The Northwest offers a myriad of mountains, ocean waters and great cities. Seattle is one of the premier cities, located along Elliot Bay, within sight of the Olympic Mountains. It’s an interesting place to explore before ferrying to Victoria, British Columbia. location of the famed empress Hotel and its daily offering of High Tea.
Planners of the 1962 World’s Fair knew what they were doing when they selected Seattle, Washington, as the fair’s location. And
remnants of the fair–the Space Needle and the Monorail, remain as popular travel destinations still today. Some good news: you won’t need to rent a car to tour this region–not even to get to Vancouver Island. The area can be traversed best on foot or by ferry.
Fly into Seattle’s Sea Tac Airport, grab your luggage, and walk a short distance to the light rail kiosk. For $2.75 per traveler in your group, you can board the modern light rail and have a quick, comfortable ride with plenty of space to tow along your suitcase. get off at the West Lake Station (the last station on the light rail) and walk four or five blocks to the Pensione Nichols, a quaint bed and breakfast on first Avenue, just up the hill from Pike Market–you know, the place where hawkers offer stalls of fish, flowers, and whatever. (There are several downtown hotels, it that’s your thing). We preferred the coziness of the Pensione Nichols and the tasty breakfasts served by proprietor Lindsey. We also enjoyed chatting with guests form around the world in the B & B’s common room: a British doctor in Seattle for a conference on prioritizing her nation’s health care costs, two Norwegian female marine biologists vacationing for the first time in the Northwest, a family from Denver who had ties to central Iowa, and a young woman who’d kissed a baby whale in Baja.
From your downtown location, you are within easy walking distance of major Seattle attractions. Besides the Pike Place Market, you can take a short walk to the waterfront, and catch the Argosy boat tour of Elliot Bay.
The captain gives you an interesting narration of the history of the region as well as detailed descriptions of the prime Seattle high rises and landmarks. In one hour, you can get a pretty good overview of the city. You’re sure to see some large stack-barges pass you on their way to get unloaded; or, maybe you’ll see one or more ferry boats that traverse back and forth across Elliot Bay transporting locals and tourists.
Another place within easy walking distance, is Pioneer Square. Back in the turn of the century, Seattle was at a lower sea level. A fire burned down the wooden downtown buildings and the enterprising citizens rebuilt Seattle with brick buildings at a higher elevation. Tour guides show you the original level of Seattle which has been preserved via an underground tunnel system. You’ll find the animated tour guides give you more than you money’s worth.
Seattle’s Pacific coast location has welcomed many Pacific immigrants. A slightly longer walk (but easily do-able on foot) is a trek to the International District. You’ll want to spend an hour or so at the Uwajimaya Village. It’s huge–occupying almost a square block–and is filled with Asian goods for sale. Also in the district, is Seattle’s best bakery, A Piece of Cake. The cakes are artistically decorated and you can buy an individual slice to eat on the premises.
Yes, the Space Needle is well-worth your time. Lines move quickly to purchase tickets and it’s only a short waiat until an elevator whisks you up to the top of the needle where you’ll have a spectacular view of Seattle. The trip up takes you only 42 seconds. Of course, you can eat a meal there in addition to taking in the view. The Monorail, built specifically for the World’s Fair will take you back downtown (West Lake Station) for just $2.50.
You’ll save so much money on transportation, that you can afford to indulge in some of Seattle’s great cuisine. Try Le Pichet for a tasty French dinner; casual dress is welcomed. The Seatown Restaurant offers diverse entrees, but features fresh seafood with zesty seasonings. Numerous coffee shops and downtown restaurants dot the city. You’ll want to purchase a cup of coffee at Starbuck’s original shop, right across from the Pike Market.
A thirty minute ferry ride takes you to Bainbridge Island, an island full of unique shops and restaurants. Adjacent to the downtown district, is the local historical museum which featured a photography exhibit by Ansel Adams. His photos taken of Japanese-americans interned in California during World War II, is a graphic reminder of the civil injustice that this group of americans endured when forced to evacuate Bainbridge Island during the war.
Seattle is a great city, but you’ll want to allow time to visit Victoria, Canada, a three-hour ferry ride north. Take your passport and you’ll see a city that trumps Seattle in scenery and shopping. Before you leave for Vancouver Island, give the Empress Hotel in Victoria a phone call and sign up for a package deal. they offer great deals that combine ferry travel (The Victoria Clipper) to/from Victoria, bus transportation to Butchart Gardens, High Tea at the Empress, and one night’s lodging at the exotic Empress Hotel.
No words can adequately describe the beauty of the Butchart Gardens.
The rainforest climate, careful tending, and expert horticultural designing, are key contributors to the beautiful gardens. Visitors weave through various themed gardens to see beds of flowers surrounded by natural trees and waters. A spectacular moving fountain criss-crosses sprays sof water between a grove of cedars.
Then there’s the very British experience of High Tea at the Empress, an ivy-covered brick hotel tht’s a signature building along the Victoria waterfront. Two umbrella tress beckon visitors into the empress, where cozy tables in the upper level await visitors there for High Tea. Kay, a St. Louis tourist we met aboard the Vicoria clipper, joined us for the decadent treat. At High Tea, a waiter first served us a rich blend of black tea; then, he presented us with a three-tiered tray of delectable treats. The bottom layer had tiny gourmet sandwiches with tasty spreads; the middle layer was filled with fresh-baked scones and cream to spread on them. The top layer was filled with sweet treats–tasty Marzipan, lemon meringue tarts, and cheese cakes.
You won’t need to eat dinner after High Tea, but it’s fun to walk along Victoria’s waterfront. It’s alive with street musicians and artists. Walking along, one can enjoy the sights of sea planes landing, ferries coming and going, and seagulls swooping overhead. To top the experience off with a night’s rest in one of the world’s most enchanting hotels, is priceless.
Victoria and Seattle offer visitors the best of nature and city life. Once you visit there, you’ll be lured back.