Seattle is famous for coffee, being the birth place of grunge, rain, Boeing and Microsoft. It is also home to the famous Pike Place Market. Keen to find out more, we signed up for a VIP early access tour to get behind the scenes. Accompanied by a local guide, we sampled our way around the market, meeting the stall-holders and their families along the way. Highlights included 3 kinds of smoked salmon, 'biscuits', local cherries and peaches, and schezuan flat breads stuffed with chicken and hot sauce. I was not so keen on the bacon and maple donuts!
What was most interesting was finding out about the history of the market and how it functions as a community today. The market opened in 1907 and is the oldest continuously operated public farmer's market in the US. The market is much more than just stalls selling fresh produce. It has a school, health centre, social housing and community garden. There are strict rules on who is allowed to trade at the market, with the emphasis on local people selling local produce and handmade products. No chains are allowed, and many of the businesses remain in same families. The market is spread across 9 acres and includes 11 buildings and 500 stalls and shops over 6 levels.
The market has FLOSS as it's philosophy – Fresh, Local, Organic, Seasonal and Sustainable. The market encourages resource efficiency, and leftover food is redistributed to the homeless and those in need in the community. It is friendly, vibrant, chaotic and colourful and whilst popular with tourists, is clearly a working, functional place for local people and businesses.
After a coffee (artisan and locally roasted of course), we headed further South to the oldest part of the city around Pioneer Square. Here we joined another guided tour which explored the 'underground' Seattle, which is a maze of streets and buildings that once stood at ground level, but were built over when the city was rebuilt following the fire that destroyed it in 1889.
A quick stop in a brewery, before heading to our final stop of the day – dinner at the restaurant on top of the Seattle's most iconic landmark – the Space Needle. The views were pretty amazing despite the smoky horizon.
We head South tomorrow, but I will be sorry to leave Seattle – definitely one for the 'would love to come back' list. Hopefully next time it will rain like its supposed to!