I wanted to go to Mexico.
Well, really, I just wanted to get out of Houston. Following the breakup two months ago, planning weekend trips was my immediate response, my first defense mechanism to ward off loneliness and secure the bandages I had tenderly begun to dress on my wounded heart.
It did not matter that there are millions of other people in Houston, that I didn’t have to go out of my way to avoid crossing paths with Dan. The constant geographical reminders of an ex-boyfriend in the same place as me were still painful. I needed to escape my surroundings and stay busy and distracted. Filling up each weekend in my planner with my own adventures seemed like a good remedy.
As I scanned Southwest special offers, a direct flight to the clear water, tropical cocktails, and cheap hostels of Puerto Vallarta seemed awfully enticing. So I texted my Italy study abroad friends and go-to travel companions Tracey and Mariah. Last January le tre ragazze, or “the three girls,” as we like to call ourselves, reunited in California for the classic Highway 1 Pacific coast road trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Think magical Big Sur sunsets, sketchy camping, and deep conversations that meandered right along with the curving roads on which we drove. Oh, and flirtatious Italian waiters serving on-the-house wine and tiramisu after closing time. It was the kind of trip that could only happen with three 22-year-old females.
When we studied in Italy together, I realized pretty early on that Mariah and Tracey are two of my soul friends. Our demographic profiles and a lot of our opinions could not contrast more…Mariah the Midwestern humanitarian; Tracey the west coast, city-chic Indonesian; and Jessica, the family-oriented Charlestonian. But we work well together because we share a common care for people and we like exploring new places. These two are fun, but still responsible. They may be set in their beliefs, but they’re still open-minded. They like a plan, but they will be flexible too. Ultimately, Mariah and Tracey are good company, and despite political, religious, and childhood differences, we make a good trio. If anyone would be up for a spontaneous rendezvous, it would be them.
Apparently plane tickets to the tropical weekend paradise I envisioned were a bit steeper from LA and Chicago than from Houston. I got a text from Tracey.
Did you ever have any desire to go to Seattle?
Well no, not really. Like the other half of Seattle’s Vitamin D deficient population, overcast skies and rain make me sad. But it was a city none of us had visited and plane flights were cheap for all of us, so we went for it.
We booked our flights for the weekend of November 13, and my planning skills kicked in full force (Many thanks to those who offered input). I developed a thorough and over-ambitious itinerary for our two and a half days together, even venturing a couple hours away to hike in Olympic National Park and couchsurf at Lonnie’s commune. That surely would have made for a memorable night! But winter storms squashed any big nature excursions; we were stuck in the city with a forecast that even locals deemed gloomy. Still, all of my color-coded map pins and Google doc shares did end up helping us pack a lot in without much stress.
Seattle still had plenty to offer us, rain or shine.
Some Things We Did
(…And what you should do if you ever spend a weekend in Seattle)
-Walk Along the Waterfront
This city’s heritage and economy is so closely connected to the water. Absorb views of the port, large ships, fishermen and the commanding ferris wheel.
-Kerry Park – By Day and Night
The Space Needle dominates the skyline from this vantage point, and on a very clear day you can see Mt. Rainier towering behind the city. This is one of the best views of the city, and it’s worth seeing it during the day and lit up at night.
-Ride the Ferry
With so much water, it’s only fitting to spend some time on it.
Since you’re already on a ferry, go ahead and make your way over to this quaint, slower-paced town. We had the privilege of staying with my friend Jesse. She took us to Blackbird Bakery and Pegasus Coffee, which made for a cozy, relaxing morning. The maple scone we split at the cafe was melt-in-your-mouth status.
-Pikes Place Market
You have not been to Seattle without wandering through this quintessential daily market. It’s very comparable to Granville Island’s Public Market in Vancouver. Don’t plan on eating too much before or after this visit. Sample away to your heart’s content on fruit, jam, nuts, salsa, and honey. And that Greek yogurt. Man oh man. But, you know, be discreet and respectful; take one taste and move on to the next stand. Go ahead and treat yo’self to a memorable artisan craft, warm apple cider, a Grilled Cheese Sandwich from Beecher’s, and a piroshki just next door.
-Chihuly Garden and Glass
(and the Needle if you like)
I don’t care if you don’t appreciate art or you don’t consider yourself a museum type of person. DO NOT MISS THIS. It was a highlight for us all. Dale Chihuly and his team have worked for decades to bring more beauty to mankind through creative, colorful glassblowing. His exhibits transport you to another realm. They instill awe, they inspire, and you must go.
There is a combo ticket with the Space Needle right next to it. We didn’t go up, but it is one of those Seattle things to do.
-Parks: Carkeek and Discovery
The sun finally came out on Sunday, so to nature we did go! Bright yellow leaves the size of our faces. Acres on acres of walking trails. It just does the soul some good.
-Portage Bay Brunch
Just take note of the chalkboard when you first enter.
You will with the oatmeal cobbler french toast or veggie frittata. Damn.
These are the most utilized locks in the whole country, transporting boats to and from the salt water of the Puget Sound and the fresh water lakes. Regardless of your engineer knowledge, it’s pretty neat to watch them fill up and empty.
Seattle is where this God-given store was founded! This is a far more important stop than the first Starbucks for any outdoor enthusiast.
-Coffee. And More Coffee.
But speaking of Starbucks, ditch the corporate and go discover some of your favorite new coffee shops. We finished off our time together at Espresso Vivace.
It was a packed, awesome, friend-filled weekend. It felt like studying abroad again, only in America. I’m glad we chose to explore the Pacific Northwest, a corner of the United States I really knew little about. And for November, I found the temperatures to be surprisingly mild. I don’t know if I could deal with the gloomy weather long-term, but Seattle has the rare characteristic of boasting both water and mountains in close proximity. Truly the best of both worlds; I did really like that. Many people have told me that the summers are glorious, and it makes me want to go back when the daylight hours stretch out late into the evening.
As we ambled along a slippery sidewalk Saturday morning, heads hunched over to avoid a perpetual mist in our faces, I joked, “So…remind me why we’re not laying out on a sandy beach again?” Because let’s be real, Seattle is just about as opposite from Mexico as the three of our personalities are from each other. But here’s the thing — I really didn’t care.
Seattle was fantastic, but what really mattered was that I was with people who knew me and loved me. Particularly right now, that’s all I really need. Our reunion consisted primarily of smothering Tracey in hugs, which she just loves.
My heart was full.
That night we didn’t have any serendipitous encounters with strangers, and we didn’t end up dancing with Italian waiters. We didn’t go out at all. We just stopped by Trader Joe’s for a few groceries and a couple of bottles of wine. We stayed in at our Air BNB, and we talked as only real friends can. Before bed I pulled out the last pieces of Perugian bacci chocolate kisses Tracey had sent me as a break up condolence. And it was perfect.
When we said goodbye at the end of our Calitalia trip, I did not know the next time we would see each other. Perhaps in New Zealand, or even after that. I certainly did not think it was going to be so soon. But I am grateful. In the wake of losing one friend, I have been reminded of the countless more I still have, including Tracey and Mariah. Being with them in Seattle was just right. Even if it was not Mexico.