19.08.2014 - 22.08.2014 25 °C
From Victoria, I had a 7500 mile mission to accomplish in about three weeks. It started with a ferry. Again, I had a choice: take the Victoria Clipper
(which has a bit of a reputation as an inducer of vomit) to Seattle or a somewhat slower route on the more traditional ferry, the Coho.
I chose the latter, which took me directly south across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to a smallish town (19,000 people) to the north of the Olympic National Park, Port Angeles, in a couple of hours. This involved a border crossing into the USA, which was performed painlessly as I got on the ferry.
Although you wouldn't know it walking around, Port Angeles is the largest pre-historic Indian village and burial site in the USA: they started an ambitious development project about a decade ago and found the remains of hundreds of bodies, many who apparently died suddenly - the theory is they were hit by disease when they first encountered Europeans. Now, the town has a central business area running just a couple of blocks back from the harbour, although it sprawls away up the hill for a considerable distance. I know this, because I walked the 2 kilometres up to the rather pleasant and quite new library (why it is so far from town, I have no idea).
By the time I returned to town after a day's labour, town was pretty much dead. I walked around a bit to find somewhere to eat - although there were maybe half a dozen places open, only one had any people in it: the oddly named Next Door Gastropub (which I wanted to avoid purely on the basis of its name) was heaving. Luckily, I got the one spot going at the bar - they had a great selection of beers, so I settled in with a couple and a good burger and was very happy. A couple of guys next to me were geologists up from Colorado to do some work in the bush and we entertained each other for a fair while. Good times. I even got to stay in a very traditional sort of American hotel, the Downtown.
Once again the internet was wrong in telling me that the way to get to Seattle was on an expensive ($37) and rather small bus. When I asked the fellow in the hotel where to find it, he sent me to the public transit station, where I discovered that the various counties all run a sequence of public buses which sort of connected and would get me to Seattle. Sure, it was precisely two hours slower than the $37 alternative but (a) it cost me something like $5 and (b) the 2 hours were caused by a gap in the connections between the buses at a place called Port Townsend, which turned out to have perhaps the most perfect bus stop in the world so my 2 hours were very pleasurable. First, I found the Sunrise Coffee Roasters, a very cosy place to hang out. Just across the way was something even better - the Port Townsend Brewery Shop, which had about a dozen beers available in tasing glasses - I got through at least half. In between, if I had been hungry, there was a taco stand.
I am not at all sure why, but the only photos I took at this stage were as we crossed from one the mainland to an island. We crossed to another island and it was on to the Bainbridge ferry to Seattle, which took 30 minutes (just long enough for a beer, if you were lucky enough not to get stuck in the queue, which took 30 minutes to clear).
I actually had two visits to Seattle, and spent a total of four nights there, although two were in a Motel 6 near the airport. My plan had been to stay in a famous old hotel in the old downtown, the Panama but at the last minute my booking got cancelled, so I was in the hostel instead - a hostel I really didn't warm to. I didn't really see much locally I wanted to eat, so started walking, first around the neighbourhood and ultimately up as far as Pike Place Market. I saw a lot of buildings I liked, but I think my favourate of them all was the Seattle Public library (unfortunately, the one day I had to spend in Seattle, it was closed for a public holiday).
Merchants Cafe is the oldest continually operating restaurant in Seattle, but it looked so unwelcoming and basically had it that I was not even tempted to go in.
The market was closed (although I did get to see it on my second visit), but there are a couple of streets which are packed with various cafes and restaurants nearby - including the original Starbucks (which had a queue out the door and halfway down the street) and an equally popular place selling chowder. I settled on a French place, and saw some of the best customer service I have ever seen. As I knew, most of the hotels were full - there was a guy in the restaurant who had decided to leave it after dinner to arrange somewhere to stay. Then he settled in at the bar with his laptop to book a hotel: at least half an hour later, he was still looking. The restaurant people got themselves involved in helping him, and in about 5 minutes a bloke turned up in a full hotel doorkeep uniform to escort the fellow to his hotel.
When I did get to see the market, I had company as my brother had flown in to join me: we didn't really linger very long, as there were so many people and we had a plan. We wandered outside the market a bit, and were impressed by the bright colours in a mexican grocery shop. I was also impressed with a ginger beer shop, mainly because someone could open a shop just selling ginger beer, although there was some product diversity, as there were about 20 flavours, all of which were available on tap.
When I got back to Seattle, I had another night back in the unpleasant hostel and finally got to at least hang out in the Panama Hotel - it is a National Historic Landmark Building, because of its association with Japanese immigration to America a century ago. I didn't see it, but it has one of two remaining Japanese bathhouses in the USA in its basement. What I did see was its coffee shop, which has a collection of memorabilia and is quite a cool place to hang out. The building itself was unremarkable.