When you say “Idaho” in casual conversation with someone who has never been west of the Rocky Mountains, you generally get either a blank look (as in, “Idaho? Where’s that?”) or a dismissive comment (“Baking potatoes, right? I prefer our local red new potatoes.”). What these people don’t know, and what is a well-kept secret, is that northern Idaho is so beautiful that it’s almost indescribable.
Mountains jut sharply against a pristine blue sky, forests scented with pine and fir carpet the valleys, and the landscape is dotted with rivers and lakes brimming with water so clear you can see the trout glimmering beneath the surface.
Our final stop before reaching Seattle was Sandpoint, Idaho, a picturesque town on the banks of Lake Pend Oreille (pronounced, surprisingly correctly, “pond oray”), north of the more famous Coeur d’Alene. If it seems odd that so many place names in the Northwest have French origins, remember that the original trappers and fur traders in the region were largely French. (At least here, the later non-French settlers knew how to pronounce those names, unlike in Missouri, where the Courtois River morphed somehow into “coat-away.”)
We stayed at a beautiful resort hotel across the lake from the town, in an elegant small suite with french doors opening onto a patio from which we could walk out onto the lawn leading down to the water. Tour boats sailed past, from which tourists took pictures of hotel guests relaxing on the pier or sunning themselves on the swimming dock.
The next morning, we headed west again on I-90 to Spokane and on to Seattle, passing through the undulating fields of wheat and hay, punctuated by acres of sagebrush, that characterize eastern Washington. Soon the foothills of the Cascades appeared on the horizon, and we began our climb to the summit of Snoqualmie Pass, where the mountains towered over us in increasing majesty as we approached the city. The scenery became greener and more lush with every mile, as well as more familiar to me — I was brought up in the Northwest, and my family now lives in Seattle and its suburban cities, where we have often visited them.
Following the instructions provided by the agency from whom we rented our Seattle condo for the month of September, we arrived at the building and were met by the agent and escorted to our spot in the parking garage. The three of us manhandled our luggage into the elevator and were whisked to the 22nd floor of the Newmark Tower, where a key opened the door into — paradise!
Across the street from the world-famous Pike Place Market, with unobstructed views through floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall windows across Elliott Bay to Puget Sound and the Olympic Peninsula to the west, our home for the next month was more than we had dreamed it would be. Big ferryboats sailed back and forth between downtown Seattle and Bainbridge Island or Bremerton from dawn until well into the night, and smaller Argosy tour boats made cruises of the harbor every day. The newly-built Great Wheel with its enclosed gondolas stood on a pier below us, rotating serenely and glowing with artistic lighting after dark. One pier to the north of the Wheel, the Seattle Aquarium beckoned seductively, holding all its aquatic secrets inside dark green walls. Huge cruise ships docked every weekend at one pier very close to us and another further north, headed to or from Alaska on week-long cruises. Little seaplanes buzzed over the water en route to the San Juan Islands or Vancouver Island, British Columbia.
And on days when the weather gods were especially kind, the Olympic Mountains dropped their misty robes and stood out against the horizon like a phalanx of massive soldiers guarding us from the Pacific Ocean. We never tired of just gazing out the windows at the most beautiful view imaginable.
The apartment offered much more than simply its location, though. Two bedrooms, two baths, hardwood floors in the kitchen and living room, stylish and comfortable furniture, a beautiful kitchen with black granite countertops, a Miele stove, dishwasher, washer and dryer, a Sub-Zero refrigerator, two flat-screen TV sets (one of them so good that we swore to each other we would buy one just like it for our own den as soon as we got home), and everything else needed for a long holiday stay. Oh, and the first three floors of the building were occupied by a City Target store, selling everything from groceries to clothes, from bed linens to vitamins, from smart phones to DVD movies — in short, nearly everything a city dweller might shop for after work or on a weekend.
Once we’d unpacked and determined what we would put on our initial shopping list, we began to learn our way around the neighborhood, especially Pike Place Market and all its adjacent shops and restaurants. There is simply no better place to shop if you want fresh seafood, local vegetables and fruits, gorgeous flowers, handmade cheeses, ethnic specialties (we had an Asian grocery, a Mexican grocery, and a Caribbean grocery in the same block, plus the best Italian grocery we’d ever seen across the street), incredibly good restaurants, and every convenience imaginable. Gerry had his hair cut in a barber shop in the market, and we bought three books in an upscale used book store to supplement what we’d brought with us. It was clear from our first encounter with city living in Seattle that we were going to have a terrific time.
For more photos of our introduction to this beautiful city, click here.