It was only a short hop from Ellensburgh into the city, meaning that we arrived in late morning and had much of the day left to explore. We managed to find a remarkably central cheapish hotel, which meant that once we arrived we could park up the car and leave it without having to worry about driving back out, so walking and drinks it was.
We started off by walking down the hill to the estuary that felt like the sea, and finally touched a what we counted as Pacific coastline, even if Puget Sound is not officially the ocean. Thousands of miles from our starting point in DC, and after a circuitous route south, west and north, we’d finally made it to the shore.
Chewing Gum Wall
From there, we walked along the shore to Pike Place Market, stopping along the way to visit one of Seattle’s more unusual sights: the Chewing Gum Wall.
Apparently it was scrubbed clean last year, but the gum has returned with a vengeance. We decided that we had to contribute, and in the classy spirit of the gum wall wrote our initials:
From the Chewing Gum Wall, we headed upstairs to Pike Place, Seattle’s famous market and the site of the world’s first Starbucks. There was a long queue circling around the block to enter, almost as if it were a pilgrimage site for lovers of tax-evading capitalism and distinctly average coffee. We had little interest in that, but lots of interest in the rest of the place, which was full of fresh fish, beautiful fruit, gourmet specialities and abundant local produce. Heaven!
If I lived in Seattle, Pike Place would make a sizeable hole in my wallet. Before we left, we popped over to another of Seattle’s famous coffee establishments, Storyville Coffee – a premium coffee roasters which puts some of its profits towards ending human trafficking. Better than Starbucks any day.
We also decided to go for chowder at the famous Pike Place Chowder (winner of many first place awards at the annual ‘Best Chowder Cook Off’), and this was very much a good decision, for it was delicious. Again, Seattle was racking up more and more points in its favour.
Chihuly Garden and Glass
After poking around for the afternoon, we bought joint tickets for the Space Needle (we’d decided to ascend at night) and the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum. You can buy joint tickets for $36; not particularly cheap, but in our minds definitely worth it. It’s $22 for Chihuly on its own.
Simply put, the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum is a must visit. The surreal, intricate sculptures that Dale Chihuly has made are just astounding, the bright glass curlicues echoing the furling leaves of plants and flowers, the tips of seashells. The glass plays tricks too, with flower vases of shifting colours and glass masquerading as plants.
The overall effect is simply magical, as if you’ve walked into a fantasy world, a giant glass garden. Many of the sculptures also looked rather edible (in a way reminiscent of the scene in the Gene Wilder version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory when the children walk into the garden full of sweets). Sadly there were no edible versions in the gift shop, so I had to resist the temptation to start snacking on the art.
I loved Chihuly, and would thoroughly recommend it. A true feast for the senses.
Cocktails and Space Needle
After Chihuly we went for some early evening cocktails at a nearby place, where I had a fantastic cardamon-infused concoction, before walking back over to the Space Needle for our 10pm tour. The Space Needle itself certainly didn’t disappoint – it’s a model to 60s futurism and space age dreams, and looks like something out of the Jetsons.
From the top, the view was beautiful and the exhibits pointed out some famous Seattle landmarks, real and fictional, such as the most probable location of Elliot Bay Towers, residence of Frasier Crane (apparently the view is geographically impossible), and Kerry Park.
I love being at the top of tall buildings: you feel the sense of space, the wind, and get the chance to see the city as a whole organism. I’m always taken aback by how orderly and planned things seem from above
Late Night Sushi
We hadn’t actually yet eaten, and by some means (not entirely sure how), we ended up having late night sushi, plum wine and sake at the Umi Sake House, which stayed open until ridiculous hours. The sushi was fantastic, especially their special sashimi with mango, and I loved that you could eat it after midnight – perfect.
By the time we made it back to the hotel, I was in love with Seattle. We certainly saw it at its best, on a balmy, sunny day in August, but even with the rain pouring I think I still would have loved it. It’s very liveable, a great mixture of cool, classy and casual, a place that values food, art and coffee – If I ever were to move to the US, Seattle would be a definite contender.
Highpoints: Chihuly, coffee, chowder and a stunning view – what could be better?
Lowpoints: I don’t live in Seattle. Why is that, again?
Up next: Lenin, a troll and a killer traffic jam