This summer I decided to spend every single penny I had in the world (including wiping out my overdraft limit and giving myself a good few months of soul-destroying credit card bills to contend with - past-me is never kind to future-me).
With only a month to go before the departure date, Michele and I booked onto the Trek America Canadian Roadtrip departing from Seattle and arriving in New York. We'd had a very difficult and painful six months beforehand (to put it extremely delicately) and were also aware that this might be our last opportunity to get away for a while with my PhD beginning in September.
We didn't have much time or headspace to plan so choosing something that was all pre-planned was exactly what we needed. We'd been hoping to visit Canada this summer anyway and I was feeling nostalgic for the trip we originally met on (another Trek America tour from San Francisco to Las Vegas via Yosemite, Bryce Canyon, Zion Canyon, Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon).
I graduated and a couple of days later, we packed our bags and left.
Flying over the coast of Greenland was incredible; it felt like looking out into space with the shards of ice creating swirling galaxies on the ocean.
We were incredibly lucky with our seats. We flew with British Airways and were sat right at the front of our section next to the toilet which is handy because I have a bladder capacity comparable to that of a mouse. It also meant that we had unlimited leg room and a handy little space to walk around in and stretch our legs without disturbing everyone else.
All the same, the jet lag was very, very real when we got there. I allowed myself an hour to nap during the flight so that I could get to sleep at a decent time when we arrived in Seattle. We dumped our bags in our hotel and then practically sleepwalked through the hot evening sun, looking for somewhere to eat a second dinner just outside of Seattle Tacoma airport.
Our brains were not up for making decisions so we headed into Denny's for burgers. Michele discovered the existence of coke floats for the first time in his life and he. was. horrified. Needless to say he did not order one of those!
We managed to crawl into bed at about 8pm and fell asleep almost instantly for a glorious 11 hour snooze. Meaning we were fresh and ready to explore Seattle the next morning! We jumped on the Light Link Rail from the airport and headed downtown, watching the landscape of fir trees and flat-pack houses zip by.
Now planning is not my strong point. I usually use one of two tactics:
a) Don't do any planning at all.
b) Read every single detail about every single place we could go (which usually involves reading all the menus for every restaurant in the vicinity) and then construct a manic timetable that would only be possible if we had a time machine and spend the entire day feeling stressed and not enjoying myself.
Our day in Seattle was of the former type. I didn't even google Seattle until that morning.
Nevertheless, we managed to stumble across Pike Place Market and see the famous flying fish and what is, in local folklore, the first Starbucks ever.
We headed onwards towards the Space Needle. If we'd actually looked into Seattle at all, we would have realised that 1st Avenue was probably the one to walk down but instead we wandered aimlessly down fairly empty streets. Every now and then we came across a cool piece of graffiti or a moody cafe bar full of men in plaid shirts and neon signs.
I attempted to blend into the birthplace of grunge in my old beaten up Converse and a dress from Boutique of Molly who very kindly offered me a discount on anything I liked in return for some photos of the clothes in action. I naturally found this hilarious because I am far from fashionable but I agreed because discount and I should probably start wearing something other than black leggings and the same three jumpers on rotation. I chose this dress with our day in Seattle in mind (so at least some planning occurred at some stage!)
Eventually we made it to the Space Park after following the Needle on the horizon. It was fairly empty - hardly anybody was around as we strolled aimlessly through the grounds.
We had no idea what to expect or where to go so we just circled the area for a little while. This is why it was 100% a good idea for us to go on a pre-organised tour because otherwise I think we may have just wandered across the continent without actually finding anything.
In the end, we decided to investigate the rather intriguing EMP museum. It's dedicated to pop culture with sections on the Seattle Seahawks, Nirvana, Jimi Hendrix, fantasy, sci-fi, horror and video games.
Yes, it was an incredibly nerdy choice. I wasn't expecting to enjoy it as much as I did and we ended up spending almost the entire day in there!
The finest photography ever^. Feel pretty sorry for the guy getting a noseful of arm.
It turns out drums are not my natural calling.
Most exciting for me (aside from the excellent grilled cheese in the cafe) were the exhibitions dedicated to sci-fi, fantasy and horror. There were so many artefacts from films and series I had actually heard of and seen!
Afterwards, we rested our aching legs on the grass outside. Apparently the museum was designed to look like a melting guitar... I'm not so sure.
Continuing with the theme of sitting down, we got on a Duck tour - you know, the yellow boat/bus things that I'm pretty sure are banned in the UK now after one of them set on fire. We paid and then got in the queue to wait. We were quickly joined by hoards of children, all with duck whistles that were being used a little too much. I began to panic that we'd just paid however many dollars to have our eardrums slowly shredded over the course of an hour but luckily they seemed to split the buses into different target groups as everyone on our bus was a little older.
Our driver, Barry, was hilarious and had so many stories to tell us about the city, pointing out many important landmarks and sights such as the indoor gardening centre where everyone in Seattle buys their "tomato gardening supplies"...
The water part of the tour took place on Lake Union which gave us a brilliant view of the famous skyline.
Our next plan was to head up the Space Needle but we hadn't realised you need to prebook a slot (again, it pays to plan..) so that was that. Instead we took another aimless ramble in the general direction of the waterfront and shops we'd seen from the Duck tour.
I kind of remember what summer was like, don't you?
Finally, the benefits of aimlessly wandering paid off and we came across an excellent little eatery called the Black Bottle. It had just the right amount of hipster vibes coming from its bare brick walls and filament bulbs and besides there were lots of beautiful people lounging about eating broccoli. Perfect for us, knowing that we had about three weeks of camp food and gas station snacks up ahead of us!
We shared the "blasted" broccoli (which had a strong, savoury flavour) and some flatbread whilst Michele had the flash-fried octopus and I had the halloumi with dates and peppers. It was all surprisingly filling but I still managed a cacao nib mousse with chilli brittle and two cocktails.
It was a beautiful and sumptuous find.
In a bit of a daze (that jet lag hadn't let us off the hook completely) we ambled back towards the Light Link Rail, past more neon signs, bars, men in plaid shirts (and a few random steps in the middle of the pavement?)
I pretty much slept the entire way back to the hotel.