Seattle, 5 October 2016, 11pm
What a day!!! Remember me saying I wasn’t euphoric? Well, scrap all that! It’s Seattle, baby, and it took me by the balls and reminded me why I love it so much.
But let’s start at the beginning. After plenty of sleep, I gobbled down some toast and headed off to see the Arboretum up in a more northern part of town (though not literally the north, more right bang in the middle). The predicted and earlier detected grey skies had cleared and it was nice and sunny outside. I could have done with some sunscreen, to be honest. But hey ho, I’d packed the brolly instead. Something tells me, though, I might have use for it sooner or later. Anyway, on my stroll to the Columbia City lightrail station, I tanked up the sun and checked out the neighbourhood. It’s a great part of town!
A short train ride – that now extends to Capitol Hill and U-Dub (that’s the University of Washington for everyone who hasn’t watched ‘Singles‘) – and I was standing in front of the Husky Stadium, which appropriately sported the name ‘Alaska Airlines Field’ and confused the living daylight out of me. A perfect opportunity to hit on some random local and, voilà, not only was I assured that I was in the right place, but also walked away with the knowledge that the roof of the stadium had collapsed the first time they’d built it. I just love it when locals tell me tidbits of their city!
It took me about 15 minutes to walk to the Arboretum, crossing Montlake Bridge, which has pretty views. You’d think that being in Seattle must mean concrete, steel and glass but today’s trip showed me that there’s much more to this versatile place. I grant you the traffic noise is never too far from your ears but you can easily forget you’re in a massive metropolis when you stroll the paths of its big parks and woodlands on a sunny Wednesday afternoon.
The Arboretum is an area of forest and water trails that stretches over 230 acre between Montlake and Madinson Park. Montlake itself is pretty too, by the way, a decidedly posh area with big villas and beautiful gardens. But the Arboretum is just something else! After I’d first turned north to check out the shore line of Union Bay and the waterfront trail, I walked back and discovered a labyrinth of countless paths slithering through the woods, crossing little bridges and leading up to hidden ornaments – or, in my case, a quarrelling couple behind the bushes. I also came across a half-naked, running muscle man in bright pink shorts who some might have found alluring. 😉
I could have lingered the whole day! Alas, I’d left Columbia City quite late and that really bit me in the bumster at this point. If you want to explore all of the Arboretum, you’ll probably need most of the day. I’d also take some water and sandwiches with me, if I went again. I didn’t come across any shops between the trees. Given the time and that I was planning to also visit Volunteer Park, I chose the 1-mile Lookout Loop Trail but there are many more of these loops and much more to discover.
I hadn’t walked far when I bumped into a guy with a bike who casually remarked on something about the park. One led to another and we were deep in conversation about politics, philosophy and cultural differences between Europeans and US peeps. Bloody hell! It’s just like Seattle to make me bump into someone I immediately click with. Turns out John, though originally from New York, had been living in Seattle since the mid-80s and loved it as much as I do. He had so many stories and facts to tell, it would take me a whole book to write them all down. When I told him that I also wanted to check out Volunteer Park, he offered to show me the easiest way out of the Arboretum, and by the time we found the exit, we were so deep in conversation, he decided to walk the rest of the way with me. All in all, we must have had a two-hour chat by the time we said goodbye.
After climbing up the (Capitol) hill via yet another forest-y (Interlaken) park, John left me on the top of Volunteer Park, just outside the Asian Art Museum. At this point, the sun was about to set and the views over Seattle were breathtaking. I ran up the 107 (I counted) steps of the Water Tower and just about caught the sunset over the islands with the mountains in the back and the Space Needle providing the perfect foreground. Wowzer! What a trip!
It was getting dark, so I walked down to the South Lake Union streetcar station, as I had planned. Somewhere I’d read that these streetcars resembled the ones in San Francisco and I was looking forward to hitching a ride. But whoever wrote that piece of info really hadn’t done their research. The South Lake Union streetcar is just a tram. A modern one at that. Really nothing special and at the moment it only goes down Westlake, so actually quite an expensive ride at $2.25. But I say it’s a good thing Seattle has a tram at last and with time it will spread out and turn into an important part of public transport, I’m sure.
Nevertheless, I jumped on the trolley and got into talking to a guy who’d been homeless most of his adult life and was starting afresh here in Seattle. He was originally from Oklahoma and had slept rough all over the States, but in Seattle he’d finally found support and just started his studies to become an electrician. He was real fun! I was laughing the whole way down to 3rd Avenue. Bless, he even showed me the way to the local supermarket there, so I could do some grocery shopping before heading back to Columbia City.
So, yay, what a day! I basically spent it running around various parks and, most importantly, made new friends and had meaningful conversations. Once again, Seattle has taken me in and made me feel like this is the best place on earth!