seattle, washington,united states
Seattle is a city that constantly hums. Not like New York, where the base sound is like an alarm clock; Seattle has a whoosh, like the movement of the waves, providing the tempo for your days and nights. There is much to see, it is not hard to fill your days with the main attractions and then some. But even when that's all you have time for, you are left wanting... more. An ocean crossing is never easy for Australians, we have to make several stops and give up days to get anywhere. So sometimes it is hard to tell if you love a place simply because you have arrived or whether it is truly worthy of worship. Seattle and I hit it off right from the start; it was cold (my main reason for going) and it was easy to get around. My hostel, The Green Tortoise, was located right on the steps of Pike Place. I feel like I fluked the location because it was so good!
I had come prepared with a list of the big names in Seattle coffee, fond memories of a much loved romance novel set in Seattle and not much else. I confess with this trip I was more focused on having a white Christmas in Banff than on my other stops along the way. Perhaps it is easier to fall in love with a city when you don't know much about it.
I had four days to fill before heading to Vancouver and my days formed a pattern - waking up late (this is a holiday after all), searching out an excellent latte and then taking in 1-2 attractions. Always, always, I got distracted by shopping - who doesn't love TJMaxx? My pick of stops are below but I must say, you will want to see more: hire a car or get on a tour bus and look around.
Started by farmers as a way to stop the middle-man from unreasonably hiking up the price of produce, Pike Place is the original farmers market. Home to sensational produce and baked goods, this is where you'll find the fishmongers throwing salmon like football and Seattle institutions Lowell's and The Athenian (made famous by Sleepless in Seattle).
This adventure was a tour of Pioneer Square guided by Val from Beneath the Streets. Fascinating to hear about Seattle's early days, the great fire and the process of raising the streets. With much of the street level becoming one level below, skylights like the one below were installed to provide light to shoppers until the process of raising the streets was complete. The original glass can be identified by its magenta hue, having become more beautiful with time.
While having multiple locations, Storyville maintains the feel of a boutique cafe. I made the climb to Storyville in Pike Place and amongst cosy surrounds overlooking the bustling marketplace, I picked up a latte that was beautifully whipped, poured and had the perfect ratio of shot to milk. I went back here a couple of days in a row...
A curio stop on the waterfront, I wasn't looking for the Seattle Antiques Market, I could swear it found me! The market was full of brill vintage items, with an intriguing range of items that were somewhat different to what I would see in a similar market in Australia. A great snapshot of time and place!
A Museum that surely was built solely for my merriment! Full of tributes to music, fashion, television and film, MoPop was fun from start to finish. On offer while I was there: a retrospective of Nirvana and the pull of punk to the mainstream; an exhibition on Jimmi Hendrix; a display of wearable art; explorations of horror and fantasy genres; and the main exhibit of the moment - Star Trek film and television since its launch in 1966. I particularly loved the Princess Bride pieces and a page of the original Labyrinth script.
The Chihuly Glass Museum is like stepping into Wonderland. A sensory feast for your eyes, the colours, scale and curation of Dale Chihuly's masterpieces amaze. Incredible enough in daylight, if you are staying at the Seattle Center after dark you can also see the garden pieces lit up against the night sky.
You can easily spend the better part of a day at the Seattle Centre, accessed via the Westlake Center Monorail, it holds several of Seattle's attractions and is the gateway to a few more. Built for the 1962 World's Fair, the Space Needle is a marvel of the city skyline. Legend has it that the famous shape was first conceived by architect John Graham on a napkin. To get the full effect of the view, it's a great idea to get the City Pass and use the day/night ticket - although this does have to be used on the same day.