Sunday, February 1, 2009

Hillbillies in Javaland

This is a long winter in the Pacific NW. And here, in NE Washington, it feels even longer. So it was with pleasant anticipation we recently packed our bags for a westbound trip over the Cascade Mountains and onto the snowless, coastal plains to visit the village of Seattle. Okay, I’ll concede that for the most part Seattle, with over 582,000 folks, passed the village mark sometime ago. Still there are village like qualities to Washington’s most populace city.

While we may think of the founding of Seattle as the the arrival of the Denny Party in 1851 the area has been inhabited since the end of the last glacial period approximately 8,000 years ago. When nautical explorers first arrived the indigenous peoples now called the Duwamish Tribe were living in several villages scattered over the coastal plains where Seattle is located. There is a very active native culture the current mosaic of peoples in Seattle.
One of the things making this trip to the coast special is that a friend arranged for Catherine, Clementine & I to spend our week in residence at a downtown condo located on Alaskan Way overlooking Elliot Bay. As sailors this was a near perfect match of shore-side accommodations with fantastic access to the waterfront.
This sailboat fetching the downtown marina photo is from the balcony of our cozy condo.
Seattle is a unique community. Here are some interesting facts about the Emerald City...
Seattle is ranked the most literate city by Central Conn. State Univ. Everybody reads here. The Seattle Public Library system has the highest percentage of library card-holders per capita in the country.

Seattle was the first American city to put police on bicycles. Seattle has the highest percentage of people riding bikes to work compared to other US cities its size.

In 1961, the restaurant atop the
Space Needle became the country's first revolving eatery.

Seattle's total land area? 53,718 acres of which 6,189 acres are parks and open areas. That's 11.52%! The
parks in Seattle rock. The Port of Seattle parks in town are hidden gems awaiting discovery.

And last but not least...
The Farmer's Market at Pike Place Market is the longest continuously operating farmer's market in the US (1907). So speaking of the Pike Place Market...
My first visit to the market was in 1969, not long after my arrival in Washington State. What a delightful experience the Market was then and remains so now. The market is a destination unto itself. And our temporary abode was just four flights of outdoor stairs below the market. It was a fun experience hiking up to this unique landmark each day.
Pike Place Market overlooks the waterfront in downtown Seattle. Its a place of business for many small farmers, merchants, craft folks, street musicians and peddlers. Also known as the Public Market it remains one of Seattle's most popular destinations and sees 10 million visitors annually.
Built on the edge of a steep hill the Market consists of multiple levels located below the main street entrance. Each layer features a variety of unique shops and stalls. Antique dealers, family-owned cafes, pubs & restaurants and vendors of the unusual and sometimes arcane give a somewhat third world feel to this unique market.
One of our day visits to the Market was on a cold & blustery late January afternoon. It was fun to lose ourselves in the multi-layered depths of the Market and explore the unexpected shops we discovered. The pungent aromas of an Asian food noodle stand; the rich, visual treats of an African gift shop; the thick smell of fresh tobacco at a Middle Eastern vendors stall. At one point I was walking behind the girls on a lower level of the Market, passing an older Asian man I noted a distinct smell of spiced tea. I stopped and looked at the small cup held cradled in his hands while he savored the heat and nectar. He smiled and nodded to a near by tea shop. Soon all of my party shared in the sweet, hot spiced tea. Here is a nearly below ground musicial instrument vendor who encourages people to stop in and play the instruments, which are for sale.
Our visit to Seattle was not limited to the Market, but it looks like this blog posting will be. We took in the Travel Show where Catherine & Clementine staffed a booth for Stonerose; the Boat Show where we met a good friend and enjoyed touring several million dollar vessels; a fantastic Italian dinner Buca di Beppo restaurant (thank you Bret!); a dinner in Chinatown on the Chinese New Year; fresh seafood in many other venues; an intimate jazz cafe; coffee, coffee, coffee... and much more.
Seattle, a unique village in an unusual area with so many interesting points of note. We look forward to our next visit.
The above "Pepper Vendor" photograph by Catherine Brown all others by yours truly...

Seattle Facts
History of Seattle

Buca di Beppo Italian restaurant

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