Sprawling Seattle

In the rain we began the drive to Seattle.  In the land of the free, your gas appears to be served to you while you wait in the car which is an uncomfortable bonus.  The road to Seattle was built up, the urban sprawl of both cities evident.  Seattle is restricted on both sides by the ocean and mountains, so it has grown down and out.  We were staying in the Chinatown district of Seattle and after settling in, I discovered there was a play happening on the next block that evening.  Unsure what to expect, Lennart and I settled in to a small, rundown theatre to enjoy a fantastic performance of Master and Margerita.  Evidently we were surrounded by locals and art lovers and seeing a glimpse into the culture of this city.  

Seattle also boasts a Pioneer square.  We were making our way further into the heart of the city, but stopped for a game of Connect 4, which I won.  A frequently photographed spot is the historic Pike place market.  Right on the waterfront, this place is a cacophony of colours and smells, most noticably from the abundance of flower markets and the infamous fish stall.  Now more out of theatrics than convenience, once a fish is ordered, it is hurled across the stall at someone waiting to receive it to package it.  The bigger the fish, the bigger the crowd cheers.  Autographs are for sale.  Pike place is also famous for the worlds first Starbucks.  Its original store doesn’t have any seating, but is full of cut outs from newspapers, mechandise and the odd barrels left lying around, to show just how grassy their roots were.  Now there is a Starbucks on every corner, but the creators have come up with something new for their premier city, a Starbucks Reserve.  Selling only limited edition roasts, the popular chain is looking to revolutionise coffee even further.  The street was busy with activity.  Stands of goodies were everywhere hidden by the queues which made them so interesting.  Beechers cheese shop had a large glass window where you could watch workers probe and test the cheese being constantly stirred and turned into yummy goodness.

Next to Pike Place Market is a small patch of grass, the Victor Steinbeck park.  Steinbeck was the main who saved the Pike Place Market from being torn down by getting 30,000 signatures to protest its demolition.  Unfortunately the park stands on the grounds of a castle which was torn down, rather maliciously on the part of the city, this was another building Steinbeck was trying to save.  

Seattle came into being as a wood source to supply the insatiable need for wood in San Francisco.  It was settled by westerners in 1851, but was an area with many native tribes and at least 4,000 years of settlement history.  The pacific northwest was so densely filled with trees they believed they would never exhaust the supply.  A timber mill was set up and boats carried the lumber down the coast.   They also built the city from their greatest asset. The original name for the city was Duwamps, named after the native tribe in the area, the Duwamish people.   The name Seattle comes from Chief Seattle, the leader of the Duwamps people.   Unfortunately, relationships with the native people were not easy as areas of their land became targets for the cities expansion and deforestation and it was only 13 years after it was named Seattle that American Indians were prohibited from entering the city by law.  In 1889 a fire began in a cabinet shop when a glue pot was overturned. The fire spread to destroy most of the central business district.  The long process of rebuilding began, this time from brick.  As the city grew, its shape changed and land was reclaimed from the waters of Puget sound, so the original front street now sits a few blocks back. 


Riches came to Seattle in the form of gold.  Seattle was a landing place of a ship carrying 2 million dollars worth of gold recently discovered in the Yukon.  With the booming trade, Seattle had recently been connected to the rail network thus making it the port for prospectors seeking their fortune to sail north.  Seattle equipped the hungry hundreds with their equipment, making it the biggest winner of the gold rush.  The waterfront we walked along was in the process of shedding its highway, which is moving underground, and celebrating its waterfront with a new sea wall.

A few bakeries further, we headed for Seattles icon, the Space Needle.  It was built in 1962 for the world fair, it was once a giant on a skyline which has now overtaken it, but it’s still a symbol of the city set in nice grounds.  

The next morning we were Canada bound, taking the scenic route of two ferries.  We first boarded the ferry to Bainbridge, an island adjacent to Seattle with amazing views of the skyline and Mt Rainer beyond.  The island is a short journey but has a villagelike calm about it as you say goodbye to the city.  Its history is also a sad one as it once housed a large Japanese settlement who had come over in the 1880’s to work the sawmills.  In 1942 Japanese internment began and Bainbridge was the first place for it to be carried out due to its proximity to the naval bases.  An air of suspicion arose and they were given 6 days notice to leave the island. On March 30th 1942, a boat took 227 people away to California and Idaho.  150 eventually returned to the island.  

It had a lovely waterfront and a spot for coffee.  On this weekday morning we felt no rush, until we called the ferry company, hoping to make the 2pm trip to Victoria, still an hour and a half drive away, and they recommended that without a reservation we make it there in the next hour and twenty.  We were in the car and speeding towards Port Angeles checking out any potential rivals for the last ferry spot along the way.  Luckily, we made it with just 8 cars to go.   Bye US, Hello Canada!

One comment

  1. Such an interesting and as you mention, sad history. The photos of the waterfront and the snow caped Mt Rainer are stunning. Glad that your faithful car made it to the ferry, (reminiscent of our drive to the airport in Menorca). I think Pike Market sounds fascinating with fish being flung around the place or plaice! xxx

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