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SCENIC SEATTLE

ABOVE AND BELOW GROUND LEVEL
By Jane Cassie

"We're rotating at five hundred feet (170 meters) above ground level and on a clear day, you can see all the way to the Cascade foothills," claims Colleen Foster who obviously knows the facts. She should. She's been sharing them for twenty years with visitors, like us, who dine at Seattle's SkyCity Restaurant. The three hundred and sixty degree view venue, housed below the Space Needle's observatory, is the perfect spot to graze and gaze-even tonight, when clouds drape the 'Emerald city' with a mystical veil.

We dine on wild King salmon and Togarashi crusted tuna and, while going full circle over the next fifty minutes, spot a number of landmarks that we've recently visited. There's Argosy Cruises, a harbor side company that boasts a flotilla of narrating tour boats, the Seattle Aquarium offering close encounters of the sea critter kind, and the famous Pike Place Market where vendors sell everything from monster-size tiger prawns to bountiful bouquets.

In between courses we rotate past the downtown core. Burgeoning high rises soar skyward and create a scenic cosmopolitan skyline, and just a few blocks beyond is our temporary homestead. The elite Pan Pacific Hotel Seattle has provided us with the best of both worlds. Although we've had the city at our fingertips, we've been far enough away to escape the inevitable crowds. During our stay we've lounged in an oversized guest suite, been spoiled by a personal steward, and enjoyed pampering at the Vida Spa. What more could a couple of Seattle sightseers ask for? Yes, a little more sunshine would be nice.

Anyone familiar with the Pacific Northwest knows how much it rains, and during these frequent spells it just makes sense to retreat indoors. Seattle certainly provides lots of opportunity. As well as consuming enough caffeine to own shares in Starbucks, we've been immersed in this city's eclectic culture. Not only is it the birthplace of grunge (a raucous music mix founded in the 90's) but Seattle has the greatest number of dance, theatre, and music options per capita in the country. With a choice of eighty live clubs, fifteen orchestras and twenty-nine professional theatres, we've been culture-sized!

During our visit to Experience Music Project (EMP), I even felt like a rock star! It's impossible to spot this venue from our scenic perch as it hugs up to other Seattle Center attractions at base of the Space Needle, but you can't miss it when you're on land! The hundred and forty thousand square foot architectural wonder resembles a humungous glitzy guitar, and inside there are enough interactive opportunities to appease any aspiring musician. Even me!

We craned our necks while checking out Roots and Branches, a cyclone-shaped, instrument-clad sculpture, and retraced the 'Evolution of Sound' with Jimi Hendrix-right back to the sixties, when Purple Haze had nothing to do with the weather. But, in my mind, we saved the best part for last. Much of the third floor is dedicated to budding artists. And no, you don't need to be American Idol-worthy to get a piece of this limelight! By moving from sound lab to demo, you can try out various instruments and before you know it, you'll be onstage singing, 'I Will Remember You' with Sarah McLachlan. Okay, so maybe your story will be different.

By the time dessert is ordered, we're rounding our second lap of the city and in the distance we can see Pioneer Square, where we'd submerged beneath the streets earlier in the day. Bill Speidel's Underground Tour is a combo of historical tidbits and tongue in cheek comedy, and as well as learning about Seattle's colorful past and seedy seamstresses we found out why and how the town was raised. Literally! As well as being absurdly interesting, it was an effective way to stay dry.

"And now for the grand finale!" our server proclaims. The Lunar Orbiter is a signature dessert that has been served at the restaurant since the inaugural night. While making the announcement Colleen pours hot water into the double boiler of dry ice. Instantly the vapors billow out from our ice cream treat for two and before we know it we're caught in the clouds once again.

SIDEBAR

Where To Stay:

Pan Pacific Hotel Seattle
2125 Terry Avenue, Seattle, WA 98121, USA
Phone 206-264-8111
Reservations: 877-324-4856
http://www.panpacific.com/Seattle/Overview.html

What to Do:

Vida Spa - www.vidawellness.com
Seattle visitor guide http://www.visitseattle.org/
Seattle Space Needle - www.spaceneedle.com/
Seattle City Pass: 5 Famous Seattle Attractions for $44.00 /adult /www.citypass.com/city/seattle.html
Pike Place Market: www.pikeplacemarket.org/frameset.asp?flash=true
Bill Speidel's Underground Tour http://www.undergroundtour.com/

Travel Writers' Tales is an independent travel article syndicate that offers professionally written travel articles to newspaper editors and publishers. To check out more, visit www.travelwriterstales.com

PHOTOS: by Brent Cassie

1. Space Needle, a city icon since the 1960s 2. Bountiful bouquets at Pike Place Market 3. Pan Pacific Hotel provides the best of both worlds 4. Roots and Branches sculpture, a cyclone-shaped, instrument-clad sculpture Dining in the clouds

 


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