For the next week I’ll be on a trip of a lifetime. And one most civilians never get a chance to take.
I am traveling to Seattle—a city I know and love but haven’t seen for many years—and Doha, a city that is entirely new to me and one I look forward to exploring.
The first part of the trip is Seattle. Let’s just call it the appetizer.
What does Seattle have to do with Doha? More on that later.
But I got to Seattle early, because when it comes to great food, Seattle is one of my must-stops. I started my Seattle gastronomic tour at the same place I always begin: Pike Place Market.
Mornings are a good time to walk through the market before the crowds arrive, because it’s easy to stop and take your time looking at what’s for sale, which is a lot of the freshest, most beautiful fish and shellfish you’re likely to see anywhere.
I love shellfish. When I lived in Seattle for the Twin Peaks and Citizen Baines‘ television shoots, I was very happy.
I’d fill up on fresh Kumomoto oysters, Dungeness crabs, and Penn Cove mussels. The oysters are delicious raw or in stews. The crabs are sold cooked or live. The mussels are easily steamed and eaten with a butter-garlic broth.
While the vegetables in the market come from many sources including California, the fish is local, coming no farther away than Alaska.
There are also fresh and dried flower stalls, bakeries, cheese shops, and a wonderful selection of small restaurants and coffee shops.
A favorite place to stop is the Crumpet Shop (1503 1st Avenue between Pike and Pine; 206-682-1598) where the crumpets are freshly made and available with sweet or savory toppings. Come before 8:30 a.m. for “latte happy hour,” when your morning drink costs only $1.50.
I walked over to the market twice yesterday. Once by myself just as the stalls were opening. For breakfast I had a freshly steamed pork bao from Mee Sum Pastry (1526 Pike Place; 206-682-6780). The second time I brought part of our group.
Since two are Brits and two others are Indian, I wanted their expert opinion about the Crumpet Shop. Are they authentic?
After several rounds of crumpets with butter, honey and preserves, and cheddar cheese with sliced tomatoes, they agreed that they were authentic and delicious.
I had lunch at the Space Needle Restaurant, which is always an experience. Touristy, of course. The food? Passable. But for first-timers (and only first-timers), you need to go there. Not for the food, but for the view. Simple as that.
For dinner, there’s a favorite with locals called the Black Bottle (2600 1st Avenue at Vine; 206-441-1500) where you can share a dozen gastro-pub dishes: crispy butterflied seven spice shrimp; deep fried and battered Spanish fried olive; fried tofu with a sate sauce; sweet and tender cumin pork tenderloin with a frisee salad; fried sardines with spicy Indian slaw; braised and grilled artichoke hearts; coconut gelato with plantain fries; and a luridly rich, hot dark chocolate cake with a scoop of vanilla gelato hidden inside.
For more on Seattle, don’t miss Off the Brochure Travel Guide: Seattle, Washington.
And now, the connection between Seattle and Doha …
It starts with a must-stop for visitors: Boeing’s Museum of Flight (9404 East Marginal Way South; 206-764-5700). Anyone who travels needs to go there because we all too often take flying—and the development of aviation and aerospace—for granted.
I still find it amazing that there is just 50 years between the Wright Brother’s tentative efforts to achieve flight and the development of the Mach 3 SR-71 Blackbird.
There was another reason to tour the museum. It led to the flight to Doha. The journey starts with a tour of the Boeing factory to pick up a new 777-200LR that will join Qatar Airways’ fleet. It’s known as delivery flight. Qatar normally doesn’t fly from Seattle, except when picking up a new aircraft.
Onboard there were only airline officials, Boeing reps, a small flight crew from the airline, and a few invited guests.
If you add up the certification team from Boeing and the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority, and the airline staff, we’ll barely number 20 passengers on a plane that can seat 217 in coach and 42 in business.
Talk about space—and weight. I’ve never been on such an empty flight. But there’s good reason for this plane to fly with so few people: range. We may be very light on passengers for this flight, but we’re heavy on fuel.
We’re going to fly nonstop to Doha, and we’re heading north, on a polar route that will take us nearly 15 hours to fly nonstop between Seattle and Qatar.
More from Doha, Qatar soon…