Next up in my Neighborhood Spotlight series is Ballard, an area that feels like a world away from bustling downtown Seattle. Ballard has a quiet atmosphere, yet it’s still close enough to downtown to make it a very attractive location to live. It’s quickly getting the reputation of being hip and chic; I’ve heard so many people here say that they absolutely love Ballard, and I really can’t blame them. It has two beautiful parks, an awesome year-round farmers market, plenty of stores selling local food and clothing, and a happening nightlife and music scene. What’s not to like about all that?
Yes, I’m definitely a Ballard girl. I love all those things about the area, but what really gets me all worked up is the neighborhood's strong Scandinavian ties. You see, I have a strange little obsession with Sweden, and whenever I get the (surprisingly frequent) craving to don my clods, tie on my bonnet, and make like a Swede, I head over to Ballard. In Ballard I can visit cute little Bergen Place, a gift from the king and queen of Norway themselves (Bergen, Norway is Seattle’s sister city); I can see some Scandinavian-inspired architecture and condos with names like “Nordic Plaza” and “Viking Villa”; I can watch some old Viking fishermen sailing their boats through the Locks and imagine that I’m a Swedish mermaid guiding them to faraway, unexplored lands; I can sample foods like “lefse” (Norwegian flatbread) and salted black licorice at Olsen’s Scandinavian Foods; or I can visit the Nordic Heritage Museum and give you all a full report of Seattle’s Scandinavian legacy. With good times like that, how can you blame me for loving Ballard?
My day of photo-taking in Ballard started a bit dubiously with a heavy rain shower just as I was starting to stroll through the farmers market. However, that didn’t seem to be stopping anyone else from their strolls, since being Viking and all gives them a pretty hearty constitution (their ancestors probably used to row across the Baltic with nothing but their bare hands and a barrel of mead, so why should a little drizzle stop them from a pleasant stroll?). In an effort to prove my own Vikingness, I decided to tough out the rain right along with them. Well, that little venture didn’t go quite as planned, because all I ended up proving was my hair’s saturation point. Fortunately, when I stepped into Duque Spa the owner took pity on me and gave me a free lip exfoliation treatment while lecturing me about the harmful effects of too much sugar in the diet. I concurred wholeheartedly (neglecting to mention my cupcake addiction) and emerged from the spa with softer lips, dryer hair, and a craving for sweets. By then the sun was shining so I bought myself a bottle of locally-made lavender lotion, received a “ciao bella” from the Italian guy selling local honey (must’ve been the exfoliated lips), satisfied my sugar craving at Hattie’s, where I ordered “The Swedes” crepes (I really just wanted the chance to finally say, “I’ll have the Swedes”), and discovered one of my favorite stores in the city, Venue. It’s an “arts co-op” where local artists both run the place and sell their art there. I wanna sell my art there too!
I also went to the Locks (a “boat elevator”) and watched the boats sail by. Sound boring? Believe me, once you try it you’ll see that it’s strangely mesmerizing. Finally I took myself down to Golden Gardens Park, one of the loveliest places I’ve found in the city. So, whenever you get a hankering to dress up like Pippi Langstrump (or a ‘70s ABBA singer) and try some salted licorice – and who hasn’t had the strange urge to do just that? – you know where to go. Lycka till!