Leon invited me to join a group from the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) for a visit to Joint Base Lewis-McChord (one’s Army, the other Airforce). We were fortunate that one of our party was the former Commanding Officer at the NORAD center there. If you were around in the 60s or earlier, you might remember something called the Cold War. It was important that we be able to defend ourselves from possible air or sea attacks coming from the Communist threat. So the North American Aerospace Defense centre was built. Now I understand this is not the only NORAD facility, just the one in the west. And by the way, if you track Santa Claus’ travels each year, those nice people at NORAD are the ones who report the sightings for you.
Anyway, we drove from Aldergrove to just south of Tacoma to meet up with our little group on a Thursday morning. We enjoyed lunch at the base food court (The military bases in the US are really large. We were told there are some 47000 people living on the joint bases!). We then took our tour of the top secret NORAD facility. I can only show you pictures of the lobby and outside the building. The most important thing I retained is that they used to monitor only formal air traffic before 9-11, but now all events are monitored to ensure the tragedy of 9-11 doesn’t happen again.
Afterwards, we visited the Lewis Army Museum. As I stood in the lobby, I realized it was a really gorgeous old building! It turns out the museum is now housed by the former Red Shield Inn. Yes, that was built by the Salvation Army in 1929. The building has had many iterations since then but still retains its beauty. While I was there, I actually read many of the exhibit descriptions. I learned that Lewis and Clarke were on a military expedition. How did I not know that? This is why I enjoy museums. I continue to learn.
We joined our group for a hearty dinner at a local pub after checking into our hotel. When I say hearty, I mean plentiful! I had corned beef and cabbage with colcanon. I’ve never had that typical Irish dish. Colcanon is basically mashed potatoes to which kale and cabbage are added. Yummo!! I’m not a mashed potatoes kind of girl, but I am adding this to my repertoire.
The next morning, we made our way to the Museum of Flight, just near the Boeing factory. Holy wow!!! This museum has exhibits on past and present planes and spaceships. I got to board the Concorde (something else off the bucket list, right?), walk through one of the Airforce One planes (it carried many Presidents, including JFK and Johnson) and stand in the payload area of the Space Shuttle. Come on guys! It doesn’t matter how old or young you are, this is amazing stuff!
After 4 hours of touring the museum, we drove to our hotel in Seattle. This part of the mini vacation was just for Leon and I. I had never visited Seattle before, so this was a perfect chance to do so.
We stayed at the Motif hotel on 5th Ave and Pike Place. This boutique hotel has a lovely tradition of offering guests a glass of wine on arrival. As matter of fact, they offer wine all afternoon and into the evening. Winner! Our room was well appointed, including a great view of the city side and real coffee mugs (not those paper ones some hotels offer).
After a glass of wine and a bit of research, we made our way towards Pike Place Market just in time to catch the sunset.
The Market was closing a bit early, in my estimation, but we had time for a quick walk through before we headed back down the stairs to the waterfront. Dinner was at Fisherman’s, right under the Great Wheel. Leon and I shared a delicious crab boil – a leisurely meal, accompanied with a nice glass of wine.
We walked back up the stairs towards the retail district as I had the idea that all the shops would be decorated for Xmas. Nope, we were about 2 days early according to what I read. Oh well!
There was one other street that caught my eye. We could see people standing in front of a wall and taking pictures. From a distance, I couldn’t see what the colourful wall was about. So we walked down there and took a picture. Can you figure out what the colourful stuff is?
Back at the hotel, we indulged in another glass of wine, with the outdoor fireplace behind us, as we sat in the lobby and just people-watched.
With the early morning, the museum and all the fresh air of touring Seattle, it didn’t take long for me to fall asleep that night.
We returned home early the next day as we had a Christmas party to attend that night, but I do plan to visit Seattle again.