Couples getaways
Three great ways to impress your Significant Other
By CARY ORDWAY

Spring is in the air and it's the perfect time of year to plan that specials couple getaway. After a winter of hibernation, it's time to treat your Significant Other to a Getaway To Remember – and here are some of our favorites.

Inn at the Market

If you've watched a Seattle football game on TV anytime in the past century or so, you already know something about the Pike Place Market. No play-by-play announcer worth his salt would call a Seattle game without hamming it up at the market. The fish guys get all the publicity. There they are, pitching salmon across the counter like a softball pitcher thrusts a ball toward the home plate. There is the yelling, the crowd roar, the general hubbub that tells you, yes, this is Seattle all right: Home of fish, land of the fish market.

But the market is much more than fish – it's about as distinctive a place as you'll find anywhere in the country and it offers its own brand of tourist hype and hoopla. For couples, the Inn at the Market is a top romantic destination. This is a great location couples because the Pike Place Market is situated both near the waterfront and close to some of the most popular shopping streets in downtown Seattle.

The Inn at the Market promotes itself as a hideaway, and that it is. It's tucked into a vibrant neighborhood of eclectic shops, ethnic restaurants and, yes, tourist attractions, all within a couple-minute walk from the hotel. The hotel features 70 nicely-appointed rooms as well as the aforementioned deck that seems to be a favorite place for guests to hang out. Our room looked out over the Pike Place Market sign and had an expansive view of Elliott Bay where we enjoyed watching the Washington State Ferries pick up and deliver downtown commuters who live in idyllic, upscale spots like nearby Bainbridge Island.

The rooms at the inn are quite homey, offering luxury touches such as Temper-Pedic mattresses, signature robes and a selection of fine toiletries. Our room was large by boutique hotel standards and featured a refrigerator and honor bar and a spacious bathroom area as well as the normal extras you would expect such as complimentary Wi-Fi, in-house movies and TV and a Nintendo game system. But the best part of the room was the double-paned, floor-to-ceiling windows and a view that really made us feel like we were in the heart of Seattle.

After we checked in, we wasted no time in heading for the market and walking our way through the myriad of vendors that offer any kind of arts, crafts and household decorations you can imagine. The flowers were everywhere – fragrant, colorful fresh-cut flowers that just kind of reminded us that the market is about all things natural and offers a kind of communion with the elements. Produce and, of course, fish were piled high on tables stretching the length of the market, and there was a flock of visitors so thick you could only crawl through the market's narrow passageways. But that was all part of the charm – it wouldn't be nearly as much fun if you were seeing it all by yourself.

For more information on Inn at the Market, visit www.innatthemarket.com or phone 206-443-3600.

Mt. Baker cabin

Tucked in the far northwestern corner of the "lower 48" states, the Mt. Baker region is a spectacular place, sharing the extreme beauty of nearby British Columbia and offering relaxing getaways that are just as remote as remote can get. In this region you'll venture into snow-topped mountains so dramatic they have been used in movies and on TV shows to depict the Colorado Rockies and other famous mountain areas. During winter, the snow's so deep up here that the Mt. Baker ski area always seems to get the first snow and the deepest snowpack. This area is for mountain-lovers, not for folks who settle for the hills that pass for mountains in places like Vermont or other eastern states.

Our quick getaway into the Mt. Baker area began with a turn-off from Interstate 5 in Bellingham at Highway 542 – the Mt. Baker Highway. The two-lane road meanders through meadows and valleys, over hills and around curves through old-growth timber that grows more towering with each passing mile. The Mt. Baker Highway is about 57 miles to its end, although we planned to spend the night near Maple Falls, less than half that distance from Bellingham.

Our cabin was just another four miles or so from Maple Falls' tiny downtown, so it was quick to get to, and easy to return to town for groceries or dinner at one of a few local restaurants. The cabin was just off Silver Lake Road with no sign or street name indicating the turn-off, but excellent directions provided by Mt. Baker Lodging, the rental agency.

The word cozy was invented for this place. It was relatively small, simple construction but with plenty of charm. The chalet-style building had a bathroom, a small kitchen and dining area, and a comfortable couch and easy chair for watching the 20-something inch TV or for curling up by the fireplace. Upstairs were three small bedrooms with low A-frame style ceilings but still plenty of room to move around. Outside the owners had built a shelter for the picnic table and a grill was close at hand, ideal for hamburgers and hot dogs in the Great Outdoors.

Once we brought in our suitcases and a few groceries we were headed down the trail to find what we would find. In just a few minutes we came to Silver Lake, a tranquil pond that, on a warmer day, might have been perfect for a swim. Thick woods and marshes lined most of the lakeshore, although there were tell-tale signs this wasn't quite as far off the beaten path as it would seem. It was so gorgeous and close to the cabin that it was the perfect hike for anyone just looking for great scenery and a dense natural landscape. We could easily have spent hours in such a peaceful place.

For information on cabin rentals at Mt. Baker, please go to www.mtbakerlodging.com or phone 800-709-7669.

Bainbridge Island

We wanted to find a cozy, romantic beach bungalow with its own beach on an island with thick forests and a lush natural landscape, so we headed for the San Juan Islands, right? Well not exactly. If you live in the Seattle area think a little closer - think Bainbridge Island.

There is a reason those people who live on Bainbridge Island pay through the nose for daily ferry commutes and put up with the relative inconvenience of timing any trip to Seattle so that there is a minimal wait at the ferry terminal. They do it because that sliver of Puget Sound that separates the island from Seattle also creates a huge divide in lifestyle. Island living is just different - it's slower, it's quieter, there are fewer people and, for many island residents, their homes are hidden in thick woods under a forest canopy that makes them feel like they're about the only people on earth. Others enjoy mesmerizing views of the sound from their waterfront homes.

Visitors can share some of that lifestyle by hopping the Bainbridge Island ferry, which runs at least every hour and sometimes more often that that. A thorough search of the internet turned up some lodging possibilities on Bainbridge Island and one that stood out was advertised as a "Bainbridge Island Beach Cottage." As we looked into it further, the description hit all the right buttons for us - it was a "classic 1930's cabin" and on Pleasant Beach just a few miles across the island from the ferry terminal. From the photos, there was no better word to describe the cabin than charming.

Our cottage was easy to find and, unlike some lodgings you see on the internet, this place was everything we thought it would be. We opened the door to a one-room cottage (plus bathroom and closet) that included a kitchen, table and dining area, a quasi-living room seating area, and a queen bed - everything decorated in beige or yellow or blue and white with a knotty pinewood floor. The kitchen was complete with coffeemaker, microwave, dishes and silverware, stove, refrigerator - everything we would need.

The grounds where this cottage is located are quite special. The cabin has an old-fashioned porch and a couple of rocking chairs that are perfect for enjoying a picture postcard view of the expansive green lawn and, beyond that, the water of Puget Sound. Fir trees and shrubbery surround three sides of the cottage, while lilacs and other flower variations add highlights to the lawn. Interestingly, the owners of the cottage live right next door in their own well-maintained home of about the same vintage.

We took a walk out to the beach area where, with the tide out, it's possible to walk entirely around the inlet. The cottage had met our expectations and was just the kind of hideaway we had been looking for.

For more information on this beach cottage, phone 206-999-9655 or visit www.bainbridgebeachcottage.com.

Photos, from top: Pike Place Market; remote cabin near Mt. Baker; cottage on Bainbridge Island

Photos by Cary and Sandi Ordway

OTHER DESTINATIONS: If you're looking for other Northwest travel ideas, be sure to check out other Northwest Travel Advisor articles on Northwest zoos, Northwest water vacations, Port Townsend and Seattle attractions.

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