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*Ballard, Adventures at Goodwill, and Thoughts on Thankfulness, part I.

Part I: Ballard.

Disclaimer: Long but  no real point, just thoughts on Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood.

Yesterday was cold but sunny, and I had a few hours on my hands between the morning service at church and a meeting there in the evening.  Planning to take a Sunday nap, I ended up back at my apartment in Seattle.  However, before I had a chance to climb into bed, I noticed a missed call from one of my best friends, Caitlin.

Caitlin and I hadn’t chatted for a few weeks, but on Friday night while at ToST in Fremont with some friends, she had received a few random texts from my phone, written by my friend Brian, pretending to be our friend Jared (also at ToST).  Jared, Caitlin, and I had all gone to high school together, so the texts weren’t completely random, but Jared and Caitlin haven’t actually talked in years!  Some clarification for the texts was needed, as well as a good talk with a great friend, so the nap was quickly forgotten.  Instead, I decided to walk down to Market Street to buy some gloves and a cup of coffee, and then take a stroll around Ballard and catch up with Caitlin.

Although I was thoroughly expecting to enjoy conversing with Caitlin, I was also pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed just being out in Ballard.

My apartment is only a few blocks off of Market Street and the walk there, as usual, was uneventful.  The day before it had actually been more interesting, as the small lawn of St. Luke’s had been full of church members caroling and offering hot apple cider and BBQ to passersby.  I had stopped for the cider and to chat for a few minutes that day, but yesterday I continued on, the church quiet and peaceful as it often is.

I headed straight to Market Street Shoes, planning to stop in only long enough to get a pair of gloves so my hands wouldn’t freeze while holding the phone.  I had noticed their hats and scarves before, so I was suprised to find they didn’t sell gloves at all!  They sent me across the street to Market Street Athlete, assuring me I could get gloves there.

I headed that way, but instead of crossing the street at the crosswalk as I should have, I decided to turn down Ballard Avenue and head the other way instead.  I was so glad I did, because it turns out that Ballard Ave. is quite the street!

The Ballard Sunday Farmers Market was just winding down and there were lots of people milling about.  I walked down the street slowly, peering into store windows and checking out the numerous coffeehouses, bakeries, restaurants, pubs, and boutiques.  I wasn’t quite sure how I had lived in Ballard for over three months (and Seattle for over two years) and not discovered this wonderful area yet!

Eventually I realized I had been here before, if only once.  One of my first friends in Seattle was a guy named Stephen who I had met through the “New to Seattle” group on facebook.  Sharing an interest in traveling, we had gotten together a few times to swap stories and explore the city a bit.

Shortly after meeting, he had two couch surfers from Sweden, Mirja and Anna-Maria, crash on his couch for a few days.  The four of us, as well as his friend Anthony, had gone to a pub in some place called “Ballard.”  At that point, I was still perpetually lost in the city and had no idea that this “Ballard” neighborhood bordered “Fremont,” the neighborhood that Stephen lived in.  (I was still living in Beaux Arts/Bellevue then).  I had really liked the pub that we went to, and have been searching Seattle for it ever since, but to no avail.  I could vividly remember the inside of the pub, but not the name or location.  Yesterday, as I peered in window after window, I found myself staring in at the very table we had sat at, more than two years ago!  The pub’s name is King’s Hardware (only slightly misleading), and it is on Ballard Avenue.

After re-discovering King’s, I wandered in and out of a few stores, still searching for the gloves before calling Caitlin.  I never did find a pair of gloves, but I did discover a few interesting stores, and have a growing list of places to eat and drink.  Eventually I sat in Marvin’s Garden Park (which makes me think of Marvin Jarman, for those of you from Greenville) and called Caitlin and then my Granddad.

As I walked home, I thought about the things that I like about Ballard, and Seattle.  I love being able to walk around, without a car, meandering in and out of stores, people-watching, and finding new, fun hangouts to try with friends.  In fact, this ability to walk in and out of shop and restaurant with no need for a car is one of the things that I love about Europe.  Here, in the US, I feel like it’s the exception rather than the rule, whereas in Europe, driving from shop to restaurant to home is almost unheard of.

Even more that that, however, is the ability to do this in a place that is surrounded by the beauty of water and mountains.  Ballard is super-close to Fishermen’s Terminal, which is full of picture-perfect boats.  And, on a clear day, all you have to do is glance up and to the west to see snow-capped mountains glistening in the sun.  It really is a wonderful place to be.

This morning I went for a run through Ballard, and down Ballard Avenue, again perusing the shops and restaurants.  Now, I sit in Ballard’s Caffè Fiorè, enjoying the atmosphere of one of Seattle’s best coffeehouses and an espresso doppio while reading, writing, and surfing the Internet.  As the quarter has come to an end, I have a little extra time to enjoy Seattle before flying South for Christmas.  I’m looking forward to being home, but I’m also excited to continue exploring Seattle and Ballard before I leave.

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