Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Dozen Reasons To Love My New City

If you have been reading my blog in the past few weeks, you know that I recently relocated to Seattle. Since arriving here a little less than a month ago, I have been methodically keeping track of all of the reasons I love my new city (you know me, I love lists).

Many of the programs here in Seattle, which is known as the Emerald City because it is surrounded by such lush greenery (thanks rain), are examples of ways to live lightly on the land while still enjoying all of the benefits of city life. You will notice that many of my reasons center around food. What can I say? I like food - good, seasonal, local, real food - but of course, there are other reasons to love Seattle too...

Seattle is the original cool city - The U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement was started in 2005 by Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels. Since then, over 800 mayors have signed the agreement that follows many of the actions set forth in the Kyoto Protocol, which seeks to reduce global warming pollution.

The Wine - As my quest to eat locally has increased in intensity, I have often felt a real sense of guilt when it comes to the wine I am drinking. In New York, my wine would come from as far afield as California, Spain, and Argentina. But now, I am surrounded by wine country, and there are several local wineries that are beginning to use organic and biodynamic growing techniques.

The Restaurants - A large portion of the restaurants here are committed to serving local, organic, and seasonal food whenever possible. So far, I have had the good fortune of dining at restaurants that adhere to some permutation of this philosophy, including The Stumbling Goat, Ray's Boathouse, and Wild Mountain Cafe. Some other standouts on this scene include Flying Fish, Tilth, Taste Restaurant at the Seattle Art Museum, and The Harvest Vine.

The bounty of the markets, though wild blackberries will be here soon!

The Farmers Markets - There is one almost every day and two of the markets are open year- round. My favorites are the Saturday morning University District market and the Sunday morning market in Ballard. At both places you can find everything from organic raw milk and artisan cheeses to several colorful varieties of green beans (5 as of this writing). And of course, both of these markets sell Estrella's artisan cheeses; a creamery whose cheese is so varied and delicious that my new proximity to it could almost be its own reason. But enough about food for now. Let's talk books....

The Seattle Library System is comprised of the central library, 26 branch libraries, and mobile services. Each one that I have visited thus far is efficient, clean, quiet, and offers superior access to books, periodicals, journals, and research documents, many of which I can request to have delivered to my local branch. Yes, I am a admittedly a nerd, but a good public library system is one of the backbones of a well-educated population. What's more, the downtown public library is such an architectural feat (the top floor is entirely glass, and there are additional energy-saving designs throughout the building), that it is one of the top tourist destinations in Seattle. Guess I am not the only nerd in town.

Sort of like a Winnebago and a Spaceship

Coffee shops that serve organic, fair trade coffee, beer, and wine. (Does this one count as a food reason too?) One recent evening, I was working in one of the myriad coffee shops that allow you to transition easily from day to night with a bevy of beverage options, when a group of musicians arrived to start setting up for the evening's performance. One of the recording guys even brought his daughter, who was so into the music (and my camera), that she offered her live dance performance as a bonus. The best part was that the music was so good I was able to keep working and enjoy the show (and my beer).

Play some Skynard, man!

The Greatest Goodwill Ever and many other worthwhile thrift stores. As any of you who have read my blogs about our move know, I am both a fan of consuming as little as possible, and throwing away even less. However, our move necessitated the creative gifting and selling of many of our possessions. What better way to restock the new home with necessities than at your local Goodwill? And the Goodwill near my new neighborhood in Ballard is especially fabulous. As my friend Alexis, who shops for a living for film/tv costumes, AND has the best style of just about anyone I know says, "It is the cleanest, most organized (by category and size) Goodwill I have ever seen!" And it's within walking distance of my new house - lucky me.

The Public Transportation System - While I have the luxury of working from home most days, and I live somewhere that is within walking distance of restaurants, the library, stores, and the post office, when I do need to go further afield, I can also take a $3 round-trip bus ride to anywhere in the city. The bus system is easy to negotiate, thanks to the King County online trip planner, and buses generally run on time. There are also local commuter and Amtrak trains that run out of a central location downtown. Last week, I was easily able to take a bus, train, and then another bus to see Radiohead in Auburn (a city about 35 miles away from Seattle). Total cost of the one-way journey - $5.25.

The Parks - Seattle has made a serious commitment to preserving open air spaces, and the in-city park system is extensive. So far, I have visited Discovery, Golden Gardens, and Carkeek. All three of these urban oases offer walks to the beach, hikes, and sunsets like this...

Like being in a fancy wine commercial, only better.

And of course, there are lots of benefits to all of this rain - they include:

Drying Clothes Outside - Having lived in a suburb of NYC for six years with nowhere to hang my clothes, I had no choice but to use the energy-guzzling dryer (although I did use a drying rack as much as possible, and you can too city dwellers). Now, in between rainstorms, of course, I can hang all of my clothes outside.

Note to self: Line dried towels hurt! A few minutes in the dryer goes a long way.

The Growing Season - It is year round, and almost everyone I have met so far here has their own garden. My friends Lesley and Joe's garden is particularly bountiful and impressive.

Exclamations of "Gad-zukes!!" abound. Look at that thing!

Rainbows that Make the News - On my third weekend in Seattle, I was out in the aforementioned friends' garden helping to plant the second crop of the summer season. It had been raining off and on all day (it's Seattle after all), and we were seizing the break in the weather to get the new seedlings planted. We looked up to see not just one rainbow, but two. Apparently we were not the only ones that noticed it either; there was also mention of it on the local evening newscast. Who wouldn't want to live in a city where awesome rainbows make the news?

My kingdom for a wide angle lens!


Vanessa said...

I am glad you are doing well in your place! I wish you guys the best. I have always wanted to visit out there. I think I'd like it a lot. I am also in love with Asheville, NC. On the theme of low-consumption, I am trying as much as possible to get second-hand baby stuff and to continue with the cloth diapers. I was getting disposables for going into town, but I have discovered that I can now use certain kinds of dipes/covers under baby's slim-fitting clothes. I try to get him toys that are open-ended and can be used over long periods and during different stages of development (not things that only serve for a short period). It is hard with a baby because you need a lot of new stuff and you aren't sure what you need for a long time. Despite my best efforts, there is still a lot of plastic and clutter that we accumulate. I try to keep it down, but there are a lot of well-meaning gifts. On the note of gifts, I was sent a lovely pattern for a baby kimono that can be made from very little fabric and makes a 40 minute baby gift that is utterly charming. If I could only manage to find more time to sew without "help" from my Hobbit.

Lauren said...

Nice post about Seattle; makes me want to visit!

One tip I've tried that makes air-dried clothes (and towels) softer is to add 1/2 cup of white vinegar to the rinse water. It lifts out detergent and the towels won't hurt so much!