North to Alaska-2010 travel blog

View from Seattle Space Needle

View from Seattle Space Needle w/ Mt. Rainier

Space Needle

Lake Union

Floating home on Lake Union

Pike's Place Market

Flowers on the market roof

Underground tour

Seattle from hill by Lake Union

Troll under the overpass

We have moved on to Seattle, WA. We are staying about 20 miles outside of the city. The drive here was uneventful - a good thing. We are still enjoying nice, sunny weather, which everyone here says is very unusual. After we got everything set up we went straight into Seattle. Without a map of the city as yet we fumbled our way to the Space Needle - it's not too hard to find since it sticks way above most things. We looked around a little then decided we might as well go to the top since it was such a beautiful, clear, sunny day. The ride up only takes a few minutes - no time to get scared. We walked around the outer perimeter of the top - the views were breathtaking. You could see Mt. Baker to the north, which is almost on the Canadian border and Mt. Rainier to the south, over a hundred miles away. To the west was Puget Sound with the ferries, sailboats and even a cruise ship going out to sea. Seattle is quite spread out and the houses are up and down every hillside around the city. The population is around 4 million in the metro area. There is water in every direction - Puget Sound, Lake Union, which is right in the City, and Lake Washington, a huge lake right on the outskirts of the city. After we came back to earth, we walked around the area, this was the grounds of the 1962 World's Fair in Seattle. We wanted to take a tour of the city and just happened upon the Duck's, so we decided that would be a good way to see the City and get on the water a little - yes, the Duck's like in Branson. It was kind of silly, but we had a lot of fun. He took us through downtown, past Pike Street Market, Pioneer Square (historical district), downtown shopping. During the tour he told us a lot of history and said there are over 400 Starbucks in the city of Seattle (Starbucks originated in Seattle). Their corporate offices are in downtown Seattle and yes there is a Starbucks on the 40th floor of that building. Seems like everyone you see is carrying a coffee cup! Then we went to Lake Union, which is near the Fremont area of Seattle, which seems a little like our West End. We entered the lake and he showed us the floating house that was in Sleeping in Seattle - it recently sold for close to 2 million dollars. There are about 500 floating homes on this lake and many, many boats. Since it was such a nice day people were out in their boats, kayaks, longboards (sort of like a surfboard that they stand on and paddle). There were sailboats everywhere - it was actually quite congested and our driver had to really watch what he was doing. The Fremont area is the home of the Seattle Troll, he is 18 ft high and is under the highway overpass - don't know the significance of him, but he is there. The next day, we went into the city earlier, found a place to park ($10.00 for the day) and started walking. We walked to Pike's Place Market, which is right on Puget Sound - a very interesting place. They had all kinds of booths selling everything from jewelry, to clothing, to vegetables and fruits, nuts, preserves, fish, including the fishmongers who put on a show throwing the fish to each other, and flowers - flowers that are made into beautiful arrangements for really low prices. There are also all kinds of places to eat - it was really interesting just looking at all the things available. We bought lunch at one of the stands and took it to the park on the Sound and ate in the sunshine. After resting for a little while we took off again towards Pioneer Square, the historic district of downtown. We took the Underground Tour here. First a tourguide gives you some history of the area, how it started, by whom, the problems caused by all the greed of the times, etc. Then he turned you over to a different guide who actually takes you out into the streets and down under the streets. In the mid 1800's when Seattle was founded it was all built at sea level. The problem was when the tide came in some of the streets were in the water. All this water coming in and out left a mess and it was smelly. Also the people who lived up the hill were running all their sewage down the hill and that was adding to the smell and unsanitary conditions. In the late 1800's a fire destroyed 32 square blocks of the downtown area and the powers that be saw this as an opportunity to rebuild and do something differently. They built rock walls 12 to 3 feet high elevating the streets above the high tide marks. While this was being done businesses were anxious to rebuild so they rebuilt their businesses knowing that eventually the first floor of their buildings would be below street level. After all the streets were done these underground entrances were abandoned by the owners of the buildings, but opened up an area for illegal operations to move in - speakeasies, prostitution, opium dens, gambling - anything they wanted to hide. Eventually, all these businesses were put out of business by the police. But these areas still exist and this is where we were on the tour - it was all fascinating! After the tour was over we took the free bus back as far as we could and walked the rest of the way to our truck - a long day, but very interesting and a lot of fun. The next day we went back into the city in the afternoon and drove to the Fremont area so we could walk around in the park on the north end of Lake Union. It was cloudy and rainy in the morning, but the afternoon cleared off very nicely and the sun came out again. The park has a hill in the middle and offers great views of downtown Seattle. We sat on a bench watching the boats and kayaks go by. Quite a few sea planes took off and landed while we were there - it is amazing that people can fly their sea plane right into the middle of Seattle. With so much water around sea planes and boats seem to be a normal mode of transportation in Seattle. We ate dinner at an outdoor restaurant and then called it a day. Even though we do not normally care to visit large cities, Seattle was very interesting and we really enjoyed our visit here.

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