This was my first visit to Seattle in Washington and, like most visitors, I instantly associated the city with its most recognised icon, the Space Needle. Frasier fans like myself somehow feel familiar with the city as the TV serial was based here. The breathtaking skyline formed a stunning backdrop to Dr Frasier Krane&’s stylish apartment. I was later told this spectacular scenery had been created via a camera placed atop a tall television tower (no apartment block flaunts such a magnificent view) and used with perfect technological finesse! This city also has an association with the movie Sleepless in Seattle. Tom Hanks’ character lived in a houseboat and it remains anchored to the shore even today. I managed a peek from the Gas Works Park, but that comes later.
First, I have to write about the most unique market I’ve ever come across. Pike&’s Place is a one- of- a- kind mart of literally “farmers” who bring their produce for sale. One is completely allured by the colourful fare — luscious fruits, gorgeous exotic flowers, handmade, exquisite glass artifacts, stone- studded and silver jewellery, organic cosmetics made from pure lavender, pretty printed silk scarves, intricately embroidered hats, artistic pictures in unique glass frames, the “ world&’s hottest sauce” made with Brazil&’s most potent chillis, and enticing varieties of fish and succulent seafood! The numerous fish stalls near the entrance sell every kind of fish and seafood, laid out carefully on ice. Counters with “live” fish and lobsters that crawl rather daintily in barrels and inevitably draw a curious crowd.
The fish stall drawing the most tourists was a scene of constant lively activity: a strange show of “throwing fish” was on. One person at the sales counter would weigh a particularly large fish selected by a customer and then literally “throw” it across the shop to the other end where a coworker caught it with deft skill, accompanied by the loud cheers and shouts of the large audience. According to the employees, this tradition started when the fishmongers got tired of having to walk out to the market&’s stall to retrieve a salmon each time someone ordered one.
Eventually, the owner realised it was easier to station an employee at the table to throw the fish over the counter.
I saw very few misses.
Much practice is needed for this peculiar skill, since fish is slippery and the cold ice it sits in makes the “catch” even trickier. A large group of Japanese tourists was focusing their snazzy cameras to capture the priceless moment.
Pike&’s Place Market also includes a quaint bazaar on two different levels below, apart from the main one at street level. The stores in the basement mainly comprise shops selling knick- knacks, antiques, clocks, toys, dolls, books and other items of touristy interest. The Pike Pub, a picturesque restaurant with its own brewery for beer, drew our attention.
We took a break there for a sumptuous lunch. The décor was bright and colourful, reminiscent of America in the 60&’s with posters, pictures, flags, maps on the walls and ceiling.
Stepping out of Pike&’s Place we stopped by the Confectioners’ Corner and I was bowled over by a completely mechanised doughnut maker: it made the dough, set it into doughnut shapes in hot oil, waited for them to cook, lifted the lot, strained and set them neatly onto a tray. Look Ma, no human hands! Our next stop was the Seattle Art Museum. The moment you enter the modern set- up, a strange installation catches your eye. Four sedans float in the space above the atrium, each lit up by a thousand tiny bulbs. It seemed a tad flashy, more outlandish than artistic. Again, that&’s personal opinion, for the majority of visitors seemed visibly impressed, not getting enough of the many angles for their cameras.
The museum houses a substantial collection of artworks that include paintings, sculpture and modern installations. While the modern and ethnic art are notable, its content of more traditional European painting and sculpture is not that many. It also has a large collection of 20th century American paintings by Jacob Lawrence and Mark Tobey and an appreciable collection of aboriginal Australian art.
Downtown Seattle has its share of high rises and posh malls. Parking there is a problem, but we managed a decent spot and explored the area at our own pace. The next few days were spent sightseeing different localities: Pioneer Square, Chinatown, Gas Works Park — from where the tiny boat used by Tom Hanks in Sleepless… can be seen bobbing in the water. The park lies on the site of the former Seattle Gas Light Company plant on the north shore of Lake Union and offers stunning views.
We also visited the awe- inspiring Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum showcasing the extraordinary genius of Dale Chihuly, and the sprawling University of Washington campus with its spectacular Suzzallo Library.
The magnificent view of Seattle&’s wide- open waterfront with its giant ferris wheel is one to treasure. We even checked out Microsoft&’s hightech headquarters at Redmond and I tried out their latest video games on a giant screen using my hands to navigate. It was fun! Last but not least, we took the Boeing Factory tour in Everett and it was jaw- dropping in magnitude. The entire building is the largest (in width) concrete structure in North America, with an area equal to 50 football fields! We had to combine several bus trips with long walks along assembly lines for the humongous tour. I saw how an enormous Boeing aeroplane is built from scratch. Hundreds of Boeing workers went about their tasks completely unconcerned about the gawking visitors. Unfortunately, mobiles and cameras are strictly prohibited, so no pictures. Needless to add, security was ultra- tight.
The guide who escorted our group, a big built man (well, all the Boeing plat all the guides were huge!) kept us in splits throughout as he explained the complicated manufacturing process in layman terms. When the tour finally ended, he quipped, “Whenever boarding a plane I always ask where it was manufactured because… if it&’s not Boeing I’m not going!” And that brought our weeklong holiday to its grand end.