Sleepless in Seattle? Sleep easy with Starbucks hot chocolates on every corner in sight!
Leaving Chicago(read more here) just as the weather was doing a U-turn, it was time to head on to Seattle. My last stop in the 4-state “USA Road-Tripping” adventure. I was warned of the terrible and unpredictable weather in Seattle, I thought to myself, it surely cant be as bad a London?! I prepared for the worst and got the best when I arrived.
The birds eye view of the the Olympic Mountains is nothing short of spectacular as you are approach Seattle and surrounding islands. Snow cupped peaks boasting 60 glaciers. Its almost as if the was snow was shimmering against the black backdrops of the mountain. They were just close enough for me to appreciate without getting all geared up in winter clothes. Touching down in Seattle to my surprise it was beautifully sunny with a little breeze. In true explorer fashion before heading to drop off my luggage at the hotel my tour guide for the for few days was my a friend who I have seen(but spoke to) in about 10 years since he left London just after I started university. That was 2005! With my traveling and him travelling between Nepal and USA we just never had a chance to sync. So this trip was not only a re-union of sorts but dream trip as I have been wanting to visit Seattle for a lot longer than I have known him.
|View from Alki beach front.|
So first stop was for the best view in town! Alki beach! This place is amazing! Yes, there is the Space Needle, Smith Tower, Colombia Center that offer stunning views but nothing as serene as this! I have also been told that come summer days you wont find a space to park your behind much less park a car. As this is the spot to be! Alki beach or sea/lake front, whatever you want to call it, stretches for a few miles of shore line giving breathtaking views of Seattle skyline from across the lakes with a less touristy rush to the experience. Further in the distance you can see the Olympic mountains peering through against lush green forests. Here you can chill out and watch the ferries pass by taking passengers to Mercer Island. If you have the time you can venture into Vancouver, Canada in about an hour by ferry passing through these straits.
The beautiful views must have really taken it out of me as I was famished by then, so it was a must that one pays a visit to one of the best Indian eateries in West Seattle before forever getting lost in the sea of Starbucks in the city. This is off course where the idea was born! Starbucks that is. It was born here and it gave birth to more Starbucks stores on practically every corner of Seattle. I was a lover of all things Starbucks until I figured out that they charge me 35 pence extra but because I am lactose intolerant. I still have love for Starbucks but this was overkill! Overkill in the sense that they have slaughtered the competition in the city with near-to-no competition in sight.
Getting over the shock cafe’s inducing of many a coffee comas in the city, I ventured on to making an appearance at my hotel before my booking was re-allocated. I was staying at the Marriott’s down town Hotel in Pioneer Square, my room offered perfect views of Elliot Bay just as the sun was setting and the skies were dressed in pink and purple sues as night approached. Not one to be sleepless in Seattle, after roaming 4 states and trailing through 3 time zones in the USA alone I was knocked out for the evening and ready to take on Seattle at ground level the following morning.
Needle in the haystuck? Seattle sight-seeing from the 73rd Floor
Strolling up to the third avenue in search of what is the most beautiful public libraries I have come across. Yes you read that right! Yes I am on holiday and in a public library! If are a lover of architecture then you have to see this building while visiting Seattle. Even if you are not into architecture this is cool place to see with brightest and longest escalators, hidden corners and cool viewing decks of not just the interior but the surrounding Seattle skyline. A truly modern building with mini theatres screening rooms, lounging areas and spotting cool technology, now if all libraries were like this, I don’t think could keep even the coolest kids in school away from the library.
|Seattle City Library at 1000 on 4th Avenue – Cool address too!|
|Looking down from the highest point.|
Moving on from the reading rooms, I decided it was time to aim even higher. This is where the Colombia Center comes in. The tallest building in Seattle, an unmissable skyscraper in the city. I heard this place offered a 360 of Seattle 73 floors from the ground. Already perched on higher ground compared to the building a few avenues down the road. No climbing shoes involved I decide I take up the views at great heights. The day was bright with clear visibility which is sometimes rarity when fog takes the city hostage.
The Space Needle peering through the sky line as it stands noticeably among the uniform structures in its vicinity. Mount Baker taking an understated stance from the east side of the viewing deck. Picturesque views of ferries transporting goods and people between the vast lakes. Having seen the Space Needle, it was time to set eyes on the other celebrity in town; Ranier. Mount Rainer’s awe inspiring view is one that’s captivating so I can see why they put a few chairs by the window as you cannot help but weaken in the knees a little taking in the size of this beautifully natural wonder that still commands presence even as distant as it is from the main city.
|View of the majestic Mount Rainier|
|Views from Columbia Center SkyView|
|Views of Elliot Bay from Columbia Center Sky Deck|
As day two was set for a lot exploring on foot it came as a real shock to the system as Seattle is not flat by any long shot. As you increment past the first, second and third avenues, it appears the land also increments exponentially in height. Have you seen pictures of San Francisco? Well Seattle is quite similar. There is a lot of up hill walking. A bit like hiking in the mountains except that there buildings instead of trees. Turning my back on the city hiking I decided to meet my friend and his fiancée who was joining us for a tour around the city with an eventual stop at the Space Needle.
Taking the bus from down town within minutes you are in view of Seattle’s symbolic observation tower. The Space Needle is an iconic landmarks that offers unmistakeably beautiful views of the cascading Olympics Mountains, Lake Union and Lake Washington, Elliott Bay and the islands beyond the horizon. Considering we were there over the weekend in the early afternoon it wasn’t as busy as I thought it would be. There were queues so we opted for the self service kiosk, with tickets at $22 a head I wouldn’t necessarily say you get what you pay for. The views are great but you are surrounded by tourists that have claimed almost every spot and are busy taking selfies against the backdrop of the views. With 360 degree views of Seattle whilst surrounded but metal mesh which is no doubt to hinder anyone attempting a dive towards their grave. The structure is truely beautiful, different and an innovative design but I was somewhat underwhelmed. I think thus far I’d preferred the views from Colombia Center. Less touristy, not as pricey and peaceful enjoyment of the amazing views Seattle had to offer.
Me and my friend’s fiancé
Trying to be at one with the force?!
Moving on to the last item on an explorer’s list was the Seattle underground tour. Seattle has a crappy history and I mean serious crap! There was crap as far as the eye could see. By crap, I am referring to the weird history with toilets that used overflow with sewage that used to filter into the bays then get washed back in when the tide came in. The Seattle underground tour is a tongue in cheek tour recounting the history of how the new city of Seattle came to be built on top of the old town. The tour takes you through passageways of the city’s first story store fronts that existed before the 1889 fire that burned the entire city to the ground in 12 hours, in addition to the sewage problems this prompted the decision to rebuild the city 8 to 32 feet higher to avoid flooding and raw sewage problems that were also causing deaths stemming from the disease spreading from this. So the Seattle that you see today is built over the old. I would definitely recommend the tour because of the comedic reverence in how the stories are told. Word has it there are ghosts still lingering underground.
|Seattle Underground Tour guide|
Saying bye to Seattle after covering so much ground I would have to say that I liked the understated beauty of it. It didn’t feel as rushed as Chicago. Time permitting I was hopping to see Redmond but my sister’s friend who was going to be giving me a tour of the Microsoft campus had travelled to Manila just as I was due to visit Seattle. Another item I would certainly like to tick of the list on my return would be the harbor day cruises which range from 1 hour to a full day allowing stunning views of Seattle’s night time skyline.
With prices ranging from $22-45 you can tour the locks, go to San Juan Islands, go whale watching, or head over to Victoria or Vancouver for the day. Well that gives me plenty of reasons to go back!