Picture of pikeplace We'll start this off with a disclaimer: due to a small camera incident, our pictures of Seattle were somewhat mangled. These three have survived more or less but the resolution has suffered greatly. Anyway, we begin with a picture of some fish on ice in Seattle's Pike Place Market. Our first stop because it was not only in the middle of town, it was a fine place to go when hungry. We were hungry because even 2 airline breakfasts do not adequately suffice to cover 7 hours of flying. Pike Place Market is typically known for the fish markets were employees fling the wares back and forth across the counter. This is really not very interesting although many people spend hours videotaping it. Furthermore, since no one is buying fish (how many tourists do you know who buy fresh whole salmon while travelling?) they eventually start fish-flinging for entertainment purposes only.
Picture of flowers Fruit, vegetables and flowers are also common at the market including the seasonal tulips shown here. Other sections have flea-market stalls and more permanent stores. We took the monorail (billed as the world's first) from downtown to Seattle Center, home of the space needle, and the ridiculously shaped building which is home to the Experience Music Project (that picture was sadly lost). At Seattle Center we found that there really wasn't a whole lot to do unless you wanted to pay $11 to go up in the Space Needle. It wasn't a particularly clear day and we didn't want to do this so we decided to roam areas outside of downtown instead.
Picture of spaceneedle Our advice is this: Don't pay $11 to go up in the Space Needle unless you really have nothing better to do and $11 to waste. Instead, drive up into the Capitol Hill section of town just east of Downtown and go to Volunteer Park. There you'll find a brick cylindrical structure which is actually a water tower dating from the beginning of the 20th century. You'll find you can climb up to the top of the water tower for $0 although there is admittedly no elevator. At about 100 feet (30 meters) it's a good solid 500 feet (150 m.) shorter than the Space Needle, but it sits on a nice hill and thus has a higher overall altitude and provides a fine view of Seattle, the Puget Sound, and Lake Washington and the Cascades.

Later in the evening we returned to Seattle to find that on a Thursday at least, there isn't a whole lot to do in Pioneer Square (the historic district) or downtown in general. There are several nice microbreweries but unfortunately they stopped serving food before we arrived around 9:00 PM.

Picture of olympics The next day we took a short and uneventful ferry ride to the south end of Whidby Island and began wandering along both coasts towards the north end. This picture was taken from an unspecified beach looking across Puget Sound to the Olympic Mountains in the distance.
Picture of deception_pass At the north end of Whidby Island and the south end of Fidalgo island is Deception Pass State Park. The adventurous sounding name comes from a remarkably dull story. In a nutshell, the explorer (George Vancouver) believed Whidby Island to be a peninsula. Just imagine his shame at the local explorer's club when it turned out to be an island. He named the pass 'deception' so people like us, hundreds of years later, could share in the geographical faux pas. Regardless, it's an impressive pass with high cliffs on either side and some nice hiking trails. This picture of us atop a hill was intended to show off Whidby Island and the Olympic Mountains in the background but we failed. To commemorate our own miscalculation we offer to christen this 'overexposure hill'.
Picture of sanjuanislands Here's a better view of the scenery without us in the way. Those are varied and sundry of the San Juan Islands out there in the sound. The park is known for a variety of sea mammals which can be seen from its shores. We saw nothing more interesting than some pale blue butterflies. 'Lack of visible sea mammals' would in fact become a pretty good alternate title for this whole trip.
Picture of camas A decent variety of wildflowers covered the area including a large number of Camas Lilies like this one. There are a total of 38 miles (61 km) of hiking trails in the park although they're tightly wound about either side of the pass. There are also several rocky beaches which are apparently quite popular in the summer. We continued on north of the pass and turned inland towards the Skagit river valley.
Picture of tulips The Skagit Valley area holds its tulip festival every April. The tulip fields are impressive while in bloom. The view from the road is of fields with wide swaths of multiple bright colors. Up close, you'll find that many farms actually charge people a couple dollars to walk amongst the tulips.
Picture of tulips2 The tulip festival, which is co-hosted by several area towns, features several dozen events which for the most part have nothing whatsoever to do with tulips. Our favorites from the brochure were the daily llama-shearing (weather-permitting) and the 'Art in a Pickle Barn'. We did not stop to wander in any of the fields, but the traffic was so thick that we spent plenty of time stopped along the road to take these pictures and see some of the flowers close-up. If you happen to have a tulip fetish of some sort you could definatly spend a few days in the area.
Picture of daffodils Daffodils are equally popular in terms of agriculture although they receive lower billing in the festival. Fields like this one stretch pretty much from the Cascade Mountains to the shoreline. The town of LaConner holds an associated street festival (as do several other towns in the valley) which is your pretty typical small town festival with the possible exception of tulip jelly for sale. We headed north for the Canadian border after an hour or so of tulip exposure.
Picture of tx_monorail

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