When my friend announced that she was going to be on the west coast of the USA, including Seattle, for a few days, I immediately messaged her. “I’ll be in Vancouver, I could totally come visit you!!” I had it all visualised in my head: get the bus or train down, stay in a hostel or even crash at her Airbnb, and come back the next day. It would be AWESOME!
As the time drew closer and I still hadn’t planned anything, I wondered if it would even happen. By this time, I’d started a new job, and she’s not in Seattle over a weekend, so I quibbled about asking for a day off less than a week into it, and definitely wrote off the idea of going for two.
Is Seattle worth only going for a day? Would it be totally stupid to spend $65 on a return ticket? Or should I save $15 and shave three hours off my time in the city? So. Many. Decisions.
Work was absolutely fine about it. In fact, some people were surprised when I turned up the next day as they had assumed I would have gone for longer than a day!
But let me tell you – and I’m sure plenty of people will disagree – Seattle is a GREAT day trip! Because the more I looked on TripAdvisor, the more I realised how little there is to actually do there. Before you all get your pitchforks out (I’m literally cowering over here), I mean that purely on a tourist scale.
Space Needle, Pike Place Market, Gum Wall. Those were literally the three things on my list (and we didn’t go up the Space Needle because it was $26, and $26 is a lot of coffees).
Unfortunately for Seattle, I don’t like coffee. (Put those pitchforks AWAY, for the love of God!) But my friend does, so although she’s checked out a ton of amazing coffee places in Seattle, we met at the one place coffee lovers don’t go: Starbucks.
We didn’t go to the original Starbucks (I forgot to even take a photo of it!), nor did we go to any of the 233 (apparently!!!) other random Starbucks in the city. We went to the Starbucks Reserve Roastery – and left unimpressed. I was glad to see they actually served things other than coffee, and to be honest their menu was pretty different to most places I’ve seen.
I pretty much stuck my finger out and chose the first thing it landed on, which was “silver needle” tea. The girl served it to me in a heavy cast iron teapot and told me to wait three and a half minutes. Amazing, I thought. Proper tea with instructions and everything!
Don’t try it. I don’t even remember what the other ones are, but the silver needle one tastes of nothing (I mean LOOK AT IT, it looks like water!); maybe slightly chamomile but barely. And it was the most expensive tea I’ve ever drunk.
Although we didn’t like the tea OR coffee, the Starbucks Reserve Roastery is worth a visit for something different. It has loads going on and I waited for my friend for around 15 minutes and didn’t mind at all because I kept going around looking at new things.
But we were off to do far more cultural things – like walking around markets and looking for a wall that people stick chewing gum to.
It seems that it’s impossible to visit Pike Place Market without hearing music everywhere, which is the first thing I liked about it. The guy going crazy on piano, the blues group that made you feel like you were in one of the southern states… the guy throwing a giant fish and then catching it again while hollering.
Of course I added a pin to Orkney on the map – there were none there! But there was a hole in Orkney so clearly someone had visited before. (Also find it strange how few pins Australia has compared to SE Asia and even Africa)
I also loved all the neon signs advertising everything.
It was interesting to walk around, but we didn’t actually spend a lot of time there, and ended up eating at Veggie Grill round the corner instead. It’s not often I pick vegetarian items off a menu, so it was interesting to come here with a vegan and choose from so many things I’d never had before! I went for the Rustic Farm Bowl and actually forgot to take a picture like the terrible blogger I am (who hasn’t posted on Instagram for a month). It ended up filling me up for the whole day! AND I felt super healthy.
We also found a crumpet shop which looked amazing, and I surprised myself by not visiting the fantastically-named Biscuit Bitch.
And, of course, we went to the gum wall, which was WAY bigger than I expected; it’s an entire underpass! I thought it was kinda weird (well obviously it’s weird; it’s a wall covered in gum) because it was so dark and I wondered why all the photos of it looked bright.
Well, I still don’t know why, but they do. And when you go to the outside part of the wall – the actual bright part – it’s too bright and the colours of the gum really don’t show up anywhere near as well.
So photogenicity (is that a word?) of chewing gum aside, it’s actually kind of cool. In a weird, kind of disgusting way.
Don’t you think, Gulliver?
On to the major attraction of the city: the undeniably Seattle landmark of the Space Needle. I had had a fantastic view of it coming in on the bus, with the water in the foreground filled with boats, and the needle rising up like a familiar welcome to the city that lay behind it.
And then I didn’t see it again. It’s funny, when you visit somewhere and you expect something that iconic and huge to be visible everywhere. But the one thing that surprised me about Seattle is how much it felt like a city. Okay, I know that’s weird. But where Vancouver feels open (I mean, you can see the mountains on the north shore from like, everywhere), Seattle is inundated with skyscrapers. I almost forgot the space needle was there.
But we trundled along, taking some silly photos on the way.
And it was only when we were about 100ft away that we spotted it – through some other tall buildings. We were actually really close to it by the time we could take a good photo of it.
As you know, we didn’t go up. Nor did we go into the nearby gardens that cost an arm and a leg (don’t think I’m supposed to say bomb in America? Although I did spot a restaurant that said “absolutely no guns or knives allowed”. It’s kinda scary that in almost any other country, that would be seen as funny; here, it’s real.) which was a shame because they would have been nice to see.
My friend and I looked at each other. What else is there to do? It felt like we’d exhausted everything we wanted to see.
(Just to add: I WILL be going to the Museum of Pop Culture when I visit with Ash, especially because they’ve just added a MARVEL exhibition!)
We took a Lyft back to her Airbnb, which turns out to be in a really cool neighbourhood, and one I WAY preferred to downtown: Capitol Hill.
Capitol Hill is the gay district of Seattle, and much like Davie Street in Vancouver I LOVED the vibe! Lots of cool looking hangouts, delicious food, and to be honest just more going on than downtown Seattle which surprised me.
It even had rainbow crossings like the ones on Davie Street – except Seattle has LOTS of them!
I also found a really cool park that I’d seen on Atlas Obscura. It wasn’t so much a park as a square, but LOOK!!!
How cool is this place?! There were two guys sat near the edge of it watching me with bemused looks, so I moved on pretty quickly, but totally glad I made the little detour!
Of course, there’s a Starbucks opposite it.
We were actually planning to go to the nearby Highline Bar, a vegan restaurant and rock / metal bar. It sounded amazing until I realised it was $30 entry because there was an industrial metal festival going on. Even though the festival wasn’t starting for another couple of hours, it had turned into some sort of industrial club, which wasn’t really how we wanted to spend our evening.
I’d passed what looked like a little dive bar on my way to Pac Man Park, so I suggested we go there instead, because there wasn’t much else around. Plus it’s called The Stumbling Monk so why wouldn’t you? We turned up to find that they only served beer, which neither of us like. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a place that literally only does beer!
The barman suggested the bar next door, which looked really cool! It’s called Captain Black’s and it’s all nautical themed with outdoor seating and a funky decor! Unfortunately, we were really limited on time by now before my bus, and there was a queue. And not like, the bar was crowded, or a line outside to get in. No, there was literally a line to the bar. I even whispered to my friend, “is that a queue?” She said we would probably be waiting for 20 minutes for a drink, so sadly we had to leave that place, too!
Our luck was out, and so was mine for getting back to King Street station. My friend had been ranting about how poor the public transport in Seattle was because it would have taken her an hour to get to her Airbnb from downtown, so she was having to get Lyfts everywhere. I happily pranced into Capitol Hill station to prove her wrong and bought a metro ticket; she had looked up when the next train was and there was one in 10 minutes.
Not according to the board. No, apparently there wasn’t one for 20 minutes, and it would take another 20 minutes to get there! (In any normal city, that distance would be 5 minutes, and it would have been quicker to walk) So guess what? I got a Lyft for under $3, and it turned up within one minute and took 10 minutes to get there!
So it wasn’t quite how I planned to end the day, but I hadn’t felt rushed or like I’d really missed out. Seattle wasn’t my favourite city by any length. When I arrived, I walked through Pioneer Square, which felt like the “dodgy end” of town (unwittingly I walked for ages with my backpack open – literally the pocket with my passport, Canadian visa and purse in – and nothing got stolen, so it can’t have been that bad, I guess!! #rookietraveller). Its only redeeming feature was the street art.
In fact, Seattle had a lot of cool street art.
But it didn’t entice me in like other cities do with their quirks. Maybe a day isn’t enough time there; maybe that’s why I didn’t fall for it. Maybe it’s because I don’t like coffee!
But I will be back with Ash. I’ll give you a second try, Seattle! And maybe I’ll discover more of your quirks that will make me fall in love with you.