Summer in Seattle--The Fremont Fair and Solstice Parade

Greetings once more, TWIF enthusiasts! This is Patrick Killen once more, bringing you more of my adventures as a lowly intern exploring the city of Seattle.

The past week has been a busy one for me, with 2 Seattle tours, the Solstice Parade, and volunteering for TWIF at the Fremont Fair. Though it will disrupt the chronology of my adventures somewhat, I think it makes the most sense for me to start with the city tours.

First and foremost (and the excursion which occurred soonest after my previous post) I took a tour with Show me Seattle, a tour group that specializes in three-hour, small group tours throughout the city.

I think it’s worth noting here that I’ve gotten pretty awesome weather all but one day that I’ve been in Seattle. This leads me to believe that the prevailing stories of Seattle weather are augmented by one of the following:

 

  1. All of you are lying in a grand conspiracy to keep people from moving here and enjoying your awesome weather.
  2. I have, in fact, arrived here at the most optimal time of the year to avoid the typical cloudy gloom and resulting SADness (see what I did there?).
  3. I am some sort of secret wizard whose very presence has brought you the glorious gift of sunlight and slightly higher temperatures.

I will speculate no further on which of these scenarios is most likely, except to say this: you’re welcome.

Moving on, I embarked on this tour with a startling crowd of exactly one other person. Meaning our total tour group ended up consisting of 3 people: myself, a nice Australian lady, and our tour guide, Tavier. Together we crowded into our tiny bus/van thingy:

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and set out into the city. Much of what I saw and heard is familiar to most Seattleites, and to be honest the sheer volume of information would be too much to reproduce here. So here are some highlights:

Queen Ann Hill (and the view from it)

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Lots of beautiful homes, gorgeous views, and a reasonable explanation for why Seattleites have the leg strength to play soccer with bowling balls. This place is most likely old hat to seasoned Seattle-dwellers, but coming from a state so flat that theNative Americans went around building their own hills. I always have an appreciation for a good view. Needless to say, however, I probably won’t be venturing to Queen Ann Hill on foot any time soon.

Post Alley

I’ve roamed the Pike’s Place Market off and on throughout my stay in Seattle, and I always seem to be finding new things. Our most excellent tour guide, Tavier, pointed out a number of interesting semi-hidden areas of Pike’s Place that I hadn’t even thought to explore. Since this tour, every time I’m even remotely close to the market I go out of my way to snag some bao from Mee Sum Pastry , after Tavier pointed it out (I’ve always been a fan of bao, and this place makes the best I’ve had.).

I also dropped in on some of the Post Alley shops (which I didn’t even know existed) to check out the Perennial Tea Room and The Tasting Room as I am an unashamed fan of both fine teas and wines as fine as a college-student budget can handle. There’s still plenty more for me to explore here, and rest assured I plan to do so.

Ballard Locks

The engineering nerd in me loved this part of the tour. I can’t help it, my dad is an engineer, most of my close friends are either studying to become engineers or have already graduated. I have to appreciate feats of engineering, and the Ballard Locks certainly qualify.

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The addition of the salmon ladder was a cool touch, and of course we went down to take a look:

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All in all, a really cool tour. Tavier was a superb guide and extremely knowledgeable. Most times that I had a question, he managed to answer it before I even asked. In terms of a truly comprehensive tour of Seattle, Show me Seattle is a great option that I would highly recommend.

From there, it makes the most sense to compare that tour with another, perhaps more widely-known tour that I also took in the past week:

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Yes, that’s correct; my internship sadists coordinators thought it would be excellent blog-fodder to test any of my lingering beliefs in a benevolent creator by putting me on one of these amphibious deathtraps and subjecting me to the song and dance put on by Ride the Duck’s exuberant tour guides. This was mine:

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He changed hats

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several times

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corresponding to transitions (real and imagined) in the course of the tour.

This tour is approximately 90 minutes, only half the time of the previous tour, and the truncation made a notable difference in the experience. Where the Show me Seattle tour could be called comprehensive, Ride the Ducks can be thought of as concise. It was also very…musical. The selections were relatively inoffensive, and it isn’t as though we actually made it through the entirety of any one song. Most of them were old classics, enthusiastically introduced by our guide/captain in his boisterous radio-voice. I admit, this is one of the tour elements I was most apprehensive about; but I believe I got lucky. Our tour was only about half full, the earliest of the available tours, and was populated almost entirely by older people. There were no sing-alongs or clapping-in-time, and even the 2 young grandchildren on the tour were sparing in the use of their “quackers”.

Oh, did I not mention the quackers?

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Guess why they call them that. Go ahead. Guess.

Honestly, this tour was not that bad. However, I would caution anyone who cringes at the sight of the packed sing-along tours that roll down pike to steer clear unless their relatives are in town (and even then with trepidation). Even though my experience was pretty tame, I was constantly reminded of how bad it could have been:

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For those of you still reading after than little marathon, we move onward! I won’t begrudge you switching to another tab to check email or Facebook or something before continuing. Go ahead, do it.

All done? Great, let’s continue:

The Solstice Parade and the Fremont Fair

I will try to keep this section brief, mainly because there will be another, picture-filled post about it at a later date, but I felt it would be interesting to share some of my experience and viewpoint on the Solstice Parade especially.

I am a Louisiana native, and therefore no stranger to a good parade. Mardi Gras is a statewide celebration, but the debauchery (and media attention) is mainly focused in New Orleans. Baton Rouge is located about an hour’s drive (~70 miles) west of New Orleans, so it’s not much of a hike to make the trip and stay a few days.

I’m sad to say that most of what you hear about New Orleans Mardi Gras is completely true. Well, except for the shootings/stabbings (they tend to underplay that).

That said, I can assure you with complete confidence that something like the Solstice Parade would never be allowed to occur in Louisiana. “But why?”, you ask, “Don’t you have people flashing boobies during all that crazy Mardi Gras nonsense?”. Why yes! Yes we do! So naked bicyclists should be no problem, right?

Well, not so much. Two major differences:

  1. The flashing is fleeting (though frequent if you’re in the right place).
  2. There are no kids on Bourbon (as far as anyone will tell you)

None of this matters to me so much, but understand that Louisiana is essentially run by a cabal of uptight, “religious” old people with a great deal of reach and even more money. If they could, they would already have shut down the more, er, “enthusiastic” of the Mardi Gras celebratory activities, but the fact of the matter is that by now it’s practically traditional. The other reasoning is the same old irrational, puritanical notion that nudity and sexuality are inextricably entwined. Not gonna go into that here.

Short version of Louisiana thoughts on public nudity: God forbid that anyone under 18 should see a naked person. Ever. Until they get married, of course.

So I say to you, Seattle: Kudos! Kudos on not being freaked out by naked people because sadly, and seriously, that is an accomplishment.

And hey, some of that body paint was really cool! I’d post pictures, but to do so would violate the WordPress Terms of Service. So here’ s picture of a paper cup octopus instead!

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Come back next week to find out more about a backwater southerner’s very first Summer in Seattle!

-By Patrick Killen