(P.S. : The entries will be pre-dated for the time I wrote them on my hotel notepad)
WARNING: Lots of pictures. May take a while to load.
I set out at 10 o’clock this morning, excited for my trip on the clipper to the biggest city in the American Pacific Northwest. The clipper is conveniently located downtown Victoria, so I could just take the bus downtown and walk to the dock. Of course, a boat is no exception to American travel policies; customs agents were on site to question and scan us through before we left. I got a seemingly suspicious female agent who looked at me weirdly when I said that yes, I was traveling to Seattle alone, and that no, I didn’t know anybody there. A woman can’t go to a city for pleasure on her own? Happily the interrogation did not go on, and I went through.
We left on a cloudy morning, and I saw the Inner Harbour like I’d never seen it before:
The trip was comfortable. There were plane-like seats on the first deck, and some tables on the second deck. I went to the second deck, accompanied by American scholars who’d just spent the week at ASLE and were going back home through the SEA-TAC airport.
It is not the Pacific Ocean yet, but the Strait of Juan de Fuca is a wide expanse of water; we lost sight of Vancouver Island pretty quickly. The really neat part of the clipper trip is reaching Puget Sound; the scenery is amazing and you can see all the communities on the shore.
The approach to Seattle is quite neat; I am sure most coastal cities are awesome to approch by water. The clipper docks on the northern part of the waterfront, meaning that we get a really nice view of the skyline from the north-west.
Getting off the boat was rather quick; the customs had already been passed and all we had to do was to grab our luggage and answer a few more questions by (in my case) much nicer agents.
My hotel was not so far from the pier so I decided to walk; I did not have the budget to spend on taxis anyway. As I turned the corner of Alaskan Way unto Broad, I was faced with the steepest hill I’ve ever seen in a city. Basically, downtown is the waterfront, a hill, a street, a hill, another street, another hill, etc. until you’re high enough and the hill starts going down.
I made it to my hotel within 15 minutes. It is a bit off downtown, right next to the Seattle Center. I was impressed with the room: for less than what I paid in Vancouver, I got a bigger bed, a private bathroom, a walk-in closet, a kitchenette AND a TV. I could even see the Space Needle from my window.
After settling down and putting stuff away, I changed and set out to my first outing. 3 stops on the program: Kerry Viewpoint, the Olympic Sculpture Park, and the Space Needle. I stayed more or less within the close area around my hotel.
The neighbourhood in which my hotel was situated, Queen Anne Hill, deserves its name. It’s the highest point within the boundaries of Seattle. I thought Victoria was hilly, but oh boy was I wrong.
Queen Anne Hill is a pretty neighbourhood with old houses and nice apartment buildings. Walking up I saw this very nice mansion:
The hike up was hard, but definitely worth it. The view from the north gives one the complete Seattle skyline, Space Needle included.
Everything that goes up must go down; I headed down the hill towards Olympic Sculpture Park, the display of public art and garden that opened in 2007. It is a very interesting park with some nice sculptures; it all feels somewhat integrated with the ground and the surrounding urban landscape. It somehow reminded me of the Architecture park back in Montréal, on a quite grander scale however.
After this great (free) art display, I headed back up the hill (again!) to Seattle Center and the Space Needle. I spent a bit of time up the Neddle, even though the price isn’t exactly worth it. But still, it’s a must-visit for any first-timer in Seattle, and I did get great views out of it. All around the Center there are some more pieces of public sculpture, as well as one of the most interesting buildings I’ve ever seen: the Experience Music Project/Sci-Fi Museum (which I did not get to visit unfortunately). My pictures from up the Needle aren’t really great because they were taken through a glass window, but they are not bad and give a good idea of the view from up there. Seattle Center is a nice public place, but as soon as the tourists are gone it gets really quiet, except on nights when there are shows at the variety of theaters and playhouses.
After a short afternoon, I headed back to my hotel and grabbed some food at the grocery half a block away. It’s a real money saver; I had three suppers for 10$ (they were Stouffer’s frozen entrées, but still). After chilling for a few hours, I was planning on hitting one of the few bars near, but it was Monday and so really empty; I ended up chatting in the hotel garden with tourists from France whom I had heard on the Space Needle but didn’t dare approach. But my nightlife attempt at least enabled me to take that single evening picture:
I enjoyed my first few hours in Seattle; it didn’t feel too “American” in the way East Coast cities are; but I still haven’t been downtown. The West Coast lifestyle has more influence on the personality of the Seattleites than the fact that the city is in the US.