© 2011 jemma

Secret Seattle

Well it is certainly warmer than where we have come from, and they have a night time here! Weird…I had forgotten what a dark sky looked like!

With a delay at the airport in Anchorage, we arrived in Seattle at midnight. We had planned on taking the light rail the 30 minute journey to the hostel, however we were both scared by this thing called darkness and so we took a cab. Lucky there is no traffic at 12:30am, $40 was all we had.

The hostel is nice, and in the middle of Chinatown and the International district. It is surrounded by Amazon, bakeries, cafes, Asian restaurants, a giant Asian grocer complete with Kinokuniya bookshop and homeless people. Yes there are lots of homeless which are juxtaposed by the suits who walk around sipping there coffees and ignoring the literally hundreds of homeless walking around. Ahhh the sights and sounds of the city.

Our first exciting adventure on our first day was Jess getting up to work at 6am. He is getting very good at this now and I don’t have to prod him any more. Poor guy though had only 5 hours sleep. Money however is essential!

As the working day drew to a close around 1pm, we needed to fill our bellies. We found a Chinese resturant with delicious looking peking duck out the front and filled ourselves up with $8 wonton soup and the $5 lunch special. The duck was delicious!

Next we headed towards our next adventure for the day, the Seattle underground tour. The underground in Seattle? No it’s not a metro. Let me explain as briefly as I can.

Once upon a time when Seattle was first built, all the shops and businesses were built on the tidal flats (dumb) and the houses were built on the side of a cliff (smart). This was a problem, as sewerage from the “crappers” on the hill would rush toward an incoming tide. Apparently that left a lot of waste and water on the streets, as well as raw sewerage spewing up out of the old toilets. So when there was a big fire that burnt down most of down town they wanted to raise the buildings off the tide flats.

Businesses didn’t want to wait and began rebuilding on the tidal flats, while the City began raising all the roads in some cases 34 ft. The whole thing looked like a waffle with the shops down below, surrounded by the roads up high and people having to climb up and down ladders to get to and from the shops. This was until they filled the holes in -with the cliff – made walkways to the second floors of all the buildings from the road and the first floors of the shops became the basements. Voilà, the underground was born. There…confused?? Hope not.

Anyway, the tour takes you through the underground, past old shop fronts, furniture, “crappers” and even through an old bank vault. It is crazy that all this really cool history is preserved in the dingiest of places -after the underground was condemned shops just dumped their rubbish in there.

Till the plague hit Seattle, the underground was still in use. Skylights were built for light and shops still operated, as well as some unconventional shops – namely brothels. We got to walk under two of the only remaining skylights as we walked past the old ‘haunted’ bank teller cages and onto the end of the tour. I was happy to get out into the fresh air away from the mould!

After the tour the sun came out, so we spent the rest of the day walking in the hot sun beside the water and made a return visit to Pike place market, which is looking much better now all the construction has finished. The bronze pig is even back at the entrance after being hit by a car.

The next day we caught a bus over to Fremont. Fremont is a suburb in Seattle that is akin to Newtown, Surry Hills or Fremantle. It is the funkier awesome end of the city that is only a 30 minutes bus ride away – longer if they have to raise the Fremont Bridge.

It is such a cool place, with lots of alternative shops, cafes and bars as well as some pretty outstanding outdoor art. This outdoor art was the sole reason for our visit. The rest of the experience was just a bonus.

The outdoor art in Fremont seems to be a mixture of things lost and found. The first sculpture we saw was a giant one of Lenin with flames and guns. Why was it there? Because someone wanted it preserved, just like the rocket ship connected to one of the shops. Someone found it and thought it would just…fit in. Other sculptures are there to embrace the environment – the topiary dinosaurs – or to reflect peace – Statue of Peace Leader Sri Chinmoy.

One of the best and probably most recognised statues we saw was that of the troll under the bridge holding the VW. It is really big! The saddest thing was that it had been defaced with chalk and that made him look a bit sad, but other that that it was pretty cool.

From the troll, we walked down the hill to the canal to check out the houseboats- not the one from the movie Sleepless in Seattle – which are amazing, some of which are three stories or more! They are actually real houses, the only difference being they are floating on Union Bay.

We walked along the canal, watching the boats, sculls and canoes, and found the Google offices which made Jess happy and jealous at the same time. We also found the head quarters to one of his favourite websites Penny Arcade, which then made him REALLY HAPPY! So much so that he half heartedly wanted to wait the 20 minutes in the car park for them to come out after work. I felt that this was a bit sad and perhaps we should just savour the moment and move on. Jess agreed.

After our long walk along the water we headed back to catch the bus via The Fremont Cafe, run by a girl with really cool tattoos who sold us a slice of the best chocolate cake I have ever had. Delicious. Then it was back on the bus with all the soccer fans to the hostel. Fun fun!

On our last day in Seattle it rained all morning but cleared up in the afternoon, so we decided to take the ferry across Puget Sound to Bainbridge Island. The best part about staying in a hostel is that they give you great walking guides and ideas of where to go and what to do. This was one of them.

We ran to the ferry and made it with 2minutes to spare. The crossing only takes about 20min-30min and gives you great views of the city, surrounding peninsulas and islands. Upon arriving on the island we walked along the main street and around the bay.

It is quite nice, nothing special, just a nice afternoon strolling around a new place. Lots of tourist and arty shops, as well as a bakery that sells the nicest chunky chocolate biscuits and a shop that sold lots of bird stuff. Very nice.

As we were strolling back to the ferry it began to rain again, so it was a slight run to get under cover. All in all a great afternoon was had, then it was back to the hostel to make dinner, wash our clothes and pack for our early flight to Oregon the next day.