In the dark and dank of the covered taxi stand, we climbed into the white Prius cab. With the energy management and digital speedometer glowing against the night, we headed off into the rain. We had never seen a Prius used as a taxi, but it made perfect sense.
In case we had somehow forgotten, the Prius taxi cab defined to us that we were no longer in the Bay Area. With cold rain obscuring the view, we couldn’t see much outside the car, but the fresh sea air reinforced to us that we were in Seattle. This was not a trip we planned on, but by Thursday it became clear that the Pacific storm pushing inland was making our trip to visit my mother in Ellensburg Washington a logistical nightmare. The airline tickets we had to Seattle were not refundable and our dog Nick had social arrangements set for the weekend, so we decided to head to Seattle for a short visit.
I must admit that I wouldn’t normally pick Seattle as a vacation destination a week short of the winter solstice during the first major storm of the season. Judging by the ready availability of rooms and an empty airport, the other tourists felt the same way. Seattle in winter does not have the same draw as Cabo San Lucas.
The Prius dropped us at Hotel Andra where we would be staying. The Andra is a stylish, small hotel in Seattle’s trendy Belltown district. After dropping our belongings in our room, we headed to a nearby restaurant, Txori, for dinner.
We arrived at the packed restaurant near 10 pm on Friday and had a short wait for a table. Txori features small plates of San Sebastian style tapas. Salty, preserved jamon and other cured items, frequently on toast, and other tasty Basque influenced small plates were on the menu. The food hit the spot and was quite reasonably priced. If we lived nearby, it would be a frequent stop.
After a comfortable night, the next morning broke with gray skies and cold temperatures that threatened a storm. We headed out on foot into urban Seattle stopping at the impressive flagship REI store for some hiking boot shopping. Afterwards, with some searching, we found the I-5 Colonnade Bike Park area where a local group recaptured the unused space underneath the highway to build an impressive bike park. We wish we had this available to us at home!
Next we worked our way over to the Space Needle and The Experience (technically, it’s called the “Experience Music Project”) using the new streetcar and a taxi ride. At times it is hard to tell where the line between taking pictures when you visit a sight and visiting a sight so you can take pictures is. In this case, I’m pretty sure that the motivation for visiting The Experience was to take pictures. It least it seems that way by the number of pictures I took.
The Experience is an interactive music museum sponsored by Paul Allen of Microsoft fame. On the inside, the exhibits are interesting, but the real appeal for me is the building’s exterior. The Experience is a Frank Gehry designed building. I’ve been fascinated by Gehry’s architecture ever since seeing the Stata Center at MIT. Convoluted shapes covered with shiny metal plates, sometimes coated, and sometimes natural, give a surreal appearance that at times mirrors forms in nature. Gehry’s buildings are also technological marvels. The construction was not viable until the evolution of the computational tools needed to analyze the complex stresses of the non-rectilinear structures. Perhaps the buildings are not the always most practical. In the end, they definitely are more useful than large works of sculpture that they are the equals of.
As we explored the exterior of The Experience, the sun was setting, a storm was coming in, and the temperatures were dropping dramatically. It was too much for our thin Californian blood so we headed to the nearby Space Needle and paid way too much for a ride up to the observation deck. We were a little surprised to see Santa and a swarm of kids at the top of the Space Needle. Santa sure gets around these days. Nonetheless, the views of Seattle and Puget Sound at twilight from the outside deck were spectacular.
Sufficiently warmed, we headed by taxi back to our room. During our short stop at our room to change for dinner and a cocktail at the bar, it started to snow. Any deranged thoughts of walking the two miles to our dinner soon passed as we flagged a cab to take us to our dinner at Crush. The cabbie took us what seemed to be the longest possible way to the restaurant (it cost twice as much for the ride on the way there as it did on the way back). All the way the driver tried to convince us to go to another restaurant so we would be able to get a taxi ride back. This caused us a bit of concern, so we asked the staff at the restaurant whether getting a ride back in the snow would be a problem. We were assured that getting a ride back would not be problem, but it was also clear that Seattlites panic when the snow falls. The snow was falling and the panic had begun.
The dinner itself was spectacular. We ordered the tasting menu with the wine pairings. The food rivals the many Michelin one and two star restaurants we have been to in the world. The wine matches were sound but not spectacular. Overall, Crush is definitely worth a visit.
Close to the end of dinner, we had the staff call a taxi. By the time we finished up, paid our bill, and headed downstairs, there was no taxi. Outside, the snow had left a thick blanket of white on the trees and buildings and was starting to stick on the virtually empty roads. It was quiet and beautiful in a cold and miserable sort of way. The staff continued to try to get through to the taxi company, but the lines were jammed. After 20 minutes, we were beginning to think that we might be spending the night in the restaurant. The couches looked pretty comfy and raiding the fridge in the middle of the night had some serious potential. Becky was fearful that we might be locked out, so she was careful that we always had one of the two of us inside the restaurant. Eventually, we were able to flag a taxi down off the street. With a short ride, we were back to the room.
Coated with a blanket of white snow and under gray skies, Seattle was nearly empty the following morning. We headed out into the cold and over to Pikes Place Market before checking out of the hotel. Compared to the gray scene outside, the inside of the Pikes Market was a riot of colors and smells with fruit and vegetable stands tucked amongst the fresh fish stalls and curio shops. Afterwards, looking for an indoor activity, we headed back to the Experience Music Project and the Science Fiction museum using the monorail and went in.
The exhibits were interesting, but Becky’s focus seemed to be the “jam” rooms at The Experience. These rooms allow you to play with the instruments in small rooms. I didn’t know that Becky played the keyboards when we entered one of the rooms. Soon after she started playing, I still didn’t know that she played. In fact, I think everyone at the museum and, seemingly, everyone in Seattle didn’t know she played music either. We left Seattle quickly after exiting the jam room. It seemed to be in the best interest for the preservation of the Seattle music scene’s reputation.
Frank Gehry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Gehry
Hotel Andra: http://www.hotelandra.com/
Txori, San Sebastian style tapas: http://www.txoribar.com/