Seattle’s Pike Place Market: Totally Worth the Trip

People walk the streets of downtown Seattle in conservative blacks and browns, almost blending in with the surrounding buildings. The sky hangs heavy and grey. “It’s not a colorful city, is it?” I whispered to my husband.

Not long into our Seattle stay, I realized that some of the lack of color – in this part of the city, anyway – was due to a serious lack of signage. McDonald’s and Starbucks huddled behind dark glass windows, their trademark logos barely visible in muted earth tones. No flashing neon here.

Several blocks away, I found the missing colors. At Pike Place Market, the oldest farmers market in America, it’s as if someone tipped the city and diverted all of the color here. Berries, eggplant, tomatoes, and cut flowers light up the cobbled roads with their rainbow hues. Hanging baskets spill pink blossoms overhead. Lavender soaps, deep red salmon, and yes, even the neon in the Pike Place Market sign add their flair to the riot of color.

The scent of baked goods wafts on the ocean breeze as a rabbit warren of alleyways and underground levels reveal apothecary and spice shops, ethnic markets, and the Giant Shoe Museum (which might also qualify as the smallest museum ever).

At the Pike Place Fish Co, customers choose their dinner and get a show as the fishmongers toss the fresh catch across the shop for wrapping. You’re guaranteed fresh fish, but you never know what kind of call and response the improvising salespeople will come up with.

“Four shrimp cocktaaails….on the Visa!”

“Four shrimp cocktaaails….on the Visa!”

And the fishmongers aren’t the only entertainment. Buskers set up throughout the market on an hourly schedule bringing a  jivey vibe to the streets with musicians (yes, that IS a piano on the street corner), magicians, and a wacky guy with a guitar, harmonica, and hula hoop. Gospel? Got ’em. Accordion? Yep.

The market isn’t a hidden gem; it’s one of Seattle’s most recognized attractions and it’s teeming with both locals and tourists popping in and out of ethnic markets, picking up cheese, sampling hazelnuts, and ordering pancetta. Truly, there is something for everyone, even if it’s just a stop at a sidewalk cafe for an espresso and a little people watching.

Cashing in on Trash

Just an hour’s drive from San Francisco, the little town of Sebastopol, California is well known for its spicy Gravenstein apples and plethora of antiques stores.  Its proximity to Sonoma County wine country and the rugged California coast makes it a regular destination for city dwellers needing a break.  But hidden just a block away from Sebastopol’s Main Street is a lesser-known treasure: the sculptures of artist Patrick Amiot.

Florence Avenue boasts the charming turn-of-the-century homes typical to the original neighborhoods of downtown Sebastopol, with front porches slightly askew from age and gardens gone just a bit wild.  But the first thing visitors will notice is the giant caveman.

Cooperative neighbors allow Amiot to display what he calls his Urban Folk Art collection on their front lawns, creating an unofficial walking tour that attracts locals and out of town visitors alike.

Using materials that would normally be relegated to the trash pile, the artist uses a fresh eye to see the possibilities in items such as an old teakettle, broken bike chains and discarded golf clubs.  Finished with a bright coat of paint, these pieces depict a slice of American life – a fireman, Dalmatian in tow; a hula girl; a baseball player complete with catcher’s mitt and glove; and (since this is farming country) a replica of an old Oliver tractor.

To see these oversized pieces of art, from downtown Sebastopol head north on Highway 116, then take a left on Florence Avenue. Park where you can on the narrow street and start walking. The displays begin about a block away from Highway 116, with the artwork flanking both sides of Florence Avenue.

Coconut Bay Resort & Spa

There are many things to love about the Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa on the Caribbean Island of St. Lucia, but the first is its proximity to the Hewanorra International Airport. After a long flight from the west coast, the last thing my 13-year-old son, Evan, and I wanted to do was spend any more time in transit. The short ten-minute drive from the baggage claim area to the resort was most welcome.

We were happy to drop our luggage in the spacious room and collapse on the bed – for all of a few seconds. Our vividly decorated room overlooked the pool area, complete with several water slides, a lazy river for tubing, and the ocean. With so much to see and do on site, Evan was anxious to explore.

His first order of business was to test the all-inclusive nature of the resort. “It’s all free?” he kept asking, incredulous. Maybe not exactly free, but I didn’t quibble – the fact that there was pizza on demand was enough to make him one happy kid. I quickly discovered that with everything included, Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa is a great way for parents of hungry teens to stay on budget as Evan ate his way through the resort (adults will be happy to note that even alcoholic drinks are included in the room rate). Coconut Bay has a poolside snack bar and casual buffet-style café as well as a couple of wonderful higher-end restaurants, also included in the rate, though reservations are required for those.

While Evan spent his days zooming down the water slides or partaking in paint ball wars (in between pizza breaks), I preferred to spend my time on a covered lounge on the beach accompanied by a blended umbrella drink and a book. Something for everyone!

The resort features two distinctly different wings. We stayed in Splash, the section specifically for families. Harmony is the adults-only section of the resort. Harmony is situated very near the on-site spa and has its own (quiet) pool and bar. Splash guests enjoy family-friendly pool activities, games, and entertainment. Parents who have had enough togetherness for one day can take advantage of CocoLand, the supervised kids’ club, where young guests can create arts and crafts, splash in the water playground, and climb aboard a pirate ship.

Property: Drenched in tropical hues, the Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa features 254-rooms, four dining options, five bars, three swimming pools, a full-service spa (extra), and the island’s largest water park.

Location: Situated on the south coast of St. Lucia on the Atlantic Ocean just minutes from the Hewanorra International Airport.

Sleeps: Rooms are quite spacious with one king or two queen beds, a sitting area, ceiling fans, air conditioning, balconies, and satellite TV.

Highlights: Nightly entertainment in the huge open-air lobby includes the likes of a pirate themed dinner or karaoke. Teens will love access to the on-site paintball facility, but note that this is one of the few amenities not included in your room rate.

Good to Know: While the beach is beautiful for strolling or basking, the ocean here is rough and not ideal for swimming.