Despite the long travel day yesterday, we got up early and squeezed a whole load in and this really went from the sublime to the ridiculous and much in between.
In between was where we started – with the Seattle Aquarium and then the Art Museum. The aquarium was distinctly average and we got through it in no time at all, which was a good thing given that as we left more and more school groups turned up! There were some alright outdoor exhibits but inside, where there is a lot of room, tanks and actual fish seemed sparse in favour of activities and TV screens to watch fish. The art museum had some interesting modern art pieces in it, including a load of cars hanging from the ceiling in the main lobby and a very good display on African tribal dress (why it was in Seattle, I have no idea). The rest was pretty average. I’m sure Elizabeth will disagree that what I liked she disliked and no doubt, there will have been other stuff she enjoyed!
Having used up our entire morning and having only consumed a shockingly bad breakfast at the hotel (Best Western near the Space Needle), we headed to find some lunch. By sheer coincidence, we were right by the Pike Place Brewery and went in there to sample some more beers and get some food. The bar was huge and the selection of beer was great. Elizabeth and I picked one each – this time, we both picked the same one and neither of us really liked it! It was a medium ale but had a very bitter aftertaste. Oh well – you have to try these things once or twice!
From there we wandered around and had stops at the Benaroya Concert Hall to look at the Chihuly chandeliers (not my choice, but these things were massive and the glasswork was so detailed!), a glass blowing shop in Pioneer Square, the Klondike Gold Rush Museum, the Columbia Center Skydeck with views over Seattle and plenty of other small shops in between! At the Klondike museum, Elizabeth found a little book which is issued by the US National Park Service and listed all the National Parks in the US – having bought this for her, she’s now intent on visiting them all!
One of the shops we stopped in was back on the pier, near the aquarium – Ye Olde Curiosity Shop. This place was truly ridiculous with souvenirs of all sorts as well as a very random array of weird museum type artifacts including shrunken heads and skeletons in glass boxes. A weird and wonderful collection and a good use of an hour! At this shop, they also sold magnets, including ones for each individual US state, and in the shape of the state too. Given that we’re trying to visit all US states, I persuaded Elizabeth that we should buy the magnets for each state we’ve already been to. Well, that turned out to be 19 and we got them all. I think it was actually 20 but they’d run out of Alaska!
We headed from there back up to Pike Place Market so that I could visit the first Starbucks. Having walked up the hill and through Pike Place, which itself felt like a greenhouse, I was more than ready for an icy cold coffee!
On the walk back to the hotel, we stopped at another glass-blowing shop and stopped a while to watch a demonstration. This shop actually did glass-blowing classes and, while it looks very difficult, I think it would be great to have a go at it!
In the evening, we had probably our worst meal of the entire trip. On arriving in Seattle, our hotel had given us a map and it included an Indian restaurant about 7 or 8 blocks from us. Having been craving a decent curry, we headed there. Having finally ordered and requested my curry to be made extra spicy, it turned up particularly bland but not as bad as Elizabeth’s “medium” which just tasted like it was cooked in tomato soup. As a compromise, we mixed the two together which made them just about edible. Thankfully the naan wasn’t too bad so we wolfed plenty of that down us! Given how bad the food was and the awful slow service, for the first time in a fair while I felt obliged not to leave a tip at all.
Elizabeth had noted in our Seattle guide book, a small bar called Shorty’s which we had passed on the way to dinner. What appealed to her most about this bar was the pinball room they had out back. We looked completely out of place at this bar, lacking in both tattoos and black clothing, but we grabbed a couple of beers, changed up some notes and headed for the pinball. What Elizabeth had failed to tell me in her excitement about playing pinball was that she wasn’t actually very good! I tried to make it competitive but winning was just too easy! (Sorry!)
A much more compact day but another enjoyable one.
We hired a car this morning and headed off to the Museum of Flight. This was down on Boeing Field and right on an active airstrip. One of the first bits of the museum we visited was their flight tower. This obviously wasn’t the actual flight tower but it had similar items in it as well as great satellite images showing every plane that was currently airborne but locally, nationally and internationally. The lines showing the routes going everywhere were crazy. While there, we watched a few planes take off, including a US satellite plane – probably heading somewhere to spy on the innocent!
There we also saw a large number of original WWII planes and some WWI planes too. Outside, they also had one of the original Concordes and also the last Air Force One which served, amongst others, President Kennedy and was the plane used to ship Lyndon Johnson to safety after the shooting.
After having some lunch, we headed back to the highway to head to Everett and the Boeing Factory for their Future of Flight tour. During the tour, we weren’t allowed any cameras but we saw them making 747-8s, 767s and the brand new 787 Dreamliners. It was really cool being able to see inside the factories and seeing the planes as they are pieced together. We also got to see the first ever 787 made which is due for a test flight soon and the “Dreamlifter”, a 747 modified to fit entire sections of the 787 into the fuselage! This thing looked funky!
From here, we decided to get some shopping done – we still needed a fair few things for travelling including some cheap clothes and some decent walking shoes, amongst other things. Having stopped in Target and REI and spent a small fortune, we had just about everything we needed. All we both need to do now is limit our wardrobes down to one backpack apiece!
In the evening, we had one of the best meals I’ve ever had. While we were in Whittier waiting for our bus to Anchorage, we had been speaking to a gentleman and he knew the mother of the owner of this tiny little restaurant in Seattle which he highly recommended.
As we left the REI store, we plugged this restaurant into our GPS and it was pretty close so we headed there. The restaurant, called Sitka and Spruce, was not in the nicest of areas it seemed, planted in between a little supermarket and a Subway!
Inside, the place was tiny, and only had three tables so we were seated at a large table. The waitress came over and explained the menu to us which they referred to as “family dining” – you pick 3 or 4 different dishes and they bring them along one at a time for everyone to share. Lots of the menu items were fishy so we tried not to pick too many as Elizabeth isn’t a huge fan of that. We settled on three dishes – one with cod, one lamb and one steak. Each dish seemed to taste better than the previous and all the sauces and sides complimented the meats perfectly. After all this, we finished with olive oil flavoured ice cream which sounds strange but tasted amazing!
You never know what you will get with a random recommendation but I would definitely go back here and would thoroughly recommend everyone else to try it out!
After yesterday spent mostly driving around, we spent today mostly walking around and making use of our new shoes (mine killed my feet, incidentally!).
We headed out to the Burke Museum, which is the anthropological museum which had some small exhibits as well as a couple of interesting guest exhibits about the coffee making process and the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. From there, we headed along to Fremont. By headed along to, I mean walked to and anyone who knows Seattle will know this is a good distance walk and by the time we reached Fremont itself I was more than ready for a drink so we headed straight for a bar, Dad Watson’s, another local brewhouse. This time, my beer was drinkable and so was Elizabeth’s. I still preferred hers though! Why did I keep picking the bad beers?!
After that, we did a tour of Fremont which was pretty dull and finished up at a chocolate factory where we bought some snacks for later!
A short taxi ride up the hill, and we arrived at Woodland Park Zoo where we spent the remainder of the afternoon baked in glorious sunshine. To this point, in one of the wettest parts of the world, we’d barely had a drop of rain! The zoo was nice and spread out and not too many kids around and it had a great gorilla section.
One thing Elizabeth and I want to do is gorilla trekking in Rwanda and having seen these, we were both certain that we would do it when we got back to Africa in 2010. These creatures are amazing and I’d love the chance to see a family of them in the wild. Even if we had an hour watching them sit still, it would still be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
In the evening, we satisfied Elizabeth’s craving for Mexican food and went to Mama’s Mexican Kitchen, a restaurant we’d passed a couple of days back. After a pile of beans and melted cheese, with a fajita or something mixed in the middle, we were truly stuffed but headed to Shorty’s for just long enough for me to have another decent beer and beat her to a pulp at pinball!