Seattle: The City That Surprised Me

Gas Works Park Seattle

Don’t you just love it when a city totally exceeds your expectations? It’s happened to me a few times: Budapest, Baku, and now… Seattle.

As you may already know, I moved out to Toronto with the intention of living there permanently, only to get there and realise it just wasn’t for me. Instead, I spent all of my savings on a couple of weeks travelling (because travelling in America and Canada is expensive, and also, the fact that I left everything up until the last minute probably made the prices rise even more).

My first stop was Portland, because it was somewhere I’d always wanted to go; and I also wanted to see more of Canada too, starting with Vancouver on the west coast. So, it made sense to stop off at Seattle for a few days, seeing as it was in the middle of the two cities.

To be totally honest, if it hadn’t been so conveniently placed between Portland and Vancouver, I probably wouldn’t even have bothered going to Seattle, but I’m glad I did.

Views from the Space Needle

Day One in Seattle

I’d caught an early morning train from Portland, which took three and a half hours to get into Seattle. I was totally disoriented when I arrived, and I couldn’t get WiFi at the station so I had no idea where I was.

Eventually, I managed to locate a Starbucks (well, Seattle is the birthplace of the world’s most famous coffee chain), so I stopped for lunch there.

After that, I caught a taxi over to my Airbnb in Lower Queen Anne’s. The area was nice, but the flat was sooo hard to find, and then when I got there are the place was a mess and my room wasn’t great either. I’m not going to lie, I was having a pretty tough day and questioning why I’d even bothered going on this solo trip, when instead I could have flown straight back home to the UK, or stayed in Toronto for an additional two weeks.

Space Needle at night

By the time I left my Airbnb at about 3pm, I wasn’t thinking much of Seattle, and going up the Space Needle didn’t make me feel much better. FYI, if you do want to go up the Space Needle, it costs about $30… although word of warning (I didn’t know this), the Space Needle isn’t actually the tallest building in the city. However, it’s probably the most iconic place in Seattle, so I feel like you need to visit it once (just like the CN tower in Toronto).

I only spent about 15 minutes up there (I mean, there’s not that much to do), and then successfully located a Starbucks virtually right outside, so I got a cup of English breakfast tea (50 cent more than in Portland, but hey, who’s counting?).

Feeling slightly better after having had a cup of tea, I decided to head off in the direction of downtown. The Space Needle is about a 15 minute walk from the shops on 5th Avenue, and you can get a monorail connecting it to Westlake Center, but to be honest, one way costs $2.50, and I’d much prefer getting my step count up.

One of the first shops I stumbled across was Urban Outfitters (yay!), so I headed inside and tried some stuff on. I saw a reallyyyy nice black, white and red leather skirt, but with how much I’d spent on my trip, I probably couldn’t justify spending $70 (before tax) on a skirt, so I didn’t get it. I did buy some earrings though, as a souvenir of my time in the west coast of the USA.

From there, I headed over towards the harbourfront. The weather was quite nice, so I sat by the water for a bit and watched the ferries leave.

I didn’t have a late night – I headed back to Seattle Center (the area where the Space Needle is), as there was a food court there, and got pizza for dinner. My Airbnb was a 15 minute walk north of this area, so I got back about 8pm and had a chilled evening in (I’ve had a lot of them since I’ve been by myself).

Pike Place Market

Day Two in Seattle

One thing I’ve been doing in every city that I visit is booking onto a walking tour, as I think it’s a good way to get your bearings, see some of the most famous sights, and learn a bit about the history of the city.

I’d booked onto the Seattle 101 tour at 1pm on the Friday. It lasted two hours, and we met just outside Pike Place Market (I had tried to look inside beforehand, but there were too many people there for my liking).

We walked down a stretch of 1st Avenue in downtown until we reached Pioneer Square, where we learnt about how Seattle was discovered, and how the Native Americans were driven out of the city. Finally, we ended up at the waterfront, just a few flights of steps down from where we started (did I tell you how hilly Seattle is? It’s crazy).

If I’m being honest, this particular tour wasn’t the most interesting one I’d been on, but it was free (well, tips aside), and it reassured me that I’d already seen most of the major tourist attractions.

After it had ended at 3pm, I got more tea from Starbucks, then did something that was a first for me: I went to the cinema alone. And you know what? It wasn’t that bad.

View from Kerry Park

By the time the film had finished at 7.30pm, I started walking back to the Airbnb, but decided to take a detour to Kerry Park up in Queen Anne’s. It had been recommended to me by a couple of people for the beautiful view, and I’d wanted to see the skyline at night. Plus, Seattle felt much safer to walk around compared to Portland, so I figured I was fine alone.

If you’re ever in Seattle, you should definitely go to Kerry Park, because the views were 100% worth the (horrible) walk up to the top of the hill. My thighs were killing me, and I was so out of breath… I mean, I’d seriously let myself go when I was in Canada and the USA.

Day Three in Seattle

I have a friend who moved to Seattle, so I met up with her on the Saturday, so she could show me round some alternative sights that the city had to offer (whilst eating cake and drinking lots of cocktails).

Griddle cakes and doughnut holes

The first place we went to, was Skillet in Capitol Hill for breakfast. Here, I learnt two important things: what griddle cakes are, and what doughnut holes are. OK, so once I realised that they cooked pancakes on a griddle, that made total sense to me. Doughnut holes however, did not. I mean, the hole in a ring doughnut is air, so surely if you ordered the hole you’d just get a bowl of nothing? What they actually served us was mini doughnuts (not holes) with Nutella to dip into… but apparently that is a thing in America, so I just had to get my head round it.

Once my mind had been blown by the idea of doughnut holes not just being a hole, we rented out a car (there’s an app in Seattle where you can rent out a car in the city and pay per minute or per day, which was pretty cool).

Lenin statue

We drove up into the Fremont district to see the Lenin statue (I was totally not aware that he had a statue in Seattle, but there you go. I’ve now seen him in three places, including Finland and Lithuania. I would have preferred to see Stalin standing there instead, but Lenin would do). My friend then took me to see a troll under a bridge, and then we got more tea.

The next stop was Gas Works Park, right on Lake Union. You could see the skyline of Seattle from a different angle, and it was very pretty.

Cupcake Royale

It was getting to late afternoon by this point, so we dropped the car back off in Capitol Hill, and then headed back into downtown, stopping off at Cupcake Royale. Now, we’d promised each other no more sugar, but I was getting the shakes from sugar withdrawal, so the only way to solve that was with a lavender cupcake (I told you I’d let myself go… I seriously need to sort my life out when I’m back in the UK).

Obviously, we got changed before heading out for dinner and drinks (although I had debuted my Urban Outfitters top that I’d bought in Toronto). I changed into a gold dress that I’d bought in Zara literally the week before I left for Canada (which was also a debut).

Wakefield Seattle

Our first stop for the night was Wakefield, where we filled ourselves up on fried chicken sandwiches (let me tell you, fried chicken is a huuuuuge help when you’ve overdosed on sugar). Although, we did have cocktails, so that equated to more sugar (and I really tried not to think about how high my intake was).

I opted for a French Romance, which was delicious: Reyka vodka, St Germain, cardamom bitters, honey and lemon. You could definitely taste the honey. And the vodka… drinks in the States are just so strong!

Bathtub Gin Company

Our next stop was to a secret speakeasy called Bathtub Gin Company. There was a bit of a queue, but we only had to wait 15 minutes until we were allowed inside, and it was most definitely worth the wait. It was so cute inside, with split levels, dim lighting and lots of alcohol.

I had The Exterminating Angel, which consisted of gin, orgeat, lime and cardamom bitters (could you tell I love cardamom?) my friend chose The Flamingo Kid, which comprised of white rum, gin, lillet rose, banana liqueur, mint, Peychaud’s bitters and grapefruit.

We must have spent a good couple of hours there (I’m not the fastest drinker at the best of times, and the fact these drinks were like, 90% alcohol meant that it took me quite a while to finish them!).

Canon Bar Seattle

Our next stop was Canon, over in Capitol Hill. It was basically a larger version of Bathtub Gin Company, but less of a secret. My next cocktail of choice was a Frozen Wizard: butterfly tea gin, chartreuse, banana, lemon and magic. You had to stir the drink to reveal the magic, which was that it turned from purple to pink.

My friend went for a Pooh Bah cocktail (mainly because of the name), which was a mixture of rum, gin, Swedish punsch and apricot. Veryyyy strong, we actually ended the night with a cup of tea (as you do), before heading back home… I think I got back in at about 2.30am.

Brunching at Skillet

Day Four in Seattle

My final day was kind of a write-off to be honest, because although I had virtually a full day in Seattle, I also had to lug around a heavy backpack and my laptop, which was not fun.

Leaving the Airbnb at 11am, I Ubered it down to the station to check in my case, and then walked it back via Starbucks by the waterfront (I am so over Starbucks, I literally went multiple times a day when I was in America). I actually got something healthy: tea, and a turkey bacon and egg white sandwich.

My plan was to wander around the city, but the heavy bags made that impossible, so I basically hopped around Seattle’s various Starbucks, drinking tea. It was a shame, because there were a few things I wanted to do, but I didn’t get a chance.

My train departed to Vancouver at 7pm, which meant that I didn’t get to see much of the scenery outside, but it meant that as soon as I got to the city, I could head straight to my Airbnb and go to bed.

I was wondering if three and a half days in Seattle was going to be too much, but it really wasn’t.

Seattle harbourfront

My Thoughts on Seattle

The clue is the title, really. Seattle pleasantly surprised me. To say I wasn’t bothered about coming here, I’m so glad I did, because I really enjoyed spending time there. It felt so relaxing, yet there was a lot to do… and the cocktails were good too!

I would definitely come back again. They’re knocking the highway down by the waterfront and building a park, which is supposed to be finished by 2021, so I reckon three years is a good time to leave it. I wanted to go on the underground tour (apparently there are loads of abandoned storefronts under the streets of the city that you get to see), so I would do that too.

Plus, there’s so much more to see outside of Seattle. From ferry trips over to the islands of Bainbridge and Bremerton, to Mount Rainier and the glacier mountain peaks, there’s a lot that the surrounding area of Seattle can offer.

 

 

Elle Pollicott

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