|We did find our B&B in the end without TOO much bother and it's the most fabulous place ever. It's located in Capitol Hill which is a suburb of Seattle and where we have since found out that 2 weeks ago some weird gunman went nuts and killed 7 people in the street next to ours. Oops. Anyway, Capitol Hill is really cool with lots of shops and tons of restaurants all within about 5 mins walk. It's about 20 mins walk into the city with the major advantage of it being downhill, or a 5 min bus ride.
The breakfasts have been utterly superb with warm poached fruit, pancakes, omelettes and porridge. Yum! First day we went into town and did Bill Speidels Underground Tour which is a brilliant comic history of Seattle. A brief overview is along these lines: Seattle was originally built out of wood, on land below sea level by people who weren't too clever and it unsurprisingly suffered serious drainage/flooding problems. In 1889, a fire started by an overturned glue pot destroyed most of the city. The town authorities did try and suggest that the land should all be raised and drained before anything was permanently rebuilt. However this being America, nothing was allowed to stand in the way of progress and people simply rebuilt things on the same old "ground". Again, unsurprisingly, everything flooded and the ground gave way resulting in huge potholes, so big that on several occasions horses fell in and drowned! The city council then decided to act and, having failed to get any cooperation from the building owners, decided to "sod 'um" and raise the level of the street - but not the pavements as they didn't belong to the city. The streets were raised by anything from 8 to 32 feet above pavement and door level! People literally had to climb up and down ladders to cross the street. To remedy this rather predictable problem, various bridges and sidewalks were built, effectively burying the lower floors, and eventually the entire area below the streets was condemned, with the old store fronts still intact. This is where the underground tours now take place. The Seattle-ites were also open to bribery and corruption, they made a lot of money from the gold rush basically by conning naive prospectors into thinking Seattle was somewhere near the Yukon (it's 2000 miles south), selling them barrels of supplies that were actually filled with mud and (this is the best bit) selling teams of huskies that were trained to jump ship after about half a mile and swim back to shore ready to be resold to the next passing mug. All highly entertaining and, it has to said, highly enterprising. To think these people were probably Bill Gates' ancestors.
These days, Seattle is a bohemian place packed full of weird and wonderful people. (Remember Microsoft and Boeing are the 2 biggest employers!). It also appears to be the home of the bumper sticker. Some cars were just stickers, with bearly an inch of paint work showing. Our 2 favourities were "Re-defeat Bush" and "With the Republicans, man exploits man. With the Democrats, it's just the opposite".
After that we wandered arond Pike Place Market which is huge and has fresh fish, veggies, arts, crafts and loads more. It also has some very good street entertainers which is a refreshing change from all the terrible ones we've encountered in the Southern Hemisphere. We also managed to squeeze in a visit to REI which is a huge shop full of outdoor gear which Steve had been itching to get to. It's vast and has a 65ft climbing wall and a mountain bike test trail as well as every conceiveable outdoor gadget you could ever want, need or not really need.
Second day we went to the EMP - Experience Music Project, which is like a large pop/rock museum. It's quite good, lots of 70's stage costumes from KISS and Alice Cooper and a big gallery devoted to the Seattle music scene of the early 90's and beyond. It also has a gallery for Jimi Hendrix as he was from Seattle too, which we didn't know. Followed that with another potter downtown and a visit to the ever-present Starbucks (another thing born out of Seattle). Just time to go to a few second-hand bookstores and record shops before we had to pack up and leave for Vancouver. Mads factoid: all ladies who run second-hand bookstores are devoted to cats and quite mad. The one we went in had 11 cats in it and the lady behind the counter kept writing down titles of books we should read but never actually gave us the piece of paper, all while her 11 cats slumbered peacefully, mostly in the window display. We drove back to Vancouver via the Boeing plant to do the "Future of Flight" Boeing factory tour. Our tour guide spoke like Elvis and was obviously very into the technical side of things.... it's not as nerdy or boring as it might sound though and it is actually quite cool to see planes in various stages of production if only to ooh and ahh about how BIG they really are! The plant is unbelievably vast, in fact it contains the largest building in the world. In this one building, Boeing assembles 747s, 767s and 777s. There are something like 6 million individual components in a 777, imagine being responsible for the logistics of that lot.
Uneventful, wet drive North which included a 30 minute queue for the Canadian border. An entire highway converges on a few little booths. The Canadian border guard really couldn't have been less interested and waved us through and so we find ourselves now back in Vancouver for a couple of days before it's time to come home. Eek!