seattle // day 3

It’s the final day of our trip, but much more importantly, IT’S MOM’S BIRTHDAY!! For all you nosy readers, let’s just say she’s from the 1970’s (which is true, technically). If you’re good at math, you’ll already have figured out she must have turned somewhere between 46 and 36 years old. She still looks 26, so it doesn’t really matter either way. [Note to Mom: no, I’m not sucking up. Everyone knows you haven’t aged a bit!]

Once packed and checked out of the hotel, Dad drives us out to Ballard, a town within Seattle that is about fifteen minutes from the city center. Apparently Ballard was its own city until 1997, when it was annexed by Seattle. Once primarily the home of fishermen, mill workers and boat builders of Scandinavian descent, today Ballard has developed and gentrified into a place known for its trendy eateries and shops.

We have brunch at Stoneburner, one such trendy establishment. The ‘rents order a pair of Bloody Marys (much brunch), and our very kind waitress convinces us to share a lemon scone ($5) to start. I’m usually not a fan of lemon in pastries, but the lemon in the scone is nice and subtle. The scone is served with a tangy lemon custard, which I also surprisingly end up liking. The rest of our meal is equally good. While the three girls go for eggs - Olympe with a classic scrambled eggs and bacon ($10), Mom with Eggs in Purgatory ($15) and myself with poached eggs & crispy polenta cakes ($12) - Dad settles on the Olive Oil Skillet Pancake ($12), which he tells us is delicious.

Our first store visit is at Lucca Great Finds, a cozy shop filled with candles, tea (they have at least two dozen different Marriage Frères flavors), stationery, beauty products and more. Because the holiday season has just ended, the entire Christmas décor section is on sale, and I almost regret not having gotten one of the adorable felted creatures that was calling our name. Unfortunately, our Christmas trees are always quite small, and they’re already overcrowded with other felted creatures...

Next stop is The Palm Room, which is perfect for plant-lovers. There are succulents, air-plants, planters, and even stones. Mom gets a trio of mini ceramic planters ($7 each) that will soon be home to the succulents she bought awhile ago.

Just next door is Indie Frock, a narrow boutique with a good selection of new and vintage, affordable clothes. For a real vintage paradise, though, head over to Lucky Vintage. You’ll find some beautiful vintage dresses from the 1920’s to today. We even manage to pick out a money clip for Dad!

We step off the main street to take a look at the shipyard. There’s not much to see, but it’s a particularly sunny day so we do get a nice view of Seattle, sailboats and the opposite shore.


It’s not a birthday without cake (unless you don’t like cake or whatever), and every guidebook affirms there’s one place not to miss in Ballard: Hot Cakes. This small café may have a long line, but it moves pretty fast, and is well worth the wait. We order coffee and two cakes to share: the Peanut Butter Cup with vanilla ice cream ($9) and the Dark Decadence ($7). Dad and Olympe seem to prefer the Peanut Butter Cup, which consists in a chocolate cake with a molten PB fudge heart. The ice cream is served with a PB caramel, just in case you need more PB. Mom seems to like both, but I’m a real sucker for the Dark Decadence, made with ultra dark Theo chocolate. The cakes are so rich we don’t even consider buying one of Hot Cakes’ sauces to take home, but we can always order them online if we have a change of heart.

After Hot Cakes, we spot a sign that says “Space Oddity Vintage Furniture”, and it’s obviously calling Mom’s name (she’s a huge Bowie fan - huge). While store’s contents have nothing to do with the Starman or his music, Space Oddity does have some very cool vintage chemistry bottles (which Olympe tries to identify to practice her chemistry knowledge).

We retrace our steps and go inside Prism, a concept store very close to Stoneburner. With it’s fantastic selection of home accessories, jewelry, backpacks and clothing, it’s one of the best stores we’ve been in so far. Watch your wallets!

We’ve seen most of Ballard’s main streets, so we decide to check out the Frye Museum. This museum is completely free at all times, which makes sense given its smaller size. The exhibit on display is ‘Genius / 21 Century / Seattle’, which, you may have guessed, features a variety of works by contemporary Seattle artists. It’s nicely curated and includes a nice mix of sculpture, film and 2-D pieces. Mom and I really enjoy the museum boutique, where we find an easily-replicable wall-hanging to add to our DIY projects list. I purchase a charming pair of simple earrings by local brand Baleen. In fact, I’m wearing them right now and I LOVE them.

After the Frye, we take the car to Pioneer Square, which in itself is nothing too exciting. However, you definitely want to make a stop at E. Smith Mercantile, an ultra cool concept store and bar. I marvel at the many different beard oils on display, trying to figure out whether I even know anyone who would use them. Despite its very masculine feel, E.Smith Mercantile actually sells women’s goods as well, including some soft cotton shirts and jewelry. Tons of cocktail-making tools and mixers as well! Next time we come to Seattle, we’ll have to try one of their mixology classes (yes, they have those, too).

We then head over to Belfry Oddities, which is a bit like a less intimidating (and much more affordable) version of the Evolution boutique in SoHo. Belfry sells vintage taxidermy, an assortment of small skulls (coyote and raccoon skulls, for instance), teeth, stones (good for jewelry-making!). We’re a little disconcerted by the pig embryos in jars, though. I wonder what went through the head of whoever decided to make them.

A few streets away lies Seattle’s International District, which is the center of the city’s Asian-American population. The district itself is informally divided into three neighborhoods: Chinatown, Japantown and Little Saigon. Our first stop is
Momo, a cute little boutique selling clothing, stationery and accessories. Adjacent to Momo is Kobo, a larger shop filled with Japanese ceramics and products. Whether you’re looking for a cookbook, a teapot or a random gift, you’ll likely find something. In this shop, we learn that many Japanese families living in Seattle were sent to internment camps in Idaho from 1942 to 1946, and when they returned after the war, many chose to live in Seattle’s suburbs. Kobo is one of the few shops that fought to stay in Japantown.

Our last stop is Ada's Technical Books and Café in Capitol Hill. As its name suggests, Ada’s is a bookstore specializing in science, physics, chemistry, computing and other science-y subjects.  I had saved it for last because I know how much dad would love such a place. If he lived in Seattle, he would probably go work there or spend entire weekends reading code while sipping on Ada’s coffee. Plus, the bookstore has a large selection of books on computer surveillance, privacy and security, which are three topics he is extremely passionate about. Ada’s would also be a good place to find “Geeky Gifts” for your next Secret Santa assignment (or for any geek in your life).

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