A weekend in Seattle is just the thing for breaking out of a rut. A big difference in Seattle that I've noticed from other destinations is that people in public places will talk to you- a lot. The least trigger- a book, a shared observation, standing in a line, and someone will start a conversational river; everyone seems to be searching for something. I was standing in line for the Reykjavík Calling concert and started talking to the woman in line. She was there to meet a friend who had been instrumental in creating the Nordic Fashion Biennale! During the concert Kevin Cole came up to me and started talking about his Iceland connections. An older woman also began talking to me, she was there to see Ólöf Arnalds; both of her great grandparents immigrated from Iceland. Later, after the concert, I ran into a guy I had met in Iceland in 2009.
Random images and impressions:
Leifur Ericksson Statue, former Icelandic Unitarian Church, both in Ballard
The older parts of the city have narrow streets and small lots, giving Seattle an almost European feel at times. The districts- Capitol Hill, Fremont, University, Green Lake, Ballard and others, retain a small town feel. The explosion of good coffee-houses (Starbucks #1!), restaurants, bakeries and other "social" businesses reflect this:
"Pie" is everywhere- both fruit and meat, English Pub serving books and ale
Rather than demolish it, Seattle turned its old coal gasification plant into an art installation. The hilly terrain makes for meandering roads, picturesque to be sure, but not for the faint-of-heart driver. Lush parks invite hikers, and the various waterfront areas can turn anyone into a flânuer. I think even Lenin would succumb to the city's charms.
Gasworks parks, Authentic Soviet Lenin statue in Fremont
Pike Place Market has been a tourist draw for many years, it was on the verge of being destroyed in the late '60s. Yes, it is a tourist trap, but a vital one. The market's salvation spurred similar efforts throughout the city. There is enough turnover that a visit every three or four years finds dozens of new places of interest:
I mentioned Kevin Cole, the senior program director of KEXP. He came to Seattle from Minneapolis, where he had been part of the REV 105 experiment. When that station changed ownership he made his way west and oversaw the growth of what once had been a small university station into a national (and even international) media powerhouse. It is unstinting in its support of local music; its Iceland Airwaves endeavors are important not just for the festival itself but is also part of a conscious effort to make Seattle more of a world city. Seattle already had very strong ties with Japan and the Orient, the relatively short flight to Iceland opens it to all of Europe.
A "big leaf maple" leaf in Carkeek park, yours truly at KEXP