Where I go: Seattle
Mention Seattle and typically the first responses I’ll get have something to do with the city being the home of Starbucks/Microsoft or bemoaning the rain. Seattle is so much more than that, and no, it really doesn’t rain that much (and when it does, it’s light showers as opposed to heavy downpours).
The Emerald City in the Evergreen State is truly a gem. Grab a window seat on the plane and you’ll see what I mean. Miles upon miles of douglas fir trees, shimmering lakes and mountain ranges that encircle the city, their snow-capped majesty in full view on a clear day. And summer, without a doubt, is the best time to visit.
I may be partial to Seattle but it’s hard for its charm not to rub off on you. A major part of its appeal lies in its livability (or high quality of life, if you will), and it’s pretty evident in the can-do, creative spirit of the locals, the abundance of Farmer’s Markets, the bustling waterfront, no shortage of outdoor activities from cycling to sailing to jogging, and my favorite of them all – the city’s thriving locavore culture. What this all translates to – people here truly have a sense of adventure, and take delight in enjoying life and savoring new things –everything you need in a holiday really.
Wearing: Dressed down anything. For summer, I’m throwing on easy, colorful summer dresses (love the ones at Zara this season), skirts of varying hemlines from mini to maxi, and striped tops. Also, a cardigan or jacket because it can get chilly in the early morning and at night.
As an addendum, the look here is casual and laidback but still put together. There’s a mix of the Madewell/Anthropologie aesthetic going on, but I haven’t quite figured out how the locals manage to strike the right balance of rugged and refined so effortlessly.
Reading: Seattle Met and Seattle magazines are two excellent voices representing the best in the Seatlte community. They both have wonderful, informative features on topics like foodie getaways (Seattle mag just did one on Pike Place Market and their pull-out maps are so useful) and summertime activities, replete with recommendations.
Watching: Mount Rainier from my balcony. It is pretty amazing to be able to see the state’s highest mountain unobscured by clouds, and I’m always marveling that it’s possible to do so while in the city.
I also love watching the sunset from vantage points like Kerry Park up in the Queen Anne neighborhood (you can see the city skyline from there) or Alki Beach to the West of the city. In the summer, you can ride the King County Water Taxi from downtown as a fun alternative to driving/taking the bus. I once stayed up to see the sunrise from Alki (at 4.30am) – it was such an incredibly moving sight to see the city wrapped in swathes of rose, gold and vermilion from across the water, and you could almost feel and hear it slowly stirring to life as day breaks.
Eating (and/or drinking): There’s loads of good stuff to share/whittle down into a few suggestions/I’m plain greedy, so let’s do a meal-by-meal breakdown.
Breakfast: Top Pot Doughnuts – artisanal gourmet doughnuts and coffee (I always get their ovaltine lattes) with a cozy vintage feel. Macrina Bakery – another local favorite known for their breads and pastries. Fuji Bakery in the International District for killer green tea lattes and European pastries with a Japanese twist (head baker was from Joel Robuchon in Tokyo).
Brunch: Local 360 (all the ingredients are locally sourced within a 360 mile radius of the city), Boat Street Kitchen, Portage Bay for organic berry pancakes, Toulouse Petit (a Beautiful Cajun French restaurant filled with Beautiful People).
Lunch: Now’s a good time to eat your way around Pike Place Market instead of stopping by one place for lunch (saves the trouble of deciding). My go-to picks are mac and cheese at Mrs Beecher’s (while you’re there buy a few bags of their cheese crackers), a bowl of chowder at Pike Place Chowder, pastries at Russian bakery Piroshky Piroshky, tarts and pies at Le Panier (a French bakery) and The Crumpet Shop (try the cream cheese and jam combo), washed down by coffee from the original Starbucks. That should stuff you up for the afternoon.
Dinner: Nishino for the best Japanese in town, Greenleaf for hearty Vietnamese fare, woodfire pizzas at Delancey’s (started by the husband of writer and food blogger Orangette) , the quirkily titled yet nondescript How to Cook a Wolf, for elegant dishes with an Italian influence.
Dessert: The perennially popular Molly Moon’s Ice-Cream, for their salted caramel and honey lavender flavors – even if it means braving lines that snake out the door. Trophy Cupcakes or Cupcake Royale for pretty calorific treats.
Toting: I’ve been getting a lot of wear out of my large and roomy Uniqlo roll-up bag, especially for trips to the Farmer’s Market every weekend. Fits all the fruits, vegetables, bread and cheese I pick up, and the kitchen sink, without having to worry about it getting banged up. Otherwise, I use it to throw my purchases in when I go shopping downtown, especially at Nordstrom Rack!
Trotting: Seattle, like San Francisco, sits on several hills (though the ones in Seatown are less steep). So, sensible shoes are a must. I rely on my Aldo/BCBG/Repetto flats, I’ve got a pair of running shoes for jogs along the lake, and flip flops for the beach or strolling by the waterfront.
• The coffee scene. People here take their coffee seriously, it’s pretty much an art form and you don’t exactly have to go to Starbucks. What’s good – Oddfellows Café in Capitol Hill (do check out the Elliot Bay Bookstore next door too), Caffe Zingaro in Lower Queen Anne (close to the Seattle Center), Cafe Presse in First Hill and Fuel Coffee (different locations around the city).
• Kayaking on Lake Union – so fun to see the city and at the same time be mesmerized by the vintage seaplanes taking off on the water right where you are.
• Watching the jolly, wholly entertaining fishermen at Pike Place Fish ply their trade, followed by picking up locally produced honey and jam on the other side of Pike Place Market
• Ballard Sunday Farmer’s Market – Each week I look forward to perusing the fresh, colorful summer produce here, followed by pottering around this historically Scandinavian neighborhood with its many cafes, boutiques and design stores.
• Gas Works Park – Remember the movie 10 Things I Hate About You? This former coal gasification plant-turned-park was in the paintball scene. Go and witness the strange yet harmonious coexistence of the rust-hued preserved structures with the park’s greenery and panoramic city view.
• Taking day trips whenever I can – Whale watching in the San Juan Islands, Mount Rainier National Park or the Cascade Loop for one of the country’s most scenic drives that take you up close with the North Cascades Mountain range and glimmering lakes. You can either stop at various viewpoints to admire the scenery, or go hiking, fruit picking, white water rafting…whatever floats your boat.
• How easy it is to move around – For someone studying in LA the rest of the year, this is like a dream. Buses are so accessible and convenient, not to mention free within downtown. And you can hop on the Washington State Ferry if you want to visit another island. Which is why in one memorable scene from Grey’s Anatomy, McDreamy quips to Meredith, “I have a thing for ferryboats.”
Where I sleep: Subletted a fellow Singaporean’s apartment for my summer here. But otherwise, the University Inn and Hotel Deca in the University District are affordable, conveniently located accommodations. If you want to be downtown, try the Ace Hotel.
What I bring: A fully charged camera, shades, sunscreen, lip balm, scarves, a hat and a beach towel. My lightweight Adidas Climaproof jacket for the outdoorsy stuff (it may get chilly by the water/up in the mountains). Blackberry for weather updates, road conditions (especially the mountain roads) and directions. A pen and notebook for right then and there, when the unforgettable memories unfold. And finally, a voracious appetite and an adventurous spirit.