Casual lifestyle but lots to see and do in not-so-sleepy Seattle
By Li Anlan
Autumn in Seattle has its own special charm, even with periodic drizzle and sometimes nippy temperatures. The northwest Pacific city astride Puget Sound is a modern bustling economic and cultural center. It has had a boom- and-bust history, thriving for times on logging, furtrapping and the Klondike gold rush. In today’s world, it is more famous as the hometown of Microsoft, Boeing, Starbucks and Amazon.
Seattle got a boost in stature from the popular 1993 movie “Sleepless in Seattle.” It’s easy to be sleepless here because there is so much to explore.
After my flight from sunny Califor- nia on a Saturday in October, Seattle greeted me with raindrops. It’s not hard to see why the area is so green. Indeed, this is an environmentally friendly, metropolitan area of about 3.6 million people.
It’s a beautiful city to walk around, with the snowy peaks of the Cascade and Olympic mountains in the distance and firdraped hills and valleys hugging the foothills. The city itself is hilly, making the going on foot a bit arduous at times. The No. 1 landmark of Seattle is, without doubt, the Space Needle, built in 1962 for the World’s Fair. The observation tower can be reached to the top by elevator and it’s one of the busiest tourist hotspots in the city.
The deck offers a clear view of the city and to Mount Rainier and Mount Baker to the east. But if you want to take a photo of the Space Needle itself, the best spot in downtown Seattle is the observation deck on the 73rd floor of the Columbia Center, the tallest building in the state of Washington. For about US$15, you get a day pass to the skyview observatory that can be used to enter for as many times as you want on the day.
The morning I went up to the observation deck was very foggy. With such poor ground visibility, I didn’t have much hope of seeing much scenery.
I was wrong. Aloft, the fog was only patchy, playing hide-and-seek with the panoramic view. Every photo I took of the Space Needle that morning was framed differently because of the fog. In fact, I was surprised to find one man eagerly taking shots, telling me that fog is a rare site. He was right. Within an hour, the fog began dissipating, revealing more of the skyline, freeways, cruise ships in the harbor and the Great Wheel by the waterfront.
With the day pass, I returned to the Columbia Center before nightfall to see the dazzling night lights of the city. The only drawback of the observation deck is its thick glass, which makes it a bit more difficult to take photos, especially in the evening because of the reflections.
Another classic viewpoint of the Space Needle as part of Seattle’s skyline with Mount Rainier in the background is from Queen Anne Hill.
There’s a lot of construction going on in Seattle, including redevelopment of the old Alaskan Way Viaduct that has been carrying traffic since the 1950s and the waterfront area. Roads in some areas are blocked by all the work.
On the other side of Seattle, away from the heavy industrial setting, is nature at its finest. For people who are really into outdoor activities, coming to Seattle in spring or summer to spend a few days hiking the mountains or biking in beautiful countryside is a must-do item on the checklist.
The misty and moist air of the city is filled with the aroma of coffee. Seattle prides itself as “the coffee capital.” Starbucks outlets are seen on almost every street corner in downtown Seattle.
The original Starbucks coffee shop sits at Pike Place Market and is tiny and crowded. That doesn’t keep hardcore Starbucks fans from wanting a coffee at the place where it all started. The special Pike Place Market mugs are found only at this Starbucks, but the coffee doesn’t taste any different from every other Starbucks in the world. The Pike Place Market is one of the most famous farmers’ markets in the world. Overlooking Elliott Bay, the market has both the fishy smells of fresh the waterfront is a top-rated restau- rant, famous for its crab and shrimp. Fresh seafood like snow crab, King crab, Dungeness crab, clams and mussels are steamed with bold spices then mixed with corn, potatoes and sausages. The bucket-full of goodies is then poured right onto the table. A wooden mallet and board are provided to crack the hard crab shells. Zeitgeist Kunst & Kaffee on South Jackson Avenue is an art coffee shop in the heart of Pioneer Square that opened in 1997. With a high ceiling and large open area, the shop exhibits art- works on the walls. It serves very good, strong coffees. A lot of people bring their laptops to work in the comfort- able ambience. Some people come here to wait for trains from Seattle Union Station.
As a traveler, it’s easy to blend in with the casual lifestyle of Seattle. When you are through filling up on coffee and snacks, you can wander along the piers amid squawking seagulls or catch a Seahawks football game at CenturyLink Field.
There’s an old joke that says: “It only rains twice a year in Seattle — from August through April and from May through July.” But even if you need an umbrella, this city is a treat to visit.