Sunday, July 3, 2016

Explorers in a New City

Okay, get ready: first full day in the Pacific Northwest, here we come! We managed to sleep until a reasonable local time...aided no doubt by the fact that we'd been up for 20 hours the day before. (Yeah, I almost wish I hadn't figured that out...) Our hotel breakfast (populated by swarms of Senior Citizens, apparently fueling up before venturing out to board Alaskan cruises) was really more like a Planning Meeting, as we set our agenda for the day. First up: the landmark Pike Place Market. So we loaded up our rental car with necessities (sunblock, hats, extra long-sleeved shirts for the somewhat unpredictable Seattle weather, and the inevitable SNACKS) and plunged forward into the Great "the city".

It turned out to be a pleasant 20-minute drive in which we got a birds-eye view of Seattle's gritty, industrial port side...vast cargo ships and gigantic loading equipment--concrete and steel as far as the eye can see. But then there's the spectacular water itself, a lake of blue surrounded by deep green pines and what appears to be (most likely high-rent) residential areas on the other side. Then to our right were the soaring facades of skyscrapers, some futuristic looking glass-and metal, and some very traditional brick, with cool architectural details worked into the construction. (Although my favorite has to be the tall one peeking out over the others just as you enter the city limits...with the entire top of the structure comprised entirely of the instantly recognizable Starbucks logo....ha! Well played...)

We somehow navigated our Sonata--despite all streets seeming to be one-way, towards the waterfront--to a parking garage where we could safely stash the car for a few hours. Then we caaaarefully picked our way down a steeeeeep sidewalk (watching our booted one closely, in case we had to grab him at any moment to keep him from slipping and rolling to the bottom) to the...PANDEMONIUM that is Pike Place Market...on a Saturday...of a holiday weekend. (What were we thinking? Us and thousands of others?)

It was utter chaos, I tell ya...but also pretty darn awesome. The smells as you slowly meandered down the row of stalls changed from spicy, to flowery, to fishy, to barbeque...y, depending on what was being sold next to you. And the array of colors were astonishing, especially on the fruits and vegetables. I swear if you didn't know better, you'd think they were fake, since produce doesn't typically look nearly that bright and vibrant in, say, your neighborhood grocery store.

Aaannd we got to see the famous "fish toss" shenanigans, where a couple of guys stand behind their counter and--you guessed it--chuck large sea creatures into the crowd, for bystanders to (hopefully) catch before throwing back. It gets lots of enthusiastic attention and rowdy participation...but I was happy to watch from a distance, thankyouverymuch. We also somehow found our way to a tranquil rooftop garden, above the teeming masses, affording yet another lovely view of the water. Then it was time to get out of the brouhaha, give Riley a rest, and procure some lunch-type-food.

Naturally, this was easier for the non-picky, un-diet-restricted carnivores...who found a place that boasted "voted the best meatball subs in the market!" and instantly plopped right down. (In retrospect, they also should have noted, "they're tasty, but they'll cost you an arm and a leg"...however, that's probably not as good for business...or my blood pressure when I saw the receipt...) I, on the other hand, wandered like a lost nomad in the desert, seeking an oasis of gluten-free, vegan offerings...until I finally gave up and settled on a gluten-free biscuit (that contained corn and potato starch, which are forbidden, but what can you do?). It was delicious, and the person who served it to me wore a Carolina Railhawks t-shirt, prompting me to ask where he was which the answer was: Raleigh. Small. World.

Then the boys wanted to ride the iconic ferris wheel, while I opted to continue exploring on foot instead. What I mostly discovered is that Seattle has a penchant for...weird signage. For example, the one in the normal caution-shape and color, making you automatically stop and read, that simply stated: MUTINY. (A warning? A directive? What should I doooo?) Or the one that proclaimed, "Es un idioma dificil" (It's a difficult language)...huh? Seattle, you amuse me...but I'm not sure I, you know, "GET you"! After that, since we seemed to have temporarily broken the Riley (who was entirely worn out from clomping around for hours), we retreated to home base to regroup and refresh before our evening's activities.

Since lunch had been so pricey and filling (for the Male Posse, at least) and we needed a few things from a store anyway, we decided to just pick up edibles from Target. (Mmmm...sweet potato chips for dinner...) And we bought our crutched traveler some cycling gloves, to pad and protect his hands from the abuse he was putting them through on our marches around the city. Thus outfitted, we made our way back into Seattle to eat, and to take in the views from the Olympic Sculpture Park. It proved to be a very peaceful setting overlooking Elliott Bay, so you could watch sailboats while enjoying your makeshift meal...and admire? confused by? the forms scattered throughout the venue.

Finally it was time for our Grand Finale of the day: the Space Needle. I'd booked us in the 8 p.m. slot, thinking we'd get good ambient light at that hour...and boy, was I right. Even though the tickets seemed a bit on the expensive side when I bought them, let me just say that for the view from the top, they were Worth. Every. Penny. Especially Mt. sunset. Literally breathtaking, as in "gasp and stand there stunned with your mouth hanging open"....before whipping out the trusty Nikon and snapping approximately 20 photos, from all angles. It's a peak that is utterly gorgeous and awe-inspiring...even from 2 hours away!

After we'd gawked for a sufficient amount of time to satisfy all of us, we called it an extremely successful day and left Seattle for the comforts of "hotel". We were exhausted-but-content travelers, and needed the Big 3 Ss: SportsCenter, showers, and sleep, before our Sunday slate of entertainment. Frasier would say, "Good morning (er "night") Seattle!"

The free, cheesy, obligatory tourist shot : )

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