Thursday, 29 August 2013

Leaving Seattle, on to the coast

I liked Seattle.  A nice place, with very friendly people, who look fit from the outdoor and sporty life, seem happy, and mostly young. Clean wide streets.  In the centre, almost all buildings appear to be from the last fifty years. Regardless of their claim to be a hugely cycle-friendly city, there are many fewer cycling than in London. Nobody jay walks (except me), with all drivers all considerate towards pedestrians.  On Saturday morning I picked up my car, a Chevrolet Captiva, put bike and bags in the back, and reacquainted myself with the pleasures of an automatic gearbox - and the challenges of driving on the right.

Seattle in its wider setting.  The black line is the US/Canada border.

It is time to head south and then west to the Pacific coast.  Over the weekend I visited three small coastal towns.  
Astoria. Population of only 9,000. Sleepy, on the wide Columbia River estuary.  My hotel is on the edge of town, and I chose to leave the car there and walk in.  First impressions are that it has seen better days. On this sunny Saturday afternoon, shops are closed, if they had ever been open, quite a few leases for sale, lots of holiday traffic passing straight through for somewhere better, livelier such as Seaside a few miles further down the coast.

I felt increasingly that I was in a dead town, not a great start to my coastal expedition.   And then round a corner I saw this interesting looking place, with some signs of life.  

I wandered over and saw a discrete notice...microbrewery...wandered up the ramp, now being led by my nose and the smell of fresh dough, tomato, mozzarella and salsicci.  Onwards into this first floor industrial space... About 30 people, more than I'd seen in the town in the last hour. 

 Big communal tables, music not too loud, four guys making pizzas, and 14 beers on tap - all made right here. I tried two (well it was going to be a long walk back).     Quick Wit, made in the Belgian style, pale and cloudy, made with two wheats, ground coriander,  lemongrass and elderflower. Followed that with a real discovery. It's called Working Girl Porter, 4.6% abv, has coffee beans added to the mash which gives a lovely coffee aroma.  I could almost drink it with my toast and the Guardian crossword each morning.   

Downstairs is a cafe, bakery, small restaurant, and when I came back on Sunday morning they were all packed.  This little group of business, all under the same ownership, must be reinvigorating this town.

The next morning I cycled from one end of the town to the other, and back.  A busy Sunday market, jobbers, fishermen, some activity in the dock area, timber being loaded.  Astoria has more life to it than I had first realised. 

Other images from Astoria.

Cute fish and chip stall

Freighters in the mighty Columbia River

Looks like a scene from a Scorcese film

Sea lions on the dock

Big skies over the Columbia River estuary at Astoria

At noon on Sunday I drove 25 miles south to Seaside (population 6,000).  Now I really appreciated Astoria.   I followed Tripadvisor ( my first reference for accommodation on this trip) booked into a well-regarded, and good value, hotel, where I got the noisiest room - between reception and the swimming pool.  I seem to have taken not a single photograph in Seaside: a measure of my regard for it.

Continuing south on Monday morning, just 15 miles, I came to Cannon Beach, a tiny place of just 1,600.  A sense of a quite wealthy community, 'upscale new-agey', tidy streets, low rise buildings, lush planting everywhere.  A lovely quiet beach (it was a weekday morning, I imagine the weekends are different.   Stephen Sondheim and Oscar Wilde at the local theatre. 

Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach, 235 feet.  Accessible at low tide, and home to many birds, including puffins, gulls, and cormorants

JD at Cannon Beach

In the afternoon it was time to leave the coast for a few days, turn east, and drive to Portland, the other big city of the north west.

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