Saturday, August 5, 2017

Sightseeing in Seattle, Continued

Chihuly Garden and Glass

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, it was million tiny little things that caused Tim and I to fall in love with Seattle.  First, the Pike Place Market appealed to our tastebuds, but that was only the beginning of our love affair.  We also became enamored with its art, its history and its public spaces.

On the grounds of the 1962 World's Fair is the landmark Space Needle, the observation tower that inspired William Hanna and Joseph Barbera to create the cartoon, The Jetsons.  We didn't take the time to wait in the long lines to ascend to its apex, but I did to take photos of it from different vantage points around the city:

From the waterfront, 

Smoke from British Columbia wildfires blanketed the city while we were there.

from Kerry Park,

and from within the Chihuly Garden Glasshouse.

The Chihuly Garden and Glass museum displays the wildly colorful blown glass sculptures created by Seattle artist Dale Chihuly.   

He once said, "I want people to be overwhelmed with light and color in a way they have never experienced."  That's definitely the reaction I had to his works and Tim agreed.  

The exhibition could not be contained within museum walls but spilled into the adjacent glasshouse and gardens.  Truly stunning!

The Hammering Man
The Hammering Man, Johnathan Borofsky's sculpture, looks like a shadow against the Seattle Art Museum.  It's a tribute to the worker in all of us.  He raises and lowers his hammer at a clip of two and a half times per minute every day of the year.  The only exception?  Labor Day!

Then there's Seattle's history which reads like a story of salvation.  On June 6, 1889 a fire broke out in Victor Clairmont's cabinetry shop; its flames lapped up the turpentine and sawdust as it quickly spread next door to a liquor store.  Fueled by alcohol, the conflagration soon engulfed the city and its lumber mills.  Residents struggled to load their possessions on wagons or ships moored at the wooden wharves that also fell victim to the flames.  In all, 25 city blocks were destroyed.

Yet, many improvements were made when the city was rebuilt, much of it elevated 22 feet to level the hilly city.  (Visitors today can tour Seattle Underground to see the remains of fire-damaged buildings.)  Pipes replaced the hollow wooden troughs (also victims of the fire) that carried the city's water supply and additional fire hydrants were added.  Instead of volunteer fire fighters, a paid professional fire department was created.  New fireproof building codes required the use of brick, stone and iron.  Stately edifices built in the fashionable Romanesque Revival style created a unity of appearance that still exists in Seattle's oldest downtown neighborhood, Pioneer Square.  It's a wonder that Seattle wasn't renamed Phoenix for the mythical bird that rose from the ashes.

However, Seattle's post-fire building came to an abrupt halt in the Panic of 1893 when banks across the nation, including eleven in Seattle, closed their doors.  Then, rumors of gold in the Yukon brought a great influx of goldseekers (and their money) to the city, all of whom had to be outfitted with supplies before they rushed off to the Klondike.  This cycle of bust and boom continued through the 20th century until today when notable businesses like Microsoft and Amazon have filled the city's coffers.

Pioneer Square

Always willing to cross another National Park Service property off our list, Tim and I stopped at the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park in Pioneer Square.  There one can follow the stories of five people who stocked up on supplies in Seattle before hurrying to Bonanza Creek, a branch of the Klondike River, where gold was first found.  

John Nordstrom

One of the five accounts followed the success story of John Nordstrom.  Returning to Seattle from the goldfields with $13,000 in his pocket, he used some of the money to buy ten acres of land in the Rainier Valley and two lots in downtown Seattle.  There he and his business partner Carl Wallin, a man he met in Alaska, opened a shoe store marking the beginning of the Nordstrom store empire.

The Nordic Heritage Museum is a testament to the numerous contributions to Seattle made by Nordic immigrants like John Nordstrom.  Tim's heritage is Danish so we were drawn to visit this small museum.  There we learned that Scandinavian immigrants, many of whom were lumberjacks, first flocked to the area because of the opportunities presented by its heavily forested hills.  Later, they turned to fishing and maritime enterprises.  In fact, many settled in the town of Ballard, now a part of the greater Seattle metropolis, which boomed because of the growing demand for salmon and seafood.

Hiriam M. Chittenden Locks

Later we stopped at Hiriam M. Chittenden Locks, also called the Ballard Locks, a waterway system that connects the saltwater of the Puget Sound to the fresh water of Ship Canal that sits 20 feet above sea level.  We wanted to see the ships passing through the locks, the adjacent botanical gardens and the fish ladder used by salmon to swim upstream to spawn.  

There are windows underneath the walkway that allow you to watch the fish as they make their way from the saltwater of the Puget Sound to the freshwater of the Cedar River watershed.  Serendipitously, we arrived during the season of spawning which runs from the beginning of July to mid-August.

So, see why we now have a soft spot in our hearts for Seattle?  It's because of a million, tiny little things!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Sightseeing In Seattle

Pike Place Market
"Well, it was a million tiny little things that, when you added them all up, they meant we were supposed to be together.  And I knew it."  Tom Hanks as Sam Baldwin, Sleepless in Seattle, 1993

Tom Hanks was describing his character's feelings about his deceased wife in the 1993 movie Sleepless in Seattle, but I could also use these words to chronicle the five days Tim and I spent sightseeing in Seattle and how we fell in love with the city.  "It was a million tiny little things!"

We began, of course, with coffee at Pike Place Market in the early morning as the vendors were setting up their stalls.  One of the very first Starbucks (you could say the original cafe, except that was a block north before it was moved to this location) was open for business.

Jake, our tour guide from Seattle Free Walking Tours, pointed out its original logo.  The Medusa-looking lady whose boobs have since been less-erotically restyled is not a mermaid but a siren sent to lure the caffeine-deprived into the shop.  The ubiquitous coffee cafes were started in 1971 by English teacher Jerry Baldwin, history teacher Zev Siegl and writer Gordon Bowker who named them for the First Mate Starbucks, a character in the classic novel Moby Dick.  This very small shop sans seating at Pike Place Market offers a blend of beans one can only buy here, the Pike Place Special Reserve.  Ahhhh!  Good morning, Seattle!

Now wide awake, we listened as Jake recounted the history of this oldest, continually-operated farmers' market in the country.  Since its start a century ago in 1907, farmers and fishermen have brought their 

fresh vegetables, 





seafood and meat from nearby islands to this renown waterfront location of stalls and structures.  But in the 1960s, this mecca was almost demolished to make way redevelopment and would have been, but for the efforts of Victor Steinbrueck, the architect of Seattle's Space Needle, who successfully sought 53,000 signatures from citizens to save the market from the wrecking ball.

A permanent resident of the marketplace is Rachel the Pig, a bronze sculpture of a piggy bank, whose belly of donated money is routinely emptied into the coffers of the Pike Place Market Foundation to support the city's food bank.

We tasted our way through the market, nibbling the samples of the fare that vendors offered us, until we came to the live--or should I say, dead--entertainment at Pike Place Fish Market.  There what started as a prank more than 30 years ago has now become a tradition of fishmongers shouting orders and throwing fish to each other or even to paying customers.  Tourists, including me, stand ready to film the flying fish with their cellphones.


One not so edible sight, the Market Theatre Gum Wall, is underneath the emporium.

Here along the Post Alley, moviegoers began the unsanitary practice of sticking their already-been-chewed gum to the passage walls as they left the theater.  Ewwww!  Now, everyone wants to contribute their wad to this colorful work of chomped art.  Wondering just how much gum is there?  The Seattle Times in an article dated November 16, 2015, noted that 2,350 pounds of gum was steam-cleaned from the walls for the first time in twenty years.  Of course, the clean walls did not last long.  Immediately, the next day, a flash mob laid down a new layer to which other gum chewers have since contributed.

The Pike Place Market was not the only food purveyor we enjoyed while we were in Seattle.  We met Joe and Cindy, Tim's cousins (Cindy is pictured above), for dinner at a former junior high school that McMemamens, a Pacific Northwest chain of restaurants, has renovated into a tiki bar, complete with a swimming pool.  McMemanins takes historic hotels, movie theaters, concert venues, schools and even a former Elks Lodge, and turns them into multi-purpose places for dining, movie watching, gaming and even swimming in a pool.  Our dinner was memorable for more than just the food, though.  Catching up with extended family is a rare opportunity.

So, there were a million tiny things made us love this city.  Tomorrow I'll mention more.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Water Walks

Sol Duc Falls

Well, of course, water doesn't walk.  It flows, erodes and quenches one's thirst.

"Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it." Lao Tzu

Mr. Tzu, the Chinese philosopher got that right!  Certainly Tim and I could not resist the watery allure of Crescent Lake or Sol Duc Falls in Olympic National Park.  So on two separate days we pulled on our hiking boots and went in search of water.

Sol Duc Hot Springs and Resort

Lovers' Lane, the trail to Sol Duc Fall, begins at the Sol Duc Hot Springs and Resort.  The imposing Sol Duc Hotel once stood at the site of the current hot springs resort.  Opened in 1912, the five-star hotel drew visitors from all over the world before it was destroyed by fire in 1920.  We planned a celebratory plunge into the mineral springs' soothing waters upon our return.  But first there was the trail through a lush rainforest landscape to explore.

I thought we'd found the Sol Duc Falls when we stumbled upon this waterfall, but other hikers told us that was still ahead.

But this was just the warm-up act for the main attraction.  And what a performance it was!  We could hear its roar way before it came into view.  

Sol Duc Falls

Split into three cascades, Sol Duc plummets 48 feet into a narrow, rocky channel.  

Its spray cooled our faces and dampened our clothes, a welcome respite for our sweaty bodies before we looped back to the resort.

Crescent Lake

Along Highway 101 midway between Forks and Port Angeles, Washington was the other watery draw, the aptly-named Crescent Lake shaped like a new moon.  

Its turquoise waters drew us to return to its shore for an easy hike along the Spruce Railroad Trail, named for the wood it hauled to mills to build the frames for World War I aircraft and subsequently for the next 40 years commercial logging interests.  

There we walked along the shore, 

through the McFee tunnel 

and up ledges cut from the rock before winding our way back to the parking lot.

So, there you have it!  Two watery walks that wowed us!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Victoria, B.C.

"There is a view, when the morning mists peel off the harbor, where the steamers tie up, of the Houses of Parliament on one hand, and a huge hotel on the other, which is an example of cunningly fitted-in waterfronts and facades worth a very long journey," said Rudyard Kipling describing a 1908 visit to Victoria, the provincial capital of British Columbia.

Tim and I decided to add a smidgen of international travel to our Pacific Northwest trip so we booked walk-on tickets for the 90-minute ferry ride across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to this city so admired by Kipling.  Opting for the earliest departure possible, the 8:15 a.m. ferry, we tried to see as much of the British-flavored city as possible before we needed to be back at the dock at 3:00 p.m. 

Therefore, our visit was cursory, but armed with a copy of Frommers walking tour, we did our best to do the city justice.  

I didn't take as many photos as I would have liked--I was too busy try to orient ourselves to the route, not to mention, my desire not to walk head-on into a streetlight or worse still, a passing vehicle--but perhaps the lack of photos is a good thing since I have plenty of wordy prose with which to praise this pretty place.  

"Welcome to Victoria" in glowing, living color greeted us as the ferry docked at the Inner Harbor.  Petunias planted in letter form were just one example of the floral window boxes and hanging baskets that gussied up the town like a string of diamonds above a dowager's decolletage.  

The Fairmont Empress

The huge hotel Kipling mentioned is the Fairmont Empress, built between 1904 and 1908 as the terminus hotel for the Canadian-Pacific steamship line.  I could just imagine women in lacy afternoon gowns partaking of tea in the Lobby Lounge, an activity that still takes place today, although in much less formal attire.

Craigdarroch Castle

One of Canada's finest stately mansions, according to my Lonely Planet's travel guide, is Craigdarroch Castle, once the home of the Vancouver Island coal and railroad capitalist, Robert Dunsmuir who built it in the late 1880s and died just before it was completed.  

Only his widow Joan and three of their youngest children lived this mansion where sunlight streams through stained glass windows in almost every room.  

Joan Dunsmuir, left; Robert Dunsmuir, right

Dunsmuir's death stirred up strife in the family.  Contrary to promises made to his two sons, he left his entire estate and business holdings to his wife.  This was a blow to both James and Alex (then in their thirties) who had worked in the family business all their lives.  Years later because of the estrangement, neither felt a compulsion to attend their mother's funeral.  

Bastian Square, a public space where restaurants and street musicians beckon tourists, stands on the site of the Hudson Bay Company's original Fort Victoria.  The fort, demolished in 1863, was established by the Company in 1843 as a depot for the northern Pacific trade.  The Company's main headquarters, Fort Vancouver, was too far from the British Columbia interior and coast to serve fur trappers and traders efficiently.  Moreover, once the international boundary was set at the 49th parallel, Fort Vancouver was no longer under British authority; thus, the need for Victoria's fort.  

We hustled through Trounce Alley, where miners and sailors once visited ladies of the night.  Now it's a gaslit pedestrian walkway lined with European-chic shops,

Then we hurried over to Victoria's Chinatown, second only to San Francisco as the oldest Chinese conclave in North America.  Fan Tan Alley was originally a gambling district and undoubtedly a place where opium dens flourished.  Tim and I squeezed through its narrow width, notably 35-inches in one spot, to view the small shops and take-out food establishments that do business there today.  

The Parliament Building

The Parliament Building, the province's legislature, is a dramatically handsome confection of turrets and domes with a statue of Queen Victoria standing before it, a fitting tribute to the sovereign for whom the city is named.  There's a free, behind-the-scenes tour of the building, but we walked up to the kiosk  at 2:10 p.m., too late to join it before our ferry's departure.  Maybe some day we'll return.  I hope so.