I suppose I should write this now while it’s a) fresh in my mind and b) I have a moment to spare!
Well I arrived a respectable 10 minutes late at the aforementioned rendezvous point. We got to rent a Pontiac Sunfire – the same revvy piece of shit that I had the first time we rented a car – and after declining to wait while they vacced it out we set off at approximately 8.30.
I’d written some directions for us, but they only started from I-5 (Interstate 5 I guess) once we were over the border. It didn’t even cross my mind that it would be a problem navigating highway 99 out of Vancouver, but around 20 minutes later we were asking a Chinese guy with a fishing rod for directions down by some lake or other. He didn’t speak Eengrish though. Fortunately we found another lady walking down the side of the road who informed us that we had to take Steveston Highway past the airport. Why of course.
Anyway the journey after that continued without incident, apart from the fact that we had to queue for 40 minutes to get to the American border, then had to wait 30 minutes in their immigration office or whatever it is, fill out some forms, have our picture taken, give our index finger prints, and pay $6…
On arrival in Seattle we headed straight for the space needle, figuring it was best to go first before we checked in and had to park the car up. We ate lunch in the central building of this big kind of amusement place that surrounds the space needle, inside which there was a big dancefloor cleared and lots of geriatrics dancing around. It was kind of bizarre.
We were quite fortunate because the clouds had cleared away offering us magnificent views of the city and across Puget Sound – a huge body of water that eventually connects with the Pacific Ocean. There are suburbs stretching out in every direction and the skyline REALLY looks like Sim City because of all the hills and lakes and stuff – like someone’s been messing around terraforming an interesting landscape :) we could also see Mt. Baker in the background which looked way more impressive than it does from Vancouver, although you could also see the Cascade range, which starts immediately North of Vancouver, in the distance shrouded by clouds.
After that we thought we would have a quick wander round the city and park the car up. First of all we went to a 7-11 where there was a height gauge on the inside of the door, obviously to better identify people who steal from the store with the camera image, then drove along underneath the monorail toward downtown. Checking in proved a little more problematic than expected due to the fact it was rush hour and there’s a lot of one way streets in the city centre, still after about 4 circuits we eventually found the car park we were after and went in to dump our bags. On getting to the room I was shattered so I closed my eyes for 30 minutes while Pete checked out the local papers for the night’s entertainments. Pete was quite keen on going to watch the NFL preseason game – Seahawks v Cowboys – but it would have been a mad rush so we ruled it out. We would have gone to see a baseball game the following day but they were playing away – how inconsiderate.
For dinner we headed out to a sports bar & grill as I thought it would be nice to sample the American lifestyle – drink beer & eat meat while watching sports. We ended up in a place called the Fox Sports Grill. Had I known Fox Sports was owned by Rupert Murdoch maybe I would have insisted we go elsewhere but hey. After our attempts at humour fell on deaf ears with the hostesses, we sat down at a table and ordered a beer. After a few sips though my stomach decided to start giving me serious grief again which continued for the next 3 hours, nowhere near as bad as before but still not ideal when we were trying to enjoy a nice sit down meal.
Back at the hostel we wandered down to the common room type thing with our bottle of Absolut Mandarin (cheers Gurpal :)) and sprite figuring there might be some other people up for going out. The paper had turned out to be pretty much a dead loss – seems Seattle’s Monday is to Vancouver’s Tuesday, i.e. nothing goes on. We were pointed in the direction of a place called Cowgirls Inc. by the waitress in Fox Sports, which sounded kinda like Coyote Ugly, but then when we walked into common room I spotted a couple of guys who I was sure I recognized from uni. I went over to say hello and they were indeed on the same course as me. How bizarre. I’d spoken to them both before at uni but we did all the introductions and usual catchup thing. There was also a Dutch guy there who barged into the conversation then started a competition with Pete over how many places they’d both been to.
Once we’d finished the vodka it was already about 11.45pm so we ended up going to the nearest pub possible with John & Chris and their friend Kirsty (or something like that!) which turned out to be an Irish seafood restaurant? Not something I’d necessarily put together but I think that’s what they were going for. After we left there we went looking for a pizzeria or something but there was NOWHERE open for food. Sucks. In fact, compared to Vancouver the city centre definitely lacked life – there were nowhere near as many people around and nowhere near as many places open after hours. So we took some pictures and went home to pillage the 6 ribs that Pete had kept from his monster portion earlier. Everyone in the hostel wanted a piece of them so I had to guard Pete’s half while he went for a smoke.
Our hostel was called the Green Tortoise, we had to book there cuz the HI was full – and seems that in Seattle there is a choice of only two hostels! It was pretty basic – two bunks and a sink with not much room to spare, very loud as we were facing the street, and very hot even though we had a fan running. Still I had a very good night’s sleep due to being shattered, and I guess a little tipsy. After the first day in Seattle though I wasn’t that taken with the place given what we’d seen – a similar amount of homeless and crazy people as Van but with a lot less life. On the second day though we found some more interesting places – in the morning we walked around the fish market, inadvertently walked past the first ever Starbucks, walked round the old part of town (which has cobbled streets and is very leafy and 50s gold rush looking), checked out the stadiums (which are HUGE and very impressive), and ended up in international village (next to Chinatown) by accident. It was actually really nice around there and looked like a pretty rich part of town. There’s a lot of high tech companies in Seattle apparently, there’s a whole suburb which has sprung up around it about 10kms from downtown and in the distance you could make out Redmond, home of M$, from the top of the space needle.
In the afternoon we walked along the seafront back to the fish market then walked around the shopping district so Pete could buy some trainers and some Gap jeans which turned out to be exactly the same as the pair he’s already got! After that we headed over to what is supposed to be the hip part of town, and this was TOTALLY different to the downtown area – a very cool and classy kind of looking place called Capitol Hill, so that kinda improved both our opinions on the place as a whole. Then we drove up a big hill so that we could get the picture postcard shot of the space needle in front of the skyscrapers, went back to Capitol Hill to eat in a cool Creole style restaurant, then returned to the lookout to photo the skyline again in the dark. All very nice.
Heading back on the “freeway” it became apparent that Americans can’t drive for shit. Everyone undertaking in whatever lane they like and people sitting in the fast lane even though the rest of the lanes were empty, even when you drive right up behind them! I tried to educate them as best we could by signalling where they should move to after going past them, and we got a few to move over :) but man. So bad. About half way back our petrol gauge started going up instead of down so thinking that was a bit odd we pulled off to get some “gas”. The first place we arrived at was absolutely surounded by nothing and it was very dark and spooky looking with a very old looking “mini mart & gas” sign… It was empty anyway so we headed to the next available place. That looked a bit more hopeful as it was a shell garage, had a couple cars outside, and was well lit. After I filled up the tank though this van kind of thing pulls up, a couple of hillbilly looking peeps got out the front, opened up the boot and about 6 more hillbillies jumped out of the back! I’m pretty sure they’d all been drinking considering how adamant they were that they hadn’t. All of them had ripped up dirty clothes on & mullets and shit. Weird. Fortunately by the time I’d been to the “restroom” they’d all cleared out though.
Re-entry into Canada was a mite more simple – the guy asked us a few questions about what we’d been doing then waved us through without even asking to see our passports! Mind you if you’re already coming from America I guess they don’t have too much to worry about though given the rigmarole they put you through :) we almost got lost again as apparently re-tracing the same route doesn’t work and we ended up at a dead end (lol) but it was only a minute or two lost.. I dumped the car in the car park next to the hire place as I didn’t fancy getting up at 7 again and trudged home – man we walked a long way that day.
So Seattle was interesting but surprisingly different. I have to say it had a lot more of an industrial feel to it and I guess less charm. One thing different is that there were a hell of a lots more black people around – for some reason there’s hardly any in Van! The American money is crap too. Also, this is probably the last of these essays you’ll have to read as from now on it’s gonna be pretty busy ’til I get home :) shame. Got rid of my board and lots of clothes today but still have to pack everything tomorrow to leave on Friday.. Fun.