Seattle and Los Angeles

A couple of months ago, we’d bought somewhat awkwardly scheduled air tickets for Grace’s job interviews on the West Coast. Since those interviews are now moot, we just used those tickets for vacation, staying in Seattle and Los Angeles for a few days each and doing touristy things.

Seattle and Los Angeles 2010

Some highlights for Seattle:

  • We stayed in a hotel a few blocks south of the Art Museum, and generally walked around in the area between the Space Needle and a bit south of Pioneer Square.
  • We did the Ride the Ducks Seattle tour, mainly to get orientated. There’s a similar tour in Philadelphia, but the Seattle one seemed more wide-ranging, probably because the city is a bit more spread out than here. The water-borne portion of the tour was in Lake Union, which had far more interesting things to look at than the sparse Delaware River waterfront.
  • We had a couple days of great weather, where the sun was out and the sky was clear enough so you could see Mt. Rainer off in the distance, and the Olympic Mountains ringing the western horizon. Possibly, people in Seattle lie and say that it’s raining and cloudy all the time, to keep other people from moving there.
  • We ate at or near Pike’s Place Market pretty much every day, from the piroshky stall, to the French bakery, to fancier Matt’s In the Market, to picking up fruit and yogurt and bringing it back to the hotel. If one were to live in downtown Seattle, one should live as close to the Market as possible, and get fat. We also had sandwiches at Salumi, which is a salami place near Pioneer Square.
  • In terms of restaurants with tablecloths and good views of the harbor (for whatever that’s worth), I liked Cutters Bay House the best, both for food and scenic harbor views. Ivar’s is right on the docks, near ferry terminal, so you can see the rush of bicycles and the cars driving on and off the boats, but I didn’t like the food quite as much.
  • The Science Fiction Museum and the Experience Music Project were kind of blah. They’re in the same Frank Gehry-designed building near the Space Needle, and it’s the same ticket for both. SFM consists of a couple of rooms off to the side and in the basement, and is smaller than you think it should be, and there’s way too much Star Trek. EMP is a lot less interesting than the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, which feels like a real museum and does a great job in taking you through the history of rock, whereas EMP feels like something attached to a science fiction museum. There is a nifty piece of Web 2.0 tech in EMP, though: there’s a small digital photo studio, where you can dress up and pose like a rock star, and your photo gets posted up to the EMP website.

In Los Angeles, for the most part we stayed with friends, and got driven around.

  • There was the standard vista of Los Angeles as seen from Mulholland Drive. The haze made the city a vague hulk off in the distance, with a river of cars flowing in the flats around it.
  • Yes, the traffic is atrocious. For some reason, I thought of the area east of Cleveland, on Mayfield, where you’re passing endless strip malls, and the cars are backed up because of construction near I-271, but there is no construction: it’s just horribly congested because everyone has to drive everywhere.
  • There’s a dog run in a residential neighborhood, where you can get pretty close to the Hollywood sign. On the way to the dog run, there are notices posted, warning tourists that there’s no access to the Hollywood sign on this road.
  • There’s a giant Scientology “temple” (or whatever they call it) under construction near Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
  • The area with the Hollywood Walk of Fame is what you expect: crowded with tourists, people aggressively selling tours to tourists, people dressed like Michael Jackson and Marilyn Monroe posing with tourists, shops full of plastic things tourists buy, etc. Fewer buildings need a new coat of paint than I would have thought.
  • Porto’s Bakery in Burbank is pretty awesome.
  • UCLA is pretty nice.
  • We went to the Museum of Jurassic Technology, which is, in some ways, a piece of performance art meditating on the nature of museums and the way museums present Truth. I had first heard of the place in a Harper’s article from a long time ago and its subsequent book, Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonders, and had wanted to visit since then. The Museum is surprisingly large and labyrinthine, though I didn’t see the famed African ants. Possibly I missed them. Possibly they were no longer on display. Possibly they never existed in the first place. Who knows what the truth with this place?
  • We ate at the Farmer’s Market, which is an old cluster of food stalls, now next to a high-end shopping mall (complete with Cheesecake Factory and Apple store). The food stalls themselves are family run, and range from Korean barbecue to an ice cream/soda fountain that’s been there since the 1930s, to the Middle Eastern bakery serving a version of pizza (lahmajoun).
  • We borrowed bikes from the hotel were were staying at for the last night of the trip (it’s near LAX, so we didn’t have to worry about traffic, especially with the LA Marathon closing down a good section of the city), and rode from around Marina Del Rey, past anarchic Venice Beach, to a point just north of Santa Monica pier.
  • For the last dinner there, we had Persian food, which is I think the first time we’ve done that. I suppose it’s similar to the more familiar-to-us Turkish food, but with a different mix of spices. Interestingly, we were told that there’s a large Iranian population in Beverly Hills, and shows like 90210, full of blondes at the high school, isn’t actually representative: there’s a plurality of Persian teens there.

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