Friday, 17 October 2008

Sleeveless in Seattle

I was very sad to leave Seattle on Wednesday. I spent a week and a half there and I think I fell in love with the city a little bit. I can’t really put my finger on what it was about it that I liked so much. It wasn’t anything obvious – It is a city of more subtle charms.

It has a kind of crispness and cleanness that the places I’ve been to in California don’t really have. I’ve been told that this is even more so in the spring. The landscape in the Pacific Northwest is amazing. Huge trees everywhere and there is this huge dormant volcano called Mount Ranier looking down on the area. It’s really nice up there.

Whilst I was in Seattle, I developed a bit of a daily circuit. Early lunch at Mae Phim, a really good Thai place that does great lunches for about $6-$7. Then, after a browse around Pike Place Market, maybe buying a little bit of food for the rabbits, on to the Crumpet Shop, where you can drink as much tea as you like for $1.55. Like a parched man who had found an oasis in the desert, I think one day I had ten cups.

Then later, after perhaps wandering the streets a little, or going to an art gallery, on to a great cosy coffee shop like Bauhaus Books and Coffee in Capitol Hill. Or perhaps the internet café Uncle Elizabeth’s, where they do great tuna melt sandwiches. And the coffee, wow it was good!

It’s a very cultural city, there’s always a lot going on and it’s very compact too, so it is easy to get to lots of different places. Public transport is pretty good as well. I never got to Portland or Vancouver, but I visited Tacoma and Olympia, both of which have their charms in different ways and both of which I’ve mentioned already.

The only thing I’m not missing about Seattle is the weather. When I started this trip I wasn’t even sure if I was going to go that far north, so I packed clothes for California. It meant that when I got up there, I was extremely under-dressed for the, at times, somewhat inclement conditions. My bootleg LA Dodgers hoodie certainly got a lot of wear. It was a shame that the Dodgers themselves couldn’t quite make the World Series, losing 4-1 to Philadelphia in the semis.

So now here I am back in San Francisco for the third time. This time I am staying in a hostel in Chinatown, which is one of my favourite districts. It is right next to North Beach (the Italian area), another of my favourites. It’s quite a small hostel and each of the beds is named after a famous person from San Francisco’s history. I was introduced to my bed with the following line “You are in Lilly Coit, as were half the fire fighters of San Francisco in the late 19th Century!”

I was intrigued by a flyer on the wall of the hostel.

CHEAPEST SKY DIVING IN CALIFORNIA

Now I’m a man who likes to watch his pennies, but when it comes to certain things, I think it is better not to try to economise. Sky Diving is definitely top of my list, along with plastic surgery and custard. Trust me folks, cheap own brand custard isn’t worth even bothering with.

I think if I want to try sky diving, I’d probably spend an extra few dollars, rather than going with the Poundstretcher option. I wouldn’t really want to be freefalling and find out my parachute was made of newspaper or something like that…

Today I went to City Lights bookstore, which was very cool - Hundreds of books about all the beat writers and the whole movement. I spent about an hour reading a fantastic self-produced booklet about the street art scene in Buenos Aires – It made me want to go to Argentina!

I feel like my trip is pretty much over. Tomorrow I fly to Vegas for the last leg. In my mind though, it doesn’t really count, because Vegas is not entirely real and full of sick degenerate gamblers. Me included.

So now I’m sitting and reflecting in a café in North Beach, San Francisco. I’m listening to Devotchka, drinking iced coffee and watching the cable cars go past outside the window.

Even though my trip is ending soon, I feel really happy. I feel very alive and open to possibility, to adventure and to life.

It’s a nice feeling.

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