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Published: August 23rd 2018
The Space Needle
Looking up at the Space Needle from the Seattle Center.
It was my wife’s birthday today and it was agreed that I should go out early to collect a McDonalds breakfast for us all.
Most of our holidays in America involve a Segway tour and this was to be no exception. It was a 20 minute walk to to the tour office and, when we arrived, we had to sit through the usual safety video. Our guide put it really well. If you have been on a Segway before then the video will seem like a comedy. If you have not been on a Segway before then it would scare the hell out of you.
The tour lasted about an hour and a half. It was mainly around the Seattle Center and South Lake Union. It completely missed out Downtown, Pioneer Square and the Waterfront area, but given the narrow paths, uneven surfaces, crowds and hills that was understandable and actually quite a relief. Some Segways tours have been more tour than Segway, much to the frustration of the kids. This tour was perfect for them as, at a number of appropriate locations, there was time specifically to speed around on the Segways.
The South Lake Union area
The Museum of Pop Culture.
A number of broken guitars.
used to be almost entirely owned by Paul Allen, as in Microsoft. Apparently he had planned to build a park that would be twice the size of New York’s Central Park and then hand it over to the city. That seemed like a generous and virtuous gesture, however the city authorities realised that it would cost $1 billion a year to maintain and turned it down. Most of the land is now owned by Amazon and their head office is near by. There are also several buildings owned by the Bill and Melisa Gates Foundation.
There is a tram-line that, apparently, was going to be called the South Lake Union Tram until, luckily and just in time, someone realised what the abbreviation would be.
The Seattle Center is where the 1962 Word Fair took place, for which the centerpiece was the Space Needle. This was originally intended to be temporary (much like the Eiffel Tower), but became so iconic that it has remained ever since (again, much like the Eiffel Tower). It recently underwent a massive refurbishment, with improvements to the observation deck and the installation of a revolving glass floor. Unfortunately, the restaurant will not reopen until the new year.
It would be a crime not to have gone to the top so we headed there after the Segway tour. Talking of a crime - $37.50 for an adult ticket to the top!! Arguably, it was worth it as the view was fantastic, although it was slightly spoilt by the ever present smog.
Surprisingly, there were no queues and consequently it was not too crowded. The lift (elevator) famously takes 41 seconds in each direction, however at the bottom there was a virtual reality experience of what it would have been like to come down by bungee-jump. This was included in the observatory ticket and was my first ever experience of virtual reality. There was also the usual, ubiquitous ‘green-screen’ photograph, however unlike most other places, the photo can be downloaded for free. Still, $37.50?
It was also worth a little bit of time to walk around the rest of the Seattle Centre as there is loads there, including fountains, sculptures and a weird and unusual building housing the Museum of Pop Culture. I think this was another contribution from Paul Allen. Apparently the architect who designed it smashed-up some guitars and based the building on the resultant pieces.
Afterwards, we headed back to the hotel to chill and relax for a while. On the way, we passed the railway (or railroad as they call it here) that runs along the the full length of the waterfront and behind the hotel. That might not seem like anything noteworthy, but the trains certainly are. Most of them are freight and it would not surprise me if they were miles long and they needed two engines at the front and another two at the back. It can take 15 minutes for them to pass. Reaching a crossing just as the barriers go down must be immensely frustrating when you know you are potentially facing a 15 minute wait. We were quite happy to wait and watch one go by.
My son and daughter later told us about train they had seen. This one was actually carrying the fuselage of a number of planes, presumably heading from Everett to a place unknown.
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