I was driven into Seattle in the evening and the city's outline is very impressive, I have to say. The next day you find out that the skyscrapers are all constricted to about six blocks, but the Space Needle is impressive both day and night.

On the Sunday I met up with my host, Prof. Mark Phillips and we took a wander around the campus: very pretty. Bits of it are quite old (in an American way, obviously) and the view out over the bay is rather good. Must make those exam mornings almost bearable. We rounded our chat off with lunch at the self-proclaimed "Seattle's Wurst Restaurant" (oh how those Germans love puns), before Mark dropped me off downtown.

The rough guide describes Pike Place Market as one of the 36 things to see in America (Niagara Falls is another, as is New England in the Fall and hitting the open road - 3.5 out of 36 isn't bad for a three-stop tour). Its origins are as a fish market, and there's certainly a lot of stuff staring glassy-eyed at you (and that's just the stallholders). I now know what a Monkfish looks like and just how long and pink squid tentacles can be. I have to say Pike Place is very interesting: it has all sorts of odd little shops on three floors. It even had a comic shop that was selling life-sized cardboard "standees" (you know the kind of thing that's released to promote films/CDs/books) including one of Buffy that would have looked so cool in our hallway. Just as well I decided I couldn't ship it home for Rachel, otherwise the Princess Leia in slave outfit (Return of the Jedi) just might have slipped into the wrapping...

Seattle from the bay

After wandering about for a while in the sunshine (I kid you not - in November! Seattle was where I finally got my shades out) it was time to get back to my hotel. I needed to catch bus number 66 so I went about finding its route (so I could get my kicks y'know). After a while I looked at my map and saw that I was half-way back, so I decided to walk the rest. Oh how I laughed when I discovered that my map wasn't to scale. Oh how I laughed again when I discovered it was inaccurate in where it had placed one road, meaning that I thought that I'd missed my turning only to walk back down the hill I'd just walked up to discover that I had to walk back up it again.

The University Medical College

Monday came and it was time to visit the Hospital (my feet weren't that bad - the Radiation Physics lot live in the Cancer Center there). After a brief introduction and arranging to meet several people over the next two days, I spent the majority of the day in the company of the (almost legendary) Ira Kalet, including attending his LISP programming class. It's a language I've never had cause to use before but Ira is an enthusiast and you end up believing the language will even make the coffee. He also bemoans the lack of real programmers within Medical Physics, so we got on fine. You enter the Hospital on floor 3, which makes Radiotherapy (floor 1) very underground. Nuclear Medicine is above it, which some might argue is the way things should be.

Ira in full flow

America, as I’ve previously noted, does Halloween. It doesn’t do Bonfire Night (the lack of fireworks going off at all hours has been pleasant to observe). However, it does do heavy machinery outside hotels at 4am. Well, Seattle does. Or more specifically, the street the University Inn is on does. Scott on the front desk was marvellous. I wandered down to see if he could tell me how long it was all liable to go on for - so he went & asked them. Having established that the noise would continue for another 90 minutes or so, he offered me another room for the night on a quieter side of the hotel. I was very grateful, I can tell you.

I'd promised myself that if a hotel I stayed in had an exercise room, then I'd use it. I missed my first opportunity (in Itahaca) as I'd managed to develop a (convenient) cold. But I was cold-free in Seattle, so went for a work-out. I aimed for an hour. After 30 minutes my body was reminding me that the only exercise I'd had for the past four weeks was walking. The next morning as I walked to the hospital it kept reminding me. It was even raining, which was something I'd been warned to expect. They'd forgotten to tell me it'd be warm rain. Two days later and the pain was forgotten and I was back in the exercise room. I'd have hated to have carried my trainers all around the world and to have not used them.

The US elections took place whilst I was there (Senate, House of Representatives etc.) the results of which (so the Americans told me) strengthened Bush’s control. Probably a good time to be leaving, then.

The closest I got to Canadian soil

I snuck out in time-honoured English fashion: via Canada. Someone during my American travels told me that whenever they had a hard time in Europe, they just told people that they were Canadian and were treated much more politely, which doesn't refect too well on us, really. I was only in Canada for long enough to take a photo & buy some duty-free (trying to use up a few more coins) before it was a long flight (this time without a handy map to tell me what the landscape I was looking at was called) and some films (About a Boy - much better than I'd expected, although I did end up singing "Killing Me Softly" for days afterwards - and Insomnia, which seemed appropriate, even if I'd seen it before) carrying me into the land of the rising sun and the complete unknown...

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