Thursday, October 08, 2015

Day 331 - 333: Seattle

Seattle. Home of the Space Needle, Nirvana, coffee, and that Tom Hanks film. And lots of rain, apparently, although we somehow managed to dodge that wet bullet. Seattleites are very proud of being the birthplace of Starbucks, which is intriguing since many of the values of the corporate monstrosity fly in the face of the counterculture vibe that the city tries to cultivate. The difference between Seattle and Portland is comparable to that of Sydney and Melbourne. The latter is effortlessly cool, but the former seems to attract the bigger names in pretty much every sector.

Someone who was cool though, was our final US host: Raphael. We had met him one evening across the other side of the world in Cambodia, at the Angkor Wonder guesthouse when he'd suggested offhand we could stay at his place when we came to Seattle. And like everyone who had offered the same thing on our travels, he was true to his word. We'd parked up at his and immediately headed out with him after dumping our gear. He was an absolute gent, and had a work ethic that made me cry. Aside from being a freelance game developer, he had two degrees and also played guitar and keyboard. Carpe diem, people.

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Our first stop was one of the main hubs of the city, Pike Place Market. It's a riot of grunge, indy shops and tourism. Still, at least their homeless folk are honest.

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And yes, that is a queue going around the block for Starbucks. There is another outlet literally two blocks away, but I guess people wanted to see if the taste of the identikit coffee would be different in the very first outlet. I have no idea; I don't drink it. Take that, tax dodgers!

Our first day in the city suggested sunshine was commonplace. It turns out that this was a bit of an oddity - like the UK, Seattle tricks you into thinking it's going to be a glorious holiday season and then when you're least expecting it, dumps a ton of water on you. Still, we made the most of the day, and visited the Gum Wall, which is exactly as disgusting and fascinating as you might expect.

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Tasty.

The market has the usual food stalls you'd expect but also cool comic book and magic stores which could have held my attention for the entire day if I hadn't been with company. Conversely, Gilly was rather taken with the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and its terrifying angry bear.

Bear - Seattle

Where should two proper English people dine in an evening? Why, the pub of course! Specifically The Pike Pub, where we pretended we knew what we were doing when ordering beer.

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Thanks to Paul and Fi, I've since learned to appreciate craft ale a lot more, and also learned that sharing should be discouraged at all times, at least from the same glass. Also, haircuts are not to be feared, but I didn't learn that until I was back in the UK.

Since we were in the area, we checked out the Market Theater and I almost wet myself in excitement when I saw what was on that night:

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Improvised comedy and Final Fantasy are two of my favourite things ever. So when someone takes them and smashes them together, the result is a glorious mixture of RPG-based laughs which would make any geek's head explode with joy.

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Taking suggestions of names for the heroes from the audience, they played out a typical Hero's Journey using props and Final Fantasy tropes. The battle scenes in particular were hilarious. This was one of the main catalysts for joining the Bristol Improv Theatre when we got back to the UK (something I can highly recommend to anyone of any age or ability).

The next day's weather was a more expected grey. Luckily, everything we planned to do that day was indoors, including a visit to the Experience Music Project (EMP) Museum. This is a sci-fi/pop culture/music fan's dream, since it has a rotating series of exhibits covering all these genres and more - we arrived to a series on Nirvana (Taking Punk To The Masses), as well as a floor full of props from sci-fi shows and a hall of fame dedicated to sci-fi and fantasy authors.

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Star Wars, Buffy, Alien, AI, Terminator and Star Trek were amongst the shows and films covered. The place is a sci-fi fan's dream.

The EMP is also right next to the Space Needle, but we decided against going up it because a) we'd been up a lot of towers on our trip, and b) the weather was rubbish. So instead, we took a picture of it and then went for a pizza at Zeek's which was possibly bigger than Gilly.

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Note the difference between genders here - my half is loaded with meat and tasty things. Gilly's half is loaded with vegetables and less tasty things. I won.

We needed to walk it off, so headed back to the EMP for the music gallery and Nirvana exhibition. The entrance to the gallery included an arch made out of hundreds of guitars, because why not.

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The Nirvana exhibition charted their rise to fame from a garage band making their own flyers to global chart-toppers. Some of the memorabilia, including Kurt Cobain's original lyric sheets, was fascinating.

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In the evening Raph took us to his favourite sushi bar which I enjoyed as much as (if not more than) the one in Mountain View, though this might be down to me knowing what to expect second time around. Mashiko is a great place to sit at the counter and watch Hajime cook up some top sushi, whilst also enjoying the signage and origami.

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To this day, even if you paid me I couldn't tell you what I ordered or ate. But it was delicious nonetheless. The evening was rounded off with a game of Munchkin and Zombie Fluxx, followed by a game of Cards Against Humanity. The latter we loved so much, we still play it today (in the right company, after several glasses of wine).

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The next day was our last full day in Seattle, and we were treated to glorious sunshine again. I'm not sure Raph knew what was going on, and may have thought it was a sign of the impending apocalypse. What better way to enjoy it, than to experience one of Seattle's other famous exports: glass blowing. Specifically, Chihuly Garden and Glass, which has a staggering array of chandeliers, forests, sealife, shells and other crazy colourful things created by blowing melting solids into shapes.

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It would be easy to fill up a blog with photos of the sculptures from Chihuly; they were all unique and all spectacular. Our food that day came from Tilikum at lunchtime, and for our final meal with Raph we went to The Thaitan for some lovely Thai food, which we discovered did takeaway and delivery, much to Raph's delight. Just around the corner, too.

And so our time on the west coast was almost over. The next day we were getting on a bus to cross the border to Vancouver and stay with our friends Ravi and Sunny for a couple of weeks.

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