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.
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