Olympia, Washington

November 1, 2012

After three days in Olympia, I wonder if this might be the friendliest place in the Pacific Northwest—from the desk clerks at the Governor Hotel, restaurant and store staffs to children in strollers and even the guy fixing a milkshake with ice cream & milk spinning out all over his shirt and face. Smiles. And laughs. What the?

Maybe there’s something to Olympia Beer’s former famous slogan “It’s the water.” (“Oly” was brewed with local artesian water from 1896 until 1983 when it was acquired by what would become Pabst Brewing Company.) There is an artesian well downtown pumping a steady stream of crystal clear water for use by anyone so inclined. But even if you’re not drinking that artesian water, maybe it’s the water of the Deschutes River tumbling into town over Tumwater Falls and into Capital Lake before joining Budd Inlet on south Puget Sound. And lest we forget, rain. All that ionization breeds well-being?

I can’t say. All I know is for three days this fall in Washington State’s capital city I met, passed by, or was waited on by extraordinarily friendly people.

eat  Food glorious food…

   

   

The Bread Peddler Artisan Bakery & Cafe – a terrific local hangout, fabulous food and baked goods. (above: Spinach frittata, pastries, Nicoise sandwich, peanut curry soup.) See blog Cafe Diaries.

  

Find locals too at 5th Avenue cafes. above: Darby’s Cafe (great breakfasts I’m told, not enough time to try); 5th Avenue Sandwich Shop or McMenamin’s historic Spar Cafe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

acqua via simple, rustic inspired food in a tasty chic atmosphere. above: Artichoke  soup w/Parmesan & white truffle; Porchetta di Parma  roasted pork loin w/caramelized onion, white cheddar & apple butter 1/2 sandwich on grilled foccacia; hand-made chips.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

La Petite Maison fine French cuisine in a 1908 restored Craftsman-style home tucked away in a West Olympia busy outskirts neighborhood. Inside, it’s another world – intimate dining in the attentive care of chef Justin Wells and his cheerful/knowledgeable/head waitron/sommelier wife Zoe. Excellent wines & carefully prepared cuisine. above: olives marines & baguette; salade de samoun fume (house smoked salmon – more like gravlox, waaay salty) smothered in herbs and arugula w/fresh radish; baked pear in caramel, house-made vanilla ice cream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swing Wine Bar & Cafe a cozy house on a hill, warm, inviting, casual. Extensive wine list, creative cocktails, great food. above: a flight of red wine suspended in artful presentation with friendly bartender Sean in background. Well-lit open bar comfortable for women alone. The “Lush Rush” happy hour 4-6 pm daily.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Traditions Cafe & World Folk Art  for wholesome paninis, soups, salads,  coffee & herbal teas – a community hangout with views of  Capital Lake & the capital building. Casual comfort food + import fair trade store with everything from quirky gifts, toys & books to fab silk scarves & colorful hand knit wool caps. above: Chai tea + ginger molasses cookie.

 

 

Buck’s Fifth Avenue for everything spice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Farmer’s Market for seafood, meats, seasonal produce, arts & crafts.Shopping on

 

 

 

 

4th & 5th Avenues to shop.  Crazy about Shoes? Bonaventure Shoes & Yolli. Flow & Function, eclectic collections of really neat stuff.

 

 

stay The newly renovated (top floors) Governor Hotel. A great location downtown, easy walking everywhere or catch the free Dash shuttle to the Capital grounds or Percival Landing waterfront park & Farmer’s Market.

The Governor Hotel renovations are stylish & quirky. Check out the hand-tinted vintage photos of Olympia governors in odd situations (holding trout, getting a haircut) or notable landscapes (a 1960s Ford Fairlane convertible parked in front of Capital Lake with the capital building in the background – you’d swear it’s Don Draper & blonde on a date)

Room(s) with a view west Capital Lake (beyond city street); east Sylvester Park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Out of town worth the drive: The Inn at Mallard Cove a Tudor manse tucked in tall firs on the edge of Puget Sound.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shoes off (socks provided) for the expanses of beautiful Oregon white oak flooring. Three well-appointed (luxurious linens, antiques) guest rooms upstairs, each with its own subtle theme and color palate, gas fireplace, balcony, and ensuite bathroom. Owners Linda and Don Malatestato have taken great care  to provide a warm and welcoming English home. (Yet, oddly, with all the exquisite detail & English Tudor authenticity in this handsome home, pre-fab window grids pretending to be panes are achingly out-of-place.) Both Don & Linda are accommodating and gracious so don’t be put off by the over-regulation, including having to sign a “no-smoking” agreement. Ask Linda over her lovely breakfast about the serendipitous journey to finding their dream inn. Don will even guide you by kayak to the nearby Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.) Below: baked pear, chicken sausage, Quiche, fresh-baked banana bread and tea for breakfast (or coffee, vegetarian options available); ensuite bathroom to die for; room with a view.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, yes! the view. Even in the dark morning rain.

 

 

play  Not only great places to eat and unique shops downtown, but this is recreation heaven. You can hike or bike trails, kayak and motor or sail from city marinas directly into Puget Sound. Don’t miss nearby Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge for fabulous bird and critter watching. Miles of gravel trails & boardwalks take you through woods and out into the tidal marshes.

 

Getting there  I’d love to say take Amtrak – so easy from Portland or Seattle – but alas, unless you have a friend pick you up, take a bike and are diligent enough to pre-plan (Thurston County Bicycle Map)the easy, but tricky sometimes unmarked bike paths, willing to take an hour transit ride for the less than 20 minute hop into downtown, or call a cab (approx. $30) you’re out of luck. Drive then. Easy access from I-5.

 

Thanks to wonderful lodging hosts, Carole Zahorsky from Zahorsky PR, and George Sharp from Olympia/Lacey/Tumwater Visitor’s Bureau for helping me meander and enjoy this lively city on the Sound.

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