One week traveling around Seattle
by onesundaymorning on December 22, 2008
Pike Place Market isn't just a place to shop; it is an experience. It's color, unique booths, and the characters that work there each day have made the market the so called "Soul of Seattle." If it wasn't for the rising price of onions in 1906 the market might not exist today. That is until a city councilman decided that there needed to be a place where the farmers could sell directly to the consumer to help keep down skyrocketing prices. And so the market was born with eight farmers being greeted on that fateful day in August by 10,000 people, and the crowds haven't died down since. Today the markets cover over nine acres of land overlooking the beautiful Elliott Bay.Navigating the market is really an all day pursuit. My mistake was to try to do it in an hour. Luckily my hostel was right next to the market and I got to visit the market every day. First the market isn't just one building, across the street is the Post Alley where the original Starbucks is located. It is also several stories and includes a couple of buildings that are attached to one another. Entering the market from the harbor took me into several shops selling random things, posters, and tourist junk. Although I avoided the most of this area there were several great book shops worth the time for anyone who has the patience to browse through them.The best stuff that I found by far was on the top level (street level). Entering from Pike Street I always tried to arrive as early as possible on the weekdays since the weekend was so packed that moving wasn't possible. The streets bustled with activity as farmers drove down the small road between the Market and the Post Alley, and pedestrians hurried by. Outside is,"Rachel", a 550 pound, bronzed pig that has been the market's mascot since the mid 1970's. Behind Rachel is one of the most popular and famous attractions of the market, the Pike Place Fish Market. Here fish are spread out sale and a customer picks out the fish they want instead of passing the fish by hand they toss the fish. The chants of the fishmongers can be heard from several stalls away as they prepare to make the fish fly from one side of the stall to the other. Even on the less busy day the antics of the guys who work here are a sight to see. Bored fishmongers will pick an unsuspecting passerby, usually a women, to be their victim throwing a fake fish at her or standing directly behind her with a fish at the back of her head waiting for her to turn around. The guys behind the stand also get in the action with a monk fish they have that is attached to a string. They wait for someone to go up to it and then it "talks" when they pull the string.Past the fish market is rows of produce and flower stands. Mixed in between are various stands offer fruit, food, and other concoctions. One stand offered me a sample of their chocolate spaghetti while another gave me a task to chili flavored honey (not so good).My favorite area to visit was the area full vendors selling their crafts at the end of the market (past Starbucks near the totem poles). Most artists were selling various blown glass pieces, but others had some more creative things. The best was beer and liquor bottle that were melted flat. My boyfriend question what it was and I explained that it was a fun decoration. I was wrong, very wrong. The artist took the bottle away from me and harshly informed us it was a cheese platter. This kept us laughing all month. The market also is a great place for food. There are a ton of amazing pastry places (try the Le Painer, the The Three Girls Bakery, or the Cinnamon Works). Every place was amazing, but my hands down favorite was the Daily Dozen Doughnuts located around the corner from the Pike Place Fish Market. If you are entering the market from Pike Street look for the newspaper stand on the corner and enter there. The Daily Dozen Doughnuts are only a few stalls down. Restaurants are also abundant here. here is everything from Alibi Room, Copacabana, and Beecher's Handmade Cheese to the Emerald Kettle, Market Grill, and the Pan Africa. Lowell's Restaurant and Bar kept me coming back for more. I ate there for both breakfast and dinner and was never disappointed. Every time I visited the market I always found something new. It's worth at least a full day and a half to explore or a wonderful way to start out each day in Seattle.
by onesundaymorning on December 12, 2008
I have to admit I'm bit of an art snob. There is nothing better then a day spent wondering a museum and taking in some great art. With that said I'm also a big fan of the east coast museums especially the MOMA. Now, hearing about SAM, the Seattle Art Museum, I was more then ready to go and on top of that admission was included with my Go Seattle card. I was stoked; then I saw the museum. Let me state my case on art before I continue. I love good art. I appreciate the masters, and I love Picasso and Andy Warhol. I can see the passion in Pollock's paintings and have defended Dadaism (the anti-art movement itself). There is no question in my mind that modern art is relevant, but some is just plain crap. That was SAM. Okay so that wasn't my only complaint about SAM, but I'll get to that in a minute. First walking into the building I found that the first level was nothing more then lecture halls and the second level is where the ticket booth is. In the main lobby there was a car sitting in the corner with six more of the same cars attached to the ceiling at various angles with light sticks coming out of it. I should have known better then to continue, but my judgement failed me. The gallery started on the third level with little phone like things available that you type in a number (usually next to the "art") and background information is given about the artist, the work, or the area of the world that the piece came from. I was impressed with this and since one of the first paintings I came upon was a Warhol and a Pollock I was giddy with happiness. Little did I know that I was in for a disappointment. The contemporary art lead into the American art gallery and then into the Asian art area, Native American art, and a random gallery. All of which were so uninspiring that I almost died of boredom. The textile room was even more of a let down and for someone who has studied both art and fashion I was ready to cry. Two interesting areas on the second level were the family room and the teahouse. The family room offered a lot of creative things for kids to do including dress up and coloring among an array of other things. I know this would have been my favorite area when I was little. The teahouse was also great. It was a small stage where three people were acting out a traditional Japanese tea ceremony that was being narrated by one of the museum staff. This was a very popular area that way to many people were trying to see, but due to the construction of the stage there was a very limited viewing area. I left.The fourth and last level was horrible. There was no identifiable flow between galleries and even two of the museum staff who were working on an exhibit said how sick they were of looking at several of the pieces on that level. I couldn't help but laugh as one pointed out how horrible some of the pieces were and the other agreed. The only gallery of value was the African art which consisted of clothing from Africa. It was great, but I've seen much bigger and better (case in point the Albuquerque Art museum had an impressive array of African art on loan from a museum in Louisiana after Katrina hit).The most impressive area was the gallery that featured the Aboriginal art. I've never seen it outside of history books or the internet, but the intricate patterns were enough to pull me in from across the gallery. Looking up close at their massive works of art were hypnotic. There distinct patterns created a harmonious movement through the pieces, and the closer I got the more stunning they were. Every museum should have these in their collection. I highly suggest for anyone who has been to a museum before to stay away from SAM. It's a let down on the most historic proportions. However there are a few good things to be said about it. Go to see the Aboriginal and African art, but leave before you become so disappointed in the art world that you give up on it completely.
It was a chilly morning. The rain had stopped around sunrise the ground was glittering and water drops hung off the flowers. I got off the bus an stepped into a residential area. Looking around I wondered how could there be a zoo here. Only a few feet away was a clearing, a small gate and ticket booth marking the West entrance. The zoo opened at 9:30am and about 10 minutes to opening there was already a small line of families with excited tots. It became obvious that the three families were pass holders of some sort; already talking about what they were going to see and greeting the ticket taker by name.Woodland Park Zoo is not a city zoo by any sense of the phrase. There are no cages, no tiny habitats, and no lack of animals by any means. To the contrary the zoo covers a surprising 92 acres of land, offers a variety of 300 different species, and over 1,000 animals to enjoy. Walking though the park there is no indictions that a city existed outside the walks. In fact the zoo provides several botanical gardens hiding any fences or glimpses to the outside world. The zoo is also set up into various geographic zones including the temperate forest, the African Savanna, topical rainforest, tropical Asia, Australasia, and the northern trail. The layout is fairly simple, offering a main looped path with a few side trails off the beaten to explore. I find this is the best layout for any zoo since it allows for nothing to be missed. My journey started by the temperate forest. It was still early so I had expected to see many of the animals because most are typically active during the early hours of the day, retreat for shade in the afternoon, and liven up again in the early evening; what a life! Disappointment hit fast. Very few animals were out the red panda (the one exhibit I wanted to see) was missing and so were several of the birds not visible. I continued on the family farm area which included cows, sheep, and pigs; a very unusual addition, but that is coming from someone who grew up near several farms in the Pennsylvania countryside. The area was really cute and even the adults seemed to enjoy it. It seemed to make sense that this area was at the zoo after all how many city people get to see a cow everyday? The African Savanna was another great area. There seems to be a growing trend in zoos these days to add in some sort of tribute to Africa, and the Woodland Park Zoo was no exception. However they did it was a surprising twist; they added in a traditional school instead of the usual village. Inside the school there were various lessons written on the chalk board and a great view out of the back of the school over looking the savanna. As I walked through the area the ostriches, zebras, and gazelles were out, the hippos were lazily floating in their pool, but the lions and monkeys were nowhere in sight. Wondering around I happened to stumble by the giraffe barn, which is just that: a barn. The caretaker was trying to cox two very shy giraffes outside with a large stick and what looked like a treat for them on the top. It was funny to watch one come out and while he tried to get the other one out the first one would run back inside. I watched this humorous site for several minutes when I realized that I was the reason that they weren't coming out. One giraffe stood behind the barn door peeking out to look at me. Finally they realized my only intention was to photograph them so they came out to nuzzle one another.I wondered from there down to the Asian paths, where there are suppose to be elephants; again another missing animal, but the orangutans were active. This took my attention away from the mystery of the disappearing animals for a bit. I continued to the Northern trail. The highlight of this was the white and blue Arctic foxes. I had never seen these creatures before and they took advantage of that; running around and posing for my camera. They were quit the little entertainers. It really did seem like they wanted me to stay there all day to photograph them, but it was almost lunch time and my stomach was calling.I found food at the food pavilion. They had wide selection of food ranging from hamburgers and pizza to health food. This was the largest selection of food that I've ever seen offered at a zoo before. The prices were a bit high as expected; I got cheese fries and paid about $5 for them.Overall the zoo was great. It wasn't best zoo that I've been to, but it was one of my favorites. The missing animals was a bit of a concern, but a few not in their cage can be expected. Zoos can't force an animal to come out of their barn if they don't want to, and honestly I don't want to be at a zoo that does force any of their animals out. For more info on the Woodland Park Zoo visit their website at www.zoo.org.
by onesundaymorning on December 11, 2008
Seattle: great food, amazing people, beautiful scenery, and a great culture; that's the Emerald City in a nut shell. Besides being the home to Starbucks, Nordstroms, Boeing, Seattle's Finest, Apple, Microsoft, Edie Bauer, and Amazon (excuse me if I left out a few Washington based companies), the birth place of grunge (take it for what it's worth), Kurt Cobain, and Jimi Hendrix, and the home (well Tacoma technically if you want to be technical about things) the the world renown blown glass guru, Dale Chihuly; Washington is a pretty cool state. I've been to many cities, but by far Seattle is the most laid back and quirky (visit Fremont to see my point). Every place I went someone was willing to talk and within one week everyone at the Starbucks next to my hostel knew my name, about my life (as well as I knew about theirs), and was willing to point me in the right direction and give great advice. There is a genuine that I found here that lacked in many areas that I have been, but it has to be hard to be a grump in a city as beautiful as Seattle. Situated on the Puget Sound on Eliot Bay lies the city. Across the bay (on a clear day) is the Olympic Mountains, and facing south (towards Safeco Field and again on a clear day) the snow covered Mount Rainer behind the city high rise. Amongst the sprawling city there is no shortage of parks and greenery. This is one city that knows how to balance nature with the urban sprawl.Transportation:Oh my god, this is the easiest city ever. I'm an LA girl which means it's not unheard of to wait three hours for a bus to show up and then have three of the same bus right behind each other, so when a bus shows up on time and on top of that the drivers are kind, helpful, and some even challenge themselves to make their stops on time I'm astonished. The bus system is great and very clean. If riding from downtown many of the buses run from the transit tunnel downtown. When picking up a bus on the street easy to read time tables are posted along with the bus routes. If there are still any questions most drivers can direct you to the ride bus or even tell you a more efficient way to get to your destination. Once on the bus tell the driver your stop and they will kindly let you know when to get off.Riding the bus is easy, but the pay system is a little confusing. In downtown there is a ride free zone, so any where in that area there is no need to pay, and the change feeder when you get on will usually say ride free zone. Now the non-ride free zones get tricky. If you get on a bus when it is outside this zone and heading towards if then you pay when you get on; however if it is heading away from the zone pay when you get off. There will be a sign on the change feeder that will tell you when to pay. Now to further confuse you there are several zones that the bus will travel through and each zone is a different price. Zone one is $1.75, Zone two is $2.50, and Zone 3 is $3.50. If you are not sure which zone your destination is in ask the driver; this is really a tourist friendly city. If you plan on transferring or taking the bus back grab a transfer. This will allow you to ride as much as you want until the pre-printed time on the bottom of the transfer is up. Walking is another great way to get around. The city is laid out on a grid system and most attractions are located within walking distance of one another. I highly recommend starting down by SAM and then heading over to the Pike Street Market (to shop, see some fish tossing, and drink at the original Starbucks) and then head down to the harbor. There are a ton of great restaurants, food shops, and places to explore here as well as the Argosy tours. The walk will also pass by the aquarium and Odyssey Maritime Discovery Center (as long as you start walking north. Locate the industrial harbor area, which is easy to spot; there are huge cranes and tug boats in the water or head away from Safeco field). The walk will end at the SAM sculpture garden. From here you should be able to see the Space Needle. Head up Broad Street about eight blocks and there will be the Space Needle, the Pacific Science Center, the Sci-fi museum, the Experience Music Project, and the monorail, which for $2 goes back downtown about three blocks away from the Pike Street Market.The Weather:Has this place gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to stereotypes. Yes, it does rain in Seattle however New York, Miami, ad several other cities get more rain a year then Seattle. The week I was visiting the forecast predicted five of my nine days for it to rain. It only actually rained once, it was in the morning, and was more of a drizzle. Truth be known Seattle is actually very drizzly if that is even a word, and the weather changes pretty quickly hence the reasons when Seattleites dress in layers (it's not just a grunge thing!) The location of the city (set on the bay and between the mountains) prevent most of the rain as well as sweltering warm days making it very mild. With that said the rainy months are in the winter, November (5 inches), December (5.9 inches), and January (5.6 inches). The rest of the year gets 3.5 or less a month and in May through August there is on average of 1.5 inches or less of rain a month. Okay now I feel more like a weather woman then a travel writer.
by onesundaymorning on December 2, 2008
Walking along the harbor on my first night I was getting pretty hungry and wanting to eat for cheap, but find something that wasn't fast food, and not knowing where I was became a huge problem. I walked up and down the harbor and finally decided to take my chance on a small restaurant called Anthony's Pier 66 and Bell Street Diner. It was attached to a more expensive looking restraint, but with a glass garage door as it's entrance I knew that I couldn't go wrong. All of the items on the menu was fish, and not being a huge fish eater I settle on the tried and true fish taco. Actually it was a Blackened Rock fish Taco for $4.99, and a soda for $1.99. Truthfully I wasn't looking forward to eating, but the restaurant was inviting. It was a small triangularish shaped room with a couple of tables and chairs and a bar over looking the pier and bay. The sun was setting, and being a sucker for sunsets and food I couldn't pass it up.My food came out just as they were closing down for the night. I picked up my tray and sat down to eat the taco. Looking down the I immediately noticed the pineapples sitting on top. Yes, that is correct pineapples. Now things suddenly got interesting. I picked up the massive taco and bit in; it was brilliant! The tangy sweetness of the pineapple brought was a nice contrast to the fish and made for an amazing twist on a fish taco. There were also some very yummy homemade chips on the side.This place was defiantly a find that is highly recommenced. It's on 2201 Alaskan Way near the Sculpture Garden. Outside it can be recognized by a neon fish over a sign that says Anthony's Fish Bar.
It's impossible to experience Seattle without staying at the Green Tortoise. Now just saying that you stayed at a hostel is enough to send most people in a tail spin, but this isn't like any other hostel; it is the king of all hostels. Located next to the Pike Street Market it is perfectly situated in the heart of downtown Seattle, seconds from buses that run to every major attraction, and a brisk walk to the Seattle Art Museum, the harbor, and the SAM sculpture garden. The Green Tortoise has a culture of its own. Although the vast majority of the people there are liberal, twenty somethings, families, and many Alaskan fishers make it not only there jumping off point to other destinations, but also their home in off seasons. One amazing person that I met there had been coming back to the hostel for 40 years.Okay, so the hostel itself is located on the second and third level of a building on Pike. It's really easy to miss, but you are heading towards the Pike Street Market it will be on the right hand side of the road. There are two huge potted plants out side to mark the door. From there head up two flights of stairs (this place isn't handicap assessable, but the people who work and stay there are more then willing to help anyone out even if it means carrying a wheelchair up and down the stairs). Rooms start at $33 a night and there is a small area off to the side of the check in desk to hold luggage. The people at the desk are uber helpful and most stay to hang out after work. The front desk is a great source of information. There are suggested trips and itineraries to follow, bus routes to take, and even trips that you can join in on. Any time they didn't have what I was looking for all I had to do was ask and they helped me find it or figure out the bus route to get there. Rooms are a decent size and hold between 6-8 people and rooms are either all guys, all girls, or co-ed. In the 6 people room are sinks, and the bunks are great! Unlike every other hostel, which doesn't offer privacy, the Green Tortoise has a curtain around each bed that can be shut for sleeping, late night reading, or trying to get dressed behind. The bunks also had a small fan and a reading light. They have thought of everything here. My only complaint is that the ladders that they use to get to the top bunk are impossible to climb. I'm a towering 5' 2" and had to use wishes and prayers to get up. On the other hand my boyfriend, who is 6' 10" had his own problems. His top bunk didn't allow for much head room while getting up and down,but he said it was perfectly comfortable once he was laying. Under each bunk is two lockers. They can hold two medium sized suit cases with room to spare.Each floor has about 6-8 private bathrooms.Each are different in size, but there is one bathroom on each floor that has so much room that a small circus could perform in it. They are always pretty clean (immaculate by hostel standards). I inspected each before I went in and never found anything questionable. Also I saw them being well maintained each day which made me feel so much better.The real fun at the hostel is in the lobby, mainly the smokers lounge. There are tons of tables in the lobby, which fill up every Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday for free diner. Yes, FREE!!! It is usually spaghetti or tacos, but they are always great. The chief's are great (one is actually coming over to my apartment to join in for Thanksgiving dinner this year). Breakfast is also served every morning. It includes waffles, brownies, eggs, and fruit. The kitchen is always open if you feel the urge to cook. The staff doesn't mind as long as you clean up after yourself. The real fun is in the smokers lounge. I'm a non-smoker, but I spend my nights here just joking around and joining in on pinball games. People here are serious about their pinball. If the smokers lounge is to crowed or the lobby is to loud then the people head over to the stairs for a "stair party." There are also about eight computers available, with the slowest access in the history of the the Internet. They were all Macs, and I truly believe that one of them was the first Apple built by Steve Jobs, okay maybe not, but it isn't a far stretch.
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