Monday, 17 July 2017


As I said in my last post Thibault and I were a bit disappointed by Seattle. There just isn't that much to see or do and it isn't particularly pretty. From our accommodation in Capitol Hill it was a fair walk into Downtown, but its more the hills than the distance that is an issue. But the real issue is that the car is king. You can't get away from a freeway going through it.  

 However, I suggested that the obvious place for us to spend the last day of our holiday was around the Seattle Centre, the centrepiece of which is the Space Needle.

 While I agreed with Thibault I could do without the trip up ye observation tower jut for a view of the city, I did quite fancy the EMP Museum, if only for the weird colourful architecture of Frank Gehry.

 As it was by now late morning, Thibault suggested we go off for an early lunch before tackling the inside. We could have used the Seattle monorail to go Downtown,

 but we decided to walk. To a colourful, but distinctly mediocre Italian restaurant.

And then back to the Seattle Centre park, with the clouds at last starting to break from the morning's grey.

 Now the EMP Museum was established to celebrate American music and popular culture. By this point Thibault had such a downer he only heard me say "Music" and didn't really heed my broader message, and also assumed this was "my treat" and he was just going along to be nice. Whereas in reality, there is more of the popular culture than the music, and actually Thibault enjoyed the whole thing far more than he expected.

So, some observations. First, we started with what as it turned out was the most interesting part of the museum - the section on Horror. This was largely a collection of photos, costumes and masks/models, plus a series of TV screens showing short documentaries about all sorts of horror genres. It was the best thing by far.

The Fantasy section was rather less exciting. But it also made me reflect on how out of date a modern museum can become. No one expects the British Museum to sweep away some of its mummies to make way for the latest in Egyptian soap operas. But in a section on fantasy in a modern museum you would expect the biggest thing to be game of Thrones (after maybe Harry Potter). Actually GoT just gets a little mention. But the reason is obvious - it was established before GoT and when you have designed a certain type of purpose-built space you don't expect (or want) to gut it and insert something new. But that is the problem of popular culture - it moves on fast.

The music section was rather a disappointment. This was because rather than try and cover the development of popular music, it just picked on two artists to have galleries showcasing their lives - Jimi Hendrix (who was from Seattle) and David Bowie, plus some Nrvana. Plus there was a gallery of the development of guitars. It would be a bit like the National Gallery having just paintings by Turner and Titian, plus a collection of paint brushes. A proper museum of pop music would be great, but it would need 50 plus galleries, not two.

The huge guitar "sculpture" was cool though.

 The Sky Church sounds far more exciting than it was - a large wall with David Bowie concert footage showing on it.

The star trek section up on top was good though - a reflection of what a "classic" that has become. But like the music section, a more representative walk-through of science fiction would have been better.

Back outside and it had turned into a beautiful afternoon.

 I insisted we did a bit of sightseeing even if we were not sure the sights were worth seeing.

Pike Place Market is one of the must-sees. It is famous for its fish, but actually there are few fish stalls; it is primarily full of tourist oriented stalls. Frankly Borough Market is more interesting. Although what was impressive about the fish stalls was the size of the seafood. On a different scale to what you would see in a London fishmongers.

Seattle Art Museum
 Pioneer Square was just a bit underwhelming. Nice enough but small compared to any European city square.

However, we settled into a bar here, had a chat and then headed back to our airbnb for a quick shower before going out for the final meal of our holiday. As has become almost traditional, Thibault booked a highly rated sushi restaurant "near our airbnb". Well when he checked, it really wasn't that near at all. It was 45 minutes at Thibault's marching pace. It did take us across a  lot of the nicer suburbs of Seattle, which I would have liked to have captured on camera but Thibault's relentless pace left me no time to take a snap, so I just to admire the houses and parks in passing, while panting.

Anyway, we made it to Sushi Kappo Tamura just about in time for our booking. As it was a little out of the way, and it was 4 July weekend, the place wasn't full. And the waiter took us under his wing, ie persuaded us to effectively let him choose what we would eat with a hint as to what we liked. And to be fair it was really good.

 I even finished off with a couple of ice cream concoctions (which were much more disappointing than the rest of the meal).

Overall a delicious meal after which we were both in a good mood. So good that Thibault even relented and ordered an uber rather than make me climb back up the hill replete with raw fish. Of course it came at a price. Nearly £240, which is rather more than I normally pay for a meal out.

But then it was our last meal of the holiday, and it left us feeling on a high, so in my book it was worth it.

Which leaves me to reflect on our fortnight's vacation. Only real regret was not just sticking to Canada. We could have had a very happy fortnight just between Calgary and Vancouver, either doing the journey we did on a more leisurely basis, or adding some other places, like Vancouver Island, Victoria or Prince Rupert.

Then we would have missed Portland and Seattle, neither of which would have been much of a loss, but also Mount Rainier and the Oregon Coast, and our night in Astoria, which all would have been sad to miss. I think Thibault concluded that while he liked cities, he didn't really like American ones. Whereas we both liked hiking around and seeing the grandeur of North American landscapes. But most gratifying in a way for me is that we got on perfectly well the whole holiday, and once again finished as good friends as we started. Even though it took a lot of good food and wine to achieve that.

Although I am no nearer to improving Thibault's execrable taste in music. Still there is always our next road trip. Planning that one already. Watch this space.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Astoria - Olympia -Seattle

Holiday nearing its end - this was or last day with our trusty SUV.

Coming out of Astoria I got sent out by Thibault to photograph this sign - best place name of our vacation - Dismal Nitch.

Our lunch stop on the way to Seattle was at the State capitol, Olympia. A fine choice. We stopped in the park by the lake with capitol building in front of us. 

 After a nearby lunch we walked around the lake, which was a bit further than we anticipated but pleasant enough.

So the car went back to the airport car rental and we got the quite nifty shuttle into town.

Our airbnb turned out to be in the gay/Bohemian suburb of Seattle, Capitol Hill, and up a hill it was. But its drawback was getting entry at all. With a phone call we got someone round who basically said the door was "sticky" (ie after unlocking you needed to put your shoulder to it!).

Clearly this was being run as a rental business. It wasn't very well equipped, but it served our purpose.

So then we walked into Downtown, which was quite a walk but at least downhill.

A walk along the Waterfront seemed sensible.

  But it was hot and crowded, and the touristy waterfront was tacky touristy. But we found a classy bar outside on one of the piers, and felt all the better for it.

Nearby was a sculpture park, so we wandered around that before dinner at a restaurant Thibault had booked earlier.

 This was restaurant with a view on one of the piers, but was another classy affair, with nice views of the setting sun across the Bay, and good seafood. Our bill came to £230, but at least it was a nice meal in a nice place. And it lifted our spirits as Seattle had rather disappointed us.