Can You Call a City Beautiful?

You wouldn’t think a city could be beautiful.

Not in the conventional sense, anyway. Trees and mountains and lakes. Sunsets. The ocean. The smile on a baby’s face. The glint in the eyes of lovers. Those things are beautiful. Concrete and steel? Different words come to mind. Manmade. Sterile. Linear. And yet, a city is like a living, breathing entity. It’s got a skeleton. Arterials and a pulse. A beating heart. And without a doubt, a city can be beautiful and striking and resplendent in its finery.

I have long had a love affair with Seattle.

Don’t get me wrong: my heart belongs to Portland. But this wasn’t always the case. Flash back to 1993, when I was living in San Jose with my now-ex wife. We were kidless still, so when I suggested on a whim that we fly to Seattle for the weekend just to check it out, she eagerly agreed. I didn’t know much about the city then, other than the fact that some really good music was coming out of there. And the Space Needle dominated the downtown skyline. The Pacific Northwest had always held a strong allure to me, so we flew north for a mini getaway. Ended up staying in a really crappy motel near SeaTac on the same busy strip where the Green River Killer was abducting women. We’re talking syringes in the parking lot and drifts of garbage piling up. This was before the days of Yelp reviews and hotels.com, so booking a room in a city you were unfamiliar with was like rolling the dice. Despite the less-than-stellar ambiance, I fell in love with the city that weekend. Pike Place Market, Seattle Center, Elliot Bay, the monorail, the ferry to Victoria B.C., some really great seafood at a lakeside restaurant – it was a terrific trip, and the catalyst for my job transfer and move north a year and a half later. Granted, I ended up 2.5 hours south of Seattle, but my fascination with the city continued, and that was close enough for the occasional visit. I did get back a couple more times over the years, but those trips were few and far between, and were barely enough to whet my appetite.

Now, with Tara’s family up there and her nephew barely a month old, we have plenty of reasons to go – and, in fact, just got back from an overnight visit yesterday. It was my 4th trip to Seattle in seven months, and I envision many more in the future.

This makes me happy. I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of the Emerald City. There’s so much to see and do there – neighborhoods to explore, restaurants to try, sights to seek out. And yet, sometimes you want to return to your old favorite haunts. Yesterday, we did a little of both. Had lunch with Tracy and David at our favorite little hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant on 1st Avenue, and then wandered the market. Afterwards, we caught views from two different perspectives. Kerry Park and Alki Beach. The mountain was out, as the locals say whenever Mount Rainier pokes its snowcapped head over the horizon, and it towered over the city like a protective parent. The day was perfect, the scenery stunning.

I’m not saying Seattle is perfect. It’s big and sprawling and busy. Traffic is an issue. Unsavory characters roam the streets. And yes, it rains. A lot. But none of those things detract from the undeniable beauty of the city.

A beauty which we will return to again, very soon.

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30 thoughts on “Can You Call a City Beautiful?

  1. The last couple of days have been perfect. Perfect weather. Perfect food. Perfect family. Perfect love. It was all just so beautiful and I’m so blessed to be a part of it all.

    I look forward to more future visits. I love the fact that no matter how many times you are up here, there is even more stuff to do. I mean, I live here and still have not been to Kerry Park.

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    1. That was my first visit to Alki Park! Next time, we’re definitely stopping to visit Jimi Hendrix. Or at least his earthly remains. You and David definitely need to check out Kerry Park – even the neighborhood surrounding it is breathtaking.

      Had a great visit and looking forward to many more!

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  2. Mark, this is such a beautifully expressed post!

    “And without a doubt, a city can be beautiful and striking and resplendent in its finery.”

    And being a city boy myself, I couldn’t agree with you more! I feel this way about NYC. But it’s a city that people either love, or find way too MUCH. And I guess because “I’m” too much, I ADORE it! NYC resonates with my soul.

    And it’s ironic you posted this today because I just recently met a delightful young lady, who works in Starbucks and is originally from Seattle, and like you, LOVES it!

    And judging from your passionate words and photos….I can see WHY!

    Stunning photos, buddy! LOVE the one of the mountain – WOW!

    Thanks for sharing, Mark!

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    1. I love NYC, too! I haven’t spent much time there, though. Never been to Central Park, for instance. But I did have real NY cheesecake once! And pizza, and bagels. Man, you need to take a few laps around the park just to work off all the wonderful food you end up eating in the Big Apple…

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  3. Gosh, I’m with you Mark. Gotta love Seattle. Sara and I were there a year and a half ago, and I adored it. Also, great description of a city’s corporeal soul in the first paragraph above!
    Hugs,
    Kathy

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  4. That’s next on my agenda – the Space Needle. I always see it from I-5 but I have not been up the viewing deck. I heard that it’s quite a sight on a clear evening. I just hope that the weather cooperates. ;)

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  5. I have a love affair with Seattle myself. You know that. I cannot GET OVER the photo of Mt Rainier – its never that clear! Seattle is one of my favorite cities and it sucks that I live 3000 miles away.

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    1. That was the first time Tara ever saw Mount Rainier while up there…and we saw the sun for a little bit during our last visit. Even I was impressed with the view. As majestic as Mount Hood is, Rainier is even more impressive.

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  6. Had trouble scrolling this and on other wp blogs today. I was in Seattle in 85 and was astonished how clean in was. Miami is gum on all sidewalks and cigarette butts and saw none of that . Miami and outlying municipalities in this huge Miami Dade county is a giant litter box. Immigrants think trash is landscaping so it looks just like “back home” filth for them.

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  7. Hi Mark! As a City girl (SF, bred-and-buttered!) I appreciate the beauty of manmade skylines, but I loved my time in Seattle, too. (UW.) I’m glad you’re discovering all it has to offer. I used to visit family in the Couv during my college days and LOVED taking the train. Could be romantic for your next trip, just sayin’!
    LOVE the photo of our state flower (CA Poppy!) juxtaposed with the water and the cranes; I LOVE cranes!

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    1. Seattle actually reminds me a lot of San Francisco, with the steep streets and water and ferries. Plus, it’s got a pretty cool skyline, too. Hello, Transamerica Pyramid and Coit Tower!

      We’ve looked into taking the train up north sometime. It would be nice to kick back and let somebody else take care of getting us there.

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      1. Seattle reminds lots of people of SF, but only those that are from neither of those places, ha! :-)

        Yes, do the train thing! Stunning views along the water and you can share a romantic cocktail!

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  8. Beautiful post, dear…the pictures and the words. I love our trips, wherever we may go. You never take the beauty that surrounds us for granted and you are always willing to detour to try or see something new. Looking forward to lots of adventures in the future. :)

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    1. I love that you were right there next to me when I took them all! I say we go back to Alki Park sometime to catch the sunrise. I’m thinking September or October, when the sun comes up at a decent hour instead of holy-freakin’-early o’clock. If there IS any sun then, of course.

      In the meantime, we’ll go have a blast in Bend. :)

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      1. *butts in* The sunset from Alki is pretty damn spectacular, if I say so myself. Also, try Golden Gardens. Its just GORGEOUS there to watch the sunset – and the Ballard Locks are fun – seeing the boats lock through between Lake Washington & Puget sound is a interesting experience. :)

        /hijacking.

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      2. Hijack away! We were thinking sunrise because you’d see it come up over the city skyline, but sunset over Puget Sound with the Olympics in the background would be pretty awesome too, come to think of it!

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      3. Seeing the sun set over Puget sound with the Olympics is nothing I’ve ever experienced before. it was amazing.

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  9. Mark, I was in Seattle (Tacoma) last year with my youngest son and dad. It IS a beautiful city and you captured its essence so eloquently in your post.

    I stopped by via Ron’s blog (Vent) after reading you were a perfectionist who had to get EVERY word, etc., exactly right, because I’m the SAME way. I agonize over every darn comma!

    I must say, Mark, I was totally enthralled with your “about me”. You are an excellent writer (from what I’ve read so far) and I can’t wait to read MORE!

    Congratulations on your book. I also have THE dream and desire to have my name on the cover of a BOOK… “To hold in my hands solid, irrefutable proof of a dream come true. A cover with my name on it, pages filled with words that had tumbled forth from my imagination, assembling and rearranging themselves until they formed a cohesive whole.” I LOVE that, it describes what writers feel deep in their souls.

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    1. Pamela – Thanks so much for stopping by and lavishing such praise upon me. I eat that stuff up, lol. I’ve seen your comments on Ron’s blog, too. I love how the blogosphere is like one big, happy family sometimes.

      I encourage you to follow your dreams and get that book of yours published, even if you take matters into your own hands. Tearing open a royalty check is an exhilarating feeling that never grows old. You can do it!!

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  10. Oh my god, gorgeous photos! Nice work. You know I dug Seattle too since I want so badly to move to Portland. You’re right though, the street does have some unsavory characters. But the food is to die for and on those rare days when it’s clear out, the skyline is breathtaking and Puget Sound is so cool. Here’s a recommendation for you: Take Tara to Sake’ Nomi in Seattle for some sake tasting. The owner is one of 3 legit sake shops and lived in Japan for several years. He and his Japanese wife run the shop and he was so welcoming when Joe and I went there. Other favorite thing I did, take an Underground Tour. Seattle’s history is as interesting as it is hilarious! I loved this tour and wanted their job after we finished.

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    1. I’ve never tried sake myself, so that would be a fun experience – thanks for the recommendation, Jess. As for the Underground Tour I did get a chance to do that years ago, on my first or second trip to Seattle – and absolutely loved it! Tara’s also been, but we were talking about going again together since it’s been awhile. They also have a ghost tour of Seattle that would be right up my alley. The nice thing is, we’ll have plenty of opportunities for future Seattle adventures!

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  11. Seattle is one of those places I’ve always wanted to visit. I used to have an aunt & uncle who lived in Spokane (now passed on regretably) & we did make a few visits there when I was a child. It was a couple extra days when we went to visit my paternal grandparents in B.C.

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  12. You had me at “the mountain was out” – Rainier is beautiful enough to lend its glory to any city nearby – even if it’s only occasional. Nice descriptive post.

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