Sleeping in Seattle

Trip Start Mar 15, 2008
Trip End Oct 02, 2009

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Flag of United States  , Washington
Friday, May 2, 2008

So we got up in San Fran at some ridiculously early hour (you know 6am or something like the time we used to get up EVERY day when we had jobs!) and made our way down to the airport to catch our flight with Virgin America. It was a great flight as Virgin America is a little different to Virgin Blue in Australia in that you get some stuff like a packet of pretzels, soft drink, juice and some TV channels for free. So after a flight that left on time, our first one yet (we have had delays on every flight from between 30 mins to 4 hours with the average being about half an hour.) We arrived into Seattle airport feeling very lucky. We went and picked up our bags...well actually that's when lady luck kind of bypassed us. I picked up my pack and we waited and waited until there were no more bags left on the conveyor belt. We found someone from the Virgin flight crew who let us know that Ben's bag must have been left back in San Francisco and that we'd have to wait for the next flight to arrive later that night when they would deliver it to our hostel, assuming the bag could be traced. Luckily this was one of the times when we had pre-booked accommodation so we were able to give them an address to deliver it to.

We headed out to the bus stop and started up a conversation with a local guy who kindly offered to show us to the Green Tortoise Hostel where we were booked in. He also gave us a few tips on things to do and his straightforward friendliness was a great intro to the wonderful city of Seattle.

We spent what was left of the arvo wandering around the Pike place markets across from the hostel. We bought some delicious Maple smoked Jerky and I also bought a new belt because I was sick of having to hike up my jeans every 5 minutes. The belt was a very groovy black leather with purple, pink and blue smears of colour over embedded silhouette head shots of famous deceased musicians including Jimmy Hendrix, Elvis, Roy Orbison and Kurt Cobain to name a few. We then took a wander down to the waterfront and checked out the views, the carousel and the games arcade.

After repeated calls to the Virgin baggage office, we couldn't get an answer about Ben's baggage. He went to be cursing, because his bag hadn't rocked up yet from the 6 p.m. evening flight from San Francisco. Finally, the next morning, there was a note on the door to say his bag had arrived at 5 a.m.! We were delighted to have our toothbrushes, and Ben was especially relieved to have fresh undies. As were all the people in our dorm.

Our second day in Seattle we headed down to join in the much talked about "Underground tour". It was a cheap tour at only $12 each for an hour and a half of Seattle history told in a humorous fashion. It also included the main attraction of a wander and explanation of the underground areas in Pioneer Square, which is the oldest section of Seattle. Here's a bit of the amazing history of Seattle:

Originally Seattle was founded in 1851 by some guy who brought his family over from the East. They came across a section of flat land on the coast, as yet unowned by white people, which had huge amounts of forests in the hills and sat just to the East of the plains. As the story goes this fellow wasn't the brightest man and measured out the township of about 8 city blocks while failing to take into account that this wonderful piece of flat land was situated on a tidal flood plain and hence twice a day the land was reduced to no more than about 3 average city blocks of dry land. This didn't seem to faze him and he continued to build the town of Seattle. The area boomed due to the amount of wood around in the hills above the town and so the townspeople struggled on, living in this flooding city built purely of wood, with no drainage and sewerage flowing freely on each turn of the tide. Eventually in 1889 this completely wooden town, unsurprisingly, caught alight, from buildings to footpaths completely burnt 32 blocks of the CBD to the ground. Due to the towns placement on sea level there was nothing the fire department could do as with such a large fire they had no water pressure to put it out with until the tide got to the right level....great town planning guys!
Anyway instead of rebuilding things to the state they were in before, all the businesses were told that when they rebuild they must build nothing less than 2 storey buildings with entrances on both the ground and first floors. On top of that, there was to be no more wooden buildings. So slowly over the next 20 years the town roads were built up to the top of the first floor and the seas edge was pushed back with retaining walls and backfill. Finally the footpaths (which were still at ground level while the road was level with the first floor) were covered over with a roof to create new footpaths at the first floor level and HEY PRESTO! Seattle was recreated above sea level and now had drainage and water pressure capabilities. This meant that there was kind of a basement in all buildings in the 32 block area of Pioneer Square and the neat thing was that these all had matching underground footpaths around the perimeter. The tour that we went on showed us through 3 of the town blocks that are no longer in use and while some businesses have renovated these areas and use them many are cordoned off and not used anymore.

The strange thing I found was that to look at it you wouldn't know what was under the surface of Seattle, a whole 'ground floor' of built on history. It was a real insight into the times and trials of Seattle back in the 1800's. Seattle was also the originating source of the term Skid Row as they had a Skid Road that was given the name after the loggers would literally slide or skid the logs from the hills down it to the wharves at the bottom. This area ended up being the red light district of the town and was reported in a Newspaper as being Skid Row hence the beginning of a well used term of the English language.
We spent the rest of the arvo looking around Pioneer Square checking out the shops and making some purchases at a yummy chocolate shop. That night we headed out with a group of 5 others from the Hostel to have a few $2 pints at a local pub not far from the Hostel.

This brings us to our last day in was a big one! We walked across town poking our noses back into the Pike place markets on our way as we realised we had missed a rather odd 'accidental' city attraction: a section of wall completely covered in peoples bits of old chewing gum. We then headed to a sculpture park that had some great stuff (check out the photos) and then we headed to the Science Fiction museum. This museum was pretty cool with a history and timeline of Science Fiction and lots of memorabilia from well-known science fiction films, TV programmes and authors.

Next-door to the Science Fiction Museum was the Experience Music Project, built in memory of Jimmy Hendrix with a whole room devoted to his life and music. The outside of the building looked pretty weird in its design. The architect said it was supposed to look like a smashed guitar from the sky, but I'm not really sure. It also went on in other rooms to give a history of music in Seattle, general music trends over the years and the creation of the guitar. Such famous acts as Nirvana, Soundgarden and Sir Mix-A-Lot came out of Seattle. Finally there was a room which allowed people to try out musical instruments with basic tutorials to help you learn how to play them a little, combined with a recording room so you could record your own music if you wanted to. It was a really good music museum and my favourite was the musical guitar sculpture that was at the entrance and was two storeys tall! We left the Experience Music Project a little more enlightened and caught the monorail back to the hostel back for our final night in the very cool Green Tortoise Hostel.

I must explain a little about it before signing off as this was definitely one of the best Hostels I have ever stayed in. Firstly they have the greatest designed dorms I have ever seen with double bed bunks as well as single bed bunks. They were solid wood bunks built into the walls and actually had sturdy ladders that were moveable, as well as privacy curtains and personal reading lights, fans and lockers under the beds big enough for all your bags!!! All the creature comforts of home at the incredibly cheap price of $20 each. For this we also got free breakfast each morning consisting of your choice of fresh fruit, toast, eggs, make-your-own waffles and tea, hot chocolate and coffee! They also provide free dinners three times a week and we managed to time our trip to have some of the best tacos I have ever had! They also organise optional daily activities at cheaper prices or for free. Seriously if you are thinking of going to Seattle check yourself into the Green Tortoise!

Well that was about it as the last morning we caught a cab to meet our shuttle to Vancouver and on to our adventures in BC Canada!!!
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blubel13 on

I came across your blog while feeling a bit home sick. Thank you for this wonderful representation of home, you helped a lot! I am so glad you got to visit some of our best sites!

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