I was in Seattle for an exam administration and meeting marathon the week before Thanksgiving, and I'm JUST NOW posting about it. I think the unseasonably warm but wet and rainy weather of the last few days jarred my memory. There's not much to tell, really - I was sick with a vicious migraine during most of my free time, and stuck in the hotel for endless meetingsszzzzzzzzz when I wasn't at the nearby children's hospital to administer our exams the rest of the time. I did manage to get out a little bit, though, to take a quick peek 'round. What I did see I liked immensely. The weather reminded me of Cornwall - very windy and a constant pissing rain. The umbrella that has served me well over the past 8 years or so here in the so-called Windy City was flung inside-out within minutes of leaving the hotel, leaving me to brave the rain sans umbrella.
The first thing I noticed that struck me as awesome was the carpool lane on the expressway. You can only drive in the far left lane if you are travelling with at least one other person to encourage people to, well, carpool. I was stunned at how quickly we sped along passed 3-4 other lanes of nearly stopped traffic, one person per vehicle. The carpool lane even had its own exit so you didn't have to cut all the way across to the right. What an incentive to pick up a coworker on the way in to the office!
This was the third exam administration I'd been to. The first two were in Philly, which I loathed, and Pittsburgh, which really was nice, but incredibly boring. I was expecting to like Seattle from the reports I'd received from, well, everyone who'd ever been there, including my coworkers who have been there for previous exam administrations, and Evandebacle who sent me packing with a list of wide and varied restaurants to sample. I wasn't at all disappointed.
Unlike Philly, I felt safe outside of my hotel. There were no nasty smells permeating the streets, and the beggers who asked me for cash or food (one got a hot venti mocha) were friendly and non-threatening. One cabbie referred to them all as "harmless tree-hugging types," which made me feel badly about having given that one guy a mocha in a non-reusable cup.
Pike Place Market blew Philly's Reading Market out of the water, save for the whoopie pies. The original Starbucks was unremarkable, but the cheap seafood restaurant next door, Emmett Watson's, was wonderful. Their fried oysters put Davis Street Fish Market's oyster po-boys and cup of boston clam chowder, one of my all time favorite lunches, to shame, though I did miss Davis Street's yummy tater tots and slaw! The fries were only okay, but the oysters....*DROOOOOOOOOL!*
Also unlike Philly, I had no trouble finding a cab, ever, and the streets were much clearer of traffic (in Philadelphia's defense on this count, the streets of Philadelphia were designed before the adventof the 3-HumVee/person era we now live in).
Unlike Pittsburgh, there is plenty to do after 5PM in Seattle. Again about the beggars, who were really aggressive and downright nasty in Pittsburgh.
We had a staff dinner at another seafood restaurant called Elliot's across from Pike Place Market a couple of nights before the exam started. A few of us had planned on walking there as it wasn't too far from our hotel, but it was just too cold and windy to do so so we grabbed a couple of cabs.
I was in the second cab with three of my coworkers sitting in the back, me up front with the driver. The driver and I hit it off immediately and chatted away for the entire 10-minute ride. He asked my name about halfway to the restaurant, and when I answered "Jolene," he burst into song a'la Dolly Parton (needless to say, I get this a lot). I promised him I had no intention of stealing his man, and after an initial fit of laughter he solemnly thanked me. He told me he first heard the song "Jolene" when he was growing up in Botswana. He knew not a word of English, but he knew every word of that song. Used to sing it while driving his camels. "I was a camel driver singing that song to my camels in Botswana, now I'm driving cabs in Seattle, singing that song to the real Jolene!" he laughed. He pulled up to the restaurant and I thanked him and bolted inside (it was CHILLY!) while one of my coworkers paid him. She came in to get me and said the cabbie would not leave until he said a proper goodbye to me. He was still waiting there when I came back out. He said it was a pleasure meeting me and shook my hand. "What time can I come back to pick you up? This weather is awful and I don't want you to have to wait for a cab. The real Jolene should not have to wait for a cab in this weather!"
Yeah, Seattle was pretty great. I just wish I'd gotten to see much more of it! Stupid debilitating migraine.