Here’s How I spent 24 hours alone in seattle.
In between Shoe School and a week in Vancouver, BC, I had a 24-hour stopover in Seattle where I got to do what I do best: traipse around a place on foot, with no companions. I was able to stop whenever I felt like it to take a picture without worrying that I was annoying anybody with all the dawdling. Best of all was the solo-shopping — yes I shopped! — with no one hurrying me along or silently judging my choices.
Having never been to Seattle, I was surprised by how much I liked it! I didn’t stray far from Pioneer Square, Capitol Hill, and the expanse of city in between those neighborhoods, but I still managed to pack in quite a bit of exciting architecture and art.
Seattle’s hilly terrain meant lots and lots of terraced concrete, walls, and gardens. I love the look of these stepped surfaces and the way the ground slopes on by. Lots of acute angles and surprising geometry to please the eye.
Yes, I shopped! My favorite kind of souvenir is something I can take home and wear and remember where it came from each time I wear it, so before my arrival, I mapped out a slew of interesting-looking boutiques and vintage shops. But once in the city, I left room for chance.
My top two clothing spots in Seattle were Velouria in Pioneer Square (very approachable and friendly staff, featuring many sustainable and made-in-North America brands, with a wide variety of price points including more affordable sub-$100 pieces) and Totokaelo in Capitol Hill (also a friendly staff, but much higher price points and a high-end, minimal, designer-y feel). Both these places have online shops, but nothing beats shopping in person — touching fabrics, trying them on.
At Totokaelo especially, I was able to touch and try expensive things that until now I’ve only drooled over in photos. Especially on the heels of shoe school (yeah I said it 😂) I reveled in the opportunity to inspect high end shoes closely, to turn them over in my hands, to note the quality of stitching or other design details I found myself appreciating. And oftentimes when you actually try on something you’ve admired from afar you can immediately be like, No this doesn’t actually work, and POOF no more desiring that one thing. Or if you try it and are like YES MUST HAVE THIS, but know they are not in your budget right now (yes shoes can be expensive but worth it but also I have new thoughts on this re: affordability; to be continued), at the very least you can go home and save up or wait for a sale or find it secondhand, and now you know your sizing!
The vintage shops I visited left me mostly disappointed. They were OK, but didn't carry anything I could see myself wearing, even with modifications. I guess I've just lost my taste for the wild-patterned polyester kind of vintage that most shops trade in these days.
One of my serendipitous finds was Homestead in Capitol Hill. Perhaps even more so than a clothing store, you have to really visit a furnishings and home store in person to get the full idea of what they are peddling. Online, you might see a photo of an individual item on a white background. But moving through a three-dimensional space, you can experience it in a real setting, see it from all sides, feel the cool of marble or the nubby weave of a cushion. I love good design wherever I can find it. Unfortunately, it’s hard to fit a loveseat in your carry-on 😆
I knew I wanted to hit up a good art museum during my 24 hours in Seattle, and I settled on the Frye Art Museum for two reasons: because it was right between my two main neighborhoods (Pioneer Square and Capitol Hill), AND because it had free admission. Perhaps a little practical in my decision making, but I got lucky and it did not disappoint. When I visited there were a number of contemporary art exhibits that were engaging and inspiring; I spent over an hour wandering through the halls of video installations, sculpture, printmaking...
I especially liked the current exhibit by Jane Wong, an Asian American artist and poet whose work examines her family’s experience with famine during the Great Leap Forward and the contrast of Wong’s experience growing up in America, land of plenty.
In addition to the contemporary exhibits, I was surprised by the big back room at the Frye. Imagine a big white room with maple floors, all four walls packed salon-style with hundreds of 19th century oil paintings. These paintings are from the original Frye family art collection, mostly German and European painters. This room was breathtaking. Every square foot of wall jig-sawed with gorgeous paintings and their fabulous gilded frames. If I wasn't pressed for time I'd have easily spent another hour here.
A funny thing about the Frye was that all the docents/security people looked like they should be in a cool coffee shop or whatever hipsters do these days. I’m so used to museums where staff-members wear identical suits or low-key matching uniforms, but here, they were all very young-looking and uniquely dressed. Like, one was a bearded guy in this tight-fitting tweed suit with bare ankles and dress shoes. You’d not place him for a museum employee except for the earpiece and his measured, controlled, patrol of the art space.
I also noticed many well-dressed patrons (and also everywhere in Seattle). By well-dressed I just mean really cool looking, like I really appreciated their style. I was a totally a weirdo and snapped some discreet photos because I admired their style so much, like this woman and her penny loafers.
After my visit to the Frye, I got tacos at Mezcaleria Oaxaca and was tickled by how they hung a salon-style wall of art as well. Good tacos too!
So, would I go back to Seattle? Absolutely! It's actually one of the few places I've visited and thought, yeah totally, this place merits more exploration. Good food, good looks, walkable, and friendly.
And I know I’ve been teasing Shoe School for weeks now, but there is just so much to download and digest. So for now, I’ll leave you with this sneak peek at my final shoes, a pair of black lace-up oxfords built on a vintage speed-skate last. Until then…