"I...embarked on a mission to get from the outlying suburbs of Seattle to the city center…using public transportation."
Seattle rains. A lot. Locals may try and convince you otherwise. Every time I’ve made my way over to the “Emerald City” though, the skies seem to be perpetually gray and the climate unendingly gloomy. Yet somehow, I, a fierce despiser of precipitation, have developed an uncanny adoration for this damp Northwestern conurbation.
My most recent jaunt to Seattle came about somewhat serendipitously. A couple friends and I impulsively embarked on a weekend road trip. Our intended destination: Vancouver. Off we raced through the vast expanses of Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. As we neared our target however, a slew of regrettable happenstances befell us. To be brief, Snoqualmie Pass, a torrential downpour, and water-logged roads conspired against our vehicle, which consequently succumbed to spastic bouts of hydroplaning that ultimately brought about a premature end to our Canadian conquest.
Slightly bruised, somewhat battered, and thoroughly dejected, we found ourselves stranded in Seattle without a properly functioning car. Given that we were sans vehicle, Vancouver was wholly inaccessible. It lay only a couple hours to our North, waiting just out of reach in an almost mocking comportment.
However, our spirits could not be deflated so easily. We consciously decided to make the most of this road trip gone awry. We were going to take on Seattle. This weekend was not going to be squandered.
After driving fifteen hours straight through the night, sleep deprivation had taken its toll on my two friends. But for some odd reason unbeknownst to me, I had absolutely no desire for slumber. Waiting around in the drab hotel seemed utterly undesirable, so I scribbled a quick note informing my sleeping comrades of my whereabouts. I was going to explore Seattle solo. I admitted to myself that although I had been to Seattle previously, the circumstances had been vastly different. For one, last time I had been with my parents, who were familiar with the city layout. For another, they had a car. I lacked both of these valuable contrivances this go-around, and consequently, embarked on a mission to get from the outlying suburbs of Seattle to the city center…using public transportation.
Donning a scarf to stifle the bitter sea breezes, I cavorted out of the hotel lobby and into the overcast, drizzly environment. My initial instinct was to take a taxi since I had no idea where I was in proximity to downtown. So, I hastily hailed the first one to drive past. When I naively asked the driver if he could get me to the Space Needle for less than ten bucks, I was met with an incredulous response of laughter and informed that forty dollars was a more realistic conjecture, and then only if the lights were green. Needless to say, I abashedly nodded my head and graciously asked the chortling driver for directions to the nearest bus stop.
"The local fishmongers were just going about their casual morning routine, and in the process making an absolute spectacle of themselves."
And so I made the expedition all the way from the suburbs to downtown utilizing only public transportation. All in all, it took three bus transfers and roughly an hour and a half to travel about twenty miles. However, it was a character building experience, if nothing else.
As we neared what was presumably “downtown Seattle,” I offered my appreciation to the affable bus driver as he dropped me off on the corner of Pike Street and Pike Place. He gave me a toothy grin and simply said, “Kid, follow the crowd.”
Skeptical at the prospect of seeing any crowd at this hour of the morning and with these bone-rattling gusts of icy wind ripping through, I nonchalantly nodded my head and hopped off the bus. I meandered around the corner and was, indeed, met with throngs of people milling down the street. Having nothing to lose, I followed the mass of humanity toward a building exuding the less-than-appealing scent of fish, thoroughly confused as to why anybody was patronizing an open air seafood market at eight in the morning. This was definitely not the kind of smell I yearned for before breakfast, but I’d been around long enough to discover that crowds of people usually mean something grand is taking place nearby. So I continued to wander through the market until out of the corner of my eye I spotted something shiny, silvery, and long zipping through the air. It was a fish. Another whizzed past me on the left. The local fishmongers were just going about their casual morning routine, and in the process making an absolute spectacle of themselves.
The lighthearted merriment extended throughout the day. Nobody, it seemed, was too troubled by the impending murky storm clouds. Along Pike Pier, it was hustling, bustling business as usual. The flower market was a sensory inundation with its vast polychromatic arrangement of fragrant perennials.
From the pier I traipsed over to Pioneer Square and was met with a quiescent peace that juxtaposed the banter of the harried markets. My inner history geek surfaced as I learned about this heart of Seattle’s past. Pioneer Square had seen its fair share of hard times, starting with the Great Seattle Fire of 1889. Add to the mix gang beatings, earthquakes, and drug violence and, for a time, Pioneer Square became something of a notoriously viperous hang-out. A revamping has since supervened and the Square now boasts some of the city’s trendiest cafes, hippest art museums, and a blend of bohemian coffee shops.
Thus, the weekend went. What I anticipated to be an international jaunt to our northern neighbor, instead turned out to be a domestic detour to the Pacific Northwest’s largest city—a land of gleaming, sharp skyscrapers peacefully coexisting with viridian pine forests.
Places to Stay
86 Pine Street
Seattle, WA 98101
“In the heart of Seattle's Pike Place Market, slip into the ivy-covered courtyard of the Inn at the Market and discover a tranquil hideaway. Inn at the Market is designed with modern Northwest style and comfort, and home to one of the city's most acclaimed restaurants. You can savor the views of downtown, the Market, Elliott Bay and the Olympic mountains from its 70 elegant guest rooms and dazzling view deck. Recognized by Travel + Leisure and Conde Nast, Inn at the Market offers a signature Seattle experience treasured by visitors and locals.”
“Seattle Pacific Hotel is located just 2.5 blocks from the Seattle Center, Experience Music Project, Pacific Science Center, Science Fiction Museum, and the world famous Space Needle. The property boasts 59 newly furnished rooms. Our goal is to accommodate our guest's needs, including providing rooms for the physically challenged, guests traveling with pets, and family friendly rooms, as well. In each room there is a coffee pot, microwave, mini-fridge (full-size in family rooms/suites), hair dryers, and cable television. To each of our guests we offer continental breakfast, with 24 hour coffee in the lobby, computer with internet access in lobby, and each room is equipped with Wi-Fi access.”
“Chelsea Station Inn B & B offers four large suites with living room, dining room, kitchenette, powder room and a sumptuous master suite. The Inn is wonderfully situated at the south entrance to Woodland Park Zoo and a very short walk to the attractions of Green Lake, Seattle's favorite park. Centrally located for all Seattle has to offer—minutes to downtown and the ferries.
The Suites are surprising in their size and elegance. Each suite has a living room with a queen-sized pull-out for additional guests; cozy dining room where you can privately enjoy breakfast delivered to your room each morning; kitchenette stocked with some of the area's finest taste treats; powder room, and a sumptuous master suite with double walk-in shower.”
Things to Do
Seattle, WA 98101
It’s practically unheard of to go to Seattle and not stop by this illustrious conglomerate of eccentricities. Seafood, meat, and produce line the more exotic fragments of this thoroughfare. Fine dining bistros and sophisticated coffee shops are interspersed into the mix, as well. Then there are the people. Naturalistic observation (AKA people watching) is an entirely free, yet thoroughly beguiling, way of spending an hour or two. Ambling musicians and entertainers make for blithe ambiance and the overall vibe of the place is hyperactive, frenetic, and yet somehow unexpectedly mellow.
1483 Alaskan Way
Seattle, WA 98101
Seattle boasts one of the nation’s more spectacular aquariums. Visitors can get up close and personal with some of the Pacific Ocean’s more formidable entities like the Great White and Hammerhead sharks. On the flip side, patrons can watch sea lions and seals merrily zip through the water. And there’s even a hands-on exhibit for those wanting to a hold a starfish or sea anemone.
801 Alaskan Way Pier 52
Seattle, WA 98104
Granted, a commuter ferry may not seem like the most sensible way to spend your free time in Seattle. However, those who seize this opportunity will be rewarding themselves with a serene and affordable way to kick back, unwind, and gaze at stunning views of the city skyline and the aberrant landscapes of some of Seattle’s outlying misty islets.