I hadn’t been to another country for over 6 months, and it had been almost 2 months since I’d even left Vancouver. For someone accustomed to going everywhere all of the time (for work or fun) this was not sitting well. Luckily, Chloe and I had made a pact a while back to go down to Seattle before Christmas, so we booked a car and a hostel (*shudders*) and headed for the border.
Vancouver is really close to the US border – Google tells me it was about 30 miles from the city to where we crossed, and we set off early on Saturday morning so the line of cars was relatively short when we pulled up to enter the land of the free. As neither of us are from the US or Canada we had the fun of being sent into a building for ‘secondary processing’ where a sleepy looking man with tiny hands struggled to grasp the concept that two people from different countries could possibly meet in a third country and become friends without it being some sort of conspiracy. Our finger prints were taken and we were forced to pay another $6 “processing fee” for the privilege (definitely doughnut money) before we were allowed to get on our way.
The drive down was fairly uneventful; the highway wound through the outskirts of various towns and around the edges of some of the nearby national/state parks which were quite scenic, before we hit the edge of Seattle and outlet malls lined the road on either side. We had a bit of fun finding the hostel as we missed the turning and ended up in downtown Seattle, a place where left turns are not allowed, resulting in some interesting manoeuvres and going back and forth over the same bridge approximately 4 times (I wish I was joking).
We were staying in Fremont, which is a 20 minute bus ride outside of Seattle itself and set on the side of Lake Union. Once we’d checked in we headed downtown, quickly realising that neither of us had done any research into what there was to do in Seattle, and we both had no clue where anything was. We managed to follow our noses to Pike Place Market, Seattle’s famous fish market, where we had a quick wander before going in search of somewhere we could sit down and make a plan for the rest of the weekend. Beer and wifi located, we did our best tourist impressions and trawled through various leaflets and websites before deciding that the market and the Space Needle were about as exciting as it gets in downtown Seattle.
We returned to the markets briefly where I enjoyed an excellent jacket potato topped with pulled pork, and we bought a huge bag of mini doughnuts to share (we ate about 3 each – 12 seemed like such a good idea). We then got blown away walking along the seafront, and browsed some shops in Pioneer Square before heading to the Columbia Centre for some views.
Why didn’t we go up the Space Needle I hear you cry?! Following the advice of several people I’d talked to, the Columbia Centre is actually taller than the Space Needle, so the views are better. Plus, it’s cheaper to go up and you can see the Space Needle from it anyway. I am a connoisseur of tall buildings: take me to a city and I will find you the best view point.
The moody skies of sunset quickly turned into a very wet and dark evening in Seattle, so we headed back to Fremont and took shelter at Fremont Brewing, sampled a few of their (excellent) brews, and ordered in Vietnamese food from a local restaurant – a great concept for bars that don’t serve food. A quick night cap in the bar next to our hostel and we were in bed at 9.45 like the rock and roll adults we are.
I am always keen for an exploration run when somewhere new, and even more so when there’s an opportunity to run by the water, so the next morning I took myself off on a little 10km jaunt around Lake Union along the very well signposted Cheshiahud Loop (apart from where someone had turned the signpost the wrong way up a very steep hill – thanks for that) before a hostel breakfast of peanut butter and banana on toast. As a side note, I didn’t hate this hostel but we did decide that hostels all have a very distinct smell – slightly musty with a hint of wet trainers. Mmmm.
The sun was shining so we headed out for a walk to nearby Gasworks park, famous for its views back across the lake towards the city, and for being the setting of the paint balling scene in the teen classic film ’10 Things I Hate About You’ (thanks Helen for that fact). We stopped off at at a place called Miir for coffee (recommended by Alison – she might do a blog post on her trip to Seattle one day. It will be better this one) before strolling around the Sunday markets of Fremont and Ballard. Both were so hipster it hurt – they had stalls selling beard oil and vintage Christmas jumpers for goodness sakes.
We finished off our weekend with a trip to Trader Joe’s – essentially a supermarket that sells lots of slightly random, but very delicious treats at reasonable prices (even with the ridiculous exchange rate). Shamefully, we enjoyed it far too much and spent an indecent amount of money too.
We chased an amazing sunset for an hour or so on our way back to the border, and although the line was a lot longer to get back into Canada (what a surprise!) there was less questioning, even though they do love to get you to name as many tourist spots in the place you’ve visited as possible, just to ensure you really did go.
I would definitely go back to Seattle – it’s different enough from Vancouver to give a good change of scene, and there are likely hundreds more hipster cafes I am yet to explore. But the real question is will I stay in another hostel? People seem to keep making me do it…