Day 24: Seattle / San Francisco
I don’t want to leave Seattle. I wish I had way more time to enjoy this city. Obviously I knew that the music history side of the city would reel me in, but I didn’t expect how pretty it would be and what an awesome vibe the city emanated.
There’s still time to visit a few more of Seattle’s attractions morning before I fly out this morning, so I head to the Pike Place Market to locate the gum wall, Rachel the pig and the piroshky shop. I’ve walked around and through the markets a couple of times over the past few days but have just not been able to locate the gum wall. I will find it today if I do nothing else!
Pike Place Markets
Pike Place Market is a public market overlooking the Elliot Bay waterfront. The Market opened August 17, 1907, and is one of the oldest continually operated public farmers’ markets in the United States. Named after the central street, Pike Place runs northwest from Pike Street to Virginia Street, and remains one of Seattle’s most popular tourist destinations.
The first building at the Market, the Main Arcade, opened November 30, 1907. In 1963, a proposal was floated to demolish Pike Place Market and replace it with Pike Plaza. This was supported by the mayor, many on the city council, and a number of market property owners. However, there was significant community opposition, and in 1971, an initiative was passed that created a historic preservation zone and returned the Market to public hands.
The Pike Market Performers’ Guild, founded 2001, represents Market street performers. Among its members are Artis the Spoonman – the man whom the Soundgarden song ‘Spoonman” was penned. Performers may receive donations and may display their recordings for sale, but are prohibited from active solicitation of donations and from active sale of “any product associated with the performance”. Each performance is limited to one hour if any other licensed performer is waiting for the spot. Electronic amplification is not allowed, nor are brass instruments or drums. Certain performance locations are further limited to “quiet” performances where even hand-clap percussion is not allowed. Unfortunately I am too early for any such performances, but onward with the search for the elusive gum wall!
The Market Theater Gum Wall is a local landmark in Post Alley under Pike Place Market. Under. And this is where I’ve been going wrong. I’ve been up and down the market stretch, but not under. Finally, I find the steps that take me under the market to this brick alleyway wall covered in used chewing gum. Parts of the wall are covered several inches thick, 15 feet high for 50 feet. The wall is by the box office for the Market Theater, and the tradition began around 1993 when patrons of Unexpected Productions Seattle Theatresports stuck gum to the wall and placed coins in the gum blobs. Theater workers scraped the gum away twice, but eventually gave up after market officials deemed the gum wall a tourist attraction around 1999. Some people create small works of art out of gum. It was named one of the top 5 germiest tourist attractions in 2009, second to the Blarney Stone.
Rachel the Pig
I didn’t know where the start looking for Rachel, but she found me. Pike Place Market’s unofficial mascot, Rachel, a bronze cast piggy bank that weighs 250kg, has been located at the corner of Pike Place under the “Public Market Center” sign, since 1986. Rachel was designed by local artist Georgia Gerber and modelled after a pig (also named Rachel) that lived on Whidbey Island and was the 1977 Island County prize-winner. Rachel receives roughly US$6,000–$9,000 annually in just about every type of world currency, which is collected by the Market Foundation to fund the Market’s social services.
What is a Piroshky? The most simple answer is that they are hand held pies with fillings as diverse as the cultures and people who make and serve them. The beauty of Piroshky is that everyone makes it a little differently with recipes passed down from generation to generation.
This bakery started at the Pike Place Market two decades ago and embraces and integrates the taste of the Northwest into their own traditional recipes. These piroshkies are made from scratch and hand moulded into their very own unique shapes. These massive wedges of goodness are too good for words and rather light, not like my memories of my Polish grandmothers buttery kitchen. Probably not really breakfast fare, but I couldn’t leave Seattle without trying them.
But now its time to leave Seattle and move on to the next part of my journey. Travelling along the freeway towards the airport, small tears form at the corners of my eyes. I don’t want to leave. I don’t feel like this about many places – Singapore has a new competitor – it’s only distance and cost that will keep me away from here but I will definitely want to come back and spend a serious amount of time here in this warm, artsy, inviting city.
Boarding the plane and all prepped for takeoff, the captain tells us the words no passenger wants to hear. We have been further delayed due to a mechanical problem. One of the switches (which one?????) is sticking and we may have to go back to the terminal. It’s a nervous wait, but the captain finally advises we have been cleared for takeoff. So have we really, or are you just taking a chance? Would it be better to have to board a new plane with a clean slate, or continue to fly on this plane, which may or may not have an issue? We obviously have no say in the decision. All I can say is, it better not be the luggage hold switch, cause if you lose my precious Sub Pop 200 CD to the skies, you will pay!
It’s only an hour and three quarters flight from Seattle to San Francisco, so it’s not long before we are touching down, on what is possibly one of the smoothest landings of my trip to date. Always the way!
Leaving the airport, a thick fog is rolling in from the left and every square inch of the landscape is dotted with box shaped homes and buildings. The boxed up scenery is replaced by ivy covered hillsides before giving way to the cityscape. Pretty soon we are driving through the uninspiring streets of San Francisco. The first thing that stands out is the sheer number of homeless and down’n’outs. It’s around 5pm on a Sunday afternoon, which is the part that shocks me. But by now, I’ve seen my fair share of homeless in America’s cities.
The hotel is not awesome. I was so spoilt at the Ace. The foyer smelt clean like Aesop products and the towels smelt so fresh and the place was light and airy and funky. So basically this hotel is the entire opposite. Inside my room, there’s leftover cake and coffee from someone else and even used soap in the shower. I step outside the hotel to head to Fisherman’s wharf for dinner, and am immediately accosted by an obvious drug addict, her eyes literally rolling around in her head. I tell her I have just arrived and have no cash, but she says ‘how does that matter?’ Obviously, she’s not on the ball, but she freaks me out with her eyes rolling around like that and I retreat back into the hotel. Ok, so in the other cities, the homeless have just moved on and left you alone, but these ones are obviously more active. Regroup.
I wanted to go to Fishermans Wharf, but now I don’t know whether to just stay in the hotel. I kick myself in the butt, go outside and grab a cab. You can do this – c’mon! There’s sourdough chowder bowls to be tried!
The cab driver takes the crap out of me for talking too fast. Are you kidding? The rest of the world teases us Aussies for being such slow, laid-back talkers but according to this dude I’m talking a hundred miles an hour. Can’t win.
Fisherman’s Wharf is a popular area of San Francisco for exploring. It’s name comes from the city’s early Gold Rush days when Italian immigrant fishermen settled in the area and fished for the Dungeness crab. From then on it remained the home base of San Francisco’s fishing fleet. Despite redevelopment into a tourist attraction during the 1970s and 1980s, the area is still home to many active fishermen and their fleets.
Before dinner, I step inside the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not museum. My sister Jen and I used to love watching Ripley’s on TV when we were young girls, so I think there’s sure to be some fascinating stuff in here! There’s a couple of interesting things, but nothing that really blew my mind. If I’d known, I would have bought a Ripley’s book instead of a ticket because it probably contains more than this building.
Not to worry, I’m really here to try a sourdough breadbowl, so I arrive at Boudin and grab a seat. Now Boudin is a bakery that has specialised in baking sourdough bread for over 150 years, which is why I though they would be the best place to try this local dish. My bread was definitely not oven fresh. It was kind of, well… stale-ish. Surely it should have been absolutely fresh from the oven almost. I buy fresher bread from Tony Ales food market back home. Three quarters the way through my meal, a bread basket is placed on my table – because that’s exactly what you need when you’ve just consumed a big bread bowl of chowder.
I’m beginning to think I really should have stayed back at the hotel. What about chocolate? Ghirardelli must be around here somewhere. They’ve been here since 1852. Between 1852 and 1895, Ghirardelli’s Chocolate Factory was located at four different sites before the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company took over the Pioneer Woolen Mills on North Point Street—today’s site of the Ghirardelli Chocolate Manufactory & Soda Fountain and Ghirardelli Square. Hot fudge sundae would be perfect! But the small shop is packed and I just can’t be bothered waiting.
The air is super chilly here down on the wharf, so I cut my losses and grab a cab back to the hotel. Probably a good time to mention that a lot of the streets literally run at a 45 degree angle. Up, then down. Up then down. You wouldn’t want to be drunk in a cab on the way home up and down these hills, and I’m praying the complimentary tequila shot I got upon checking in at my hotel doesn’t come back up unexpectedly. I’m not having a good start to my time in San Fran so far. Maybe I’m just tired. I’ve been on the go sightseeing, taking in new information and new experiences every day for the last 24 days, at times running on adrenalin. I keep thinking that I should have stayed in Seattle longer and skipped San Fran. But I know these days happen and can just hope that maybe tomorrow will be better.