For us, Seattle is a near mythical city. The birthplace of grunge, our favourite bands, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Temple Of The Dog, Nirvana, Mad Season, Alice In Chains, Screaming Trees, Mudhoney, The Sonics and Heart. Our favourite 90s movie Singles by Cameron Crowe is set in Seattle, with many members of the scene doing cameos like Eddie Vedder, Chris Cornell and the soundtrack to that movie is just so capturing the zeitgeist of Seattle at the beginning of the 90s. So we had some great expectations to visit Seattle and just to see if we could feel some of the spirit of the 90s, just having a coffee in this legendary city would suffice.
We chose to go in July, just because we knew that the north west is known for rain, and more rain. And wouldn’t you know it, we landed smack bang in the middle of a heat wave! In Seattle we had 30 Celsius (around 90F) for the whole stay. The feeling of summer was great, and of course it made our visit even better.
When we landed at Seattle SeaTac (Seattle Tacoma Airport) we were greeted by an exhibition of Pearl Jam posters, and the Sub Pop merch store. So our first grunge encounter was before we had left the airport itself. Getting into the city centre was eassily done by taxi.
We stayed at the excellent Ace Hotel Seattle that had a good location in Belltown with plenty of restaurants, bars and coffee shops around. Just up the street and around the corner you have Mamas Mexican Kitchen, where the members of both Pearl Jam and Soundgarden had numerous tacos after rehearsal in the basement of The Forge just behind the building. Also The Lava lounge and the Rabbit Hole on the same street are awesome. There was a cool bakery across the street. We sat down outside for a coffee when a local gentleman sat down next to us and offered us blueberry pie from the shop. He claimed it was so good that he had to share it with whoever sat outside. Things like this only happen in the USA. And true to his word, this was one of the best pieces of pai we have ever had. And the Pride weekend coincided with our visit, so rainbows and gayness in many ways were all around. The parade was an epic explosion of feather boas and tight shorts. A great neighbourhood to stay.
What to do in Seattle?
Well, you could go to Pike Place Market like most people do, and see the fish getting tossed, or have a mediocre coffee at the world’s first Starbucks. It is something that you should do, no visit is complete without visiting that area but there are a million people there and the queue at Starbucs was endless. What we did after, and what every person visiting Seattle should do, is go to the fantastic Museum Of Pop Culture which is a very cool building with mind blowing content. The Chris Cornell statue is just by the entrance to the museum. When we visited there was (surprise, surprise) an exhibition on grunge, with all the cool stuff from Kurt Cobain’s cardigan, to guitars, flyers and drumkits from that era. The museum has an ever changing exhibition, from Star Wars to Minecraft. It’s a highly recommended first stop for all when coming to Seattle. And the Space Needle is right next to it. An icon of Seattle you can see the tall needle with an ufo on top building from anywhere in town. If you can beat the queue, go, we did not, and did not go.
If you are a music buff, THIS is the tour: Stalking Seattle.
We spent half a day with Charity Drewery in her people carrier, seeing all the major spots for music nerds coming to Seattle. Concert venues, many not there anymore, rehearsal spaces, photo spots for albums, Kurt Cobain’s last home, where the Singles movie was shot (among many locations, the house itself), all the time blasting grunge music from her stereo. Charity was part of the scene, and still is, keeping the flame alive for the people that are no longer with us, from Andy to Kurt and Chris. Epic way to see the city.
We took the bus to Gas Works Park, also used in the Singles Movie. The Fremont Sunday market is just up the road, and if you’re walking between the gasworks and the market look out for the troll under the bridge on the way. A legacy from the Scandinavian fishers who settled in the area. The Fremont market is a great day out to shop for trinkets, or just eat great street food.
Just to cut more stories short, we loved Seattle, and we only explored a little bit of it! The city was everything we hoped for. And if we get the chance to go back we will for sure.
For the bigger storty, head to our Seattle to San Francisco, the Pacific Coast Highway page.