Seattle, Washington

On arriving at the HI Seattle hostel, I was told that there was no room booked for me. It turned out that someone had written my credit card number down incorrectly when I'd booked by phone a couple of weeks earlier. As the hostel was pretty much fully-booked for the night, I was offered a place on the floor in a spare room with six or seven other people. Always ask a customer service agent to read your credit card number back to you if you have to book by phone.

photo: The Space Needle seen from inside a small forest of flag poles.
The Space Needle.

Seattle is very clearly a city, with big corporate buildings, museums and tourist attractions, but it had a peaceful village feel about it. No one seemed to be in a hurry, and the locals seemed friendly. Someone looking for a wild city destination might be disappointed, but a traveller looking for a clean, charming city with character should enjoy a few days here.

The Space Needle is located in a park called Seattle Center, a short distance from the centre of town. This journey is served by a monorail, but it's also quite a pleasant walk, especially at night when the Space Needle is illuminated and visible from much of the city.

Another attraction at Seattle Center is the Experience Music Project, a museum that interactively exhibits the history of modern music. I had been expecting the whole place to be a shrine to Nirvana, but they were in fact barely mentioned, whereas Jimi Hendrix gets an entire exhibit to himself.

photo: Rusting industrial tanks and pipes, set in a sun-dried park area.
Gasworks Park.

I also took a trip to Gasworks Park, which offers a view of the city centre across Lake Union, and later a boat tour around the waterfront. Other attractions recommended to me by a Seattle family included the University of Washington campus; the Henry Art Gallery and the galleries of Pioneer Square; the Fremont neighbourhood; and Volunteer Park.

With Seattle's reputation for wet weather I had been looking forward to some rain, but it didn't rain once.