Before boarding the plane, my greatest fear became reality. The horror stories I had heard came rushing back with 6 simple words, “That’s too big for carry-on”. I had hoped to squeeze it into the over head bins, but it didn’t quite fit. So, I shouldered my messenger bag (read: Oversized Man Purse) and put a tag on my wheeled luggage, expecting to never see it again.
I’m heading to Seattle to accept an award on behalf of York Technical College; all alone for 5 days in a city of 500,000 without knowing a soul. I’m only supposed to be in town for 3 days during which the college will cover the costs, but I convinced them to send me out 2 days early and I would pay my way for those 2 days. Since I am a college student, I booked a room at the Green Tortoise Hostel right in the heart of down town Seattle since it’s only $30 a night.
Flying from Charlotte to Seattle took 7 hours, and the first 5 hours were mind numbing. Then snowy mountains started popping up everywhere, complete with frozen lakes, and I went into full on tourist mode with my nose pressed against the window. The main show was the Cascades; they were incredible from 38,000 ft, and when the pilot dropped down to 16,000, they just got all the more impressive. This was my first experience with big mountains, and I finally realized why the mountains can leave you breathless.
I ran off the plane in Seattle, partly to get to baggage claim and start worrying whether my checked bag followed me 3000 miles, and because stuffing a 6’3” frame, 35” inseam person in airplane seats is just cruel and unusual. Baggage claim was actually right on time, my stuff was easily found, and still in one piece. Much better than what I expected which involved it being somehow strapped to a camel in Vegas and being hoofed to me. Grabbing my bags, I ran down to the Light Rail station and just caught the train heading downtown.
Going through every single station to get to Westlake (downtown), I started getting a feel for Seattle. People were concerned about fashion, and by the time I reached downtown, I felt under dressed to say the least. Granted, all the gay men who looked at my flip flops and laughed didn’t help either. EVERYONE downtown dresses like an article from GQ and Cosmo. My simple flips, jeans, and t-shirt combo is unique at least; everyone else is rocking designer denim rolled at the cuffs, with blazers, and fedoras or a preppy (for lack of a better word) hat.
Finally getting off the rail, I walked out of the station to find a brand new Mountain Hardwear Anchor store that had just opened along with several other outdoor stores nearby; welcome to mecca Cam. It took me about 20 minutes to find the hostel after walking right past it. 3 times. That’s ok though; I got to see Gum Alley, the Fish Market, and some of the wharf. I don’t remember a lot from that first walk around though; I’m sketchy on details because I was lugging around 2 bags, 12 hours of food-less frustration, and a jet-lagged body. I finally find the Green Tortoise Hostel, and it’s pretty much the sweetest setup I can imagine for a hostel. Each bunk has curtains, 4 power outlets, and a fan. All the bathrooms are immaculate with full showers, and the common area is the kind of hipster decor you’d expect from Seattle.
After signing in and passing the Japanese guests, I threw all of my stuff in a locker and asked the English guy who’s sharing a room with me where to go eat. He just got in so he didn’t know, so I decided to wander. As I walked out the door, there was a Subway right across the street; I know. I’m 3000 miles from home, and the first place I ate at in Seattle was a Subway. I was hungry, it was cheap, and it was 20ft from my hostel; sue me. After that, I just walked around the block to get a feel for the place and went back to the hostel to crash. Jet lag isn’t kind.
But jet lag can be nice sometimes; feeling like I slept in to 9am, I woke up at 6am Seattle time. I crawled out of my bunk and pulled together my bag with my laptop and camera and went downstairs to grab some breakfast. Oranges and bananas in hand, I was out the door and began wandering around downtown taking pictures of the wharf and the streets. Unknowingly, I stepped into the original Starbucks so I had to buy a cup of coffee, and then went next door to the French Bakery and grabbed a croissant aux fruit (apple). The bread was good, the apple was delicious, and the cream cheese used to hold it all together was so good I forgot about the bread and the apple.
After taking my fill of Pikes Place market, I headed back to the hostel to plan the rest of my day. Google Maps helped me hand-draw a map to the Fremont section of Seattle, and taking a look online, I figured I could catch a bus instead of walking if I ran out the door. So with my bag, I jumped on the bus and went across the Fremont Bridge to visit the giant troll. Underneath the overpass, the city built a concrete troll 15ft tall and 40 feet wide. From there I headed to the waters edge to see some of the sail boats when I noticed the draw bridge just down the way where I could sit. Getting hungry, I wandered back to near where I started to the Blue Moon Burger Cafe and quickly snarfed down one of their lamb burgers with feta cheese which was scrumptous to say the least.
Heading back from Fremont, I decided to walk all the way back to the hostel and stop at the best overlook in Seattle, Kerry Park. Now, to get to Kerry Park, I had to climb what I like to call Gosh-Awful Hill. Gosh-Awful is rather steep, rather long, and the fact I was in desperate need of a restroom didn’t help matters either. Interesting fact about Seattle: I’ve been here for about 36 hours and I still have yet to see a gas station, so the availability of bathrooms is a problem. This also made Starbucks “A coffee shop on every corner” business model something I could get behind; today, that Starbucks at the top of the hill was sent from heaven.
After trekking to Kerry Park to see the sights, then hiking back to the hostel (7 miles of walking), I went out for sushi. I’d just like to say that Umi Sake House was the single best sushi experience I’ve ever had. I was filled to bursting off of 3 rolls that had pieces bigger then silver dollars. And, with the happy hour prices, the cost of my meal was only $20.
Stomach filled to explosion level, I went down to a pier to watch the sunset over the Cascades and to take some pictures. I sat at the end of the pier and watched the view when I heard guitars playing behind me. 2 guys were walking down the pier, playing as they went. They sat down behind me, and while playing, I asked if I could take some pictures. They ended up sitting there for about 30 minutes, and we chatted between sets. It’s amazing how homesick you can feel when 2 guys who sound like a mix of Death Cab for Cutie and the Avett Brothers are playing in the background as the sun sets over the Cascades. It was picture perfect…..I just didn’t have anyone to share it with. But, being by myself, I don’t mind just talking to people. Throwing myself out there a little more because I don’t have to wait on anyone else, and they in turn don’t have to wait on me, is the freedom of traveling alone.