My actual job (after throwing in the towel taking photos for money) is in health and safety. My wife owns a company that provides pre-access and pre-employment drug and alcohol testing. I’m certified through DATIA as a Professional Collector Trainer, as well as ensuring the office email works and moving office furniture as required. I attended training and conferences in Seattle November 2015 and we took the opportunity to explore a city we’ve never had a reason to consider, outside of cut-scenes in Frasier.
Seattle took us all by surprise. My experience with urban America is limited to Central Florida and the Northeast 95 Corridor. Everybody said the Left Coast was different, but damn. Some sort of prep when we had a layover in Denver would have been appreciated. New Englanders and PNW folks might as well be different species.
I come from Atlantic Canada, a place with a resounding reputation for kind and open people. We treat people well, especially visitors. We’re the OG Canadians, the distilled version of the people known the world over as friendly and apologetic. We felt at home in Seattle from the first morning. More-so than in Halifax or Toronto or Montreal. Gosh, and can you guys do coffee and beer.
So we flew out of BOS, saving a stupid $900 over flying out of YSJ. We’d connect through DEN, seeing the Rockies for the first time. It was dark when we arrived in SEATAC, and after what seemed like a week’s walk through parking lots arrived at the train station. We rode the Link light rail to University Street station and piled out onto the surface. I found out the next day we could have stayed on straight to the terminus at Westlake, transferred to the Monorail and end up within 5 minutes of the hotel. After trying to make sense of the bus routes, fatigue and frayed nerves saw us in our very first Uber and shortly after in bed.
We chose to stay in the Lower Queen Anne (Uptown) neighbourhood, a low-rise area where great restaurants and cafes are thick on the ground. It’s trendy, fun and felt safe. The Mediterranean Inn was home for the week, and we chose to skip the learning curve on public transit and used Uber for the duration. To save on expenses, we’d often pack up our backpacks with lunches and grabs from Metropolitan Market, a Zagat-rated grocery store (right?) touted as a Foodie Paradise a block from our hotel. We might have chosen a better option for our budget, but it’s tough to go back after walking in. MM was dropped from heaven for Lori and I.
The next day, I was in a course while Lori and Grace hit the Zoo and Science Centre. I quickly found out that people who travel for work can be pretty dry and like to talk shop on their down time. I escaped for a bit on my lunch break and hit the Union/5th area of the city. Busy, but somehow chill. Almost spooky. Seattle seems to exist in a state of perpetual Saturday afternoon. I wasn’t out of the venue for three minutes before the Rollei got called out by name. OK, so you know your cameras, Seattle. Props.
That evening I headed back to Seattle Centre to meet my girls at the Space Needle and for a bite to eat. Having been up the CN Tower (558m) a couple times, the Space Needle (184m) was sort of humble, but definitely endearing. There’s a genuine mid-century vibe to the whole affair, and it’s been updated tastefully. The view of the city is naturally without equal, especially after dark.
The next day we hit the town for a day of bipedal tourism, falling deeper in love with Seattle every hour, every meal, every time we were asked if we needed directions or a good restaurant. The people here are what don’t fit, as far as my experience with Urban America is concerned. Who are these people? These art-loving, sneaker wearing, coffee swilling gems? These people who keep tiny cinemas open just to screen independent and classic movies? These people who’ve only seen winter on TV. Does the rest of America know these people are part? The PNW seems like a place America should be invading for the craft beer alone, but it turns out they’ve been part of the Union since 1889.
Seattle has a Monorail. It doesn’t go far, it’s old and noisy and pretty much the most lovely thing ever. From Seattle Centre, it dumps you out at Westlake. From there, you can grab a coffee and hoof it to the major attractions.
First thing we did (after Grace bought an Umbrella at the super fun BellaUmbrella) was Pike Market, which is getting its own post. We’re market people, so it was swell to be in a place that’s iconic the world over. In typical PNW fashion, nobody makes a big deal of it though. Come on in, they say. Might as well have been partly your idea to put a market there in the first place.
That night we slept well, but I took the advice of the chap behind the desk and got up early to shoot a photo from the roof of the hotel. They’ve got a sweet view of the skyline and I ended up getting shots both in color and mono, day and night over the course of our stay.
Great location, amazing service. Tomorrow, the aquarium and waterfront.
The Seattle Waterfront is sprawling, noisy, and mixes tourism with industry. We visited the Seattle Aquarium and took an Argosy Cruise. Both were worth the time and expense.
The Seattle Aquarium isn’t the sort of place you’ll see dolphin acts and performing seals. It’s a research aquarium first and foremost, and the focus on teaching shines through.
The Argosy Cruise took about an hour, and circumnavigates the harbour. There are notes on history, industry, economy and geography. Very informative and enjoyable, especially if there’s not a baby allowed to wail the entire time at the next table, I’d assume.
After checking in again at Metropolitan Market for a Cubano and beer, we hit the sack.
The next day we hit up the Boeing Aircraft Plant and Future Of Flight. No photos from the production floor, sadly. Massive, almost too massive to get your head around, a building that large.
After the Boeing Plant, we had some time and one item left on our City Pass: the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit at Seattle Centre. This was like being invited on somebody’s weekend desert Peyote trip, but in a good way. Atmospheric, otherworldly and immersive, I’d recommend it to anyone with an imagination.
On the advice of many people on the factory tour, we went to the Museum of Flight in Tukwila the next day. That one gets its own entry too, so keep an eye out.
Our last day in Seattle took us to the EMP, The Experience Music Project. It’s a music and pop culture museum clothed in a wacky shell.
From here, we hit the airport and hitched a miserable redeye home. Seattle has left a mark on all three of us, to be sure. This won’t be our last trip to the left coast, and we haven’t ruled out changing oceans on a more permanent basis.
Your vibe, your feel, your reason for doing your thing, Seattleites, seems to be fundamentally different. It’s palpable from the moment you get off the plane. Everyone we met was present. Present in what they were doing. The people swabbing the decks at the grocery store were happy, doing their best and engaged with their work and the people around them. I don’t run into many people here who are truly engaged with their work, their surroundings.
Seattle has some sort of X-factor that makes it tick, and I intend to see if other pockets of the Pacific Coast concur.
Monotone images in this set are courtesy of the Rolleiflex MX F3.5 Xenar loaded with Ilford HP5. Processing and scans are Ilfosol3 and Epson Perfection 3200 Photo. Color images are Apple iPhone 6.