Starting our Second Journey in Seattle

Saturday 25 to Monday 27 July

We left LA after staying at one of the worst hotels ever. Bruce suffered flea bites for days afterwards – it seems like they got into his night gear. The hotel was dirty, reception was through an iron grill and an interesting sign on the building told the hotel rules. We obeyed them.

From the plane, the trees were clearly towering over buildings. It looked greener than California but still the lawns were brown. The Californian drought extends to Washington State.

There was a BIG misunderstanding of our car rental agreement. When we returned the car to Dollar in Los Angeles they automatically closed off the rental, even though there was another month paid on it. Further, Dollar Car Rentals in Seattle couldn’t even give us a car that would go beyond Portland to the south and Vancouver to the north, let alone all the way to New York City. It is a franchise business that only operates in the local area. They sent us to their parent company Thrifty. We have never met such a ‘can do’ group of people (Steve, Jesse & Jai) who went beyond their way to resolve the rental agreement, hand write a contract and give us an upgraded car with a smile.

Our upmarket Kia was registered in Florida, and along the way we were asked many times if we came from Florida. ‘Not that Melbourne, we assurred them – but the Melbourne in Australia.’

Seattle was damp and cool, a big change from the heat of the south. We were forced to drag out jeans, jumpers and even raincoats.

We met Hayden’s friend Tim for brunch. Tim works for Amazon and loves it. Seattle has everything for him – snow, beaches, mild climate, well priced concerts & events, well paid & good job and USA girlfriend.

After a long brunch, Tim showed us around the city. We visited the Pike Place market. Nearby is the first Starbucks coffee shop, where there is always a long queue of people waiting to try their ‘first coffee’. It is probably true that Starbucks improved the coffee in USA, and we certainly used Starbucks if we couldn’t find a café where ‘Espresso’ was offered.

Seattle has some nice art deco buildings, which are slowly being encased by taller glass structures as the city explodes in the Information Technology arena.

One of the ‘must see’ attractions around Pike Place is the ‘gum wall’ a horrible collection of peoples’ chewed gum. Tim was telling us that the wall is cleaned up every now and then, just to be a target of more chewed gum.

We took the sky train to the Space Needle, which was built for 1962 for the World Fair’s and at the time was the tallest structure west of the Mississippi River. The Space Needle is famous for its use in numerous films and TV series, including of course Sleepless in Seattle. It also has a mascot – Stephen Cosgrove wrote about the Wheedle that lived in the Needle in 1974:

There’s a Wheedle on the Needle
I know just what you’re thinking
But if you look up late at night
You’ll see his red nose blinking

In Seattle we saw the first of many public pianos that are scattered around cities. It appears these are a summer attraction, available for anyone to play.

We wandered around the Seattle Centre which includes the International Fountain, where young and old kids were chasing the shooting water patterns.

Tim then took us up to Kelly Park for the quintessential view of the city with the needle.

Afterwards, Bruce & I drove around the suburbs of Seattle. To the university area where there are lovely houses on Lake Washington. We drove west to Discovery Park, then back to the centre of town to see the Gehry building. That was impossible to photograph, there were just too many people and cars heading to a football game.

We took a long drive to Vancouver, along the country back roads rather than the busy I5, through forests and farmland, consisting mostly of wheat, huckleberries and blueberries.