slurp oysters louder, drink coffee until I become over caffeinated, keep an eye on the horizon for Rainier, pet passing puppies harder, etc., etc., and cliche upon cliche. In the end, fare the well Seattle.