Day 22: Saturday 27th
I woke today to my alarm at 7am, and shortly after Julienne enthusiastically bashing a pan was the result of my not leaping out of the tent - not welcome! nevertheless, I got up fairly quickly, did by stuff in the toilet and got on with the packing. I needed to repack my things into the new rucksack or I wouldn't be able to get everything off the van later, which took a few minutes, and wasn't a very good job. Nevertheless I was in plenty of time for breakfast and the orgy of cleaning which followed. I volunteered to clean up the plates, knives etc and count them, while Dean and Bruno attacked the van and Pat, Julienne, Cordi and Mayumi scrubbed all the pots and pans.
We were on the road a bit after 9am. The drive was mostly much the same sort of country we had already been through - mixed woodland valleys with occasional houses and towns. We stopped briefly in one of these towns to let Cordi make a phone call. We crossed a couple of bridges too; the first was very unusual in construction, with two high level metal bridges separated by a long central section which seemed solid.
We reached the ferry terminal on Bainbridge island for the trip across to Seattle with a few minutes to spare for the 11am crossing, and boarded the Tacoma, a fairly large ship launched in 1996. It was very comfortable inside, and when we started moving, very smooth. The ship surprised me a bit as it seemed to be going almost due south at first, but soon turned to cross the Strait and enter the port of Seattle. We arrived a little before 12pm at Seattle's ferry terminal, with a minor hickup as Mayumi and Julienne got so engrossed in watching Seattle from the passenger deck they nearly didn't make it to the van in time to get off!
Dean took us a little way along the wharfside to Pike Market, a "Farmer's Market" on Pike St where a wide variety of marine and vegetable food is sold, both raw and in restaurants. Many of the vegetables sold here are organically produced and much is made at some stores as to how recently they had been picked - as little as a few hours before in many cases. They certainly looked good, but I had no real cause to buy any of them.
The market is physically a multi-storey building looking much like a very large warehouse from the wharf, although when you walk up inside it is soon clear that in fact the market is build on a very steep hill, and each floor is only a few tens of feet deep. The market is also home to quite a number of tourist shops, selling jewelry, cards etc. Dean described the Market as a "must see", but apart from mild curiosity I wasn't that keep on it and when we reached the top (about 200ft above the wharf) and Dean suggested we meet back at the van later I soon wandered back to the bottom to explore the Aquarium, which was beside the wharf, on the way grabbing a very nice toasted BLT with a melon fruit salad from a street café.
It cost $7.50 to get in, and again I was a bit disappointed, mainly because many of the interior fish tanks looked very small for what they contained and the animals in them sometimes tatty. One huge tank - about 20 feet in diameter and 10 feet high - held a huge variety of tropical fish, with coral spikes and some very large pieces of rock to provide hiding places etc; sadly, none of the coral looked at all alive, in many places it was obviously broken, and my impression was that there were too many fish for the size of tank. It looked exactly as it was; a fish prison. Another small tank - about 5 ft square and three high - held two koi carp which must individually have been 2 feet long. They could hardly move, let alone swim around. A starfish exhibit was a tank with a vertical rock face in it; the tank here was about 10 ft wide and 8 high, and perhaps 2ft from front to face. In it there were a huge number of starfish - so many that in many places they were clambering over each other with no visible food sources.
Outside, things seemed a bit better, although I am not sure whether this was really the case. A number of "displays" had recreations of the environments found in surrounding shores. Again they were small, and I was unhappy to see a few snipe, birds which naturally live in huge flocks, caged into a fairly small area.
I left fairly soon, having failed to find anyone who might be able to explain these things, and returned outside to wait for the others to return to the van. When we were all together again, Dean took us on the quick trip to the Space Needle, a 600ft high tower on the north side of Seattle's Downtown area, with views over the downtown skyscrapers, the harbour and the freshwater lake to the North-East. It wasn't as impressive as the Stratosphere, but the views are very good and when we were here the views over the bay, with the sun glittering off the bay, were quite beautiful.
We were getting very close to the end of the tour now; Dean gave us a lightening tour of the city centre, which looked as if it had possibilities, and Pioneer Square, a district which extends beyond the original a square into the adjoining street. Dean told us the area was burned don a century or so ago and was rebuilt 12 feet higher; the original street level was retained and used originally by drug dealers and the like. It is now possible to tour round these underground ways, although we didn't have time. Now, on the surface Pioneer Square is the centre of the Seattle nightlife, and Dean encouraged us to return in the evening.
We reached the hotel at about 4.30pm, and as the tour didn't officially finish until 5pm Bruno suggested the group have a final drink at the bar. We went over to Danny's bar, which was empty but quite pleasant, and had coke or a beer; we talked a bit about the tour - which bits we had enjoyed best and so on - but it was subdued. I was tired, as Cordi and Pat were, and was already thinking of getting checked in ad repacking my things so i could rest for a while.
We left at 5, checked in and mostly split up. I first of all made sure of my shuttle booking for the morning at 4.30am and had a much needed shower. Pat and Cordi came over, and later I went round to Cordi and Mayumi's room to chat, but the group was already splitting up, and I spent most of the early evening in my room watching TV, once I had repacked my bags. I gave in to tiredness about 9pm and after setting my alarm was asleep about 10. Mayumi had gone into town to look around Pioneer Square and had said she would call when she got there but didn't til about 9.30; Bruno and Julienne had not turned up, and although she had had an interesting time it hadn't been the event she thought. In any case, I missed the last useful bus in and at $16 I didn't feel inclined to use a taxi.