Washington State: day two
06.07.2017 - 06.07.2017
Sleepless in Seattle?
Our hotel reflected in the windows of Seattle Central Library
I slept badly on this first night in Seattle - a combination of jet lag confusing my body (it knew it was tired but also that it was the 'wrong' time to sleep!) and some aches and pains that have been bothering me of late (a touch of arthritis I fear), aggravated no doubt by the long hours spent sitting on a plane yesterday. Nevertheless, we were up early, eager to explore Seattle.
Murals at Westlake Station
After a light breakfast in the coffee shop next to our hotel we headed to Westlake station to catch the monorail to the Seattle Center. Like kids we grabbed the coveted front seats for an excellent view along the rails as the Space Needle came into view.
Approaching the Space Needle on the monorail
And the Space Needle was our first destination, lured by the special 'Early up' offer which discounts the adult charge of $29.90 down to $19.90 for those arriving by 10.00 - saving us $20! It was also relatively quiet at that time - coming away later, just before ten, we saw that the queues had started to build at the ticket counter.
As we entered there was the inevitable photo opportunity, with our photo taken in front of a blank screen that would later be made available to us, filled in with a choice of backgrounds. But unlike many other such attractions we have visited, this one was thrown in with the ticket price, so we decided to go along with the fun. Having chosen our background on a machine at the observation level, the resulting image was emailed to me immediately and could be picked up on my phone using the free wifi. The Space Needle is very much into modern technology and using social media to spread the word, it seems – have a look at this section of its website to see what I mean: Experience the WOW.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. The lift (OK, I’m in the US, so ‘elevator’) whisked us up to the observation level and I was pleased to see that it is possible to go outside for views, and importantly photos, unobscured by glass. We were very lucky with the weather too - blue sky, some haze but with Mount Rainier just visible, and the mountains of the Olympic Peninsula seen much more clearly.
Downtown and Mount Rainier
Looking towards the Olympic Peninsula
The observation deck sits at a height of 520 feet above the city and as the Space Needle (which is in total 605 feet tall) is situated a little way from the taller buildings of downtown, it feels higher. It was built for the 1962 World’s Fair and was once the tallest structure west of the Mississippi River. Its design was influenced by the 1960s’ interest in outer space, with the upper section modelled on a flying saucer, the vision of Seattle businessman Eddie Carlson who first had the idea for a tower at the fair, which he doodled on a napkin in 1959. The tripod that supports this is said to have been inspired by a sculpture of a dancer by David Lemon, ‘The Feminine One’, and was designed by architect Victor Steinbrueck who has only recently been given credit for his contribution – a copy of the sculpture now stands near the foot of the Space Needle in acknowledgement of this fact.
Once we had seen and photographed enough, and looked at the exhibits about the history of the Needle, we descended. After coffee at one of the places in the building known as the Armoury we headed next to MoPop, the Museum of Popular Culture. This is quite pricey, at $28 for adults, but there was a lot there that we wanted to see.
But before going inside we had to take some photos of this striking building, designed by Frank O. Gehry.
Originally named the Experience Music Project (EMP), Gehry is said to have been influenced by ‘a smashed electric guitar’ in creating this rather astounding structure made up of 3,000 stainless steel and painted aluminium panels.
Reflections: Space Needle and tree
Renamed MoPOP just last year, its exhibits are a mix of permanent and temporary, music-focused and science fiction, plus other aspects of popular culture.
Our first stop had to be the current special exhibition on Star Trek, as we have both long been fans. It was great to be reminded of characters and episodes we had forgotten, to see Captain Kirk's command chair, a tricorder, various costumes and even some Tribbles! The exhibition also focused on some of the pioneering aspects of the first series in particular, including the diversity of the crew and that famous first TV inter-racial kiss.
Entrance to the exhibition
Tricorder and command console from first series
The other galleries we visited were:
Blue Angel, which tells the story of Jimi Hendrix's many tours abroad:
Guitar Gallery, with instruments that belonged to a number of famous musicians, including the Rickenbacker played by Roger McGuinn on Mr Tamborine Man and one which perhaps miraculously escaped being destroyed while in the possession of Pete Townshend!
Roger McGuinn's Rickenbacker
Photos of David Bowie by Mick Rock (another special exhibition):
In the Bowie exhibition
By this time I was wilting (see above re lack of sleep and aches and pains) so I took a break while Chris went to the Horror films gallery on his own. We then grabbed a sandwich and cold drink in the museum café before heading off to explore the waterfront area.
Seattle’s waterfront and Pike Place Market
Here we enjoyed the warm sun, fresh air and views across Puget Sound - oh, and an ice cream!
View across the Sound
Seattle's Great Wheel
After relaxing here for a while we climbed the steps to Pike Place Market.
We spent some time taking photos in the narrow passageways near the famous fish market.
We didn't (on this visit) see the original Starbucks which is located here. We weren't too bothered about that though, as neither of us likes either their coffee or their company ethos. Instead we stopped for a cold drink in a rather cool independent café cum art gallery called Local Color, where we got talking to this guy after asking permission to photograph him. We didn’t know then that we would find ourselves back here right at the end of our trip!
Shop near Pike Place
From here we headed back to the hotel, taking a cab to give me a break from Seattle's hills. Before going inside though, we popped into the Central Library opposite. I had been aware of the striking architecture and innovative thinking behind this library through my professional work, and was keen to see it for myself. It opened in 2004 and its eleven storeys dominate this block of the city centre, looking like a pile of somewhat ill-fitting glass boxes.
Seattle Central Library
Inside, its lower floors are light and open, while services requiring more intimate spaces (meeting rooms, research etc) are grouped on the upper floors. One of its innovations was to arrange the non-fiction books on a continuous series of shelves across four floors, linked by a spiral, allowing customers to browse the full collection without using stairs. Not everyone is a fan, however, and I found myself with mixed views, liking the architecture and some of the design features but wondering if the vast spaces might seem daunting to a nervous library user.
Inside the library
Evening at Pioneer Square
Mural near Pioneer Square Station
In the evening we travelled the one stop on the Light Rail to Pioneer Square, where we had a good meal in a lively Mexican restaurant, Casco Antiguo, sharing some tortilla chips with salsa and guacamole before my salmon tacos and Chris's chicken enchilada with mole sauce. He was pleased with the guest draft Pilsner, while my house margarita was excellent.
After dinner we browsed some craft stalls on nearby Occidental Square, where I bought myself a pretty silver and freshwater pearl necklace, and took a few photos before heading back to the hotel to catch up on our sleep ahead of our first driving day tomorrow.
As with Pike Place, we would return to Pioneer Square for a more thorough exploration at the end of our trip.