Travel: The serene summer beauty of Seattle
The snowcapped peak of Mt Rainier, the icy cold waves of the Puget Sound, the cherry blossoms bursting into bloom -- who wouldn't want to enjoy spring bliss, when nature is a riot of colour and the sun is just oozing warmth. Shwetal Rai discovers the joys of holidaying in Seattle, USA.
What's a summer vacation if you don't beat the heat? Where's the joy of holidaying if you don't see nature at its blooming best? What's the point of burning a small hole in your pocket if you don't visit a new place, learn something special, try something exotic, tickle your tastebuds and come back refreshed and happy! If you want a vacation that's brimming with nature's beauty and yet gives you a glimpse into the marvel that is the human mind, Seattle is where you should be headed.
Known as the Emerald City, thanks to the lush evergreen forests of the area, Seattle is a tourist's paradise. The largest city in the state of Washington, Seattle is the birthplace of 'grunge' music and Starbucks coffee. A vacation in this coffee lover's paradise is filled with nature -- be it the tall green conifers, the towering peak of the Olympic Mountains or the vast blue Puget Sound.
Holidaying in Seattle is nothing short of a lazy retreat and the weather only adds to the idle spirit. A latte in hand, walking by the Alki beach (a beach on the Puget Sound), which boasts a two-and-a-half-mile long pedestrian walkway, you can get some sand between your toes and admire the view of the Seattle skyline. Located close to downtown Seattle, Alki beach is the only sand beach on the Puget Sound and the summer months see much beach volleyball action.
Photographs: Siddhartha Rai
Shopping to the strains of the guitar
Downtown Seattle is bustling with activity. Pikes Place Market, a 100-year-old public market, operated by the farmers' market welcomes you to a world of shopping. Tourists can stop by Rachel, the unofficial mascot of Pikes Place Market, a bronze cast piggy bank and donate towards the running of the market.
This multi-level shopping area has many attractions. The Pike Place Fish Market for instance, where employees throw three-foot salmon and other fish to each other rather than passing them by hand. When a customer orders a fish, an employee at the Fish Market's ice-covered fish table picks up the fish and hurls it over the countertop, where another employee catches it and preps it for sale.
The sing-song and the throw-and-catch are quite an experience. Fresh flowers and fruit are on offer at the lower levels of the market and 'meet the producer' day is much sought-after. Buskers or street entertainers are aplenty outside Pikes Place and close to the original Starbucks. So whatever your taste in music -- from jazz to grunge and even piano solos -- these buskers make the shopping and street food experience all the more memorable.
Image: At Pikes Place Market
Trip to the top
The Space Needle is to Seattle what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris. You can't visit Seattle without dropping in at its most famous landmark.
Part of any picture of Seattle's skyline and featured in numerous Hollywood flicks, this 605ft high communications tower offers a panoramic view of the city and also a unique dining experience at the revolving restaurant up top. And while the experience of standing atop the Space Needle is an exciting one, the journey up by lift is a story in itself! I won't spoil the surprise for you, you'll just have to take that lift up the Space Needle and see for yourself.
For those of you looking for an experience beyond the travel books and landmark attractions, the Underground tour is a must. A leisurely, humorous walking tour of the buried city beneath Seattle's sidewalks and streets, the tour guides amuse you with unheard of stories about the city. A tour that presents Seattle's history... with a twist!
Image: The Space Needle
An adventure seeker's delight
Enjoying the great outdoors is extremely popular in and around Seattle; after all, the city is surrounded by exciting hiking, skiing, swimming and boating locations.
Mt Rainier for instance, the 14,410ft tall active stratovolcano submerged in snow, sees countless adventure seekers attempting to scale its peak. Situated within the Mount Rainier National Park, it stands amidst waterfalls, subalpine meadows and is the venue for numerous skiing and snowshoeing events, through the spring and summer months.
Just behind Mt Rainier are the ravishing Snoqualmie Falls. Standing tall at 270ft, the falls area is landscaped with native trees and shrubs and comes alive with floral colour in the spring. This spot is noted for housing the world's first completely underground electricity generating facility.
After taking in the great sight of the Snoqualmie Falls, don't forget to drive down to the North West Bend Mall. you'll get many a steal deal here -- some of the best brands at throwaway prices.
Image: The Snoqualmie Falls
Dropping in on giants
Another absolute must-visit for nature lovers, is the Olympic National Park. Established in 1938, this is one of the most visited national parks across the United States of America. With its numerous glaciers, the Olympic Mountains, Lake Crescent (a delightful mountain lake), diverse landscapes, ancient alpine meadows with colourful wild flowers and many snowfields, the Olympic National Park has something for everyone. Whether you visit the Rain Hoh trails, hot water springs or just a scenic picnic spot -- it is well worth the drive.
As you take in all that the city has to offer, remember your trip to Seattle will not be complete without a visit to software giant Microsoft and aviation titan, Boeing.
So this summer visit Seattle, the creative hub of the West. And whatever your pursuit, be it software or coffee, travel or music, the city loads to offer... leaving you sleepless, of course!
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Image: The Alki beach walkway