I don’t know about you, but the holidays left me restless, needing a good many walks. I spent my lunch hour today walking down First Ave. from Pike Place Market to Pioneer Square, towards Elliott Bay Books. I like this particular walk the most in summer. Pioneer Square is more cobblestoned and mortared than most any other part of Seattle. On the few days that the sun really bakes the city, why not stand in the very heart of all that heat?

The best walking is done outside, and books are on shelves inside. But there’s something about going into Elliott Bay that makes me feel like my heart and lungs are outside of my skin, that the slim wood floor is a very soft ceiling. This store could be a whole galaxy, the way it can float you around and spin time.

They recently remodeled the café into a space that looks so typical Seattle—light wood, clean lines, cupcakes in glass display cases. But the cool thing is that the café is in the basement of an ancient brick building, so all the new that could be bland becomes careful and balanced.

Instead of sticking around for coffee I browsed for books, then headed toward my office. On the way, I spotted a newish café called Stella on First and University.

The couple who own the place, Rob and Josie, were working the bar. The long, narrow space has big windows, imperfect original tile, a chandelier and a tin roof. I ordered an americano and bantered with Josie for a few minutes. Sitting down, I watched as Rob called customers bella in this very unsleazy way. A heartened bella. He waved at dogs and babies and made jokes with his wife about her persnickety Italian parents.

I am head over heals for Stella now. For a sometimes cold and often damp city, Rob and Josie are the perfect transplants. They’re from a warm place, and that warmth still hasn’t worn down. If you live in Seattle, make plans to meet a friend at Stella, and I’ll put money on it. You’ll both be charmed.

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