North America,  Travel

In Downtown Seattle

Every time you see a feature on this city named after Chief Seattle of the Suquamish Tribe, it is led with a shot of the famous Pike Place. It is as obligatory as say ladyfingers laced with coffee are to the noble tiramisu. So just to be obtuse, I decided on this giant man with his slow-mo release of a hammer, as mine. Perverse pleasures.

But let me not get ambitious here, for Pike Place is the throbbing heart of Seattle. Did I just contradict myself? I often do. And I end up quoting Mr. Whitman: ‘Very well then I contradict myself; (I am large, I contain multitudes)’.

The old public market was the first place in Downtown Seattle that I laid my eyes on  three years ago when I first visited the sister-in-law and fam. It was a pleasant evening after a smokin’ hot day in June, and it must have been late, because the row of stalls had been emptied of their wares. No traces of fishmongers, flower sellers and vendors who throng it during the day. It made me want to see it during the day, for ’tis the buzz of humanity after all that makes a place special. Even though I do carp about the crowds — how they singe your scalp with indignation in a location like Charles Bridge, Prague — but in Pike, ah, it is another matter. Here the crowds are part of a carnivalesque atmosphere. This includes the fish throwing event that takes place at the Pike Place Fish Co. Now I have written a post previously about the FISH philosophy, so I shall not bother repeating myself and content myself with the observation that it is bloody marvellous how effortlessly the fishmongers catch and throw monster fish. For all the world, they could be hurling soft toys at each other.

This time they did a token throw for the few who had accumulated around the stall. We wandered around, taking in the familiar sights of the bronze pig, a favourite with most for sitting astride it and claiming insta-happy photos, of the flower seller who is almost rendered invisible, burrowed inside her world of flowers.

We tasted chilli-coated chocolate beans and wondered aloud about the idea of carting mushroom growing pods back home, stared at fish with their gaping mouths and dead eyes that see no more, watched whey being swirled in vats inside humid cabins of the Beecher’s flagship store (it sells one of the best cow’s milk cheeses I have had — its the Beercher’s Flagship Cheese), saw a queue form outside what is said to be the Original Starbucks store, but what is not, because the first one was actually started by three men a few blocks north of the present location.

At a fresh produce stall, black truffles were pegged at heart-stopping and credible prices. One of the grocers came forward and insisted we try  some jumbo-sized purple asparagus. It was delicious raw. A fat bundle of it was bought for my mother-in-law’s birthday dinner, to be rustled up that evening at home. The fellow gathered momentum with all his green talk. He held forth about about the art of foraging, and he pointed out thin stalks of sea beans culled from salt marshes and mushrooms sourced from the forests nearby. After some violent nudging (which was resolutely ignored by me), Adi vamoosed with his sister. The brother-in-law and I stood and listened to the guy gab, because how do you leave such passion unappreciated?

Pike Place, you realise, is a live theatre of sorts. It is what I love most about marketplaces. Be it the rows of vegetable stalls in Calcutta where I turned up at with my father as a child almost every day; or the ancient market square in Northampton where the butchers hawked their meats the old way, where the produce made my senses hum with their freshness; Borough Market in London where you could browse and taste gourmet foods before squirreling them away in cloth bags, to be savoured later at home; or the Mercado de San Miguel of Madrid where I went barmy at the range of pinchos, cheeses and meats on display, not to mention the delightful wine bars and cakes. It is a fascination, which I suppose can be put down to the old-world charm of a market, for it fosters the need for community, conversations and a wonderful feeling of bonhomie.

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56 Comments

  • InspiresN

    I love such market places and especially to find and buy stuff straight from the farmers is quite exciting.Loved the fresh fish stall and the tulips!

  • lexandneek

    Great to see The Public Market again! Love that place. Didn’t try any purple asparagus though – but sounds delicious! Great photos and personal observations. Always a pleasure to read – Neek

    • dippydottygirl

      Sounds like you have walked through those stalls too and noshed here and there. We just went with the flow and got purple asparagus and sea beans along with a Chatty Cathy 😉 Thanks Neek. xx

  • Osyth

    I love me a market …. Big, small, covered, open air I’m a little piglet on a truffle finding the best bits. This one is megalicious and as ever your pictures and your words (which make me smile often) lead me through a cornucopia of delights that I immediately want to try for myself! Xx

    • dippydottygirl

      Thank you Osyth! You make me feel on top of the world with your kind comments. You would find Pike interesting, chock full of gastronomic treasures. The fact that I could try veggies that I had not tasted before tickled the taste buds and I wanted to get them a seat on the flight too. Alas, the world is not quite there yet. Hope the weekend promises a few culinary delights. xx

  • TheresaBarker

    “Pike Place, you realise, is a live theatre of sorts. It is what I love most about marketplaces. Be it the rows of vegetable stalls in Calcutta where I turned up at with my father as a child almost every day; or the ancient market square in Northampton where the butchers hawked their meats the old way, where the produce made my senses hum with their freshness; Borough Market in London where you could browse and taste gourmet foods before squirreling them away in cloth bags, to be savoured later at home; or the Mercado de San Miguel of Madrid where I went barmy at the range of pinchos, cheeses and meats on display, not to mention the delightful wine bars and cakes.”

    Such a wonderful perspective on our own PPM – one of my most favorite places in my home town. Saved from the developer’s wrecking ball a few decades ago, yay! I love that their artists in the stalls have to be in their own stalls (not have an outside seller) a certain number of days a week, helps keep it authentic and also provides a bit of a living for others who do the selling when standing in for the artists. So many things I’ve obtained at the Market in past years, silver artist earrings (multiple pairs), framed photograph art, bright scarves, kids’ silkscreened clothing when my daughter and son were little, a handmade wood-case fountain pen (gift from my older son), sheepskin slippers for my daughter’s Christmas gift, not to mention produce, nuts, jams, hats, and so on. Fun!

    And thank you for being such a kind listener. It’s a terrific gift to the speaker!

    • dippydottygirl

      First of all, anyone with passion about the most seemingly trivial things, gets me. Adi meanwhile always nudges me to get going because he is an ace when it comes to patience. Once in a hundred times, he deigns to stick with me.
      I am fascinated by the range of things you have bought from Pike Place, Theresa. The thought of the silkscreened clothing and handmade wooden pen cases, sheepskin slippers…makes it sound like a stop on the Silk Route. Of course, this is just my imagination. It tends to romanticise places and people, often embarrassingly. I did not know that the stalls can belong to only artists. That makes it even more local and special. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about Pike, and your precious buys too. I wish I had an equivalent of Pike Place here. 🙂 xx

      • TheresaBarker

        Ah, yes, and I never thought of it as live theater! I do enjoy the busker musicians, and I’ve never felt under threat there, even if it is a bit cramped inside and the buildings are old. Funny thing, a cousin visiting from Arizona was really put off by the atmosphere; she thought it was dirty and uncomfortable. I’d never thought of it that way, but I thinks she may be associating the buskers especially with panhandlers and aggressive street people. I couldn’t quite figure out what she was worried about until I went through some places in Phoenix (where she lives) that were a bit run-down. Each of us has our own eyes, eh? 🙂

        • dippydottygirl

          Could you be turned off by the atmosphere?! It is entirely possible though, Theresa. I have had a similar experience with a cousin visiting us in Northampton. Perspectives can differ so and it might be difficult to understand the psyche of some, but there it is. Hope you are having a relaxing weekend. xx

  • crystalsandcurls

    What gorgeous photos (as always!) I absolutely love markets; as you said, they have a really unique hustle bustle and sense of community that can sometimes be hard to find in the city. Also, please tell me you bought a bouquet of those tulips! xx

    • dippydottygirl

      Thank you Mia 🙂 My sister-in-law did. She bought some lovely peony tulips. Those were gorgeous. I wish I had a market like Pike near my place. It would be expensive but so worth it. xx

  • Mad Hatters NYC

    To truly appreciate a culture, one must hear the language, eat the food, see the historic sites, and of course, visit the market. This post brings back memories of all the those I’ve visited during my travels. I was especially tickled that you mentioned Borough Market. I was just thinking the other day that a cappuccino from Monmouth Coffee Company would be sublime.

    • dippydottygirl

      I have not been to the Monmouth Coffee Company. I wish one could have a portkey. For now, we have to do with our memory’s portkey though. Thank you Lynn. I know you would relate to the charm of these markets. xx

  • AJ

    I’ve only been to Pile Place Market once but feel like I’ve been there a million times more because of how many times it’s shown in movies.

    • dippydottygirl

      I will have to look out for the movies then that feature it. I love the vibe of Pike Place 🙂 xx

  • carolinehelbig

    I love your comparison of a market to “a live theatre of sorts.” You’ve hit the nail on the head. I’m totally smitten by markets (often drives my son and hubby crazy). Thanks for reminding me of the charms of Pike Place.

  • equinoxio21

    Thank you for the post.
    Street musicians like the young violinist always break my heart a bit.
    To play the violin like that requires ten years of Conservatory?
    And “there ain’t” enough symphonies to give a job to all.

    • dippydottygirl

      I know what you mean Brian. They tug at my heart strings too. And whatever we put in their jars does not seem enough for such brilliant talent. Hope you have been having a good week.

      • equinoxio21

        (working on the week, thank you). We are on the same… “melody”. So much public money is wasted on trifles… Why not increase the number of symphonic orchestras? I had an executive who studied violin for ten years. She ended up doing market research. Ha! (And very good research I might add)
        Bon week-end

        • dippydottygirl

          No she did not! That’s a blooming pity. We should take on mayoral duties 🙂 Have a good weekend, Brian ji.

          • equinoxio21

            And how far away are you from Manhattan? An hour or so?
            (I spent a bit of time in NJ. As my money was running out I moved away gradually from Manhattan… NJ, Upstate NY…)

          • dippydottygirl

            Forty minutes by train. If I was Ms. Moneybag, we would snap up a fine townhouse near CP, but that being what it is not, we do enjoy better value for money in a new condo in NJ. Adi is terribly finicky about old buildings and their plumbing.

          • equinoxio21

            40 minutes is reasonable. And I support Adi’s “finickiness”. Plumbing is an issue. Our previous house we had bought brand new. Which was fine. Now the “new” house is an old house but we had everything redone including the plumbing.
            (I take it CP is Central park? Wouldn’t mind a townhouse over there though…) 😉
            Be good ma’amji.

          • dippydottygirl

            Someone has to balance out my impractical yearnings for period properties. I get that they require major renovations. Like you have done. I love the idea of taking an old house and refurbishing it. Adi is willing to do it only when we invest in a house of our own, not in a rented property. So here we are. As for CP, but Central Park it is with a drumroll 🙂
            I shall strive for goodness Brian ji.

          • equinoxio21

            We got the house cheap, relatively. And spent an additional 25% on complete overhaul. And hubby is right: you can do that when you buy a house of your own. Soon I hope.
            Strive we must, Arundhatiji. 😉

          • dippydottygirl

            To that I shall drink. A nest of our very own sometime soon and yours. 🙂

          • equinoxio21

            The earlier the better. When you sit down and look at figures, any mortgage (almost) is better than paying rent. I will drink to that too.

    • dippydottygirl

      Thank you M.B., for letting the photos get you into the Seattle mood. It is such a lovely city, and the Pacific NW, the cherry.

Hit me up, buttercup

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