As I prepared for my vacation to Seattle all I heard from friends and family was how wonderful it is, with its seafood, craft beer, outdoorsiness, and laidbackedness. It’s a place I’ve been told for years I’d love and I place in turn I’ve wanted to go for years. The culture, the scenery, and most notably the weather—I love cloudy, rainy days—are things that fit me. So when I finally had the opportunity to take a real vacation—it was the first place that jumped to mind.
I met Seattle with wonderful drizzle and cloudy skies—it was one of only two cool rainy days on my visit. Walking around downtown after my 5 hour flight, with my duffle bag slung over my shoulder, gave me my first few glimpses and impressions of Seattle. when I arrived, I didn’t wander very far—I still needed to check into my cozy hotel, The Roosevelt, and I didn’t want to lug my suitcase with me everywhere I went—but I did hit up a couple of the City staples, mostly notably Pike Place Market.
Think of Pikes’ as Midtown Manhattan with fewer flashing lights. The sidewalks are packed and some stalls have lines out the door and wrapped around the corner. There are divine smells popping up every few feet, interspersed with the smell of raw fish. I hadn’t realized before going, that Pikes was so much more than fish. I pictured fish stall after fish stall, and while there are quite a few of those, it’s also packed with flowers stands, pastry stands, hole-in-the-wall restaurants, and a thousand-in-one different local merchants selling their wares. I can understand why people flock here, but I can also picture being a local and staying as far away as heavenly possible. Not just because of the crowds, but because of the bizarre and weird kitsch that’s there to further attract tourists. It’s a wonderful and yet completely overwhelming place with all the sounds, people, and smells.
Beyond Pikes—and even in Pikes itself—I was struck by how much grittier the City is than I had anticipated. As you get closer to the Market, you run into more and more homeless and closed stores—especially along 3rd Avenue. The beautiful tree-lined streets and high end retail that greets you when you get off the lightrail at Westlake Station quickly vanishes and you’re met instead with McDonalds and TJMaxx and other discount stores and credit unions. From what I could tell as I explored that first day the City changes rapidly from block-to-block and you move quickly from one neighborhood into the next.
I spent the next 5 days wandering through vastly different neighborhoods—all quirky, beautiful, and intriguing—in an effort to get a feel for and learn as much about Seattle has I could in just a week.