Thursday, July 24, 2008

Seattle could stand to be a little more European.

Some friends recently got back from Europe and had some astute observations on how many US citizens carry on while traveling abroad.

I had the pleasure today of speaking with a wonderful woman from Europe. She was born in Barcelona and lives in London now. It made for a lovely accent.

Her husband is in town for a conference, so she has a few days to just wander the streets of Seattle. She teaches and came into my work to learn about the city. She was very confused about whether we were private or public. Common confusion - so I explained. Then she went on to tell me how Seattle confuses her in general.

They are staying at the Westin and on her walk here she noticed no one else was out walking. This baffled her. In Europe, streets near the center of a city like this would be swarming with people. People walking, biking, eating and drinking at sidewalk cafes.

I told her, in a sheepish "not all Americans are like this" way, that this is because we rely too much on our autos.

I asked if she noticed the sizes of vehicles. I didn't even have to wait a beat, as we both looked outside at an over sized truck passing by.

I mentioned that with the rising cost of fuel prices, and other influencing factors, there is a shift happening in this culture. In a few years it will be different. We're inspired by the urban design of European cities.

She also commented on how Seattle doesn't feel very "urban" to her. She's been to Chicago and that feels like a city.

That's an interesting point to ponder as well. My answer is that we're young. And a lot of Seattle was planned with the auto in mind. This is also changing.

In a few years it will be different.

Another friend who recently traveled to Turkey recently posted about Seattle for visitors. When you're talking to someone who wants a "real" Seattle experience - what do you suggest? Let's assume they're staying downtown and are carless.

I suggested the Sculpture Park, Kerry Park, dinner along the waterfront (touristy, but good) and - assuming she went to Kerry Park, a meal at the 5-Spot (currently featuring Portland Cuisine.)

She had already been to Pioneer Square. She also plans to check out Broadway and I recommended she check out Fremont. I also suggested she make her way to the Pike/Pine part of Broadway. Let's face it - downtown Seattle is improving, but it has a long way to go. She observed (accurately) that it is mostly shopping. She wants more "life." Word.

Where else would you recommend?

I feel like such a white person writing this.


Grounded Girl said...

The lack of public life in this country is one of its biggest problems. We have few places in Seattle where one can just sit and people watch. (Part of that has to do with our weather, I'm sure... when it is overcast and chilly 10 months of the year, people just want to get from point A to point B.)

On the other hand, what IS life but going shopping, eating, meeting with friends?

Stacey said...

The Underground Tour is a really great thing for tourists and locals to do. It starts at Doc Maynard's in Pioneer Square and takes about an hour and half and you get a little history lesson of Seattle with it.

Michelle said...

I'm always telling people to check out the locks when they visit Seattle. Ballard is fairly bus accessible, right? I used to live there when I didn't have a car...

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