Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Why travel matters

My wife and I just returned from a very satisfying, three-day trip to Seattle.  It was a holiday weekend filled with good food, good music, good film, good books and great conversation with friends.

Never underestimate the importance of great conversation with friends.

Oh, sure, there was a little spring rain spread over each of our days in the Emerald City, and we had to carry an umbrella wherever we went.  Yet, we didn't let the rain dampen our enthusiasm for spending quality time among friends, and in one of our favorite urban destinations.   It was simply Seattle being Seattle during springtime.

Since moving to the West Coast 15 years ago, Seattle has become our favorite weekend travel destination, namely because of its many enjoyable cultural offerings, including sport, food, music and art.  In past visits, we've experienced Major League baseball with Ichiro and the Mariners at Safeco Field; meandered through the funky and lively Pike Place Market (home of the original Starbucks), and enjoyed Bumbershoot, Seattle's annual arts and indie music festival, at the Seattle Center ~ often, all in the same weekend.

Also, there's the physical beauty of the Puget Sound and views of the Cascade and Olympic mountains, whether experienced while walking through the colorful Olympic Sculpture Park or from the tranquil bluffs of Discovery Park (at 534 acres, it's the largest city park in Seattle) in the Magnolia neighborhood, that is both vibrant and breathtaking ~ and must not be missed.

Just as important, visiting Seattle also connects us with our friends.

Our long-time friends have resided in Seattle for as long as we've been in the Bay Area and, as they've done before, they very graciously welcomed us into their home this past weekend ~ along with their son and three cats ~ and provided us with comfortable lodging and good company.

Although many of our past visits coincided with Labor Day weekend, this time we decided a trip to Seattle for Memorial Day weekend would be just the right thing to do.

Rain or shine.

After all, we had never been to the Northwest Folklife festival at Seattle Center, and one of our hosts, would be performing Saturday evening in a Pete Seeger sing-along as part of a folk group, Tom Colwell and the Southbound Odyssey.  Also, it would be a wonderful opportunity for me to see a dear friend and classmate from college, who lives in Seattle, and to share in great conversation with her against the backdrop of the folk music at Northwest Folklife.

It turned out to be a delightful Saturday evening for all of us ~ new friendships were made ~ and the rain stayed away for a few hours, too.

The highlights of our visit were plentiful ~ they always are when we visit Seattle.  Here's a few worth sharing:

* A Friday adventure to the Capitol Hill neighborhood provided us with a very hip and delicious French-style lunch at Cafe Presse (near Seattle University), which complemented shopping for books at the newly-relocated indie-bookseller, Elliott Bay Book Company, and shopping for CDs at Elliott Bay Book's next-door neighbor, the eclectic Everyday Music.

* We found time for film on Saturday afternoon by seeing "Ride, Rise, Roar," an informative music documentary revealing the creative process behind David Byrne's 2009 tour.  The screening was part of the Seattle International Film Festival.

* Finally, a return visit to Northwest Folklife on Sunday afternoon allowed us to soak up heartfelt music by some of the many buskers dotting the Seattle Center grounds as well as to enjoy the sound of contemporary Scottish fiddle by The McKassons and a fusion of world percussion by Rhythm Planet Teen Rhythm Ensemble.

By the time we boarded our flight home on Sunday evening, our weekend trip to Seattle reminded me why travel matters.  For me, it's an opportunity to absorb another city's culture, experience a change in decor and landscape, and enjoy great conversation with friends.

Yes, never underestimate the importance of great conversation with friends.

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