The day we left Vancouver we experienced torrential rainfall. Although we hadn’t had the best weather during our stay, it hadn’t been too bad until now. Just as we’d finished packing up the car and set off, the heavens opened and the streets were flooded with up to a foot of water in some places.
Pretty much as soon as we arrived at the American border, the rain cleared up and the sun came out like some sort of cliché moment from an overly-patriotic Hollywood blockbuster. We waited about 40 mins to get our passports checked, before undergoing further inspection. It turned out tomatoes and uncooked Indian rice were the culprit. The friendly border control officer took possession of the contraband and waved us on our way.
An hour or two later we arrived in Seattle, the global capital of Starbucks (the coffee chain was founded there in 1971). They are literally on every corner, sometimes two on the same corner. We stayed in the leafy Capitol Hill neighbourhood, which boasts a bustling street full of cafés, restaurants, organic supermarkets and funky shops. We had coffee at Joe Bar (810 E Roy St), which has a kind of artsy/academic crowd, and Roy St Coffee (700 Broadway E), which turned out to be a secret unbranded Starbucks! You just can’t escape them in this town.
We had cheap and tasty pho at Pho Than Brothers (537 Broadway E) and yummy warm-at-home meals from Eat Local (503 Broadway E). Well worth a visit is the Elliott Bay Book Company (1521 10th Ave), a beautifully-designed and well-stocked local bookshop. It’s worth poking around for the bargains as they have a great selection and you’ll never know what you find (a graphic novel about the settlement of Iceland, anyone?). Down the road is Standard Goods (701 E Pike St), which stocks a good selection of iron-on patches (I’m collecting them), funny greetings cards and trendy clothes.
We took a walk down Broadway E via Pike St, which takes you straight through downtown to Pike Place Market (85 Pike St). The historic market is an must-see for any visitor to Seattle. You can pick up fresh fish, meat, cheese, fruit and vegetables as well as homewares such as pottery and vintage magazines and prints. It’s a bit of a rabbit hole with its interweaving floors and narrow corridors. Although it’s busy, it’s full of original character and charm. The surrounding streets are filled with cafés and eateries, including the original Starbucks if you’re into that sort of thing. We ate at Rub With Love Shack (2014 Western Ave), where I had an juicy and well-seasoned Philly cheesesteak.
The next day we paid a visit to Ballard, an area north of downtown which was only incorporated into Seattle in 1907. The original town of Ballard was built on the fishing industry by mostly Scandinavian immigrants, a heritage that is still visible to this day. We spent the morning at the Nordic Heritage Museum (3014 NW 67th St; adults $8, students $7) and learnt all about the area’s Nordic-influenced history. The museum will soon move into a brand-new and very Scandi-looking purpose-built home in Old Ballard. I was lucky enough to run into an Icelander who was promoting Icelandic design at the museum, so I got to practise my favourite language for the first time for a while. To complete our Nordic day out, we had lunch at Scandinavian Specialties (6719 15th Ave NW), which as well as serving up hot and cold Scandi lunch favourites has a large selection of imported Scandi groceries, books and souvenirs.
We didn’t have a great deal of time to spend in Old Ballard after our long day, so we decided to come back the next morning for breakfast. It just so happened that there was a farmer’s market happening that day (Sunday), with some great producers selling fresh food grown or produced in and around Seattle—we chose some yummy ice lollies from Seattle Pops (permanent shop at 1401 N 45th St). I had a great leek omelette for breakfast at Bastille (5307 Ballard Ave NW), and P had a fresh falafel pitta piled high with Middle Eastern pickles.
We spent three days in Seattle in all before making our way down to Portland. The drive is only a couple of hours, so it’s feasible to do a day trip if you’re staying in one city and want to visit the other. Read about our recommendations for Portland in the next post!
To be continued…