Having only recently moved to the west coast, this trip to Seattle is my first. I was told it was just a smaller version of Vancouver, but it is so very different from our city across the border. First, Seattle has a longer history than Vancouver, which means more shops, restaurants and buildings with an authentic charm from decades past. And of course, one of the most striking things about Seattle is the architecture. I think as far as a city downtown goes, Seattle is one of the finest for design. Elements of it remind me of Boston, New York and even London, likely because of the antiquated feeling to places such as Pioneer Square.
On Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour, we learned that Seattle was established in the 1850s, when settlers from out east courageously ventured west to start a new town in which to turn a profit. Its first industry was lumber, but coal and gold also became important resources before the 1900s. The tour is underground because the current city is built above the old town. After a series of city planning blunders, including building on piles of sawdust landfill and constructing 10-35 ft. town walls to help with the gravity flow of sewage disposal and to avoid high tide, the streets were covered with bricks reinforced in the shape of Roman arches. This project was inspired by the need for safety in the streets: several people fell to their deaths off the town walls, while others had heavy objects, such as cast iron stoves, fall on them from the ledge above. It was an informative and entertaining tour with guide Rick, and I would recommend it to anyone who visits Seattle. The tour is 90 minutes in length and the cost is $15.
Next thing on my list is coffee. Coffee is good in Seattle, and probably keeps much of the population not only caffeinated but in the green, as it is so readily available. No doubt, we went to the first-ever Starbuck’s store near Pike Place Market (http://www.pikeplacemarket.org/), shedding light on their popular brew called “Pike Place”. It was decent coffee, but it definitely wasn’t my top cup this trip. We enjoyed a great local brew at Melrose Market’s (http://melrosemarketseattle.com/) Homegrown Sustainable Sandwich Shop located on Capitol Hill. Also worth mentioning is their breakfast sandwich made with local ingredients and packed with flavour. The sandwich comes with a semi-runny egg topped with cheese and avocado on a massive sesame bun, with a side of warm oatmeal. At $6 this is a top economical choice for a hearty and healthy breakfast.
Finally, my best coffee in Seattle was at The Cherry Street Coffee House (http://cherryst.com/) near Pioneer Square, the original site and namesake of the café, which has now spread out to four other locales in the city because of its popularity. We were drawn to the place because of the funky neon sign (of which there are many in Seattle, giving it an authentic 1950s vibe), and were pleasantly surprised by the high quality of the food and the complex, but smooth taste of the coffee. I enjoyed a delicious lox and cream cheese bagel, with a side of tomato ginger soup. If you’re looking for a quick, affordable lunch in a comfortable setting, The Cherry Street Coffee House is a fantastic bet.
Stay tuned for more Seattle highlights, including architecture and seafood in my next blog post!