Monday, September 17, 2007

Playing Tourist in Seattle

My delightful spouse has to be at at conference in Seattle this week, so I joined her for the weekend. We had passed through Seattle very briefly a couple of years ago as part of our 2005 World Tour, and enjoyed it a lot. So we were looking forward to a chance to play tourist again.

Saturday morning, we wandered out from our downtown hotel toward the Pike Place Market, because we'd missed it last time, and because it has the terrific reputation. I'm told it's the model for what San Francisco's Ferry Plaza.

That comparison flatters San Francisco's entry (nice though it is) and drastically shortchanges Seattle's. The San Francisco Ferry Plaza Marketplace has a terrific farmer's market, and provides a pleasant venue for some local (and national chain) shops, it has neither the physical scope nor the democratic presence of Seattle's market.

First, the farmer's market. There are wonderful stands with produce displayed lovingly and artistically; that's a show in itself. There are fish markets that appear to be as much a floor show as a food source. And the flowers are amazingly plentiful, colorful, and reasonably priced.

Then, the market. It's crowded on the weekend, with locals mingling with tourists. There are shops upon shops upon shops, ranging from musical instruments to clothing to collectibles. There are restaurants of various stripes. It's rather daunting how much is there.

And then there is the public market, where tables are rented by the day, and people of all sorts hawk their wares. Arts, crafts, foods, name it! It's just a wonderful, vibrant place, and different every day. We had a great time wandering around there.

In keeping with our tourist theme, we decided to walk over to Pioneer Square and do the Underground Tour. It's really more stand-up comedy routine than historical tour (or "historical satire," as they call it), but it really is interesting to visit the portions of the city that were initially built above ground, then rendered subterranean when the city decided to regrade part of itself, raising the street level 10-18 feet (and eventually also raising the sidewalks to the same level, some four years later.

It was a good insight into the history of an interesting city and some of the characters that built it.

We spent the evening with friends who were celebrating their wedding anniversary, at a terrific restaurant called Crush. Very tasty!

All in all, we find Seattle to be as we did before: easy to get around on foot, with lots of fun things to see and do. A great example is a little toy store by Pioneer Square called Magic Mouse. They have lots of wonderful stuff, all arranged rather whimsically over two floors of an old building. It was really fun to wander around.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sacramento has an underground city too! Same story -- flooding forced the raising of the streets and sidewalks to second story level. Many of the original first floors are still in use as storage for the businesses above. I believe it's still possible to arrange to tour parts of the underground city, although they did finally block all the portals through which homeless folks found shelter there. Safety concerns.

Guess the homeless are safer sleeping in the rain on the street....