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  • Writer's pictureRuth Mcbride

A Tale of Two Cities…

If you’ve ever read any of Charles Dicken’s novels, you’ll know that ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ is probably his most famous book. The book starts with the line “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..”. That pretty much sums up our day today.

We were going to be playing tourist in Seattle today, so first we had to figure out how to get to downtown Seattle. Seattle has a great transit planner website, so I checked it out and determined that we had to get an ‘Orca pass’ and load it with funds, to be able to ride the public transit in Seattle, as the bus driver won’t accept cash.

We determined that the closest spot to get an Orca pass was at the Safeway grocery store, about a 5 minute walk from our RV park.

We walked into Safeway and saw that they sold Transit Passes. After waiting at Guest Services in Safeway for someone to come and help us for about 5 minutes, we had our loaded Orca pass and we headed to the bus stop right in front of this little mall. Richard had checked out the cost of a Lyft and it would have been $37 one way to downtown Seattle. It was much cheaper and way more adventurous to take the bus!

The Orca card cost $5 and I loaded it with $30 of currency, just in case we wanted to take bus trips in the City of Seattle, instead of walking around.

We had to wait at the bus stop for about 25 minutes for the bus. The weather was nice at +14C and NO RAIN….finally!

We had to take two buses today. The first bus was pretty empty as you can see, and the bus driver was very helpful, telling us how to transfer to the Express bus to downtown at Eastgate park and ride station.

The express bus was a breeze to downtown. The bus has its own HOV lane, so the bus went 70mph vs whatever the speed the traffic is going - or not going. From the time we got the Orca card at Safeway, to getting off the bus downtown, was exactly an hour. Not bad, considering we were 12 miles from downtown, and of course we have no tow car!

As we drove into downtown Seattle we noticed a lot of tents on the sidewalks. There were whole streets filled with tents on the sidewalk for homeless people.

Homeless people at a boarded up store downtown Seattle.

Homeless tents downtown Seattle at a boarded up store.

When we got off the bus downtown, we were at Westlake Park at 4th Street downtown Seattle.

The bus left us off by the ‘Love Seatown’ sign in Westlake Park.

Westlake Park, downtown Seattle. The ‘Love Seatown‘ campaign is aiming to help downtown Seattle businesses recover from the pandemic. Seattle if you remember was one of the first major cities to face the economic difficulties of the pandemic. The campaign specifically highlights, unique experiences in the downtown area happening through the various seasons. At this park you could download the ‘Snapchat’ app and then play an interactive game in the park. It was interesting to see who was actually in this park today; mostly homeless people and people with some mental health challenges.

When we got off the bus at Westlake Park, we weren’t sure what direction to go, to get to Pike Place Market. We could have used Google maps on our phone, but Seattle has ’Downtown Ambassadors’ in brightly coloured jackets who were hanging out in Westlake Park. Richard went over and asked them how to get to Pike Place Market, and they directed us to the street we needed to take, to walk to the market. We had about a 5 minute walk from the Park, to the Market.

‘Downtown Ambassadors’ in Westlake Park.

I had heard so much about Pike Place Market over the years, and I was very excited to be visiting the market today.

Pike Place Market, downtown Seattle.

All of the direction signs in the Pike Place Market are neon.

The famous Pike Place Fish Market which is widely known for its custom of hurling customer’s orders across the shopping area. A typical routine will involve a customer ordering a fish; the fish mongers in orange rubber overalls and boots will call out the order which is loudly shouted back by all the other staff, at which point the original fishmonger will throw the customer’s fish behind the counter to be wrapped. The repeated shouting out of fish orders started out as a prank on one employee but it became a tradition as the display was enjoyed by customers. When at work the fish market’s staff continually yell to each other and chant in unison while throwing ordered fish. Occasionally they will throw a foam fish into the crowd to scare bystanders or select a customer from the crowds to participate in the fish toss. The market has a sign which says ‘Caution Low Flying Fish;. The fish is heavy toward the head and lighter toward the tail, and it wants to flip over, so the secret to catching the fish, is to cradle it like a baby and throwing it without letting it spiral or spin. No fish were dropped today while we were watching them throw fish around the market!

Answering questions from the audience. They will ship fish anywhere!

I’ve got a great video I will post that shows the guys throwing the fish. This is what people come to the Pike Place Market to see!

Another fish store in the Pike Place Market. They were not throwing any fish though.

Fresh fruits and veggies in the Pike Place Market. Washington State has a mask mandate, so even in the market masks were mandatory.

The Pike Place Market had quite a few vendors selling souvenirs and other handmade leather goods and dried flower arrangements.

We hopped outside of the market on a terrace overlooking Elliott Bay, downtown Seattle to take a photo of ‘The Seattle Great Wheel’ located on the waterfront.

I found a great gourmet food store called DeLaurenti Food & Wine in the Pike Place Market. We didn’t want to carry too much with us today, or I would have had a field day in this store! I did treat myself to some roasted and salted Marcona almonds, which I love!

After wandering around the market Richard was famished, so we had to find a spot for him to have some lunch!

Pike Place Chowder! Richard was in heaven with so many different homemade chowders to choose from!

Look at how many times this restaurant has one 1st prize for its chowder! Pike Place Chowder is even Zagat rated! If you want Pike Place Chowder shipped to you in the USA, you can have it shipped on ‘Goldbelly’ for $79 for 8 servings and the shipping is free! Goldbelly works with 850 restaurants in the USA who sell food on their online platform. 400 of those restaurants joined after the start of the Covid 19 pandemic. St. Stephen, if you want some good chowder, you might want to consider having it shipped from Pike Place Chowder using Goldbelly!

Enjoying his chowder.

Richard ordered the Smoked Salmon which was made with Nova smoked salmon, capers and cream cheese. Adding cream cheese to dishes is a very Seattle tradition I learned last night when I was researching the delicacies of Seattle.

The tables were all full outside in the area for the Pike Place Chowder restaurant so I found my own spot to sit on the stairs outside this restaurant that was closed. I had a Greek salad with chicken instead of chowder.

After lunch we both had to have a little ‘sweet thing’ as Richard likes to call dessert. Richard had a apricot cream cheese danish, while I had a chocolate shortbread cookie.

Oh ya! It was very delicious!

After lunch we didn’t have much time to find something that I had read about and wanted to see before we left the Pike Place Market.

What do you think this is?

Any idea yet?

Market Theater Gum Wall

The Market Theater Gum Wall is a brick wall covered in used chewing gum located in an alleyway in Post Alley under Pike Place Market. The Market Theater Gum Wall is a local landmark. Parts of the gum coating on the wall are several inches thick, and the coating is 15 feet (4.6 m) high along a 50-foot-long section.

The wall is by the box office for the Market Theater. The tradition began around 1993 when patrons of Unexpected Production's Seattle Theatresports stuck gum to the wall and placed coins in the gum blobs. Theater workers scraped the gum away twice, but eventually gave up after market officials deemed the gum wall a tourist attraction around 1999. Some people created small works of art out of gum.

It was named one of the top 5 germiest tourist attractions in 2009, second to the Blarney Stone. The state governor said it is his "favorite thing about Seattle you can't find anywhere else".

It was announced by the Pike Place Market Preservation & Development Authority in November 3, 2015, that for the first time in 20 years the great attraction gum wall would be receiving a total scrub down for maintenance and steam cleaning, to prevent further erosion of the bricks on the walls from the sugar in the gum. Work began on November 10 and took 130 hours to complete, with over 2,350 pounds of gum removed and disposed of. After the cleaning was finished on November 13, gum began to be re-added to the wall; among the first additions were memorials to the November 2015 Paris attacks. Okay, so that was a bit weird. When I told Richard we were looking for the ’gum wall’ I don’t think he really believed me that there was a wall full of gum on the wall, that was a tourist attraction.

We had to be over at Chihuly Garden & Glass between 1pm-1:15pm. I pulled up the route on Google Maps on my phone and we started walking from the Pike Place Market. Just then, my right leg cramped up. Oh my goodness! My leg which had the broken femur continues to give me trouble from time to time and today was not the day we needed to be having leg issues. I limped along for 20 minutes until we finally found Chihuly Garden & Glass.

I knew we were in the right spot when I saw these very strange looking flowers outside the building which houses the Chihuly Garden & Glass.

If you’ve never heard of Dale Chihuly, then you’re in for a treat seeing his creativity in glass! Dale Chihuly is 80 years old and is an American glass artist and entrepreneur. He is best known in the field of blown glass, moving it into the realm of large scale sculpture. Chihuly started experimenting with glass blowing in 1965 and received a fully scholarship to the University of Wisconsin, Madison to study under Harvey Littleton, who had established the first glass program in the U.S. at the university. Chihuly studied in Venice at the Venini factory of Murano and after spending four consecutive summers in Maine, he travelled to Europe to meet with masters of glass blowing in Czechoslovakia. In 1971 with the Support of some donors Chihuly founded the Pilchuk Glass School near Starwood, Washington. In 1976 while in England, Chihuly was in a head on car accident that propelled him through he windshield. He was blinded in his left eye from this accident. He continued to blow glass until he dislocated his right shoulder bodysurfing after which he was unable to hold the glass blowing pipe. No longer able to hold the pipe, he hired others to do the work. His role in the creation of these exhibits has been described as ‘more choreographer, than dancer’. The Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle opened in 2012.

We had purchased our tickets online for The Chihuly Garden and Glass, so we only had to show proof of our double vaccination status to get inside, and of course wear a mask. They had a free coat check, so Richard checked his coat before we started to view the exhibit. I took a lot of pictures, so please enjoy!

The first exhibit. ‘Icicles’. In clear glass. Stunning!

Baskets in glass.

In the sea life room.

Persian Ceiling from Chihuly’s 1992 exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum. Lit from above and resting on a flat glass pane.

The colours, textures and creativity are mind blowing!

Mille Fiori or Italian for ‘a thousand flowers’. Chihuly exhibited this creation in 2003 at the Tacoma Art Museum.

Closeups of the Mille Fiori.

The colours are truly stunning!

Ikebana and Float Boats, created in 1995.

Ikebana and Float Boats.

I think this was my favorite exhibit today.

Macchia Forest. Created in 1981 with the desire to use all 300 colours available to Chihuly in the hotshop. The name Macchia in Italian means ‘spot’ and all of these bowls are very spotted!

An inside view of this stunning glass hallway, with this beautiful glass exhibit.

The view from the outside of this glass hallway in the Gardens.

An artistic shot of the famous Seattle Space Needle. We did not venture up the Space Needle today.

The Space Needle is an observation tower in Seattle, Washington And is considered an icon of the city and the Pacific Northwest. Located in the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood, it was built in the Seattle Centre for the 1962 World’s Fair, which drew over 2.3 million visitors.

The Space Needle was once the tallest structure west of the Mississippi River, standing at 605 ft (184 m). The 8,660 metric ton structure, and is built to withstand winds of up to 200 mph (320 km/h).

The Space Needle features an observation deck 520 ft (160 m) above ground, providing views of the downtown Seattle skyline, the Olympic and Cascade mountains and various islands in Puget Sound. Visitors can reach the top of the Space Needle by elevators. It takes 41 seconds to reach the top in the elevators. On April 19, 1999, the city's Landmarks Preservation Board designated the tower a historic landmark.

The richness of this green glass in the garden was amazing!

The contrast of the red and green is beautiful!

Gorgeous colours in the garden.

Taking it all in. It was so nice to sit on a log and look at the beautiful garden today.

Richard eyeing the Space Needle.

Our timing was good to watch a glass blowing exhibition in the gardens. They have turned this old Airstream into a glass blowing furnace.

A quick demo on how to make a blown glass horse.

A blown glass bowl.

After visiting the Chihuly Gardens & Glass, we caught the monorail back downtown to Westlake Park, where we then had to walk another 2 blocks to wait for our bus to get back to the Eastlake Station. As we walked downtown I noticed that quite a few of the major stores downtown were closed.

Columbia store downtown Seattle all boarded up.

Macy’s department store downtown Seattle was also boarded up. Downtown Seattle had ‘Stay at Home’ orders in 2020 and 163 downtown Seattle restaurants, shops and street level businesses have permanently closed. As we walked around downtown it felt a bit like a ‘ghost town’ where we would normally expect to see workers out for lunch from office buildings, those workers were no where to be found. I believe downtown Toronto is also experiencing much the same ‘ghost town’ atmosphere, with many of the large employers allowing employees to work from home since March 2020. It will be interesting to see if the ’Love Seatown’ campaign will work to attract more locals downtown Seattle. With many large shopping stores closed now, locals may just stay and shop in the suburbs, or order online - Amazon is headquartered in Seattle, so its a normal phenomenon to order online and have it delivered the next day!

The beautiful sunset in Seattle as we sat on the bus heading back towards Newman.

You can see the skyscrapers on the horizon from the parking garage at Eastgate where our bus dropped us off tonight. We thought the bus to get us back to the Safeway plaza would never arrive. Finally, as it was getting dark, just before 5pm, the bus pulled up.

We were very happy to get home, as we had a very long day out and about in Seattle. We were both pretty tired and my leg was still cramping as we walked the 5 minutes home to Newman. As I went into our bedroom to unload the washing machine, my feet got very wet on the bedroom carpet. Now what? I called for Richard and he checked the washer/dryer machine and sure enough, the drain hose off the machine had disconnected and all of the water that was drained out of the machine, had drained into our carpet! WHAT A HUGE MESS! This is not what either one of us needed after a long day walking around Seattle. While I started writing today’s blog, Richard started mopping up water from the pan that the washer/dryer sits in, and he used all of our paper towels we had left to mop up the water on the floor. The de-humidifier is running and we’ll pick up some more paper towels tomorrow to be able to mop up more water from the carpet. If its not one thing its another with water in Newman this year! We finally had a day with no rain and yet we have more wet things to deal with in Newman!

We both enjoyed our day in Seattle today, although it definitely is a ‘Tale of Two Cities’. There are nice parts of the city and then there is the seedy underbelly of the city that lurks below the surface if you are willing to get out and see that side of the city. I had 3 panhandlers approach me today. I’m used to panhandlers, having worked downtown Toronto for over 30 years, but I was hurting at the end of the day and I finally snapped at one and said “no’ while we were waiting for our bus home. The panhandler came back and apologized to me saying “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you.“ I’m not sure that parts of downtown Seattle will ever recover from the pandemic. Its very hard to change behaviours once they become ingrained and now that people can work at home, why go downtown - especially if there are no restaurants or stores to go to? It will be a very interesting study in Urban Geopgraphy that Professors will be studying for years to come.

Tomorrow we are off to Camping World and we both cannot wait! We’ve had Newman for a year and a half and we have heard so much about Camping World in the U.S. so tomorrow will be a fun day to explore Camping World, because of course it is going to rain again!

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