Seattle: A glorious day in the Emerald City
Recently I was in the place known as the ‘Emerald City’ to the locals but for me, I know it as Seattle. One of the top cities in North America I wanted to visit and I had the chance but only for a day. With a tight schedule going on I wanted to make the most of the day and I was lucky to have fellow travel blogger and good friend Lara and her partner from Small Town Washington & Beyond to guide me around. This is what we did in one day and hopefully will be good advice for those visiting the city for the first time.
I drove down from British Columbia, Canada early in the morning and after the border control (which took me about twenty minutes to get through) I was driving through the countryside of Washington state. This was my very first visit to the state and I tell you know, it is beautiful. I had mountains to the left of me (Mt. Baker wasn’t that far away) with trees and farms dotted everywhere. Eventually I was on the interstate dodging some dodgy cars and trucks who got their driving licenses from a Christmas cracker after trying to ram into the side of me. Eventually I was in the centre of the city, parked up and ready to meet Lara who I first met at a conference in Killarney, Ireland which lies on the Ring of Kerry (worth a drive folks).
With some time to kill before doing a tour, we checked out the Central Saloon, the oldest bar in Seattle which has stood here for around 125 years. The bar is also known for new rock bands to come here and perform before getting noticed. Famous bands include Nirvana, Blood Garden and Alice in Chains. I have to admit I am not really into this kind of music. The bar is actually quite good for having a variety of beers, wines and spirits. For me I wanted a beer and have to admit despite only having a limited range of lagers, the amount of local craft beers was fantastic. We were only supposed to have one but in the end we had two, the second whilst sitting outside watching the world go by, seeing baseball fans heading down to the stadium as it was game day whilst the sun was out. Simply perfect.
Around the corner at number 614 on 1st avenue we arrived at our destination to see some secrets of the city with Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour (book in advance online folks, it’s a very popular tour). I really don’t want to spoil this tour too much and give away a lot of information but this tour takes visitors underground to see passageways, old buildings and their foundations, roads etc of Seattle. This is because a huge fire ripped through the city destroying around twenty-five blocks in the process and afterwards, instead of destroying the ruins and getting rid of them, the local authorities decided to rebuild the city by building on top of the ruins. A lot of people who came to the city afterwards wanted to have a look down below but there were no tours available, then steps up Bill Speidel and his wife who started offering tours and are still going on to this very day. By heck this is one of the best tours we have ever been on. The tour guide we had was passionate, enthusiastic, spoke clearly and loudly, had a lot of humour, made the facts interesting and we were gripped on her every world. I have to admit, I only tip tour guides a small amount but this girl got a big dollar note from me. I still remember everything of the tour because of her. This tour is not to be missed.
It was time to do some walking and a few blocks down we were at Columbia Center (located at 400, 4th Avenue) and up to the 73rd floor where we arrived at the Sky View Observatory. Located 1000 ft high, we were offered the highest views of anywhere in the Pacific Northwest. What a day we had it on, we arrived on a clear sunny day so the views over the bay, out towards the mountains, overlooking the city, they were totally amazing. We were mapping out the area, we could see Mt. Rainier (just), Mt. Baker, the Olympic Mountains (which I drove through the next day and can be found here) and even the other viewpoint, the Space Needle (which we didn’t get to go up on this visit). We spent quite a bit of time up here just taking it all in, what an amazing place to get the views.
Afterwards we did a bit of a walk, checking out Downtown and side streets to get a good sense of the city and the daytime vibes. We even saw the Amazon Sphere’s, which really moderneses the city and really stands out.
Our next point of call was a quick walk through Pike Place Market, seeing what this place overlooking Elliott Bay had to offer and all I can remember is fish. I even remember the traders chucking large swordfish to each other across the market stall to entertain the passers by (and to gear up trade). There was a buzz around here, a really good feel good vibe. Everyone I walked past was cheerful, all smiles, all talkative, something which I haven’t come across other markets in the United States.
Nearby was the very first Starbucks, I really don’t know why I went in here. I don’t even go into their coffee shops back home to buy tea. I looked inside, the place was busy (and the weirdest thing is I couldn’t tell if the customers inside were tourists or locals), but I couldn’t see a sign saying this was the first one. Well, I could say I been in the original Starbucks but I don’t think it be that high up on my list to gloat about.
It was late evening and it was time for dinner. Lara planned that we should get the local ferry out of the city and across to nearby Bainbridge Island and have a meal in the restaurant called Cafe Nola located on Winslow Way East in Winslow. Totally enjoyed the meal here, very feeling and definitely worth the ferry ride over just for food.
To be honest Bainbridge Island looks very scenic away from the small town of Winslow and I wouldn’t mind coming back here to check it out. However on the way to the island, we got amazing views of the Seattle skyline but on the way back to Seattle later that evening, the sunset was truly amazing. I just stood on the deck, taking it all in, despite the cold chilly breeze coming of the water.