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Thursday, December 25, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Admiral Heights: Shopping district offers pleasant dawdling

Seattle Times travel writer

City Walks


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The walk: Wrap-around views of Elliott Bay, the Seattle city skyline and the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges await visitors to Admiral Heights, a quiet residential neighborhood on a ridge above Alki Beach in West Seattle.

I started this walk at the intersection of Southwest Admiral Way and California Avenue Southwest, north of the "Junction," the business district that grew out of the convergence of two streetcar lines in the early 1900s.

The streetcars are gone, but family-owned businesses still thrive, and a number of them are clustered along California near the Admiral Theater.

A batch of hot brioche was coming out of the oven at the Blue Sky Bakery. The French rolls are the Thursday special, and I carried one along with me as I headed north toward Hamilton Viewpoint Park. The 16-acre city park, named in memory of former West Seattle Herald publisher Rupert Lehn Hamilton, is a little less than a mile away.

At Ferry Avenue Southwest, I glanced to my right and discovered a surprise view of the downtown Seattle skyline and Cascade Mountains. The scenery called for a detour, so I walked east a bit along Palm Avenue Southwest, then picked up California again where it began to dip downhill with dead-on Sound views and the boats moored at Magnolia's Elliott Bay Marina. The entrance to the park is to the right.

I lingered for a while at the fenced overlook, taking in views of the Space Needle, Columbia Seafirst Center and Safeco Field. Then I doubled back along California for about a tenth of a mile to explore the residential neighborhood along Sunset Avenue Southwest. This is a classy area of elegant homes in a mix of architectural styles with sweeping water and Olympic mountain vistas.

Pausing to look down over a white picket fence, I spotted skaters sailing along the path that stretches along Alki Beach. It would have been possible to walk down to the beach from here, but I strolled instead back along California and found Admiralty House Antiques.

The 96-year-old red brick building at 2141 California Ave. S.W. used to be a drug store. When I walked inside, Fred Dau, 87, a retired schoolteacher; and his wife, Marge, 77, were eating sandwiches behind what was once the soda fountain.

The Daus have been in business 35 years, and they've managed to fill every inch, including the ceiling, with a whimsical assortment of salt shakers, antique bottles, musical instruments, old tools and assorted other collectibles. Marge Dau is proud of her large stock of vintage Christmas decorations, which she displays year-round.

I left with a $4 ceramic Santa Claus candleholder and headed back to my car. The pedometer clipped to my belt registered two miles. It was all the excuse I needed to cross the street and stop at Zatz A Better Bagel for coffee and a bagel with cream cheese.

Secret tip: To extend this walk to Alki Beach, veer right off of Sunset at Bonair Drive Southwest, where it joins Southwest Massachusetts Street. Walk downhill along the road to Alki Avenue Southwest. To get back, pick up the Route 56 bus at Alki Avenue Southwest and 61st Avenue Southwest. There's a stop at Southwest Admiral and California.

Snack stop:

• The Blue Sky Bakery, 2332 California Ave. S.W. Scrawled across the window is a menu of temptations that coincide with various days of the week: Eclairs on Tuesday, pies and tarts on Wednesday, etc. Coffee is 45 cents a cup for senior citizens on Thursdays. Dog biscuits are free.

• Zatz A Better Bagel, 2348 California Ave. S.W. The Zatz family bakes saucer-sized bagels in flavors such as pesto, cranberry-orange, sun-dried tomato and chocolate chip.

Access: People of all ages walk this easy, mostly flat route. California Avenue Southwest dips sharply about a tenth of a mile before dead-ending into the park, where there are benches and picnic areas. Curb cuts along California are wheelchair accessible.

Parking/bus route: There's one- to two-hour free parking along parts of Southwest Admiral Way and California. Side-street parking is unrestricted.

Metro Route 55 travels from downtown to Southwest Admiral and California, with stops along California and Southwest Atlantic Street.

Carol Pucci: 206-464-3701 or cpucci@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2003 The Seattle Times Company

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