An Introduction to The Seventy-Two Hour Series
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written by Josh:
Let me introduce myself. Hi! I'm Josh and I'll be your tour guide for the next few weeks. As you've probably heard, it's summer time.
That means it's time for us to take to the friendly skies and sail off on vacation!
They always tell you that to really experience
a city, you need to stay for at least a month and completely immerse yourself in the local culture. Indulge at all the finest restaurants
and let the most exotic cocktails slide down your throat. After which, you'll return to your four star hotel room to sleep the night
away on thousand-thread count cotton sheets, wrapped around a mattress that's a cloud from the heavens.
But who besides the hosts
on the Travel Channel (Samantha Brown, I love you but, really, that palatial suite at the Fairmont is out of the question for me)
can afford that? And, c'mon, we all know that there are cameras filming for a show that will be nationally broadcast, so of course
service is going to be first rate. Sure, Rachael Ray can keep her food budget to forty dollars a day, but isn't it a little strange
that she's never had bad service at any restaurant she's gone to? I think so. It probably has something to do with the cameraman sitting
next to her Ė if it's not the name Rachael Ray and the synonymous Food Network.
Anyhow, that's the ultimate dream vacation -- what
all of us want to experience even if just once in our lives -- but not what most of us can afford. So I'm here to take you on a real
vacation in my Seventy-Two Hours series. Three cities for three days each. No cameras (except my personal unit), no big names, and
no big suites. But thatís no problem! After all, most of the time you spend in a hotel room you spend sleeping, right?
our tour in the beautiful city of Seattle, work our way up north to Vancouver, and then drift on down south to finish off a great
nine-day vacation in San Francisco. Three days in each city will provide us with just enough time to see the sights, taste the food,
and experience our three destinations along the west coast.
So hereís how this is going to work. Each week youíll be able to travel
with me through one of our cities, starting this week with Seattle. So point your cursor to that back button and letís head on over
to check out the emerald city of Seattle.
Seventy-Two Hours in Seattle
The first installment of Josh's Travelogue to the West Coast
It's called the Emerald City -- like the one in the Wizard of Oz. It's one of the wettest cities in the country and therefore has quite a bit of greenery. Is that how it got its name? I don't really know! What I do know is that I'm here in beautiful Seattle. As the plane pulls down through the cloud cover on our descent into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, "Sea-Tac" as the locals call it, droplets of water on the window greet me. Seattle is known for its rainy days and almost constant overcast skies. For some that's a problem; for me, well it's just fine.
We taxi to the gate and the captain announces that the temperature is just about fifty-three degrees outside. It's around eight in the evening but the sun is still up Ė that's partially due to daylight savings time being in effect Ė something a boy from Hawaii isn't used to.
The cold air hits me as soon as I walk out of the terminal and into the parking lot. It's cool but not cold and it's a much welcome change after leaving a hot and humid eighty-something degree Hawaii then being stuck onboard two planes all day. I love cold weather. Maybe it's because I was born in Japan where temperatures often duck below forty. Or maybe it's just because I have a lot of insulation. Living in Hawaii for the most part is wonderful, don't get me wrong, but I love the metropolis and not shedding a drip of sweat even during the summer is just icing on the cake. As I sit in the shuttle bay waiting for my ride, I overhear a woman near me mutter to her husband that it's "terribly cold". She's sitting beside me in a thick coat and what looks to be a wool vest beneath it. I find it amusing given that I'm sitting in a short-sleeved shirt and am perfectly comfortable.
I love a city skyline at night. I love the night in general. I love being in a car, shooting down the highway as the dots of light from streetlights, buildings, traffic signals, and the cars around you all turn into a blur. It's peaceful in a way I can't explain. And that's just what it's like as the van shuttles us from the airport, onto the freeway, and onwards toward downtown Seattle. We soon round a bend and the trees give way to a magnificent view of the city skyline. Of course, with my luck, I'm in the third row of the van and the passengers in the rows in front of me obstruct my view and therefore a photo is out of the question. I was making a list of sights I wanted to photograph on the plane ride. A night shot of the city was quite high on the list. Alas, a head hinders the opportunity that has presented itself.
It's not long before another appears, however. I'm staying at a hotel downtown during my three nights in the city and as soon as I step into the room, I draw the curtains to find an amazing view of the city and surrounding buildings. I'm staying at the Westin. It played host to me on my last stay in the Emerald City and it just seemed to make sense to return (Iím on a lower floor for tonight but the friendly front desk staff has promised me that as soon as a room on a higher floor becomes available itís all mine). It's not long before I'm sleepy in Seattle. I've been up since two-thirty, Hawaiian Standard Time (it's now around 10:25PM in Seattle), and the nice big bed in front of me is extremely inviting.
Sunday, June 19, 2011
For whatever reason, my eyes opened at 5:25 in the morning (which would be 2:25 back in Honolulu). The world outside is still asleep. It's Sunday, so the only people downtown are the tourists -- and most of them are still asleep.
I slip out of the hotel room and make my way down to the lobby in search of breakfast. It's a cool fifty-one degrees outside according to the bulletin on the flat screen in the lobby. I canít resist stepping outside just to feel that crisp morning air. Iím standing on the sidewalk just outside the lobby of the hotel. There are few cars running down the street and even fewer pedestrians. Itís so peaceful and even though Iím in a big city, the air is clean and fresh. Thatís one of the things I love about Seattle. Itís not like Philadelphia where you feel as if you should have brought along one of those disposable facemasks the doctors wear. The air here is clean and the humidity is low, a nice change from the hot and humid air back home.
But itís not long before my stomach recaptures its hold on my mind and I return to the hotelís small cafť for a few pastries and a bottle of juice.
Besides being known for its rain, Seattle is also known for its location in the pacific northwest, and therefore for its great seafood selection. Seafood in Seattle is in abundance in both the water and in the markets. And speaking of markets, Seattle is also known for it's famous Pike Place. Now, Pike Place has been around for over a hundred years, dating back to a time when you had to distinguish your market as "sanitary" if you wanted business (the ďSanitary Market PlaceĒ sign is still painted on one of the buildings). It all began in 1906 Ė from onions. It turns out that Pike Place was the result of shoppers being gouged by middlemen when the price of onions increased tenfold. The solution was the novel idea of then Seattle City Councilman Thomas Revelle. Revelle proposed a market run by farmers at which they could sell directly to the customers (that ďmeet the producersĒ concept is still what runs the market today). One year later, on August 17, 1907, Pike Place was born. Well, sort of. Eight farmers brought their wagons to the corner of Seattle's 1st Avenue and Pike Street, open for business, swarmed by 10,000 shoppers and were sold out by eleven that morning. It wouldn't be long before more and more farmers joined the Pike revolution and before the end of the year, the market got it's first permanent building. It's June 2011, just about 104 years since Pike Place first opened -- and it's grown to become one of the biggest farmers markets in the country as well as one of the biggest tourist attractions in the city.
Most shops located in and around touristy areas like to up their prices. For example, a banana in my hotel's corner cafe is two dollars (that's for one banana). At Pike Place, the cheapest I saw was sixty-nine cents a pound. Wanna banana? Head to Pike Place.
Bananas are good, but the star attraction at Pike Place is the fish. The cold, smelly fish. It reeks of fish all throughout the narrow walkway through the market. Almost every other vendor is selling some kind of seafood. And actually it's quite cool -- as long as you're breathing through your mouth. Fish, crabs, oysters, lobsters, you name it, it's here. People will actually buy pounds of salmon steaks, shrink-wrap them up, and mail them off to friends and family back home. The Japanese have a phrase "omiyage" which refers to those gifts that you buy and bring home for friends and family when you travel. Are salmon steaks the ultimate omiyage? Well, to each his own. If you happen to visit Seattle and want to bring me home something, I'd rather it be candies or something. Although I suppose if youíre lucky enough to receive a box full of salmon steaks, you could throw them on the grill and invite a bunch of friends over for a great barbecue!
Pike Place is situated just off the waterfront. That means while you buy your fish you can enjoy the view. Seattle is a very hilly city, which means that itís tiered. Most of its buildings sit higher up on the land while Pike Place and the Seattle Aquarium (which is also a sight you should see) are lower down toward the water. This means that you get quite a view of the port from the windows of the main market building.
Oh, and donít forget to grab lunch at one of the many restaurants before you go!
The Space Needle
If you were to guess its age based on it's architectural design, you might actually think that it came from the future. It just doesn't seem right, really. A two-story disc perched atop a thin column supported only by a few braces. But this futuristic modern marvel of mechanical engineering is actually almost half a century old. When Seattle played host to the 1962 World's Fair, its planners and designers wanted to build a statement piece -- bold yet functional at the same time. It was considered Seattleís Eiffel Tower.
It started with the dream of Eddie Carlson -- former CEO of Western International Hotels (now known as the Westin family of hotels). Carlson convinced the Seattle City Council that Seattle could host the 1962 International Exposition (the World Fair). The theme of the fair revolved around the future. Seattle was determined to put itself on the map as a symbol of scientific and technological advancement and achievement, a city ready to bring the turn of the twenty-first century -- albeit thirty eight years early.
You could say that we owe the Space Needle to the Soviets and the Japanese. Why? Well, in 1957, while the Soviets launched Sputnik into orbit, Tokyo was planning and engineering its so-called twenty-first century city. Science fiction was becoming science reality and the United States was beginning to fall behind. No self-respecting American wants to be first runner up. Therefore, funding for the 1962 fair began to roll in. Although the funds were there, the idea was not. Many hosts of the World's Fair had built some sort of commemorative monument -- the Eiffel Tower was the grand entrance to the 1889 fair in Paris.
Seattle already had plans for a new Civic Center and movie theaters to impress its international guests, but Carlson was afraid that those two things alone just wouldn't be able to do it. So he reached out to designers and engineers.
The Space Needle would cost four million dollars to build. Although the city had funds for the fair, it didn't have four million to spend -- nor did it have the land on which to put such a structure. And so began a mad dash to get the Space Needle completed. With only about fourteen months left to go before the fair opened, engineers, designers, and planners had to really race the clock. Fast forward to opening day, and, well letís just say they won the race. The Space Needle was complete and guests were treated to panoramic three hundred and sixty five degree views of the city. Not to shabby, if you ask me.
Itís not a big tourist attraction and actually thereís not much to do there. Itís a narrow strip of grass off of one of the streets of the high-rent Queen Anne district of Seattle. However, if youíre lucky enough to visit, youíll be treated to the best Ė and yes, it is the best Ė view of the Seattle skyline.
I mentioned earlier that Seattle is all about hills and Queen Anne is no different. Perhaps thatís how the affluent Queen Anne Hill got its name. Anyhow, Kerry Park is near the top of one of these hills and offers park goers a view of Seattle from the north. On a clear day (which, by the way, is more of a rarity) youíll get an impressive panoramic view of the Seattle skyline and be able to see all the way back to Mount Rainer (which is usually hidden by the cloud cover).
Are you a Greyís Anatomy fan? Then this random fact may be of interest to you. You know that image of Seattle that ABC uses in monochrome behind the shiny black ABC logo in the promo trailers? That image was shot from Kerry Park. Yep! Itís good enough for the pros!
Itís a site that mainly photographers will want to visit. Or if youíre looking for an impressive background for your family portrait, you might be interested too. If you donít have a rental car itís an easy ten-minute ride by bus. Thatís another one of the great things about Seattle. The bus system can get you anywhere you need to go Ė and whatís even better than that is that for most things within the city you can just walk!
Downtown Seattle is full of great restaurants. If youíre a coffee addict, this is your city. Itís the birthplace of Starbucks and thereís no shortage of them around. You always seem to be within a block of one. If youíre looking for something more substantial then a creamy latte, check out the shopping centers downtown. Pike Place Chowder, by the way, is a must.
If you can wake up early enough in the morning and donít mind waiting in line, visit Lowellís at Pike Place for the best breakfast with the best views the city has to offer. Youíll probably end up being shoved into cramped spaces, but thatís one of the restaurantís charms. Itís worth it for the food youíre about to eat.
There are so many other things that you can do in Seattle. One of Washingtonís star attractions is the Boeing plant is just outside the city in Everett (yes, you can actually visit the factory where the plane you flew in on was made). If you have a day to spare, think about taking a bus tour down. Itís not just for the engineers and the geeks.
Seattle is truly a beautiful city, one of the best on the west coast Ė in the country for that matter Ė and one that I wonít soon be forgetting. One of the things that really make an impact on tourists to a city is its people and Seattleís are first rate. Theyíre friendly and most of them will point you in the right direction should you lose your bearings.
Iím about to board the plane on my way to Vancouver. As I look around the airport that feeling of not wanting to go starts to creep into my mind. Thatís a sure sign of a truly wonderful vacation.
The planeís about to take off, so I guess Iíll be concluding this entry here. But join me next week as I take you across the border and into beautiful British Columbia, Canada!
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