Happy New Year, graduates! Holidays are over and blue Mondays are back in season. Subzero temperatures and free ice-skating on the sidewalks seems to be the rage here in Montreal.
I won’t spend too much time talking about studying or grad school, since many of us are still in holiday mode so grab a mug of your favorite hot beverage and let’s share stories!
Let me start by what is freshest in my memory. Being in Seattle was a nice reality check. Despite it being one of the best cities in the US to live in, it still made me realize that there are several things I tend to take for granted in Montreal (no, not the winter):
- The transportation system: while it’s not so bad in Seattle, it can actually be quite unsafe at times. A lot of times, the bus drivers are lenient in a sense that really anyone can get in – fare, or no fare. Lots goes on in the buses in certain hours of the evening such as alarming outbursts from people who are under the influence or not aware of their conscious behaviour. Lesson is: be more tolerant of our transportation system here and more patient with bus drivers and metro conductors; honestly, they have a lot to deal with and they’re doing a fantastic job.
- The health care system: this topic has been a hub of discussion, especially during the last elections of the US. There are folds more cases of homelessness, neglected elderly and mentally ill people on the streets in Seattle who do not have access to medical help because they cannot hold a job
- The distances: it’s just more difficult to get around in Seattle and it takes a lot of time to get from one place to another. The buses are hardly ever on time and if being a much bigger city in surface area than Montreal, relying on transportation isn’t always the best option.
- I kept seeing signs in public places like the mall and food courts telling people that firearms are permitted in those areas. What?! Firearms?! Again, a topic of much heated debate.
- Safety: I think I already hinted at this point but you really need to watch out for yourself, your belongings and your whereabouts. I’ve rarely felt this sense of potential danger in Montreal. While that doesn’t mean I should take it for granted and walk around at 3 AM in a random ally, I’ve come to appreciate the respectful atmosphere of the inhabitants of Montreal.
Things to do in Seattle
- The best place to try new things? Pike Place Market. It’s like a huge farmer’s and fish market with tiny artisanal boutiques selling all sorts of crafts, cheeses, homemade pastries, coffee… etc. honestly, it was my favorite spot in Seattle.
- For those of you who like to do the tourist attractions, you can get a City Pass booklet for $74 and it includes entries to the Seattle Space Needle, Woodland Zoo, Seattle Aquarium, Argosy Cruise, Museum of Flight OR the Pacific Science Centre and finally, the golrious EMP museum which houses all cool things for you sci-fi, fantasy and music lovers. The EMP even has a “Sound Lab” at the top floor where you can spend time learning different instruments in closed booths.
- Downtown Seattle is fun to explore.
- I wish I had time to head there, but I’ve heard lots of great things about Capitol Hill and University District where the University of Washington is situated.
- Although I could see it from atop the Space Needle, I didn’t get a chance to visit Queen Ann’s Hill. It is mostly known for the filming sit of Grey’s Anatomy and the sitcom, Frasier.
- Georgetown neighbourhood is where we stayed and it’s a new rising hipster neighborhood with cool shops and restaurants and cute craftsman houses. It’s recently transformed from an industrial area.
- For those of you who are into sports, don’t forget to pay a visit to the CenturyLink Field stadium which has been registered as the loudest stadium in the world.
- For Art lovers, you should try the Opera house and the Seattle’s Art Museum. SAM actually collaborates with Montreal’s Fine Arts Museum.
- Did someone say chocolate? Hot chocolate? Dark, glossy and lush hot chocolate? Oh yeah! Try Fran’s Chocolate and the Chocolate Box. Next to the Chocolate Box is a pastry place selling homemade cupcakes and artisanal ice-cream.
- Finally, Gelatimo. Delicious Italian pastries and gelato of all kinds. Simply orgasmic.
- Make sure you get American dollars before you go there and have to withdraw money from an ATM. The conversion rates and fees are very unhealthy to your back account.
- Set aside lots of change for the buses.
- Keep some money for emergencies because you will end up spending more money than you had planned to since things will always come up.
- Get your flu shot and don’t eat lots of exotic food. I know that the rush of adventure and all that makes you want to try new things but you should be responsible.
- Don’t consume too much alcohol while traveling. You need to stay aware.
- If you’re looking for cheap places to stay, why not try Airbnb? It’s a great experience and you get to meet new people and get some nice ideas for décor!
- Be mentally prepared for the possibility of anything going wrong in your travel plans like flight cancellations, delays and unexpected circumstances.
- Don’t stare at people and especially people making a commotion or trying to stir trouble. Seriously, it’s ill-advised and my companion kept staring all the time until it attracted unwanted attention.
- Enjoy the moment, go everywhere and do everything but stay on guard. Most importantly, don’t rush things and thoroughly enjoy the places you go to. If you find yourself short of time, so what? Just enjoy, otherwise your vacation will be consumed with worrying and rushing and you’ll come home exhausted both mentally and physically.
- Get one of those pre-paid US phone plans or a US SIM with a pre-paid plan. They save you a lot of money and you need a phone in case of emergencies. Also, navigation is a big thing. If you can’t get data or Google maps on your phone, you can download apps that provide you with offline bus schedules and maps. Your GPS will work nonetheless. If you don’t have access to a SmartPhone, get a good map with nice colours and clear landmarks. Make mental notes of all the important places and streets around you.
- Finally, be respectful of other people’s cultures and traditions when visiting their country.
Overall, I actually had a great time in Seattle and I would go there again and again. It’s really a great place to explore and offers a lot of potential for start-ups and unique ideas. Oh, they have a tunnel underground that has trains and buses running in it at the SAME TIME!