22. The rain city

Canada is a place where my dreams come true. Earlier this month I had another dream coming true in a very unexpected way. I have always dreamed about visiting USA. I have dreamed about riding the Route 66, seeing Death Valley, the Grand Canyon, endless plains of Texas.

But quite unexpectedly I had a business trip in the far northwestern corner of the lower 48 – Seattle.

This was my first flight with our national carrier – Air Canada. And I was really disappointed! First, the plane. 4.5-hour flight from Toronto to Seattle was performed on a relatively small 120-seat Embraer aircraft. It is not a matter of size, but on such a long flight I would expect some comfort. The biggest disadvantage – it has only 1 toilet. So the lines were huge! It took over 30 minutes for some passengers to get in. Secondly, why there was no free snacks? Why they could not include some 10-dollar food? Of course it was available for purchase with a credit card, but honestly, it feels cheap. I did not feel like I was treated as a person who paid for the service. And the plane was dirty, I did not want to put my jacked in the overhead compartment.

On final approach to Seattle-Tacoma airport I was lucky to see this amazing picture.
On final approach to Seattle-Tacoma airport I was lucky to see this amazing picture.
You understand that this is an aviation city even before leaving the airport.
You understand that this is an aviation city even before leaving the airport.

Seattle started to amaze even before I landed. When the aircraft was approaching Seattle – Tacoma airport, it was flying by the Mount Ranier, a volcano and highest mountain in the Cascade Range, and the highest mount of state of Washington. Its summit is 4,392 m above the sea level. The view is spectacular. Also what felt different, is that Seattle feels 3-dimensional. Most of cities where I have been, lie on a relatively flat ground, but Seattle lies on hills, surrounded by mountains on ocean inlets.

IMG_0668
Typical street in Seattle Downtown.
Seattle is crowded with tourists
Seattle is crowded with tourists
Don't you think about a yellow taxi when you think about USA? I do!
Don’t you think about a yellow taxi when you think about USA? I do!

As I arrived on Sunday morning, I had half of a day to explore. I wish I could go outside of the city to see Washington’s amazing nature, but the time was limited and I did not have a car, so I went downtown with my colleagues for some food and sightseeing.

Hello Pacific Ocean!
Hello Pacific Ocean!

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What are the first things I that come to my mind when I think about Seattle? First – it is a birthplace of grunge rock, truly iconic bands like Nirvana and Alice in Chains call this place home; next – Boeing, they have assembly plants in the area; then the Space Needle. It is a truly iconic landmark of Seattle since it was built in 1962. So this was the first destination in Seattle for me. And it seems that I was not the only one with such idea – the line was huge! I was able to get in only 3 hours after I bought a ticket. But I must admit they organize it really well – the ticket has time when you can be allowed in and while  waiting you can explore nearby area.

It takes 41 seconds for elevator to get you 160 m meters above the ground. Up there there is a rotating restaurant and two observation decks! The first one is inside, you can look out through huge glass windows. The other is outside, like a huge balcony. I really liked it. It offers panoramic view of Seattle, you can easily see mountains on horizon, the Puget Sound, Lake Washington, and busy city life down below.

JpegOne cool thing is that there are machines that make automatic photos of you, and then you can download them for free from the website using client number on your ticket.

Automatic photo
Automatic photo
The outer observation deck
The outer observation deck
Screens inside the tower offer panoramic photos and time-lapse videos from outside cameras
Screens inside the tower offer panoramic photos and time-lapse videos from outside cameras
There is a screen counting number of visitors to the tower where you can add yourself. So I did. Igor, originally from Odessa, Ukraine.
There is a screen counting number of visitors to the tower where you can add yourself. So I did. Igor, originally from Odessa, Ukraine.

Most of my business trip I spent in the office in Bellevue, just outside of Seattle. It is a city with a lot of offices of big IT companies – Microsoft, Unity, Expedia, Valve and others. This city leaves mixed impression. On one hand, it looks very modern, wealthy and clean. But to me it felt very boring. I have found absolutely zero points of interest. Yes, there are some parks, botanical gardens, galleries. But nothing that caught my attention, unlike Seattle. And it seem like other people feel similar about it. To me it seems that the only leisure available is going to restaurants.  And they are really packed with people! Sometimes you need to wait for over an hour to get a table. And prices match that demand! (although I cannot say it is too expensive).

One of Microsoft buildings in Bellevue
One of Microsoft buildings in Bellevue
Chinese restaurant where all food is done by hand by those brave cooks. We had to wait over 2 hours to get in.
Chinese restaurant where all food is done by hand by those brave cooks. We had to wait over 2 hours to get in.

Other specific of the area is the weather. Seattle has only about 70 days of sunshine per year, while Montreal has over 200. Constantly grey skies and drizzle need some effort to adapt to. Although locals say it’s OK and they got used to it quite easily. They even joke that you can easily tell who is local and who is visiting Seattle – locals don’t carry umbrellas. 🙂

Typical day with grey skies and drizzle in Bellevue.
Typical day with grey skies and drizzle in Bellevue.

The state of Washington is indeed a very interesting place to visit. But next time I’ll spend a couple of days off-work there, get a car, and will go exploring amazing nature that this state has to offer.

Americans really love cars.I have seen an elder lady driving Ford F450 from a supermarket. But most of all I was impressed by this amazing DeLorean! Dream car for all Back to the Future fans.
Americans really love cars.I have seen an elder lady driving Ford F450 from a supermarket. But most of all I was impressed by this amazing DeLorean! Dream car for all Back to the Future fans.
Seattlers are very passionate sports fans. I was lucky to be able to see a game of Seattle Seahawks football team with a friend in a public place.
Seattlers are very passionate sports fans. I was lucky to be able to see a game of Seattle Seahawks football team with a friend and hundreds of fans in one of the best local breweries
Seattle at night
Seattle at night
There are direct flights to Alaska from Seattle. I wish I could change planes :)
There are direct flights to Alaska from Seattle. I wish I could change planes 🙂
Mount Ranier dominates city skyline
Mount Ranier dominates city skyline
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