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Pike Place Market, Seattle, WA
12th Jun 2008
Seattle, Washington

Seattle marks the North-West corner of my trip and as such the half-way point in my travels (in miles, at least, not necessarily in days).    It's a great city which is very easy to love; it's rather like San Fran only cheaper and flatter.

I spent the day working my way through the list of things in Hannah's guidebook, starting with the Pike Place market.  This is famous for its fishmongers (said one woman to the man in oilskins holding a fish "excuse me, what's a fishmonger and where can I find one?" ), who operate in teams:  the front man will take your order and then pick your fish (usually a whole salmon or whole flatfish) from the ice and throw it to his colleague behind the counter, who will then wrap it.  Sometimes they threw a stuffed cloth fish at a tourist to make them scream, must amusing. 

Also in the market was a cool stringed instrument store, in which I felt like a kid in an expensive sweetshop.  I own and can play most of the instruments in the window.

I indulged myself slightly and visited the very first Starbucks for a brew.  The Seattle people love their coffee, there are are cafes everywhere, and more Starbucks than the average town.  People slate this company as the epitome of the evil megacorporation, but I do not.  Hats off to them, for rising from one store in 1971, through the vast competition, to the global brand that they are today (more on their brand in a second).  Although their coffee will never be as good as that which I drank on the Don Juan plantation in Costa Rica, I did enjoy my cup even more than normal know that it came from store number one.

The branding of this store is the original, with a naked mermaid in brown, rather than an obscured green mermaid that we all know. 


I explored Pioneer Square and environs, a charming old part of town with tree-lined streets and red-brick buildings, one of which was a National Park museum about the gold rush in 1896-8 (in which thousands of Seattlers sailed up through Alaska and then trekked into Canada.  Hundreds died or turned back, and only a few got rich.  3000 pack horses were worked to death crossing a single pass.)  One part of the day's entertainment came from a group of Utah children giving a performance in the square.  It was a cross between cheerleading, a Broadway-style musical, and Pop/American Idol.  The energetic nonstop dancing and singing, the glittery costumes, the heartache at being told (albeit to myself) how badly they sang.  The egalitarian nature of the troubadours meant that each child took a turn at the microphone, regardless of their ability to sing or even remember the words.

Lunch was fish 'n chips, with Pacific salmon for the fish, on the waterfront watching the passenger ferries roll in and out.

After lunch I went to James' office building, the Columbia Tower, which at 76 storeys dwarfs the aging Space Needle.  From the 73rd storey I could see the entire city on the observation deck.  Why pay $14 for the Needle?  I enjoyed a second beverage at Skybucks, the 40th-floor Starbucks.

I passed through the deserted Union Station to reach the International District, where I gawped at the odd oriental food (I did wonder whether the Korean BBQ stall sold deep fried dog), before riding the excellent bus and pointless monorail to the Seattle Center.  The bus was free and traveled in an underground tunnel, rather like the Tube but with a front-facing window and the risk of scraping the walls.  The monorail, a hangover from the 1962 World Fair's vision of how we'll all be traveling in the future, was slow and annoying.  Its two termini are its sole stops, taking nothing but tourists from Downtown to the Space Needle. 

The Space Needle is another World's Fair creation, perhaps their vision of how we'll all be living in the future.  I was disappointed that there was no flying car, just an empty fairground.   I read in the park before returning to James' place, satisfied with the amount of sights I saw in one day.



Next: Microsoft; crossing Puget Sound to Olympic National Park
Previous: Rainy Rainier

Diary Photos

Pike Place Market, Seattle, WA

Piggy-bank, Seattle, WA

Fishmarket, Seattle, WA

Fishmonger and customer, Seattle, WA

Monkfish, Seattle, WA

First Starbucks, Seattle, WA

First Starbucks, Seattle, WA

Original Starbucks logo, Seattle, WA

Instrument shop, Seattle, WA

Pioneer Square buildings, Seattle, WA

Chief Seattle, WA

Dancing children, Seattle, WA

Worth my weight in gold, Seattle, WA

Yukon Gold, Seattle, WA

Elliott Bay, Seattle, WA

Seattle from Columbia Tower

Union Station, Seattle, WA

Seattle Skyline, WA

Space Needle, Seattle, WA

Monorail, Seattle, WA

Sputnik fountain and Space Needle, Seattle, WA

James and Hannah, Seattle, WA

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