24 Hours In Seattle

On my most recent trip to Vancouver in Canada I got slightly distracted and found myself in the United States! I’ve never actually been to America and at a mere 3 hour drive from Van, Seattle just seemed way too tantalisingly close to resist!

So armed with my electronic visa (ESTA) I jumped in the car with some friends and we headed off to Seattle for the weekend!

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Leaving early(ish) Saturday we managed to get through the border and be in the centre of Seattle by midday. Needing to leave at midday on the Sunday this gave us a grand total of 24 hours to cram in as much of Seattle as possible!!

Here’s how we did it…

Step 1. Check into the hostel

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We stayed at a place called The Green Tortoise on Pike Street, directly opposite the famous Pike Street Market. This was the view from the front window of the hostel:

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I mean you don’t get much closer than that! I’m sure if you opened the window you could catch the distinct wiff of fresh fish… but I didn’t.

Step 2. Go to Pike Street Market

Being this close it made sense to check out what all the fuss is about. The lively, bustling market has been running for decades and supplies a heady combination of handmade crafts, fresh food, long established eateries and vibrant stalls of flowers.

Directly opposite the market you can also find the first ever Starbucks! This is somewhat of a tourist hotspot and if you want to be one of those to say “I’ve had a coffee at the first ever Starbucks!!” then be prepared to que. When there’s another dozen Starbucks right round the corner and it’s chucking it down with rain we figured this wasn’t a way to spend our precious time, but be my guest, others do it!

Step 3. Have lunch with Tom Hanks

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We stumbled across this place in the market to have lunch called Athenian. Advertised as one of the best places to eat fresh fish and with views over the water, we slipped right in got comfortable at the bar.

Surprising to us suddenly a few tourists kept appearing next to us to take photos of this stool (one that I nearly sat on), so here’s us wondering what on earth is so amazing about a stool?? Well it turned out this wasn’t just any stool, it was the same stool that Tom Hanks sat in and the same restaurant where a scene from Sleepless in Seattle was filmed, how about that!

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Just an hour or two into our Seattle adventure and we were already stumbling across its most iconic spots! The salmon was also outstanding 😍

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Step 4. Put some gum on the Gum Wall

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The wall can be found down Post Alley just left of the market, which also has some pretty cool graffiti and posters down it.

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When you Google the gum wall it does say that it is permanently closed, but when we checked it out it was definitely very much alive and kicking!

As the name suggests it indeed a wall and it has gum on it. Why you may ask is this a major city attraction? I mean it is ALOT of gum….

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You certainly wouldn’t want to lean on it!! There’s probably some famous gum on the wall too but more importantly our gum is now proudly on it. Major Seattle ritual complete!👍

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Step 5. Go to the EMP Museum

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The EMP Museum is the Experience Music Project Museum and it is the crème de la crème of museums. I’ve been to my fair share of museums and I’m putting it out there… it may the best I’ve ever been to.

There’s just a crazy amount of unbelievably cool stuff!! Don’t let the music bit in the name fool you, oh no, there’s that and more!

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From the second you pass the lobby and start entering the galleries there’s this giant guitar pillar thingy greeting your way (a quick Google search has kindly informed me that it consists of over 500 instruments, how about that!)

There are three main floors in the museum and numerous interactive, amazingly designed galleries to investigate. They range from video games and sci-fi films, to hello kitty and sound rooms, every section offers something different and exciting.

We started off in the sci-fi section which had some pretty awesome props from films such as Star Wars, Alien and Terminator.

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Then we headed into the horror gallery and spent a good while in there. As a former English and Film student I found this stuff soooooo interesting! There were props from films such as Hostel, Shaun of the Dead and The Blair Witch Project.

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Then there were original manuscripts from Horror kings such as Bram Stoker, as well as screens playing commentaries from famous horror directors talking about their movies, inspirations and the horror genre.

The whole time I was thinking ‘dammit this would have been such a good source for an essay at uni!!’ So I hope you Seattle younglings make the most of it! (Yep realise that made me sound about 90, totally cool with it 😂).

Next up was Fantasy, my FAVOURITE genre!!! To get inside this gallery you had to push open this big fairy tale looking door and then the gallery looked like this…

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It was ace! There was a sleeping dragon next to a night, Sirius Black’s robe from Harry Potter, props from Lord of The Rings (best films ever), Narnia and more. There was more commentary, mainly from George R R Martin which was very interesting, as well as an early edition of The Fellowship of The Ring and letter by Tolkien.

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With it being fantasy land there were also tree sculptures that made up the gallery and certain little tunnels you could climb through. These tunnels may have just been for kids, I may or may not have climbed through them, I may or may not have banged my head on the way out of one… yep defiantly for kids.

The central section of the museum was made up of the Jimmy Hendrix, Nirvana, Guitar Gallery,  Hello Kitty and Video Game galleries. The collection of historical guitars that the museum has is amazing!

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To learn more about the musical history that surrounds Seattle and still inspires artists today was truly fantastic.

Unfortunately we didn’t have time to check out all of the museum, you could easily spend an entire day, for one we missed the sound room where you can jam with some instruments yourself! But alas time was precious and we had to move on!

TIP: Green Tortoise Hostel do discount tickets to the EMP Museum so it’s just  $13 a ticket, bargain!

Step 6. Get a photo of The Space Needle

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Some of you might despair that we didn’t bother going up this iconic Seattle attraction, but precious time that we had it just didn’t seem worth the money.

Step 7. Have cheesecake at The Cheesecake Factory

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For some reason I was expecting The Cheesecake Factory to be a little bakery… NOPE! It was huge and also served loads of other food, literally the biggest menu I’ve ever seen in my life! I went very American and got some flavoursome Buffalo Wings followed by The Original cheesecake.

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It really was the most creamy, silkiest cheesecake ever 😍

Step 8. Find a Hidden Bar

Seattle has some fantastic bars. It was hard to choose one to spend the rest of the evening in! I wanted to find some sort of quirky, maybe speakeasy styled one and we opted for an old styled hidden bar called The Upstairs.

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Think bartenders in braces, a big cocktail and whisky list, sofas, low lighting and a bit of City and Colour blaring out the speakers and you’ve got it!

Step 9. Sleep in Seattle

Yep after a few cocktails I think we all slept pretty well!

Step 10. Have a big fat american breakfast

Waking up at the hostel to the sound of the hustle and bustle of the market outside and gentle guitar notes drifting through was a damn good way to wake up. Our final ours were spent on the hunt for the ultimate breakfast, which we found back at Pike Street Market!

Tummy’s full, alas, it was time to head off, but what a mighty good way to spend 24 hours! Seattle you are one groovy place 👊

J x

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Why Visit Jasper In The Winter?

Jasper National Park is the epitome of Canadian natural beauty. Vast landscapes of mountains, flowing rivers and evergreen forest blanket the region and the wildlife here is king. Larger and filled with more untouched, rugged wilderness than Banff, I think I just found my favourite place in Canada.

Many people however, avoid Jasper in the winter months and not without reason. Even getting there proves difficult, as the main route to Jasper through the Icefields Parkway becomes a treacherous, icy, avalanche-prone zone. Then even once you are there won’t be as much wildlife out and about as there is in the summer and of course many of the rivers and lakes are frozen over, so activities such as kayaking are a no go.

BUT the winter months can also be some of the most magical. Here’s how and why a wintery trip to Jasper shouldn’t be dismissed:

The Trip From Banff to Jasper is INSANELY beautiful

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Without a car it can prove difficult to get to Jasper from Banff as it’s a good few hours away and there’s no public transport. I know some people who have hitchiked but I chose the safer route and booked myself a seat on the SunDog Tours Mountain Connector. Pro with it being the quite winter months? I had plenty of room to stretch out!!

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During the warmer months the same tour company offers trips to the Colombian Icefields and the Glacier Skywalk, unfortunately this doesn’t happen in the winter but you do still get an amazing view of them as you pass by!

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TIP 1: If you’re driving make sure you fill up with fuel, there are no gas stations open in the winter between Lake Louise and Jasper

TIP 2: If like me you take the SunDog bus then shotgun a seat on the left handside for the best views!

Jasper Town is a Home away from Home

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With all the touristy attractions of the mountains, forests and wildlife it’s amazing how Jasper has retained its homely feel, but it has. Friendly smiling locals take pride in their closeness with the nature and wildlife that surrounds them and they are fearcly protective of preserving the unspoiled beauty of this land.

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If you’re camping in the wrong spots, feeding the wild animals when you’re not supposed to, badgering animals just to get a photo or speeding through wildlife crossings, then expect to be yelled at and rightly so. Respect the nature here as the locals do and they’ll welcome you with open arms.

There are fewer places to stay here in regards to hostels with it being such a small town. The main HI-Jasper one is a bit far out so mainly good for those with a car, but they are in the works of proposing a new one closer in. I stayed at a place called World Travellers Fraternity and it was more like a guesthouse than a stereotypical hostel, located in the converted basement area of a house. It is however roomy, homely and run by a lovely couple who are more than helpful with tips and places to go whilst in Jasper.

The Wildlife Is Still Out and About

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Walking around the town you can spot deer and elk wandering down the rail tracks, or even crossing the roads. As I said wildlife is king here and they have learnt to live alongside the community and people here who respect them.

Other ways to spot the wildlife is to just simply drive around and see what you can spot or go for hikes. I came across some deer munching away close to the road:

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Then on a hike up Old Fort Point was greeted by some curious mountain sheep!

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Another way if you don’t have a car is to jump on a wildlife tour. I went on one with SunDog and again because of the quieter tourist season, I was the only one on the bus!! This means I got to sit up front and chat and learn so much about Jasper’s wildlife from my knowledgeable guide Dave.

We came across a huge herd of Elk!

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Then had a close encounter with some cheeky looking sheep!

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We also visited the beautiful Medicine Lake:

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Dave explained how at this time of year the lake is known as the ‘disappearing lake’ because it literally drains away. This is due to an underground river system that empties in the winter, thus leaving gaps for the lake water to vanish into. The result is this magnificent landscape of shimmering white.

You Get To Go On Ice Canyon Walks

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In the winter the Malign Canyon opens up as the rivers waters dissappear and freeze over. What was once a vast deeper river in the summer becomes an icey Canyon wonderland you can explore (with caution).

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Frozen waterfalls and huge icycles make for a spectacular walk.

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I went with SunDog Tours and was once again the only visitor, another private tour for me yay! 😄 It was useful to go with them as they pick the safest times to go, paths to take and provide you with the appropriate footwear.

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Canada has had an especially warm winter this year and this is evident by the melting ice and snow around Jasper. It also meant that the evening Ice Canyon walks were not running due to the thawing and that they would most likely be closing off the Canyon in another week or so, so I got there just in time!

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The Rivers

You might think that in the winter the trees in the park will be bare, everything covered in snow and all of the rivers would be frozen over. Wrong! The evergreen forests remain vibrant and green, the weather is still good for walking and many of the rivers are fed by underground warmth waters, so remain flowing.

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I did drink a bit of the water here too.. not as cold as Lake Louise water but still fresh and crisp!

The Athabasca River is the main river that runs through Jasper and according to the locals has been thawing rapidly fast in parts for this time of year:

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It’s vivid emerald green waters are truly an incredible if not worrying sight.

Less Crowds

The last point I wanted to make for coming to Jasper in the winter is of course there will be hugely less footfall. The bears are hibernating and many of the park grounds are closed, so the millions of crowds that usually traverse the park in the summer aren’t there. I loved this. Less annoying throngs of people trying to get a selfie with a bear (don’t do that it’s dumb), peaceful hikes and cheaper rates. Brilliant!

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Whatever time of year you do go, you’re still going to have an amazing time in Jasper. It’s impossible not too. To be that close with nature and to see such beautiful landscapes really does wonders at soothing the soul and I’d recommend anyone to visit the secret gem that is Jasper in the winter. I’ll be back for sure 😊🌲💙

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J x