The land of coffee houses
Trip Start May 16, 2011
203Trip End Jul 31, 2012
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Where I stayed
Green Tortoise Seattle Hostel
Orange and banana segments along with toast, jams and pancakes were on offer. I skipped the pancakes and took the rest along with a coffee ... no tea! After a skype call with Sarah (who is now also in the US) I moved dorm rooms and hit the streets.
The hostel is in downtown right on Pike Street and therefore opposite Seattle's Pike Place Market. The place and street outside is a throng of people mainly tourists. I join the crowd and start wandering. It's full of stalls all selling their wares, it's busy and it's a bum fight to see what's on offer on the stalls
Vendors are busy trying to get your attention, either with wisecracks or handing out fruit samples or even throwing fish. Yes the fishmongers are fish-throwing! Oh and shouting and chanting in unison every time something is purchased or a tip given ... it's fascinating to watch. I opt for a bag of cherries and start stuffing my face. It's not long before my right palm and fingers are stained red.
Buskers and street performers fill every open space, this market is truly an assault on the senses. Pike Place Market, for those who don't know, gave the world Starbucks. Yes the international coffee chain was born here and the first store still remains ... not that you can get close during the day to investigate for the size of the crowds queuing out the door ... not sure of the attraction myself.
I feel the market behind and cross the street to the waterfront, a tourist mecca made up of quays and warehouses full of shops and eateries
Next a short walk to Pioneer Square, which is more a district than square. Red brick buildings built after a fire in 1889, make up the oldest quarter in Seattle. From what i can see the district is made up of coffee shops, galleries, cafes and clubs/bars. Sat in the middle of an open space I find the 1909 Pergola, something that wouldn't look out of place in Paris and a totem. I book myself on a tour to see the underground Seattle but have over an hour to wait, so explore the streets some more.
I find some information boards in Occidental Park where I learn about the history of Seattle, it's early settlers and the boom years of the 1897 Klondike gold rush that sent prospectors north from here into Canada.
I walk past the busy King Street Station and the deserted Union Station up the hill towards Chinatown or what is known locally as the International district ... it's not as busy as other Chinatowns I've seen and is quiet subdued in comparison. I swing back via the 72,000-seat Seahawks Stadium, the only NFL franchise in the northwest (according to the Lonely Planet), before joining the underground tour.
I'm not sure what I think of this ... I think I'm going to settle on the fact that it's overpriced for what it is and that it's only average. Basically we started off with a 20 minute talk on Seattle's history including an explanation of the beach mud flats the town was erected on and the great fire that led to the rebuilding of the city
Back at street level and chilling on a beach I'm asked if I want my cards read. I have to take a moment here to explain that Seattle is full of homeless people and beggars asking for help. I don't think I have ever been somewhere so bad ... this independent land of the free is quiet an eye opener. Many signs inform you of their individual plight and many war wounds are displayed. Poverty here is very, very evident. It's hard to see and very hard to cope with the constant approaches for money, food, cigarettes and the like. I'd already given the remaining few cherries I couldn't eat to a gentleman earlier in the day and handed over my Canadian coins (that I no longer needed) to a guy the night before in exchange for directions to the hostel.
It was quiet spooky that I should be asked this question, as it was only earlier that day that I considered entering a shop in the market to have my palm read and in the old curiosity shop on the waterfront I had also picked up a leaflet on palm reading. I agreed and he turned out to be a romaine who somehow or another got me and my traits down to a tea just from reading my cards. He also took a look at my palm informing me what he saw. He was in fact a strangely fascinating man.
I therefore made it back to the hostel late for the free tacos dinner, but with the flash of a great smile I got a helping any way.