Hello again, dear readers, whoever you are…
Thanks to a massively busy summer, I’ve been writing less now than when I had barely any free time during the school year. I suppose that should read “university” – I really don’t get why people decide they won’t call university school any more. It just is, end of story. Come on people, accept that Americans have got that right at least. Anyway, as I was saying I’ve been writing a lot less, and haven’t even caught up to the end of my trip to Oregon (and Washington, on a couple of occasions) in June.
I had intended to write more about Portland, but I honestly can’t even remember what else I had to say about it. It is a fantastic city, with lots to see and do, even if you’re just wandering about some of the weird and wonderful shops. If you’ve been to the states, you probably know the name Goodwill Industries. Goodwill is a huge not-for-profit organisation all about improving job prospects for people who normally face employment issues (people with disabilities, or with little experience, or face other challenges). As part of this, they operate a chain of thrift stores which generally sell stuff of pretty good quality, and a lot better on average than most charity shops in Northern Ireland. What happens to all the unsold goods though? All the unwanted items, that didn’t appear to attract any interest during their shelf lives, make their way to the bins. Essentially a massive warehouse, the Goodwill Outlet is filled full of lots of crap, and amongst it all, some gems reside. You pay by the pound, so for electrical equipment it’s ridiculously cheap if you can manage to untangle reams and reams of cable. My brother found an old Dell mechanical keyboard, a nice one, and he got himself an old NES controller and a few other things. I got a number of cables and a couple of keyboards too, but if you had the patience and knew what you were looking for then the sky is the limit. If you decide to go it’s a good idea to wear gloves, as the bins aren’t the nicest of things to root through, but they also sell a number of larger items. Joanna found a retro exercise bike for next to nothing, which turned out to be worth about $100! They are definitely worth a look if you’re in Portland, and a bargain hunter.
Seattle! I only managed to get there for a day, but it was a great day at that. It was near the end of the trip, and we were running low-ish on money, so that ruled the more expensive attractions out (sorry Space Needle). There was still lots to do for those low on cash. Personally, when I’m in a new city I like to spend some time just exploring and getting a feel for the people and the place. Seattle was significantly different from what expected, which is what I’ve found with most of the big American cities I have visited. We managed to get to the Pike Place Market, Ye Olde Curiosity Shop, a cool (but expensive) antique shop, the Pacific Science Centre, and Kerry Park. And of course the famous first location of Starbucks. It’s not my favourite chain of all time, being over-priced and of average quality, but they do make some damn good mugs, and thanks to one American in particular I’m now obliged to collect them! We stood outside Starbucks, which doesn’t have any seating and is pretty tiny, and decided not to go in because it was completely packed with tourists.
My highlight was definitely Kerry Park. It was a bit out of the way – about 20 minutes walk from the Seattle Centre, and uphill all the way. Not just a gentle hill, but a fairly steep one. I expected Seattle to be flat, but it is incredibly hilly, and tiring to get around on foot. Anyway, after the 20 minute walk, you reach a rather inauspicious looking small park, with no significant features other than a piece of sculpture and a few benches. Then you turn around, and in front of you is something spectacular. I knew it would be good, but I didn’t realise it would be THAT good. The view of downtown Seattle is spectacular, and on a clear day you can also see a snow capped Mt Rainier. There was a wedding party taking a few photos with the view in the background at that point, who enlisted me to take a few shots for them. When I tried taking the photo, the camera read “low battery” and turned off. At this point they thought I was pushing the power button instead of the shutter release, which of course I wasn’t, because I can tell the difference between the two. After I explained the situation, which took a lot of explaining, that I could remove their memory card and take a photo with my camera, then give them back the card with the photo on it. They turned out to be really friendly natives, and I’m glad I could help them out. See, I travel the world providing technical expertise!
I’m sure I’m almost up to date with my American travels by now, but if I think of anything else, I’ll be sure to post. If you’re reading this at the time of publishing, go to bed. That’s what I’m doing. And watch the Dark Knight Rises.