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Seattle (Smells Like Teen Spirit) August 1, 2008

Posted by Richard Foote in Travel.
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A couple of weeks ago, I had the great pleasure of presenting at the OracleDays 2008 Conference as organised by the Puget Sound Oracle User Group and so visited the beautiful city of Seattle for the first time.  Unfortunately, my body clock takes a while to get re-adjusted and I literally spent most of my time “Sleepless In Seattle” however I had a great time regardless.

July is just the perfect time to visit with the weather nothing but superb with lots of sun and the temperatures in the mid to high 20s Celsius. Not a drop of rain in sight (I’m beginning to forget what rain looks like). I’m an Australian and I still managed to get a touch of sunburn during my visit !!

Seattle is a very scenic city, with the waters of Elliott Bay and the Puget Sound providing a lovely setting. However it was the impressive presence of Mount Rainier on the horizon that kept taking my attention. At 4,392m, it’s just about 2 times as high as Australia mainland’s highest mountain so looking at 2 Kosciusko mountains on top each other was just an awesome sight. I just loved the little clouds that were forever hovering over it.

During free time, I tried to fit as much tourist activities as I could cram in. Naturally, I had to visit the Space Needle, the futuristic looking tower that features so prominently on the Seattle skyline. Built for the 1962 World Fair, it’s a great way to see the lovely views of Seattle and the surrounding area

As a music lover, I popped in afterwards into the nearby Experience Music Project (EMP), a celebration of American popular music which has lots of really interesting things to see. Jimi Hendrix, one of the inspirations for David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust character, is heavily featured with a great collection of Hendrix memorabilia and documentaries. The “tower” of guitars is something to see as is the building itself, which from various angles looks like some kind of huge alien arse. Yes, I have a warped view on things …

I also strongly recommend a cruise of the harbour for a different view of the city, either via a ride on a state ferry or one of the many cruise ships. I hopped on board an Argosy Cruise for an hour cruise with commentary of the harbour and enjoyed the sun, a nice beer and the beautiful views from the top deck.

The waterfront offers lots of things to do. The “Ye Olde Curiosity Shop” is worth a visit, full of weird and wacky things including shrunken human skulls. For a great lunch, I highly recommend Elliot’s Oyster House Seafood restaurant for a great selection of, you guessed it, oysters. I love US salads and I had a great house salad (and beer of course) here.

The Seattle Aquarium is certainly well worth a visit. Lot’s to see and do although for me seeing the largest octopus I’ve ever seen was certainly the highlight. Lots of tanks with lots fish, many unique to that part of the world. The huge underwater dome was really impressive with all sorts of amazing fish swimming all round (and over) you. The Sea Otters were damn cute as well !!

Another must do in Seattle is the famous “Underground Tour” where you get yet another unique view of the city, this time from one floor below the current level of the city. Seattle has an amazing history, originally built using the plentiful wood materials on what was basically swamplands, the city was rebuild after the great fire of 1889 finally using (fire-proof) bricks and a full level higher to help solve all the drainage issues. Raising an entire city to be a floor higher is an amazing feat and the underground tour gives an entertaining view of what life used to be like in Seattle 100 or so years ago.

If you love books and bookshops as much as I do, then the Elliot Bay Book Shop is a must. Located in the older Pioneer Square area of town, it’s a rare book shop that has both character and of course lots and lots of great books. My excess luggage costs increased significantly due directly to my visit !! For example, it’s not often I find a book on David Bowie I don’t already own (I have over 50).

In all, Seattle is well worth a visit if you get the chance, although after speaking to many of the locals, summer when Seattle is at its “rainless” best, is certainly the time to go.

Many many thanks go to Daniel and Helen for being such fantastic hosts.