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The Many Moods of Seattle
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The Many Moods of Seattle
  Seattle Travel Tale

by Lorry Patton ...

seattle_statue.jpg What appeals to us as teenagers often loses its charm as we mature. As a result, a choice destination of twenty years ago, may not be the choice today. Some destinations, however, grow with us, or have so much to offer they attract us no matter what our age. Moreover, they seem continually new. Seattle, for example, is such a place.

Located on a narrow strip of land between the Puget Sound and Lake Washington, with views of the Cascade Mountains to the east and the Olympic Mountains to the west, Seattle is certainly visually appealing; however, I hardly noticed its beautiful surroundings the first, second, or even the third time we were there. I was on a jazz kick, so every weekend we'd head for a club in Seattle's university district, a district with the look and feel only college students can give a place --groovy and individualistic, with row upon row of trendy shops and cafes.

Years passed and I became fascinated with line dancing. Again it was off to Seattle. This time to a country tavern on Highway 99. Mostly we would watch, but every now and then we'd trip over our feet trying to get the hang of it.

Recently I was in the mood for Old World charm, so we packed an overnight bag and checked into the Alexis Hotel in the heart of Seattle.

The registered historic hotel, steps from the waterfront and built originally in 1901, was first an office building, then a conglomeration of shops and services, and eventually a car garage. In 1980 it was completely renovated into a first class hotel with the look and feel of a posh European inn.

Ensconced in our lavish room, we sipped chilled champagne, munched on chocolate-dipped strawberries, and listened to the fireplace crackle. Later we explored Seattle's waterfront, particularly the sights, sounds and smells of the 'Old Country', noisy and aromatic, Pike Place Market.

Just a youngster compared to some of Europe's markets, Pike Place Market, once in the danger of being dismantled, has been thriving since 1907. It's hard to tell whether its popularity is due to its appearance or its contents. True, the profusion of color from the flower stalls and the fruits and vegetable stands is a sight to behold, and the aroma wafting from the fish and baked breads is dizzyingly pure. However, the apples, peaches and strawberries are plump, juicy and sweet, and good to eat, and the fish, crabs and shrimps would satisfy the most finicky cook's palate. Add to the delicious edibles the handmade trinkets, the silk scarves, the creative art work and piles and piles of rainbow-colored tee-shirts, throw in a handful of costumed street musicians, and the crowd is never disappointed, whether they come to browse or to buy.

We then hopped on a bus ( The Metro system offers free daytime service in a 90-square block area of downtown Seattle ) and rode over to Seattle's historical Pioneer Square.

Pioneer Square, once the site of an Indian village, is a restored 20-square block area where sawmills and port operations flourished before a fire destroyed the businesses in 1889. It is also the place where prospectors boarded ships that carried them to Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush Days, and the location of a spooky underground city uninhabited for over eighty years. Museums, housed in old stone buildings built after the fire, depict the story of the Gold Rush, and a guide leads visitors through the underground city.

Before venturing down into the streets below, we gathered in Doc Maynard's Public House and listened to a comical story of wealthy pioneers, flush toilets and sewer backups. It seems the rich folks up on the hill affected the lives of the ordinary folks below quite regularly!

Over the years, I became quite attached to Seattle. After all, it seemed the ideal destination for whatever mood I was in. So it was only natural that when I heard about the innovative dinner train, I knew exactly what to give my sister for her birthday. A weekend in Seattle and dinner on the train. Another sister came along.

First thing we did was check in to our hotel. We chose DoubleTree Suites Hotel. Suite hotels are used primarily for business travelers, however, more families are using them now and there was three of us. Surprisingly, the cost was reasonable and included a scrumptious breakfast buffet. Better yet, it was minutes from South Center Shopping Mall and not far from the train station. We had excellent directions to the Renton Depot from where the train, the Spirit of Washington, left on its 44-mile 3 1/2 hour round trip excursion.

The train was in the station when we arrived. You'd have thought we were on our way to Siberia, all that excitement in the air. What is it about trains that makes them so special? Relaxed in the restored 1937 vintage car and pampered by the staff, we sipped Chateau Ste. Michelle wine and supped on westcoast salmon as the world around us rolled on by. The train trundled past the Boeing plant in Renton, birthplace of the famous 737 ( up to date a total of 2,944 planes have been sold ); chug-chugged past Mercer Island and climbed over the exhilarating 1891 Wilburton Trestle, the longest wooden trestle ( 975 feet long ) in the Northwest and the highest timber structure ( 102 feet high )in the area. Seattle's skyline twinkled in the distance, children waved, dogs barked, cars waited at crossings, people appeared with cameras . . . we smiled, clicked our glasses . . . all in all, it was a lot of fun.

Leaving for home the next day, I looked over my shoulder to the west at the Olympic Mountains, to the east at the Cascades. Strange, I never noticed them before. .

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