Summer in Seattle

Seattle is an atypical American city, so different to so much of the urban sprawl, it is a city with a heart, and a great place to get a coffee.

Summer in Seattle

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by MadMax on June 19, 2002

Go up the Space Needle, watch the Mariners at Safeco, ride the monorail, skip the EMP! Seattle is also a great town to go shopping in, boasting a Levi store, a Nordstrom, a huge Bon Marche, Banana Republic as well as some independant shops in the Pike Place Market.${QuickSuggestions} Coffee is a serious thing in Seattle. In the downtown area Starbucks operate on a line of site policy - if you can't see at least two stores at any time then something's wrong. If you don't like coffee then either find an alternate Starbucks beverage or stay away. Seattle is best experienced while totally wired on caffeine.${BestWay} All buses in a small downtown area are free: just hop on and hop off. The metro tunnel is free too, and a really quick way to travel between the International District (Safeco field), Pioneer Square, the Art Museum and Westlake (the destination for the monorail from the Space Needle). Parking in Seattle can be a problem, but it's relatively cheap to park at the Seattle Center carpool and then get the monorail ($1.25 each way) to Westlake.

The Original Starbucks

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by MadMax on June 19, 2002

They are turning the world green one street corner at a time, viewed by some as a benevolent force for good, doing away with bad coffee and offering a smoother caffeine high for addicts, viewed by others as a Machiavellian organization behind American corporate imperialism, Starbucks is a force to be reckoned with.

You'll probably walk straight past the original Starbucks, since it's colours are predominantly brown rather than green. The fact is that this Starbucks is unlike any other in the world. The staff are, arguably the best in the world (as a Barista I can confirm that the Pike Place Market store is seen as Starbucks Mecca), not just at making coffee, but at speaking different languages and throwing cups between each other.

The Original Starbucks isn't really a coffee house, it's a theatre, a theatre where Starbucks can sell its corporate image - and a good number of coffee machines, as well.

After spending a day in Seattle you will have firm opinions on Starbucks, having seen about a million of them, and this small store opposite Pike Place Market is interesting for both lovers and haters of the world's biggest coffee chain.

Pike Place Market
Seattle, Washington

Space Needle Restaurant

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by MadMax on June 19, 2002

This is by far the best way to see the view of Seattle offered by the Space Needle. The food is excellent, especially the desert provisions for kids which involve plenty of ice-cream, chocolate sauce, dry ice and smiling faces.

As the restaurant rotates you are afforded perfect views of downtown, Lake Union, Lake Washington and Mount Rainier, as well as a variety of chain letters left on the windowsill by other tables.

The food is good here, but the point ain't the food, it's the view, so it's essential to book and demand a window table.

After your meal, you can wander upstairs to the viewing gallery, have an after-dinner coffee and watch the best view of the city.

Absolutely perfect place for special occasions.

Sky City
Space Needle
Seattle, Washington, 98109
(206) 905-2100

Harbour Steps Cafe

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by MadMax on June 19, 2002

A coffee shop with a concept. Perfectly located on Harbour Steps, this coffee shop mixes a European sensibility (the art on the walls, the selection of foods) with high-tech methods (you can jump the queue by ordering on one of the touch screens on the wall). Perhaps coffee shop, perhaps internet cafe, perhaps art gallery, this is definitely one of the best places to enjoy a coffee in Seattle.
Harbor Steps Tully's Coffee
1222 Post Aly
Seattle, Washington, 98101
(206) 624-6397

Zeitgeist Coffee House

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by MadMax on June 19, 2002

The person who said you can't buy cool has clearly never been to Zeitgist: you can buy cool, and it costs less than a latte at Starbucks.

Zeitgeist is the kind of coffee shop that makes you want to sell all your possessions and write serious poetry that will only ever be appreciated after your death. It's location (in the International district, opposite the undeniably cool, and now sadly earthquake damaged, Phoenix Underground), it's decor (industrial chic that really does look industrial), it's attitude (we're not concerned about cool, but we know just how cool we are), it's coffee (seriously good), the paintings on the wall (minimalist, expensive looking) - everything about Zeitgeist oozes art and poetry and Paris. In a town where so much is standard and average this is a coffee house that really stands out as being different. There can be few better things that sitting in Zeitgeist, reading a newspaper, sipping a coffee and watching the world go by.

Zeitgeist Coffee House
International District
Seattle, Washington

Thirteen Coins

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by MadMax on June 19, 2002

The big thing about Thirteen Coins is that it's open all the time, like 24-hours. Perhaps that's why I love it, because a country that eats at five-thirty and a Brit that doesn't start thinking about food until eight-thirty are often incompatible.

I like the idea that I could go in and order oysters at two-thirty in the morning. I like the idea that I could tuck into a t-bone steak, served by a waiter in a bow tie, as the sun comes up. Of course it never happens, and I usually end up going to the Coins at reasonable times, but at least I don't have to worry that they're going to start hoovering up around me.

Going to the Coins should be done as a couple. Groups of three or larger are accomodated in booths with, surprise surprise, thirteen coins imbedded in the table, but the real joy of eating at this restaurant is sitting at the bar. Huge chairs ensure privacy, and there's nothing quite like watching your food being prepared.

The Coins is expensive, and the food isn't always that special - with the exception of the Monkfish which is truly the best I have ever tasted - but the point about the place is its novelty, and that's worth the price alone.

BTW, the area around Thirteen Coins ain't that great, so get a cab.

13 Coins
125 Boren Ave North
Seattle, Washington, 98109
+1 206 682 2513

The Space Needle

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by MadMax on June 19, 2002

The instantly recognisable Space Needle is what defines Seattle, even if it is dwarfed by the high-rise buildings downtown.

You buy your ticket (for about $10) from outside the Needle while cheesy songs (all in some way related to space travel) play. Once inside, however, things get much more tasteful. The gift shop on the ground floor has some suprisingly good quality gifts, and this is probably the best place in the city to pick up presents for the guys back home.

The ride to the top of the Needle takes less than a minute, but despite this there is still a running commentary from the elevator operator. Once at the top there is a fantastic view of the city from all angles, along with photo guides to tell you exactly what you are looking for.

It's good to arrive just a bit before dusk so that you can see the city in the light, get a coffee and watch the sun going down before seeing it at night.

Parking can be found easily (and cheaply if you're in a large group) at the carpool parking lot across the street from the Needle. This is a good place from which to explore Seattle Centre, and not a bad location from which to take the monorail into the city.

Space Needle
400 Broad Street (seattle Center)
Seattle, Washington, 98109
(206) 905-2111

Seattle Art Museum

Member Rating 1 out of 5 by MadMax on June 19, 2002

The Seattle Art Museum, with its huge hammering man sculpture outside, is one of the most famous Seattle landmarks. It's perfectly located between Harbour Steps and the Benaroya Hall, which makes it even more of a shame that its exhibits are so uninteresting. What should be the peak of Seattle's cultural landscape is largely filled with things that offer little interest.

Perhaps that's not entirely fair. The SAM is the perfect place to go if you want to see a traditional exhibition, filled with paintings by a lesser master, it is the corporate headquarters of Seattle's art, it is the Microsoft of art, it takes no risks.

Far more interesting are the Asian Art Museum or the Bellevue Art Museum.

If you do want to go to the SAM then the best way to get there is to take the metro tunnel, which drops off at the Benaroya Hall right opposite.

Seattle Art Museum
100 University St
Seattle, Washington, 98101
(206) 654-3255

Safeco Field

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by MadMax on June 19, 2002

I never really understood baseball, but we got sent some corporate tickets to a Mariners game and went along. Well worth while.

For anyone who hasn't been to baseball before, you should try it. Don't watch it on TV, don't try and understand the rules, just go along, find out which is the local team and shout for them. Simple guide: if the guys with the bats are doing lots of running then that colour is probably winning.

Safeco field is the perfect place to go and see your first baseball match. The retractable roof means that you don't get wet if it rains, but you can see the sky if it doesn't. The seats are comfortable. The bathrooms are clean. There's enough food vendors, providing anything from a latte to a steak, to feed everyone there. The Mariners rule.

Safeco Field
1200 First Avenue South
Seattle, Washington, 98104
(206) 346-4000

Elliott Bay Book Company

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by MadMax on June 19, 2002

One block down from Pioneer Square (two blocks from the Pionner Square Metro Tunnel station) and just a stroll from the International District Elliott Bay Books doesn't look much as you go in. Further investigation, however, reveals a rabbit warren of rooms, filled to the brim with books on everything you could possibly imagine.

The real value of Elliott Bay isn't the selection of books though, it's the staff. These aren't kids working in Barnes and Noble for the summer, these are people who love books, the kind of people who have shelf-references memorized, who can identify long dead authors from the briefest and sketchiest of descriptions, who know the historical and literary context of nearly every book on every shelf. These are people who seriously love books.

The whole place feels dingy, the shelves are sagging, the stairs creek, the floor is stripped to the dusty, damaged floorboards and it's absolutely perfect. You will find things and buy things that you would never even look at in Borders - visiting the shop is a mind-opening experience.

The store's reputation helps pull in the big names for book readings, which are ridiculously underpublicised and poorly attended, meaning that you've got a good chance of turning up and having an actual discussion with an author, rather than a lecture.

Plan to spend an afternoon at the Elliott Bay - it is not the sort of thing to be done in an hour - buy some books and then nip round the corner for the best espresso in Seattle at Zeitgeist. Does it get any better than that?

Elliott Bay Book Company
101 South Main St
Seattle, Washington, 98104
+1 206 624 6600; +1

Underground Tour

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by MadMax on June 19, 2002

The Underground Tour is an essential for anybody visiting, or moving to, the city. Extremely knowledgeable guides will take you and your group of about 25 through the undergrounds of Pionner Square - the location of the first settlement - all the time explaining how the city was founded and how it developed through the influence of the lumber industry and the railroad.

The tour takes you through the basements of bars, speakeasies, brothels and Starbucks, a perfect cross section of how Seattle developed, accompanied at each stage by historical photographs showing the way the city looked a hundred years ago.

Walking around Pioneer Square will never feel the same again.

Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour
608 First Ave.
Seattle, Washington, 98104
206 682 4646

Experience Music Project

Member Rating 1 out of 5 by MadMax on June 19, 2002

Let me just come straight out and say it: I hate the EMP.

The Experience Music Project is the pet project of one of the Microsoft billionaires, a florescent red and green monstrosity at the foot of the Space Needle, a shrine to Jimi Hendrix, the perfect example of the things that go wrong when people have too much money and not enough... not enough people around them to tell them when an idea is just plain dumb.

The EMP can't decide whether it's a museum or a theme park, and nastily meshes elements of both. There are exhibits, and each exhibit can trigger a commentary or a piece of explanatory text on your MEG - a little palm-top computer that you're given on the way in - and I have to say that this is actually a pretty cool piece of kit. The problem with the concept is that you end up with hundreds of people walking around the exhibits wearing headphones plugged into the MEG. The very thing that music is best at - bringing people together - has been stripped away from it.

There are also rides, and I use the term loosely. The Artist's Journey is essentially a cinema in which the seats move, telling the story of 'Funk' using tacky film-making techniques and actors that would have seemed stilted in the 1920s. There are other rides which allow you to perform on stage in front of an imaginary audience and have your picture taken as a rock 'n' roll star. They aren't bad ideas - then again, they ain't great - but the problem is that it just takes too long to get in to the rides, queues sometimes going as long as 90 minutes.

There are hundreds of reasons to hate the EMP. The way it takes itself so seriously. The way the employees all think that they're roadies. The way that it is so damn ugly, and so damn bright.

I, however, have a very personal reason to hate the EMP. Why would they build something that has nowhere to shelter under. Trying to run from the rain and hiding under the EMP is a singularly bad idea since the futuristic curvy shape forms a perfect funnel to direct rain onto those underneath. Then again, it's not as if it rains in Seattle.

EMP Museum at Seattle Center
325 Fifth Ave North
Seattle, Washington, 98109
(206) 770-2700

The Taproot Theatre

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by MadMax on June 20, 2002

Going into the Taproot Theatre is like walking into someone's living room. It's a small theatre, with the seating arranged around the thrust stage, and this creates a great feeling of intimacy. Another advantage is that the view is perfect, no matter where you sit - it's usually open admission - and even in 'the Gods' you are only a few feet from the stage.

The Taproot feels like a family show. Coffee and cookies are sold for a dollar at the interval. You will often see actors you recognize from previous performances manning the Box Office. On Wednesday nights the cast and Director hold a post-play discussion and, despite the inevitable lunatic who sits at the back and shouts random things about time travel, these are always great events to go along to.

The down side of this is that the productions are not always of the highest quality, but that's hardly the point. This feels like theatre being performed for the joy of it. A flyer advertising a Taproot production doesn't feel like an advertisment, it feels like an invitation from old friends.

Taproot Theatre
204 North 85th St
Seattle, Washington, 98103
Box office: +1 206 7

The Soap Box

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by MadMax on June 20, 2002

Soap? Why is this guy telling us about a shop that sells soap?

I'll admit that the Soap Box doesn't sound the most fascinating of tourist venues. On the face of it this is a place where you go to buy products which make you clean, perhaps more of a human necessity than a fun place to go.

The Soap Box does sell more different kinds of soap, shampoo, moisturiser, exfoliator and lip balm than you could ever possibly imagine, but the really great thing isn't it's stock of soap - the really great thing comes when you start to make your own.

You can make vanilla flavoured shampoo, heather flavoured bubble bath, orange flavoured conditioner, and over a hundred other flavours that combine with a base product to make your own personal range of products. Add to that the thousands of other smells that can be produced using combinations of flavours, and you end up with a range that goes from pure soap at one end to Hazelnut flavoured German Chocolate Cake conditioner at the other, all at a price less than you would pay for over-the-counter products.

Soap Box
Pike Place Market / 1916 Pike pl
Seattle, Washington, 98101
(206) 441-5680

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