Seattle – Day 1 and 2: Exploring the city on foot
Pike Market Place and Gum Wall
As we arrived early from the airport, our room at the Kimpton Vintage Hotel (1100 5th Ave) wasn’t ready. We stored our luggage and headed over to Pike Market Place. For a Thursday afternoon, it was insanely busy. We were pretty much inching forward through the main entrance, hardly being able to have a good look at the produce. We decided to return the next morning and explore some more after having breakfast at Le Panier (1902 Pike Place). Their bread and pastries were so good that for the remainder of our stay in Seattle, it became my morning walk to fetch breakfast.
Also, the lines for the next-door Starbucks (apparently one of their first outlets), Piroshky Piroshky (great filled sweet and savory pastries), and Beecher’s Handmade Cheese (with an open window into their cheese factory) were legendary, especially in the weekend. Beecher’s 15-month old Flagship cheese was delicious. Too bad that their renowned Mac ‘n Cheese set was too unpractical to lug around for 3 more weeks, but they also have a café on concourse C of SeaTac Airport if you decide to skip airline food altogether…
Speaking of legendary: adjacent to the Pike Street entrance, you will find Post Alley and its Gum Wall by the box office for the Market Theater. Gum Walls is actually a better name as a good stretch of the start of the alley is covered on both sides with gum and items like coins, admission tickets, and other stuff…
They scraped off the original layer that had been expanding for 20-odd years in 2015 to prevent further erosion of the bricks on the walls from the sugar in the gum, and over 1,100 kilos / 2,400 pound of gum was removed. Of course, we had to add our own pieces of gum to this germ-fest.
Instead of opting for the long lines for the Space Needle for panoramic views of the city, we went to Smith Tower in Pioneer Square. This 38-story (484ft / 148m) skyscraper dating back to 1914 and was the tallest in the city until it was dethroned by the Space Needle in 1962. The grandeur of the Smith Tower is still there with marble from floor to ceiling, loads of shiny brass, and operated elevators. The self-guided tour – in Roaring 20s style – was pretty amusing for the kids too.
Its observatory provides excellent views in all directions, including on the Space Needle and Columbia Centre, the currently tallest building of Seattle, almost twice as high as Smith Tower. At an admission of $19.14 relatively cheap too and no lines either!
Seattle Pinball Museum
The next stop on our walk was the Pinball Museum in Seattle’s International District (508 Maynard Ave) and lunch of delicious sweet and savory crèpes at next door’s Eastern Café.
With a collection of over 50 tables from the 1930s until now and for the $15 admission, you can play them all and an additional $5 will get you a multi-entry pass. My kind of museum (and for many others as well as there was a small line waiting for it to open at noon) and it was fun to experience that the speed of the games has pretty much tripled over time. I imagine that an afternoon in there will drive you slightly mad due to the cacophony of the pinball machines being played at the same time. In the meantime, Chantal managed to create a perpetuum mobile and we had to tilt the table to get it unstuck…
Seattle Public Library
Right across our hotel was the futuristic Seattle Public Library (4th Avenue and Madison), which was designed by the Dutch design studio OMA, lead by architect Rem Koolhaas. You can just enter and wander around the 11 floors and marvel at its angular design and patterns creating an astonishing play of shadows and views of the city.
We tried to combat our jetlag that night by attending a Mariners ball game at Safeco Field; the first of 3 home games against the New York Mets.
We had bought tickets for Hit it Here Café, which included a table for 4 and $18 credit for food and drinks (which of course were ginormous…). The view was pretty good, between second and third bases, we enjoyed the Nirvana and Soundgarden snippets in-between the innings and could also witness the sunset on this very nice summer evening. The Mariners lost 7 to 5, but at least it was an action packed game.