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Finding Paris in Seattle

With a little imagination you can find Paris just about anywhere. On a recent visit to the States I found Paris in Seattle, Washington. I was transported countless times to the City of Light during my three-week visit. Seattle is known as the Emerald City as Paris is known as the City of Light. Both have iconic landmarks. Seattle has Mount Rainier in the distance and is surrounded by water – Puget Sound – while Paris has the Eiffel Tower and the Seine River. I have lived in both and consider their pairing the best of both worlds.

During a visit to Seattle this past March I tucked myself into a corner at Seattle’s Capital Hill, Café Presse, and had a delicious early morning café au lait and pain au beurre avec confiture. Café Presse is a little slice of Saint-Germain with a full bar, offering simple, classic meals.

Café Presse [1], 1117 12th Ave. Tel: (202) 709-7654. 7 a.m.- 2 a.m.

Café Presse by Sue Aran
Café Presse by Sue Aran

After breakfast I decided to take a long walk and strolled leisurely downtown to Seattle’s famous Pike Place Market which sits perched on a bluff overlooking the Elliott Bay waterfront. Pike Place Market was built in 1907 and is the oldest, continuously operated public market in the United States. You can buy almost anything your heart desires here, from fresh-caught salmon and octopus to a cornucopia of fresh vegetables and tulips from the fertile Skagit Valley north of the city. Any one of Paris’ farmers’ markets would compare.

Pike Place Market [2], Pike St. & 1st Ave. Open all year.

flowers at Pike Place market. Photo by Sue Aran
flowers at Pike Place market. Photo by Sue Aran

I entered the market at First Street and Pike, a 12-block, half-hour walk from Café Presse. The first place I stopped was Left Bank books, an anarchist, non-profit, counterculture bookstore. Though not Shakespeare & Company on the Left Bank of Paris, it does have its own unique flavour selling everything from beat poetry to treatises on radical politics.

Left Bank Books [3], 92 Pike St. Tel: (206) 622-0195.

Left Bank books, photo by Sue Aran
Left Bank books, photo by Sue Aran

A couple of blocks into the market I entered Sur La Table, one of the best cook shops in the area. Founded in 1977, Sur la Table sells kitchenware products, including cookware, cutlery, cooks’ tools, cookbooks, small electrics, table-top linens, bakeware and glassware. They are the second largest retailer of specialty cookware after Williams-Sonoma. I spent almost 45 minutes here browsing the split-level store, fascinated by all of the gadgets for cooking. It’s a very small version of E. Dehillerin, the oldest retail cookware shop in Paris. I managed to leave with only one cookbook, a weakness of mine, called French Comfort Foods by Hillary Davis.

Sur la Table [4], 84 Pine St. Tel: (206) 488-2244. Open every day.

Sur La Table, photo by Sue Aran
Sur La Table, photo by Sue Aran

I walked through the craft stalls which were busy with customers and over to a grassy knoll that offers a great southern view of Mount Rainier and the industrial port. Directly west is Bainbridge Island that can be accessed by ferries which run throughout the day. It was already 11:30 when I was joined by my friend, Diane LaVonne, of Diane’s Market Kitchen.

Diane’s Market Kitchen [5], 1101 Post Ave. Tel: (206) 624-6114. Open most days, class schedules online.

Diane of Diane's Market Kitchen. photo courtesy of Diane LaVonne
Diane of Diane’s Market Kitchen. photo courtesy of Diane LaVonne

Diane offers culinary classes & tours of the various vendors at Pike Place. While there are many similar experiences to be had in Paris, Diane is a one-woman dynamo, passionate about healthy eating and sustainable agriculture. Though not in Paris, Diane will be offering a similar culinary class, market experience in Gascony with French Country Adventures [6] this July.

We eased our way through the lunchtime crowds to Café Campagne, hidden in the historic Post Alley, a quaint, pedestrian passageway just one block up from the covered market. Café Campagne bills itself as “The Heart of France in the Heart of Seattle”, and indeed it is. Open since 1994, it is Seattle’s foremost classic French restaurant. Needless to say we had a fabulous meal in what could be any number of wonderful Parisian brasseries.

Café Campagne [7], 1600 Post Alley. Tel: (206) 728-2233. Mon.-Thurs. 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Friday 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sat 8 a.m.-11 p.m. Sun 8 a.m.-10 p.m.

Cafe Campagne, photo by Sue Aran
Cafe Campagne, photo by Sue Aran

I decided to forgo dessert and stop at Fran’s chocolates, the best chocolates I have ever had the pleasure to savour. I know there are incredible chocolates in Paris, but Fran’s chocolate-dipped, fresh figs are out of this world.

Fran’s Chocolates [8], 1325 1st. Ave. Tel: (206) 682-0168. Open every day 9:30 a.m.- 7:30 p.m.

And last but not least, I rounded out my day by stopping at one of my favourite shops in Seattle, Watson & Kennedy – Purveyors of Fine Goods. Though expensive, the quality of gift and home items from France are incomparable. The store is arranged by colour and is a feast for the eyes, something only someone with a Parisian design sensibility and flair could accomplish. Bravo Ted! Be prepared not to leave empty-handed.

chocolate-covered figs at Fran's Chocolates, photo by Sue Aran
chocolate-covered figs at Fran’s Chocolates, photo by Sue Aran

Watson & Kennedy [9], 1022 1st. Ave. Tel: (206) 443-2681. Open every day 10 a.m.- 6 p.m.

I didn’t cover all of the Parisian style offerings from Seattle in this brief article as they are numerable, but here are a few others to add to your list should you be traveling to Seattle:

Le Pichet, 1933 1st Ave. Tel: (206) 256-1499. Open 8 am- midnight.

Bakery Nouveau – West Seattle, 137 15th Ave. E. Tel: (206) 858-6957. Opens daily at 6 am.

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