Speechless in Seattle

The bus trip to Seattle from Vancouver is best described as extremely tiresome. Best because the truth involves too many expletives to keep the blog at a polite enough level for my children to read. Our driver appeared to have some sort of sudden braking and accelerating obsession, the wait at the border was painfully long in the heat, and when we arrived in Seattle the city centre was blocked up in the mad rush to see a baseball game and/or the amazing Dolly Parton who had followed us to this great city for the next leg of her tour. I hope she wasn’t well over an hour late in arriving like we were.

Anyway I will not bore you with a mediocre breakfast in the station in Vancouver or dwell any longer on our Canadian leg other that to mention one little thing I forgot in all the entries north of the border. Almost everywhere we went walking in Canada we saw little stone constructions the locals call ‘Inukshuks’. Similar to a cairn in Scotland, people build these little towers when they have arrived at a place to let others know they were there -and as a symbol of friendship. Rather than just a lump of stones though, they are formed into the ‘likeness of a person’ which is the meaning of Inukshuk in the language of the Arctic native people.

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I mention this because the locals also make little Inukshuks for selling in gift shops. They glue a few stones together, varnish it and place it on sale for about $10. I have not purchased any of these and will instead, make some from good old Scottish stones when I get back and give them to family members as a gift from Canada. Only those who bother to read this blog will know I have cheated!

But back to Seattle.

Well if for any reason you thought I had become a little cynical and tired from my travels (bearing in mind my attitude to Vancouver) I can tell you right now – I absolutely LOVE Seattle. This is a really, really great city!

We lugged our cases to the hotel about six blocks away on arrival. A taxi would have taken another hour in the traffic so it seemed the best option. The hotel we found to be well situated, if a little tired. After that our visit to Seattle was just perfect.

We walked out in the evening to the waterside where we jumped aboard the Seattle Great Wheel just as the sun was setting. At around $15 this is a tremendous bargain when you consider the London Eye costs about forty quid. The views are fantastic and, with the sun setting, we were really lucky to get the timing just right.

To eat we stayed at the waterside and enjoyed some great burgers at Red Robin on Pier 55. It was a good old feast with unlimited juice and fries. I’d not rate it above the burgers we had in Calgary but it was terrific.

We then walked along the harbour area which is a buzzing tourist trap and investigated the weirdest gift shop called Ye Olde Curiosity Shop which is part museum. There are two real mummies and a range of other unusual exhibits amongst the touristy stuff.

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This is not a Mummy – my poor wife was just starving….

We couldn’t fit much more in to the first evening so we returned to plan our next day. We had already formed an impression of Seattle being a labyrinth of discovery and wanted to make sure we filled every hour.

It’s easy for me to understand why Seattle has borne such creative and enterprising minds as Jimi Hendrix, Bill Gates and Kurt Cobain. Companies like Amazon and Starbucks were started in Seattle and, of course, Tom Hanks found love with Meg Ryan in one of the finest films of the romantic genre (‘pass the sick bag’). It’s a city that raises curiosity, it is multi-dimensional in culture as well as in it’s landscape (the city seems to be on a number of levels), and it is jam-packed with unusual street art, market stalls and curiosity shops. It’s a genuine joy for anyone who loves to explore and you find something new at every turn.

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Sketch of Seattle

Our first stop today was the Pike Place Market which was just setting up as we walked through. It would be easy to get lost and not care in this huge market area. Covering several blocks of the city, it is interconnected through passageways and stairs that can confuse the mind into all sorts of rash purchases. There are antique shops, magic shops, comic books shops. You name it – it’s there.

We bought a doughnut there.

On the way home.

It was just too much to take in!

We headed to the Space Needle next. Built during the space race, this tower resembles a flying saucer hovering over the city with spirals of dangly tentacles reaching down to the ground beneath. The imagery is intentional. This tower was a homage to the science fiction obsession of the period and has clearly inspired countless young people in this area to develop some of the most incredible technology we enjoy today. It’s also a pretty good view from the top.

My favourite of the whole holiday came next. The EMP Museum. You can read about this for yourself. I need say no more – just watch my video below and you will understand.

Onward from the museum we walked by the water though the Olympic Sculpture Park all the way back to the waterfront where we had ice cream for a late lunch (as you do). At the Seattle Bay Creamery where they make their own waffle cones I had a Huckleberry and Pecan double scoop and could barely finish it. Less than five dollars too!

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The last couple of hours of our day was spent exploring some of the underground of Seattle in the Beneath the Streets tour. The tour guide made this hour long walk into the bowels of the city much more entertaining than it could ever be without the history. Essentially speaking, Seattle was flooded in its youth so they abandoned the first floor of many buildings in the Pioneer Square area of town and built the town over it. There are around 20 blocks of sidewalk (not connected) that can be explored and, in some cases, you can still see the original shop fronts. You need imagination to enjoy the tour though, there’s not that much to see.

Fortunately Seattle fires the imagination and it’s not difficult to get into the story.

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For dinner we returned to the Pike Place Market and enjoyed the fare at the Pike Seattle Brewing Company. With countless local and internationally sources ales, this pub provides a great choice of drinks to have with your burgers and pasta. We had two diet cokes.

Well they refill them. They don’t give away the beer.

The sun going down we returned to our hotel. On the way we remembered that Seattle has another curious feature that helps fire the imagination – legalised recreational drugs. Not being smokers we settled for something more palatable to our conservative natures.

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And if you believe that you will understand Seattle.

It’s unbelievable.

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