We didn’t know it was going to be the best day of the summer when we left for the ferry from Bainbridge Island to Seattle. The sun was bright and the day was warm. I carried a jacket with me, the only sensible thing to do, but I never needed it. We parked in a lot near the ferry landing ($13.50), not full at all, and walked down to the waiting area, also not full, and onto the boat after a short wait. There is no charge for passage from Bainbridge to Seattle, though there is on the return trip ($4.75 each for seniors).
We sat near the front, so that we could watch the city in the distance. From the front deck just beyond, the city approached, tall buildings blue and misty in the distance, then towering over us as we landed. Waterfront construction gives way to piers, restaurants, a giant Ferris wheel, and small park areas. A crosswalk and signs directed us toward the Pike Street market. After following a trail through a parking garage we found an elevator up to the market level.
Is there someone who has been to Seattle and not visited this market? It was thronged with masked visitors making their way down the single very long market hall. The fish-sellers are the highlight, mostly hidden behind the counter and a table full of ice and fish. On this visit, the icy table held a whole monkfish staring out at the crowd, its huge mouth a sagging cavern, open in a half-hearted snap at the passers-by. Until salespersons changed its name to be palatable to consumers, this was often called frog fish or sea devil, a fish you were advised to eat without seeing the pictures.
Every half hour or so, a man wearing wader/overalls comes out from behind the counter. He starts with some sales patter and then picks up a good sized fish (5 lb+) and throws it over the counter where a colleague catches it. The guys shout, the crowd cheers and is urged to cheer louder. More fish fly back and forth, more shouting, more cheering, then it’s over until next time. Employees have to be sideshow barkers as well as fishmongers. Fish is the highlight of the market, and on our way home we stopped and bought Dungeness crab and halibut cheeks, delicate and delicious.
One tour up and down the market and it was time for lunch. We went up a floor to look at a restaurant where table service would allow us to sit and rest while we ate. It was mobbed. I recalled a place that looked empty as we came into the market, and sure enough, when we arrived at the Pike Place Bar and Grill, we were immediately seated in a booth by an open window. On this sunny day, it was perfect. We could see out over the rooftops and have a breather. We ate Manila clams steamed in a buttery, garlicky broth, and a smoked salmon club sandwich that consisted of a large chunk of smoked salmon and the usual blt items. Both were very good. I had a glass of wine because I wanted to try a white Roussanne wine on the menu.
Our lunch stop was the perfect break, and newly reenergized, we took a brief look in Northwest Tribal Art, then headed for the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) and their current headline show, “Monet at Étretat.” Tickets were available to enter immediately, and in we went, transported to the Atlantic coast of France where dramatic steep cliffs and offshore stacks have intrigued many painters. The exhibit opens with a spectacular view of the cliffs by Louis-Eugene Boudin,
As we continued, I wished we were on the coast at Étretat beach combing in the bright sun or standing in the waves. Impressionist paintings generally show the weather as perfect, blue skies with a few puffy clouds passing overhead, casting momentary shadows on the ground that race by and disappear. The notes on the walls of the exhibit describe Monet trying to paint when it poured rain, finding an upstairs space with a window that allowed him to look out and paint even when the weather made it impossible to venture outdoors.
After Monet, we were almost out of steam, and though we had a quick look at the adjacent exhibits, there’s a lot to see on our next visit. We retraced our steps to the market, bought our fish, and wound around to the ferry landing. Naturally, the previous ferry had departed ten minutes earlier, but the wait was less than an hour, and there were places to sit. I was happy to have lugged my backpack all around, as we had our water bottle, chapstik, eye drops, ibuprofen, and coffee candies, all the little things a person wants at the end of an odyssey.
I took more photos as we left the wharf, getting a view from the Space Needle to the docks. The ferry ride is only 35 minutes, and in no time we were back on Bainbridge Island and heading home, full of the day.