My first few moments in a new city are spent comparing it to places I’ve been to before. It’s a bad habit that I seem to have developed over the course of the past ten months and to be honest I’m not quite sure why I do it. Perhaps it’s to make myself feel at home or maybe it’s my neurosis at play and I simply need to understand something new as quickly as possible.
After driving across Seattle bridge blasting Seattle-born Macklemore out of our car, I had already decided that Seattle was a mixture of San Francisco and the West Side of New York City. Tall brownstone buildings, beautiful boutiques, and steep roads are what had led me to this conclusion.
Jake who had visited Seattle some sixteen years ago with his parents, seemed to feel at home straight away. Seeming to find his bearings almost instantly we headed for the Seattle Mariners stadium where Jake had caught a baseball game with his family all those years ago. Surprising myself by instantly recognising the Mariners logo, I realised that Jake had painted our entire home wearing the Seattle Mariners t-shirt that he had purchased at that game. Now drenched in duck egg blue we decided that it was time to purchase a replacement.
As we neared the port we saw our first sign for Alaska. A major ferry terminal, Seattle is the main ferry port for the sensible looking to sail to Alaska rather than, like us, drive. In that moment we suddenly felt like we were nearing the end of the trip. Still with six weeks to go, and an entire country to cross we were, of course, nowhere near, but for the first time we felt more Inuit than Inca.
Jake’s beard fitted in very nicely amongst the young and well-heeled pedestrians that passed us by, popping in and out of the independent coffee shops, deli’s and bakery’s that lined 1st avenue.
Homelessness was something we had become accustomed to as we’d journeyed across the USA. Especially prevalent across the West coast in L.A and San Francisco we were surprised to not see the usual rows of tents along the roadside. Sadly, as we crossed into Pioneer square the usual scenes we had grown used to came into view and we quickly realised that homelessness was just as prevalent here as anywhere else along the West Coast.
Looking up at the buildings it was clear that this city had a story to tell. Stepping into the Seattle Gold Museum we quickly learnt of Seattle’s gold rush past. In the three years between 1896 and 1899, over 100,000 people ventured to Northern Canada to find their fortune in the Klondike river. News that miners had discovered an endless supply of Gold, caused a stampede of people to journey to Seattle to catch boats to Northern Canada. With thousands of people arriving every day, Seattle residents saw an opportunity to make their own fortunes providing the much-needed essentials for the tortuous journey ahead.
Today the entrepreneurialism that built Seattle all those years ago is still very much alive, they’ve just traded the spades and gold pans for local brewery pubs and independent eateries. Having set only the one day aside to explore Seattle we naturally felt the need to cram in as many culinary delights as possible. Lunch was spent at Il Corvo devouring delicious pasta dishes and freshly cooked focaccia. The evening was spent split between two restaurants, Oysters for starters at the Faerie Queene and for mains we tried delicious pork belly congee at the Kraken Congee.
A quick couple of stops on the monorail and we were at the iconic Seattle Space Needle and exploring the vibrant and colourful exhibition at Chilhuly Garden and glass, walking through a garden of tall glass flowers and trees.
As the day passed by we were transported back to South America, as Bolivian and Argentinian fans filled the city with a sea of green and blue jerseys for the Copa America. Tempted to purchase some last minute tickets we checked the team sheet to see if Messi was playing. Not seeing the names of any of the big kickers, we instead favoured the warmth of a nearby brewery pub and a saving of $150 to the cold seats of the Seattle stadium.
We had opted to stay in an Airbnb about thirty minutes outside the city. To me, this was Sleepless in Seattle territory, where large condo’s stretch out onto the open water, each neighboured by their own jetties, sailboats, and wooden walkways. It was idyllic.
Keen to explore more of the stunning North West coast of the USA on our way to Canada, our friend Lucy had kindly put us in touch with her Aunt and Uncle who lived in Bellingham, Washington. Excited to have the chance to see what life was like for an English expat on the North West coast we headed to their beautiful home for a couple of days.
Awestruck by the beauty of their home on a cove, just on the outskirts of Bellingham and the quality of their lives and lifestyle we spent the following days and nights revelling in the surrounding beauty and our host’s incredibly generous hospitality. We were fortunate enough to run into a couple of our host’s friends who had lived in Alaska and were kind enough to give us a run down of the true condition of the Alaska Highway and what we might expect as we venture north into the wild.
Spending a couple of days with Lucy’s kind and generous family was the perfect way to temporarily end our time in the USA before we embarked upon a month exploring the Canadian wilderness.