Lift off

on

It’s certainly the most touristy thing I’ve done so far in this trip, but you can’t visit Seattle and not go up the Space Needle. Built in the early Sixties, the landmark dominates the skyline, and greets you as you arrive by that other notable sixties development, the Monorail.

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The guidebook tells me I can avoid the $20 admission fee so long as I spend $25 in the restaurant – but it’s a fixed menu brunch, with a fixed price of $50. It’s not just the 520 foot observation deck that’s sky high. It’s Saturday afternoon and packed with visitors. But most don’t hog any one section for too long, allowing some pretty spectacular views.

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The Needle is just one of several attractions at the Seattle Centre complex. Of more interest to me is the Experience Music Project, or EMP. Among its many exhibitions are those dedicated to Seattle’s famous exports, Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain. The Hendrix room contains scraps of papers and diaries from the man himself. Here, questions for a chat show.

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Rock or grunge, this place is all about the guitars. 700 of them.

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The evening takes me to Capitol Hill, a neighbourhood of diverse bars and my first encounter of American bureaucracy – the ID check. At the age of 45 it’s often flattering to be asked to show my driver’s licence. But the guy on the door tells me that this isn’t enough. Only US and Canadian ID is acceptable under Washington State Law, and I’ll need a passport to get in. Really?

Fortunately, Comet isn’t the only place in town and I end up watching the Seattle Seahawks soccer team beating Montreal in the final few minutes of the game. Behind me in the bar is Gary, a Scottish man working as an engineer. He moved to Seattle nine years ago, but next to him is David, who’s only just got here from his family home in rural Ohio.

He’s a salesman for Tesla, the electric car company. It’s made big news this week launching its latest model. At $35k it’s half the price of the previous one. David insists that America is ready to embrace the electric car revolution. Maybe the eco-conscious Pacific Northwest might just be the place to do it.

Sunday morning and another leisurely stroll around Pike Place. And there are plenty of food options here, including a dairy churning its own cheese.

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It’s extremely tempting but I’m not sure a slab will keep that well in my case for another four days. The best and worst thing about the market are the swarms of visitors with no sense of direction or personal space. Still, they’re fun to watch – even when they’re touching a pig.

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