Examining the Emerald City

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Seattle is not christened "The Emerald City" for nothing. One of the most livable cities in the world, it receives rainfall of 36 inches each year. The place is surrounded by Puget Sound, an oceanic body of water lying east of Admiralty Inlet, neighbouring lakes, rivers, as well as the Olympic Mountains, making it a recreation enthusiast's dream. The proximity to the ocean gives rise to surrounding all-weather ports for ocean-going ships at Seattle, Tacoma and Olympia. 

The greenery of the place is unparallel, especially in Ballard, which a resident neighbourhood closest to one of the largest marinas on the West Coast, Shilshole Bay Marina.

As I stay in Ballard, the first place I headed for a visit was Shilshole Bay. The bay extends to beaches curving westward from the marina to Golden Gardens Park, and it is a haven for beachcombers to gather here during the cool spring days.

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Golden Gate Park offers extraordinary views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains.

Take strolls along a rugged coastline, hike through forest trails, sunbath on sandy beaches, or fish from a pier -- the beauty of the place makes possibilities endless!

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Near Shilshole Bay is the Ballard Locks. Officially known as the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, they are a complex of locks that sit in the middle of Salmon Bay, as part of Seattle's Lake Washington Ship Canal.

A lock is a device for raising and lowering boats between stretches of water at different levels. Locks make a river easily navigable, or allow a canal to take a reasonably direct line across uneven land. The locks and associated facilities also maintain the water level of the fresh water Lake Washington and Lake Union. Additionally, it prevents the mixing of sea water from Puget Sound with the freshwater lakes.

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Together with the locks, a fish ladder is also integrated to ease migration of salmon. Seattle citizens, also known as “Seattlelites”, love salmon and it’s a huge part of the diet here. However, the species of salmon which travels through the Puget Sound region is threatened with extinction. 

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To learn more about how Seattle prevents the extinction, visitors are encouraged to view the explanatory exhibits about the fish ladder, located around the locks. In short, the fish ladder acts as a structure on or around the locks to facilitate the chinooks' natural migration. The ladder enables the fishes to pass around the barriers by swimming and leaping up a series of relatively low steps (hence the term ladder) into the waters on the other side.   Over here at the Chittendan locks, an underground close-range viewing of the fish ladder is accessible to the public. During spring, crowds gather outdoors just to watch baby salmon leap over the ladder in masses. If you head to the underground exhibition hall, you will be able to watch the salmon crossing the ladder up close. This makes for an interesting experience!

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Located on the grounds of the lock is a beautiful botanical garden known as the Carl S. English, Jr., Botanical Garden. It contains more than 500 species and 1,500 varieties of plants from around the world, including fan palms, oaks, Mexican pines, rhododendrons, and a fine display of roses.

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While I was here, many couples were having their picnics outdoors or just simply strolling around. The locals love to keep dogs as pets, and this is one of the gardens favoured for a walk around with Lassie. The cool shade of the garden provides a good respite for outdoor activities. What’s more, Seattlelites are especially friendly, so if you are viewing this place as a tourist, you can expect friendly nods and smiles all-round!
 
Seattle is known for many things, including coffee, friendly locals and gorgeous scenery. Even without a tour guide, it is fairly easy to get around the city with a map. For visitors, I highly recommend a good camera and heavy duty walking shoes, as well as a fleece jacket. For starters, for tourists who do not plan to drive, waiting for buses here requires patience as they arrive every half an hour on average.

However, bus drivers are extremely friendly here, and if you are lost, they will be able to give you directions. Also, much of Seattle’s land is hilly, so those relatively out of shape can expect to do some strenuous walking. The good news for would-be cyclists is that Seattle has a great bike culture-there are bike trails everywhere, and guided by a bike map, it is possible to see most of the city on bike.  As for the jacket, weather stays cool year-round and drizzles are expected throughout the day. But while in Rome, do as the Romans do – true Seattlelites never use an umbrella, so be prepared to tough out the rain or you’ll be singled out quickly as a tourist. Of course, a camera is a must – apart from the beautiful scenery, there are many bars and cafes to chill in.

All in all, Seattle is definitely one of the places to go to if you need a leisurely vacation.

About the author:
Juliet Huang is a fresh graduate from the National University of Singapore. She majored in Communications and New Media, specialising in public relations with an emphasis on digital media. Currently on a 3 month internship program in Seattle sponsored by her school and MDA, she is loving the place and the people! She is also looking for a marketing/public relations position within the marcomms industry, and her portfolio can be found online at www.thinkinglearning.biz/juliet.

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