USA ’22 #10: Seattle

USA ’22 #10: Seattle

Wednesday 11th to Friday 13th May 2022

A friend has recently visited her daughter who relocated to Seattle before Christmas so we were able to ask for their recommendations of places to go. Ruth Jewell suggested that the Space Needle was a good place to start as it would help us to orientate ourselves.

We were pleased to be able to see the Space Needle from our hotel room and set off through the streets of Seattle towards this iconic building.

Seattle Tower, formerly Northern Life Tower, was completed in 1928 and was the first Art Deco skyscraper to be built in the city. At 27 storeys, it is now dwarfed by many of its neighbours, but it is nevertheless a striking building with a distinctive ziggurat design, based on the stepped rectangular towers of ancient Mesopotamia.

Seattle Art Museum, commonly known as SAM, is spread over three sites including the one downtown which has a sculpture outside called the Hammering Man. He hammers silently four times a minute between the hours of 07:00 and 22:00 but rests his arm overnight.

From here we walked down the Harbor Steps and realised that Seattle is has far more hills than the other American cities we have visited so far. We would be climbing back up to our hotel later.

Pike Place Market opened in 1907 as a farmers’ market and is America’s oldest continuously operated public market. There are now a number of inter-locking buildings with stalls offering a wide range of crafts and merchandise as well as food.

In the park as you approach the Space Needle, you find the Seattle Centre’s Sculpture Garden.

Dan Corson’s sculpture, Sonic Bloom [below] generates its own electricity. Each flower top contains 48 solar cells which generate the power to allow the flowers to dance through the evening.

The Space Needle was built in 1962 and is a lasting legacy of the World’s Fair held in Seattle that year. It also has the more dubious claim to fame of being the only World’s Fair which was the setting for an Elvis Presley film, the slightly prosaically entitled It Happened at the World’s Fair.

There is also a memorable fight scene on the roof of the Space Needle in Alan Pakula’s 1974 conspiracy classic, The Parallax View.

The views from the Observation Deck are fabulous. As we can see the Space Needle from our room we spent some time trying to identify our hotel from there but could not be completely certain which skyscraper it was.

In 2018, the world’s only rotating glass floor was opened on the floor below the Observation Deck. The restaurant rotates once every 47 minutes powered by a 1.5 horsepower motor [see Video of the day].

You can tell how comfortable, or otherwise, people are: the bold ones stride purposefully and confidently onto the glass floor perhaps even jumping up and down on it. By contrast, the more timid visitor either walks onto the glass on tiptoe to avoid exerting too much pressure [Matilda] or finds the areas of glass which have been covered so that you cannot see through to the ground below and walks cautiously on those [Robert].

In the gift shop, there is a Lego model of the Space Needle which is 14 feet high and contains 55,000 bricks built by Wayne Hussey.

As we were leaving we saw the Monorail and Robert did some on-line research so that we could travel on it the next day.

We dropped into the Hard Rock Cafe where we sampled some local brews and we discovered that Robert liked the Scuttlebutt Homeport Blonde whilst Matilda felt that Pike Kilt Lifter was good too.

There was a huge variety of toffee apples on offer in the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.

We then decided to visit The Pike Pub and Brewery. . .

. . . to try some more of the local ales.

As we left, we both felt unclean walking past The Market Theatre Gum Wall on Post Alley under the Pike Place Market. Originally the pieces of gum stuck here had pennies pushed into them. The pennies have been removed and in some places, warm weather has caused the gum to melt and droop.

We did not add to the wall.

Matilda felt much more affinity with this bronze statue which she obviously needed to hug. Subsequently research told us that this was Billie the Piggy Bank. There are two such piggy banks in Pike Place Market. The original one is called Rachel and has been under the market clock, collecting donations, since 1986. She was installed to raise money for the social service agencies in the Market, to support the local community here. 

In 2011, Rachel was joined by her ‘cousin’, Billie. Between the two of them they have raised more than $350,000 so far.

We found a slightly chilly spot outside the Old Stove Brewing Company where we also ate [see Dish of the day].

The next day we planned to take the monorail to Seattle Center Station to visit MoPOP, the Museum of Popular Culture. On our way to the station we visited St James Cathedral.

There are no stops on the monorail which goes from Westlake Center Station, at Fifth Avenue and Pine Street [below] direct to Seattle Center Station, adjacent to the Space Needle [see Selfie of the day]. Trains leave every ten minutes.

An undulating brightly coloured tunnel has been built across the track where the monorail goes through MoPOP.

Rain was forecast all day and we were thankful that Ruth had recommended going up the Space Needle as a priority. If we had waited one day, we would not have had clear skies and good views.

MoPOP was opened in 2000 as the Experience Music Project by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

Allen owns many of the exhibits which range from pop culture, the art of fantasy, horror movies, video games, science fiction in both literature and film as well as iconic costumes.

IF VI WAS IX – guitar sculpture comprising more than 500 instruments.

Robert, being more musical than Matilda, was particularly taken by the interactive Sound Lab [Make sure your sound is on for this video].

The police car from the 1982 Blade Runner film hangs from the ceiling.

The museum also has large collections of memorabilia celebrating local Seattle musician Jimi Hendrix and the band Nirvana.

Returning to Pike Place Market we looked in at Beecher’s Handmade Cheese shop. There are large cheese making vats and machinery in the right hand side of the premises which unfortunately we did not see in production but Matilda was pleased to be able to buy a small sample each to try.

Video of the day:

Selfie of the day:

Dish of the day:

Prawn skewers for two, a hummus plate and salmon chowder at the Old Stove Brewing Company

Route Map:

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