A Travellerspoint blog

Curiosities Around Pike Place Market


Home to Rachel the Pig, the very first Starbucks, local artists and lots of fresh produce, Pike Place Market is a fascinating and eclectic place. I enjoyed visiting the various vendors and little shops in the multi-level building, but even more so, I loved the quirky surprises around random corners of the area.


Like the Gum Wall. Yes, I think my stomach turned when I saw it, but at the same time, it was fun to photograph such a colorful display. Part of you wants to avert your eyes, but then you see that someone had stretched pieces of gum to write their name on the wall, and you can't help wondering how and why they take the time to do it. How does a Gum Wall even get started in the first place?


On other walls in the immediate vicinity, I loved looking at the floor-to-ceiling street art with overlapping advertisements, posters and graffiti. You can get a neat perspective of a city by observing what people choose to post in locations like these.


Underneath the famous sign at the entrance to the Market at Pike Place and Pike Street, Rachel the Pig is more than a photo-op. She is a piggy bank, and money that visitors deposit goes to charities. One tip: It is super crowded at the Market entrance, but Rachel the Pig has cousins, which you can find in nearby, less crowded areas of the Market.


If you do get overwhelmed by the crowds and want a quick break, I recommend walking across the street to Alaska Way, the waterfront street where you will find the piers, souvenir shops, quick bites to eat...and oh yeah, there are shrunken heads at the Ye Old Curiosity Shop. I went inside the store because I just had to see for myself. The front part of the store looks like a fairly normal gift shop, but as you walk towards the back, that's where you'll see the, um, artifacts behind glass cases. It might be a little bit scary, but similar to the Gum Wall, you cannot stop glancing back at it. And then you think it is pretty cool to be in a city where you find neat, unique things like these.


Speaking of spooky things, there are evening ghost tours through Pike Place Market, which allegedly gets after-hours visitors, if you know what I mean. I felt very tempted to take the tour. However, due to time constraints and the long walk from Pike Place Market to my hotel in the Queen Anne neighborhood, I decided not to make it happen during this trip. Next time, definitely next time.

Posted by rachwells 19:16 Comments (0)

Sunny Side of Life in Seattle


It only happens approximately 50 out of 365 days each year, and luckily, I have had the pleasure of experiencing two very bright, clear days in Seattle thus far! I can't stop smiling and marveling at what I see all around me - pine trees, the beautiful coast, snow-capped mountains...and coffee shops where they play Soundgarden. What a magical place!


When I arrived late yesterday afternoon, I dropped off my suitcase at my hotel and then immediately decided to take advantage of the great weather by spending time exploring the nearby sights. Walking around Seattle Center with my camera around my neck, I snapped photos along the way and eventually reached the Space Needle. Of course, I went a top the famous structure where I got to see incredible panoramic views of the city skyline, Mount Rainier and much more. I pinched myself as I sipped a coffee and admired the 360 degree view.


Today, the sunshine continued in full force, so I decided to spend much of the day outside near the water. I loved the Olympic Sculpture Park, which is a great spot to walk around and admire some unique industrial art pieces juxtaposed against the gorgeous coast, trees and spring flowers. I continued walking down Alaska Way until I reached Pier 52 where I made it just I time to take a ferry ride to nearby Bainbridge Island.


It was amazing to see the full city view of Seattle from the water. I'm glad I brought a jacket because it gets windy while the ferry glides swiftly across the water. I kept moving around different parts of the boat in order to capture various photo angles. Once we disembarked on the island, I walked around the city of Winslow, which has great shopping. I enjoyed the travel/outdoor shops, the independent book stores and especially, the clothing stores which had adorable, funky dresses and jewelry.


Once I arrived back in Seattle, I headed to Pike Place Market. Not knowing much about it ahead of time, I pictured it in my mind as an open, outdoor market. Well, sort of - there is a huge, multi-level building containing a wide variety of vendors, including florists, jewelry makers, fresh fish, and much more. The Market does spill out of the main building onto the street, and it is all very crowded. While I got to explore some of it, there is just so much to see and experience at Pike Place Market, so I definitely plan to return in the next day or so.


I am really enjoying myself in Seattle so far. I know this clear weather is very rare here, so I feel lucky and grateful to see how the bright sunshine beautifully accentuates the lush nature all around the city. Thank you, Mother Nature, and I look forward to more adventures to come while I'm in Seattle!

Posted by rachwells 21:41 Comments (1)

Gladewater: Antique Capital of East Texas

semi-overcast 75 °F


Gotta love last-minute road trips! My sister Rebecca and I were talking in the car last night, and all of a sudden, we thought, "Why not go on a short trip this weekend?"

I researched various locales in a guide book and via Google search. Then, I came across a Dallas Morning News article about road trips within a relatively short distance from Dallas. Perfect! One of the suggestions was Gladewater, Texas, which is considered the Antique Capital of East Texas - I knew my sister would love it, and I was very curious, myself.


This afternoon, we drove two hours eastbound on I-20 and then arrived at our small town destination. There are more than 30 antique malls & individual shops, but the closest Starbucks is nearly 10 miles away in Longview. Very different from what this city girl is used to in her everyday life. We parked in the Antique District near the railroad tracks and the main road with all of the antique shops and a few local eateries.


Rebecca and I explored the stores one-by-one, particularly intrigued by the electronics and pieces of machinery - like old sewing machines, toasters, and of course, film cameras. We also enjoyed looking at aviator caps, a dusty canoe, record players, an Alice In Wonderland tea set, costume jewelry, and much more. One of my favorite antique stores? Le Junkque Chalet. Great name. At a different local clothing store, I found a cute lacy blouse, while my sister found her dream camera across the street, which she might come back to purchase.


After browsing the various shops and having a big lunch, we took U.S. Highway 80 westward back to Dallas. While driving, we listened to good road trip tunes by Ingrid Michaelson, Eddie Vedder, Typhoon, Of Monsters and Men, and more. If it has an acoustic guitar and/or mandolin, we probably listened to it while we talked and I took photos of the fun things we passed along the drive.


It was great riding along on a two-lane road - drinking our macchiatos and watching the piney trees, the occasional bluebonnets & other pretty flowers, country houses, quirky signs...oh yeah, and isn't it kind of exciting when you see the next and the next signs telling you the mileage to the next two upcoming cities?


It had been three years since the last time I took a road trip, and I definitely enjoyed myself today. A change of scenery can be an awesome thing! The trip to Gladewater was a great day trip from Dallas - just long enough to get a good amount of temporary distance away from the big city, but close enough that you can still make it home in time to return to what you need to get done in your everyday life. Hopefully another short excursion road trip will happen in the not-too-distant future. Meanwhile, I have a plane to catch in a week-and-a-half for another trip. This time, I'm going to...Seattle! And I cannot wait!

Posted by rachwells 22:14 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Skating into 2013


On my last full day in Montreal, which was New Years Day (mere hours after my exhausting big adventure on New Years Eve), I decided to do something daring: ice skating.

For people who live in very cold places, ice skating is probably a fairly common activity. Not in Texas where I grew up. The last time (and probably only time) I remember ice skating was when I was 10 years old at the indoor rink at the Galleria in North Dallas. Otherwise, ice has a very different connotation when it comes to weather in Texas: horrendous driving conditions during the 1-2 times a year when the temperature drops below freezing and the rain turns the roads into...well, an ice skating rink for cars (or bumper cars, really).

I actually felt a little bit afraid and intimidated when I laced up the ice skates that I rented at the outdoor rink in Old Montreal. But it was New Years Day, and feeling inspired by the fresh start of a new year, I wanted to push myself to try something that scared me a little bit. I definitely felt wobbly as I first stepped onto the ice, but I did my best to stay close to the edges of the rink in case I needed to fall down. I kept my arms in an upside down "V" position to help my balance, and I took small steps as I moved across the ice.


It was very obvious that many other people skating on the rink were very good skaters. Some people could gracefully do long, fast strides. I also saw young kids who would zig-zag rapidly between people. Even one or two people skated backwards. My main goal was simple: keep on my feet and don't fall down. I stayed on the ice for at least half an hour, and by that time, it was so cold outside that I felt ready to move on to another activity...like finding a nice cafe where I could eat and have a nice warm coffee.

I am glad that I took the plunge and decided to face my apprehension of the frozen water head on. The next day, I flew home to Dallas, and in spite of a couple bumps in the road (like the long walk home on New Years Eve), all in all, I really enjoyed my trip to Montreal. I will never forget the fireworks during the first few minutes of 2013; I loved the Archeology museum and walking around Rue St. Paul in Old Montreal; it was nice to experience the snow and ice skating in a way I never did before in my life; I ate amazing quiche and got to take my time sipping delicious hot coffee in cozy cafes; and I got to speak a little bit of French while learning more about the unique culture in Montreal.

So, where will I travel (or skate) to next in 2013? I'm still weighing my options, but I have a feeling I know which direction I will head to next. Here's to an exciting year to come. Bonne annee!

Posted by rachwells 08:13 Archived in Canada Comments (1)

Rachel's Eventful New Years Eve in Montreal


It was a once in a lifetime experience, a crazy but fun night! Last night at 10:30pm, I took the Metro to Old Montreal where 40,000 people gathered for a public New Years Eve soiree. The streets were very crowded, but you could feel the excitement and the celebration all around you - it was infectious. A band (a local band?) played songs, including a couple covers of top 40 radio hits, as everyone counted down to midnight. The memory of watching Montrealers galloping to the band's cover of "Gangnam Style" will forever entertain me.

At midnight, fireworks lit up the sky...at almost the same time that a heavy (yet very pretty) snowfall came out of nowhere. It was amazing timing. People were kissing and hugging their nearby loved ones, and everyone enjoyed photographing and watching the fireworks.

Once the fireworks ended, a mass exodus of party goers headed toward the Metro. I made my way through the crowd and successfully made it onto my first train. Once I reached the Berri-Uqam station, which is a major transfer point, I got confused as to which direction I needed to head for train number 2. I finally figured out where I was heading and made it onto the second train.

The train doors did not close right away, and after a few minutes, I realized that we were waiting quite a long time. More and more people from other train lines kept running down the stairs and packing into our train. At first it was a little bit funny to see tipsy partners cheering as they approached the train and packing in. But people kept packing in, and packing in until there was not even one inch of space between you and the next five people around you.

The minutes kept passing, but the train did not budge...and one more person and then another one person kept squeezing in. I began to feel very humid and claustrophobic. (While Montreal is very cold outdoors, it is the opposite situation indoors - they crank up the heat to 80 or 90 degrees, which is even more sweltering when you are dressed in multiple warm layers for protection from the outside weather).

After 10 or more minutes of still not moving, I really debated whether I ought to disembark and try a different train. Then, I saw 5 or 10 more people running down the stairs to try to get on our train. At that point, I couldn't do it anymore. "Pardon! Pardon!", I begged of the people squished next to me, and then I wiggled my way back onto the platform, at which point I promptly ripped off my heavy coat, hat and gloves. I rolled up my long sleeved thermal top, and I could feel the sweat pour down my back. After a couple of minutes, my heart rate normalized...and the train finally closed its doors and headed westward to the next stop without me. Figures.

I didn't worry because I figured I would just catch the next train. After all, it was a lot less crowded now. There were approximately 10 other people waiting on the platform as well. All of a sudden, a couple of train guards walked down the platform towards us. One of them started to say something to me in French, but I couldn't understand, so I asked if he could say it in English. The guard proceeded to tell me that the train station was now closed for the evening and that the last train had just left.

My heart sank. I still had half the way to go back to my hotel. I exited the train station and tried to assess my situation as I walked. Technically, I was "down the street" from my hotel...but I was all the way on the east side in the lively (slightly sketchy) Latin Quarter and needed to get all the way back to the western edge of downtown to get back to my hotel. Obviously, 1:00 in the morning is not the time to figure out if/which bus might take you where you need to go (especially when you don't speak the language of the city very well). Also, it was unrealistic to plan on catching a taxi on New Years Eve with so many people partying across town.

Luckily, I quickly found Rue St Catherine (my shopping street), albeit, the eastern half of the street, but at least I knew I was going the correct direction. So I walked and walked in the snow through countless traffic lights passed the night clubs where 20 something's were living it up both in the club and, um, singing and shouting their tipsy New Years joy for all to hear.

I made a pit stop at McDonalds where another rowdy group of teens/young adults were loudly joking around while waiting for their food. It took a while, but I finally grabbed my#2 combo meal to go, and then I continued my journey. Luckily, there were some other people walking around as well, including cops monitoring the scene. It took over an hour, but I finally made it back to my hotel room at 2:20 am. I felt absolutely exhausted, but at the same time, I still felt happy and upbeat about my New Years Eve in Montreal. Hey, I'm glad I was able to quickly figure out where I was and get myself home safely. I still feel like the awesome New Years Eve public gathering was worth the long walk home, but again, it might be a once in a lifetime experience. I have a whole year to think about what plans I will make next year for New Years Eve.

For now, bonne annee, and cheers to awesome adventures to come in 2013!

Posted by rachwells 19:12 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

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