As I approach my halfway mark to this intense, yet intoxicatingly addicting journey, I can’t help but reflect on how much I’ve learned. Though I can learn from others’ advice, it only helps when it pertains to what I’m trying to accomplish. I refuse to think that in order to add culture to your life, you must spend at least a week touring and embracing a city. Now, spending a week or so in a city will definitely give you more experiences, and overall more knowledge. However, fully enjoying it has nothing to do with how much time you spend there. I would’ve loved to spend weeks in Rome, or a weekend in New Orleans, but because my trips are so short I am forced fully engulf myself in the cities I visit.
During journeys I wander alone, I speak to locals, and survey the people in my immediate surroundings. I take public transit everywhere I go, order the first thing I see on menus, and I try to imagine (in the best way possible) how it would be if for those days, or few hours, I lived there. As I hopelessly wander my way to finding my favorite city by submerging myself in these 50 culturally different places, this brings me to an adventure not too long ago, Seattle.
The West Coast and I went from being in a long distance relationship to two people that simply met at the wrong time and Seattle served as my monthly reminder. Upon arrival I decided that minimal sleep was worth downtown exploring and by sunrise I was on a train heading into the city with burning calves and my mouth watering for seafood. The public transit system reminded me a little of the Underground in London because of how clean it was while the weather was very Seattle like: cloudy, rainy, and vibrant green mountain tops.
Once I arrived downtown I decided to ditch the GPS because looking like a local is all the rave these days, right? Wrong. Every store was closed for the next hour so naturally I was onto finding breakfast at the Pike Place Market. A few blocks later I halted in the middle of the street ignoring how much of a tourist I looked like as I tried to get an Instagram picture of the market place sign. Not ashamed.
The fisherman, or fish salesman, sang as they threw fish back and fourth and bagged them up as if auditioning for the Seattle version of The Newsies. They were all bright eyed and bushy tailed while moms took pictures of their kids pretending to get eaten by the giant fish heads on display
Lesson 32: Don’t buy the fish on display at Pike Place Market, someone’s probably touched it with bare hands and that’s gross.
After walking by the singing men, I found myself tunneling upstairs to this ocean front café that specialized in clam chowder and omelettes. Done and done. I watched the boats sail and ate my food in under five minutes before convincing myself there was too much to see to sit there and people watch.
The market itself was multileveled on the edge of the city and the vendors hadn’t yet arrived, which was perfect because this allowed me to stumble into the first Starbucks ever opened.
Yes, I got a pike place coffee, at the Pike Place market, on a rainy Tuesday morning and sat on the dock to read my book. Seattle may be one of the top five hipster traps of The United States but I only had two words in mind: Bucket List!
Anyway, this made me happy. It only took fifteen minutes and three lurking homeless men to ruin this moment but it’s okay because I had stuff to do. I roamed the city a little longer attempting to make my walk count as a workout before I ventured a couple miles to the underground city tours.
Someone suggested doing the tour and when I found out they were only $15 I got hella stoked. However, when I found out the tour didn’t start until after my train back to the hotel I got super sad. I played my best pity party pout and the company was so sweet/sympathetic that the scheduler called one of the tour guides from the back office to give me a private, shortened, and free version for fifteen minutes before anyone else arrived. Free!
Lesson 33: Never underestimate the power of a pout and the sympathy of nice strangers.
The guy showed me through a hidden corridor and into the basement, which by now I think I’ve learned what to look for when people are being nice versus trying to kill me. This was just nice.
Now time for your quick history lesson!
Seattle itself is made up of about 20 square miles of an underground city that’s architecture is much like that of a waffle. Most buildings downtown have their own section that lies beneath their establishment at sea level. When the Great Seattle Fire hit in the 19th century, they elevated the city and over 100 years later the construction is still in tact. Many of the places are thought to be haunted and he pointed out how some owners are slowly starting to expand and renovate their establishments into the lower parts for more space and tourist attractions. Because of the waffle like architecture, there’s no way to connect these underground sections. This causes them to have the same entrance and exit, which can be viewed as a safety hazard. Cool right? I thought so. He then took me through a haunted chapel that also resides in the building but I fully intend on going back to this place and hearing about all the grave robbing stories he managed to skip over. Either way this place was pretty rad.
After I thanked them a dozen times and looked through their creepy museum, I saw signs leading to a “Seattle Mystery Bookshop”. I didn’t hesitate to follow the signs and yet again I walked into an underground building. The store was far more lit than it was secret and turned out to be a quaint little book shop with an eclectic selection. I asked the cashier for recommendations and ended up walking out with three books I did not need but couldn’t wait I stock my shelf with.
As it began to drizzle, I roamed the streets before purchasing a fish taco to satisfy my craving. On the train ride back I passed many cute areas, including a color block neighborhood I would love to rent a place in for the summer.
Traveling gives me a greater appreciation for the states as no state is more than a four hour plane ride away and like every West Coast city, I miss Seattle far more than I am there and can’t wait to get lost in the hillside greenery on my next visit. So until then, I’ll be singing Coconut Records West Coast to get me through my Midwest blues.