Seattle in my Sights
Manhattan Jewish Sentinel / Long Island Jewish World

Seattle in my Sights

By URIEL HEILMAN

Standing on the dock looking out at the bobbing ferries and the islands to the north of Seattle Bay, it's easy to forget about the other place this country calls Washington, where all the talk is of Iraq, the future of the Supreme Court and the Republican Congress.

Here on the other side of the country, in Washington State, life moves along at a different, more temperate pace.

The waves lash the docks along Alaskan Way as the salty smell of the water mixes with the olfactory delights coming from the Pike Place Market: just-made organic cheese, freshly brewed coffee, and, of course, a bit of fish.

The sun is setting over Seattle, and the Mariners are about to enter the second inning of play. Traffic is thinning as I wander the streets of downtown, navigating between the coffeehouses on my left and the organic fruit market on my right, making my way to a music festival playing on the other side of town.

It has been a full day. I spent morning getting my bearings downtown, afternoon visiting the architectural wonder that is the new Seattle Public Library, and the early evening shopping in the fish market. Before the day is out, I will have listened to some good music, decided not to ride the Ferris Wheel at a fair downtown, and then turned down a nighttime dance lesson in the trendy Capitol Hill neighborhood for the comforts of my home away from home: a vacation rental in a pretty apartment building with views of the city.

Rather than stay in a hotel downtown, I spent three nights in a beautiful, clean, fully furnished apartment in Capitol Hill, just a few blocks from downtown. Available at the very reasonable rate of $165 a night through Sea to Sky Rentals (www.seatoskyrentals.com, or call 206 465-6355), this place is one of several the company owns all over the Seattle area.

As my traveling companion and I stretched out in the two-bedroom, two-bathroom flat, I was glad that intuition landed us here rather than in some expensive, less convenient hotel.

For another thing, the apartment is within walking distance of the Capitol Hill minyan 20 minutes away, which means you can visit Seattle for a weekend without having to forego synagogue worship, if you so choose. And with airfares as low as $99 each way during some seasons, Seattle actually is an affordable weekend destination.

Outside the city, the attractions are less urbane but far more beautiful. The majestic snow-covered peak of Mount Rainer, and the rainforests that comprise its base, are a must-see for any visitor from the East Coast. The mountain is just 90 minutes from Seattle.

If you want to take more than just a day trip, it's well worth crossing international lines and heading for Vancouver Island, in British Columbia. With ferries leaving from Seattle, the Canadian city of Vancouver, and points in Washington State and the San Juan islands, Vancouver Island is a unique place that is at once both foreign and familiar.



With tall pines, gorgeous lakes and a network of mountains and rivers, it's as if New England met Yosemite National Park and somehow landed in Canada-on an island.

Though I spent some time tooling around the lovely city of Victoria on a little Vespa, I spent most of my time on Vancouver Island in the woods. Sleeping in a cozy cabin on Cowichan Lake, I spent my days hiking, in a kayak or on a bicycle.

Rainforest Expeditions (www.rainforestexpeditions.com, or 1-866-749-4852), which owns a few cabins on Cowichan Lake, offers guided tours of the area, and will even provide you with a no-hassle camping experience if you so choose. For just a few dollars a day, Rainforest can provide you with a tent, set up your tent and campsite, and clear it out when you leave. They'll even provide you with sleeping bags and a cook set, and anything else you need to sleep in the wild. It's a great way for first-time campers to get their feet wet.

For the more luxury inclined, you can stay in Victoria or at any of the other quaint little towns along the island's east coast. The western shoreline, which is craggy and beautiful, takes quite a bit longer to get to (at least three hours or so).

It's worth seeing, but to do so you'd better plan on being out here longer than a weekend.