In Seattle

It’s cold, rainy and even snowy in the Seattle area. We stay warm on our first day at the Museum of Pop Culture, learning about sci-fi, fantasy, music and more. We also see Heather at lunchtime, a friend I met during my trip in Asia. We meet her at the Pike Market. This historic market place is also where the original Starbucks coffee (1971) is, but we didn’t get in, the line was too long! We end the day in Ballard, a pretty neighborhood with a few bars and restaurants.

Next day we get up really early to keep a low profile where we slept on Mercer island. It’s sunny and we start the day around Pioneer Square, the old Seattle neighborhood. There’s two train stations next to each other from the time when competition was strong in the booming railroad industry. Like Chicago, Seattle has had a big fire at the end of the 18th century and rebuilt with better buildings and finer architecture. The waterfront is really touristy and has its ferris wheel. On Capitol Hill (Seattle was the state capital for a short time) the atmosphere is more progressive. There’s a luxurious Starbucks roastery, some breweries and gay clubs. A bus ride North West to Kerry park and we can enjoy a view of the Space Needle, the city and Mount Rainier in the background. Back in Belltown we sit down for a drink at Shorty’s, a small temple of pinball.

On a third day we go back to Pioneer square to do the underground tour. When we go underground we actually reach the original ground level of the city. When the pioneers arrived in the area from the mid-west they didn’t know how to built by the water. The tide was getting in the town! Then the fabulous invention of Mr Crapper arrived from England. The beautiful porcelain thrones that everyone was getting had to be hooked-up to a sewage system that was inexistant. So they built a wooden square pipe going from the hill (the residential area) to the sea via the CBD. Gravity was taking care of everyone’s business, but the tide was pushing it reverse and one day an unfortunate soul got a geyser out of their toilet. The issue was monumental when the big fire happened in 1889, giving everyone the opportunity to start fresh. The city wanted to built everything one level higher to avoid the tide and install a real sewage system, but it would take time and the businesses didn’t want to wait years before being able to construct their new buildings. So they both started building at the same time, when the ground was still hot from the fire. The buildings would be at ground level, and the streets a level higher. Buildings own their sidewalks, so picture this: a building, a sidewalk, a wall and an elevated street! To go across pedestrians had to climb a ladder and cross the road that had no sidewalk and sometimes no fence, resulting in many deaths. The sidewalks were getting all the rainwater and in Seattle in means a lot… To fix these new issues the sidewalks got covered and skylights were installed. The city told businesses to move their entrances to the new ground level, but not all businesses owned multiple levels and only if they could afford it they would build a staircase down. So things slowly moved to the new level, then came prohibition and the underground was the perfect place for illegal activities! When alcohol was legalized those activities moved upstairs and the underground became useless. In the 60s and 70s the old town Victorian buildings were replaced by car garages and a lot of the underground got lost. The tour company has been operating since back then and rents the preserved underground parts from the buildings.

After this fascinating tour we check out South Lake Union and Fremont before heading North.