Piecing together Seattle
Have you ever lost your holiday photos?
When my hard drive was accidentally wiped out, it took all my photos of Seattle but by some miracle, spared all of my other photos. When you rely on images to capture places, moments and experiences you might not get to experience again, is in essence the reason why your camera is the very first piece of equipment you pack for your trip, and the most important travel item you guard with your like (OK well, in addition to your passport and wallet).
At times it felt like the Universe was saying I was never meant to be there in the first place. Then it told me to put into words what I remembered from that trip. So I did. Here is what I could capture from my time in Seattle below and might I say, it felt like I was truly there as I rummaged through my memory bank – almost like a hypnotherapy session. This exercise was able to conjure more of my Seattle experience than by simply looking at a photograph….
I visited Seattle in March at the turn of the American springtime, but it felt more like the middle of an Australian autumn. It rained sporadically on a sunny Saturday and there were two things I noticed: one, no one pulled out umbrellas to protect themselves from the rain; the other, almost everyone wore North Face jackets in different colours and lengths as if they were the city’s mandatory uniforms.
Also known as the “Rain City”, Seattle is notorious for its perennial drizzle and light rain where it’s been recorded to rain for over 130 days in the year. You could be forgiven to think of Seattle as a fly-on-the-wall city made famous only by Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks’ movie Sleepless in Seattle, until you actually visit. Unless you get the opportunity to go there; unbeknownst to many, Seattle is home to some of the world’s iconic figures and institutions – Jimi Hendrix, Bill Gates, Starbucks, Boeing, Costco and Amazon and even boasts creating a genre in music: grunge.
Seattle is one of those places you will easily bypass for New York, Los Angeles or Hawaii when planning an American holiday adventure unless you get the opportunity to travel there either for work or to visit friends and family.
After approximately three hours on a connecting light plane from Los Angeles to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, I felt I had stepped into the backdrop of the majestic mountains of New Zealand. You will be immediately enamoured by Mount Rainier, an active volcano covered in cotton clouds and snow. The sprawling volcano was everywhere I turned and inescapable in every photo.
My first port of call was the Pike Place Market where the first ever Starbucks set up shop in 1971 still exists in its original condition and even on the way there, as inescapable as the volcano, there literally was a Starbucks in every corner. Although I wasn’t a huge fan of its coffee beans, it would be sacrilege not to visit the biggest coffee franchise in the world and at 1912 Pike Place Market, the queue to order an extra hot soy latte spilled out the door.
Seattle takes its coffee seriously. Tully’s and Seattle’s Best coffee houses give Starbucks a run for its money but in my humble opinion, American coffee ain’t all that. (Apologies to my American friends! You guys can be good at everything else except coffee.)
A freshly baked pastry that will fit snugly in one hand while the other holds a cup of Starbucks was the best way to acquaint myself with the Markets. The Chocolate Cream Hazelnut Roll was the perfect accompaniment from the Piroshky Bakery makes traditional Russian pastries with a Western twist. I wanted to sample every single pastry on display but decided to save the Cherry White Chocolate Roll for later. But I couldn’t resist a tempting Peanut Butter Chocolate Cheesecake from The Confectional which makes gorgeous specialty mini cheesecakes and unique cheesecakes truffles. They’re made with velvet-like cream cheese, but the crust steals the show. Undoubtedly the best cheesecakes I have tasted.
Market vendors offer everything from the freshest produce to handmade arts and craft pieces, but the biggest tourist draw card is the Pike Place Fish Market where fishmongers hurl a three foot icy fish over the counter at a sizeable distance which stops customers in their tracks, even the ones not buying any fish. But for those in want of a delicious seafood meal, The Athenian Inn specialises in this. If it looks familiar, it was made famous by Tom Hanks sitting at the bar with his friend in Sleepless in Seattle. It made a brief cameo 21 years ago but the restaurant is still a massive magnet for tourists.
Although the next day was still drizzling and a little chilly, I found a window at midday to visit the Space Needle. Think of it as Seattle’s version of Centre Point Tower, but almost half its size. The Space Needle is the best overview of the city and the volcanoes even though you might only spend no longer than 15 minutes soaking in the panoramic view while facing a friendly battle with rapid gusts of wind and trying to take photos. The brief trip is worth it.
With such little time left, there was still so much of Seattle I knew I had missed out on, not to mention that it’s only a two and a half hour road trip away from Vancouver, Canada. My next trip there would definitely be a longer period.
Wherever I am off to next, I will of course still pack my camera and guard it with my life (and be extra careful when backing up). But what I truly learnt is to not completely rely on my camera for everything. I have now as a habit, is to remember what I did and how I felt at that certain place and before going to bed, write it all down in notebook or journal. Then also guard those with my life.