A Travellerspoint blog

Scene and Heard

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Besides being famed as the home of Starbucks, Seattle is known for its music. Birthplace of Jimi Hendrix, and closely associated with the 'grunge' scene and bands such as Nirvana, it has its own museum dedicated to popular music. The Experience Music Project, in the shadow of the Space Needle observation tower, was established by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. We tried not to let this spoil our enjoyment.

The building itself was designed by Frank Gehry.


There were several exhibitions with a science fiction theme. The one dedicated to Avatar was our first destination, featuring props from the movie.


Particularly good was an interactive exhibit where you could turn on and off the sound effects, dialogue and music tracks from several snippets of the film, allowing you to appreciate the extent to which music conveys emotion. Another interactive part of the show captured body movements and digitised them, enabling participants to act out scenes from the film. Karen's performance is here, but Ben's has mysteriously disappeared. Better still was the Sound Lab, where visitors could get their hands on guitars, basses, keyboards, drums and mixing desks.


Our hostel is just up the road from The Crocodile, site of performances from, among others, Nirvana, Pearl Jam and R.E.M. We couldn't pass up the opportunity to pop in.



No bands were playing, alas, but we were there in time for happy hour. A four-pint pitcher of beer for $6 made Ben very happy.


Posted by shoestring 22:11 Archived in USA Tagged scene club music band usa crocodile bar seattle cafe washington instrument nirvana Comments (3)

Sleepless in Seattle

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What with very squeaky bunk beds in a six-bed dorm and some disturbing noises coming from the street, we had a pretty lousy night's sleep. Thankfully breakfast was free so we had some caffeine to prepare us for the day ahead. First stop was Pike Place Market.


Here fishmongers drew large crowds, throwing fish from counter to counter in response to customers' orders.


From there we headed by bus to Woodland Park Zoo.





We weren't sure about some of the pronunciations.


Beginning to flag, we needed a pick-me-up, so headed back downtown for early evening coffees at the original Starbucks in Pike Place. It was fascinating to see where the now-ubiquitous multinational behemoth began.


The shop is distinguished by the use of the original logo, as well as the fact that it has no seating inside, so as many tourists like us can be crammed in as possible.


However, as we waited outside in the queue some locals walked by, loudly commenting to each other, 'This isn't even the original Starbucks!' And, looking online, there may be something to this. According to Wikipedia, the store was at a different Seattle address between 1971 and 1975 before moving to Pike Place, something airbrushed out by Starbucks.


Anyway, we're hoping the caffeine doesn't stop us from getting a good sleep tonight...

Posted by shoestring 19:50 Archived in USA Tagged park market zoo place usa seattle coffee washington starbucks woodland pike Comments (1)

Make Mine a Duff

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There are lots of trees in Oregon. There's even one on the state's car number plate.


And Eugene is quite a funky place - non-conformist, anti-establishment and tie-died. Without (a) tattoos, (b) imaginative piercings, (c) interesting facial hair or (d) any kind of headwear, we feel decidedly square.

We were open to suggestions as to how to spend our day here. A fellow guest in our hostel mentioned a trail that led to the summit of Spencer Butte, a prominent hill. So that's where we headed, after buying the ingredients for a packed lunch from the local organic store. We found a beautiful spot on the way up to enjoy it.


The trail was longer than we imagined, and the last bit in particular was very steep. But, once at the summit, we were rewarded with spectacular 360 degree views of Oregon.





The real reason for our stopover at Eugene, however, was down to a conversation back in Los Angeles. We heard that there was a bar in Eugene that had provided the inspiration for Moe's Tavern in The Simpsons, and we knew we had to see it. The bar is called Max's Tavern, and we could definitely see some similarities.





They hadn't traded on the connection - it just seemed like a normal, working bar. Even better, it was clearly happy hour when we went in as the first round - a pint of Coke and a Budweiser - cost $2.50. We had to get the barman to repeat it as we couldn't quite believe it. We couldn't see any Duff on sale unfortunately.

Posted by shoestring 08:08 Archived in USA Tagged trees oregon hill butte usa spencer tavern eugene moe's max's simpsons Comments (1)

Going Grey

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Thankfully our disastrous first Greyhound journey has proved to be the exception rather than the rule, and it has been a pretty reliable and efficient way of getting around. Our Discovery Passes are excellent value for money, and we haven't had any trouble getting onto the bus we've wanted.


Our Greyhound yesterday was the first of the fancy new models we've travelled on. It featured extra legroom, power sockets and wi-fi. To celebrate, and to allow you to share in the tedium of a long-haul bus journey, we made a minute-by-minute blog of our 12-hour trip from Sacramento to Eugene in Oregon.

07.20: We're on the bus and leaving... 20 minutes late. But since this is the only bus to Eugene until this evening, and we woke up at 5am to be on it, we're just glad we have a seat.

07.21: The breakfast pastries are out. How much sugar is it possible to cram into a single Big Texas cinnamon roll? Thirty-three grams apparently!

07.30: That bad smell can only be coming from the toilet at the back of the bus. Aargh - why didn't we get seats closer to the front?

08.13: Nearly left a passenger behind in Marysville. Oops!

08.30: Trees. Grass. Sky. More trees. Oh, mobile phone mast!

08.45: An eight-minute stop at Orville coming up.

08.48: Ah, it's spelled Oroville. Nothing to do with the talking duck.

10.03: The landscape is becoming lusher as we head north. Lots of farms and the occasional adult superstore.

10.25: On the move again after waiting ten minutes to be given the green light along a stretch of new road in the process of being laid.

10.39: Yet another stop, but not long enough to get those cups of tea and coffee we're craving...

10.46: 'It's Ozzy!' One of our fellow passengers has used the stop as an opportunity to get a photo of our driver, saying he looks just like Ozzy Osbourne. Yeah, he does actually.

11.23: Apparently the driver's a she! The voice on the Tannoy was suspiciously high-pitched. Anyway, we're getting a new driver at our next stop.

11.54: All this time gives us a good chance to roughly plan the next bit of the trip, so we've got the map out and are checking bus times online.

12.10: However, while the bus is zipping down the freeway the internet's stuck in the slow lane...

12.16: The forested hills we're now driving past have reminded us of Redwood National Park. We're not able to visit it unfortunately as the Greyhound doesn't go anywhere near.

12.43: We're now making our way up and around the hills. Our ears are popping and we're being thrown all over the place as the bus takes the corners.

13.00: Ready for lunch. But we have to wait until we stop - possibly not for several hours.

13.22: Rather nice to see some clouds for the first time in a while. Oh, and the snow-capped peaks are quite attractive.


13.29: Looks like a rest stop. Are we stopping for lunch?

13.30: No. That's the smallest Greyhound depot we've seen.


14.29: We've just entered Oregon and have said our goodbyes to California.

14.41: Still no sign of lunch. We're sure the driver said we'd be stopping in 30 minutes but that was 60 minutes ago...

14.58: We're ten minutes from our lunch stop, allegedly.

15.25: At last! We've got until five to four. Or was it four to five...?

15.57: And we're off again, after polishing off a couple of foot-longs in Subway, nervously glancing over our shoulders at the bus in the parking lot.

17.32: Have we spent our entire lives on this bus? It feels like it.

17.40: Roseburg - our last stop before Eugene. Woo! But the bus is running 40 minutes late. Boo.

18:55: Ben is snoozing. Karen is very bored. We were due to arrive half an hour ago.

18.58: Are we here? Er, the driver just said the next stop was Salem, but we thought it was Eugene.

19.00: Bus station says Eugene. Hooray!

Posted by shoestring 13:14 Archived in USA Tagged bus california oregon usa greyhound sacremento coach eugene Comments (1)

A Capital Destination


Our stay in Sacramento was mainly out of convenience - we would have had to change here anyway before making our way north - but the city has proved to be an unexpectedly worthwhile destination in itself.

For a start, our hostel is one of the most interesting buildings that we've stayed in. A former mansion, originally completed in 1885, it has since been uprooted and moved three times - in 1906, 1994 and 2001 - and now occupies its original location.


Then there's Old Sacramento, the historic region of the city, featuring buildings dating from the nineteenth century. As you might expect, they're now mainly gift shops.



And of course Sacramento is California's state capital. The Capitol building looks a lot like the one in Washington DC.


It's no longer the stomping ground of Arnold 'the Governator' Schwarzenegger - his successor Jerry Brown was sworn in at the start of this year. Unfortunately we didn't have time for a tour of the building to see the wooden picnic table that has replaced the former governor's boardroom table.

Posted by shoestring 20:50 Archived in USA Tagged california usa capital state capitol jerry sacramento brown arnold schwarzenegger Comments (0)

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