Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Books in the Pacific Northwest

Book Adventures in the Pacific Northwest
Seattle, WA & Portland, OR

Dear Reader,

Hi, gang! So, I have been quite remiss in writing reviews, most especially because I went on a fun (and far too whirlwind!) trip to Seattle & Portland this past week and a half. You'll be pleased to hear, however, that while I was away I certainly wasn't far from books! We hit up several literary landmarks, including the Seattle Public Library (an architectural gem), the Portland (Multnomah County) library (a gorgeous old building), Powell's Books (an institution), and even the Whisk{e}y Library! (That last one was not quite so bookish, and was more for Troy than for me - but I stumbled across it when I was looking for directions to the real MCPL.) We even considered going to The Bookstore, a bar in Seattle, but were talked out of it because, despite its name, it wasn't apparently very bookish. (Looking at the website now, I think our friend was terribly wrong about this, and I so wish we'd gone!)

(NB: Since I am not great at ever remembering to take photos, I am gratefully borrowing some amazing work from others.)

(photo by Nicola @ Flickr)

The Seattle Public Library was incredible - it was the first real Seattle sightseeing we did, and well worth the visit. I was impressed by so much there - the organization of the place, the use of space, the unbelievably huge collection (even including beautiful old phone directories from the early 1900s!). We got to see the view from the highest point of the library, and also made sure to stop by the Chocolati stand, the Seattle-based coffee & chocolate shop located just inside the main entrance to the library. I got a peanut butter hot chocolate (there were so many yummy options!) and we tried several of the famous chocolates, including the chipotle truffle, the "fish & chips" (a fish-shaped mold with potato chips inside!), a Bailey's-filled truffle, and a vanilla & sea salt one. All incredible. And the woman who worked behind the counter was so friendly and welcoming! She gave us some great suggestions for our visit to her adopted city. I could have probably spent days in the SPL, but we had other places to see, so we reluctantly moved on. 

Larry Kirkland, Garden Stair Detail, found here

Portland's library was a total gem of an entirely different variety. If Seattle's was the pinnacle of modern style, this was the epitome of a classic Vanderbilt-style library. My Portland-based friend who brought us there was worried it would not live up to the Seattle library, but it absolutely did - it just wasn't the shiny, high-tech marvel of Seattle. It had its own perfect charm, and I adored it just as much. The staircase pictured above was gorgeous etched black marble, encompassing a myriad of subjects. We first climbed it to see the temporary Cesar Chavez exhibit in the upstairs gallery, which was very well done. Then we explored a few of the many grand rooms, where we found gems like globes of various planets, their charming Friends bookstore, and the Beverly Clearly children's room:

Beverly Cleary was an Oregon local - I was thrilled to realize this when we drove through Yamhill, OR!
Photo by Amara D. @ Yelp

My friend also wisely took me to Powell's Books, which is another Portland institution and must-see! What a mecca - and a maze! We kept getting lost in the numerous rooms. But, a good lost, of course! I can't even describe the overwhelming awesomeness, but just think of a chain bookstore done INCREDIBLY WELL. It was filled with people, even on a Wednesday afternoon. I purchased the below design in t-shirt form:

Adorable, right? Apparently it was a design contest winner! In any case, both the library & bookstore should be added to any book-lover's visit to Portland.

And lastly, even though it wasn't a book library, we did visit the gorgous Whisk{e}y Library which I luckily stumbled across. This is a fairly new place in Portland, so on weekends it still has lines out the door, but we visited on a weekday afternoon and so luckily we were seated immediately. It felt like a place where Sherlock Holmes or Ernest Hemingway could be found. It had a beautiful speakeasy feel, with a dash of library thrown in (there were reading tables like you might find in the NYPL), and featured shelves upon shelves of whiskey and liquor of all sorts! I actually took some photos, for once:

(Now you can see why I never take photos - I certainly didn't get my father's photography genes!)

So, there you have it! Our literary adventures in the Pacific NW. I highly recommend visiting any & all of the above next time you find yourself in the Seattle & Portland areas! I will certainly revisit them when I get to go back again.


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