Monday 3 November 2008

Letter from America: Myles Oldershaw

Myles Oldershaw is currently spending his year abroad at Reed College:

Seattle, the oldest and biggest city in the Pacific Northwest, was our destination as we left campus in minivans at five-thirty in the morning. As part of fall break, the international student group of Reed College had arranged a day trip to Seattle, and twenty-eight of us made the uneventful four-hour trip up Interstate Five between Portland and ‘The Emerald City’. Seattle is the third American city I have seen, after New York and Portland, and the immediate impression when we arrived downtown was that Seattle was more like the former. The tall buildings and wide roads of the business district were much more reminiscent of midtown Manhattan than of any area I have yet seen in Portland.

Our first stop on the tourist trail was the Space Needle, Seattle’s landmark ‘pointy tower’ built for the 1962 World Fair. From the observation deck, which is above a rotating restaurant that sells $25 salads, we could see all of downtown Seattle and some of Puget Sound, the network of inlets and rivers to the west of the city. We could also see the Olympic sculpture park that we later visited, a free outdoor collection of sculptures on the river bank. In the same complex as the Space Needle, reached by a monorail, was the Experience Music Project, a rock and roll memorabilia museum celebrating the musical heritage of a city called home by both Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain.

The rest of the day was spent exploring other areas of downtown, along with the Gasworks park in the Fremont district, a hilly park built around the site of a still-standing redundant gasworks, and the University district in Northeastern Seattle. The area, known as the U district, felt infused with the University in all its aspects in a way completely different from UEA and its surrounding environment. By the end of the day, the whole group was exhausted, but we still felt as if we had seen only a small amount of what Seattle had to offer. What we did see of the city made it seem a very welcoming place, with a recognizable, walkable downtown full of the coffee houses that are such a cliché of the region. Our impressions may have been helped by the fact that another cliché of the region, rain, was unseasonably absent on the day we visited. However, Seattle still appeared as a lively, friendly, green city worthy of its popular status in the ranks of America’s metropolises.

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