The Happy Wanderer: A caffeinated romp through Seattle


CONTRACOSTATIMES.COM – October 16, 2009

Once a year my husband partakes in an out of town male bonding ritual. He PICT0032and a pal pick a city in which to immerse themselves in football.  First, it’s Friday night lights with a high school game, then college ball on Saturday and the church of the NFL on Sunday. It’s understood that the wives aren’t welcome and frankly, I’m fine with it. Normally.

This year, the boys planned their weekend around my son’s high school football game in Seattle. I tagged along knowing I’d attend my son’s game and then assume the role of “football widow”. No problem. My hotel, the Pan Pacific, was offering a football widow package that included a sumptuous Vida Spa treatment and other goodies. I could hardly wait for the warm sunflower and juniper berry herbal massage.

But as I started to unpack, I felt a twinge of sadness. Here I was in this great PICT0026city, with a list of fun things to do – by myself. Almost on cue, a voice at the door announced “housekeeping”and when I opened it, I got the surprise of my life. My daughter had flown in from college in Georgia – something she and my husband had cooked up and kept quiet since summer. I couldn’t have been more shocked if the Raiders had won the Super Bowl.

Suddenly, I had my buddy to kick around town with. We grabbed a cab and headed for Pikes Place to knock off the number one thing on our list – a coffee at the country’s oldest Starbucks.

This is a big attraction in Seattle – this notable beanery where tourists snap photos and androgynous grunge wannabes strum guitars outside. But it’s not the best coffee house in the city – if you ask me.

Catching a bus to Pioneer Square (buses are free and plentiful downtown) we PICT0043asked around until we found the Elliott Bay Cafe – the inspiration for Cafe Nervosa on the TV show Frasier. Now this is a coffee shop. In the basement of a bookstore in Seattle’s oldest district – this cafe is cozy and caffeinated – and cerebral.

Speaking of caffeinated and cerebral, no trip to Seattle is complete without a tour of the new downtown public library, a glass and steel masterpiece 11 stories high, with a million-plus books. We spent over an hour in this magnificent structure – sipping warm, foamy drinks (yes, they also have a coffee shop) as the clouds spritzed lightly outside.

Of course, no woman can live on lattes alone. A girl has to eat. So my PICT0048daughter and I took a bus to the Space Needle and the Sky City Restaurant, for what I’d heard were the best short ribs in town. Braised in coffee and chocolate, they’re so tender, they fall off the bone. It was coffee cuisine at its finest – complete with a revolving panoramic view of Seattle – courtesy of the 1962 World’s Fair. From majestic Mount Rainier to the stately homes on Queen Anne Hill – the Sky City Restaurant was the absolute best place to soak up the essence of this magnificent city.

And the coffee?  It kind of propelled us around town. We got City Passes ($54 for six major attractions) and visited the Experience Music Project, the Seattle Zoo and a bunch of other hot spots, including several espresso cafés near the University of Washington. We carved out time for the Vida Spa and even made it to my son’s football game.

It’s amazing what a little caffeine and a travel buddy can do for your energy level.

If you go:

Pan Pacific’s Football Widow Package: www.panpacificwest.com.

Seattle City Pass: http://www.citypass.com.

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