Apologies for the late blog, we are currently going in and out of reception as we are in the deepest depths of the desert. (hows that alliteration!).
But first I must tell of our recent travels in Seattle & Portland.
We stayed in Seattle at the most beautiful place right on the water owned by two beautiful cats who share it with their human (the lovely Rain). We had many a wonderful dinner on her balcony (ok just two), which overlooks the bay and boats, with cats winding around our feet. Ah bliss.
We visited Pike Place Market, it was great fun and so much great food and coffee to sample!
(Aussies FYI the coffee has not compared to Sydney coffee - Im operating on a slightly lower scale here). Speaking of food, we had to keep up our fitness levels by running over the bridges and around the bays. Seattle is a wonderful place to run, and people are very active. As I ran over the bridge to university village, I saw paddle boarders, kayakers and loads of beautiful houseboats. It would be such a great place to live - except for the traffic. If you look at Seattle on a map, you’ll see its made up of a series of main streets which have bridges between the different islands so the traffic is extreme. Google, and Amazon have now moved a lot of operations here. So when you go to coffee shops you overhear conversations about new ventures, businesses and startups.. It has a very entrepreneurial spirit.
Whilst Seattle is the picture of a beautiful city, centred around many bays, great views and good food, we were really surprised at the number of homeless and mentally ill congregating right in the centre of town. Not just a couple here and there, but crowds of them, especially at the main bus station which was slightly disconcerting when waiting for public transport. Greg found it fascinating, and sad at once. This is clearly the consequence of having very limited public health & welfare to help care for the mentally ill.
We learnt about how Seattle became to be such a great city, after some bad beginnings. Originally it was built very close to the shore, so that when the tide came in (twice a day) the business district would flood! Not only that their sewage led directly into the bay as well. You can imagine.
A great fire that swept through the city allowed for them to rethink their planning a bit. So the city decided to rebuild everything a level above the original street - this was how the underground came to be.
Hilariously they couldn’t do it all at once, so they raised the streets first, which meant that streets were in line with second levels of the buildings, but the footpath was still on the ground level. The city, in it’s wisdom put ladders on all corners so you had to climb up to street level (1st floor) to cross the street by darting across, and then climb back down. There were no railings either - so a lot of deaths.
Finally they got footpaths built and kept the underground levels for shops too. They were later abandoned and thats where a lot of speakeasies operated.
Now you can view a couple and see old remnants on the Underground tour - its great!
You might ask as one guy from our tour did, “How did the city pay for all this rebuilding?” Well most of it came from the Sewing Machine Tax.
After doing a census the city realised they had a lot of sailors, and loggers. But a large number of women (around 2500) put down ’Seamstress’ as their occupation. It was quite odd, as Seattle was not a town known for its garment industry at the time. In fact the authorities didnt even know there was a garment industry. They sent some people to investigate and realised all the ’Seamstresses’ lived on one street, with not a single sewing machine in sight! I’ll leave it up to you, what that meant in a city of loggers and sailors.
Instead of throwing them out, the city decided that they could something better with all these ‘seamstresses’ and imposed a ‘Sewing Machine Tax’. $10 p/month per seamstress. And that was how the city was able to rebuild. Alcohol & the Sewing Machine Tax made up 90% of the rebuilding funds!!!
(See pic below of the 'Seamstresses').
Canadian authorities dictated that you had to carry enough supplies for a year to prevent starvation, and Seattle was the last USA stop. Overnight it became a mecca of stores, gambling dens, bars, theatres and more. You could buy anything, including a trail bike (for the ice!?), and ‘gold sniffing gophers’ !
The conditions were extreme. To get to Klondike, you had to sail for Skagway or Dyea in South east Alaska. Once there, Klondikers could follow either the Chilkoot or the White Pass trails walking up ice cliffs carrying around 1 tonne of supplies themselves, then they'd get to a little town and continue walking for weeks. It was incredible and the museum listed four different people whose stories you could follow. The most notable was John Nordstrom a swedish immigrant who had recently arrived in the US, like others he succumbed to Klondike Fever and went out there to find gold. Unlike many, he did strike gold, and came back to Seattle a rich man. With a friend he opened a tiny department store, which grew and grew, and today it is all over the US, called (of course) Nordstroms.
They had ducks, geese, rabbits, cats, chickens! We sat outside for dinner and watched the sunset over Puget Sound. Such a lovely place!
As we headed to Amtrak, we managed to get some of the greatest sushi outside of Japan at this little place called GABA Sushi. Gaba rice is sprouted rice and supposed to be good for you. All i can say is that the food was so tasty I didn’t care if it was bad for me!
We had a 4 hour Amtrak ride to Portland, thankfully free of delays, emergencies, and any problems!
At the station we were picked up by Greg’s friend, Kieran and his son Jakob who promptly decided he didn’t like daddies friends. (little did he realise we were going to stay with him for a couple of days!).
Both Kieran and Bernadette had studied with Greg at Sydney uni med school, which was partly why we decided to detour via Portland. Oddly on our travels a lot of people had been quite positive towards Portland and we were about to find out why….
We also visited BrewFest (oh the irony: I don’t drink beer and greg doesn’t drink period), and food trucks! Thats the Portland thing to do. Everything here is organic, farmed locally, free of GM and if you don’t believe me watch this skit from the youtube show Portlandia.
We visited the Lan Su, Chinese Gardens which I highly recommend, although the tour is…well do it at your own risk. The tour guide was like everyones Chinese mother, extolling the unique virtues of the Chinese culture - at length. I'd had experienced this before, so slipped out of the tour to explore on my own. ; ) (Dont think mum will read to this part anyway!).
We headed out of Portland by plane to California, and onto the last part of our USA trip - CALIFORNIA!
Till next time!