The Pike Markets
Seattle Travel Blog› entry 5 of 13 › view all entries
The Green Tortoise Hostel is everything a backpacker could hope for. A large warm airy bedroom with bench space and a sink. A kitchen with 4 commercial stove tops, two commercial glass doored fridges, clean functioning showers and separate toilets. The free breakfast!!!! From 6.00am to 9.30am you can collect fruit ( apples, oranges, bananas rockmelon), eggs and bread and head into the kitchen. There is a large urn of fresh coffee, an electric waffle iron and a huge bowl of batter for the waffles. The internet is free too and they have 5 computers.
Off to the nearby Pike Markets. I had seen the famous fish throwers on a training video my work place had shown to show how to make the workplace more fun and increase your turnover too! The fish shop has an amazing stack of fish layered in ice in a wonderful display .
Spring is happening and pussy willow, catkins, cyclamons and spring flowers are in buckets at the flower stalls. Tussy mussys with dried lavender and pussy willow are being sold. The air is cold and fresh and people are rugged up. We have Gumbo, corn bread and sweet potato pie at a Soul Food diner.
We ride the free waterfront bus and eventually end up in Pioneer Square and take the last underground tour of the day. If you can spare an hour and a half do this experience. The two guys that present the tour have to be the best deadpan comedians I have ever encountered. While telling the amazing story of how Seattle came to have a part of it's downtown streets underneath the sidewalks you walk with them through three areas. At one stage our guide told us to look out for rats as they have started to appear there and on the last tour a lady spotted one.
Walking back to the hostel in the darkening streets we pass a chocolate factory with a huge window display of toffee apples of every imaginable decoration. Green apples with bright red toffee, with chopped nuts, with coconut.
Next day we walk to the Experience Music Project as the monorail is out of service. Spend at least 5 hours in this amazing building learning all about Jimmi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, view a collection of guitars that give a timeline of their development of this instrument. Play on the drums in the studios where one can make a CD of your musical talents.
Our last day in Seattle (13th February) and we pack and stow our luggage in the Green Tortoise's free lock up. Take a ferry to Bainbrigge Island but it is a bit overcast. Bainbrigge is a quiet little island with shops with a lot of flair.
We pick up our gear and go to the Amtrak station and catch a coach to Vancouver at 6pm. We miss the scenery as it is now dark. After a couple of hours we reach the Canadian border and go through customs. About 30 mins later we come intoVancouver and see lights stretching into the moutains marking out ski-ing areas. It's a short ride to our next hostel by taxi arriving at about 9.45pm.
On board the Starlight Express from Los Angeles we quietly settle into the coach class. A passenger in front of us enquires about an upgrade to a sleeper car as he has heard that this can be done if there are spares for a greatly reduced price. There are plenty and they get their upgrade once we get to Sacremento and all other passengers have boarded. The sleeper costs about $110 less than the regular price and for this the couple get breakfast, lunch and dinner. We decide that we can sleep quite comfortably in coach class but might consider this when we do our 40 hour trip later in our travels.
As it dawns I see we are following a clean sparkling river and we have climbed quite high. Glimpses of snow begin to appear under the pines and cedars and suddenly we see huge snow capped mountains in the Cascade Ranges, I think. Mt Shasta is the largest in this part of the ranges at about 16,500 feet. We creep through forrests of bare branched, winter trees and see Mossback Falls, not seen in Summer when the leaves are in full leaf. It is like a gigantic lace tablecloth spread over a near vertical moss covered cliff. Onwards through open, snow covered plains and Grass Lake. It is a shallow lake with grass poking up through the ice. Eventually we make our way down from this mountain range and pass through 22 small tunnels.
By the time we reach Eugene we are now 5 hours behind schedule. I ring the Green Tortoise in Seattle to see if someone will be on the desk at around 1.30am to check us in. There will be. At the station the cheerful taxi driver tells us that it has been getting in at 5am of late. If you dont have to be anywhere in a hurry or on time then the Starlight Express is the way to go with the most beautiful scenery to watch.