I was on the train from Portland to Seattle. While swishing past SeaTac, the sky outside my window looked gloomy and dark. According to forecasts, the rains would make a stop in Seattle as well. Shuddering within myself, I looked up the current temperature, and gulped several times as I realised I might not be able to handle 11 degrees. It would be the first time I visited an unfamiliar city and would have to find my own way to my host’s place. And I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of having to do all that and shivering in the cold at the same time.
By the time the train halted at the Kings Cross station in Seattle, the temperature had risen to 13 degrees, which was still cold for me. Wondering what to do, I left the train, and making sure to get some photographs of the wonderful Amtrak Cascades, walked into the warmth of the station. Despite being indoors, the cold stung at my skin, and as I pulled my sweater closer to myself, my insides squirmed in cold and hunger. Swallowing hard, and wishing I didn’t have to do it, I plunged myself outside the great doors, onto the street. The chilly breeze slapped my face, and the mild sun was far from comforting.
It was around 12:30 in the afternoon, and my host wouldn’t expect me until 5:00 pm. Besides, I reasoned, my host lived so far away from Downtown Seattle that I didn’t want to come back into town the next day. So I decided to set my discomfort aside and experience what I’d arrived in Seattle for. The last thing I wanted was to stay in the same place feeling miserable and cold. I may as well have a look around while at it, I concluded. With my map for visual guidance and my host’s directions for assurance, I followed the route to Alascan Way, the road along the sea line.
As soon as I entered the bustling streets, I understood what made Seattle so romantic to visitors. Not only was the city full of towering buildings, it also teemed with excited life. During the three weeks I’d stayed in Pleasanton, although I saw a lot of high-rise buildings, I almost saw no excitement on the streets. People went about their daily business, smiling and welcoming but it was nothing more than respectful behaviour. San Francisco, on the other hand, had been overwhelming with so full of people and so much energy.
Seattle, however, was a delicate balance between the two. It was a pleasant experience walking along the footpath, turning my head this way and that, eager to catch everything within my visual range and cautious of missing nothing. Within ten minutes on the street, I grew accustomed to the weather. The cold no longer bothered me, and the breeze felt easy on my face. Surprised myself, I pulled my hands from within my pockets and I didn’t even feel like ice shards were stabbing me. I smiled. Perhaps this wouldn’t be such a bad day, after all. And sure enough, I soon realised that almost everyone on the streets of Seattle wore light jackets and sweaters—I fitted right in with the locals.
Getting on the Alaskan way, I found my way to the waterfront. The moment I stepped onto the path, I saw the ocean in front of me and a host of excitement a little further. A range of restaurants, delis, shops, and people hung around the area. It was as I if I’d entered a massive, yet horizontal, carnival space. Large wooden buildings hoarded rental boats, offering ferry rides, sightseeing tours, and assuring personal guides. I stepped onto a ledge-like structure that extended into sea. Standing on the ledge, I looked around and saw boats setting out into the sea, pelicans taking off, birds soaring in the distance, and the sea, a calm and glittering sheen under a mere sun.
Continuing down the path, the gigantic Ferris wheel of Seattle came into my view. Although a national monument by itself, the Great Wheel is far less recognised than the iconic Space Needle. I hadn’t realised how magnificent it was until I saw the wheel right in front of me. I’d always imagined the Needle as the only extraordinary piece of architecture in Seattle. Oh, how glad I am to be wrong about that. I didn’t get too close to the wheel, but from where I stood, it held my attention long enough for me to preach myself never again to judge anything or anyone too soon.
The entire path—the Waterfront Park—was a tourist magnet. So many people stood around, taking photos, gawking at the sea, and dropping jaws at the sights. Regardless of the tourists, I never felt, even for a moment, uncomfortable or distressed. There was so much space for all of us that we could be our own stupid touristy self without disturbing the next tourist. Coming from an over-populated country and city, I enjoyed being a part of the waterfront atmosphere, going with the flow, and being just another person on the street.
When I’d seen all that I had to see at the Waterfront Park, the path turned right. And when I looked to my right, I saw a flight of stairs leading to the a place I’d been looking forward to: The Pike Place Market.
Seattle was just beginning to thrill me.