During my annual December visit home for the holidays this month I was lucky enough to have a friend invite me out for a day of “fun, excitement, and intrigue.” Not knowing exactly what that looked like, I was happy to learn that we were heading for downtown Seattle – it had been years since I’d been there.
Years ago I worked downtown … Boeing had leased a building there and for a couple of years we really had a good thing going. Only 3 blocks from the Market, we were also right in the middle of everything: I remember great used-book stores, fabulous bakeries, the Bon Marche (which is now Macys), Nordstrom and Frederick & Nelson (which is no longer there), lots of good restaurants, and plenty of engineers who drank their lunches and didn’t get much done in the afternoons. I turned 21 in downtown Seattle. For a quiet kid from what was then labeled a “cow town,” it was quite an eye-opener.
Since my friend works there, she knew her way around – including where to park. We did a little window-shopping, and passed the Fifth Avenue Theater (where my mom and I saw Katharine Hepburn years ago). This month “A Christmas Story” was playing. Eventually we made our way to the Fairmont Olympic Hotel (which would have been the Four Seasons when I worked downtown) for lunch.
She wanted to eat in the Georgian Restaurant, and we made our way through the huge lobby and past the 3500 lb noble fir tree decorated with ornaments the size of light fixtures. The restaurant was European-grand: Italianate architecture, immense crystal-swagged chandeliers, super-high ceilings, columned walls, marble sideboards, and buttercream paint on the walls. The waiters (much to my single friend’s delight) all had accents and were attentive without being overbearing. When we asked one of them for some history of the room, he told us the hotel was built in 1924 and where were we from? It was a little embarrassing to name two just-south-of-Seattle towns. When he practically scolded us for not knowing more about this hotel I said that I had been in New Hampshire for years, as if this were some kind of excuse. He seemed to go along with this, or at least pretended to.
After lunch we wandered down to the Pike Place Market. This public market has been around since 1907. Originally farmers brought their produce to the city by horse-drawn wagon and by ferry from the nearby islands (one of which I used to live on). Over time arcades were built by a developer who prospered during the Klondike Gold Rush. After World War II the Market fell on hard times and by the 1960s the buildings were slated for demolition; it was saved when a historic district was approved and the market was preserved. Today it was in full swing and decorated for Christmas, and packed with people.
The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering through Westlake Center, past the Macy’s windows decorated with vast model train landscapes, through alleys lined with little shops, and watching the sun set on Puget Sound.
Today was so much fun we thought we should make this an annual Christmas tradition. I’m all for that – and next time, dear friend, lunch is on me. 🙂