December 3 – Given Seattle’s reputation for coffee, I scouted out Caffe Umbria with a location close to my hotel for a morning cappuccino and croissant. Easily the best coffee I had in Seattle. This is a delicious way to start a day:
I grabbed a bag of coffee beans to bring back to Halifax with me and started to make my way to the Experience Music Project (EMP) museum. For about the next half hour, I feel like I descended into a series of Simpsons episodes. First, to get to EMP I need to take a ride on a monorail (and as it banks into the final turn heading past the museum, I can almost hear Lyle Lanley himself running off with bags of money after skimping on safety standards):
Then I lay eyes on the EMP and its Frank Gehry design harkens me back to his design of Springfield’s concert hall / Montgomery Burns state prison:
Simpsons references aside, this part of Seattle feels like time passed it by a bit. Seattle Center and the Space Needle came into being for the 1962 World’s Fair. Maybe it’s the chilly, grey morning I’m here, but it feels like it has seen better days. That being said, the Space Needle itself is a pretty impressive architectural landmark:
Here, the Space Needle and its reflection in the side of the EMP:
The EMP is one of the most interesting museums I’ve been to in my travels. There’s a bunch of displays on music history, especially focused on key artists of the Pacific Northwest (Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana and the other “grunge” acts of the 90s). One of the things I really enjoyed was a display of electric guitars through the ages, including this 1952 Gibson Les Paul:
As a bit of a collector of concert set lists, I liked this one – the set list from the last Nirvana show ever (in Germany):
One of the best features of this museum were the interactive rooms where you could play instruments. Here’s a picture of one of the “pods” of instruments – guitar, bass and drums. After some interactive instruction on how to play the instrument, you could team up with others in the pod to play parts of a song. For the pod I tried, I got to play rhythm guitar for Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in concert with a bass player and a drummer who had just “learned” their instruments:
This impressive sculpture (“If VI was IX: Roots and Branches”) in the main hallway of the music-related displays let’s you hear the permutations of the sounds it can produce:
There were also great exhibits on the making of the movie “Avatar” and an installation on horror movies (with displays featuring costumes and props from the classics). The best part of the horror movie installation was that you could orchestrate the music and sounds in the room (I enjoyed a few minutes of adding screams and chainsaws to an orchestral piece which had a few folks looking at the displays wondering what was going on) Overall, it was a wonderful interactive museum and a great place to spend a few hours on a chilly overcast day.
The rest of my last vacation day in Seattle was about trying some drink and food. Making my may back to downtown Seattle, I stopped at Elysian Fields for lunch and tried their famously-entitled “Men’s Room Red” ale. Delicious:
On my way to supper, I make a quick stop in for happy hour at 106 Pine, a wine shop and tasting bar featuring a solid selection of Washington state wines. Here’s a Merlot that took some of the chill out of the evening:
From there, it was on to Andaluca for a Spanish-inspired small plates meal. First course: Broken Egg Papas Frites with chorizo and roasted mushrooms (and really, I could have just ordered this two more times and gone back to the hotel extremely happy):
Second course (complete with a warning that eating raw seafood may be a health hazard): Spicy Calamari bruschetta with saffron aioli – exceptionally fresh and very spicy/hot:
A very interesting Washington state Pinot Noir with strong hints of licorice. Unusual and interesting and quite nice for a cold night:
Last course: Paella with chicken, chorizo, grilled prawn, harissa butter and saffron:
Fully warmed up from the inside, I took in some of the Christmas lights in the shopping district of Seattle before heading back to the hotel. Among the pictures, the first and last ones below are of the Macy’s star and Christmas tree at Westlake Center:
Unfortunately, that marked the end of the vacation part of the trip. I did come away with some perspectives on Seattle in the course of just under 3 days:
1. Seattle is a very friendly city. People smile, engage in conversation and really seem to be down to earth folk. The west coast lifestyle is something I’m finding resonates with me.
2. The food culture in Seattle is something I could really get used to: Fresh seafood and variety like I haven’t seen in other coastal places including here in Halifax; Great local red wines; Enormous selection of microbrews across the spectrum of styles; A deep appreciation and care for the quality of food; It would be great to shop, cook and eat here.
3. In some respects, Seattle is like many other larger cities. But on its doorstep is immense natural beauty – lakes and rivers, mountains and pine trees. If/when I get back to this area, I’ll spend more time exploring what’s around this area. I could easily imagine this being a great place to live for a few years.