For twenty-five years, my American in-laws lived in the state of Washington, in a small town that looked like the town of Twin Peaks from David Lynch’s TV series – minus the waterfalls. I visited them there only once, six months after we got married, for, soon after that, they moved to Columbia to live with us. Unfortunately, I didn’t see much of the state during my first visit – a week before our departure, my husband began exhibiting symptoms of what I first thought to be the flu (and so did his doctor), but what later was diagnosed as mononucleosis. For those who don’t know much about mono, it is often called the kissing disease, because you can get it by kissing someone with mono (this, I sincerely hope, was not the case with my husband), although it’s entirely possible to catch if through coughing or sneezing.
In any case, by the time we got to the Twin Cities, my husband was feverish, had trouble holding food down (hard to handle in an airport :(), and had a killer headache. Not realizing what was happening, we continued our journey, with my husband feeling worse by the minute. When our plane finally landed in Seattle, it was clear that sightseeing in Seattle was no longer an option, so my father-in-law, who met us there, took us directly to Port Angeles. There I, still a new bride, spent a week worrying about the possibility of becoming a new widow, and my husband – who was so debilitated that he could not get up for meals – discussed with his father, a retired professor of physiology with an MD degree, how to calm me down.
Since then, the desire to visit Seattle stayed with me for years, so when we decided to visit Mt. Rainier National Park (see my previous post), I made sure that Seattle would not be missed either.
To get our bearings, we decided to make the Seattle Space Needle a “pivotal” point of our exploration – not only because the view was supposed to be great (which it was!), but also because I have a weakness for tall structures. Wherever I go, I make sure to climb every observation tower, for something about being high above ground deepens my breathing, raises me above my every-day problems and lets my imagination fly unencumbered.
For a while, we enjoyed the view of the city and its spectacular surroundings: Puget Sound, Lake Washington and other smaller lakes and rivers. Then we headed for a structure next to the Needle: Chihuly Garden And Glass Exhibition Hall.
Those of you who visited Dale Chihuly’s exhibit in the St. Louis Botanical Garden know how unusual his work is. And yet, Alice in Wonderland couldn’t have been more struck with what she saw than I was while exploring the rooms filled with glowing whimsical figures, flowers and other objects that didn’t seem to have any relation to the real world but that looked as beautiful as a dream (read my full report on the Chihuly Garden And Glass Exhibition Hall later).
On the other side of the Needle, we saw another unusual structure: Experience Music Project (designed by Frank Gehry), where one can visit the Jimi Hendrix room, play guitars, drums, and keyboards, experience what it’s like to be on stage and enjoy science-fiction exhibits dedicated to blockbuster sci-fi movies. Having done that, we got on the Central Link light rail and returned to our hotel.
Our next morning started at Starbucks. The number of Starbucks stores in Seattle is truly amazing. (This makes sense since the first Starbucks in the world opened here in 1971!) Then we looked for a city tour. If you want to take a Seattle bus tour, I recommend a Daffy Duck Tour (a six-wheel-drive amphibious truck is a must if you have kids with you). Not only will it take you around town and entertain you along the way (in our bus, the driver kept changing wigs, hats, and dramatized characters), but it will also plunge into Lake Union and give you an overview of the Portage Bay waterfront, including the boat house filmed in “Sleepless in Seattle.”
Whatever else you do afterwards, don’t forget to visit Pike Place Market, famous for its hustle and bustle, abundance of products and fish throwing – when somebody buys a fish, one fishmonger throws it from the front of the stall to the back, where another fishmonger wraps it up and, if you desire, packs it on dry ice, so you can take it with you on the plane home. Also, take the time to stroll along the waterfront – past a Ferris wheel, tourists, street musicians, eateries and ferries, arriving and departing – and in the evening, relax in one of the waterfront restaurants and watch the sun dive into the Puget Sound.
I could go on and on, but the size of this post doesn’t allow for a long description. Besides, there are guidebooks in the library that will help you plan your Seattle vacation much better. I’ll finish my post with a few tips:
Weather is an issue. As they say in Seattle, “The rain in Spain stays largely in Seattle,” so schedule your visit during summer months – July and August are your best bet.
Don’t buy tickets for the Space Needle, but have a leisurely lunch instead at a revolving restaurant atop the tower (make a reservation before leaving home). It does cost more, but you’ll enjoy the view much more, too.
On the other hand, if money is tight, instead of a boat ride, take a ferry across Puget Sound to Bainbridge Island.
No matter what the season, bring a jacket and an umbrella :).
All photographs used courtesy of the author.