Friday, August 14, 2015

Pacific Northwest Cercie


There is something about boutique hotels. They are quaint and have personality. I started my most recent vacation in one in Seattle. A Kimpton --  lavish and quirky. My friend Meg first introduced me to the Kimpton experience. We stayed in one in San Francisco back in 2011. Thank you, Meg.

Kimpton's are full of cercies. The one in Seattle was new and called the Palladian in Belltown. My longtime friend (of 29 years!) Laura and I stayed there for a night. The Palladian was decorated in what I would call 18th century with a modern twist. Lots of portraits of people like Neil Patrick Harris and Billy Idol, dressed in what looked to be French military uniforms or the like; plush couches with puckered, deep blue velvet fabric; a library with books stacked inside the fire place; a traditional, ticking clock in the bedroom, a flat screen TV propped on a painting easel; and eco-friendly amenities like a wall card reader that would turn off all electricity in the room as you left it.

Laura picked me up from SEA-TAC airport and we drove straight to the Palladian for girl's night out in the city. Luckily, we didn't have to go far to be out, as I'd booked a reservation at the new Kimpton restaurant called Shaker and Spear, adjacent to the hotel. We dropped our bags, walked downstairs, and ordered fun cocktails at the bar with names like "My name is Inigo Montoya" and "Inconceivable." Dinner was served with style. Wait staff very enthusiastic and knowledgeable. I think the muscles with duck sauce were my favorites, but the locally-sourced cheeses were amazing, too. Most of all, the company was delightful. Laura is a friend with a big family and a full-time job who lives many miles away. What a time cercie to get to be with her one-on-one!

The next morning we had breakfast at the Biscuit Bitch just blocks from the Palladian. We shared an order of the Canadian Bitch - biscuit with bacon and maple peanut butter ... yes, maple peanut butter. We then walked that off with a stroll a few blocks toward the waterfront to Pike's Market. Such abundance there. Bouquets of flowers, seafood, and vegetables.

At the market, we taste-tested some Chukar Cherries and put down a few dollars for the Cabernet Chocolate ones. You can order these online, people. You won't be sorry.

A stroll along the water to Olympic Park led us, accompanied by a light, cool breeze, to some sculpture cercies. My favorite was the ampersand-in-the-sky. It is an apt symbol of the entire vacation ... & & & then some.

Good thing we wore comfortable shoes, because we did some more walking up hills (with amazing views of the harbor), and finally made it to the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibition. This was the most inspiring part of my vacation. Laura and I listened to the nifty audio tour available for download on mobile devices. It added even more color to the already-fabulous display in the halls. Many of the pieces were Chihuly's glass sculptures on black plexiglass, which accentuated the reflections of each installation. To me, Chihuly embodies the idea of surprise. He's the ultimate cercie-maker. I felt nothing but serendipitous joy throughout the exhibit. Garden and Glass ended with the glass house constructed especially for this exhibit, and a garden designed around the glass pieces, which featured spectacular views of the iconic Space Needle.

After such an adventure in color and light and design, one must eat, and eat well. So that we did. Thanks to my friend Susie's nifty "activity sheet" for Seattle, Laura and I made our way to The Green Leaf Vietnamese Restaurant. We went down some steps at a non descript entrance, not sure what we were getting into. It was a period bar/restaurant with authentic Vietnamese flair, and it was packed. We ordered the delicious spring rolls, and I tried the shrimp skewer and signature vermicelli dish. Two thumbs up.

Look what one can experience in fewer than 24 hours in Seattle! 

Laura and I made the gorgeous drive out of the city toward her home in Blaine, passing the Boeing complex, Washington University (40,000+ students go there!) and many an awe-inspiring view of Mt. Ranier, waterways, stadiums, bridges and the rural life of Washington. 

A freeway ride in Washington state is not dull. Freeway. Do we use that term down South? Laura and I were zooming down the road with all of our expensive and treasured memories floating around in our heads. I was thinking of the fortune of it all; perhaps of the excess. I kept wanting to cling to the feeling of freedom that a lavish vacation affords. But an Aimee Mann "ear worm" kept eking into my mind ...  "You got a lot of money, but you can't afford the Freeway."


Children are full of cercie love. I so enjoyed spending time with Laura and her family in Blaine. Children notice so many things adults long forget to appreciate. And they have such cleverness. I was high on the kid-banter the entire weekend with them.

We started Blaine with a sunset at Semiahmoo Resort. Breathtaking. I love how Laura's husband rushed to drive us there in time to see it. Such sweet memories of friends eager to share their world with me.

One spectacular (75 degree) day, we drove to Bellewood Acres, and had dinner on an apple orchard, with a view of Mt. Baker in the distance. We got the added bonus of showing up on the same day as the Canadian Car Club. Posh car cercie on the farm!

Laura, her daughter and I took a hike to Semiahmoo Marina one day. Just look at these views. Seal cercies, to boot!


Blaine, if you didn't know this, lies right between Seattle and Vancouver, Canada. So I got to drive Laura's car to the Canadian boarder from Blaine and flash my passport! You'd think this would be easy. A single woman with a car full of luggage from South Carolina is verrrry suspicious, apparently. "Let's start with where you're from." I made it through after a short dialogue with border patrol. One hour and I was in the fabulous, incredible, wonderful, international city of Vancouver.

I parked to check in at yet another boutique hotel, which I mistakenly booked for October. Alas, you pay for what you get, as they say, so I got a room in central, downtown Van at the only Canadian boutique called St. Regis. And I'm still paying for it. Everything smelled really nice there. At least I felt like I wasn't really in a hotel.

The darling concierge directed me to the sea wall, and recommended I have lunch at Cardero's on the marina. Patio seating, seafood chowder, a fish taco, and raspberry lemonade made for a very satisfying lunch.

Lunch was followed by many shopping cercies. As a genuine barre3 addict, I would have been remiss to not stop at Lululemon, which was founded in Vancouver. What a lot of very perky young people selling the hell out of some synthetic yoga wear! I've never been swarmed so enthusiastically while looking for a sports bra. But that was the sentiment of the city, really. Eager, friendly, service-oriented people from all around the world -- swarming.

The Vancouer Art Gallery was the real cercie, though. I stumbled upon it with no map (because I didn't use GPS roaming since I don't have an international phone plan). Vancouver native Geoffrey Farmer's exhibit "How Do I Fit this Ghost in My Mouth?" was particularly strange and magnificent. He crafted an incredible history of the world with tiny little cut-outs from what I think was a National Geographic book, with no apparent chronology to the way they were staged. A Queen Elizabeth, a small Moses and his tablets. It was stunning and intricate. But my favorite were the wood, fabric, and paper cuttings turned "puppets" he made for "The Surgeon and the Photographer" aspect of the exhibit. Hundreds of these puppets on stands in a large white room. I navigated around them, inspecting all angles of each puppet. They were clever. Farmer has been recognized internationally, at Kassel's dOCUMENTA, an art exhibition I wish I had visited when I lived in Germany. No pics, so you'll have to go to Van yourself to get the Farmer cercie!


Thanks to a friend from Columbia who now lives in Vancouver, I had a spectacular night on the town. I met Ricardo for dinner in Gastown at a Latin American place called Cuchillo. We ordered roasted baby corn on the cobs with the husks, fish tacos and ceviche. Amazing. And ain't it nice to have a walking tour of a beautiful city at night? Ricardo took me through Gastown and Chinatown, with a stop at The Keefer Bar, where I ordered specialty gin cocktails (just two!) -- The Dragon Fly and Ain't Got No Thyme. Too bad it wasn't Thursday night; we missed the Sweet Soul Burlesque show.

I spent the last day in Vancouver with a delicious St. Regis "complimentary" breakfast, and a walk to the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. It was a very ying-yang experience filled with cercies. An oasis of natural beauty in the middle of the city. If pictures say a thousand words ...

Final stop before heading home ... Bella Gelateria! I ordered, upon Ricardo's suggestion, chocolate lavender in a cone. Amazing combination of flavors. It was a sensual delight just watching the young lady swirl and sculpt the gelato, melding the two flavors into one on the cone. It wasn't just a scoop and dump operation. This was art. I wish I could order the gelato and the presentation of it online and have it delivered!


Back to Blaine, with one very important stop before I crossed the border: Laura's children love Papa John's pizza. The closest location is just across the line in Canada. So Laura called in the order, and I picked it up on my way back from Vancouver. Imagine the look on the border patrol's face when I said the only thing I bought in Canada was pizza ... I think he thought I was smoking something. Literally. Pot is legal in Washington!

A quick pizza delivery in Blaine, a shuttle ride to SEA-TAC and a long wait for the red eye back to CLT, another shuttle to Columbia ... and it's a wrap!

Dolly was such a "doll" when I arrived home (at 8:30 a.m.) I missed my little fluff! Next time, she travels with. She would like the temps in the Pacific Northwest.

Bon adventure!