Seattle was a surprise for both of us in much the same way. It’s honestly a little weird focusing our little travel blog there; it feels like we packed our luggage and went from our bedroom to our guest bedroom if that makes any sense? We aren’t really what you’d call “tourists” on this trip, but everywhere else we’d been there was cause for at least a little exploration: the natural wonders of Halifax, the accumulated treasures in Washington. Hell, even in Sumter John likes to poke around the old haunts and see what’s changed. Landing in Seattle felt like coming home… which is only a problem because we do not, in fact, live there anymore. Yeeeeeeaaaaahhh, we were definitely going to have an interesting time, one way or another.
We stepped off the plane, grabbed our bags, and started to make our way to the taxi stand all the while experiencing a strong sense of familiarity. It didn’t even register at the time that we were on auto-pilot as we navigated through the airport to the baggage pick-up and off to the taxi stand; didn’t look at a sign once. If we were Anywhere else in the world we might have called it deja vu, but we had been here before; we knew this place quite well and it held no surprises. Even the banter in the taxi was the same as it had always been; this may surprise you, but a discussion about precipitation typically features heavily.
We both found ourselves feeling . . . emotional about being back. It was all so familiar. As John put it later, “all the best things in my life happened over the 20 years I lived there.” Chewing the fat later in the trip (spoilers!) we pieced together that we spent a tremendous amount of energy and effort in the process of moving to Portugal (you may have read about it!) that we somehow managed to completely ignore what a momentous event it was for us to close up shop on the place we’d both called home all those years. Broadly speaking, we both migrated to the Pacific Northwest in the wake of relationships that weren’t so great (in very different ways, but still). Fresh starts in mind, but no firm plans to stick around. We found work and eventually we found each other, and the story pretty much wrote itself from there. Great friends, a flock of critters, homes… it was a hell of a lot for us to not really give much thought to leaving behind. Coming back to our old home was like stepping on an emotional rake – it smacked us both right in the foreheads. But hey, travel stories amirite?
Our first surprise was a strange one – we stayed at a Residence Inn and liked it a whole lot! Not that we were suspicious, just had never had cause to use one. It was clean, spacious, and thoughtfully prepared for folks that’d be staying for awhile. I mean, “duh” in retrospect, but it was nice. Turns out we are a lot less charmed by giant marble lobbies than we are by enough towels and a thorough selection of cutlery. This particular one was nicely located down in our old neck of the woods. There’s a big park just across the street that sits on Lake Washington, and we used it as a meet-up spot for friends we hadn’t seen in … well, years of course. A nice stroll with the ducks, geese, and some unidentified weirdo bird, up and down the nature trails, was a great way to catch up.
Really, this whole portion of the visit was one big catch-up session. We had a fantastic meal at one of the local steakhouses – hardly a shocker, but if you’re looking for a good night old and like beef, El Gaucho will treat you right. They needed to train a new server for their private dining space (at least, that’s John’s theory – we certainly didn’t ask for it) so we got bumped into an amazing room with a view of the kitchen; we killed several hours with a great meal and one of those moments where you aren’t starting a conversation so much as picking up the thread you’d set down however long ago, then set it gently down again, to be picked up once more in the future. Another night, we met friends at what had been “our joint” for years and years. Not fancy, in fact more on the homespun side, but always great food and a staff that we’d come to know over time. Boa Boca (in Braga) is probably our favorite place to eat back home, but the highest praise we’ve given it is that it’s “our new Peyrassol“…. which doesn’t make sense to anybody in Braga so we mostly say it to each other. We’ve said it a lot, though. One of John’s best friends was in the midst of a bout of COVID, so he went over and hung out in their back yard – masks on and seated at safe distances, like back in the bad old days – and still chewed things over for hours.
One little side bit of business – despite getting firm advice to the contrary, our route took us directly past our old neighborhood and John just couldn’t resist the temptation. Lisa was game, so we pulled in and poked around. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose as they say. Little changes were everywhere, but it was overwhelmingly familiar. John had a route tree (a football term, roll with it) of walks he would take the dogs on and he could practically visualize the different ins and outs of side streets and walking paths and which turns they’d be in the mood for at that time of day and in that weather. Strangest of all… or not… was that our old house was unchanged. Not that it looked much the same, it was exactly as we left it. They even still had the decorative blue pots we’d had on the front porch, exactly as we left them. I swear, if you told yourself that the car in the driveway was just company that we had invited over, it was easy to imagine that we still lived there. It’s not that we wanted the place back, but there was still something comforting to see that, apparently, the space we’d created was valued by the next residents.
Like we said, a lot of the value of this stop turned out to be the bow we finally put on our time in the Pacific Northwest. We hadn’t thought that we had any regrets, but we finally eaxmined the idea thoroughly and put it to bed. Combined with an abundance of gratitude for the recharged batteries our friends helped us achieve, it was truly a wonderful few days. Really, all the days had been pretty good so far – which raised our suspicions just a smidge as we went back to Ye Olde SeaTac to make our way south to San Francisco.