Pacific Northwest

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The decision to explore this part of the world was determined in part by our Air Miles - this was the farthest we could go at the time we wanted to travel. We settled on Seattle and then investigated our other options. Although it was tempting to include a trip to the Rockies, we decided we wouldn't have time to do it justice. Some research led me to fall in love with Vancouver Island and thus it become part of our itinerary. And since Vancouver was just an hour or so away, that went on the list too. Our itinerary was as follows: 3 nights Seattle, 6 on Vancouver Island (3 centres), 3 in Vancouver, 2 back in Seattle. 

5th July 2005 

We had flights with BA at a civilised time so had a stress-free start to the trip. Our tickets were for World Traveller plus, so we were looking forward to having a little more legroom on the long flight. It must have been our lucky day, because we found we had been upgraded to Club World, which proved to be extremely comfortable, not to mention the good food and wine. We even managed to get a little sleep in the reclining bed seats. Despite departing a little late, we arrived on schedule at SeaTac airport at 4.30pm local time (GMT - 8 hrs). It took a while getting through customs as everyone was fingerprinted and photographed. We took a taxi to the Belltown are of Downtown where our home for the next 3 nights would be the Warwick. Our room was spacious with a good view of the Space Needle.

 

It was fairly cool and a bit drizzly but we went out for a walk, to avoid falling asleep, down to the waterfront, where we had excellent fish & chips & beer at Anthony's Fish Bar. After a further walk, we went back and were asleep by 9pm.

6th July 

We breakfasted in the hotel and walked to the Westlake Centre to take in a few shops. From there we took the monorail to the Seattle Centre, home of the Space Needle and the Experience Musical Project (EMP). First we went to the top of the Space Needle, with incredible views. The weather was wonderful, getting sunnier throughout the day. After that we took a ride with the Duck Tour, a WW2 amphibious vehicle. Great fun, but you have to get into the American loud participatory mood, quacking at strangers and generally making a fool of yourself! The tour was very informative and a good introduction to the city, both on land and on water in Lake Union.

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View from Space Needle

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Space Needle

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The Duck

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Lake Union

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Gas Works Park

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Floating homes

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Colour co-ordinated bus

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EMP

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EMP

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EMP

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If 6 was 9 exhibit

Our next visit was to the EMP, an extraordinary building by Frank Gehry, first envisaged as a tribute to Jimi Hendrix, who came from Seattle, but now being so much more. As rock music fans, it was impossible for us to resist, and we loved the place. It is full of musical memorabilia, an exhibition dedicated to Hendrix (and one on Bob Dylan while we were there), and many others, taking in all types of modern music. There was an opportunity to try out instruments and even to record a CD or DVD. We watched a couple of films, including a one of a Beatles gig in 1964. We had a drink at the Liquid Lounge when it opened at 4pm - in memory of Hendrix, I went for a Purple Haze, which was delicious. Too tired to walk much further, we dined that night in the hotel's restaurant, Brasserie Margaux, enjoying a lovely meal, before retiring at 9pm. A fantastic start to the holiday. Seattle is a lovely city, very laidback and friendly with so much to do. 

7th July

It was another beautiful day so we went out early, stopping for coffee and a scone in 'Seattle's Best' coffee shop. Seattle being the birthplace of the coffee shop revolution, there are so many coffee shops, it's hard to know which to pick, but this was a good choice. We explored Pike Place Market but in fact were a bit too early and much of it hadn't yet opened up. It's a great place though - especially if you live there. The food and flowers were amazing and so cheap - huge bouquets for $5 or $10. The choice of seafood was astonishing. Then we walked along to Pioneer Square, stopping for stamps at the Federal Post Office. Security was astonishingly high, with Martyn unable to enter as he didn't have his photo ID on him. So it was up to me to go through to the post office to get the stamps. A bit intimidating getting there, although the counter staff were much friendlier than the guards. Once in Pioneer Square, we phoned home, to be given the terrible news of the London bombings. We hadn't watched TV or seen a paper that morning so it was a big shock. We found that throughout our trip, everyone was extremely solicitous towards us on hearing our English accents.

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Pike Place Market

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A Seattle street

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Piano for sale

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Pioneer Square

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Art Museum featuring the 'Hammering Man'

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One of many of Seattle's sculptures

 

Next we went on the Underground Tour, amazed to find there were about 120 people on it (split between 3 guides), and it was running hourly! A fascinating 90 minute trip, during which we learned a lot more of Seattle's dubious history - built by crooks, apparently. As we didn't have a proper breakfast, we lunched at McCormick & Schmidt, a lovely fish restaurant, and very reasonably priced. After lunch we visited the Seattle Art Museum, which has free entry on the first Thursday of each month. We didn't look at everything, just selecting the galleries of most interest to us, namely the displays of Native American, aboriginal and Far Eastern art. We had to be back at the Warwick in time to get ready for our night out at Teatro Zinzanni, tickets for which we'd bought the day before.

Teatro Zinzanni is an experience like no other. It has been described as being like "the Kit Kat club on acid," and "the place where the Moulin Rouge meets Cirque du Soleil," and that sounds a fair enough description! It's set in a big circus tent and on entering, you feel as if you have been transported into a 19th century Parisian nightclub. We were seated right next to the performance area , with a Seattle family celebrating the daughter's birthday. There was a 5 course meal served throughout the show, and we accompanied it with the 'wine flight', a small glass of different wine with each course. It was a fabulous night out, with a mix of comedy, juggling, acrobatics, trapeze, opera, dancing, audience participation.......... Very highly recommended and a fitting finale to our first stay in Seattle.

8th July

We awoke to rain and after checking out, took the hotel shuttle bus down to Pier 69 where we boarded the Victoria Clipper, bound for Victoria on Canada's Vancouver island. The boat was very fast and very smart, taking a couple of hours. Unfortunately, we couldn't appreciate the scenery as it was too wet and misty. Our hotel, the Laurel Point Inn, was only a few minutes walk from the terminal so we didn't get too wet. Our room was lovely, overlooking the harbour and with a Japanese feel about it. We went for a walk to the Inner Harbour, a very pretty place with a backdrop of Victorian buildings and flowers everywhere. Victoria is said to be a little England, rather genteel, and the sort of place to take tea. In fact, much like Funchal in Madeira. It reminded me of Funchal, but not England! We had an Italian lunch at Julia's Place and the explored the streets before visiting the Royal British Columbia Museum - a great place to go when the weather isn't so good. In fact, a great place to go anytime, this was one of the best museums we've ever visited. There are galleries devoted to First Peoples, Modern History and Natural History and we also visited a temporary exhibition devoted to Tibet. We only had a couple of hours, but managed to see most of the exhibits. That evening we dined in the hotel's restaurant, enjoying a lovely dinner and a few chats with other guests. The Canadians seem to be even more friendly towards us than the Americans. We were entertained by a young lady playing piano and singing, which was lovely. We had a magical moment when we looked out the window as she sang 'Over the rainbow'. A beautiful one was hanging in the sky - leading to a bank! We strolled around the gardens after dinner before retiring for the night.

 

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