Sister in Seattle

So my time in Seattle seemed to wizz by far too quickly for my liking.

 

It has been my first visit not only to Seattle but also to Washington state. 

 

Ballard is the area of Seattle in which Sarah lives. A seemingly sleepy, chilled maritime vibe encompasses the location and yet underneath that gives way to the hustle and bustle of newly erected condos and general architectural innovations. In Ballard, there is not much higher than 4 stories and therefore it gives off a resounding sense of being a fishermans town; what with all the water; and if it wasn’t for the glimpses of downtown Seattle from certain viewpoints, you would easily forget you were nearby/in a big city at all.

 

Water and mountains surround Seattle. The puget sound is apparently never ending on the horizon but constantly surrounded by raised land and in the distance the Olympic mountains to the west or cascade mountains to the east. Of course you then get mount rainier. On a clear day you can see the mountain loom up in the background behind the space needle in downtown Seattle leaving you with that epic skyline you think of when you may think of Seattle itself. 

 

I had no expectations about Seattle. I sort of didn’t want to read about it, or look at it on a map. I wanted to see everything with new eyes, rather than through someone else’s beforehand. I also wanted to see Sarah’s Seattle. 

 

The journey from Chicago to Seattle was pretty incredible with regards to scenery, and in particular how diverse it was. From marshlands, to going over the misissipi river, then onto practically desert and then further along the trip into the mountains and rivers and picturesque and gigantic mountain forests. Coming into Seattle brought me along the edge of the puget sound. The morning I arrived itself was quite clouded over, but never the less the beauty of the water right next to the train tracks and spanning far and wide until an island or opposite land appeared in the distance; was stunning. 

 

When I got to union station in downtown Seattle it was so quiet. My first impressions of Seattle was that you could be mistaken for being just in a big town. It’s not small by any means, but what with the water dividing up so much of the city, everything is so spread out. The reason it was so quiet was because it was the Fourth of July. American independence from us…

 

I walked out of the train platform area and into the main station where immediately saw miss brink who ran towards me and we embraced just as family does when they haven’t seen each other for a while. I was so thrilled to be there and buzzing at the prospect of being in this city and with lil sis. Walking outside the station there was Sarah’s HUGE truck. I have I say after driving Sarah around in England for a year or so, it had kind of slipped my mind that she could even drive at all! It was a bizarre role reversal, and one I was happy to experience. So we made our way over to Ballard, the clouds were lifting as Sarah explained to me that they have had constant sunshine for weeks and it was the perfect time to visit Seattle in this beautiful sunshine. 

 

We seemed to be in downtown Seattle for only a few moments before we were crossing a bridge overseeing the locks and puget sound. The locks separate the salt water from the puget sound with the fresh water union lake. Union lake is where Tom hanks lived in the movie ‘sleepless in Seattle’, a place we visited later on in the week I was in the city. 

 

Sarah had to work for the afternoon/evening, which in a way was nice as it meant I could chill at her duplex, shower, unpack etc. the duplex itself is awesome. All the houses in Ballard seem to be different bright colours and take on this distinctly American look that reminded me of old town in Chicago. Her friend Lauren from school lives on the above floor, and then Sarah shares with a guy called Riley on the lower floor. It really is everything you could ever need at the age Sarah/myself is at. I loved the little duplex with the veranda style area at the back and a garden, and all the time I’m thinking we are only about 10/15 minutes from the centre of Seattle. 

 

I had briefly met Sarah’s parents and brother at their house before we had ventured onto Sarah’s duplex. And whilst Sarah was out her mum came to capture me and take me to some sort of community centre where there was a band playing and a BBQ/buffet style Fourth of July celebrating going on. We sat at the bar and had a beer and food and chatted and got to know each other. Anne then drove me around Ballard and pointed out some sights and points of interest mainly to do with their family life which was interesting. I then went back to Sarah’s where I showered and got ready for Sarah to finish work so we could go to her cousins on the water to watch the fireworks. And it seemed to watch the boys set off some of their own! 

 

The house was stunning and the food was awesome. I met her uncle and aunt and two boy cousins one of whom was back from uni for the holidays. It was the first time I’d been in the states for the Fourth of July celebrations and I certainly wasn’t let down. 

 

The following day Sarah had to work again and I used the day to catch up on sleep and read and write and settle in. In the evening we went down to the harbour with her family to go sailing and have a picnic onboard. The weather was still amazing and it was such a privilege to go out on the family boat and watch them all in action. It really is part of the brink family life. Sarah and her father and brother had sailed from Hawaii to Seattle in a race towards to the end of last year, so they certainly knew what they were doing and it inspired me to want to sail more for sure. 

 

 

 

 

Watching the sunset we then came back into harbour and then Sarah and I went out in Ballard for drinks and food and to just generally catch up and be with each other! 

 

As previously mentioned in another blog Sarah and I spent the weekend in La push on the Olympic peninsula. A stunning resort run by the quillette tribe who feature strongly in the twilight book series. The whole weekend was an amazing treat and gift from Sarah, and I’m so glad we did it. Walks through the rain forests and on the beaches, going inland a little to forks the nearest town. There is a genuine feeling of remoteness and rugged freedom and coexistence with nature. It has not been tainted too much by the human capacity to over populate or develope properties everywhere. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The drive was about 3 hours and on the way we went down via Sarah’s grandparents who live on the water near Tacoma. There house was also stunning and overlooking water. Sarah told me stories of when they all used to go there as children with all the uncles and aunts and cousins, and it was great to get even more of a feel for Sarah’s childhood and upbringing. 

 

 

 

10 days in Seattle seemed to pass by far too quickly. Other highlights included an evening out on the sailboat again but with just Sarah, myself and two of Sarah’s friends Lauren and becky. That was awesome and once the sun had set we headed back to harbour and ate and drank in the cabin until we were too tired and retired back to Sarah’s for sleep. We also took part in the duck tour. Taking us through Seattle by land and water gave a real good sense of the history of the place and we both learnt a lot. On the Friday night before my birthday Sarah and Riley hosted a party at theirs whereby a lot of people turned up to hang out. That was really fun, and a very memorable night in which I turned the grand age of 27. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the Saturday -my birthday- Sarah took me out to see the cirque de symphonies. Essentially a full classical orchestra played music on stage whilst incredible gymnasts and trapeze artists and contortionists and strong men did crazy routines that synced with the music perfectly. It was a beautiful performance. 

 

In summary; I have fallen in love with Seattle. In fact, although I know they are completely different cities, I think I could quite possibly love it more than sweet home Chicago. And that’s saying something. The people are so chilled and friendly, and there is seemingly no massive violence or huge animosity between people. The water and phenomenal views surrounding the city reflect the serenity and calm of the people and indeed the way in which the city has been constructed around it.

 

Seeing Sarah was awesome. Having had Sarah live with our family for a year it was intriguing and educational to finally learn more about her family and her life. I guess the context in which Sarah lived and stayed with my family meant that after a while she became part of our family to the point where it was easy to forget Sarah has her very own wonderful family and life some 5000 miles away across an ocean. It is incredible the people you meet in life and the connections and long lasting friendships that can be maintained from the simplicity and innocence of an initial encounter where somehow you connect with each other on a deep and often subconscious level; and in turn that bond I don’t think can ever be broken. Our lives may be worlds apart but our minds and hearts exist on the same plain where we will forever be in each others thoughts. A year had passed since I had seen Sarah and yet, like a true friend or family member, it felt like it was all yesterday. Time is bizarre. The world is continuing to get smaller. I am blessed to have met and continue meeting people like Sarah in my life. And will miss her and Seattle and the everyday sisterhood immensely. Until next time miss brink….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stories

There is something about visiting a place in the world that you have read about in a story. Currently I’m sitting on a balcony at La Push overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Those of you who have read the infamous ‘twilight’ saga will know exactly where I am. Those of you that haven’t read them; well you should. 

 

 

 

Before books are made into movies, You picture them in a certain way. You envisage each and every character; most likely based on people you know or have met, simply because of the way that the author describes them. It is only natural that you mirror characters in stories with those characters that are in your every day life. It is how you come to relate to them. Similarly, if you can’t relate a character to someone you know, you can mirror their experiences with your own, or some of your own, and therefore can imagine yourself as a character or at least relate to parts of what a character is going through. 

 

A good author will be able to create new characters and new scenes, and create a world in which you can feel totally and utterly present within. So much so that when you go to visit the place in which the story is set, you feel like you have already been there. In a sense, driving through forks and then down to La push beach, I felt like I was going back to a place I already knew, and indeed, in a certain way it was like coming home. 

 

Immediately I am placing the world I created within the authors world all around me. I’m imagining that the story actually occurred and that I am visiting the place as some kind of pilgrimage to somewhere with a definite real history created from the book.

 

Of course vampires and werewolves don’t exist. And the cynical members of my audience of readers may think it ridiculous that Sarah and I chose forks as a place to go to for a weekend. In fact there were several scoffs from people when we said we were going to come here. This I can only imagine is because of the pretentious Hollywood hype that surrounded the movies themselves. 

 

And yet, apart from the odd burger bar that offers the ‘bella’ burger, and the shops that sell official movie merchandise; on the facade of it all, and unlike any other place I’ve visited in the USA that has a history or natural beauty; it is relatively untouched by the human need to hype it up or make it a gigantic theme park. There are no casinos or lit up streets with fake lighting. There are no swarms and swarms of tourists, and basically just no obvious tackiness. 

 

 

 

This peninsula is one of the most stunning places I have ever been. It probably helps that today has been a beautifully sunny day. But regardless, even in the pouring down rain, this place would still be beautiful. The drive from Seattle to here took around three hours. Although we did miss our turning to La push and wondered some 30 miles south of our destination. The roads become single track halfway along the journey, and these roads meander their way along lake shores and on the other side teeter along the edge of massive expanses of rain forests and in the distance are high snow capped mountains and eventually the glimmer of the Pacific Ocean.  

 

 

 

One of the reasons I believe we can come to terms with ‘different’ is because of literature. A poem, a song, a story, a book that are set in another location allows us (upon reading them) to feel like we are not just a visitor in that place. But an inhabitant. 

 

With my upcoming trip to Borneo, I am therefore inclined to start really reading about the place and its history in order to better acclimatise myself to the foreign location that it is inevitably going to be.

Empire Builder

The United States of America is HUGE. I have now travelled from the Far East of the country right across to the far west of the country. All without entering a plane I might add. Obviously you can do this in about 7 hours or something on a plane. but i am massively glad i didn’t. The latter part if my journey has taken pretty much exactly 48 hours. The distinct change in climate and terrain noticeable pretty much every few hours throughout the journey. 

 

The journey began on the 1st of July, departing from union station in Chicago at around 2pm. The train then snaked its way up into the state of Wisconsin. At some point we met the Mississippi River and followed this as the sunset upon it until we finally crossed the border into Minnesota. Marshlands and water and bridges that we had to cross occupied most of the views on this part of the journey. When we hopped off for some fresh air in Winona Minnesota it was raining, and then further down the line at Minneapolis it had turned warm again. 

 

After Alex left the train at staples Minnesota, I drifted in and out of sleep until the wee hours of Wednesday morning the 3rd of July (happy birthday granny G!) where I watched the sunrise over ‘devils lake’ in North Dakota. Helped myself to a sausage egg and cheese muffin and a coffee for breakfast I then settled back in my seat to watch the landscape go by. 

 

Mainly lush green everywhere. There was flooding in North Dakota that came right up to the tracks, that thankfully were risen several meters above ground level. Otherwise we would have been pretty stuffed. The flooding forced the train to be delayed by some hours which meant that the journey into glacier national park in Montana would happen a little later which I became gutted about pretty fast as I love mountains. Never the less we still managed to watch the sun set over the Rockies, and I made my way to the lower level of the train where I could hang out the window and take photos of the train snaking its way through the mountains. 

 

For dinner that evening I had pasta, wasn’t too bad. There is either a restaurant or a shop. I was pretty tired. Sitting on your bum all day will do that. So just grabbed that and some water and conked out.

 

No one had replaced Alex since he left back in Minnesota. Obviously irreplaceable. However at 4am this morning I got awoken from my slumber by a lady tapping my leg to wake me up to sit down. It was one of the first times that something that is happening in actuality became part of my dream. Again like you see in the movies. Anyways, I didn’t want to wake from that dream. So I was sufficiently quiet to hide my annoyance, and turning over I struggled to then get back to proper sleep. 

 

By about 7am I was wide awake and hungry. This time I went to the restaurant for breakfast and ate scrambled eggs, bacon, potatoes and a croissant. Oh and coffee and orange juice. I sat with a couple from Missouri who had just got on the train at around midnight after spending three days in glacier national park Montana. 

 

The morning was beautiful. The sun shone through the and landscape that was gradually turning from dry desert style terrain into thick forest and mountains. After breakfast we plunged deep into the heart of the cascade mountains. Here we climbed up to 2800 feet. Journeying through the 7.8 mile cascade tunnel we then came out the other side following the skymonish river. Pine and fir forests surrounded the tracks. Every now and then you’d get a view of the mountains in the background with waterfalls and big drops from where we were sat on a bridge. Truly beautiful. And all untouched. Bar the train line of course. 

 

I’m now about 20 minutes from Seattle overlooking the puget sound out of the window. The tide is out and heron and a variety of boats and ships are on the water. The weather has become a little overcast, but we have been told it will burn off in a couple of hours! 

 

Will blog when I get to Seattle…