Monday morning I decided to go and have a look at the Space Needle up-close (because that's what all tourists do in Seattle, right?). The Space Needle was built for the 1962 World Expo in Seattle and was, at the time, the tallest building west of the Mississippi. Surrounding it at the base are a number of remnants from that expo, including a monorail and some crazy looking buildings:
I then headed into downtown, and on a whim decided to visit the now-tallest skyscraper in Seattle. At over 76 stories tall, the Columbia Centre is a tourist attraction in its own right and you can visit the Starbucks for free on the 40th floor (which was my original plan), but since that first elevator didn't seem to take any time at all to reach the top, I decided it can't have been the 40th floor so I followed a few other sandals, shorts and rucksack wearing tourists (actually some students from Derby Uni) into the next elevator - and found myself on the 73rd floor! There is an observation deck here so, following their lead and claiming to have forgotten to bring my student card, I got in for a mere $6 and had a good look around.
Looking North-West towards Puget Sound
Looking East at Lake Washington
Looking South-West towards the docks, where two cruise liners are approaching
The view was magnificent and, having never been in a skyscraper like this before, I was quite surprised by how much the view must make this an attractive place to work. Especially if you are high up in the building and can enjoy these amazing views all day long. It was nice that they provided this observation deck for the enjoyment of tourists - although the other half of the floor was shared with the traffic observation group, for obvious reasons!
On the way down, I observed the rate of descent of the lift a bit more carefully. It took 20 seconds to cover 40 floors, including acceleration and deceleration - which means that at peak speed it is covering between 3 and 4 floors per second - which equates to about 30mph vertical speed! The acceleration did not seem that strong - but it did continue for a long time and I guess that's the secret of express elevators.
This is the view of that skyscraper from the International District, where the hostel is.
I headed back to the hostel for a quick lunch of hot-and-sour soup (from the Asian market yesterday) and was then picked up for my next adventure. You see, I had booked myself onto a sea kayaking expedition which is run every Monday exclusively for the enjoyment of patrons of the local hostellers. It's run from Alki Kayak Tours on Alki Beach, on the opposite side of Elliott Bay from Seattle Downtown. One of the staff, Jonny, has done a lot of hostelling so organises these trips every Monday at quite a good discount, and provides a free shuttle!
There was only 3 guests on the tour, the other two being a couple at one of the other hostels in town (one was a member of staff), so I had a choice of being in a K1 by myself or a K2 with the guide. Clearly I chose to go solo! So off we went on a 2 hour trek around the bay:
We were able to see starfish, jellyfish, sea lions, turns, a golden eagle's nest and all sorts of other sea birds from the water, which was incredibly clear. There are also 6 types of salmon in the bay, and there is an easy way to remember them - Sock-eye, King, Silver, Pink, Chum and Steelhead. We saw a couple of salmon while we were exploring, plus some interesting barges and wrecks around the edges!
The sea-lions were the most interesting, clustered on a buoy in the bay and clearly enjoying the nice weather. One of them was barking at us, so it was wise not to get too close!
We then ventured out into much deeper water, enjoying the swell and soaking up the lovely views of Seattle city and Puget Sound. It feels almost a little bit fake, with a large city such as this surrounded by such beautiful scenery, the crystal clear see and all the forests, rainforests and mountains around us. But it was a privilege being able to explore it by kayak, so please have a look at the website if you're in Seattle - http://kayakalki.com/
After that, I headed back to the hostel for dinner and an early night. I've also been trying to update the blog, but the normal software that I use just isn't connecting to the system so now I have to upload the pictures directly to the web. This takes between an hour and an hour-and-a-half so I need to plan my uploads a little better!
I've also discovered what a problem I'm going to have emailing people and writing the blog once I get to China. Google, Gmail, Picasa, Blogspot are all blocked by the Great Firewall of China and, still pondering whether I should use a VPN to get around this or not, means I might have to be off the radar for a little while. I promise I'll still be taking photos etc though and have created a new email address for use out there that I hope won't be blocked - email@example.com.