At the end of March, I had a chance to visit Seattle for the very first time. It was a cold, rainy, blustery weekend. And when you live in sunny San Diego, cold means anything below 60 degrees. In Seattle that weekend, the temperature never got above 45 save for the last day I was there, when it was sunny and 57 by the time I boarded a plane to fly home.
Seattle has a very funky, east coast city vibe to me. Not New York, more like a Pittsburgh-type feel. Old buildings, old infrastructure and an attempt to make downtown seem vital and busy. In Seattle, that attempt works, although it does seem to roll up the sidewalks at 7:00pm or so.
One thing Seattle has is an amazing independent bookstore (which I sadly did not take any photos of), the Elliott Bay Book Company. The store was a downtown mainstay for many years (since 1973), but up and moved just east of town in 2010, up onto Tenth Ave. It's a large, warm, inviting store, with tons of books and a very inviting display. I would pretty much live there if I lived in Seattle, which was a question I asked myself a lot while I was there...would I want to live there? The weather was such a turn-off--I am so spoiled with San Diego's warm temperatures and sunny skies--that the answer is probably a no. But you know...never say never. (There is also a great downtown comics store, Zanadu Comics, located within walking distance of Pike Place Market. They too had an amazing selection of books.)
As usual, I took a ton of photos. Here are ten of my favorites. I didn't re-invent the wheel here, photographically. As I took what I thought were original and startling photos, I pretty much found all my angles and shots reproduced on postcards, prints, and other epherma, as I roamed around town and visited various shops and such.
Pike Place Market is one of those legendary places you hear about all the time. I first became aware of it in Sleepless in Seattle, the Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan rom-com. I love old farmers' market type things like this, so it was a natural for me to want to visit it. I was totally unprepared for how often I was drawn back to it.
Pike Place has a ton of beautiful old neon signs throughout its rather rambling building, as you can see from this shot, looking down one of its main halls. The neon gives you the impression of stepping back in time a bit, the same feeling the Farmers' Market in Los Angeles gives me, each time I visit. The Market has a lot of other, more touristy things in it, like souvenirs, art, t-shirts and other clothing and a couple of levels of stores, including a magic store, a comics store, and a paper collectible shop (where I bought a vintage map of the 1962 Seattle World's Fair--more on that later in this post).
Pike Place is one of those old-fashioned fish markets, where the guys behind the counters yell at each other and throw fish back and forth. They'll pack it all up--as this crabby photo indicates--for you to take home with you, wherever that home may be. I took a photo of a 130-lb haddock, but I'm not showing it here. It may cause nightmares. It's one big-ass fish (do fish have asses? I guess they do...)
The building is particularly beautiful at dusk, as the outside neon blinks on and the sun sets. Unfortunately, the inside of the place folds up and closes down at 6:30 each evening, but the exterior remains a vivid reminder of what will happen again tomorrow.
We had a brief moment of freedom from the rain one day, so I hopped the monorail and took the long, grueling ride--all 2 or 3 minutes of it--to the Space Needle. It's a landmark leftover from the 1962 Century 21 Worlds' Fair that took place in Seattle (Century 21 being the title of the event, and not related to the real estate company of the same name). The whole area around the Space Needle is abuzz with museums and such and getting ready for a 50th anniversary celebration of the event which many think put Seattle on the map (I mean, Elvis did a movie--It Happened at the World's Fair-- that took place at that Worlds' Fair...what more do you need?).
I didn't go up in the Space Needle. It seemed a bit pricey ($19 for a long elevator ride) and the cloudiness of the day kind of turned me off. Crowd-wise, it would have been ideal, as almost no one was there. Maybe next time...they have a great souvenir shop in the base of the Needle that has pretty much all your Space Needle needs.
Here's one of those museums: Paul Allen's EMP structure (that black reflection just left of center is the Space Needle, by the way). The "Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame" seems a little grandiose to me, at least as a name, but what is one to do with all those Microsoft millions, even when you're not Bill Gates. I roamed into the inside, and other than a lackluster gift shop geared more to the music side of the joint, I was kind of unimpressed. The Frank Gehry-designed building looks like some kind of metallic fabric revealing...well, something, like a curtain going up. It's pretty colorful, especially in the sunlight, which bounced out for a moment or two while I was there. That black bar near the bottom right, behind the lamppost, is the track of the monorail, which goes through the musuem, right where the colors split.
And finally, there's this, Pike Place Market at dusk, that warm neon sign bringing much warmth to the cool blue rise of the evening. I imagine that sign, glowing like that for so many nights, brings some small measure of comfort and familiarity to the residents of Seattle. It sure is inviting, even for an out-of-towner like me.