WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU'RE SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE
Words: Rosie Roman
“In the midst of a busy life, don't forget to live.”
― Marty Rubin
You may not realise this but we owe so much of our modern lives to a little city that exists right on the West Coast of America: Seattle. That grande vanilla soy latte that you order every morning from your local Starbucks? It actually came all the way from Seattle. The Microsoft computer systems that you're so familiar with? They were created by some of the best minds in the world, who happened to be born in Seattle. And what would we do without Amazon, one of the world's largest retailers? We'd probably have to leave the house to go shopping, but thanks to Seattle - we can shop for pretty much anything from the comfort of our own homes. Or we can binge-watch a new series on Amazon Prime. Or read something spectacular on our Amazon Kindle.Basically, Amazon owns our souls.
Seattle is a city that I never expected to visit (I was happy enough knowing it existed via Grey's Anatomy's opening credits) but on my recent travels along theWest Coast of Americawith my boyfriend, it made sense for it to be our second stop after Vancouver, BC - and it turned out to be quite the cultural city. Rather than drive across the American border with a hire car, we took the Amtrak Cascades train, which drove us right into the city and meant Tom and I could happily sit next to each other and enjoy the journey without getting lost and arguing over directions.
With only 4 days to explore, we ventured around as much of the city as possible, taking in the sights and the history (and playing Spot the Starbucks wherever we went). It's a fairly easy city to navigate but if you ever find yourself in Seattle and at a loose end, here's a few places that are worth a visit and you never know, they may inspire you to build a global brand too.
Pike Place Market
Established in 1907 in downtown Seattle, Pike Place Market has since been a thriving farmer's market and a cultural hub for locals and tourists alike. With over 500 shops, restaurants and stalls within a 9 acre radius, get lost in the market's meandering passageways and gaze with eyes wide at the maze of arcades and storefronts. From fresh flowers, fruit and fish to handmade soaps, original artworks and unique crafts, go down in history and take a little bit of Seattle home with you. And be sure to stop by the Pike Place Fish Market - just below the Public Market Centre sign - where the infamous throwing fisherman toss their fish between themselves for your amusement.
Seattle's Underground Tour
In 1889, Seattle was burned to the ground by the Great Fire but rather than see this solely as devastation, the city officials believed it presented a unique opportunity to rebuild and improve Seattle. But instead of totally demolishing the city, it was decided that the new city would be rebuilt on top of the existing city to elevate the street level. So underneath the streets of the Seattle of today, lies a hidden network of alleys, derelict building and shop fronts which offer a glimpse into the past. During the 75 minute Underground Tour, you are led through the buried streets and regaled with untold stories by some very comedic tour guides, which ends with you exiting through the gift shop.
The Space Needle
Towering above the Seattle Centre at 605 feet is the iconic Space Needle. Like all observation towers, it's a great place to get a different perspective of the city (if you're not afraid of heights, of course) - but there is something else that makes the Space Needle so special; located just beneath the observation deck is a revolving restaurant, appropriately named SkyCity, where you can feast on the flavours of Seattle while savouring the sights. And if you choose to dine at SkyCity, a visit to the observation deck is included in the price of your meal.
Argosy Cruises Harbour Tour
Sometimes walking around a city can become a bit monotonous and you end up walking for so long that you become exhausted and too preoccupied to take in the sights (or is that just me?) - so mix things up, save those legs and hop on a boat! During this one hour narrated cruise of Elliot Bay and Seattle's harbour, you get up, close and personal with the historic waterfront, sailing past Pike Place Market, the Olympic Sculpture Park and the Space Needle while catching a glimpse of Seattle's shipping industry. And to make your journey even more relaxing, there's a fully stocked bar onboard so order your favourite tipple, sit back and enjoy Seattle from the sea.
Museum Of Pop Culture
Housed in a monstrously imaginative metallic structure next to the Space Needle, the Museum of Pop Culture (or MoPOP for short) is dedicated to educating the public with its impressive collection of music, television and film memorabilia. Inside, the exhibitions are broken up into different 'worlds' where visitors can wander around and interact with the collections. Even if you're not a die hard pop culture fan, you are bound to be impressed by the giant guitar structure, the Jimi Hendrix exhibition and the sound labs.
Chihuly Garden And Glass
With 8 galleries, a centrepiece glass house and a delightful garden installation, the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibition is a tribute to the works of artist Dale Chihuly. Made entirely from glass, Chihuly's colourful fine art structures appear almost plant-like, giving them an interesting lease of life. The Chihuly Garden and Glass is a permanent exhibition, celebrating Seattle's creative energy and inspiring visitors to engage with the city's cultural community but Chihuly's works have been celebrated globally, having been exhibited in cities including London, Paris, Venice, Boston and San Francisco.
Seattle is not all skyscrapers and corporate offices; it has some charming areas of natural beauty too and Lake Union is one of them. It's the perfect place to go if you need a bit of respite from the city; board a seaplane and soar across the skies, hire a boat and sail across the lake or take a stroll around Gas Works Park, where a former gas plant stands and overlooks the city. From here, you can see the city in all its glory while enjoying the serenity of the water and ponder life on the other side without the distractions of city life.