"The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough." ~ Rabindranath Tagore


A Seattle I Know

Suyash Sinha's travelogue on Seattle was among the 5 short-listed entries that contended for the winning prize. His descriptions of Seattle are vivid, rich and observant.

Wrapped in what seems to be a perpetual shroud of moisture laden clouds with streaks of sunshine not more than once a week, carved out with innumerable indentations along the Pacific inlet of Puget Sound - abundantly supplied with the famous Northwest Pacific Salmon, established at the supreme trading spot of two major Interstate Highways that scan the length and breadth of United States, sipping on cups after cups of some of the best brewed coffee beans in the world and with the grand old lady of the Space Needle decorating its not-so-high-rise skyline lies the amazing city of Seattle.

What strikes you most, from what the Seattleites call "a 20,000 foot view" on a sunny day, is the city's hour-glass figure, crisscrossed by the bewilderingly high speed interstates I-5 and I-90 - the former takes you from Canada to Mexico, the latter bridges across northwest and northeast United States.

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Thinking about the challenges of the balancing act of driving in these high-speed lanes you turn your gaze southwards. Covered with impeccable white snow and glistening in the huge valley of green - the 14,000 feet giant of an active volcano - Mt Rainier - unfolds to view. You sit back in awe and then, as you envisage the entire surrounding, you realize Seattle is so delicately positioned to be beautiful.

SeattleSeattleites have four seasons - "June", "July", "August" and "Rains". Despite being the "rainy bucket of the pacific northwest", Seattle is not soggy in spirits. You will be amazed to see its many faces going on with life as if rains never mattered. You can catch the old, half-bent man, a stick in his hand and the Seattle drizzle on his wrinkled face, holding out "stuff" to the seagulls, who come careening down in herds, from the swelling Puget Sound, to honor the seventy-eight years old relationship.

Summer is fantastic! Temperatures are around 26 degree Celsius - just around where they keep the five star hotel atmospheres in India. Day breaks early at this latitude - around 5 o' clock by the Daylight Saving Time - and the sun sets late - little after 9 o' clock. If you are the kind who like to go on long city walks - wake up early to get one of those cheap Waterfront parking lots where you could park your car for the whole day for about five to seven dollars (by afternoon, these rates go up to 5 dollars an hour - so much for the value of the dollar) or take the Seattle Metro bus service to the intersection of Yesler Way and Alaskan Way.

This intersection is pretty much where the restricted port area ends and the civil waterfront life begins. Take a leisurely north-westward stroll along the Alaskan Way pedestrian path, in a loose T-Shirt and shorts, keeping the Elliott Bay on your left and the I-5 on your right. Feel the moist, cool bay breeze flutter your T-shirt and slap the fabric on your skin in feather smacks and feel the warm sun caressing your skin. Watch the two seagulls swoosh past you and swoop down to catch the crab that was inadvertently thrown on the dark, green, slimy rocks by the waves. Hear the screams of sea-birds and merry yelling of the "tattoo-man".

As you walk past the Seattle-Bainbridge Island Ferry station on Piers 52 and 54 - you are awe-struck by the size of these ferries that carry hundreds of cars and more than a thousand passengers. And if one of them is just leaving or entering the station - you will be deafened by the sound of their blow-horns.

If you are a sea-food lover - there are dozens of places where you could hammer a crab or nibble at a lobster on the waterfront. Allow me to suggest "Ivar's Original Seafood Bar" at Pier 54, or the "Fisherman's Restaurant" at the Waterfront Park, or the "Steamer's Seafood Cafe".

Just where the Seneca Street meets the Alaskan Way - there is an inviting red terminal for "Argosy Cruises". If you want to take a look at the Seattle skyline - take a cruise down into the Elliott Bay on one Argosy's "Gourmet Lunch Cruises" - where they serve the best of Italian ravioli, Mediterranean falafels and Greek salad amidst the regular All-American burgers and sandwiches. Fill the mouth under your tongue with red Chianti and watch the sun glint on the fifty stories, Washington Mutual bank building's all-glass facade. While you are here don't miss the giant orange-red Pacific Octopus in the Seattle Aquarium even if that meant buying a nine dollar ticket - you wouldn't have seen anything like that before. Eeeeeeks!

If you are not energetic enough to take the arduous five mile walk along the waterfront - languish under the lush green canopies of Pioneer Square and watch the kids roller-skate and razor-scoot on its pavements - they scoot, they slip, they fall and they rise and scoot again - Seattleites in spirit.

Seattle and coffee are inseparable. It was here that Starbucks discovered the market for the "adrenalin-bean" and went on to become a multi-national chain of warmly lit, gaily painted and quality controlled coffee-shops where you can find coffee concoctions like frothy Frappuccino, creamy Cappuccino, dark-strong Lattes and sweet honey-like Mocha in sizes of "Tall", "Grande" and "Verdi". You could spend a whole rainy afternoon on one of the corner tables under a warm yellow light, sipping coffee and playing chess with another casual coffee-lover or you could lounge on the armchair by the Starbucks' fireplace reading a book. On a lovely summer day, sit outside on the characteristic green chairs under a huge green and white logo umbrella and watch the red and blue haired university students window-shopping Versace, Mont Blanc and Gucci.

Walking down the Broad Street at twilight and looking up at the yellow and orange lit Space Needle and IMAX's theatre with its 6-storey screen - the largest in the world; you begin to wonder how life would have been couple of centuries ago when Indian chieftains fought bloody battles with European settlers over the "gold rush" route to Alaska, how they came riding in a whirlwind of dust and hooves and scalped the white heads, and how they declared victory by shrieking to the sky with their blood-stained "tomahawks" whizzing above their heads. Just then your reverie is broken by the humming swoosh above your right shoulder - the Seattle Monorail just shot by!

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Editor: Romola Butalia       (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.