Raw Fish, Subterranean Brothels, and a Black Sun: 34 Hours in Seattle

Look! Raw fish, and lots of it!

Poke – pronounced po-kay, but I pronounce it wrong (po-key) all the time – is a Hawaiian dish of raw fish marinated in oil, soy sauce, scallions, and other aromatics. It’s a food trend at the moment, and one that I hadn’t tried before my weekend trip to Seattle.

Racing the stairs in the tallest building in town is a great reason to visit Seattle, but hanging out with my friend Collin is why I really love coming to town. Collin and I met a few weeks into our freshman year at the University of Michigan, 20 years ago this fall (!), and we’ve been friends since.

Collin picked me up at the airport on Saturday morning, and suggested we get poke for lunch at a new seafood market and restaurant near his house called Seattle Fish Guys. Between the two of us, we tried a few versions of poke, made from salmon, octopus, and tuna, as well as their squid and seaweed salads. Everything was delicious, and I’d order poke again in a heartbeat.

From there, we headed out on a walk. Collin had a surprise destination in mind, but along the way, we checked out some of Seattle’s public art, like this net, strung above a little plaza, with mirrored orbs that reflected our images in the sky:

We also saw “Black Sun,” a famous sculpture in Volunteer Park, outside the Asian Art Museum (don’t rush to visit, it’s closed for renovations until 2018). The park is in Capitol Hill, and the hole in the center of the sculpture provides a unique way to check out the Space Needle. (See it by my right elbow?)

It’s rumored this sculpture inspired Soundgarden’s most famous song, “Black Hole Sun,” but I couldn’t confirm that during my 2-minute internet search.

And Collin’s surprise destination? STAIRS! Tons of them! The Howe Street Stairs were built in 1911, to provide pedestrians easy access between two streetcar lines (pretty much the same reason why most of LA’s public stairways were built), and there’s 388 steps connecting three blocks.

We only went down and up them once, because we were going to be doing plenty of stairs the next day, but it’s an awesome exercise venue that I would take advantage of if I lived in Seattle.

My favorite part is the section that goes beneath Interstate 5:

All in all, we walked 4.3 miles, and called a Lyft to get us back to Collin’s place when it started to rain.

RELATED: Check out blog posts with adventures from previous Seattle visits, like this one and this one!

Collin’s husband Blayne joined us that evening for a fun outing. It began at Fado Irish Pub, in the Pioneer Square neighborhood of downtown, where we shared hummus, served with boxty:

Boxty is a thin Irish potato pancake, which they cut into wedges and baked.

Then I had their kale and barley salad, with grilled chicken.

It was light and healthy meal, with lean protein and some carbs – a perfect, filling way to eat the night before a race.

Then we walked down the block and took the Underworld Tour, which was pretty fascinating. At the end of the 19th century, Pioneer Square was Seattle’s red light district, filled with brothels, opium dens, and other nefarious operations. After a fire destroyed 31 blocks in 1889, the city  raised the street level about 12 feet, resulting in an underground network of abandoned alleys and storefronts.

Our tour guide led us through these dank alleys, sharing stories about the people from that time, and the speakeasies and brothels that took over these underground spaces. It was very informative and interesting. Plus, whenever we came back onto onto the street, we had a view of Columbia Center, the venue for the stair race we were doing the next day.

Blayne didn’t do the race, but he joined Collin and me for brunch afterward, at a cute eatery near Lake Washington called Meet the Moon. Collin and I decided to order two things and then share them, so I got an amazing breakfast sandwich, with egg and sausage on brioche…

…and Collin ordered the curried lentil hash, which had cauliflower and sweet potato:

I was pretty hungry – climbing 138 stories will do that to a guy – and we ordered well. It made me want to eat brioche every single day. (But I won’t.)

Blayne then took off on a road trip to Portland for a work commitment, and Collin and I went on another walk, you know, because a stair race wasn’t enough exercise for the day. We wandered through the International District, stopping to browse in some stores, then cut across through Occidental Square, where I met some firefighters.

We finished the 2.2-mile walk at Collin’s downtown office building, where we picked up his car that had been accidentally locked in a garage (long story; ask Collin about it).

We headed back to Collin and Blayne’s place, and hung out for about an hour before it time to head to the airport for my flight home.

So, to review: less than a day and a half in Seattle, and we competed in a stair race, walked 6.5 miles, ate lots of good food, learned about prostitutes and drug dealers, and I spent quality time with a great friend. A darn-near perfect weekend!

Keep it up, David!

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