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Secrets Unraveled

For the past month or so, Rich has been planning a surprise weekend get-away to celebrate my birthday. He said that I’d be told what to bring, and nothing further.

Sure enough, Saturday morning, I was instructed to pack comfortable and “nice” clothing along with a jacket in case it got cold. Indecisive and uninformed as to whether we’d be taking a ferry to an island, staying in a hotel, pitching a tent, or staying in the motorhome, I packed for every possible scenario, taking three times more clothing than I could possibly need.

I first I thought we were heading to the freeway, but then it occurred to me Rich was driving to Shari’s, one of his favorite places for breakfast, and a Pacific Northwest chain. He ordered his customary fajita chicken omelet, and I opted for my usual eggs benedict with fruit. One can never have too many goopy eggs sopped up with bits of soggy English muffin.

Back in the car, Rich plugged in the GPS, which indicated our next destination was just 21-minutes away. I guessed we were either going to downtown Kirkland or Bellevue. Rich said I was wrong as we headed down the freeway Seattle. He also commented that he may have “input a waypoint into the GPS to throw me off track.”

I was still in the dark when we parked in a garage by the Bell Harbor Marina, and the terminal where the cruise ships dock. As we walked along the water front, Rich seemed a bit distressed. A light bulb went off in my head.

A few weeks earlier, Rich had commented we should use the coupons in our Entertainment Book. “Are we going to the Seattle Aquarium,” I inquired.


“Well, we’re heading the wrong direction,” I snickered, smiling shamelessly.

I’d never been to the aquarium so I was pleased with Rich’s decision to use the two-for-one coupon. Unfortunately, the aquarium, in my opinion, didn’t live up to its fanfare. Although, I did enjoy tormenting starfish, urchins, sea cucumbers, and anemones in the petting tanks, and it was fun to see the tropical fish (reminded me of snorkeling in the British Virgin Islands). And I’m always amazing by seahorses. They seem too fantastical to be real.

I was thinking about why I’m usually disappointed by aquariums and I came to the conclusion that it takes only a few minutes to watch twenty different species of fish swimming in a tank. At a zoo, however, it takes considerably longer and is more engaging to see twenty different animals, stopping at each exhibit, reading the signs, and observing the animals’ behavior.

Relishing the Waterfront

When we left the aquarium, the sun was shining bright, making it very pleasant to walk along the waterfront. We stopped to watch a cat scamper up a tree after a bird. The cat was owned by an elderly man who was associated with the First Nation wood carvers, who have a small area near the Seattle Center where they’re carving several totem poles. We spoke with the man for a while, mostly about the tenacity of cats.

Still full from breakfast, we decided to take a walk before Rich’s next planned activity, lunch at The Fisherman’s Restaurant and Bar. We headed to SoDo (South of Downtown), which has many very old, but elegant buildings, along with funky shops and restaurants. We turned down a narrow alley, which was blocked by a large horse trailer. In the adjacent warehouse was a huge Percheron horse, a breed of draft horse that originated in the Perche valley in northern France.

After doing a little research, I figured out the horse, Major, belongs to Phyllis Eide, owner of Emerald Country Carriages in Redmond. Standing 18.1 hands high and weighing 2,200 pounds, Major is one of the largest carriage horses in Seattle.

Because Major’s stable mate, Troy, a Shire/Percheron, wasn’t working that day, he was rather perturbed. He kept neighing and assertively pulling on his rope. Nevertheless, I got to pet him, and was given two carrots, which he noisily slurped up, barely pausing to chew before he swallowed.

Rich, meanwhile, stood outside the warehouse, nervously wringing his hands, convinced at any moment I was going to be clomped on or pushed over by the giant horse. He’s not overjoyed with my adoration for draft horses. I’m a bit scared of horses, but fearless when it comes to rushing up to a Clydesdale, Percheron or Shire.

After petting Major, we stopped in several upscale furniture stores that line Western Avenue. With seven cats, the idea of investing in new furniture is ridiculous. Aside from their claws, our cats are shedding machines, their fur ranging from black (Jujube) to white (Lila), and from short (Pu’Yi) to long (Zephyra).

Our appetites whet, we headed to the kitsch and touristy Fisherman’s Restaurant and Bar. I was mostly interested in eating the Alaskan Sourdough Bakery bread with whipped butter. Sourdough bread can be so wickedly good!

I also nibbled on salad, sautéed chicken breast, broccoli, and rice pilaf. Yes, I know it was a fish restaurant, but I ages ago I read an article, which inferred the freshest fish tends to be on served on Mondays. By the weekend, the fish that was delivered earlier in the week starts to get slimy and old.

I was going to get the swordfish, but know it’s full of mercury. Rich says they won’t serve a fish that was full of mercury, but “hello,” all swordfish is full of mercury! And halibut contains worms. And I can make salmon at home… you get the idea.

Rich had a pasta dish with bits of seafood. It was tasty, but very rich with lots of cream. I was surprised when he pushed back his plate, having eaten only half of it. We’re not used to eating (and digesting) rich foods.

The best part about lunch was the view! Located at the end of Pier 57, the restaurants affords views of Mount Rainer, The Olympics, Elliott Bay, downtown Seattle, ferries going to the islands, and a construction crane building a pier to hold a 175-foot high Ferris wheel, which will open in a few months.

The wheel will have 41 enclosed, air-conditioned gondolas, and cost $12 to $15 per ride!

A Room with a View

With the weather getting warmer by the moment, Rich announced our next stop was the Olympic Sculpture Park, at the far end of the waterfront. We meandered, stopping to see a sculpture contest, watch boats go in-and-out of Bell Harbor Marina, and admire the wealth of people, kids, and dogs enjoying the yellow orb, which occasionally appears from behind Seattle’s overcast skies.

As we walked past the Marriot Waterfront, Rich commented we should go inside. I found his request rather strange because we NEVER go inside fancy hotels! Nevertheless, I was in “follow-mode” and was happy to see a very attractive, large glass sculpture in the lobby, which I immediately started photographing.

Peering through the lens of my camera, I noticed Rich was standing in line at the registration desk. Sure enough, he had made a reservation for a room with a view of the waterfront. Sneaky. Sneaky!

Our room, on the third floor, was amazing with a sizable balcony, king-sized bed, and all of the luxuries you’d find in a 4-star hotel!

Because our room wasn’t ready, we continued our stroll to the Olympic Sculpture Park. One of the nicest features of the park, aside from the many meandering trails, swatches of deep green grass, and dramatic sculptures, are red, metal chairs. There are a couple dozen scattered around the park. You can grab a couple and move them to where you’d like to sit.

Throughout the park, you can see people sitting in these red chairs, becoming like the sculptures, part of the artwork.

It’s a very pleasant experience… and presented a perfect opportunity to snap another one of our “famous” self-portraits.

After checking into our room, and with several hours of light left, we trotted down to Pike’s Market. I wanted to buy a bouquet of flowers, but they were mostly composed of tulips and daffodils, both of which I’m growing in my own garden. Instead, we looked at the produce, bought two plums to nibble on, wandered among the stores, saw the famous “gum wall,” and then on the way back to the Marriot, purchased wafer cookies and chocolates at World Market.

The only negative of the day was twice bumping into tables staffed by Lyndon LaRouche (LaRouche PAC) cuckoos that had posters of President Obama with a Hitler mustache, and the inferences that he’s going to start World War III.

I lost my cool when I initially saw them at a table near the Seattle Aquarium. I pointed out Obama’s policies weren’t even close to Hitler’s determination to take over countries, kill people, and dominate the world. Another set of crazies had set up a table by Pike’s Market. This time, only Rich approached them, trying to determine how they’d arrived at their misguided points-of-view. They claimed several retired US generals said Obama is planning to attack Iran. Then they had the gall to ask Rich to give them some money.

This week, I listened to LaRouche the ludicrous, who was imprisoned for six years’ because of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and tax code violations. He said that President Obama is mentally incompetent and a British agent who gets his order from Britain (British Empire conspiracy). Oh yeah, I forgot, Bozo Bush, the village idiot was brilliant free-thinker, and not a puppet of the ruthless, heartless (he had to get a new heart because his shrived away) hawkish Dick Cheney.

Steam comes out of my ears even now, typing this account of the encounter with the LaRouche lunatics.

On Saturday night, for dinner, Rich had originally planned for us to eat at a snazzy restaurant at the Westin Hotel, but I opted for more simple and affordable food at Romio’s, a pizza and pasta joint a few blocks from the Marriot. We had a splendid meal, eating half, and bringing the rest back to our room, where there was a refrigerator (We had the rest of the food on Sunday and Monday evenings).

At Romio’s, we both had huge salads and split some dolmates (stuff grape leaves). Rich then had a few bites of fettuccini with shrimp in a sauce that was half alfredo and half marinara sauce, and I had some scrumptious tortellini with black olives, artichoke hearts, capers, and feta in a pesto sauce. We then asked for doggie bags, and happily tottered back to the Marriot to watch a little TV and enjoy the view from our balcony before conking out.

Table with a Revolving View

The next morning, Rich insisted we leave the Marriot by 9 a.m., saying we had to be at our next destination by 10 a.m. He also instructed me to put on nice clothes. After loading our suitcase in the car, we head north to the Seattle Center. Rich had made reservations to have brunch at the Sky City Restaurant, at the top of the Space Needle.

While waiting to enter the Space Needle, we bumped into two women we’d seen the night when we shared an elevator. At the time, Rich commented to one that the candy bar she was eating looked good. She reached into her coat and handed us two mini Three Musketeer bars!

The next morning, we talked to them briefly, laughing at the unlikely coincidence of seeing them the night before. They were visiting from Portland, and like us, waiting to get into the Space Needle.

Inside the Space Needle, we took an elevator to the observation deck. It was amazingly clear, perfect for taking pictures.

We then walked a short flight of stairs up to the restaurant, and were seated by a window where we could watch Seattle slowly spin by, as the restaurant rotated 360-degrees, every 47 minutes. The brunch consisted of three courses: Appetizer, entrée, and dessert. Rich has clam chowder soup with razor clams and bacon, followed by poached salmon with Chinese broccoli, roasted potatoes, pomegranate seeds, and a lemony sauce.

I had tomato bisque with a mini grilled cheese “bite,” egg benedict with crab cakes and breakfast potatoes. We both had apple/cranberry cobbler for dessert with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. We were also served a selection of sweet breads. I had lemon, and Rich chose pumpkin.

The food was very elegant and good, so good that I decided to eat half of my main course and bring the rest home… which I ate for dinner.

After brunch, Rich wanted to go to a home improvement show at the Seattle Convention Center, but parking was a challenge, and the fabulous weather beckoned us home. I spent the rest of the afternoon gardening, planting dahlia bulbs, racking up leaves, pulling weeds, and wonder when my spring bulb are going to bloom.

Check out the pictures from my very memorable and thoroughly enjoyable birthday weekend.