Airports – hubs of communication, harbours of modern travel. We stress our way through check-in, through security and as we enter the gate area our minds are already somewhere else, in the arms of a loved one or on the way to new adventures. We never stop and appreciate these sites that frame our travel. I was on my way to Alaska a few years back, which involved many stop-overs and as I entered my last airport before my final flight I was told all flights to the Last Frontier had been cancelled due to volcanic activity. To cut a long story short I ended up being stranded in Seattle-Tacoma airport for three days, plenty of time to discover one of our most ignored treasures.
As you enter the Central terminal, the building opens up in to a large piazza, the heart of Seattle-Tacoma. The large panoramic windows floods the hall with natural light and allows the travellers to watch the majestic planes land and take off. Rocking chairs in dark wood have been placed along the large window, which slows down the tempo of the hall. A perfect place to relax with a cup of coffee from one of the many coffee shops around the piazza. If you are looking for something more substantial the square caters to most tastes; I would recommend a visit to Ivar’s Seafood Bar and a cup of their New England clam chowder. The soup is filling and deliciously creamy and will definitely make you pause for a moment on your journey. So, take a seat under one of the street-lights in the square, look at the people stressing by and enjoy.
While you are sitting there don’t forget to look up. Suspended in the ceiling hangs what looks like tiny glittering fish, sitting under it you get the sense they are shoaling over your head, moving together in what from a distance looks like a bird landing on water. This magnificent piece of art by Ralph Helmick and Stuart Schechter is one of the most memorable pieces in Seattle-Tacoma, but I urge you to keep your eyes and ears open, all through the airport where beautiful treasures are hidden if you only take the time to discover them. One of my recent revelations was in Concourse B, where one of six talking water fountains can be found. The artwork by Jim Green gave me, and a handful of children, endless joy as we watched the puzzled faces of numerous adults as they bent down to drink and were met by the loud gurgling noise of the water fountain. Don’t stay too long though as the sound will eventually send you looking for the restrooms.
If art is not your thing you might want to check out some of the many shops located all through the airport. One store that has saved many birthdays and Christmases is Fireworks in the Central terminal. This small corner shop is surprisingly good and holds everything from kids’ toys to Indian styled paper lamps, everything in an arty and eclectic style. If you are looking for something more local, go next door and you will find Made In Washington Stores, which sells locally made goods and art by local artists. It is well worth a visit even if you are only on your way to a connecting flight.
If you have some extra time why not head to the North Satellite or Concourse C and visit ‘Massage Bar’ and have someone rub your weary traveller’s muscles. Treatments range from 15 to 30 minutes, and if you only want a good foot rub they offer that as well, no appointment necessary. If you rather put your feet up with a good beer, I personally recommend the Alaska Lodge, which attracted me with its cosy wooden cabin atmosphere and the friendly staff. On the other hand, if cosy is not your thing, the Vintage Washington Wine Bar is a more upscale option.
So, next time you are at an airport, take some time and admire the view, the art, have dinner in an unexpected place. Allow yourself to stop for a moment before your rush to new adventures. Airports are oases linked by the trails of our journeys to our futures. Travelling is just as much about the places we pass through as it is about the destinations we reach.