Friday, October 16, 2015

Seattle - the perfect mix of natural and urban landscapes

We visited Seattle in Oct 2015.

Moment of reflection in Mount Rainer National park

Downtown Seattle

Downtown Seattle looks very similar to NY: crowded streets surrounded by tall buildings on all sides. The only difference is that in Seattle - you will see a Starbucks in every corner.


For the uninitiated, Seattle is the birthplace of Starbucks.  Hence, the first Starbucks store (below) close to Pike Place Fish Market is actually a very popular tourist attraction here. From the inside, it looks very different from the Starbucks store layouts we are used to; however we can vouch that the coffee inside still tastes the same :)  It is still however very difficult to justify the sheer number of Starbucks stores in Seattle - there is practically one every few meters. It seemed like Starbucks is almost a "religion" for people living in Seattle.

Pike Place Fish Market

The Pike Place Fish Market near the harbor is also a popular touristic attraction in its own right. The locals come here for fresh fish and flowers.  This is the place you visit, when you get tired of the unending buildings and shopping malls.

For the tourists, it is is a scenic place close to the harbor with fantastic views, seafood, and of course Starbucks. Below is a night shot of the famous Seattle ferry wheel from the Fish market.

Seattle ferry wheel at night
Seattle colorful ferry wheel at night

And, below is another shot of the harbor at night.

Seattle waterfront night lights

We also tried an Indian restaurant called Daawat Grill close to the Washington State Convention Center, which we can absolutely recommend. It had a great lunch buffet at very decent prices.

Kerry Park

For people interested in photography, Kerry Park is an absolute must vist. The park by itself is nothing extraordinary, however its position and altitude provides the perfect location to click those classic shots of the Seattle skyline including the Space needle. Note that it can get a bit crowded at the park, so it is always better to go there a bit early to get a good spot. Don't forget your tripod to take those perfect night shots.

It is possible to reach Kerry Park by public transport from Seattle downtown. Look for buses to the Stop "Queen Anne Ave N & Ward St". From there, it is a 10-15 min (depending on how fit you are) uphill climb to Kerry Park. Incidentally, the same bus also stops at the 'Space Needle' in between, so it is a good option to cover both in a single evening.

Below is a sequence of clicks from Kerry Park  - as it gets progressively darker.

Seattle sunset panorama
Seattle panorama with Mount Rainier in the background
Seattle panorama at sunset
Classic Seattle night shot - Space Needle

Mount Rainier National Park

If you are a nature lover, and visiting Seattle, and have a free day in hand - a trip to the Mount Rainier National Park is an absolute must. There are many tour companies offering day trips from Seattle to Mount Rainier (and back). We booked the following tour: (link)

Talking to people on the tour, it almost seemed like people in Seattle were unhappy as all the "nature tourism" basically got diverted to nearby Alsaka. So, Seattle seemed almost like an afterthought for such tourists. We haven't visited Alaska yet [to be updated when we have visited Alaska :)], but we absolutely loved the Mount Rainier landscape.

Up on entering the park, there is a very scenic drive to the parking at the top.

Scenic pathways in the Mount Rainier National Reserve

Along they way, there are many viewpoints where you can stop to soak in the amazing landscape - not to forget some of most beautiful / colorful birds we have ever seen. The more prominent attractions include the Christine falls, Narada falls, and Reflection lake. As you can probably guess, the lake is so called as on a clear day with no wind, it should be possible to see a reflection of the mountain peak on the still (lake )water. Unfortunately, it was a bit windy the day we visited, and we missed this. Still, enjoy some pics below - hopefully, you will be luckier :)

Stunning Mount Rainier waterfalls
Christine falls
Majestic blue Stellar Jay
Reflection lake
Reflection lake

Below are a couple of pics of the tourist parking spot at the top. The parking is not huge, but it was not very crowded when we arrived - of course it might have been because it was almost towards the end of touristic season. Unfortunately, we learnt that there isn't any public transportation available from the nearby cities or lodging options. So you either need a car, or consider one of the tours operating out of Seattle to visit the Mount Rainier reserve.

There is also a small restaurant at the top offering hot food, e.g. pizzas, soup and bread, etc. The menu is not extensive, and the prices are on the higher side; however it is still a welcome option at that altitude.

Mount Rainier parking at the top
Mount Rainier parking spot at the top

The parking at the top is also the starting point for many short and long hiking trails, which you can try if you have time. There are amazing views of fountains and mountain peaks whichever way you go.

Hiking in the Mount Rainier National Reserve