Big City Travel
I knew that Seattle was a large, major metropolitan city. I grew up in Denver (a little po-duck town comparatively), and have lived all over the world. I’ve been to London, Rome and Paris. But, its been a long time since I’ve done any big city travelling, and Seattle caught me off guard.
First, there’s an insane amount of traffic. Then, because the roads are all built around large bodies of water, and mountains, they don’t go straight. There are also no fixed landmarks that you can see everywhere to set your bearing to. On a positive note, I learned how to use Google Navigate on my phone. 🙂 So, when we merged onto the interstate in the right lane, and needed to exit left in 1/4 mile, across four lanes of busy traffic, I knew about it.
Second, there are so many people. I have gotten to be very comfortable in my small town life. I don’t have to wait in long lines, or maneuver through huge crowds of people. Unlike other metropolitan areas, where there is plenty of space, geographically, to spread out, Seattle has had to build up. So, everywhere you go you are surrounded by skyscrapers and tall buildings.
Arriving in Town
We arrived to the hotel in Bellevue (a “suburb” of Seattle) in the early afternoon, on Thursday. After cleaning up, we headed out for a walk and some food.
We ate an early dinner at the Thai Grill restaurant that is a couple of blocks from the hotel. From there we could see they Bellevue Sky Bridge, so after dinner we headed over to check that out. It was kinda of interesting and fun. We felt like we were using the back door of the city. It eventually spilled us out into a shopping mall. A real, indoor, multi-level shopping mall. I haven’t been in a real shopping mall in years. My son had never been in one!
We wandered around and found the Lego store, as well as a Microsoft store. We eventually made our way out of the mall and headed down to find the waterfront on Lake Washington. Fortunately, it wasn’t too difficult to find the lake, the hard part was finding a public access point. Unlike Hawaii, where the beach belongs to the whole population, Seattle’s waterfront belongs to whomever can afford to build there. We did eventually find a small park that wasn’t under construction, and it was pretty amazing to see such a large body of water.
After a long, uphill walk back to the hotel, we closed out the evening with a little dessert and beverages from the bar. It was nice to stretch out on a comfortable bed and relax.
Seattle Day 1
We had a very busy day planned! First, we headed over to Lake Union so we could get the keys to my son’s apartment. Then, we found the apartment and moved him in. Afterwards, we headed into downtown Seattle for some sight seeing and touristy stuff. Finally, we stocked up the new apartment & found a bicycle, so he would have transportation after I left.
As luck would have it, we found a parking garage that was across the street from the park where the Space Needle is at. Our first site was actually a fountain. As we walked up, the classical music you could hear playing got louder and more powerful. The water fountain started shooting water up high into the air, in time to the music. What a great start!
Museum of Pop Culture
After a bite of lunch in the Armory, we headed over to the Museum of Pop Culture. This site was at the top of my son’s list. The museum is an interesting experience. We learned about what goes into making all different kinds of movies, such as Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and Horror. They have a three floor exhibit on Star Trek that includes how and why it was made, the cultural significance and tons of models, uniforms and pictures.
The star attraction of the museum was the Jim Henson exhibit. It was set up as a time line of his life and creations of his career. They had sketches he had done in high school, where he got his start. Movies and other works he had wanted to create, and culminating in the work he did before he died. There were lots of sketches and screen plays with personal notes. It was a very intimate exhibit.
Pike Place Market
The site that was at the top of my list was the Pike Place Market, so that’s where we headed next. We hopped on the Monorail, which took us to the Westlake Shopping Center. From there it was a couple of blocks walk to the Market and waterfront. We started our exploration at the waterfront. We found a park that overlooked the water and spent a little while getting our bearings, taking in the hustle and bustle. As you would expect, we also started getting rained on. We quickly made our way to the Market, which was completely packed with people. As a shorter person, about the only thing I could see were the backs and shoulders of the taller people around me. My son, however, is taller and could see enough to navigate us through. We did get to see a couple of the fish stalls, fresh flowers and produce.
When we did make it to the exit outside, we checked out the couple of blocks surrounding the Market. By then, it was time to bid downtown adieu and finish our chores for the day.
Big Box Stores
Normally, going to Target wouldn’t be noteworthy. However, this trip was entirely different. First, when we finally found the Target, we could see the sign, but not the store. Due to the fact we were looking for our usual big box store, with a large parking lot. What we found instead, was a stack of box stores with a parking garage. The whole building actually looked like a giant parking garage.
Target took up two floors of the big box store stack. To get from one floor to the other required taking an escalator, which had a side escalator for your shopping cart. Yes, I embarrassed my son by taking pictures like the tourist I was 🙂
Long story short, we got what we needed, some dinner and I took him back to his new apartment. He had to go into work the next day, so I was on my own for Day 2.
Seattle Day 2
First off, I have to admit that I was nervous about heading out by myself. This is actually unusual for me, but I found the crowds and the traffic a little overwhelming on Day 1. With a little encouragement from the home front (thank you Papa C), I headed out. This time I headed out early (7:30), and took the bus, which was just a couple of blocks from the hotel. The bus dropped me off at the King’s Station, in the International section of town. I was hoping to get to see Chinatown, and the other sites in that neighborhood. However, even though the streets signs said I was in that part of town, I couldn’t see anything more than what appeared to be an older part of town. So, I headed back towards the waterfront and Market.
I’m very glad that I headed out early, as I was able to get my bearings, without the huge crowds of people. I wondered through most of the shops along the waterfront, as well as through the entire Pike Place Market. Then, I headed out and walked through a couple of antique stores, chocolate shops, an Italian Deli and a French Cooking store. Around lunch time I found the Bavarian Meats shop, and enjoyed an authentic German wurst.
From there, I headed back to the waterfront and walked up to the Olympic Sculpture Park. I enjoyed a few minutes in the shade, and watched a group of art students learn how to draw.
By this time, it was getting to be mid-afternoon. Since it was a beautiful day, and Saturday, it was very busy again. I made my way back to King’s station, and headed back to the hotel. This time, as I approached and was trying to figure out where my bus was going to be, I stumbled upon the Arch to Chinatown. I didn’t explore, however. I was ready to call it a day.
Thank you for sticking with me to the end. If and when I head back to Seattle, I will go with a better game plan. I will spend a little more time familiarizing myself with the public transportation system, and book a whale watching tour in advance. I will also purchase a Seattle City Pass, which gets you into five of the top attractions for just $79. It just didn’t fit into this trip.
If you are like me, and find that you are just more comfortable in smaller crowds of people, head out early in the morning. I felt that I could take my time, as the stores and sites were just opening up. Then, as the crowds gradually thicken throughout the day, it’s not huge jolt to the system.