Until last week, my only experience with the West Coast had been two trips to Southern California. And even though I’ve traveled to more than 20 countries, San Francisco, a city that is always on lists of places you should see before you die, is one that still escapes me. But last week, I not only traveled to the West Coast once more, I traveled to a new region there, the Pacific Northwest (PNW).
Seattle has the best of both worlds-nature and city
Seattle is a city I never really had an immense desire to visit (not to the same degree as a place like Boston or Charleston). This was somewhat due to the fact that it was far to get to (and lack of direct flights from Pittsburgh meant an even longer travel day), and the PNW is more for the outdoorsy types, those spellbound by nature, not those wanting all of the comforts and sights of a city. However, between trips to places like Peru, Norway, and Utah, my traveling preferences have greatly changed in that now I really do love taking photographs not just of famous historical buildings, but also of breathtaking geological formations and views of bodies of water that seem to go on forever.
When you’re in Seattle’s downtown, it’s a city that feels like any other. There are massive buildings, sidewalks filled with people, the smells and noise of traffic. And yet, walk on over to Alaskan Way or even First Avenue and you’ll be at the water, the Puget Sound to be specific. Or ride up to the top of the iconic Space Needle and on a clear day you’ll see nothing but water and the magnificent Mt. Rainier off in the distance. Seattle is very much a city where you still feel connected to nature.
Seattle is so incredibly diverse
If you visit the Seattle Public Library’s website, you’ll discover that it is available in five other languages besides English, including more obscure ones like Soomaali and Amharic. This speaks volumes to just how diverse a place Seattle really is. While I had read before that Seattle is home to an extremely large Vietnamese population, I was still amazed at how many Vietnamese eateries I saw while there. Coming from Pittsburgh, where I can count the number of Vietnamese restaurants on one hand, this was just awesome since I know from having looked at some menus prior, they also go beyond the standard pho and spring roll offerings which is what you find here. A regret is not having had the time to really explore the city’s Chinatown/International District, as I’ve heard it’s quite large and impressive.
Seattle lived up to its gray and rainy reputation
While I had hoped for the best in terms of weather, Seattle gave me the type of weather the city is so famous for-rain, grayness, and colder temps. Thankfully it didn’t rain the entire weekend but when it wasn’t, the skies were just a very dull and bleak shade of gray. The worst was the day we saw a Mariners baseball game and it rained pretty heavily while we were walking from our hotel in the downtown area to the Pioneer Square section of the city. (Fortunately, the stadium has a retractable roof.) It was made worse as temperatures were only in the mid-50s. It somewhat felt like Norway all over the again-donning light winter-style attire when the rest of the country is in a mild heatwave. Thankfully on our final day there, the sun did come out and what a difference it made in terms of seeing the city in a different light.
Seattle’s humble origins can still be felt
When you leave behind the sleek steel structures of the city’s downtown and venture to the Pioneer Square area, you’ll think you’re in another city. Pioneer Square was the city’s first downtown and it’s here where you’ll see shorter and simpler brick buildings from times well past. It’s easy to imagine the thousands of people that descended upon the city when first setting out for gold mining in the late 19th century at the height of the Yukon Gold Rush (Seattle was the starting point, where prospectors would gather all of their necessary supplies. Although you’ll see modern entities like coffee shops and bars with sports teams’ insignia, it’s just as easy to imagine the look of a Wild West man and woman walking the streets too.
Seattle has a uniqueness you won’t find elsewhere in the United States
Seattle didn’t visually wow me in the same way that Charleston did in regards to its architecture. It also didn’t have as many sights of interest to me as a city like Boston. And yet, Seattle’s overall look was one I’ve never seen elsewhere; it was almost a combination of places I’ve either been to or seen pictures of-San Francisco, Alesund in Norway, New York. It resembled other places but still maintained its own uniqueness. And I think it’s this that has captivated and inspired people to visit and even move there for decades.