After Vancouver Island, we drove to Seattle to close out our west coast trip for a few days. We talked through a basic plan for the first day, including several must-see tourist sites. It began with a visit to the famous Pike Place Market, a destination for 10 million people each year. But when we got there, I just wasn’t feeling it.
I’d been to Seattle twice before- once, during my solo trip around the country at age 19, and a second time five years ago for a work conference.
I went to Pike Place both times and liked it enough- there are hundreds of businesses, great food, gorgeous flowers, interesting people to watch. It’s a vibrant place.
But on this day, it felt crowded, touristy, and completely overwhelming. There seemed to be more tourists than locals, and everyone was jostling to take photos. So when I saw the very first Starbucks- and the twenty people outside taking pictures of it- I practically tripped over myself, running in the opposite direction.
Purple’s wine collection
After a half-hearted attempt at touring the market, we met with a friend for lunch at Purple Cafe & Wine Bar. The restaurant’s patrons were primarily locals on their lunch break. It was a relief to settle into a calmer environment for a delicious meal and good conversation.
We asked our friend, Sarah, for advice on what to do while in the city during lunch. She quickly listed a few things but said, “Seattle doesn’t have a lot of touristy things to do per se, but it’s a great city, and you should just walk around and enjoy it.” And as simple as that, we discarded our plans and reset our thinking, and from that point on, everything changed.
Sometimes, I feel guilty if I don’t visit all of the recommended sights when I travel. I fear that I’m missing out on something or that I’ll regret it after I return home.
Seattle has some fantastic tourist attractions (the Space Needle, the Seattle Aquarium, Experience Music Project, Olympic Sculpture Park, etc.). Still, by doing our own thing, we could discover the real Seattle in a more organic way.
Seattle Public Library
After lunch, Sarah suggested we stop by the Seattle Public Library since it was only a couple of blocks away. She insisted that it was a sight to behold, and while going to the library wasn’t on our list for the day, we shrugged ‘why not’ and wandered over.
I couldn’t believe what I saw. It was stunning. World-class-museum stunning. We tiptoed around quietly gawking and clandestinely taking photos, but it turned out we didn’t need to sneak, and we weren’t alone. We found other people standing and staring in amazement at a door, a wall, a ceiling throughout the building.
My feeling of Seattle
Over the few days we had in Seattle, we discovered an aesthetically beautiful, well-rounded city with an excellent quality of life. The days were long, the skies were clear, and we spent quality time just taking in the town with one another and with friends and family.
As expected, there was an abundance of coffee shops, bars and eateries, each with a unique theme and personality; regardless of the place, people were friendly and laid-back vibe. However, it wasn’t uncommon for us to go into a fancy restaurant and find wait staff with tattoos, piercings and multi-coloured hair (and without a hint of irony).
There were a lot of strolls. The city resonates with creative energy and spirit, and public art is everywhere. Hence, we never knew what we would run into.
The best part of Seattle is that even though it’s cosmopolitan and replete with tall buildings and concrete, it’s also close in proximity to the Cascade and Olympic mountains and offers plenty of green spaces (it’s not called the “Emerald City” without reason) and access to various bodies of water.
The city employs extreme measures to be environmentally responsible for maintaining (or perhaps, inspired by) the extraordinary natural resources and landscape. Wastewater treatment rates are exceptionally high because the city goes to great lengths to ensure that nothing threatens the health of the Puget Sound or the fish in it. Roads are never salted, even after a snowstorm. Most produce is organic, and the complex recycling system ensures that nothing is unnecessarily wasted.
We ended each day in the serene Magnolia neighbourhood, where we stayed with my boyfriend’s family. Though technically part of Seattle, Magnolia feels more like a small town, and it was a great change of pace to retire to this enclave.
Such blissful days in an extraordinary city and a wonderfully satisfying way to close out our west coast trip.