Freshness of Seattle

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April 5th 2012
Published: April 26th 2012
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It’s old and run down but somehow the people of Seattle make the Pike Place Market refreshing. Perched up on a hill looking down to the waters of the massive Puget Sound it is a must see of any visit to Seattle. Especially when the sun comes out.

The joyous occasion for the locals is there for all to see, as a very unusual weekend was bestowed upon us. I researched a little and it informs me that Seattle is the 44th city in USA for rainfall with 38 inches of rain a year. So its reputation as raining every day is false. It’s cloudy 201 days a year and partly cloudy 93 days. So forever cloudy is better suited.

I had something similar (blue skies) happen to me when I was in Bergen, Norway. That is suppose to be the rainiest city in the world but my first two times there it was sunny. The clear day gave a nice opportunity to explore Seattle with a good friend of thedribblemans from JP3 days in Brazil.

He and his wife drove me around to all the prime viewpoints of the city. 1ST stop and the absolute must is a drive up to the affluent hill and Kerry Park. From a distance Seattle looks awesome even when the morning starts off in the obligatory cloud.

Skyscrapers dominate the cityscape but the defining building is the Space Needle (it had a stretched out Angry Bird attached to it), which at this viewpoint looks to tower over the city. That is an illusion as well because of its positioned in the foreground with the many buildings behind, taking a backseat looking smaller than they actually are. In fact 6 other buildings are taller, with the 76-floor Columbia Tower (the 20th tallest building in USA and the most floors in any building left of the Mississippi) being the tallest.

To the right of the CBD is Puget Sound, which is a massive piece of water that stretches out towards the Olympic Mountain range. You could count it your lucky day if you get to see the mountains clearly.

For a grand view of the city go over the bridge to Alci Point which looks back over Puget Sound and a chance to see the distance between one side of downtown to the other. Downtown is quite stretched out and that continues to the whole city with the suburbs planting themselves all around various parts of the Sound. (The cities soccer team is called the Sounders, named after the Puget Sound.)

A nice area for sunsets, if there is a chance, is Olympic Gardens where a couple of people started flame throwing and spinning. I begged in my head for them to not whip out Capoeira. That begging was rewarded.

With the viewpoints all done it was time to roam around with Seattleites (Seattle people) when the sun decided to show. The highlight is at the Pike Place Fish Market, which is bang centre underneath the big Pike Place Market sign. It’s here the fish throwers come to play. Provided you buy the right fish the employees make a bunch of noise and that gets the workers behind the counter aware a fish is coming and it gets thrown a good 5 metres from the display area. From here it is then wrapped up and ready to go. At times a tourist is given a go.

The market area is not that big but stretches for a bit over two blocks. The one thing I noticed about Seattleites is that they do like a good line up. The original Starbucks is across the road. It is the only shop that maintains its original logo from 1971. I can understand if that has a line up but two days straight there was a line up for a doughnut stand. Maybe it’s living in clouds like the UK that makes people love the line up?

It was tulip season so further down, a bit away from the fish was an array of colours. But the produce was the real star. My God I don’t think it can be emphasised how good a visual, bright shiny colours of fruit and vegetables are after spending so much time in the past 2 years in dirty buses, rubbish filled streets and slummy hotels. The market has been around since 1906 as a means for farmers to connect with the public.

My friends shouted me dinner and cooked up a fish which was amazing with all these other added ingredients from the fresh perishables. I bought some oranges for the road, which were so much cheaper and tastier than in Australia. It was as if I was a kid and had run around for a half of soccer and was ploughing through the orange quarters. Oh the juices… amazing.

But then to top it off there’s an incredible amount of options for bread. (This is a big Australian flaw, our breads) and then a cheese place! I really shouldn’t have bought it but sometimes in the states its hard not to overindulge and forget about budget just this once. The Mt Townsend Creamery has free samples that could buckle a weary travellers knees. I ended up getting the Cirrus Pacific Northwest Camembert. I know I’ve gone a bit over the top but it was that good. Seattle and the west coast can make you forget about fast greasy food. That alone makes me like Seattle.

I’ve been asked before have you been to a place and gone yeah I could live here. To tell you the truth I haven’t really had that too much. But the Pacific North West is so nice even with clouds I can easily live either here or Portland.

The rains and precipitation that occur in the winter and beginning of fall make the landscape full of a vibrant green. I think clouds and greenery is very underestimated. I’ll take that or island sand and blue.

Like with Portland it has its hipsters and it has its quirkiness. It can sometimes get a bit lost in its big city look and horrendous highways that cut through the views of Puget Sound but they are there.

The best example of this quirkiness is the choice of words and abbreviation for a form of transport that started up in 2007. Called the South Lake Union Trolley the acronym is S.L.U.T. So the slogan is “Ride the Slut!” There is merchandise for it and all. Just type in Google “Seattle Slut transport” and you’ll find some crude journalistic work like, “Seattle’s Sexy New SLUT streetcar” and “Ride on the S.L.U.T its good for the environment.” It’s now called a streetcar and not a trolley but it’s too late for the locals to change its ways. (Public transport is not that good. My friend and I waited almost an hour for no bus to come forcing us to grab a taxi.)

Another quirky thing is these bronzed pigs that pop up around the market area. About hip height these big round pigs act as a piggy bank. The pigs name is Rachel and since 1986 passerby’s have put in donations that go towards charities.

Busking in some American cities are highlights and Seattle is up there with the best but behind Chicago. There are so many different genre’s where buskers put their names down and take turns to get the two prime spots. The gospel singers on this day got the no1 spot next to Starbucks, I almost bought their CD. The other prime spot is near Rachel the bronzed pig and the Fish throwing.

There was some crazy religious guy that managed to piss off the whole market with his constant crap that came out of his mouth. Some singer was yelling out some tune and as I walked past a stall owner mentioned to his friend. “Well at least they are blocking out that guy.” Eventually a bum from the street picked up his board and walked away with it to a rounding applause and then we all dispersed.

Seattle does at times feel it’s stuck between two worlds. The modern world and the warehouse past where they just built it for convenience where style was second thought. That second thought is now being rectified with a tunnel hopefully getting rid of hwy 99. So many times that highway got in the way of a good photo.

But for a real indication on how risky the new buildings are check out the city Library. Costing $165.5 million, the 11-storey building is made up of glass and steel. The idea was to make it move away from the cliché thought of libraries and make it open, give it light and welcoming. I am unsure which is more spectacular the inside or the outside. The outside is made up of multiple protruding shapes whilst the inside provides a different view of the outside world with the buildings edges pointing at various angles. I counted one bird poo on all the windows for those playing at home. I would put it down to the best library I have been to.

One of my last stops was to the Lake Washington Ship Canal where the Hiram M. Chittenden Lock is used to lift up and drop down ships from the Puget Sound to Lake Washington and Union. It maintains the level of the two lakes to 20-22 feet above sea level. And prevents the mixing of sea water from the Sound with the freshwaters of the lakes.

I wasn’t sure what we were seeing so when I saw water being released from the lock to raise a ship I went straight back to Panama. “I just wasted a month of my trip travelling from Panama up Costa Rica, which didn’t do anything for me just to see the locks. When all this time I could have seen a smaller version doing the exact same thing in Seattle.” Oh well what can you do.

Prior to building the canal they had to come up with a fish ladder so the salmon could continue their natural lifestyle. So to the side of the canal they have a small area so the fish can jump up against the current. When it lands the water has naturally be made to push the fish to the side so they can rest a little before going for the next jump up the ladder. The canal area has no fishing apart for the native tribes people.

Seattle is one of those places that I wished I had more time for. There was so much I missed like the only real rainforest in the northwest over the Olympics mountain range. The local Roller Girls competition or a Seattle Sounders soccer match. Hiking, hunting so much.

I had one more day left for the whole state of Washington so I tried to make the most of it. First stop was to Mukilteo, close to Everett. It’s about 40 minutes north from downtown Seattle. Here is the factory of Boeing. You know those things that you take to fly around. For years it was the main base of Boeing but now there are a few other locations but the original is still a fully functional workshop

They provide tours of the worlds largest building measured by volume. In that building is the building process of the 3 types of aircraft being assembled. 747,767,777 and 787 Dreamliner Production line.

It starts off with a small video of the behind the scenes of making the plane. Interestingly there is no pat downs or security checks with the conveyer belt. No bags though. My guide was Chris who had the biggest mutton chops I’ve ever seen. He was full of information, which I will provide with the term “STAT” because there were too many to write down without a pen and pad. Damn pen was in the bag.

There is a stat on the thousand of employees they have. A stat came here and also over there and it was time to check out the planes. He informed that they use the number 7 with a change of number in the middle because it sounds stronger. Apparently after 9 it should see a letter in the middle so “7a7, 7b7, etc”.

The 777 were being assembled from the beginning. The large long haul flights take a bit longer than the others. The other two on the production line were moving ever so slowly along the line as the building of the fleet is a 24 hour process made up of 3, 8 hour shifts.

Seen, as the future of Boeings business the money-maker is the 787. It’s built on a moving process. Where it comes mostly assembled from Boeings other factories. What happens is the plane comes mostly built in one of the larger planes and brought to the Everett factory where mainly the interior is built. As well as extra comforts the new line which most airlines are now purchasing has larger windows for better viewing.

They have their own airstrip so they can do test runs before passing them over to the customer. This is generally done at 2am so it doesn’t disturb the Hwy 5 traffic that goes under the small privately owned bridge. The wingspan would scare the crap out of drivers coming around the corner. When I was there Japan Airlines just paid its 3rd instalment for its planes it waited 2 years overtime for. The 787 costs 190 million to make whilst the 747 sets you back 330 mil.

Whether the tour is worth $18 for a backpacker is debatable but I felt I needed to go there as a homage for making all may travel adventures possible.

South of Seattle is Tacoma which has an excellent Glass Museum so I heard. I went there and sure enough it was closed on a Monday. Why is it that on Mondays’ I feel like it’s a museum day and then get disappointed?

I was meant to head to Mt Rainier but without GPS and USA’s poor signage I drove past it and reached the turnoff for Mt St Helens. So with that Mt St Helens it was. It was getting later but there was enough time to walk around Silver Lake. It’s a nice spot with St Helen in the background and the natural habitat surrounding the lake. I went a bit further closing in on the mountain but with the orange light yet again rearing its ugly head I had to turn back before I ran out of gas.

I have a few friends now in the cities of Pacific North West, which makes returning a higher possibility than other places and I hope so because it quite possibly is my favourite part of the states.

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27th April 2012

Hi Drew
We lived in Seattle for 7 years and loved it. One of the few places that felt like home. Good people and good energy. A good place for old hippy...ish people like us. As you say it does not rain as much as advertised. That is a marketing ploy to keep the Californians from moving north. If you are ever there in July go to Sequim for the lavender festival. It is best to go the weekend before the festival. Happy travels.
29th April 2012

Hi Drew
The comment below is from us. Guess I was not signed in the other morning. Enjoying your travels.

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