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The alarm rang at 4:30AM on Monday, May 16, 2011. We arrived at JFK airport at 6:25, and when the Delta baggage checkers asked us where we were going and we said, “Seattle“, I must admit that I felt cool. We got on the plane at 7:45 and I was grateful that even though I had the center seat in coach, there wasn’t one single baby in sight. We landed in Seattle at 10:30AM local time and by noon we were on the road in our rental (red) Toyota, zipping towards ten fantastic days in the Great Pacific Great Northwest.

Before we even checked in at our hotel, we stopped off to see Pike Place Market, which everyone knows from Sleepless in Seattle(here’s Tom Hanks and Rob Reiner walking down Union Street towards the Market):

They sell a lot of fish at the Pike Place Market:

But they also sell Seattle-made arts and crafts and CLOTHES. As soon as I saw this jacket:

I wanted it. It’s handmade in Seattle by Denali’s Originals; it’s made of the material that I call “fleece” (known by local ladies of fashion as the bane of their existence) and it’s got pockets and, since I had not packed anything even slightly cute to cope with the cool, off-and-on damp weather I had to have it.

I wore it to every event in Washington State and Oregon. I was wearing it when I met the great Nancy Pearl at my first book event in Seattle, on Tuesday May 17 2011 at the wonderfully quirky, homey and vast Wide World Books and Maps:

And here’s me at the delightful Cannon Beach Book Shop, hub of literary life  on the gorgeous Oregon coast, rocking my spiffy Seattle style:

(At each event I made it a point to show off my Denali’s Original jacket as my wish come true: I’ve always wanted a bathrobe that was chic enough to wear in public. Also, please note my shoes: these are my author shoes which I only wear when I am doing author-things. My writer-self never wears author shoes — I can’t write in heels — but my author-self thinks my writer-self is way, way, waaaaay too slobby to take to my author events. Just so you know.)

When Top Cat and I moseyed out of the Pike Place Market to wander the downtown area, we discovered that Seattle is built on hills. Really, really BIG hills. And because of these hills, and a singularly crotchety sense of urban planning, not one Seattle street is straight, or continuous, or predictable. And sometimes they turn into staircases. Driving in Seattle is almost as aggravating as parking in Seattle (which is quite vexing and, coming from a New Yorker, that’s almost a compliment)…

…but the views are superb.

But wait. I haven’t finished shopping — and I had no intention of shopping on this Great Pacific Great Northwest Tour, but there was a shop on 1st Avenue called Reconstructed Clothing that I had to check out. Reconstructed Clothing ( has a mission: to change the way America dresses itself. And I, for one, having seen how America dresses itself, am all for it. Racks and racks of Seattle-made clothes, all re-habbed from vintage and thrift-shop finds, made into one-of-a-kind fashion collages that make you happy just looking at them. I tried on a sweater and yes, the clothes also make you happy when you wear them. So I bought this:



I got to wear this sweater for the one day in Seattle that it was chilly and overcast (every other day was brilliantly sunny and clear and warm) and the great day in Portland when I made my pilgrimage to The Mother Ship:

Portland, Oregon is the home of Tazo Tea.

You see, besides books, I had tea on my mind during this tour, which is why I scheduled a stop at Teacup in the Queen Anne district in Seattle.

As much as I have re-invented the reading experience with my hybrid-brand of memoir-ish travel picture/essay books, I also want to found a new American Tea Culture. And Seattle, with its long-lived coffeehouse/literary culture, seemed like the perfect place to start the revolution.

So I thank my fellow founding members of the New American Tea Culture Society (b. Wednesday, May 18, 2011) Carol, Stephanie, Susan, and Greg — our manifesto will be appearing shortly in this space and we WILL we WILL we WILL change the way you drink and think TEA.

Wednesday night, immediately after the meeting where we planned to overthrow America’s apathy to tea, was also memorable because:

I met up with Top Cat across Queen Anne Avenue and I got my FIRST glass of WINE. When I am in my right mind, I don’t allow myself to drink even the tiniest bit of alcohol the day before I have to be coherent and presentable in front of people. But as of Wednesday, May 18 I had two days to cut loose in Seattle and friends: it all started right here.

After gulping down some fine Washington State Pinot Gris, Top Cat and I bustled off to the Space Needle to see the sun set.

Mt. Rainier, looking very romantic, put everyone in the mood… 

And then it was time for dinner at the famous Elliott Bay-side restaurant Elliott’s to get Top Cat some of the Copper River Salmon that was all the news. The arrival of the Copper River Salmon is Seattle’s version of Nouveau Beaujolais, which is very romantic: 

On Thursday we went to see the Seattle Mariners play the California Angels at Safeco Field, baseball’s most expensive stadium (at half a billion dollars). It has a retractable roof,cedar-lined dugouts, and a field of Kentucky bluegrass. Top Cat was really happy: he got to see Ichiro Suzuki play, and he got to haggle with half a dozen ticket scalpers outside the stadium, got all Brooklyn on their asses and scored bargain seats behind home plate.

No, that’s not Ichiro. This is Ichiro:

This was supposed to be a photo of Ichiro in his batter’s stance. But by the time my camera’s shutter was snapped, the pitcher’s fastball had already crossed home plate and I caught Ichiro clobbering it towards second base. The score was tied 1-1 in the bottom of the 9th with two outswhen Mariner Carlos Peguero hit a fly ball into centerfield and Torii Hunter DROPPED it!!! As if we were all one mind, everyone in the stadium jumped up out of our seats in one swell foop and screamed like crazy. It was quite a dazzling finish.

By now Top Cat and I were getting better at navigating the Seattle streets so we only got lost twice and drove a mere fifteen miles out of our way to get to West Seattle for a walk along Alki Beach. It was very scenic (sweeping views across Puget Sound all the way to the snow-capped peaks of the Olympic Mountains) but of course I didn’t take any pictures of that. First, because of what I saw when I looked up at the houses that line the edge of this spectacular view:

(I actually tried to get these cats’ attention, by waving at them and yelling, “Hi Kitties! Hi! I see you! Hi!” It was pathetic.)

(cool dog house)

And Secondly, because of what was going on in the water:

These scuba divers were just two  of my favorite Seattlites. I also enjoyed:

(at a red light on Wallingford Ave.)

(at University Village, near U Dub[University of Washington] — that little girl in the pink dress with her back to me in the upper left hand corner is being yelled at by her mother for refusing to spit out the water that she slurpped up from one of the fountain’s turtles…I like that kid’s moxie)

On Friday we hit the road out of Seattle, heading towards Whidbey Island and Oregon –

(on the ferry from the mainland to Whidbey)

– which I will tell you all about on Friday.

Don’t be surprised if I try to recruit you to join our New American Tea Culture Society. ARE YOU READY??

20 comments to The Great Pacific Great Northwest Tour, Part One

  • That looks like sooo much fun. I’ve only been to Seattle once, about 15 years ago. You make me want to go again. Love the jacket/bathrobe and the blouse.

  • JOAN

    The fleece outerwear robe is glorious. I Lurv fleece, it’s warm, lightweight, easy to care for. I don’t like the fabric that pills though.

    Seattle sounds devine…I’ve only rushed through the airport there. I’d love to go visit for at least a week just to graze my way through all the seafood places to eat. Yes, food is foremost on my mind when I travel.

    You hardly mentioned the book signing events…I’m hoping you’ll be giving us minute details about them.

    The next place out west you should visit, if you haven’t been already, is San Francisco…a truly magical place, fine dining, great shopping and breathtaking scenery.

    Can’t wait for Part II of the Great Pacific Great NW Adventure.

  • Rachel

    An LA friend is currently visiting his daughter in Seattle and sending back FB photos and accounts of having died and gone to *foodie heaven.* So I am being bombarded with great reasons to visit there. It is only a 2-3 day train ride from here in San Diego??? Yes, I accept with pleasure your invitation to revolutionize American Tea Culture. Will there be scones? Welcome home, I too long to hear about the book promotin’.

  • Yes, yes, yes. Let’s hear about the book events !!
    Wonderful tales, however; Thank you for the entertainment while we wait for the REAL reason for the trip. Readers’ coming to SEE you.
    Wish I could be there……
    I am already sipping tea in anticipation….

  • Mindy

    I am one of the lucky readers who got to see and hear Vivian in “author” mode at Broadway Books in Portland, the last stop on her trip. The shoes and jackect are very spiffy!

    Vivian – Thank you for the entertaining talk and the autograph. Please return to Portland and tell us all about The Damn France Book when it comes out.

  • LMAO to the dog in the car with the colorful scarf. What a capture! And, I’ve been drinking tea since I was seven so I’m very interested in “new” ways of drinking and thinking of tea! Thanks for a fun post! Hope one day I’ll get to see you in person too!

  • Jacquelyn

    I tracked you every day Vivian. Everyday when I looked (with amazement) at the weather, I considered it from the best standpoint of Vivian. I wanted you to see it all. Your new sky blue comfort “robie” is a perfect reminder of the best of Seattle skies, no matter all that you have heard. And you probably heard that those 10 days were just about the first real spring days…one after another. And it (the wee robie) reminds me of you in a tea cozy.
    What was I thinking….??? that Top Cat was home with the catz. Of course not.
    And of course Nancy Pearl was there to meet you in person. My questions of earlier note of the day pretty much answered!
    It looks as tho you have hit all the high spots of Seattle…….and in my opinion, had exactly the right wine. Otherwise, it is delightful to see what you saw thru your camera lens….spurting turtles, typical kind of sight on ferry (omg, you did get to travel on our ferrys)and yes, cats in the window. gosh, this was like a National Geographic magazine.

  • Hi, I live in Portland and it is also the home of STASH tea. We like tea in Portland. And we like coffee. We are partial to anything that keeps us warm when it is rainy and smells delicious. Looks like you hit the high spots in Seattle. One of the best cities in the world, IMO!

  • Jen

    Nancy Pearl is the reason I requested that my local library purchase your book and I was then the first person to read it! So yay for that meet-up.

    But more importantly…there is a bird on that woman’s steering wheel and what looks like maybe a stuffed animal?

    I love the Pacific Northwest, looks like you had a great trip.

  • Carol

    I LOVE THE SWEATER!! I HAVE to check out that website. AND A BIRD DRIVING A CAR!! Obviously Seattle birds are much smarter than Texas birds. OK – I’m not a tea/coffee drinker. BUT I do drink iced tea. Can we include ICED tea … please!
    I am so glad you had that trip, you deserve if after all the work on the France book!

  • emily m

    loved your tidbits and adore the coat and top. great choices and how creative those Seattle folks are. Splendid. Look forward to next trip chapter.

  • Nadine

    I gotta get me one of them bathrobe coats. The Pac Northwest looks fabulous. Good post.

  • Susie

    My heart is going pitter-pat, pitter-pat as I read about your trip! I showed my son and he said “We have to MOVE!”

    Please add me in for the NATCS.
    Or Culture American Tea Society? CATS, lol

    Does Tazo in bottles count? Probably defeats the whole idea of tea ‘culture’…

    Thank you for sharing your adventures…I’ve never been much beyond 50 miles from home, your life makes me burn to GO!

  • Fantastic post, what a great trip. While I’ve always wanted to see Seattle I CANNOT get past this fleece sweater thing. A public bathrobe, oh Vivian you’re my kind of girl…


  • Tracey

    I am drinking decaf tea as I read. Sign me up.

  • I have a bathrobe made of that stuff !! I always called it my “baby blanket” bathrobe. Perfect for any kind of cold weather. I even loaned it to my friend, who went to a hospital unexpectedly, and didn’t have a robe. I took her mine, and she didn’t want to give it back !! it’s now 20 years old, but still ok, as long as I wash it on ‘gentle’, and hang it carefully on a hanger.
    I KNOW what you mean by comfort of that material, but I don’t think they call it fleece. What DO they call it?

  • Mia

    Oh dear, Vivian, you missed The Crumpet Shop at Pike’s Place?? Just a tiny place, but a local institution. We sat at a counter, looking across the walkway into a match box size barber shop (quite entertaining!) The crumpet recipe is old Canadian and we ate them with homemade jam. I ordered a London Fog tea. It was luscious, like a latte, but made with strong black tea. We returned the next day for a fix, but they’d sold out of crumpets and closed for the day!

    And did you see the man-kilts, so popular in Seattle? There’s even a shop on Pioneer Square that sells them!

    I’m a big fan of yours. My tea of choice is PG Tips, sipped from an Evelyn & Crabtree mug.

  • Love the shoes. Your hair looks good too, by the way. And glad to hear you found a few cats to admire (and other critters)! I do not drink coffee – love tea here in Maine in the winter, and this year will attempt drying some herbs from the garden to make my own – so I will plan on being a minion in your tea movement…

  • Yolanthe

    Hi Vivian,
    Enjoyed your talk. You seemed at ease. Love the visual aids. Always good to have some. Also love the fleece jacket, but Vivian, if I may, please lose the shoes. No sling backs under casual pants. My suggestion look for a pair of blue (same color as fleece jacket) ankle boots with medium heels. Would pull jacket and feet together and give jacket a chique feel. Also, look for interesting big broche with maybe blue stone to add interest. And by all means use lipstick! A writer like you must have a touch of glamour when traipsing around on book tours. You can pull it off! These are the perfect color, but I’m afraid the heel is too high, plus they are pretty pricey.

    Let me look around some more. Mmm, what do you think about those? Pretty cheery aren’t they. Comfy too, I bet.

    Or these, these are adorable!

    These are classic black, would wear these with black pants, white longsleeved t-shirt and blue fleece jacket.

    Now for an interesting pin.

  • Hi Vivian,

    Enjoyed your talk. You seemed at ease. Love the visual aids. Always good to have some. Also love the fleece jacket, but Vivian, if I may, please lose the shoes. NO sling backs under casual pants please.

    My suggestion: look for a pair of blue (same color as fleece jacket) ankle boots with medium heels. Would pull jacket and feet together and give jacket a chique feel. Also, look for interesting big broche with maybe blue stone to add interest. And by all means use lipstick! A writer like you must have a touch of glamour when traipsing around on book tours. You can pull it off!

    Oh these are the perfect color, but I’m afraid the heel is too high, plus they are pretty pricey. When your speak you must be grounded. Still, they are amazing shoes. Take a look.

    Let me look around some more.
    Mmm, what do you think about these? Pretty cheery aren’t they?Comfy too, I bet.
    Opera singer Eva Maria Westbroek had boots embroidered with red roses. Probably same brand.

    Or these, these are adorable!

    These are classic black. Always good to have. I would wear these with black pants, boot cut, with white longsleeved t-shirt and blue fleece jacket. Personally I never speak without a nice scarf but perhaps with this jacket a scarf would be too much of a good thing

    Now for an interesting pin. I think this one would be stunning, or perhaps this one:

    There are many more interesting brooches and pins to be found on this site so check it out and have fun.

    Go for a bit of glamour and chique when you go out to sell your book(s) You’re only 54!

    Your admirer and fellow BP lover from The Netherlands.


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