My first impression of Seattle was of a fairly small city soaked in rain; typical Frasier weather, in fact. But every time I go to the States I do that infuriating thing of waking up at my normal UK wake-up time (ie, 6.30am, but with the eight hour time difference – well, you do the math), and I woke very early the next day to find blue skies and sunshine. Feeling oddly energetic, I set off for my food tour of Pike Place Market. Over 100 years old, Pike Place is a real Seattle landmark; it’s where they filmed one of the scenes in Sleepless in Seattle and it has stalls selling all kinds of fresh fish, pastries, cheese and chocolates. It’s basically foodie heaven. One of the highlights was seeing the guys on the fish stall ‘throw’ the fish (which they would do if a customer had bought the fish). It’s a great spectacle (and happens too quickly to capture on camera). There are also lots of stalls selling the biggest tulips I’ve ever seen in my life. Apparently Washington State is one of the biggest producers of tulips – they’re even shipped to Holland – and if I lived in Seattle I’d be buying them every week (they’re only $1 a stem). We were given all kinds of food to try, including warm doughnuts, fresh salmon and chocolate-covered raspberries; and we also saw the first ever Starbucks, a mixed blessing IMHO (Seattle is also home to that other corporate giant, Amazon) and the resident busker. Pike Place has a fantastic atmosphere and is definitely worth visiting and taking a food tour. You’ll be so full you won’t even need lunch. From here I took the mono rail (which was built in the Sixties) which is very easy to use round to the Space Needle. And what I discovered was that the skyline you see on Frasier and Grey’s Anatomy doesn’t actually exist; the Space Needle is nowhere near the rest of the city’s skyscrapers, even when you view it from the water. Ah well. The Space Needle is a Seattle landmark and I decided to brave my fear of heights and force myself to go up it. It does give you the most amazing views – here you can see the rest of the ‘Frasier’ skyline so you can see how far away it actually is (this is as close as I dared get to the edge – it was VERY windy up there). If like me you don’t like heights, just don’t look when you’re going up or down in the lift – it’s like riding the Tower of Terror – and ignore the fact that the floor seems to shake. I also saw the Dale Chihuly glass museum – I absolutely love his creations, so beautiful and colourful. This is a cactus plant made from glass, isn’t it brilliant? Then it was on to the EMP (Experience Music Project) museum; both Jimi Hendrix and of course Nirvana were local to Seattle/the Washington State area and as you’d expect a large part of the museum is given over to them (not sure how Kurt Cobain would have felt about the tagline for the Nirvana exhibition though).
And then it was back to my hotel room for a nap before dinner below this rather genius wine cork art installation.
The following day I was taken on a tour of Washington State (I’ll have to do a whole post on this because there’s so much to talk about) so I didn’t return to Seattle for 24 hours; and I was surprised to realise that already, in such a short space of time, I knew my way around, and I’d actually missed it. That’s the beauty of Seattle, right there. It’s a major US city but it’s so compact you instantly start to feel at home. And it’s right on the coast so you get the best of both worlds.
Dinner that evening was at the fantastic Purple, which has one of the coolest wine racks I’ve ever seen (if you love wine, then Washington State is basically wine country. It’s the first time I’ve ever felt sorry I can’t drink it.) They’d created a special tasting menu for me, complete with different cocktails to go with each course.
The starter was delicious salmon tartare…
…followed by spicy vegetables… and the most divine filet mignon…. …and finally a very good almond bread and butter pudding. It was all excellent. By the time I left the restaurant it was dark – my hotel for that night, the Fairmont Olympic, looked absolutely stunning… …as did the skyscrapers outside my window… and I realised that Seattle had got under my skin. So in the words of Frasier Crane, goodnight Seattle, we love you. I’ll definitely be back.
*You can find out more about visiting Seattle and Washington State at Visit Seattle.