In a few months I’ll be moving to New York, which is exciting but sad at the same time. Before I leave, I think I should document all my thoughts about Seattle to memorialize my first experience living on the west coast.
First of all, Seattle is not as rainy as people think. Precipitation is intermittent throughout a day, or throughout a week. It’s mostly just cloudy, reminding you petulantly that it could rain. Seattlites, like all humans subjected to a power greater and more unpredictable than themselves, have found a way to thumb their nose at the weather. No one uses an umbrella here. If you see one, its an obvious sign of a tourist. Instead, hoods and waterproof jackets are de rigueur. And in fact, I can only say that’s true for the cool season (winter and spring). The summers here are blindingly sunny – shining off the water and the glass buildings and people’s Timbuk2 reflectors.
Seattle is fanatical about their mass transit. They have several trams, buses, ferries, and soon, soon, soon! (as bureaucrats keep saying) we’ll have light rail. As a girl who grew up in the Detroit suburbs, I was confused by the routes, the fare, the other passengers. I do have to give it up to the bus drivers though – they are amazingly polite and helpful. Buses are also probably the best way to get to know the city. I have been to districts that I probably would never had explored on my own. And overall, I am much more relaxed sitting on a bus than driving a car.
Is it so surprising then that my two favorite spots in Seattle can only be enjoyed while driving? The first one is the Alaskan Way Viaduct, which is an elevated express route through the city along the Seattle waterfront. Sunsets, Elliot Bay, city skylines, and bright sunny days are wonderfully unobstructed. The second location is the Governor Albert D. Rosellini Bridge, or the 520 Bridge as the locals say. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Mt. Rainier and it’s snow covered peaks. When it’s windy though, the bridge sways disconcertingly due to the fact that it actually floats on the surface of Lake Washington by huge cement buoys. The winds also generate huge white-capped waves on the south side, which is sandwiched between the 520 and I-90 bridges. Sometimes the waves will crash onto the bridge, spraying cars and reducing traffic to a crawl. The north side is generally calmer, I think because it lets out into Lake Union and eventually Elliott Bay. Everytime I drive across, I’m a little amazed by how the water changes instantly at the 520 boundary line.
Ironically, in a few years, these two structures will probably be gone, or replaced. The viaduct suffered earthquake damage in 2001 and heavy trucks are warned to stay off the two left lanes. And, you know that unobstructed view I was telling you about? It just so happens that when you’re not on the viaduct, it blocks out everything else. Therefore, major plans are underway to demolish it and install a tunnel. Earthquakes are also the reason why the 520 bridge is also under consideration for replacement. Supposedly, there was even an earthquake while I was here – but I didn’t even feel a tremor.
In a word, to describe most Seattlites: yuppies. The Evergreen state was green before the rest of the country caught on. See mass transit, above, the proliferation of bikes dispite the steepness and abundance of hills, mandated composting, and finally the obession with fresh, local, seasonal food. Each district in Seattle has their own farmer’s market – the most famous being Pike’s Place Market, of course. Many restaurants here also tend to advertise themselves as Pacific Northwest cuisine – which I’ve come to surmise means wild-caught seafood and organic ingredients. Unfortunately, this still doesn’t equate to excellent food. Joe and I have actually been fairly disappointed with a majority of the restaurants that we’ve eaten at. I blame this not on the chefs but the price points which lead to unfair expectations. Joe also tends to choose his entrees poorly. So, from now on, I’m going to rely on tastingmenu.com to tell me where to eat so that I can use the rest of my meals in Seattle wisely. The writers for the blog also review restaurants at other cities (and countries) ex. NYC. I can’t wait to try them out!
Finally, as of today, no banana slugs yet.