From the top of the famous Space Needle – where else? – the snow-capped peak of Mount Rainier looked almost touchable.
The sleeping volcano, still active when she wishes to be, has stood watch over the city for only a short period of time.
Yet in the space of just a few decades, Seattle has become one of the world’s most amazing powerhouse cities.
Seattle has sort of crept up on us. Yes, we all thought we knew her through Sleepless in Seattle the movie, and of course the sit-com Frazier. Slightly quirky.
Slightly offbeat. The place where they throw fish around at the market.
There was Boeing, of course. The worldrenowned jet liner maker has always dominated the industrial landscape of this northwest corner of the US. But now even Boeing is eclipsed by the arrival of new kids-become-giants on the block: Starbucks, Microsoft and, of late, the aweinspiring machine that is Amazon.
And with the boom in world-brand companies has come the inevitable influx of America’s – indeed the world’s – most hip, bright young things.
The view from atop the Needle then, no longer does Seattle justice. It is at ground level where the city is buzzing – and, we were to find, below it.
But let’s be frank, the Needle and Seattle’s ‘original’ attractions still draw the big crowds and are must-see stops on the tourist agenda. Certainly they were for us as we set out to explore the city in just a day.
They still throw the fish at Pike Place Market, we were assured, as we took advice from the concierge at out downtown hotel. The Olympic Fairmont Hotel has been a feature of the city’s beating heart since it was founded as a theatre over a century ago.
Now a stunning oasis just a short walk from many of the downtown attractions, we were making the most of its five-star facilities, indulging in the spa, pool, gorgeous restaurant and amazing lobby area. The Olympic Fairmont was proving an ideal place for our Seattle stopover.
Pike Place is legendary, most famous for the fishmongers who chuck the salmon between each other while promoting their wares. But flying fish are just one sight to behold in this sprawling, living market.
Fruit and flowers are astounding in quality and display. The eating places are cheap, basic and yet have the most amazing views over the harbour.
Just across the road from Pike Place and you will spot a long and winding queue for a coffee shop. It’s quite a small shop, and it doesn’t even sell cups of coffee, just packets of the ground beans. But this is the first Starbucks, where the legend – and some might say today, the controversy – began.
After Pike, head south, down the steep streets that lead towards Elliott Bay, under the awful viaduct highway that, despite ongoing work by the city to push it underground, still separates the downtown area from the waterfront.
Follow the crowds towards the giant Ferris wheel, to where the Miners Landing boardwalk eateries nestle against the ferry terminals for some of the best food and people watching in the city.
At lunchtime, city workers rub shoulders with tourists to grab a craft beer and seafood platter at the likes of Crab Pot and Fisherman’s Bar, to watch the ferries criss-cross the bay towards Bainbridge Island and the Kitsap Peninsula with their small waterfront towns and easy going attitudes.
After lunch you could, and we did, trade people watching for more exotic creatures of the deep at the nearby Seattle Aquarium. Our entry came as part of our Seattle CityPASS, a discount booklet of tickets that provided cheaper access to a number of city attractions.
We could have meandered along the waterfront if we had the time and inclination towards a cluster of city attractions farther north along the shoreline: The Space Needle, the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum, the EMP Museum. Time was short so we hopped a cab: easy and cheap.
Tip, the queue for the Needle can be long, and then there can be a wait for your turn to go up. So buy early and then return. You could, like us, ensure you have enough time to visit the nearby Chihuly Garden and Glass museum with its stunning glassworks. Creative genius at work.
The Needle remains an experience. It may be topped by taller and more dramatic high-rise experiences these days, but as a viewing platform on a sunny day it cannot be beat. Time for cocktails and a snack overlooking the city? We found it – somehow.
The EMP Museum, again included in our Seattle CityPASS, was astounding.
We hadn’t forgotten Seattle was where the Grunge music trend began, but the displays of pop art culture in this brilliantly designed museum brought the energy of this, some might say, wild side of Seattle vividly to life.
On schedule we chose to walk back through the city’s beating shopping area.
Bustle and bargains. Big names and beautiful temptations. Our credit cards welcomed the fact time was limited.
Our final destination of the day was Pioneer Square and a visit to Seattle’s somewhat mucky past – literally. The Underground Tour promised us ‘Dirt, Corruption, Sewers and Scandal. How could we resist?
Taking visitors beneath the streets of downtown Seattle, the tour provides entry to a time when pioneers fought the elements and the fates to create the stunning city we see today, and all without working toilets. Taking the tour means stepping back in to a time capsule sealed when the city streets were elevated to avoid flooding and sewage surprises.
The guides are hilarious, stories of daring do and don’t, the experience an adventure in a whole forgotten world.
And so our single day in Seattle wound to its conclusion.
A cocktail in the fabulous Olympic Fairmont Hotel before dinner at the stunning AQUA by El Gaucho restaurant on Alaska Way where the tables look out onto Elliott Bay – and if you are lucky you can catch a glimpse of seals or dolphins slipping by towards Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean beyond.
It wasn’t long enough, of course. Seattle isn’t meant to be experienced in a day. We had enjoyed just a taster of what the city and the region had to offer. Which means we must return, of course.
British Airways, Virgin Airways, American and Delta Airways all have direct flights from London to Seattle with fares starting around £573.
Stay at the Olympic Fairmont Hotel, Seattle. fairmont.com/seattle Stunning property at the heart of the city, renowned for its ornate restaurant the Georgian, its striking lobby and superbly appointed rooms. A superior spa with large pool provides an oasis of calm from the bustle of the city.
Pike Place Market and other downtown attractions are just a five-minute walk away. The city’s cruise terminals are short taxi rides away.
Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour: undergroundtour.com • More information: visitseattle.org and experiencewa.com
Source : BournemouthEcho