The Aimless Wanderer: A New Perspective on Seattle

Day Three of Seattle held many fascinating adventures for me. It was a day completely free of goals.

I suppose it may be strange to have a goal of no goals for a day traveling a new city; so please, let me explain.

I didn’t have any aims to visit a particular musuem, to see a particular iconic site, or to relive any iconic movie scenes. I didn’t plan on visiting any one particular restaurant, and I didn’t have any plans to visit a particular bar.

My goal of no goals was to simply go forward. So forward I went.

First, I wandered the streets around my hostel, looking in at the tiny storefront windows of the Chinatown bakeries. I’m a glutton for torture, apparently. I’m pretty sure I left tiny little salivating nose prints (much like dog window art) at this local shop, where the pastries smelled to die for, and from the looks of pure enjoyment on the store-goers, the store offers delicious foods.

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After torturing myself with visions of pastries never to be had, I headed down Jackson Avenue, no idea in what direction, but the Waterfront was on my left and Downtown Seattle was in front of me somewhere. I knew that eventually I would end up somewhere fascinating. In a city this large and teeming with so much diverse culture, how could I not stumble across a secret wonder?

And as I wandered with no aim in mind, I watched the city awaken in front of me on a Saturday morning. It was not a disappointing experience. The sun had already risen and was shining on the buildings downtown, offsetting the cloudy skies that were rolling in, offering hints of blue here in there in skyline. As I walked, I kept my eyes open and wide, looking at the storefronts of the city streets around me. Luckily enough, within a short walk of my hostel I found two different small museums.

The first:

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This little museum offers $4 admission to adults, and $2 admission to children. It’s a small, one roomed museum funded partially by the city, and partially by the proceeds from museum entrance. At 10 AM on a Saturday, I was the only one touring this little museum; though it’s quaint and small, there is a fantastic feel to this museum as it pays homage to the history of Seattle’s police force. It’s not much, but worth the small price of entrance, which let’s be honest folks, is cheaper than most cups of coffee.

After my small diversion, I continued every further on down the road. Still walking down Jackson Avenue, I diverted briefly to a side street, when I saw this sign:

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Now this museum, is definitely a hidden jewel in the city. It’s completely free of charge, being funded by the National Parks, and it’s open to the public every day of the week. It’s a small museum, two levels, that offers a unique perspective on the history of the Klondike Gold Rush. My favorite part of this little place was the actual set up of the exhibits. The curator decided to take a uniquely human perspective on the Gold Rush, rather than just a historical perspective.

Sure, you had the requisite historical newspapers and images detailing what/why/when/where/how, but this was effectively brought together with the story of five separate individuals from different cultural, social, racial perspectives, as well as different ages. As you walk through the exhibit, you get to read about their lives at different points of time within the Klondike Gold Rush.

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Nordstrom’s story was one my favorites throughout the museum. He was originally a Swedish immigrant who came to the US with no more than $10 in his pocket. While that was still a decent amount of money back in the day, it was by far more impressive to see what he did with his experience. Apparently, after wandering the Washington wilderness in his attempt to make it to the Klondike Gold Rush, when he finally made it to the encampment and had a hot cup of coffee and fresh sourdough bread, he said it was the best drink and meal he had ever had.

I think it may have been the exhaustion, because surely camp food couldn’t have been THAT amazing. Who knows though, maybe it was.

Once I left this little museum, I headed back out to Jackson Avenue, and made my way ever further toward the water. I reached the corner of Jackson and 1st Ave, and decided to turn right. Saturday morning had unfolded a world of new smells and sounds, and it looked like 1st Ave was a gateway to a whole new world (read in a Disney-esque musical voice).

Down the road, I came across this tantalizing sign, and had to walk into the building, which housed a collection of small boutiques, book stores, and of course, delicious pastries.

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Sadly, there was nothing edible to eat, and I again left behind some nose art as I drooled over their menu of delicious loafs of bread and sandwich menu.

By this time I was absolutely starving and in search of lunch. I learned I was actually wandering in Pioneer Square. You’re not lost if you’re just wandering. Luckily, my wandering streak allowed me to happen upon this little restaurant — a small two man kitchen more reminiscent of a seedy dive bar than a restaurant up to health code.

However, the best restaurants are always the ones that look the worst inside and out (at least this is the case in regards to quality Mexican food in the south), but who actually sport pretty damn spotless kitchens.

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Now, Mediterranean Mix boasts at being the King of Falafel, providing quality New York style pizza, and a FAMOUS Philly cheesesteak. I’m not sure about the others, but they did have some pretty damn good falafel.

I chose this restaurant for a plethora of reasons:

1. Mediterranean food typically tends to be a decently safe bet for dairy free, egg free, soy free, gluten free, peanut free concoctions
2. Chicken Shawarma and Basmati rice is actually one of my favorite meals of all time
3. Falafel is basically the best street food to exist
4. I was starving.

Despite a pretty strong language barrier between myself and the waiter (let’s call him Bob, for simplicity’s sake), I was able to convey my allergies and my dining predicament. With a puzzled look over my oil inquiries, and my (very sad) desire to leave off their homemade tzaziki sauce, I managed to place an order with Bob.

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Oh man, was it worth it. I was a little bit worried about eating the food, considering the language barrier we encountered. However, the basmati rice was flavorful, perfectly seasoned and tossed with sautéed tomatoes and cilantro to give it a bit of an extra kick, and the chicken shawarma was quite possibly some of the best I’ve ever had in my life. And I’ve had a fair amount of shawarma.

And the falafel? Mmm mm good. Granted it was missing out a bit on the tahini spices to give it a lil extra oomph, it was still moist and flavorful. I wouldn’t say that Mediterranean Mix is the King of Falafel, but I would go so far as to say maybe the Duke of Falafel would be a pretty good title.

After I ate as much of the giant dish of food as I could, I was still left behind with the remains of at least two more meals. For $10 I got the biggest helping of Mediterranean food that I couldn’t possibly finish. I didn’t want to throw away my food and waste all that money, and I didn’t want to carry around my remaining food for the rest of the day.

So, with one goal in mind, I decided to head back to the center of Pioneer Square, an area filled with beautiful Native statues, and filled with what appears to be an ever-growing populace of homeless individuals in the Seattle area. With my goal in mind, I headed back around the corner to Occidental Avenue to find my square again, and approached a kind gentleman who smiled at me when I approached, and didn’t seem to try and shrink into the shadows like his companions.

His name was Ephram, and he had the kindest eyes, lined with wrinkles from what appeared to be years of smiling and squinting in the sun. He wore colorful beads around his neck, matching the Native statue he sat beneath; and despite his circumstance, he had the most cheerful disposition.

Ephram was joyous. Talking to him, I couldn’t help but smile and be delighted. We exchanged hellos and handshakes, and I offered him the remains of my food. I was worried that he would think I was rude, or that he would somehow take offense. But talking with Ephram, I can’t imagine him taking offense at anything in life. He had a cavalier attitude and a simplistic positivity that was utterly contagious.

I asked him which would be better for the day: the Seattle Giant Ferris Wheel or Pike Place Market?

He advised me as follows:
“Go to the Ferris wheel and enjoy the view of the water and storm clouds.”

With words like that, how could I go anywhere else but back to the Waterfront? And boy was Ephram right. But first, I had more wandering to do.

I meandered my way around Occidental Avenue and then back to 1st Avenue, looking at the shops around me, and enjoying the scents that wafted out of storefronts, designed to tantalize the tourists on their way to Pike Place Market.

I came across this tiny little shop that appeared to have the MOST DELICIOUS chocolate chip cookies on earth. And judging from the looks of pure bliss as customers bit into them, I would say it was a pretty good assessment.

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Sadly, this little shop did not offer any cookies that were dairy free, egg free, soy free, peanut free, and/or gluten free. There weren’t any cookies that were free of a single one of these. Alas, I walked out of the store a little sad at heart and continued on my not-so-merry cookie free way.

Soon, I found myself at Cherry St, where I decided to wander up the hill a bit due to a tantalizing sign about a bookstore. So I made my way up Cherry St until I found this awesome little store that specializes in murder mysteries.

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While pure murder mysteries and suspense thrillers aren’t my normal cup of tea for books, this store was fantastic. It was a small little shop, homey in its abundance of giant comfy leather chairs that had obviously been well loved, and walls lined from floor to ceiling with different sub-genres of mystery novels.

This store also had a fantastic collection of autographed books. There was an entire section of autographed James Bond books that you could pick up for a cheap $20-$30.

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After touring the mystery titles in this little book store, it was time to move on further into the city.

It was time for the Waterfront.

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The Seattle Waterfront is completely different during the day than it is at night. The streets were just teeming with life, tourists and locals, and filled with a chaotic energy that just fills you with excitement at the prospects of the Waterfront. During the day, I was met with the strangest sites, two of which included these little dogs dressed up to attract attention and tips.

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These dogs were some of the most mellow Chihuahuas I’ve ever come across. They sat there, chill as can be, with hoards of people around them taking picture after picture of them in their little dresses and wigs.

After I took my pictures of the chill Chihuahuas, I turned the corner and stood in line for my tickets to the Ferris Wheel.

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While in line, enjoy these great pictures of the back of the Seattle Aquarium (which is most definitely on my to do list).

Once I got to the front of the line, I got my ticket for the Ferris Wheel.

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Because I was a group of one I got to join a group of three in my little bubble. We got to ride the wheel a total of three times around, and it was beautiful. The view from the top was gorgeous, but all around it was just amazing to see the Waterfront beneath me, and the just all around.

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It was great getting to look down on all the diners on the piers, hidden underneath the great wheel.

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At one point in time we saw Seattle Search and Rescue doing some training missions. However, this poor dummy was just left in the water, stranded, for about twenty minutes before they came around for him at last.

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Eventually though, the dummy was rescued. No fake hypothermia for him! But the view of the Space Needle and the buildings of Downtown Seattle was just fantastic.

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The view of the water, just slightly tumultuous, and the skies grey and cloudy with just hints of blue, was the perfect and iconic Seattle weather for people watching on the piers. And with my last round on the Ferris Wheel, I took this fabulous picture from the top:

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And with my exit back down to grounded reality, I was taken back through to the Waterfront Carousel, filled with hoards of people, and little children clamoring over one another to ride the Waterfront horses, lit up with soft lighting, hiding the chipped pain on the hooves.

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Well, after I made my way through the crowds of the Waterfront, I walked across the street, again wandering aimlessly toward nothing. And again, I was rewarded with some hidden places in the back streets of Seattle.

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This sign tantalized me with ideas of a quaint Irish pub, and let’s be honest here, who doesn’t love owls? With a name, and a sign, so cute, I simply had to find my way to wherever Post St actually existed.

Eventually, I did find the street, on what appeared to be underneath another bar, and hidden in an alley, underneath the Main Street of 1st Avenue. Luckily, the Owl n’ Thistle appears to cater to the lost and wandering, and post signs around corners to guide you to their doors.

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Sadly, the Owl n’ Thistle didn’t offer any food that I could eat; however, they did offer a wonderful atmosphere and an imported cider.

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I had never had a Magner’s cider before, but it was quite delicious. It had a nice oaky taste to it, more reminiscent of a Strongbow cider. Though a bit crisp and acidic at first, the flavor definitely developed into a nice finish that went down smooth and quick, without an overly sweet taste that tends to be more popular with American produced ciders.

The pub was mostly empty when I was there, and if I were a local, this would probably be my evening hangout. The prices were nice, but the Owl n’ Thistle is all about the ambience. Leather bound books line the wall, and low lighting with old, lightly dented, copper tables and cracked leather chairs and booths filled the building. The pub was sectioned off in different areas, offering a fantastic setting wherein you could have light conversation, and nothing was overly boisterous. The design was fantastic for acoustics and general atmosphere.

Let’s just say I was in love with this place.

So, to relax, and enjoy the setting, I pulled out my book, and enjoyed my drink.

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For me, this was perfection in regards to the height of relaxation.

I know a number of people who find it uncomfortable to go out alone, whether it’s dining, drinking, or anything. Obviously, I’m not really the type.

Read as overly independent and introverted.

I prefer to do things alone. When you go out alone there are no expectations. You don’t have to look attractive. You don’t have to be entertaining. You don’t have to put on an image of extroversion.

If you couldn’t tell, I like going on solo-adventures and moving at my own pace. So, it was with great joy that I sat down and read my book and drank my cider in complete seclusion of this cozy Irish home-away-from-home pub.

Alas, with the bottom of my glass visible, it was time to find my way home.

So I paid my bill, and bid adieu to my barkeep, and wandered back out into the city streets, looking for my way back to Chinatown.

It seemed my day of wandering helped me learn the confusing streets of Seattle. Without staring at maps, and relying solely on the few streets I had memorized, I made my way back to 5th Ave and King St, the entrance of the International District.

It was about 6:30 PM when I finally crawled my way into my room, and kicked off my shoes and collapsed into bed. A hard day of wandering the city streets, with very little downtime for actually just sitting and relaxing, it was time to unwrap an Enjoy Life bar, throw on the pajamas, and lay in bed with some music and a book.

Day 3 in Seattle: The Traveling Allergen participated in cruel and unusual self-inflicted punishment as she toured bakeries and wandered the city.

Stay tuned for more updates on my gastronomical adventures in the Pacific Northwest, and lots of pictures of my non-food related adventures!