Seattle, Washington USA (14th Apr)
As Anne and Kevin were getting a flight home around the same time that we were flying to Seattle we all got the shuttle bus to the airport together. The two hours we had to wait soon passed and it was time to say our goodbye's, not only to Anne and Kevin but also to the luxury lifestyle we had become accustomed to over the past couple of weeks.On the plane we decided to find out where our hostel was in Seattle and plan the best route to get there from the airport. That was until we saw how far out of town it was and so we scrapped our idea of staying there. Instead we took our chances by turning up at a hostel we had heard great things about, The Green Tortoise, and to our great relief they had room for us. Not only that but they did double bed bunk beds in some of the dorm rooms that saved us $10 a night. After being shown to our room we were even happier with our decision as each bed had curtains for privacy, its own lamp and fan, under bed storage and the bathrooms were very similar to the en-suites we had just had in the hotels. As soon as we lay down on the bed for a bit of a rest we fell straight to sleep, only to wake up at nine thirty, hungry and thirsty so we ventured out to the shops for some snacks before making our way back to the comfort of our bed.
Despite having gotten a decent night's sleep we still managed to sleep in till ten thirty, at which time we quickly showered and dressed so we could get out and see Seattle. Our hostel is located just across the road from the Pike Place Market, the oldest continuous working public market in the USA. The market is made us of various buildings stretching over several city blocks and as we wondered around we saw it was filled with a wonderful mix of stalls, shops and boutiques selling everything from fish, fruit and flowers to jewellery, wood carvings and silk screen prints. One of the Market's major attractions is Pike Place Fish Market, where employees throw three-foot salmon and other fish to each other rather than passing them by hand. When a customer orders a fish, an employee at the Fish Market's ice covered fish table picks up the fish and hurls it over the countertop, where another employee catches it and preps it for sale. It always draws quite a crowd as the employee's chants spread through the market; it had us entertained for a good while anyway! Pike Place Market is also famous for another reason. Starbucks Coffee was founded nearby and the first ever store was relocated to Pike Place Market in 1976, where it is still in operation. The sign outside this branch, unlike others, features the original logo, a bare breasted mermaid (?) that was modelled after a 15th century Norse woodcut. As we approached Starbucks we realised it was quite a tourist spot as customers were spilling out onto the sidewalk waiting for a cup of coffee; we decided to leave our hot chocolate fix for another day.
The highlight of our relatively quiet day in Seattle came when the hostel announced it was free dinner night. Not really expecting too much (we weren't even going to go) we went to the kitchen and were confronted with a feast of pasta, salad, meatballs, vegetables and bread, what more could we ask for! And that's pretty much where we remained for the rest of the evening, eating tea, doing laundry, writing the blog and getting some sleep.
Today was to be a productive day that began with a walk to Pioneer Square, Seattle's oldest district, to book tickets for the Bill Speidel underground tour. It sounded strange to us at first too but when we did a bit of research it all made sense. In 1889 the Great Fire destroyed most of Seattle and instead of rebuilding it right after, it was decided that the city would be built on top of itself, a storey higher than before to eliminate sewage and tidal problems that had caused so many problems in the past. The tour began with a humorous 20 minute introduction to the tour and some of Seattle's history and then we were taken underground. A combination of a witty tour guide and being able to see remains of bathrooms, shop fronts, street signs and roads made for a really interesting experience, that will surely only get better with time when more of the subterranean world is discovered.One memorable moment from the tour came when a couple began talking to us and it turned out that the guy was an interior designer with his own practice in New York and was the President of the New York Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers. He told us we were more than welcome to stay at his house during our time in New York and have a tour of his practice and some of his works.
We had heard through the traveller's grapevine that whilst in town we should go and check out the Ye Olde Curiosity Shop on the waterfront so we decided to make that our next stop of the day. The shop is almost a museum showcasing all kinds of weird and wonderful things including Mummies, shrunken heads, a pig with three tails and Siamese twin calves right through to snow globes and rubber chickens. As the photos will show we found the most amusing item to be smiles on a stick that could transform even the most miserable of faces.
Next we took advantage of Seattle's free ride zone and caught the bus along the waterfront right down to the Olympic Sculpture Park. Once we got there Kara realised she had seen it before in one of her design magazines at home and so was eager to have a good look around. The sculpture park was created to house sculptures from the Seattle Art Museum's collection and rather than use a flat plot of land, the park has been created on varying planes surrounding a highway and railway line. The park is home to signature pieces by the likes of Louise Bourgeois, Alexander Calder, Mark Dion and Richard Sierra and makes for a really pleasant way to while away a few hours.
As we weren't far from the Seattle Centre, home of the Space Needle we decided to walk the few blocks up to see what there was to do there. As we got closer to the Space Needle we realised it really wasn't that tall compared to other similar structures we have seen in our travels, a mere 184 metres. It was built for the 1962 World Fair and although there is an observation deck up there we decided against it as we couldn't imagine getting very good views, or rather getting views better than those we had already had of city skylines. Seattle Centre itself is a 74 acre fairground, park and arts and entertainment centre all in one but the one thing we were interesting in visiting was The Experience Music Project. The centre is housed in a very distinctive building designed by Frank Gehry and resembles many of his other works due to its sheet metal construction. It is a music treasure trove filled with rare sounds recordings, instruments, historic photos, handwritten lyrics and filmed interviews with music greats. On entering we were confronted with a massive sculpture called Roots and Branches which is a massive tree structure made up many musical instruments but mainly guitars. The first part of the museum was called the Northwest Passage which is a hall containing exhibits on the history of popular music in the Pacific Northwest. Although it was a bit like playing 'Where's Wally' in regard to artists we had actually heard of it still made for an interesting exhibit. The highlight of our trip there was a section called The Sound Lab where first we got to learn the basics of how to play the guitar and piano and then we got to go into a mixing studio and play around with how a song is put together, making up our own unique version of 'Sweet Dreams' by Annie Lennox. Before we left the centre we found ourselves in a room watching a documentary on Jimi Hendrix which we both found really interesting as he is such an iconic figure, especially in Seattle yet we knew very little about him. Included in the admission price we also got to go to the Science Fiction Museum Hall of Fame. As it was getting close to closing time we had to hurry around but we still got to see a fair bit of the museum devoted to the thought provoking ideas and experiences of Science Fiction. The museum pays homage to the most respected of science fiction practitioners, the writers, artists, publishers and filmmakers as well as letting us see Captain Kirk's command chair from Star Trek, the Death Star model from Start Wars and an E.T straight from the Spielberg movie.
On the way back to the hostel we decided to find the hotel where we would be getting picked up to go to Vancouver as it was in the Space Centre area. What an interesting experience that turned out to be as straight away we realised something wasn't quite right and then it clicked...we had walked straight into the middle of a "Daddy Bear" gay convention and were surrounded by big, burly, bearded men who were all hugging and kissing and so before we made ourselves to comfortable we got out of there quick!
Our last day in Seattle was one of our wettest so far and so prevented us from doing very much.As we were close to Pike Place Market we braved the rain to go and get that hot chocolate from the very first Starbucks that we had both been looking forward to and now very much needed as well! The place was heaving which much be pretty constant that they don't even have seating areas in there. The drinks were the same as they are at and other Starbucks but there was something special having it from the place where it all began. When the rain eventually cleared Kara went out for a walk to see Smith Tower, Seattle's tallest building, and the Seattle library which is housed in a building designed by Rem Koolhaas. An early night followed as we had to get up early in the morning to catch our coach to Vancouver.