The tower is a recreation of St. Mark’s Campanile in Venice, Italy. (Thanks to Arvid for that bit of trivia.)
When I finish this round-the-nation train trip, I will write a guide to taking a multi-day trip like this. One piece of advice: if you’re spending a day in a particular city, forget the taxi or the rideshare, just walk around.
The first reason is practical: you don’t get a lot of exercise when you spend a day on the train. On my best day, I did about 6,200 steps, far below my average of 11,000 or so. So, you’ll want to stretch your legs and your muscles and enjoy the fresh air, even if it’s raining.
The second reason is mental: you’re enjoying a slower, more human pace on the train. When you get back to your regular routine, you’ll be rushed and hurried and pressured. There’s no need to do that now. Relax. Walk out your hotel doors and head off in the direction of something that looks interesting.
I lived in the Seattle area for a few years in the early 2000s, so I know the basic geography. I put on my coat and walked toward Pike Place Market through Pioneer Square. When I lived here, Pioneer Square was dark and dirty and a little scary. It has transformed since then.
There is a fairly quirky combination of big chains and small, independent businesses like this one that offers shotgun wedding ceremonies:
The photo below is of the actual Pioneer Square, instead of the neighborhood that shares the park’s name. Just behind that pole an older woman was sitting on a bench screaming “F**k Shia LeBeouf” over and over. That’s what is called “local color.”
This is Seattle, of course, so there are at least 14 coffee shops on every block, but there are also independent bookstores and a great toy store called Magic Mouse where I bought a couple wind-up toys (I collect them) and a super-hero librarian figurine.
On to Pike Place and the obligatory shots of the gorgeous Puget Sound and the many mountains of Olympic National Park in the background.
Pike Place Market is filled with shops where you can buy very fresh fish, lobster tails bigger than my forearm, sea urchins, and just about everything else that comes from the water and is edible.
I ambled through the market, bought a honey cake and a cup of hot coffee, browsed through the Mexican folklore shop, spent some time reading about the history of beer and examining the stein collection at Tankard and Tun.
I would have happily spent some time learning about the Klondike Gold Rush, but the government shutdown means that the doors of the National Park Service are closed.
Still, it was a great day to wander through Seattle. I made no plans, so I experienced no disappointments. Plus, I covered several miles without realizing how far I’d gone and I’ll be ready to get back on board the train and feel content with partial confinement.
One more piece of advice for long train trips? When they allow you to get off the train for a few minutes, take advantage of it. Walk where you are.