Seattle through the eyes of a Needle

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September 8th 2018
Published: September 10th 2018
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Despite having been awake since 04:45, we were awoken at 7am by banging, hammering, drilling and sawing coming from next door. Or we would have been if we were asleep!!

Today, I’m going to get my wish and see the Seattle skyline from atop a tower. The Smith Tower is a skyscraper (by UK standards, at least) in Pioneer Square. Completed in 1914, the neo-classical 38-story, 484 ft tower is the oldest skyscraper in the city, and was among the tallest skyscrapers outside New York City at the time of its completion. It was the tallest building west of the Mississippi River (why always West of the Mississippi?) until the completion of the Kansas City Power & Light Building in 1931. It was then relegated to the tallest building on the West Coast for nearly half a century until the Space Needle overtook it in 1962. It’s now not even the tallest building in Pioneer Square!! However, there is an observation deck on the 34th floor and that’s were we headed immediately after a ham and cheese omelette breakfast.

It was a pleasant day although not as warm as yesterday. We decided to walk down to Pioneer Square via Pine Street. We took a detour as I had to check out the statue honouring the life and work of guitar God, Jimi Hendrix. This is a statue on the corner of Pine and 10th that seemed to have been erected for no apparent reason at all! The bronze likeness shows Hendrix on his knees shredding on his guitar. I understand the pose was based on photos of Hendrix from the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. Hendrix was born here so it comes as no surprise that there is also a park named after Seattle’s number one son, although for some bizarre reason, it is miles away from this statue! The next step in the ‘let’s latch on to the Hendrix name’ would be to rename Seattle Tacoma airport (Sea Tac) It wouldn’t be the first time. John Lennon airport springs to mind!! The Jimi Hendrix International Airport Experience has a nice ring to it. They could also rename the air traffic control tower, the Watch Tower (although some people may confuse this with the Jehovah Witnesses Head Quarters!!) The authorities could then hang images of Hendrix All Along the Watchtower!!! From time to time, the statue we were now standing in front of, is covered with various articles of clothing. I sniggered at the thought of putting a nearby traffic cone of his head but I quickly dismissed this just in case there was a law against it. It would have been cool though. The statue of Wellington on horseback outside Glasgow town hall wouldn’t have been unique anymore!

It took us about a further half hour to walk to our next stop, the Smith Tower. As Roisin doesn’t do towers, I paid admission for one and was told by the assistant to follow the signs up to the second floor where I should take the elevator to the observation deck. After a short film I proceeded though a walnut panelled corridor to a series of rooms designed and laid out as the offices and switch board room looked over one hundred years ago. There was a row of eight elevators with a sign specifically pointing at one, advertising the observation deck. There are still many businesses occupying Smith Tower so the other seven elevators were still in working order. The elevators blended in with the rest of the Art Deco design right down to the brass grille door, popular for that time period. These are designed to be manually opened and closed. In this case, by the elevator operators. This building is one of the last on the West Coast to employ this dying breed. The doors are latticed, so on the way up, I was able to see in to the offices on each floor; not very interesting but it took my mind off the height we were climbing!

I found a small bistro at the top of the tower. The observation deck was outside but I was comforted by a four feet wall and a steel railing making it difficult to look straight down although knowing how high I was, I still walked very gingerly around the observation deck hugging the inner wall of the tower!! That said, the views were stunning. As I mentioned, the Smith Tower is not the highest sky scraper in the city which provided a unique view through the Seattle Skyline so I was able to get some interesting shots of the Space needle peeping though the gaps of the towering building in the foreground. Looking down (but not directly), I saw a few 20th century buildings that had stood the test of time. The scale seemed all wrong and these brick buildings looked nothing more than model village replicas.

To the north west of the city, the distant Olympic mountains were clearly visible. This range is not particularly high with Mount Olympus being the highest peak at just under 8,000 feet. With the UK’s highest peak, Ben Nevis only registering in at 4,411, the Olympic range is pretty damn high!!!

About face and to the South of Seattle I could just make out Washington State’s highest mountain, Mt. Rainier. The weird stat is that this peak measures 14,411 feet, exactly 10,000 feet (to the inch) higher than Ben Nevis.

On my return to Terra Firma, Roisin and I agreed it was time for Fika. This is a tradition we picked up in Sweden when about mid to late morning everything stops for coffee and cake!! We like these sorts of traditions.

To get a true reflection of the Seattle skyline, you need to see it from the bay. Short of hiring a boat (I couldn’t persuade Roisin that rowing is an excellent form of cardio vascular exercise– now I couldn’t do it as someone has to take the photos!!), we decided to take the car ferry across to a nearby island called Bainbridge. The half hour journey costs €8.45 one way, however, I was informed that the return leg was free. Wait a minute. Isn’t that like saying the journey is €8.45 return??! There seemed to be many passengers waiting to board the 13:10 ferry but once on board, there were plenty of seats, inside as well as on deck. This was due to the ferry having capacity for 2500 passengers (including 200 vehicles) That’s practically the capacity of a small cruise ship!

The Ferries ran every hour so we only stayed on the island for about 1 ½ hours. Downtown was only a short ten-minute walk from the harbour. Bainbridge is renowned for its endless nature walks but as we didn’t want to miss the ferry back to the city, we just took a stroll through this one street town. For some reason there seemed to be a lot of real estate premises that appeared disproportionate to the size of the town. A banner, suspended across the main street of the town advertised the 2018 annual quilt festival. This intrigued me. I tried to find out more about this upcoming activity. All that I could find out is that anyone can enter a quilt. This is a non-juried quilt show open to all quilters (I didn’t even know there was such a thing!!) Entry forms could be obtained on line. Closing date 31st August 2018. Bugger! I missed the deadline. Ah well! There is always next year!!

This evening the Yankees were in town. That’s the New York Yankees baseball team who were starting the first of a three-game series against local team the Seattle Mariners. During the day (including on the Bainbridge ferry) we noticed people milling around with Yankies ball caps and some wearing Yankees jackets. They must have been here for the game. That’s one hell of an away trip to make. New York is 2,800 miles from Seattle!! Roisin and I had planned on attending the game but it had started raining, this wasn’t in the script. It wasn’t supposed to rain until the day after tomorrow. There would have been little cover where we were sitting and jet lag was still lurking in our system so we were now feeling a little tired after our days activities. After careful consideration, we decided to give the game a miss.

Once again, we ate our evening meal at the Rhein Haus. Rosin was so impressed with their beef goulash that we decided to return for round two!! This time, though, we were stopped by two burley looking bouncers, both clad in black and both blocking our way to food heaven.

‘Show us some photo I.D and you’ll be good to go,’ said the slightly taller but less scary of the two.

Roisin immediately pulled out her passport and handed it over. ‘I don’t have any photo I.D with me!’ I exclaimed. ‘Oh! Wait, I have my driving license’, I muttered to myself handing the bouncer my credentials. He struggled with it under the fading light but scrutinised the document as if his career depended on it.

‘Everything is in order. We just need to stamp your wrist. That way if you leave the premises and return we can let you straight in!!’ Wait, just rewind. Did he say <em style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">Stamp? Have we just been whisked back to the 80s?! The last time I had my wrist stamped was in a small back street club in Liverpool called the Cabin. This glorified living room with, as I seem to remember, a tree growing up though one of the lounges, was frequented by mainly police, nurses and customs officers!!

Although we visited the Rhein Haus on two occasions, this was by no means the nearest restaurant to our accommodation. This accolade went to the Ba Bar. The Rhein Haus was three blocks up on 12th whilst the Ba Bar backed on to our cottage on the corner of 12th and East Barclay. However, the Ba Bar sold street food whilst the other bars and restaurants in the vicinity advertised more traditional fare. You could say the Ba Bar was very much the black sheep of the restauranting fraternity!!

So tomorrow we head for the Ruby Princess and our seven-day cruise. There were plenty of places to see and things to do here in Seattle. It was impossible to see everything in such a short time. For the cost of a metro ticket we could have visited the tombs of Bruce and Brandon Lee who are interred in one of Seattle’s cemeteries, if we had seen everything above ground, there was always a tour that would have taken us below the street level of the city to explore the macabre, the humourous and the downright quirky of the original Seattle. It was even possible to take a tour around the Boeing factory to see how these successful commercial aircraft are manufactured. Although, if the truth is revealed, it may put us off flying for life. I certainly understand the science but it still bewilders me as to how 300 tonnes of steel can hurl through the air at 40,000 feet and 600 mph. All this will have to wait for another time. We have an appointment with destiny. We have an appointment with the Last frontier State – Alaska awaits….

Additional photos below
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10th September 2018
The Olympic mountain rage - Wasington State

Log Cabin
Beautiful photo and many points for the terra firma parts of your writing, Also + 1 mln points for Cabin Club reference - heroic! btw, did you spot my Quilting reference? AH

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