Sunday night was approaching and Monday morning we would leave for Vancouver. We already had a car scheduled to pick us up and take us to Seattle’s downtrodden Union Station. We had a few more hours on Sunday evening and wanted to take advantage of our last hours in The Emerald City. We decided to go up to the top of The Seattle Space Needle.
The Space Needle was built in 1961 for that Seattle World’s Fair held in 1962. It’s privately owned by the same family that originally built it almost a half-century ago. It’s 605 feet tall and 138 feet wide at the widest point and was built to withstand earthquakes of up to 9.1 in magnitude. The elevator soars to the top in about 45 seconds.
We were told, when it was built, the original architect bragged in the future all buildings would be constructed this way. Though The Space Needle has a cool, sleek Jetson’s look – it didn’t happen. The Space Needle only has three usable floors of space making it highly impractical for developers and builders.
It costs $18. to go to the top of The Space Needle. Ernie’s ticket was $16 with the Seniors discount. They invite you to spend as much time as you want at the top. Of course, you will find the ubiquitious gift store at the bottom with every Space Needle themed item you can imagine. We had already had dinner, so we weren’t interested in the restaurant at the very top floor. On the floor we were on they had grab and go fast food, soda, bottles of water. I wasn’t too interested in the $7 Kobe Beef Hot Dog, either.
The picture at the top of this post I took with my cell phone after we came down from The Space Needle. Above and to the right you see the Seattle skyline just as all the lights are coming on. And, to the left is a view of the sunset. We checked the local newspaper to find out what time the sun would set. A lot of other people seemed to have the same idea and the outside observatory deck was crowded with throngs of people trying to get the best pictures. After two and a half days of running around town – and seeing as much
of the sights as we could – this was the perfect way to close out our time in The Emerald City before boarding another Amtrak train and high-tailing it to Vancouver, British Columbia.
Getting the layout of the city from way up above we could look down and see all the places we’d hung out at over the weekend. It was fun to pick out the Harbor Cruise boat we took on Puget Sound the day before, Pikes Place Market and other landmarks we visited during our short stay in Seattle.
Ernie and I have different passions when it comes to travel. I want to plug my laptop into a cafe and write. He wants to ride all the mass transit possible in the time he has allotted. As for me? I’m happy to ride a bus, trolley, train or subway to get somewhere. He, on the other hand is content to ride a light rail train to the end of the line. Get off. Walk around for a few minutes until the next bus or whatever comes along to take him back from whence he came.
So, as we travel there are days we will spend together seeing the sights. Then, there are other days when we’ll have breakfast together and each go off our separate ways to see and do what we want. The day we went to the top of The Space Needles was one of those “apart” days.
Here’s how I used that time: I stayed downtown within a mile or two of our hotel. I went to Nordstrom Rack and bought a sexy pair of sandals – but with a moderate heel. I have no desire to wear Space Needle heels to walk in. They turned out to be my most expensive “souvenier” of the entire trip at $50. I also returned to Pikes Place Market to get better pictures for one of the blog posts below. I had fish and chips for lunch at one of the tiny vendors across the street from where they produce and flowers were sold (the fries were tempting – but I just ate the fish). On the way back to our hotel I meandered into a tea shop and sipped an iced White Peach Green Tea and chatted with the owner of the shop.
Then I walked back to our hotel, fired up the laptop in our hotel lobby and got to work – or I should probably say play – writing about our excellent adventure so far. Ernie went God only knows where on the city buses and had Vietnamese food for lunch in a part of Seattle with a high population of Asians. Hey, I don’t completely get it, either. But I respect it – and that’s enough for him. For me – no rides anywhere without at least a point of interest or some kind of destination in mind.
Coming together at the end of the day is always our way of checking in and sharing our adventures from the day. Gives us things to talk about and share with each other. For us, respecting those differences keeps our marriage fun and interesting and keeps our travel more enjoyable. He doesn’t have to be dragged off shopping with me when I know he’d rather stick knitting needles in his eyes. I don’t have to set aside my passion for writing because I’m riding all over kingdom come with my husband who has no particular place to go.
From Union Square you walk uphill on Grant Street, and before you know it – about six blocks away – you’re at the gate of Chinatown. (There’s a Starbucks right outside the entrance. We stopped there to reload on bottles of water.)
There’s a bustling Chinatown in New York, and, there’s even a sort of strip mall version of Chinatown in Las Vegas where I live.
However, I always think of the “real Chinatown” as the one one in San Francisco. After all, the Chinese people started coming to the USA in the 1850′s to work on the railroads built to connect the east with the western frontier. Many worked for very low wages or even as slave laborers. So they’ve been a part of this country and particularly this city for over 150 years.
If you’ve never been to Chinatown and think it’s just another tourist trap part of town, think again. The Chinese population has always been an vibrant part of the culture. There are more than just Chinese restaurants and trinket shops. Although there are plenty of those. There are large Chinese-owned hotels and banks. Chinese and other Asian names pepper the election ballots.
A slight diversion: I loved this sculpture of a street bench with the three monkeys, “Say no evil. See no evil. Hear no evil.” Just one of the little surprises you see here and there in San Francisco. Cause for a smile in unexpected places.
Interesting thing I learned about my sister while in Chinatown, “Wow! Can she ever shop!!” It wasn’t all just for her, of course. Cherie was thoughtfully, happily purchasing gifts for birthdays and Christmas for her grown kids, her daughter-in-law and her new grandson, less than a year old.
Kidding I asked, “I know you want to keep the economy going here in America – do you have to do it single-handedly?” She laughed, full of fun.
Cherie has a special connection with Asia. Both her adopted children were born in Korea. Okay, it’s not China, but it’s Asia. One item she bought for her grandson (half-Korean) is a little tiny black satin jacket with gold emroidery and pants. “I want a picture of him in it,” she said.
You still find Mao jackets, jade jewelry and iron teapots. But I also saw clever items like purses in Chinese brocade fabric – shaped like a Chinese food carry out container for under 20 bucks. Very cute. Lovely tea cups with built in tea strainers (for people into loose leaf teas) for just $5.
Plenty of other surprises made me feel Chinatown is stepping up and looking at their customers and making their merchandise a better fit for who buys in their shops. Far better then what I recall in the past. I remember these shops offering cheap T-shirts and silly souveniers that collect dust in the back of a cabinet until they’re re-gifted.
As a marketing mentor, I thought one area where Chinatown is behind is how merchandise is displayed and shown off. They could take a few tips from successful retailers. You often see untidy piles of merchandise. Not arranged neatly – just piled up. Some shelves look like they haven’t been dusted in months. All the stores try to compete by having the best prices.
In my humble opinion, they must not understand marketing. When you only compete on price – it’s a race to the bottom and business owners’ suffer as a result. But as a customer if you’re willing to sift and sort through the stacks and piles – you can find wonderful deals.
In one store they had these really pretty bracelets in many colors all piled up for only six dollars each. I got one in a pale pink – looks like rose quartz. The other is a magenta color. Okay, I’ve told the world on my blog about my inexpensive bracelets – but who cares. I like they way they look. No one who sees me wearing ‘em will know they were in a massive pile of bracelets rather than on an upscale display fixture.
The shops all have signs in them that say, “No pictures” but I did something against the rules and shot a picture of this display of Buddhas and statues. I thought even if they were all piled up together, it still had a loveliness that I found pleasing and almost like a little shrine tucked into the back of this shop.
I subscribe to the rule I don’t buy new things unless I’m willing to get rid of something old. Or, if I really have a space for something without crowding other things – I’ll buy something new. So, I bought the two bracelets. I got a hot pink silk/wool blend scarf for four dollars. And a lovely cloisonne pen for just twelve dollars. Oh, I also bought a pretty brooch at a jewelry shop that offered some very unique and reasonably priced merchandise. I love brooches and wear them more than necklaces – just part of my style.
Simply don’t have room for a single Buddha statue or even an iron tea pot. I enjoy shopping as much as the next woman – but when it makes sense. At this stage of my life my home is full of stuff. I believe in buying beautiful things so I always enjoy using them. Even the mixing bowls in my small kitchen are lovely. That way I’m never pining for trinkets or dust collectors to pretty up a corner of my home. A little sumpthin’ sumpthin’ I learned many years ago.
Even though I didn’t buy a lot in Chinatown, I could still enjoy the adventure of strolling around in the shops and enjoying the buzz of people and riot of colorful items I COULD have if I wanted.
Next post: my review of Samovar Tea Lounge.
In about ten days I’m going to San Francisco. My sister, Cherie, will be flying out from Denver to join me. We’re going to spend four days and three nights in the City by the Bay, as Tony Bennett crooned many years ago. Our plans are pretty loosey-goosey. I’m sure we’ll do some sight-seeing, it’ll be about sister time and retail therapy, too.
I remember the first time I went to SanFran I didn’t want to return home. My then-boyfriend literally had to drag me back on the plane back to Detroit. I just loved the culture, the diversity, the architecture, the hills, the cable cars and the bay. I was blown away by it all. In a good way.
I went for high tea at Neiman Marcus in Union Square. It’s the most elegant and relaxed event. The restaurant clings to an oval shaped balcony perched several floors above the shoppers. On the ceiling is the most spectacular, oval stained glass window. I remember that from my first trip many years ago.
Eight years ago I surprised my husband with a trip to San Francisco at Christmas. We flew there on December 27th and flew home New Years day. Ernie’s a train buff, and, I thought what better city for him to enjoy trains, cable cars, trolleys, etc.
Unfortunately I came down with a cold on Christmas day. So I’d go sightseeing with him in the morning. He’d go out exploring on the various forms of mass transit in the afternoon while I relaxed in our hotel room and nursed my cold. In the evening we’d go out to dinner.
On that trip, we stayed at the Sheraton close to Fisherman’s Wharf. The room was compact but elegant. This trip, sis and I will stay at the Hilton in Union Square. I’ll be sure to post a video blog about it. Gotta remember to bring my flipcam.
I’ve been checking the weather reports (here) and I can’t wait to get out of the Las Vegas desert heat for a few days. We’ve been baking in 110F. degree temps the last three days. San Francisco is supposed to be about 75F degrees for the high temps on the days we’ll be there.
On my last trip to San Francisco, since it was over the holidays, I thought it was an appropriate time to write my goals. I remember going to the opulent Fairmont Hotel at the top of Nob Hill and sat in a comfortable chair in the lobby and wrote and wrote. A crisply-uniformed waiter brought me fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice as I wrote. I hope I get time for something like that this trip. We’ll see.
There’s something about an adventure to a dynamic, diverse, vibrant city like San Francisco that makes life wonderful. I can’t wait.
Generally I don’t go for the latest technology. There’s often bugs in the first version AND it’s the highest price. I’m not a big gadget person, anyway.
I decided to get the Flip Cam because as part of “Your Excellent Adventure” I want to bring lots of videos to you. Videos with good info to share. Videos of the places I see on my travels. I needed something uber-simple or it’ll stay in the case.