“While having a break in a Starbucks shop, we watched fascinated by a tall, thin guy enthusiastically eating his take away lunch on the pavement, shirt off (so he didn’t get it full of food, we guessed) all the while rushing around, talking animatedly to no one in particular, reading papers which he pulled out of a nearby bin as if his life depended on them… “
Arrival – Sleepy in Seattle
Our first views of Seattle were on the limo trip from the airport, but we were barely recovered from our experience at Calgary airport where we encountered the worst of US security and we were just looking forward to getting to the Silver Cloud hotel and relaxing until Jakobus and Lynette, friends from SA, arrived. They were due to join us for our day and a bit in Seattle followed by the 8 day Alaska cruise which we had booked together some time ago.
Once they had arrived, and before the 9 hour time difference got to them, we joined up for a trip downtown and back – the hotel has a shuttle service to various drop off and collection points, which was an absolute boon during our short stay – followed by a walk to a nearby restaurant for pizza and back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep
Saturday 16th August 2014 – Discovering Seattle by foot and “Duck”
No major city can be fully experienced in a day so we decided not to rush around just so that we could say we had “been there, done that” which is the normal temptation, and rather took it easy, deciding as we went how we would spend the rest of the day. This proved to be a good approach and in the end we were well pleased with how much we managed to see and do.
After a late-ish breakfast, we headed to the downtown Westlake Centre for some shopping therapy (not my scene but I whiled away the time doing some people watching), followed by a walk to the Pike’s Place Market to jostle with the crowds of visitors and locals and marvel at the goods on display – seafood of all descriptions, fruit to drool over and a multitude of other fresh delights.
This was also the ideal place to buy some of the fresh produce for a hotel room supper later on and we left the market with fresh bread, enormous tomatoes, the best cheese, some magnificent looking peaches and a reasonable bottle of wine – all of this hectic shopping meant we deserved a Starbucks coffee and it wasn’t far to go to find one (apparently there are 170 Starbucks shops in Seattle including the original one which started the chain).
Returning briefly to the hotel to offload the purchases, we once again headed downtown, this time to buy tour tickets for the “Duck”, which we had spotted cruising around town filled with tourists and which looked like an interesting idea – basically a semi-open amphibious vehicle which not only does the usual city tour but takes you onto the waters of the lake which makes up Seattle’s harbour.
It turned out to be well worthwhile and a unique way of seeing the city – something which has taken off in North America it seems, as we saw similar tours being offered in a couple of other cities in Canada.
Our “Captain” of Scottish descent drove through town then towards the lake where our bus took to the water with no trouble and chugged along while he gave us an insight into the waterside life and activities, amongst others exploring the difference between “floating homes” and “houseboats” – important because of taxation issues apparently.
Along the way we also had good views of the old gasworks, now part of a recreational park and saw the lakeside house where the film “Sleepless in Seattle” was partly filmed. The return journey was along a different route so we had a view of quite a lot of Seattle and really enjoyed this introduction to the city.
Seattle – First Impressions
Seattle has a lot to attract the visitor and we hardly touched on the interesting spots that can be visited, but felt we had got to know it just a bit in the short time we spent there.
What really struck us was the “unusual” (for want of a better term) people we came across and perhaps it’s unfair to judge a place on the people you encounter in a city during a short stay, which is hardly representative of the population of the whole place, however it came across that Seattle has a very cosmopolitan population, including 20,000 Ethiopians apparently and many more cultures.
It also has more homeless people, druggies and mentally disturbed folk than any city of our experience – we came across them on every city block, every street corner, which made us wonder what the reason could be. Most just drift by, the dregs of society, some beg, others talk to themselves and whoever is in listening distance. Then there are the religious people peddling the message at every second street corner, including a group who, by their dress, seemed to have been transported from the 1960’s.
While having a break in a Starbucks shop, we watched fascinated by a tall, thin guy enthusiastically eating his take away lunch on the pavement, shirt off (so he didn’t get it full of food, we guessed) all the while rushing around, talking animatedly to no one in particular, reading papers which he pulled out of a nearby bin as if his life depended on them and generally behaving pretty strangely.
All quite fascinating and seemingly part of normal city life in Seattle.
Sunday 17th August 2014 : Time to set sail for the Last Frontier!
After another good breakfast at Jimmy’s, the restaurant next to the hotel, we packed and labelled our bags for the cruise, gathered in the lobby and called a large SUV to take us all, along with our copious baggage, to the Cruise Ship pier for the start of the next leg of our adventure – now I know going on a large cruise ship nowadays is hardly unusual, so probably doesn’t score highly as an adventure for most, but this was to be our first time on a cruise and it was to Alaska, billed as the “Last Frontier”, so for us was really adventurous.
Anyway more about our cruise next time…..