Of hipsters and hobos: Seattle impressions

I’m writing this from an Amtrak train bound for Portland: my next stop on what is already shaping up to be an incredible journey. The lush, green landscape is flying past the window, the seats are comfy recliners and the whole experience is generally very pleasant indeed.

I’m not sure what I was expecting to find in Seattle, but whatever that was the city did not disappoint! My immediate impression was of a city which lives up to its reputation as coffee-addict central; on the 10-minute walk from the train station to the hostel, I passed no less than 5 Starbucks outlets, not to mention several independent (and no doubt more fiscally scrupulous) local coffee houses. Crazy eh.

The first ever Starbucks - the queue was out the door every time I passed it!

The first ever Starbucks – the queue was out the door every time I passed it!

Seattle is supposedly the birthplace of the hipster phenomenon (although Portland also likes to lay claim to this apparently). Yesterday I headed north to the Capitol Hill area of the city, which is considered to be the city’s alternative hub. I chose a little diner just off Broadway for lunch (far too hipster to have an actual name), and was served a pretty excellent avocado omelet(te!), which I ate feeling sheepishly mainstream given the edginess exuding from the wall art, music and the other patrons’ conversations and hairstyles. I decided to write my diary for a bit between mouthfuls, which I hoped would earn me a few redemptive hipster points in case the staff realised I wasn’t cool/ironic enough to be acceptable on the premises and decided to eject me back to touristy Downtown. Speaking of which, I was saddened by how many homeless people I passed on the Downtown streets in particular, many wheeling shopping trolleys full of odds and ends behind them (although I am allowing for the possibility that some of them may have been originally middle-class hipsters taking societal rejection to a whole new level).

In addition to these observations, I made several great discoveries during my brief time in Seattle:

Seattle Center and the Space Needle. Possibly the most well-known Seattle landmark, this futuristic structure really was pretty impressive. You can go up it, but as the needle itself is the most interesting feature on the skyline I wasn’t sure it would be worth it. The rest of the Seattle Center has a huge amount to offer, from science exhibitions to the EMP pop culture museum.

The space needle, which I lined up with a pillar saying

The space needle, which I lined up with a pillar saying “Let there be peace in the world” (how’s that for mad photography skills!?)

ART. Lots and lots and lots of it. In extension to my artistic discoveries in Vancouver, I sniffed out the Steinbrueck Native Art Gallery, which had a great collection of aboriginal pieces to look at. I also teamed up with an Australian bloke called Bernie and visited the Olympic Sculpture Park and the Seattle Art Fair which, by happy coincidence, was on all weekend. The sheer amount of galleries exhibiting there was quite overwhelming; I could have spent a good few days walking around the whole thing. I particularly loved the work of Marcio Diaz, a Nicaraguan painter who moved to the Pacific Northwest and whose paintings are really joyful and vibrant impressions of the landscapes up here. Smashing.

Pike Market and Gum Wall. This waterfront area is particularly popular; it is buzzing and chaotic and there are fishmongers who literally throw huge salmon over your head as you walk through! At one end is the Gum Wall, a whole alley completely covered in years’ worth of gum. Kind of gross, but a quirky landmark nonetheless.

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Doing my bit for Seattle’s cultural heritage: adding a piece of gum to the wall.

Kerry Park. One evening, a German girl called Eva who I met in the hostel and I got a tip-off about the best place to view the Seattle skyline, so at dusk we packed a picnic and headed up a steep hill to Kerry Park. Every bit worth the climb – the view was stunning!

Seattle skyline from Kerry Park with Mt Rainier in the background, glorious!

Seattle skyline from Kerry Park with Mt Rainier in the background, glorious!

Sad though I am to leave Seattle behind, excitement is growing in my stomach as the train chugs south towards Portland. It’s now a matter of hours until the grand reunion with Miss Amanda Walsh (aaaaahh!), and the discovery of a city that has been on my mind for quite some time. Portland updates coming soon 🙂

Lots of love to everyone x x x

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