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We arrived d Friday, Oct. 1, took exit 166 to Denny way, and went straight to the Best Western on Taylor, a stone’s throw from the Space Needle. The weather was great, clear and about 70 degrees F. so we went up the Needle. (It was originally the Century 21 Tower built in the 60’s for the World Fair but locals said it looked like a spaceship had landed on some bent knitting needles…) At 600-and-some-odd feet it’s about a third the height of the CN Tower but a good height for getting a good view of the City and tours were given every hour or so.
By the time we got down we were pretty tired so we got in the car and headed down to Argosy Tours, mainly for the opportunity to sit! (The Needle and the tour were covered by the Citypass, as well as the Aquarium, the Zoo, Pacific Science Centre and the Flight Museum. Great use for that little blue airmiles card!) The tour was narrated with that Seattelite sense of humour... The building with the green dome has a name that no one remembers, so they call it the Ban Roll-On Building. From the moment someone says it, that’s it – you can’t look at the thing without seeing a giant stick of deodorant. Then there’s the seaside motel that allowed fishing from the windows for 25 years, in spite of some guests being woken by seafood thumping against the window as it was reeled into a floor above!
At 5:55 pm we went to the Pike St Market, finding that parking was free at 6pm for the evening, to our delight. We wandered around looking for a restaurant and had a neat view of the market as it closed, with tons of cooler-ice being shoveled and sprayed away, flowers being taken in and bouquets of hot peppers being cut down. We eventually ended up down by the Piers again, at the Aquarium, where we ate and walked some more. The view of Mount Rainier and the Olympic mountains were like crystalline mirages in the sunset, against the silhouettes of the Aquarium fountain and the mounted police patrolling the area. Jim chatted with an officer, who told us that cars with handicap stickers park in Seattle for free, anywhere, anytime!
Channel surfing in the evening, we came upon an interesting bio of a local arts patron, Anne Gould Hauberg. I was intrigued by her unpretentious personality; not only was her philosophy on fine arts and crafts dead on, but she had been instrumental in bringing huge improvements in other areas as well. Then she said something like, “The universal education of children is a Bahá’í principle, okay?” and went on talking about a special school she’d helped found. Our ears flew open at that point! Jim looked her up on the net and found some connection with Mark Tobey, but not much information on Mrs Hauberg herself. It certainly piqued our interest in the Seattle Bahá’í community, though!
Saturday morning we visited the Aquarium, with an amazing variety of sealife in every colour, size and shape in every environment imaginable – pools, falls, salmon stairs, underground, open air, naturally lit, tidal, you name it. The fish practically posed for the photos.
Had lunch at Fisherman’s Wharf outdoors on the harbour, then went up a few flights of stairs to the Nordstrom Rack. I got a few gifts, joined Jim at the bookstore across the street, and we tried to phone the Bahá’í Centre. The answering machine gave an address to a meeting held every 3rd Sunday. It seemed we were out of luck.
We went back to the car via Pike Street Market – great street performances! Drove up (and I mean UP) to Frye’s Art Museum on Terry St., which is free for some reason. It specializes in realistic art, especially German. Two paintings by Alexander Max Koester were my favourites – both of ducks, rendered with an economy of strokes, incredibly rich colour, and texture you could almost feel on your face.
We went north on Madison to the Arboretum. The Japanese Garden is roughly the same size as Butchart’s Japanese section, with a $3 entrance, and the rest of the Arboretum is free. It has great walking trails, a real Seattle gem. We just drove the perimeter, then backtracked down Madison St. Stopped at some streetside stores with a European bakery and beautiful giftshop called Le Rue Lyon, a few blocks from the Arboretum. Then farther on in the direction of downtown, the natural foods Madison Market had a deli with tables where we had freshly juiced fruit made to order with supper. Each part of the order was weighed separately, tagged, paid for, and then heated. A salmon supper with juice came to about $8!
In general though, prices were the same as Victoria’s, but in US$, which made them far more. Tax is 8.8% I think. Buses are free in the downtown sector. There’s also a monorail from the Space Needle to around the Market, but it was shut for repairs. That was okay: we did lots of walking!
Sunday morning we headed to the Pacific Science Centre, next door to the Space Needle. The butterfly gardens were superb – more nature posing for a photo! We found one beauty expired on the floor. The guide explained that they only live about 3 weeks on their natural diet of juice from fruit; new butterflys are constantly shipped up from a farm in South America. There were a million activities for kids and a planetarium. The 6-storey Boeing Imax theatre had a film on Kilimanjaro. (The tallest mountain in Africa, at over 19,000 ft. Mt. Rainier here is 14,411 ft.) We also saw an Imax film at the Dome theatre downtown on the explosion of Mt. St Helen’s on May 18, 1980. Very appropriate, since the local News is full of stories on an another explosion underway. The dome theatre was a lot harder on the stomach; or maybe it was just the wildly tilting plane and billowing pillars of smoke.
We tried a little shopping … Walked down 5th Ave. past the Glassblowing Studio at Bell to the Westlake Centre at 5th and Pine, and Bon Macy’s a block down Pine. Almost all the clothing stores felt a little foreign, appealing to a clientele into heels, perfume and glitz, far from my comfy cotton tastes. BUT there was one store that I absolutely loved and dragged Jim into: Fireworks in Westlake. Colourfully painted with gorgeous designs, various pieces of furniture and mirrors also had carved verse; there was work by Brian Andreas, and tons of wildly imaginative stuff… like the child’s dress with real rose petals fluffing the base of the outer crinoline! A very special store. Leah’s going to have to go there one of these days!
Speaking of Leah, we’ve been calling back and forth to finalize stuff about going to Concordia and coming home in December before classes start. One cellphone conversation took place in the Bloedel Conservatory in Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Park, on the way to Seattle. We sat below the humidly dripping tropical trees while Maria and Carmen (greenwinged macaws) looked on and Rosie the African grey refused to talk to us… with Leah in Ottawa sounding like she was sitting beside us on the bench. Pretty cool.
Monday we again woke to dense fog that would burn off with the sun, this time in a motel near the Seatac airport. The waitress at Denny’s explained that International Blvd. is actually Hwy 99 which is also E. Marginal Way… All of that information helped us find the Museum of Flight quite easily and also got us completely lost when we tried to return to the motel in the evening.
Anyway, the Museum of Flight was awesome. Must be one of the world’s best. This is the home of Boeing, where our guide had worked for 44 years… He had lots of stories about the red barn that Mr Boeing used to build his first plane, after finishing his yacht. That barn is at the center of the museum. Also lots of stories about the 1963 Blackbird, (sitting massively near the Lindbergh-era Spirit of Ryan plane), its titanium hull able to withstand 600F temperatures of speed at over 3 times the speed of sound. He explained how fabric hulls had given way to stressed metal hulls, as we looked up at an incredibly fragile WW1 German warplane – made of white Irish linen! What a century…
Jim liked the new Personal Courage exhibit of WW1 and WW2 heros. I had the same reaction as I had to the Mt St Helens film. Wrenched stomach syndrome.
The Woodland Park Zoo was way more my speed! What a fantastic zoo! The butterfly gardens were closed for the winter, but every other animal imaginable was out in all their glory. Of course, by the time I got to the bear shaking water off his massive head 3 feet away from my lens, the camera popped up with a blue screen saying Memory Full! !@#$%! By the time I got some of the 216 photos deleted to give some space, he was gone. Jim was so sympathetic he drove me to Oasis on 6th Ave. in Chinatown and we both ate an ice cream-banana-strawberry-and-chocolate waffle. For supper.
We also drove around the lovely Magnolia neighbourhood and discovered Discovery Park… Another jewel! The highways are another matter… they’re serpents. The simple matter of trying to just stay on the highway you started on assumes impossible dimensions… we ended up on I-90, then I-5, then heaven knows where, just trying to avoid off ramps! At one point the highway seemed to exit to the left while the 3 lanes to the right became a different highway.
Tuesday’s drive from Seatac through Tacoma on hwys 16/ 3/ 104 to Port Angeles took about 2 hours, followed by the 95 minute ferry home Victoria. We met a photographer named Jerry from Portland and talked about all sorts of interesting stuff the whole way. For next time: take the Hood Canal route, and book hotels that have fridge, coffee machine and remote!