Exploring Northwest US and Canada: Week 3, Day 16, Seattle

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July 8th 2018
Published: July 8th 2018
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7/26 We woke to sunshine, albeit chillier than what we are used to. The 1906 11th Avenue Bed and Breakfast provided a hearty breakfast that we enjoyed amidst fellow travelers. My friend Bob had arrived as promised to give us a tour of Seattle. We fastened our seatbelts and were off for a whirlwind tour of Seattle! I don’t think there was a highlight or historical detail that was missed. We began with a quick tour of the lovely little Chapel of St Ignatius at Seattle University. This tiny church, striking as it was reflected in a long pool, was designed by Architect Steven Holl who designed the chapel using vessels of light to define physical and spiritual spaces. Pools of light separated the dark spaces within, asking the visitor to experience light as it passes through windows and bounces off walls. A scale model of this building is part of the permanent collection at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

We drove past the first Starbucks located in Pike Place Market to see what the original sign looked like. Apparently modesty later became the rule with coffee drinkers. The market was packed with tourists and since this is mainly
Women Hold Up Half The Sky exhibitWomen Hold Up Half The Sky exhibitWomen Hold Up Half The Sky exhibit

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
a walking/bus city there was no place to park the car, plus we were not interested in food at this point having had an enormous breakfast so on we went to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center where we spent time viewing the exhibit Women Hold Up Half The Sky, a wonderful exhibit showing (and championing) the collective power of women all over the world. We watched a few short movies on health and education in impoverished regions of the world and participated in several interactive computer screen programs before heading out to our next stop.

Bob pointed out the headquarters of Google and Adobe then new Amazon space that Paul Allen had bought. The space had consisted of derelict warehouses and factories. He bought the land and buildings and offered it to the city for a steal if they would build a park. They didn't. He built Amazon properties instead. The Allen Institute is his brain trust. Continuing on our tour, since Bob and I were formerly from the Boston area, he drove us around Seattle’s Beacon Hill where we saw many street signs and other references to the Boston area among the Craftsman bungalows and Seattle box houses. This area was settled by many transplanted Bostonians. In addition it was the former world headquarters of Amazon. I am reminded of the very funny book I had just read “Where’d You Go Bernadette?” by Maria Semple, a humorous look at the lives of those who work in the IT industry and how they relate to their fellow Seattle neighbors.

At the Seattle Art Museum or SAM, John Grade created a large scale sculpture of a tree entitled Middle Fork. This tree that was hanging in the entrance of the museum was first made from a full plaster cast of a 140 year old western hemlock located in the Cascade Mountains east of Seattle. The final result that hung above us was made from cedar and waterproof glue and was 150’ long x 30’ in diameter.

Next we hiked up and around Gas Works Park on the north shore of Lake Union. This hill is on the site of the former Seattle Gas Light company gasification plant. Perched on top is a large walkable sundial. From here you can see the old gasification plant below the hill and to the other side a wonderful view of Seattle. Obviously popular with families and tourists we learned there are often free concerts here and competitions in kite flying. While we were here we watched Canadian geese meander through the picnickers and sun bathers perched along paths and benches on this hill.

From the Gas Works Park we walked down to the nonprofit Center for Wooden Boats on Valley Street very near the Museum of History and Industry. It is a free hands-on “laboratory of learning” museum dedicated to “preserving and documenting the maritime history of the Pacific Northwest” and teaches those interested in boat construction. Beautifully crafted wooden boats lined the docks alongside yachts and tall ships. I saw many upturned rowboats for rent for $25 an hour and I later heard there were free sail boat rides on Sundays, but again, another time.

We stopped next to look at some more works of artist John Grade at the Museum of History and Industry or MOHAI, where he installed an amazing 100,000 piece reconstruction representing a ship's mast fabricated from huge planks of Douglas fir that was repurposed from an old wooden ship’s hull dating to the 1800s. Grade’s construction entitled Wawona after the 165
Wawona by John GradeWawona by John GradeWawona by John Grade

Museum of History and Industry
ft historic schooner, soars 65 feet from floor to ceiling inside the museum. Fluted wooden forms protrude from the wood surface similar to microscopic phytoplankton that would, over time, have attached to a wooden ship’s hull. The entire piece is said to move and creak as it did on the ship from whence it came or at least from its inspiration. As we were leaving I photographed the historic 15 foot mechanical clock donated by Carroll’s Jewelers to the MOHAI. I later learned the workings had been stolen, but it is still beautiful.

I wish we could have spent more time in these museums. What I saw of the history of Seattle documented in the MOHAI was intriguing and I could have spent hours in the interactive Bezos Center for Innovation. What I saw of the art in SAM was pretty wonderful but in our whirlwind overview of Seattle, that intensive look was not to be. And add to the many museums I did not have time for: The Museum of Flight, more for me to focus on when I come to Seattle again. Everywhere we went we saw wonderful artwork throughout the city. I did learn that 1 percent of Seattle's construction budget is dedicated to be used for art. Yay Seattle! Another example of this is the Olympic Sculpture Park on Seattle’s waterfront that, once known as Skid Row, has been repurposed and now features artwork such as Alexander Calder’s spider like sculpture “Eagle.”

It was past lunch time so Bob drove us to the locally famous Ivars Fish Bar Restaurant where we sat outside to enjoy Caesar salad and clam chowder, overlooking Lake Union. We had a lucky surprise to see The Pocock Rowing Center at the UW Boat House that conveniently sat on the opposite shore. This is where George Pocock coached the University of Washington “Boys in the Boat” to victory in the 1936 Olympics. After having read the book it was a thrill to see the boathouse and imagine the practices in the cold waters. On a sunny July day there was quite a chilly breeze coming off Lake Union that even my hot tea did not have a warming effect on. I will say the I-5 Express runs over the Ship Canal Bridge very close to the restaurant making the outdoor eating experience quite noisy.

After lunch we drove around the University of Washington, and beautiful Olmsted Park. We parked the car at Lake Washington for a view. I am from Florida and wouldn't touch water under 78 degrees, so this lake to me is freezing! We saw crowds of swimmers on the beach and, surprising to me, they were enjoying the cold waters and looking comfortable. At 25 m long, it is the largest lake in King County and the second largest natural lake in the state of Washington. The lake is referred to as a “ribbon lake” due to its long, finger-like shape. Sadly this is where I think I lost my sunglasses running to take a picture.

We stopped next at Volunteer Park, (not far from our B&B) to see the Black Sun onyx sculpture by Isamu Noguchi. If you look through the center of the donut shaped sculpture you can easily frame the Space Needle, as well as the Olympic Mountains and Elliott Bay. The Seattle Asian Art Museum was across the street but sadly it was not open. We also passed the Volunteer Park Conservatory that reminded me of Kew Gardens in London, another one for later. My list of things to see on my return trip is getting longer and longer.

We drove past the Starbucks clock that towers over the Starbucks Headquarters, then took a peak without stopping at Seattle’s lackluster Chinatown before picking up Bob’s girlfriend Martha who was joining us for dinner. We drove back into town past more artwork including the “Troll Under the Bridge” better known as the Freemont Troll that lurks under the Aurora Bridge, soon followed by the post Soviet Union “statue of Lenin” constructed by a Bulgarian sculptor (it’s for sale in case you need new lawn statuary) and on to the huge flagship Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room on 1124 Pike Street. Coffee beans decorate the concrete walk in front and a sign that says “One Neighborhood at a Time” leads you to the inside of the warehouse styled-room. Sparkling copper pipes lead to enormous gleaming kettles and long bars where coffee is served from more copper tubes coming from the roasters. Everything appeared to be shiny clean from the polished floors to the roasters. I was a happening place. I must say we did not have coffee or food here, we just were voyeurs of history.

On our way to dinner we drove to the Ballard Locks or the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, where boats up to 760 feet in length as well as small kayaks can travel to Puget sound. Through a system of swinging walkways, visitors can watch the boats travel from one lock to another as they slowly make headway to the sound. There is also a “Fish Ladder” where fish go through a similar process as the boats. Nearby is a lovely park and the Carl S. English Jr Botanical Garden.

From there we drove out to Shilshole Bay for dinner and sunset on the water at Ray’s Boathouse and Cafe in Ballard. For more than four decades this has been the go to place for seafood. I ordered a Dungeness (named after Dungeness Washington) crab salad appetizer for $20 that was supposed to be small but would have served nicely as my main course and because the server said it would not be enough for dinner I ordered deviled eggs with roe on a salad for $14. Big mistake. One or the other would have sufficed as a main meal. Bob and Martha ordered a bottle of white wine with their dinner. It was quite warm so we sat on the side deck out of the sun but also sadly out of a good view.

We left dinner a bit too late to make our pre-ticketed visit to the Chihuly Museum at the base of the Space Needle, an iconic observation tower built for the 1962 World's Fair, now an historic landmark. We did get there in time to take the speedy (41 second) elevator trip up to the top of the needle to see the sun set over Seattle and the mountains. Olympic National Park was covered in low hanging clouds while in another direction Mount Rainer loomed largest in its magnificent snow-covered glory. A taste of what was to come the following week. About 8:45 we walked to the number 8 bus back to Capital Hill and our 11th Ave B&B but unfortunately there was an accident on the road causing the bus to sit for 25 cold minutes. Consequently we got to bed way later than we had planned.

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