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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Vive la Différence

Before we relocated, we often joked that Seattle would be a lot like London, but with better scenery. But that's not been our experience thus far. They are very different places. In three hours from London, you can be sitting in a Parisian café, watching the world go by. Three hours from Seattle you can be looking at something like this:
Picture lake
The glorious landscape certainly has an effect on the mindset of the people who seem to live outdoors in good weather. Kayaking, sailing, hiking, skiing, rock climbing, snowboarding, camping, cycling (even tai chi and yoga); if you can do it outdoors, they do it here, with gusto.

There are of course other, more subtle differences.  For instance, the tiny roadside stands selling coffee, what I call coffee shacks. Whimsical, brightly painted constructions plopped down in a corner of a parking lot.  They're usually about the size of a garden shed with one person inside dispensing a variety of coffee based drinks and they are each as individual as their owners. Unlike the coffee shop drive through,  you actually have to get out of your car to place an order. There are no amenities such as chairs or tables, or toilets. It's a case of drink and drive. In Britain, the thirsty driver  might stop at a little tea van parked in a lay-by.  These often have a few plastic chairs and rickety folding tables nearby, inviting the customer to at least linger for as long as their mug of tea lasts.
Coffee shack near Fremont bridge

Another difference is the weather. At least since we've been here.  Over a month now and we've had about ten minutes of rain.  Total.  The grass is brown and crunchy, there are fire warnings and burn bans, some of the trees are dropping their leaves, and we're experiencing the local equivalent of a heat wave.  Not like one I've ever felt before, but a high of 84 F in early September is record breaking in these parts.  The unrelenting, bright sunshine has been something of a surprise.  Sunglasses (and sunblock), don't leave home without them. But cloudless skies have meant more than one evening spent watching the sunset over the Olympic peninsula, a great way to end the day.
A September sunset in Seattle
(the long smudge above the mountains is smoke from a wild fire). 

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